XVI ~ October 2008

How do you feel about happy endings?

It's come to my attention that happy endings are considered by many to be perhaps somewhat déclassé – the hallmark of genre fiction as opposed to literary.

Laurie King, a favorite writer of mine, did a blog post about this and more specifically about Edgar Sawtelle which several of you have recommended. (Warning: There are spoilers in her post.)

Mystery readers are known for wanting justice to triumph – which is a kind of a happy ending. In the cozier mysteries, the ending is always happy – but as one tips to the darker (and perhaps more literary) end of the mystery spectrum, the endings don't always show justice served – think of the killers who escape to return in a future book – nor are those endings invariably happy.

I think of Elizabeth George who killed off one of her main characters a few books back. She lost a lot of readers who felt that an implied promise had been broken – but now, I think, the consensus among those who remain her fans is that the series is stronger than ever.

Recently I wrote a short story – one that dealt with an unresolved situation near and dear to me. I gave the story a happy ending – or rather, as I wrote, the happy ending is what evolved; I didn't know where I was heading when I began.

When I showed this story to a writer whose work I very much admire (literary fiction, definitely not genre) and asked for an opinion, I was told something like: ‘The people who read your books would love this; New York would hate it.' And it was the happy (perhaps sappy) ending that was singled out.

But recently I read a much-touted NYT best seller of the literary variety. I'd been avoiding it, fearing a sad ending (there were animals involved, which made me doubly apprehensive.) Finally, however, I braved up, read it, and Huzzah! there was a happy ending! Wildly improbable but so happy I wanted to stand up and cheer.

I wonder if scary times – the sort our country, not to mention our world, is in just now – make some of us long for a happy ending in our reading, no matter how improbable.

Tobacco Curing


( or ‘you uns,' as Miss Birdie would say)

Paula P. is happy about: “Effie Leland Wilder's books getting a mention!  She is from my original hometown of Summerville , SC !!!!  Though I've been a proud Nashville , TN , resident for almost 22 years, I still claim Summerville.”

Elaine in Hawaii is still worried about Phillip: “ Seems like it would be difficult to convince readers that Sam was so stupid as to tell people, especially Elizabeth, that Phillip was his best friend, only to have Auntie discover this letter that says Sam didn't trust him. And Phillip's character has come through in some very domestically charged scenes, which makes it even more difficult for me to believe he'd be...not good.”

Pat W., my email buddy in east Tennessee says: . ha, did you see the stop our sheriff made the other week end with the pick up truck loaded with flavored moonshine, and then the 'big bust' made in Shelton Laurel by Sheriff's Ledford and Harris???  Quite a haul!!  Like he said, "It's still going on in these mountains". 

Right now I'm reading "Merle's Door", the story of a man's life with his dog.  Very interesting, and a fun read.  Good reading for this time of the year when I'm still outside quite a bit ...

Pat goes on : I just finished BLACKMAN'S COFFIN ... what a great book!!!  This is one of the few authors, and I think you know who #1 is, that I could not figure out the 'who done it'.  What was really interesting about this book was that it takes place in Asheville , so it was like I was right there with them strolling down downtown and surrounding areas and on the Biltmore Estate too.  There was also a lot of history about the Estate ... always interesting, to me anyway, to find out more about that grand house/grounds.  I highly recommend the book and have to thank you for finding it ... had you not mentioned Mr. De Castrique from your trip down state a few weeks back, well, I never would have known.  Sounds like this is the beginning of a series too ... mmmm, does that sound familiar.  LOL   

Kimberly H. T. sent me a very interesting link about the Melungeons (remember Ish and Mariah?) which I hope to explore in a future book.

There've been lots more items of interest from you all in the comments on my (almost) daily blog . For any of you newsletter readers who haven't visited, I invite you to check it out. It's weird, eclectic, lively, and all over the place.

Recent Reads and Re-reads

Books I've enjoyed during the past month

My reading has hit an all time low, so consumed with The Day of Small Things I ( still ) am. I dip briefly into the New Yorker or Angela Thirkell's Barsetshire series at lunch and bath and bedtime but I dare not start a new novel. There are the threads of three (or is it four?) stories in my mind and I'm at the point where they have to be carefully woven together.

Thirkell's Barsetshire, a place I've traveled in reading many and many a time, is sufficiently different from Birdie's world that it can't confuse me. Upper middle class England before and during WWII is somehow soothing to my frenzied brain.

Of course the TBR pile is growing, taking over the stairs to my room again. But it will have to wait till Birdie's done with me.

Vicki's Schedule


October 9-12 ~Bouchercon ( The mystery convention), Baltimore , MD. I'll be on a panel of Southern writers, Friday morning at 8:30

And I'm looking forward to meeting some email friends in person!


November 14-16 North Carolina Writers Network Conference. Hilton RDU in Research Triangle Park (near airport). Saturday, November 15, 2:30 -4:00. I'll be teaching a workshop on writing mysteries

A Whodunnit Howdunnit

So you want to write a mystery! Starting with the most basic premise: ‘X is dead and A, B, C, D, or E might have done it, we'll look at the many types of mystery, from cozy cats and crafts to hard-boiled noir and all stops in between. Next we'll talk about choosing a protagonist, a setting, a point of view, and the pros and cons of different choices. We'll discuss various ‘systems' for plotting, as well as the exciting and sometimes perilous ‘seat of your pants' method. Plots and sub plots, twists and re-twists will be considered. Brief writing exercises, as time permits.


Sunday, March 1, 3 pm ~ Vicki is speaking at the Troy, NC Public Library. Sponsored by the Montgomery County Friends of the Library.

Contact: David Atkins, Manager

Montgomery County Public Libraries

215 West Main Street

Troy , NC 27371


Friday and Saturday, May 8-9 -- Blue Ridge Book and Author Showcase. Flat Rock, NC.

I'm really excited about this. Sharyn McCrumb, Kay Byer, Sheila Kay Adams, and Joan Medlicott – all of whom have befriended me and helped me on my journey – will be presenting, as well as many other noted writers – including Robert Morgan.

Billed as "a festival and convocation in celebration of authorship, creative writing and the joy of reading," organizers of the Blue Ridge Book & Author Showcase have launched an ambitious inaugural project. The venue will be the soon-to-be-completed crown jewel of the Blue Ridge Community College campus in Flat Rock, NC--the Technical Education and Development Center . The event is scheduled for May 8-9, 2009. Free and open to the public, it is expected to draw attendance from throughout the state and region.

Vicki will be speaking at 10 AM on Saturday the 9 th and will have a table in the exhibit area where she will be available throughout the day. LINK coming soon.

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