The weather here has been grey and gloomy — or at least grey and gloomy by my Floridian standards. The other day I was so cold in the house that I put on a sweater and socks, then crawled under the covers, then decided that I was being ridiculous and went to turn on the heat. It was 68 degrees Fahrenheit, aka 20 degrees Celsius, and not exactly cold-cold. But when you’ve adapted to 80 degrees, cold is relative.
Anyway, as a result of the weather and the post-holiday blues, I’ve been taking a lot of long, hot baths. The animal that is living in my walls is definitely living under the floor of the bathroom. I don’t know whether it likes the baths — possibly the warmth seeps through and is pleasant? or possibly the damp seeps through and is not pleasant? — but either way, the creature is noisy when I’m in the tub. That’s why I didn’t say they were long, hot, relaxing baths, although my sister/nephew gave me some excellent bubble bath for Christmas. (Sister/nephew because when I was excited about my bubble bath, my sister admitted she’d sent her almost 21-year-old out to do the shopping, because she hasn’t been well. I was very pleased with my nephew’s taste.) So baths plus bubbles great, baths plus creature not so great, works out to a bath draw, I guess.
Along with my bubble baths, I’ve been going for some comfort reading: Agatha Christie. I’ve read The Murder on the Links, an early Hercule Poirot; The Man in the Brown Suit; The Clocks, which is a late Hercule Poirot; and another one whose name I can’t remember, but which was just barely a Poirot. I’ll have to try to hunt it down again. Ah, Cat Among the Pigeons. Late Poirot, #32, according to Goodreads.
Decades ago, I think I’d read all of the books Agatha Christie had written, but maybe not. Maybe I’d just read all of the ones that my library had, or that came into the used bookstore where I worked, because they haven’t all felt familiar. I was sure I knew Murder on the Links, but it was not at all what I expected. They’re fun to read, though, because they take place in such a different world. At this point, I — hmm, I wanted to say that it was almost like reading science fiction, set on another planet, but I suppose it’s really more like reading historical novels. Except not at all. The world-building feels like science fiction world-building, sketchy and interesting, different technologies, curious costumes, but all taken for granted.
In The Murder on the Links, Poirot scoffs at the detective collecting cigarette butts and rolling papers and *spoiler* …
,,,they turn out to be planted by the culprits. It felt very much like Agatha Christie waving a fist at the boring future in store for mystery stories when DNA evidence and hair strands became everything.
But they’ve been entertaining reading. Agatha Christie was not shy about using adverbs or repetitious language or boring language or character types or cliches and none of that matters. The racism & sexism matter a bit more — some of the romantic cliches are uncomfortable and when she starts talking about “the natives,” even though she’s not dogmatically political, it’s clear that she’s very much a product of her imperialist culture. But it would be unreasonable to expect anything different. And meanwhile, she tells a good story. I’ve been trying to figure out what I can learn about plotting from her and frankly, it sort of feels like her solution, when stuck, is to have another murder. But maybe all those murders were planned out from the very beginning. I should look for some information about how she plotted. At any rate, her solution is probably not going to work for me, since my stories are not exactly heavy with murders.
I think, if anything, Ghosts was me trying to write a romance and figuring out that maybe romance isn’t really my genre. Thought was me trying to write a thriller and figuring out that maybe thrillers won’t be my genre, either. Time was me trying to write a mystery and figuring out that maybe mysteries aren’t my genre. A Lonely Magic is me writing a fantasy and discovering that yep, I can write a fantasy. Such a pity that I can’t sell a fantasy, ha. But Grace is me trying to write a mystery with thriller elements, deciding it isn’t meant to be a mystery, deciding to write a suspenseful romance, deciding it isn’t meant to be a romance, and now deciding to just write a ghost story. I wrote a line yesterday — end of my new third chapter, probably at about 100,000 words written on this project since the beginning and in the new version, maybe 10,000 words in:
“Isn’t it obvious?” Rose turned in a circle, eying all the ghosts that filled the room, from the bobbing lights to the transparent singing lady and the solid others. “It’s time to move on.”
And thought, oh, look, there’s my plot. Damn it. It took me 100,000 words to figure it out.
Anyway, I think I intended to write more about Agatha Christie, but I have a dog being yearning at me, almost reaching the stage of putting her head on the keyboard — she inches her nose closer every sentence or so — aha, and she just reached it, there is a wet doggie muzzle on the a and s keys. Oh, and now she’s started trembling which she knows I hate. I don’t know if she does it deliberately or not, but it so worries me. So yes, maybe more commentary on Agatha Christie later, but right now, I have to go walk some dogs.