On Wednesday, Mama and I visited the Mystery Book Club at the Barnes and Noble store at the Firewheel Mall in Garland, Texas. The club meets on the second Wednesday of every month around 7 PM to discuss the book they've chosen for that session and to talk about mysteries in general.
We got there early and had our choice of seating. Soon the group sponsor/leader, Theresa, joined us, and I showed her the books I had brought (a couple of copies of each of the mysteries and one copy of each of the others, including the Shalanna Collins oeuvre) and nattered on about my writing. In a few minutes the member who had so kindly invited me, Cassie Wilson, came along, and I spoke a bit more about writing and the current state of publishing. By 7 PM the rest of the membership had come along to fill in the circle, and the meeting officially started.
I do NOT know why I can't remember to get everyone to stand up for a group shot! Again I forgot about this. Aaarghh! But I like the candid sneak shots I did get.
Going around the circle, we had each person introduce herself. (It was a hen party this time, as I'd expect with mysteries, if not SF/Fantasy. But that's the fun of it.) One was a special ed teacher who works somewhat near us, then the coordinator who works at B&N, then a retired librarian/English teacher, then a psychologist, then the president of the Dallas Rose Society and other garden clubs, then another retired librarian . . . all devoted readers. I got the chance to pass around each of my books and to give everyone my promo postcards. I also gave out some of my business cards that show my blogsite and Web page. I'm hoping some of the attendees will investigate me further and perhaps visit my Amazon author pages.
One of the topics we touched upon was the increasing grittiness of most mystery/suspense titles that are coming out today. It seems that just about half of the titles I pick up or look at on the Kindle Storefront deal with serial killers.
"I don't WANT to be in the head of a twisted person," said my mother. "I want to be entertained, amused, comforted, and learning something interesting when I read. I already know those people exist, and I wish they didn't. What's interesting about someone who just wants to kill you?"
"Yes," said Cassie firmly. "It's far more interesting when there's a group of suspects instead who were pushed into a corner or felt they had to murder in order to save their careers or marriages. The motivations and desperation of the people are lots better than a serial killer deal."
We agreed that often, a real PAGE-TURNER is too plotty, with events happening just so that something "exciting" can be going on, and weak motivation from characters. When a character is lauded as "sooo smart" but then goes on to make poor choices and prove that he's Too Stupid to Live, it's really disappointing for the reader. What do you remember from a book--the plot? Or the characters? I'll bet that you can remember the plot sort of sketchily, but when you think of the characters you've loved, they come back in living color.
The discussion of the book assigned for the meeting began. It was Lisa Scottoline's first book, Everywhere That Mary Went. Everyone agreed that the writing was good and the style interesting, and a couple of people confirmed that the behavior of workers in a big law firm is indeed as she portrays it. But just about everyone said that the ending happened too fast, that it seemed the author simply "picked one" from the short list and made that person the perp. I thought the ending was one of the book's major weaknesses myself (I went back and read the book last night on the Kindle), because the perp just suddenly APPEARS and has flipped out with no warning at all. It's kind of contrived and forced, to me. I also thought that everyone in the book was pretty unethical, but maybe that's just me. However, the ENTIRE group gave the book thumbs-up, so who am I to argue? They said they'd be looking for other books by the author.
Next month's book is by Bill Crider, The Wild Hog Murders, and they're really looking forward to it. I'd better find a copy so I can keep up! Bill Crider is one of our cohorts over on the DOROTHY-L mailing list, and I always enjoy his novels with a Texas flavor.
Mama started getting asthma about ten minutes before the club broke up for the evening, but she enjoyed herself and got to talk about her favorite books. (To Kill a Mockingbird and the "Murder, She Wrote" tie-ins.) Talk about Atticus Finch and the anniversary of TKaM ensued. I think the group enjoyed her.
I don't know whether my books made an impression or not. It's so common nowadays for someone to have written and published books that it's just not remarkable any more, and everyone assumes that your book is a "Chiclet"--one of the hastily cranked-out works that is not meant to last, but is intended merely as a quick read for $.99 or so. I get discouraged when I walk into gigantic bookstores and see all those glossy, beautiful titles stacked on the tables and lined up on the shelves. It's the competition! Who but a fool would keep doing this when it's basically hopeless and SO MUCH WORK? But oh well. I never said I had to make sense.
If you're in the area, come on down and join the fun! You don't have to have read the book-of-the-month, although it helps. You can just come to hear people who love books talk about books and about their thoughts. It's something worth doing.
We're going to try to make this club a regular stop. If I can bribe the hubby to watch the Pomeranian again and keep him OUT OF THE FLOWERPOTS, I mean.