Thursday, May 14, 2009


So now all (or some) of the literary agents are looking for "Upmarket" mysteries. Hard to know what this is. I think these are novels that used to be called "mainstream" mysteries. My take was that these books were a little longer, with a little more emphasis on character, and maybe even taught the reader something or took her to a place she had never been. Not exactly literary mysteries, but books with good writing that would interest someone who did not read the more "traditional" strictly who-done-it mysteries of 75,000 words.

One has to be careful because it is easy to step on toes and feelings in this business. God knows, I should understand that. And I think I have been writing upmarket books for years, but maybe I didn't know how to market them. The thing is, can the author call her own novel "upmarket?" I mean, what does that say? A whiff of snobbery? Some would say yes.

Oh yes, and these hoity-toity upmarket books may cross "genres," a no-no for the people the publisher hires to explain the book to the bookstore employees. You see, they have to know where to shelve it. But then why are agents looking for books that are hard to shelve? Hmmm. Inquiring minds want to know. Maybe they sell, even if the would-be reader has to look around the store. Word of mouth? Word of mouse?

Another weird thing is that the thrillers and suspense books are usually stuck with the "mainstream" books, and the mysteries get their own section. Why is that?

My current book is suspense. It's hard to keep the suspense going all the time, so I've resorted to cheap techniques like putting a kid and a cat in danger. Plotting is damn hard work, I say.

So far, my novel has grown to 55,000 words. If I were writing a "traditional" mystery, I could stop there. I personally think of these lite-on-words books as little chickenshit mysteries, but that's just my take, a book you can take up at 9:00 and put down at 11:00 and know who dunnit and it sure as hell wasn't the butler. Take Agatha Christie. But she understood how to tell the same story over and over and make it sound different. Well, lots of series authors do that. There is nothing the matter with chicken shit. As an adjective it means small or unimportant. The kind of thing Otto Penzler is always complaining about women writing, the cozies if you will, or traditional mysteries as the purists call them. Of course Penzler doesn't call them chicken shit. He's implied worse.

My take. One is always walking on bloody eggs. Ewww! Exactly. Or Eggsactly.

I think a lot about what I am writing because I suck as describing my own work. Bill Gates meets Moll Flanders. O.K. I hate these stupid-assed comparisons like that. They tell you nothing. All right, the co-mingling of such an incompatible-sounding duo tells you that there's loose morals and technology afoot. But I could just say that. Loose morals and technology. Maybe "Bill Gates meets Moll Flanders" just has that certain je-ne-sais-quoi. Actually, I've never had the nerve to say Bill Gates meets Moll Flanders in a query letter. Too stupid.

Next week we're off to Montreal, the Paris of Canada, and a week later I'm flying down to South Florida to finish the research on this book, In Flight, my suspense novel. Is this also upmarket? Don't think so. I do like my Colombian Drug Lord. It took forever to get into his head. Think I need another chapter from his POV. That's Point of View if you're not into literary acronyms. Fem jep is Woman in Jeopardy, which is what I'm writing now. Fem Jep, two POVs and I'm hoping it will come in around 90,000 + words, but let's keep this sucker under 100,000. Upmarket or not. Probably not. Who the hell knows?

What is upmarket, anyhow? If you know, please post a comment.


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