5 Subgenres of Horror Fiction Explained

Hello Writer Bugs!

Since we are officially in spooky season, I wanted to dedicate a couple posts this month to horror writing. Horror fiction is intended to frighten the audience senseless. A lot of people love a good scare. As a genre, horror can come in a variety of shades of darkness. Today, I’m breaking down the most notable subgenres of horror fiction.


Gothic

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The gothic horror subgenre is a healthy mix of horror, mystery, death and a little romance. And some would say it’s the true beginning of horror fiction and the jumping off point for other horror subgenres that developed over time. The macabre takes takes center stage in this type of story. Setting plays a key role in gothic horror. The atmosphere must be dark and moody, usually taking place in a castle, religious abbey or haunting estate. The theme of death and love are prevalent in the plot. It’s a dreary, decaying world full of ominous omens and unexplainable events.

Example: The Strange Case of Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Monster

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Let’s do the monster mash. A true classic in horror genre. Typically, the plot centers around a character(s) encountering a creature. Creatures of the night are either the result of scientific experiments, born from fantastical means, or simply urban legends come alive. Iconic monsters including – but not limited to – werewolves, vampires, mummies, zombies etc. An argument could be made the even gigantic monsters like Godzilla would be included in this horror subgenre. Sometimes in the narrative, there are underlying themes of duality, an internal conflict between good and evil. It’s an interesting battle to explore within characters. Is the monster really a monster at all?

Example: Dracula by Bram Stoker

Paranormal

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In the paranormal subgenre, it’s all about the fear of the unknown. Evil spirits, wicked witches and demonic entities wreck havoc and chaos in the lives of mere mortals. Ghosts, demons and haunted houses tend to fall under this category. Exorcisms – whether the holy kind or the high-tech ghostbuster kind – occur in paranormal horror. Similar to the Monster horror subgenre, antagonists can have supernatural abilities and there’s usually a struggle between good and evil. However, paranormal creatures are derived from mythical, other-worldly origins. And let’s be honest, the things that go bump in the night are often what scares us the most.

Example: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Killer

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A killer is on the loose! For this horror subgenre, the story focuses on a central killer. The main antagonist can be a supernatural entity or a natural born psycho. Whatever their reason, the killer’s sole mission is to annihilate anyone and everyone they deem a target. With elements of a thriller and/or crime plotline blended in, building suspense is crucial in this kind of story. You want the reader to feel like the killer is breathing down their necks and lurking around every corner. Will the killer be brought to justice in the end? That’s entirely up to the writer. In horror, no one is promised a happy ending.

Example: American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

Psychological

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Send readers into a living nightmare. Throw rationality out the door and turn the mundane into something terrifying. Characters in psychological horror have either fallen into madness or are trapped in extraordinary situations. Surreal imagery or bizarre visions experienced by the protagonist only add to the insanity. For this horror subgenre, the narrative would benefit from a tight viewpoint, not a multi-narrator piece. A single character’s internal conflict can be just as compelling than an external conflict, if written well. Phobias, paranoia and one’s deepest fears are explored in this type of plot. In psychological horror, there’s not overarching monster or antagonist, the real monster is the human mind itself.

Example: The Shining by Stephen King


Personally, I’m not a fan of excessive gore. However, as a mystery writer, I sometimes must describe a corpse or a crime scene, for the sake of the fictional investigation. A little bit of horror can go a long way in any genre.

What’s your favorite subgenre of horror fiction? And if you are a horror writer yourself, how would you categorize your story? Talk to me in the comments. As always, I love hearing from you.

Stay safe and stay creative.

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

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How to Build Suspense In Any Genre

(This is a repost. Because this lady is on a mental health break. Thanks for understanding.)

Hello writer bugs!

Whether you are writing a mystery or a horror, or even a romance, suspense can be a total game changer in any kind of story. Here are some tips that will have your readers hanging on the edge of their seats in anticipation.

What is Suspense?

Dictionary definition:
A state or feeling of excited or anxious uncertainty about what may happen. A quality in a work of fiction that arouses excited expectation or uncertainty about what may happen.

Simply Put: The fear of the unknown. Keeping the reader guessing. Who is the true murderer? What’s in the haunted mansion down the lane? Building suspense means offering the reader a question that they feel they must learn the answer to. The trick is to prolong giving them that answer while maintaining their interest.

Now, let’s talk about techniques you can use to help build up suspense in your story.

Solid Villains and High Stakes

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A stirring tension and conflict can be crucial in any genre. Great antagonists who challenge the protagonist create that exciting conflict. Explore the villains motivations. Why has he set this evil plan in motion? What is his connection to the hero? Throw away the idea of a villain who only wants to rain on a parade for no good reason. Really flesh out the character and make them a worth opponent for the hero.

The stakes must be high. Whatever is at risk, whether it’s a loved one’s life or the world’s safety, needs to be important to the protagonist. So important that they will jump through any hoop the antagonist throws at them. And if they fail, they would be devastated.

Point of View

Focus on the character’s perspective. See the world through their eyes. Let the reader learn information as the character does. Narrowing the point of view is an excellent way to build tension. Unlike an all knowing, omniscient narrator, the character won’t know what’s around the corner and what will happen next. Consider who tells the story, and how the story gets told.

Think about it like this. Imagine shining a flashlight into a dark room. You only see the beam of light, and not the rest of the room. The freaking Frankenstein monster could be standing in the corner, and you wouldn’t even know. Gives me the chills just thinking about it.

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Pacing and Ticking Clocks

Experiment with style a bit. Short, fragmented sentences give a feel of breathlessness. Brief pauses will add weight to a scene. Keep in mind about the pacing of the overall story. The longer answers stay hidden, the longer some readers will continue reading. But don’t hold out for too long, readers may loose interest. It’s all about leaving a trails of information breadcrumbs for them to follow.

The use of time is another way to build suspense. Everyone can relate to the feeling of time running out. Your MC should be working against the clock. That’s why scenarios like “You have 24 hours to find the girl” work so well. Will the hero make it in time? What will happen if time runs out?

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After a Dark and Stormy Night

Hope you guys use these techniques when adding some suspense to your next story. What’s your favorite moment of suspense in a book or film? When I think of suspense, I always think of the movie, Speed. Keanu Reeves and a bomb strapped to a bus? Classic suspense thriller.

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

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5 LGBTQIA Books to Read for Pride Month

Hey writer bees!

(This is a repost. I wanted to once again shine a spotlight on some wonderful literature celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community. – Victoria)

Diversity in storytelling is so important. Every kind of person should be represented and represented well. No matter the story, the characters need to feel realistic. That includes their sexuality and gender identity.

In honor of Pride Month, I’m sharing some colorful books that celebrate the LGBTQIA community.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Distant and exacting, Bruce Bechdel was an English teacher and director of the town funeral home, which Alison and her family referred to as the “Fun Home.” It was not until college that Alison, who had recently come out as a lesbian, discovered that her father was also gay. A few weeks after this revelation, he was dead, leaving a legacy of mystery for his daughter to resolve.

I’ve read this book, and let me tell you, it’s an outstanding story. Alison Bechdel is an exceptional and brave writer. Full of humor and heartbreak, I couldn’t recommend this graphic memoir any higher. You don’t have to be queer to feel touched by her life story. Seriously, Fun Home is a must-have in your book collection.

Amazon.com: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic eBook: Bechdel, Alison ...

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

On the first day at his new school, Leo Denton has one goal: to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in his class is definitely not part of that plan–especially because Leo is a trans guy and isn’t out at his new school.

Written in first person narrative, Lisa Williamson tells the story of two transgender students who are navigating their gender identity. Based on reviews, it’s a great exploration of what it means to be transgender today. This one is definitely on my To-Be-Read list!

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson - review | Children's ...

Prince and Knight – Daniel Haack (Author), Stevie Lewis (Illustrator)

In this modern fairy tale, a noble prince and a brave knight come together to defeat a terrible monster and in the process find true love in a most unexpected place.

Not every prince is looking for a fair maiden. If you want to introduce the youngsters in your life to inclusivity and the LGBTQ community, look no further than this charming children’s book. This fairytale is colorful and magical and incredibly sweet. Frankly, I might buy this book for my nephew, so he can learn about acceptance and love in all forms.

Prince & Knight (Mini Bee Board Books): Haack, Daniel, Lewis ...

Stonewall: The Definitive Story of the LGBTQ Rights Uprising that Changed America

On June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village, was raided by police. But instead of responding with the typical compliance the NYPD expected, patrons and a growing crowd decided to fight back. The five days of rioting that ensued changed forever the face of gay and lesbian life.

For all the history buffs out there, this is the book for you. A masterful, powerful retelling of the Stonewall Riots and the first gay rights march, written by historian Martin Duberman. With everything going on in the world right now, this piece of work is so relevant and on the pulse. Learning about our history is important, now more than ever.

Stonewall: The Definitive Story of the LGBT Rights Uprising that Changed America by [Martin B.  Duberman]

This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson

There’s a long-running joke that, after “coming out,” a lesbian, gay guy, bisexual, or trans person should receive a membership card and instruction manual. THIS IS THAT INSTRUCTION MANUAL. You’re welcome.

Lighthearted and informative, this is the unofficial guide to being gay and/or curious. Inside, there’s candid answers to any and all LGBTQ related questions. No matter your sexual preference, this book makes for a great gift and an even greater addition to your bookshelf.

This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

As writers, as readers, as humans, let’s expand our horizons and promote inclusivity in everything we do.

What’s your favorite LGBTQIA book? Lemme know in the comments.

Write with heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

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Scream For Ice Cream and Murder (Mystery Short Story)

Hello Writer Bugs!

For this post, I’m sharing my response to one of the mystery prompts of the week, describe a crime scene. Here’s a short story, featuring the detective duo from my WIP. Let’s go back to the scene of the crime.

Warning: This scene may be disturbing for some readers. Contains blood and a dead person.


I’m not going to sugarcoat this. There was too much blood for an ice cream parlor. No pun intended.

The cops needed an extra hand on this one. It was a curious case. And curious cases in Coney Island tend to fall under Mister Barnaby’s territory.

As the detective and I entered, the little bell by the door jingled. It was what you’d expect from your classic ice cream corner shop. Squeaky linoleum floor. Squeaky red barstools. Buckets of dairy. Cash register full of dough. Dusty chalkboard that listed all their sweet treats.

I checked out the menu. “15 cents for a sundae? The crooks. Though a chocolate cone does sound pretty good.”

Oscar, now is not the time.” He sighed, eyes inspecting the shattered front window, glass shards on the porch steps. Thick eyebrows pinched together on his wrinkled face. “Someone broke this from the inside, not the outside.”

“What’s that mean?” I shoved my hands in my pockets and took a guess. “Someone was locked in?”

His shoulders shrugged. “Perhaps to make it appear as though there was a break in. Our culprit is none too bright. The world is full of imbeciles.” Leaning on his walking stick, the detective teetered towards the bar. Behind the counter, a trail of blood drippings. A red handprint stamped on the doorway leading to the backroom. The temperature plummeted. In the cluttered storage, jars of sprinkles and candies lined the shelves.

“Didn’t Officer Lester say the body was back here?”

More splashes on red on the floor. A path of drippings led to the ice locker. Strange, the walk-in fridge was locked from the inside. Like something out of a locked room mystery we’d listen to on the radio. It took some fiddling, but eventually, I heaved the heavy vault open.

Between tubs of cream and cake boxes, a round man – Sal Pellegrini – slouched on a chair, with an ice pick lodged in his neck. “Jesus Christ,” My stomach twisted into a knot. “Yikes, right in the jugular. What happened to you, big guy?” Apron splattered with red and brown mess. Skin turned blue. Dark purple fingernails. Frost lingered on his thinning hair. He smelled like vanilla and death. In his left fist, a crumpled piece of paper. A recipe card. I handed it to the old man. “Any ideas on this one, boss?”

His eyes flicked back and forth, like he was reading something. “I remember this. Newspaper article published on September 29th, 1921. Mr. Pellegrini’s family recipe was deemed the best Strawberry Shortcake in New York.” He teetered closer to the body, a shaky grip on his walking stick. “Well, everything make perfect sense now.”

“It does?”

“Of course. It would seem someone tried to steal the famous cake recipe. When Mr. Pellegrini refused to hand it over, his attacker stabbed him in the parlor room.” The detective hummed, glancing around. “Somehow, he fled from his attacker, but was losing too much blood.”

“You got all that from a blood trail and a crumpled piece of paper?”

“Certainly.” He pointed to the brick wall that Mr. Pellegrini’s back was leaning against. “Move that one.”

A single brick disconnected from the wall. When I pulled the loose brick out of its place, we found a hiding spot of more recipe cards. Chocolate fudge, Vienna cake, Lemon sponge cake. Old recipes passed from generation from generation. “He locked himself in, to protect his family’s heirlooms, I’d imagine. Hid his prized possessions in plain sight. Quite impressive.”

“Or absolutely insane.”

“Regardless, a killer is still out there. There is more work left to be done.”

Mister Barnaby turned to leave the ice cream parlor. As always, I followed him, like a shadow. But not before I helped myself to a chocolate ice cream cone, with extra sprinkles.


This is the last post for May of Mystery. Thank you all so much for sticking around. Hope you all enjoyed!

Stay safe and keep writing.

Write with heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

Are S.S. Van Dine’s Rules for Writing Detective Stories Still Accurate?

Hello amateur sleuths!

Welcome to the start of May of Mystery, an entire month dedicated to mystery writing. Two years ago, I broke down Ronald Knox’ Rules of Mystery Writing. Surprisingly, he’s not the only author who has created rules for mysteries. In 1928, S.S. Van Dine published “Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories”.

Are these guidelines still relevant to today’s detective fiction? Or are they outdated? Let’s investigate, shall we?


1. The reader must have equal opportunity with the detective for solving the mystery. All clues must be plainly stated and described.

Absolutely. A mystery story is not only a tale for readers to enjoy, it’s also a puzzle for readers to solve. It’s a game. All the clues must be on the table. Both the sleuth and the audience must have equal opportunity to unravel the mystery in the end.

2. No willful tricks or deceptions may be placed on the reader other than those played legitimately by the criminal on the detective himself.

Red herrings and plot twists are one thing. Misinforming the readers intentionally is another. Readers are counting on you, the writer, to tell it to them straight. If the antagonist tricks the detective, they are tricking the audience as well, and that’s fine. Withholding information, lying to, or just messing with readers for laughs? That’s bad. It’s a disservice to the audience.

3. There must be no love interest. The business in hand is to bring a criminal to the bar of justice, not to bring a lovelorn couple to the hymeneal altar.

I disagree with this one. Stories can be multi-layered and fall under more than one genre. A love interest never killed nobody… Wait, let me rephrase that. Having a romance element mixed in with a mystery plot is not impossible and need not be discouraged. Heck, it could even add to the suspense of the plot, if done correctly. You don’t have to be chained to one genre. Balance is key. A love interest, or a spark of romance, in a murder mystery is fine, in my opinion.

4. The detective himself, or one of the official investigators, should never turn out to be the culprit. This is bald trickery, on a par with offering some one a bright penny for a five-dollar gold piece. It’s false pretenses.

True. The detective cannot be the culprit. That’s like saying the protagonist and the antagonist are the one in the same. That actually makes no sense. Like, where’s the conflict? He’s right, it is false pretenses.

5. The culprit must be determined by logical deductions — not by accident or coincidence or unmotivated confession. To solve a criminal problem in this latter fashion is like sending the reader on a deliberate wild-goose chase, and then telling him, after he has failed, that you had the object of his search up your sleeve all the time. Such an author is no better than a practical joker.

For a clue to accidently fall into the detective’s hands? Where’s the fun in that? Coincidence very rarely happens in an investigation. Sure, that may happen in cartoons, but that’s taking the easy way out. Think of real life investigators. I’m sure they’d love a murder weapon to just fall from the sky. Make sure the evidence is found by means of detection and deduction, not gift wrapped with a bow for the sleuth.

The Work In Progress Tag | Lady Jabberwocky

6. The detective novel must have a detective in it; and a detective is not a detective unless he detects. His function is to gather clues that will eventually lead to the person who did the dirty work in the first chapter; and if the detective does not reach his conclusions through an analysis of those clues, he has no more solved his problem than the schoolboy who gets his answer out of the back of the arithmetic.

You need a detective in detective fiction? Shocker. Well, you don’t necessarily need a professional detective, an amateur sleuth or private investigator works too. I do agree though, whatever the main character’s job is, they do need to detect. No matter their profession, the protagonist must dissect clues and actively investigate the crime.

7. There simply must be a corpse in a detective novel, and the deader the corpse the better. No lesser crime than murder will suffice. Three hundred pages is far too much pother for a crime other than murder. After all, the reader’s trouble and expenditure of energy must be rewarded.

For a minute, can we just appreciate “the deader the corpse, the better” line? Pure gold.

In my opinion, this point shows its age. The central crime of a detective novel doesn’t have to be a murder. It usually is, but it doesn’t need to be. There are plenty of mysteries out there focused on a kidnapping or a robbery or another major crime. Those can be just as compelling as a murder mystery.

8. The problem of the crime must he solved by strictly naturalistic means. Such methods for learning the truth as slate-writing, ouija-boards, mind-reading, spiritualistic seances, crystal-gazing, and the like, are taboo. A reader has a chance when matching his wits with a rationalistic detective, but if he must compete with the world of spirits and go chasing about the fourth dimension of metaphysics, he is defeated ab initio.

I understand where he’s coming from with this one. In the real world, yes, a detective must find clues by rational means. However, if a mystery does dip its toe into other genres – say, fantasy or supernatural – them magical means could be plausible. But, for the most part, sleuths should be grounded in logic. Finding evidence in such a mystical way does cheat the audience a bit, unless a fantasy element is heavily present in the plot.

9. There must be but one detective — that is, but one protagonist of deduction — one deus ex machina. To bring the minds of three or four, or sometimes a gang of detectives to bear on a problem, is not only to disperse the interest and break the direct thread of logic, but to take an unfair advantage of the reader. If there is more than one detective the reader doesn’t know who his co-deductor is. It’s like making the reader run a race with a relay team.

Clearly, this man did not live long enough to see the animated wonder that is Scooby-Doo and Mystery Inc. You can have more than one detective on the case. Many great mysteries have dynamic duos or reliable Watson-types in them. Multiple characters can work together and share the glory of solving a case. A team of sleuths can share the spotlight, each member bringing something different from the investigation.

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10. The culprit must turn out to be a person who has played a more or less prominent part in the story — that is, a person with whom the reader is familiar and in whom he takes an interest.

Agreed. Don’t introduce the culprit halfway through the story. That’s cheating. The reader must have an opportunity to solve the case alongside the detective. The antagonist should appear in the beginning of the story and be actively involved in the plot, one way or another. Otherwise, you risk duping the audience, in an unfavorable way.

11. A servant must not be chosen by the author as the culprit. This is begging a noble question. It is a too easy solution. The culprit must be a decidedly worth-while person — one that wouldn’t ordinarily come under suspicion.

True enough. ‘The butler did it’ is a bit cliché. When you have a line-up of suspects, think about who, on the surface, looks least likely to commit the crime. That character might be the best choice for a compelling antagonist.

12. There must be but one culprit, no matter how many murders are committed. The culprit may, of course, have a minor helper or co-plotter; but the entire onus must rest on one pair of shoulders: the entire indignation of the reader must be permitted to concentrate on a single black nature.

Keep in mind, this list was written in 1928, Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express was published January, 1934. That being said, it is possible to have more than one culprit. Typically though, yes, there is a main criminal performing the crime in a given story. Someone has to be the bad guy, right?

13. Secret societies, camorras, mafias, et al., have no place in a detective story. A fascinating and truly beautiful murder is irremediably spoiled by any such wholesale culpability. To be sure, the murderer in a detective novel should be given a sporting chance; but it is going too far to grant him a secret society to fall back on. No high-class, self-respecting murderer would want such odds.

Personally, I’m not a fan of stories involving secret societies and mafias. At the start of any mystery, the suspects need to be on the same level of suspicion, the same playing field. And yes, if one of the suspects is a freaking crime boss or hit man for the mob, that does not bode well for the plot. It may even fall into the ‘too cliché’ category.

14. The method of murder, and the means of detecting it, must be be rational and scientific. That is to say, pseudo-science and purely imaginative and speculative devices are not to be tolerated in the roman policier. Once an author soars into the realm of fantasy, in the Jules Verne manner, he is outside the bounds of detective fiction, cavorting in the uncharted reaches of adventure. 

Again, I believe a mystery can dabble in other genres, even fantasy. In any world – real or otherwise – the murder must make logical sense. I do think the means of murder and detection must be realistic. When things feel too farfetched, readers will lose interest.

15. The truth of the problem must at all times be apparent — provided the reader is shrewd enough to see it. By this I mean that if the reader, after learning the explanation for the crime, should reread the book, he would see that the solution had, in a sense, been staring him in the face-that all the clues really pointed to the culprit — and that, if he had been as clever as the detective, he could have solved the mystery himself without going on to the final chapter. That the clever reader does often thus solve the problem goes without saying.

When it comes to evidence, you must be upfront with the audience. All the pieces of the puzzle have to be on the table. They don’t have to make a crystal clear picture, but all the relevant clues must be gathered before the ending. Remember, timing is everything. Be aware of when and how the reader and the detective learn the facts of a case.

vs4977 — Postimage.org uploaded by Carol Owens

16. A detective novel should contain no long descriptive passages, no literary dallying with side-issues, no subtly worked-out character analyses, no “atmospheric” preoccupations. Such matters have no vital place in a record of crime and deduction. They hold up the action and introduce issues irrelevant to the main purpose, which is to state a problem, analyze it, and bring it to a successful conclusion. To be sure, there must be a sufficient descriptiveness and character delineation to give the novel verisimilitude.

Well, too much description can be boring. No one likes a word vomit. Details set the scene and paint a picture for the reader’s imagination. On the other hand, subplots can actually benefit the story as a whole. Also, flushed out character are important. Character must have depth and feel genuine if an audience is going to connect with them.

17. A professional criminal must never be shouldered with the guilt of a crime in a detective story. Crimes by housebreakers and bandits are the province of the police departments — not of authors and brilliant amateur detectives. A really fascinating crime is one committed by a pillar of a church, or a spinster noted for her charities. 

Basically, the culprit should be someone the audience least expects. That makes for an ever so satisfying plot twist. This relates to the point regarding mafias. If one suspect in the lineup is a rogue with a long crime record, that character being the killer may come across as predictable.

18. A crime in a detective story must never turn out to be an accident or a suicide. To end an odyssey of sleuthing with such an anti-climax is to hoodwink the trusting and kind-hearted reader.

What an anti-climatic ending that would be. All that investigating and clue hunting for nothing. An actual waste of time, for both the reader and the detective.

19. The motives for all crimes in detective stories should be personal. International plottings and war politics belong in a different category of fiction — in secret-service tales, for instance. But a murder story must be kept gemütlich, so to speak. It must reflect the reader’s everyday experiences, and give him a certain outlet for his own repressed desires and emotions.

Before you ask, gemütlich means pleasant and cheerful. I had to google it. Although, there’s not much cheerfulness in a detective story. Every suspect needs a solid motive. Whether those are personal means or not, that’s up for debate. Thinking about it now, I suppose people are driven to crime due to personal reasons. Make sure each suspect has a clear motive or carries an ounce of suspicion, like any one of them could have performed the crime.

Pin by susan risinger on CLUE | Clue movie, Funny movies, Movies

Last point is the lightening round!

20. And (to give my Credo an even score of items) I herewith list a few of the devices which no self-respecting detective story writer will now avail himself of. They have been employed too often, and are familiar to all true lovers of literary crime. To use them is a confession of the author’s ineptitude and lack of originality.

  • (a) Determining the identity of the culprit by comparing the butt of a cigarette left at the scene of the crime with the brand smoked by a suspect. With modern day investigation techniques, I’m sure this is possible.
  • (b) The bogus spiritualistic seance to frighten the culprit into giving himself away. Yeah, I don’t think that would work. No good.
  • (c) Forged fingerprints. On the fence with this one.
  • (d) The dummy-figure alibi. Sure, that’s probably fine, right?
  • (e) The dog that does not bark and thereby reveals the fact that the intruder is familiar. Love this! Saw it happen in an old noir film. Made me laugh. 10/10.
  • (f)The final pinning of the crime on a twin, or a relative who looks exactly like the suspected, but innocent, person. Evil twin trope, a classic.
  • (g) The hypodermic syringe and the knockout drops. Somewhat overdone in fiction, however, knockout drugs do exists. I’m on the fence with this one too.
  • (h) The commission of the murder in a locked room after the police have actually broken in. Has this guy never heard of a locked room mystery?
  • (i) The word association test for guilt. Not sure what this means, but I’ll take his word for it.
  • (j) The cipher, or code letter, which is eventually unraveled by the sleuth. Hate these. Nobody has time for that.

What do you think of Van Dine’s rules for writing detective stories? Do you agree or disagree with any of them? Talk about it in the comments.

Stay safe, keep writing and happy sleuthing!

Love,

Lady Jabberwocky

The Tale of a Boy and a Mermaid (Parts 1-5)

(Written 4/16/21 – Hey Writer Bugs! It’s been a stressful week for me. So I decided to repost this old short story I wrote back in fiction writing class, in 2016. Don’t judge, every writer starts somewhere. Appreciate your early work, they’re a representation of how far you’ve come as a storyteller. Keep writing my friends! – Love, Lady Jabberwocky. )

The Tale of a Boy and a Mermaid

[Part One]

[Part Two]

[Part Three]

[Part Four]

[Part Five – Finale]

“I have an important task for you, lad,”

The knight commander was intimidating, over six feet tall with a thick beard and a scar on his forehead. Behind him was the kingdom of Eros’ flag, a deep purple with the emblem of a griffon, wings spread proudly. “I’m sure you have heard of the recent number of casualties out at sea, correct?” Many ships coming into port were either facing horrible storms or being sunken by unknown forces. Some in the village believed it to be a mermaid’s doing. “Take this message to the water’s edge tomorrow morning. Their messenger should meet you half way”The message was a scroll in a glass bottle, sealed tightly with a cork. “Is this…A declaration of war, sir?”

“Just negotiations,” The commander replied shortly, placing a large hand on by shoulder. “This will be a test, to prove if you are worthy of becoming a true knight someday,” He shooed me away with a wave of his hand. “Now, go attend to your other duties”.

I bowed and took my leave, examining the glass bottle in my hands. My brown leather boots shuffled along the dirt path that led to the stables. There were three large stallions, the noble steeds of the warriors of Eros. I began to brush one of the horse’s smooth coat. The sound of metal feet stomping towards me broke me from my daze. Sir Roger entered the stable, removing his helm. He ran a hand through his blonde hair, most likely returning from sparring.

“Have you finished with my sword?” Sir Roger approached me, removing his gauntlet. I nodded quickly. “With haste, mouse” He said impatiently. I dropped the brush and went to retrieve the knight’s sword. Yesterday, the blade was splattered with blood after a day’s quest. Now it shined like a sunbeam. I returned with the sword tucked into it’s leather sheath a moment later. “What do you have here?” He asked, examining the scroll in the glass bottle next to my satchel.

“A message I must deliver,” I informed “Tomorrow morning, to Crescent bay”.

“Well then you’re as good as dead, little mouse,” He laughed. “Have you ever seen a Mermaid before?”


Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

How Lucky We Are – 100 Word Love Story

On our first date, we found a fountain in the middle of New York City.

How lucky we were.

Tossed our coins in, made wishes. I wished for happiness.

Something even more wonderful happened.

We two individuals became us. Together.

Partners. Outliers. Player One and Player Two.

That was almost ten years ago.

We have shared laughter and tears and smiles.

Forged adventures in the mundane.

Made love in thunderstorms.

A comfortable kind of affection, like soft clouds to land on.

All from two characters in a story crossing paths at the right place, right time.

How lucky we are.


With Valentine’s day coming up, I wanted to write about love. Call me a hopeless romantic, or a sap, either one. Inspired by my wonderful boyfriend, Michael and our relationship. He has know idea I’m doing this (Surprise honey!). We will be spending the weekend ordering takeout and having a movie night at home. Sounds perfect to me.

How are you spending Valentine’s Day? Lemme know in the comments. I’m genuinely curious, what with a pandemic and all.

Stay safe and keep writing!

Love, Lady Jabberwocky

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5 Legendary Lady Authors (Before J.K. Rowling)

Hello everyone!

So, a few weeks ago, I was scrolling through Twitter and saw that Mary Shelley was trending. My initial reaction was “Yes, what a queen, she deserves to be trending in 2020.” Then, I found out why. Someone posted this.

And the #WritingCommunity on Twitter lost it. Women writers were unheard of before J.K. Rowling? Writers and bookworms alike began sharing some of their favorite female authors. And although it stemmed from an ill-informed tweet, it was amazing to see a community celebrate some outstanding ladies.

No, I’m not suggesting we burn this tweeter at the stake. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. However, I’m taking this as an opportunity to shine a light on legendary lady writers. So, here are some of my favorites female authors.

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Agatha Christie

The undeniable queen of crime herself. Some plot devices in the mystery genre, such as the plot twist and “parlor room scene”, came from her. With a writing career spanning decades, she is the creator of beloved fictional detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. Considered the most widely published authors of all time, her work is outsold only by Shakespeare and the Bible. Undoubtedly, Dame Agatha Christie is one of my favorite female authors.

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Toni Morrison

Known under the pen name Toni Morrison, this prominent female author has written many novels and essays focusing on the black experience. Featuring her poetic style and powerful voice, her most notable novels includes The Bluest Eye and Song of Solomon. In the time of the Black Lives Matter Movement, her writing and words on race relations are more important than ever. Sadly, Toni Morrison passed away last year, but her legacy lives on in her work.

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Mary Shelley

An English novelist from the 19th century, Mary Shelley is the inventor of science fiction and author of Frankenstein. As a Romantic female author using gothic elements, she created the most recognizable fictional monster and forged the start of a new genre. When I think of writers thinking outside the box, I look to Mary Shelly. The depth and complexity in her narrative still astounds me.

Fun fact, she is daughter of another famous female author, Mary Wollstonecraft, who wrote feminist work like A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.

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Gertrude Stein

A pioneer in the LGBTQ+ community, Gertrude Stein is a queer female author of the Lost Generation. Best known for The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, her playful prose style and lighthearted humor set her apart from the rest. Plus, she was friends with Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Pablo Picasso. Talk about squad goals.

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Harper Lee

You know the phrase ‘write what you know’? Harper Lee did just that. She drew inspiration from her own life, growing up in the deep south, and put that in her writing. Although she only wrote two books, Harper Lee has made a significant contribution to literature. In my opinion, To Kill a Mockingbird is a true American classic. And even decades later, her work still strikes a chord in all of her readers.


Of course there are a ton of other talented female authors throughout history. Virginia Woolf, Judy Blume, Ursula Le Guin, and Maya Angelou, to name a few more. The list goes on and on.

As a female writer myself, these extraordinary women inspire me to publish a book someday. I could only hope to follow in these ladies footsteps.

Who are some of your favorite female authors? Lemme know in the comments. And be sure to click all the links, it helps support this blog.

Stay safe and keep writing, writer bees!

— Lady Jabberwocky

5 LGBTQ Books to Read for Pride Month

Hey writer bees!

Diversity in storytelling is so important. Every kind of person should be represented and represented well. No matter the story, the characters need to feel realistic. That includes their sexuality and gender identity.

In honor of Pride Month, I’m sharing some colorful books that celebrate the LGBTQ community.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Distant and exacting, Bruce Bechdel was an English teacher and director of the town funeral home, which Alison and her family referred to as the “Fun Home.” It was not until college that Alison, who had recently come out as a lesbian, discovered that her father was also gay. A few weeks after this revelation, he was dead, leaving a legacy of mystery for his daughter to resolve.

I’ve read this book, and let me tell you, it’s an outstanding story. Alison Bechdel is an exceptional and brave writer. Full of humor and heartbreak, I couldn’t recommend this graphic memoir any higher. You don’t have to be queer to feel touched by her life story. Seriously, Fun Home is a must-have in your book collection.

Amazon.com: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic eBook: Bechdel, Alison ...

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

On the first day at his new school, Leo Denton has one goal: to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in his class is definitely not part of that plan–especially because Leo is a trans guy and isn’t out at his new school.

Written in first person narrative, Lisa Williamson tells the story of two transgender students who are navigating their gender identity. Based on reviews, it’s a great exploration of what it means to be transgender today. This one is definitely on my To-Be-Read list!

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson - review | Children's ...

Prince and Knight – Daniel Haack (Author), Stevie Lewis (Illustrator)

In this modern fairy tale, a noble prince and a brave knight come together to defeat a terrible monster and in the process find true love in a most unexpected place.

Not every prince is looking for a fair maiden. If you want to introduce the youngsters in your life to inclusivity and the LGBTQ community, look no further than this charming children’s book. This fairytale is colorful and magical and incredibly sweet. Frankly, I might buy this book for my nephew, so he can learn about acceptance and love in all forms.

Prince & Knight (Mini Bee Board Books): Haack, Daniel, Lewis ...

Stonewall: The Definitive Story of the LGBTQ Rights Uprising that Changed America

On June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village, was raided by police. But instead of responding with the typical compliance the NYPD expected, patrons and a growing crowd decided to fight back. The five days of rioting that ensued changed forever the face of gay and lesbian life.

For all the history buffs out there, this is the book for you. A masterful, powerful retelling of the Stonewall Riots and the first gay rights march, written by historian Martin Duberman. With everything going on in the world right now, this piece of work is so relevant and on the pulse. Learning about our history is important, now more than ever.

Stonewall: The Definitive Story of the LGBT Rights Uprising that Changed America by [Martin B.  Duberman]

This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson

There’s a long-running joke that, after “coming out,” a lesbian, gay guy, bisexual, or trans person should receive a membership card and instruction manual. THIS IS THAT INSTRUCTION MANUAL. You’re welcome.

Lighthearted and informative, this is the unofficial guide to being gay and/or curious. Inside, there’s candid answers to any and all LGBTQ related questions. No matter your sexual preference, this book makes for a great gift and an even greater addition to your bookshelf.

This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

As writers, as readers, as humans, let’s expand our horizons and promote inclusivity in everything we do.

What’s your favorite LGBTQ book? Lemme know in the comments.

Write with heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

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Skeleton in the Closet (Mystery Short Story)

“You sure you’re sure about this one, boss? She just a sweet old lady.”

His wrinkled face pinched into a scowl as he glared at the muggy March sky. “Dreadful weather today.” He grumbled, fastening his coat. Cold and rainy, my mother would call this ‘soup weather’. Clutching the handle of his cane, he teetered down the pathway of the Madam’s estate.

Keeping with his turtle slow pace, I held an umbrella over both of our heads. “Are you even listening?”

“Of course.” Mister Barnaby assured me. I had worked with him long enough to know he was certainly not listening.

It was an awfully big house, far too ritzy for my taste. May as well live at the Plaza. Upon entering the sprawling mansion, a church mouse dressed as a maid met us at the door. Glancing behind her, she presented us with a simple key, the last piece of the puzzle. As we were led into the living room, I stuffed the skeleton key into my vest pocket.

“Detective Barnaby, come in. Come in!” A gracious greeting offered by the lady of the house. Mrs. Matilda Pierce, a well kept woman, with pristine makeup and not a hair out of place. Trust me, this broad didn’t look a day over 50. Perched by the fireplace, she sat in her antique rocking chair, wearing a dressing gown embroidered with orchids.

“Fiona, dear,” Mrs. Pierce beckoned for her timid maid. “Bring some more tea for the detective and his assistant.” The maid scurried off. After sipping her cup of tea, her lips curled “Did you find him?”

Three months Franklin Pierce had been missing. His shiny automobile still parked in the driveway. Most of his personal possessions were still in the home. And none of the staff members saw him leave either. An odd case, wouldn’t you say?

Tipping his tweed cap like a proper English gentleman, Mister Barnaby eased into the chair opposite her. “Unfortunately, your husband is still missing. We are still investigating. Your granddaughter is quite concerned, last we spoke to her.”

Her hand waved dismissingly. “Oh she worries too much. Franklin probably went on another fishing trip.”

“One of your maids said that you were arguing with you husband before his disappearance.”

“Couples have disagreements. Couples take breaks,” She patted my cheek like a long lost grandmother. “You’re young, sweetie. You will learn soon enough.”

“I see.” Mister Barnaby gave me a measured nod, a signal that meant ‘fetch, dog, fetch’. Oh, the joys of being a detective’s right hand man. I excused myself to go to the restroom, leaving my employer and the madam alone by the fire.


Last night, the detective lectured me on old homes with their various hiding places. How he suspected Mr. Pierce was still on the property, one way or another. How the maid promised to give us the skeleton key when we arrived tomorrow.

“Check behind every door, every closet.” Mister Barnaby instructed. “Mr. Pierce is still in that house.”


I searched anything that had a hinge. Cupboards with hidden compartments. Closets within closets. What kind of maniac built this house? Then, I checked a closet in one of the guestrooms. Behind fur coats and cardboard boxes of leftover Christmas decorations was a narrow wooden door. A secret passage, if you will. The door led to stairs, and the stairs led to a basement.

I found Franklin Pierce. Strangled to death and left to rot in a cement room under his home. A kiss of red lipstick stamped on his cheek. Early stages of decomposing. Poor fella had seen better days. When I returned to the detective’s side, Mrs. Pierce was reapplying her red lipstick in the mirror. And she began to laugh. “Oscar, darling, you look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

“More like a skeleton in a closet, boss.” I muttered to Mister Barnaby, lighting a ciggy in my mouth. The mad madam continued to laugh.


To end May of Mystery, here’s a story based on a prompt of the week, featuring characters from my WIP, Detective Barnaby and his assistant Oscar. Enjoy!

– Lady Jabberwocky

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