Friday, January 29, 2010

Guest Blogger, Elizabeth Spann Craig

Please join me in giving a warm welcome to author Elizabeth Spann Craig as the guest blogger here today at Thoughts in Progress.

Elizabeth is the author of “Pretty is as Pretty Dies,” a Myrtle Clover Mystery and the first installment in her barbecue series, “Delicious and Suspicious” is slated for release in July. Elizabeth will be giving away a copy of her book to one lucky person who comments on her post between today and 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4.

When I asked Elizabeth to guest blog here today, I also ask her to select her own topic.  I wanted to see what creative avenue she would choose. She has chosen one that will not only entertain you, but also enlighten you in the ways of the mystery genre.

Now join me as Elizabeth tells us about, “Nancy, Trixie, Scooby, Miss Marple, and Me.”

Nancy, with her titian hair (I remember looking ‘titian’ up in the dictionary), snazzy convertible, cool friends…and even a boyfriend(!) was the coolest person in the world to the second grade me. She was persistent and smart, inquisitive and brave, loyal—and able to get out of the scariest jams.

I was seven when I started reading mysteries. After Nancy, I flew through the whole Trixie Belden series, before moving on to Agatha Christie’s books. 

Even my TV viewing reflected my pull to the genre…Scooby Doo anyone? Scooby was actually a pretty amazing sleuth with the right motivation (Scooby Snacks.) 

What I learned from my mystery solving gang:

Sidekicks make you stronger: Nancy Drew, Carolyn Keene.  Nancy had a nose for trouble.  Although she’d get herself into jams, George and Bess were soon on the scene with some help.  And her friends were always there to bounce ideas off of.

Settings are important.  Miss Marple, Agatha Christie.  The village provided the perfect backdrop for murder.   With a limited number of suspects, the murderer was bound to be someone

everybody knew. And the reader was always reminded—danger is everywhere.  Even in small towns.

Crime investigation makes you a target. Scooby Doo.  Someone or something was always after those meddling kids.  And the chase sequences made me tune in week after week.

Flawed protagonists are fun.  Trixie Belden, Kathryn Kenny
. Trixie had a temper. Trixie was impetuous.  Trixie didn’t follow directions.  Did I mention how many years I enjoyed hanging out with Trixie in books?

No forensics are required. Miss Marple, Agatha Christie. A sleuth needs only a well-developed knowledge of human nature to connect the dots and solve the crime.

An innocuous appearance doesn’t hurt if you’re a sleuth. In fact, you can fly under the radar a lot easier.  Nancy, Trixie, Scooby, and Miss Marple. So, would you take teenage girls, an elderly lady, or a Great Dane seriously?  Neither did the authorities or the bad guys…something they regretted later.

These series not only made me an avid fan, but  also motivated me to try writing the genre myself—and taught me a lot about the components of fun, successful mysteries.

Elizabeth, I would have never thought of putting those characters together in a group but they make a wonderful combination. They are also great inspiration for the mystery genre. Elizabeth will be dropping back by during the day to answer any questions you might have and respond to your comments.

Now for a little background on her. Elizabeth’s “Pretty is as Pretty Dies” book was released in August 2009 by Midnight Ink. “Delicious and Suspicious” (written under her pseudonym Riley Adams) will be released July 2010 by Penguin. Elizabeth can be found at her blog Mystery Writing Is Murder and she is also a contributed to Mystery Lover’s Kitchen, as well as several other blogs.

Did anyone inspire you when you were younger to write mysteries. What are your thoughts on this sleuthing group? Be sure to leave a comment or question for Elizabeth for a chance to win a copy of her book.


  1. Every success with your novel Elizabeth the cover is lovely and your knowledge of your genre is extensive.
    Warm regards,

  2. Nancy, Trixie, Miss Marple - they were the staple of my misspent youth too (Scooby I am discovering with my kids now). Nancy was the coolest, Trixie the one most like me, and Miss Marple someone I feared and admired.
    Thank you for reminding me of all of them.

  3. Simone--Thanks so much! I really appreciate it.

    Rayna--Aren't they great? And between them, they became a crime-fighting force to be reckoned with!


  4. Go Scooby Doo! I knew there was a reason why Elizabeth is so cool.

  5. Elizabeth, You have such a great way with words and ideas. I love this post. This group reminds me a the game clue for some reason. What a great collection of detectives.

    Mason, Great choice!

  6. Mason - Thanks so much for hosting ELizabeth. ELizabeth, thanks for sharing with us what you learned from your inspirations. Those are great sources, too : ). I loved Nancy Drew and of course, Miss Marple. And Scooby? What's not to like : ).

  7. I was more Hardy Boys than Nancy Drew, but my first mystery addiction began with Sherlock Holmes. From there, I went through Agatha Christie, and from there ... everywhere else.

  8. I read (watched) all of those too! Add in Hardy Boys & Poirot for me as well :)

    There's just something about mysteries for young minds isn't there?

  9. Oh, fantastic! As I write this, my kids are watching Scooby Doo! (Let it reflect on my status as a writing mother: my 21mo daughter can say "Shaggy" and "Scooby" with surprising clarity.) Maybe they will go into the biz, too.

    I never put the mysteries I read as a child together with the mysteries I wrte as an adult. Isn't that strange? I loved Scooby Doo, of course. And I stole my Dad's first edition Hardy Boys (I have to see where those went!). I read Nancy Drew as well and then got into Christopher Pike in middle school (a bit more horror/thriller, but still mysterious). Sigh, memory lane...

    I love your comment about no forensics required for Miss Marple. She does it with her intuition and brilliance.

    Wonderful post, Elizabeth! Thank you for having such great authors, Mason!


  10. Diane--Scooby is a cool-maker! :)

    Teresa--Miss Scarlet in the dining room with a rope! I loved that game. Didn't get to play it nearly enough as a kid because it required 3 players.

    Margot--Scooby is a little bit of a scaredy-cat, but food is a powerful motivator!

    Terry--I was probably late high school when I read Sherlock. Loved the "Hounds of the Baskervilles." When I was in high school, the movie "Young Sherlock Holmes" came out and I think that's what inspired me to start reading Doyle.

    Kristen--Great gang of kids in those Trixie Belden books, weren't there? Jim and Trixie, Brian and Honey, Mart and...well, who WAS Mart with? He was sort of annoying, so maybe he wasn't paired up with anyone.

    Jemi--Twisting young minds, maybe! And only Christie focused on murder...the motives for all the others was money--right? I'm having a hard time remembering.

    Michele--See! Scooby is educational, too. He's helping out with speech development and patterns now. :)

    I liked the Hardy Boys, too...and the Bobbsey Twins. Although not nearly as much as the others I've listed. Oh... and there was this great TV version of the Hardy Boys in the 70s with Shaun Cassidy as Joe! The Nancy one wasn't quite as good...their Nancy was kind of dour.

  11. Good morning everyone, thanks for stopping by. Elizabeth, a special thanks to you for guest blogging here today. I love the fact that the younger generation is being introduced to mystery sleuths even though they make not realize it. :) Hope everyone has a great day, I'm off to work in the coming sleet and snow.

  12. Mason--Thanks so much for having me here! The weather is looking nasty, isn't it? I remember that birthday wishes are in order? Hope you have a great one, despite the horrid weather coming.


  13. Thanks Elizabeth. Ah, yes that day is fast approaching (Monday). They come way too quickly now. Thanks again for remembering. Keep an eye out for your weather as well, seems this is going everywhere.

  14. Mason-I cannot say what it is about the Russian Earl Grey tea that I like better than Earl grey-it is quite hard to get here in the US or Canada-trust me I search. Lipton's I think has the best-maybe I just like the Liptons's more. I have bought Earl Grey for sure from Fauchon but not as good.

    I love this book just for the cover.

  15. Mason--Enjoy! And...yes, we're getting either ice or snow tonight. Let's hope it's snow!

    Esme--I wonder if World Market would carry that tea? They seem to have all kinds of good stuff at that store.

    Thanks for the compliment on the cover! :)

  16. I enjoyed this interview...I loved 'mystery books' growing up...nancy drew and all of agatha christie's books come to mind...

    Thanks for the opportunity to read your's on my 'wish list'.


  17. Great post! My introduction to mysteries came via Dorothy L. Sayers and the Lord Peter Whimsey series. My mother was a big fan, and I started reading them with her.

    I loved Pretty Is As Pretty Dies! I can't wait for Delicious and Suspicious.

  18. Trixie and Scooby for me. I missed Agatha Christi, but found Perry Mason and Phyllis Whitney.

    Happy Birthday, Mason!

  19. I was a Nancy Drew and Scooby Doo kid. Both of my kids like Scooby now, but their taste in mysteries run more along the lines of Johnathan Rand. Actually, I don't care who they like, just as long as they read!

  20. Enjoyed the feature. Elizabeth is not only a prolific blogger and writer, she is a good literary coach and teacher as well.

    Marvin D Wilson

  21. Karen--Thanks so much for coming by and commenting! One of the best things about the Nancy Drew books and the Agatha Christies was that there were so many of them! It's exciting to get introduced to a series and find that there are tons of books in it.

    Ingrid--Oh, I'm a huge Sayers fan, too! I started reading her after Christie, though...a little later. Thanks so much for your nice words about "Pretty!" :)

    Carol--I used to watch Perry reruns while eating lunch! Great series.

    Janel--That's really the way I feel too, with my kids. As long as they're reading then anything goes! Although I still have high hopes my daughter will be a Nancy Drew fan. :)

    Marvin--Thanks so much! That's high praise from you...especially considering your successful Tuesday Tutorial series.

  22. Oooh--That brings back so many memories of the books I read growing up. Did you ever read Encyclopedia Brown? He was targeted to a younger group. After him, I read all the Nancy Drews and Hardy Boys and then moved over to Agatha Christie. Your book sounds like fun. Thanks for visiting today.

  23. LSU Reader--I did, actually! I read "Encyclopedia Brown" in first and second grade and still remember he solved a case one time because reflections in spoons are upside down. :) Great books.

  24. Delicious and Suspicious - love that tittle :)))

  25. Dez, the title sounds intriguing doesn't it.

    Elizabeth, just wanted to say thanks to you again for guest blogging today. It's been a crazy day, some sleet but no snow yet.

  26. Dezmond--Thanks so much! :) I'm excited about the upcoming release.

    Mason--You are so welcome...thanks so much for inviting me to your wonderful blog! We've had some snow, but no sleet. :) Maybe between the two of us we'll pull together a Southern winter storm event.


  27. A sleuth needs only a well-developed knowledge of human nature to connect the dots and solve the crime.

    Great insightful tip. I have a competition of sorts between two of the bad guys, one using a well-developed knowledge of human nature vs. advanced statistical analysis and better able to make decisions regarding human behavior.

    Stephen Tremp

  28. Stephen--Sounds like a great idea! Bad guy against bad guy...very cool.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.