It all started with my first published story, "Dusty's Disappearance" published in 1984 Highlights Magazine. One of my third grade students came into class one day and told me his pony, pastured with the cattle in a big field, was missing. The whole class was enthralled, and we guessed rustlers, lost, run away. For a week, we waited for updates. Finally, the student told us the pony had been found trapped in an old stone ice house. He'd wandered onto the roof of the ice house and fallen through. Because the ice was lifted out from the top, there were no doors, and firemen had to bust their way though the stone walls. The pony was hungry and dehydrated, but fine.Instinctively, I knew this was a great story. I added action, suspense, and a great cliffhanger and sent it to Highlights; it was my first sale after a long run of rejections, and I was elated!
In the late 1980s, I began to write for the 'new' Linda Craig series. (The old series had been published in the 1950s and badly needed updating as you can see by the cover.) I was given the galley of the first book written in the series, and after reading it, thought "Wow, that was boring." Even the horse-details were slightly off and I vowed to make my book, which would be the second in the series, better.
As I wrote the outline, the adventure grew into a mystery. Almost instinctively I knew how to pace the story, write logical clues, ratchet up the suspense, add twists and create cliffhangers. It was as if my brain was born to 'mystery.' The editors loved The Silver Stallion and I wrote five more in the series, all with strong mystery elements.
When Linda Craig ended, the editor asked if I wanted to try writing a Nancy Drew mystery. I was a natural and ended up writing over twenty digests, racks, and supermysteries, five online serial Nancy Drews as well as editing/rewriting for the publisher. It was during my editing jobs that I realized I did, indeed, have a knack for mystery as I rewrote countless boring scenes, added clues that made sense and increased the tension/action. I even got to add horses in my own Nancys The Mystery of the Missing Horse and The Mystery of the Masked Rider (I didn't come up with the titles).
My Nancy Drew training got me ready to plot and write Shadow Horse, which was nominated for an Edgar, and its sequel Whirlwind as wells as all my historical novels, which are as suspenseful and action-filled as a good mystery.
But where did this knack for mystery come from? I have no idea. Currently, I am enthralled by the mysteries behind the antique and vintage items that I find at yard sales, auctions and thrift shops. Each vase, plate or tin has a story behind it. What is the value? Who made it? How old is it? What was it used for?
For example, my antique wicker potty had two brass rings on the end of each arm. Was this once a potty swing? Obviously that didn't make sense, but I could not figure out how the rings were used until I came upon this photo. I deduced this was once a torture chamber for potty-training Victorian two-year-olds. Case closed.
In my last two blogs, I got to review two fun mysteries, one written by Laura, so I can add reading mysteries to my other loves. And what about you? Do you love solving a good mystery or puzzle? Writing them? Reading them? If you do, please share!