Mashed Up Musings

Rambling Thoughts on Genre Mashups

Puzzling.jpgYesterday over at The Write Practice, the subject was genre mashups, something I’d never hear of before — at least not by that name. The concept of taking a story and retelling it in another genre is familiar. For example, telling the story of Cinderella as a news report.

In this Write Practice post “The Magic Violinist” is suggesting mixing genres like fairy tale + sci-fi, romance + thriller, classic + contemporary. Oliver Twist meets his Mafia Godfather. That type of thing.

I read a book recently where one of the main characters is an author and in her novel Jane Austen is captured by space aliens. The title of the book will give a clue as to how successful she was at getting it launched. The Rejected Writers Book Club (Southlea Bay) by Suzanne Kelman is a funny, though none-too-believable, tale with a mixture of zany and normal characters. I found it delightful.

Mixing genres is an intriguing thought. Even in straight fiction, there are some tales I think would benefit from a dash of something else thrown in. For example, Wuthering Heights — one book I disliked extremely. I read the thing all the way through, hoping poor Heathcliff would get a grip, but there was just no improvement.

It’s billed as a romance — but I saw no actual love anywhere in its pages. Jealousy, greed, snobbery, obsession, fury, cruelty, revenge, yes. Love, no. I think Healthcliff might have benefited immensely by a visit from those three Spirits of Christmas who brought Ebenezer Scrooge to his senses in A Christmas Carol.

I think a lot of mashups of the old classics have already been done a zillion times. There are many contemporary, sci-fi, fantasy, and western versions of Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Pride + Prejudice, Romeo & Juliet, and Hamlet floating around.

Just for the fun of it, here are a few mashups I came up with:

Lord Peter Wimsey is sent to investigate the assassination of the King of Scotland and the murder of Banquo. He deduces from various clues that MacBeth is the guilty party…
or
Miss Marple, a good friend of Banquo’s widow, does some snooping and uncovers Lady Macbeth’s duplicity in the assassination of the king.

The Three Musketeers could be three university roommates who join together to prove their favorite professor, accused of being a spy, is innocent.

I’ve never read The Great Gatsby, and the synopsis doesn’t at all inspire me to start. However, one of the three male characters could meet up with the three spirits of Christmas and come to see the error of his ways, improving the sad outcome of that story.

On the humorous side, Bertie Wooster could meet up with Ebenezer Scrooge’s three Christmas ghosts and resolve to atone for his former self-indulgent lifestyle. He tries in his inept way to donate time + talent to some worthy cause, but Jeeves has to sort things out when they go awry.

Notes:

Cinderella, an old fairy tale, was recorded by French writer Charles Perrault
Oliver Twist is a classic novel by Charles Dickens
The Little Mermaid was a Hans Christian Anderson tale
Wuthering Heights was Emily Bronte’s only novel
Ebeneezer Scrooge is Charles Dicken’s notorious curmudgeon and tightwad
Pride & Prejudice was penned by Jane Austen
Romeo + Juliet, Hamlet and MacBeth were written by William Shakespeare
Lord Peter Wimsey was Dorothy Sayers’ famous detective
Miss Marple was Agatha Christie’s very successful sleuth
The Three Musketeers was written by Alexandre Dumas
The Great Gatsby was an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel
Bertie Wooster + his valet, Jeeves, were created by P. G. Wodehouse

Mini-Review for Mini-Tales

Beginnings and Endings: a Selection of Short Stories

© 2017 by Jane Suen

This book contains four short tales, nothing profound or suspenseful; just everyday scenes in the lives of several people — and one growing thing. A quick read, interesting and well edited. I noticed several wordings that made me wonder if the writer’s first language is English, but over all it’s very well done. Makes you want to read the longer background story or the “what happens next?”

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Going through my Kobo e-reader this afternoon, taking a look at the books I’ve downloaded. A number of these are coming from new authors, giving away their books in the hopes the recipients would write a review. So I’d best do my part. 🙂

Well Written, Intriguing Characters, A Dash of Zany — and FREE

BOOK REVIEW:
CRANBERRY BLUFF,
A Tale of Scones and Scoundrels

© 2014 by Deborah Garner
Cranberry Cove Press

Molly Elliott lived a comfortable life and for three years had a stable career in Tallahassee, FL, until one day someone took advantage of her regular routine. She was making the company deposit at the bank when it was robbed. The female thief was dressed about like Molly, hair styled the same, and standing at the next wicket when she pulled a gun on the teller. This led to some question as to which woman was actually the robber.

The police, after viewing the bank’s video tapes, were satisfied Molly wasn’t involved. Someone else believed she’d somehow been involved and gotten away with the loot. Molly started getting notes like, “We know you have it and we’re going to find it.” The police called the notes “just a prank” but when Molly came home one day and found her house ransacked she knew this was deadly serious. It was impossible to feel safe; she started to fear everyone, every situation.

Then her Aunt in Northern California passed away and left Molly her home, currently operating as Cranberry Cottage, an eight-room Bed & Breakfast. Molly jumped at the chance, left her life in FL behind, and found respite from the constant fear in her new location.

The story opens on a Sept day where Molly, comfortably settled into the role of innkeeper, prepares to welcome the five guests who’ve booked rooms at Cranberry Cottage. A honeymooning couple, a sixty-something woman who loves to shop, a strange little salesman who doesn’t mingle, and a very handsome, sociable fellow who shows up very late that first night. Later identifies himself as a novelist.

Little does Molly know that her guests are not the people they present themselves as — and at least one of them is convinced Molly still has the bank heist stashed away somewhere on the property. This guest wants to search and find that money. As the story unfolds we see the other guests have their own agendas and reasons for being at Cranberry Bluff.

I seldom give a book five stars, but this one I did. The story is well written and believable, the characters well developed, if a tad off-beat. As we get to know them better the tale gets zany, not totally realistic but definitely believable and interesting. The first time I read the book I couldn’t put it down. When I received notice from Book Bub that it’s free right now through both Amazon and Kobo, I decided to do a review and tell you about it. So I read it again yesterday and found it just as entertaining the second time around.

A romance begins in this book, but the two involved like each other and help each other. No violence, no bad language, no screaming matches. Just a nice light read.

Added Bonus:
A number of Cranberry recipes at the back of the book.

Click here for Amazon
Click here for Kobo

 

Book Review: The Nose Knows

A Bugle Boy Crime Caper (Duane & Bugle Boy Book 1)

by DeForest Day

Bugle Boy, a clever bloodhound pup, was put through the TSA Canine Training Center in San Antonio, TX, and graduated at the top of his class. He became part of the TSA airport security team, able to sniff out a many different narcotic and explosive substances on a baggage carousel.

However, Bugle Boy was not trained to distinguish between average citizens and politicians. So when he saw a man trying to slip past the security screening, Bugle Boy howled about it. And further, he notified his handler about an illegal drug he was sniffing in the man’s pants’ pocket. The fellow turned out to be a Republican congressman; he was outraged and demanded the handler be fired and the dog euthanized.

A higher-ranking security officer was called to deal with the complaint. Alas for the congressman, the officer was not only a stickler for the law, but a Democrat to boot. When he insisted on a strip search, the Republican congressman pulled a baggie of marijuana from his pocket and tossed it at him.

This was apparently legal, but not apt to be well tolerated should this revelation come to the ears of his rather conservative Idaho voters. Charges and counter-charges were quietly dropped. The politician did insist the hound be fired, but Bugle Boy was officially a Federal Civil Service employee and you can’t fire a civil servant without a public hearing — which was apt to adversely affect the senator’s popularity at the polls. So Bugle Boy found himself part of a package deal — a new SUV being the other part — shipped off to a tiny Pennsylvania town with a three-person police force.

Here he was partnered with Duane, a local cop who perhaps wasn’t the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but did well at catching speeders. Bugle Boy’s bored after the excitement of a busy airport but when they get called to a shooting of sorts he finally gets his chance to sniff out some local excitement. Which gives the police chief some anxious moments in his campaign for re-election.

I enjoyed this story, a rather short one as novels go — Amazon says 42 pages. I liked the small-town setting and gentle spoof on local characters, politics and politicians. It was never uproariously funny, more like chuckles all through. The language is mild for the most part; there are a few expletives, off-color jokes and insinuations.

I got this e-book for free with the idea that I should write an honest review. If you’re interested in reading it, right now this first-in-the-series book is free on both Amazon and Kobo.

This book review is my response to the Ragtag Daily Prompt word: SPOOF

Book Review: The Face of the Earth

When Does A Spouse Move On?

A friend once told me of an elderly gent who visited his wife everyday in the nursing home. She had advanced Alzheimer’s and wasn’t responding to anyone at all anymore.
Finally someone there asked him, “Why do you still come and sit with her every day? She doesn’t even know who you are?”
The old man relied, “But I still know who she is.”

At what point, if ever, are you released from your marriage commitment when the one you made them to is absent, either literally or mentally? For some people a marriage is simply an agreement “for as long as we feel like it.” A Christian, however, promises “before God and these witnesses…to be faithful…for as long as you both shall live.” Are there circumstances where God releases a spouse from that promise?

I just finished this amazing story where the author sets up this scenario and demonstrates a sensible, faith-based response to the question. I really admire the scruples of the characters in this book! While these are people who embrace Christian principles and seek direction through prayer, I’d recommend this book to anyone.

The Face of the Earth

© 2017 by Deborah Raney
(First published in 2013 under the same name by Howard Books/Simon & Schuster.)

Friday, Sept 3rd:
Principal Mitchell Brannon pauses on his way home from work to call his wife Jill, a third-grade teacher who’s driving home from a personal development conference in Kansas City. He’s happy he persuaded her to go, now they’re planning a relaxing evening at home. They’d just delivered their second child to University and are starting their new life as empty nesters. Jill has been feeling blue about this change, but Mitch is rather looking forward to being “just the two of us” again.

He gets her voice-mail, so he leaves a message: “Just wondering where you are. Give me a call so I know when to put on the steaks.” She hasn’t arrived yet when he gets home, but she’s left him a message on their house phone at 1pm saying she’s leaving the hotel and should be home by six at the latest. She sounds upbeat, ready to be home.

Mitch fires up the grill at 6pm and takes out the steaks. Calls and gets her voice-mail again. That’s odd. At 7:30 he shuts off the grill, calls the hotel, verifies her leaving time, checks the weather to see if there’ve been any storms along her way. At 8pm he stops pacing the floor to call her best friend, Shelley Austin, a divorcee who lived next door. Shelley hadn’t heard a peep from Jill that day. By 9 pm he’s calling everyone who might possibly have heard from her.

Mitch calls Highway Patrol. No reported accidents. And they seemed reluctant to get involved — after all, she may have chosen to not come home. Mitch doesn’t buy that; he knows he and Jill have a good marriage. She’d never worry him like this. Has she been in an accident? Shelley comes over to help Mitch in his search, calling all the hospitals in KC and along Jill’s route home. The next morning they head out and drive the route she’d have traveled, hoping to find some clue.

Saturday Sept 4th :
Highway Patrol officers pay a visit. They have no news, but bombard Mitch with questions. Is she choosing to stay away? Did she seem depressed? Had they quarreled? Can anyone verify where he was during those hours when his wife went missing? Obvious insinuations.

Mitch & Jill’s son and daughter come home from University and join in the waiting, the rushing to the phone. Always hoping. There must be some reason… Then Jill’s cell phone is discovered on the floor in the parking garage.

Mitch and Shelley are two vulnerable human beings thrown together in a time of high emotions time and you know the connection is sometime going to produce sparks. Shelley’s trying to not betray her friend. Mitch intends to be faithful to his wedding vows and keep hoping, “Til death do you part.” Eventually, though, he wonders: at what point are you released from those vows when the one with whom you made them has vanished from the face of the earth — and may never return?

This story is masterfully written and played out in a totally realistic way. You ride along with these people on their roller coaster of hope and despair, feeling with them through their painful vigil, the nightmares, the (finally tiresome) expressions of sympathy, the flashes of hope when some new detail is uncovered, the suspicion, the gossip. I appreciate that Mitch respects the Bible admonition to “avoid all appearance of evil” even though he needs Shelley’s help and support.

Cautionary Note:
Don’t start this book after 9 pm unless you can afford to be up half the night. It’s very hard to put down.

Transforming INK into STORY

Daily Addiction’s word for today is TRANSFORM, a wonderful word indeed.
For example, a good edit can transform this scene:

Colour swirls

into this:
Circles of colour

Some people may prefer the first picture; many will call it a mess. The big questions are: who’s going to buy it and how much will the customer feels it’s worth?

Thanks to Amazon.com, any writer is free to write as he so chooses and publish his work. But most readers want pattern and clarity, a story that moves along at a lively pace, unencumbered by unnecessary detail. So a writer must decide when he starts out who he’s writing for. If you’re writing for yourself only, I’d suggest doing a journal. There are enough badly written books out there.

On To My Book Review

52 Steps to Murder,
#1 in the Dekker Cosy Mystery Series
© 2013 by Steve Demaree

Mrs Nelson, a disabled elderly lady, wasn’t pushing the button that unlocked her door when her granddaughter stopped by. So granddaughter Angela became worried and called the police to help her break into her grandma’s house. A rookie cop arrived; he and Angela hurried upstairs and she checked her grandmother’s room, where she found the old lady dead in her bed. When he heard Mrs Nelson was dead the officer went back to his cruiser and radioed for help.

Homicide investigators Lieutenant Cy Dekker and Sergeant Lou Murdock arrived at Hilltop Place — and surveyed with dismay the 52 stairs they’re going to have to climb. The two middle-aged men aren’t in the greatest physical condition; their roundish shape is a recurring joke through the story.

Examining the scene, Lt Dekker — who tells the story in first person throughout — has a feeling that the death isn’t due to simple heart failure, so they begin asking questions. When the medical examiner informs them the next day that the old lady was poisoned, they investigate in earnest. Unfortunately all the houses on Hilltop Place involve that long climb up, up, up. And before long they find another disabled elderly lady missing. The plot thickens.

I like these two fellows. I enjoyed the humor, yet at times it’s overdone, especially when they and the medical examiner quip back and forth about their physical fitness while they’re at the scene of a suspicious death. All through the book their banter is at times amusing but other times it just goes on too long.

While I appreciated that these officers profess to be Christians and attend church every Sunday, Lt Dekker’s dislike for his neighbor and his sarcastic put-downs struck me as quite uncharitable. This gave rise to one cute typo, though:
The two of us enjoyed a good laugh as I recanted my most recent encounter with my next-door neighbor.

I sometimes wish we had a two-number rating system: one for the overall story-line and one for the writing quality. I’d give this book a 5 for the first and a 3 for the second. This story has an interesting, well formulated plot, but needs an editorial polishing big-time to eliminate the repetition and irrelevant details the writer felt to add.

I feel the last half drags in places where Lt Dekker gets into rehashing who might have committed the crime, alone or together with who, how they accomplished it, when, and why. Given the facts, readers can and will ask these questions themselves; this repetition is a waste of ink, IMO. Since his musings were about the same each time, I just skipped over them.

For example, here are a few sentences from this book I think an editor could have helped to smooth and clarify.
(Lightning is his name for his VW Beetle.)
I braked and eased Lightning in front of Mrs Nelson’s house. Lou and I used one hand for leverage and extracted ourselves from the yellow bubble.

(Sgt Murdock had a bucket list of 100 books he plans to read.)
Lou began his conquest by reading a novel told from the point of view of one of literature’s most beloved characters, Scout, from To Kill a Mockingbird. Lou called it a delightful book and voiced his disappointment that Harper Lee never wrote a second book.

An After Thought

The writer just released the fourteenth book in this series in April and has two other mystery series on the go, so he’s likely learned a lot about editing since this book came out.

Lessons of Hope and Light

A Collection of Inspirational Short Stories by Marlo Berliner

Lately I’ve been preparing a second book of poems and short stories myself so, with the thought of checking out what sort of books are already out there, I borrowed this one through Kindle Unlimited and enjoyed it enough that I want to recommend it to you.

Lessons of Hope and Light has only three stories, all short and easy to read — took me about twenty  minutes. The first is about finding the silver lining in life’s clouds; the next is a religious parable of sorts, the third tells of an intriguing second chance. Practical, upbeat endings such as I like.

Of Internet and E-mail Issues

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my husband has switched internet providers. This involved a change of e-mail addresses, which has now been effected. While everything was in upheaval I decided that I’d set up another g-mail account, so as to have one for personal and one for WordPress mail.

Once we had our new service hooked up, I set up an e-mail through that provider, too. And our Xplornet account hasn’t been cancelled yet — so I now have FOUR e-mail addresses. 🙂

I’ve opted to use one g-mail for various sale ads and FREE BOOK stuff: Book Bub, Book Sweeps; Book Cave; Book Gobbler, InstaFreebie, Reading Deals.com. You may wonder why on earth I’m subscribed to so many, but if and when I have more books to promote, I hope to use one or two of these author services. Some are obviously better than others for my kind of writing. So I’ll call it Research, but it gives lots of e-mail I don’t need filling my personal In-box.

I really do like the “everything in its own section” idea. WordPress and other blogging-related stuff, with the many notifications, are coming to the other g-mail account, which frees up my new e-mail In-box for personal mail. I’m getting a handle on managing this three-way split and hope I haven’t missed anything really important in the last few days.

Otherwise, we’re enjoying our beautiful summer days. For those of you in the Northern Hemisphere, I hope you are, too. Have a great day — or evening, if you’re in Europe. 🙂