Welcome, Mary Angela! Mary writes the Professor Prather cozy mystery series. Passport to Murder is the second book in the series. She is giving away a copy to a commenter! Join us in welcoming Mary!
You know the holidays are coming when you buy a new outfit for your Elf on the Shelf. Recently, I purchased one for our elf and her friendly reindeer because “Come on, Mom. They’re a team!” my girls argued. ’Tis the season for waffling mothers, and if there’s one month my kids can talk me into anything, it’s December. They could ask for a chimpanzee right now, and I’d wonder if the zoo was offering a rebate.
Even if you don’t have little kids at home, you’ve probably heard of the Elf on the Shelf. Pinterest has entire boards devoted to this miniature menace: he writes messages, hides in weird places, and often gets trapped. Thankfully, our elf, Cheery Cherry, isn’t nearly as crafty. Sometimes she’s downright lazy after a long day of being creative. Still, she’s a big fan of board games and candy canes and, of course, reindeer. Actually, now that I think about it, the elf and I have a lot in common. First of all, we both fly around the house during the holidays making people happy. Second, we devote much of our time to leaving surprises.
It’s one of the best things I get to hear my readers say: the ending surprised me. I had no idea. I thought it was insert-the-name-of-a-would-be-murderer. It’s like unwrapping a gift every time I hear those words. Human beings are creatures of habit. We get up, we go to work or school, and we go to bed. Rarely does anything shake our routine. It’s no wonder my kids race down the stairs, even on school days, to see what that crazy elf has done. It’s the same reason they race down the stairs on Christmas morning and the same reason we race to the end of a novel: it’s fun to be surprised.
Mysteries should be anything but predictable, and like the elf, I work very hard at creating the element of surprise. It’s the feature of the mystery genre I enjoy most. After teaching English for many years, I love writing a good plot, an afterthought in some of the literary works I teach. My novels are filled with viable suspects and, much to the chagrin of elves everywhere, no tricks. Although I enjoy surprising plots (the Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie is my absolute favorite example of this), I always play fair with my endings. I know readers enjoy being surprised, not cheated, by a plot twist. A lump of coal might describe an ending that disappoints. As a reader, I’ve been there. Expecting a sweet treat, you find yourself frustrated by a character who hasn’t been mentioned in the last twenty-six chapters. Oh Christmas miracle! Where did this person come from? Maybe an elf made merry with the pages.
This time of year should be filled with mystery, magic, and happy surprises, like being invited by the Wicked Cozy Authors to guest post on their blog. Thank you so much for having me today, ladies, and thank you readers. It’s a gift to be in your company.
Readers: Do you like surprises? Do you have a favorite?
Mary Angela is the author of the Professor Prather cozy mystery series, which has been called “enjoyable” and “clever” by Publishers Weekly. She is also an educator and has taught English and humanities at South Dakota’s public and private universities for over ten years. When Mary isn’t writing or teaching, she enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family. For more information about Mary or the series, go to MaryAngelaBooks.com.