Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Before I was Monica Ferris, I was half of Margaret Frazer. Before that, I was Mary Monica Pulver (my actual maiden name). As Mary Monica, I wrote six complete mysteries and one unfinished mystery about a police investigator and his wealthy, horse-breeder wife. Five of them were published.

My unpublished complete book is not publishable. It’s about a Satanist, and he’s not scary enough. I think I grew afraid of him as the book was being written, so I made him increasingly inept and less dangerous until by the end he was almost a wimp. But other than that, it’s a good book -- LOL!

Here’s the opening scene of Die By The Sword:

"Peter, what do you think about the color of this kitchen?" asked Kori. She had just added milk to her mug of English tea and while stirring it was looking around the room, large and oddly shaped -- Kori thought of it as a high-top shoe, with a bricked-up fireplace in the heel. They were sitting at the table under a big window at the top, where the foot goes in.

"Hm?" said Peter, vaguely aware this wasn't the first time she had asked him something. It wasn't because he was immersed in the morning paper, or watching a burglar sneaking across the back lawn with the family silver in his pockets, he hadn't heard her the first time because Peter wasn't compos mentis first thing in the morning. Especially since Kori had made him agree to cut back the strength as well as the number of cups of coffee he drank.

"I said, what do you think about the color of this kitchen?"

"I think it's orange," said Jeep, who felt that five was old enough to take part in adult conversations, especially when the topic was as obvious as this one.

"Yeah, it's orange." Peter nursed his second cup of thin perk and plotted a lunchtime trip to Nickelby's, where the coffee was brewed by an old army cook. He didn't look at his wife, because she was beautiful and in his current weakened state he couldn't look at her and refuse her anything.

"Maybe it should be some other color. Pale mauve."

"What color is pale mauve?" asked Jeep. "Can I have toast?"

"May I have toast. And finish your oatmeal first," said Kori. "Mauve is pale pink mixed with very pale violet."

"Michael's tongue is mauve," observed Jeep, twisting around in his seat to look at the standard black poodle sleeping on his strip of carpet near the back door.

"Gah," said Peter. "A kitchen the color of a dog's tongue."

"Gah!" agreed Jeep with a chuckle. "It's horrible, and miserable, and, and tawdry to have a kitchen the color of a dog's tongue."

"It isn't tawdry," said Kori. "Besides Michael's tongue is not mauve, it's simply pink. But maybe the blue tones in mauve would be too cold. But beige is too neutral, so maybe we should paper it. A flower pattern, tulips or -- "

"What's wrong with orange?" interrupted Peter, still not looking at her.

"Orange has been out of fashion for years."

He frowned and drank more coffee. They lived in a big old Victorian house he liked because it was comfortable and friendly. He felt an intelligent man would ride into combat to preserve the sanctity of a home like this. And so he did, because he was a cop. And he did not wish to come home to find his beautiful wife in the midst of spoiling its serenity and comfort in the name of fashion. Comfortable things were rare and should be left alone. "Orange is a nice, warm, friendly color," he concluded out loud.

"You're right, I suppose. But even if we only repaint it orange, this kitchen needs a fresh coat of paint."

Jeep said, "And I can help, because I'm very careful with paint. I don't spill, and I won't get it on my clothes. Can -- may I help, Mama?"

"No you may not. And you will have to go play outside this minute if you don't let Papa and me finish our little talk."

Jeep fell silent and took a spoonful of oatmeal, looking to be sure his mother was aware he hadn't finished his breakfast and shouldn't be sent away from the table even if he forgot himself and spoke again. He was sure that he deserved a role in this paint business, but he would have to finagle it, so he didn't want to lose track of the discussion.

His mother saw him being sweet and obedient and smiled at him. The sunlight streaming through a window was so strong it made his blond hair incandescent and cast tiny shadows of his eyelashes onto his cheeks. Jeep, aware of his mother's fond regard, smiled beatifically at her. Step one in a finagle: lull the mark into complacency.

Peter didn't want to finish this discussion, but if he stayed silent, she would take that for acquiescence. Yet if he took the obvious next step, which was to ask for evidence the uproar of a paint job was in order, she would doubtless start pointing at obscure places where the paint was subtly cracking. No, he had lost this quarrel before it started; the kitchen was going to get at least a coat of paint. But if he didn't say something, she'd call the painters this morning, and he needed a few days to adjust his reactionary self to this development. He began to marshal his forces, but was saved by the bell. It was on the wall within his reach; he lifted the receiver with the hand not wrapped around his coffee mug.

"Tretower Ranch," he said, because that was the name of his wife's horse breeding business.


"Yo, Cris. What's up?"

Cris was Lieutenant Crispin McHugh, head of Personal Crimes in the Charter Police Department, under whom Peter worked as a detective. "Somebody was hanged, or hanged himself, or slipped and got hung up in something, in Riverview Park last night. The sergeant on the scene just called in, and I've dispatched the crew. Go have a look and come see me when you get in."

"Where in the park?"

"The walk along the bluff, about halfway in."


"What in the park?" asked Kori when Peter hung up.

"A dead body."

"Uh-oh," said Jeep. Living out in the country, he had seen dead cats, dogs, possums, raccoons, once even a fox. Some had been unpleasantly riper than others. He wrinkled his nose. "A real old one?"

"Probably not," said Peter, standing. "We notice right away when a dead body used to be a person."

"A person's dead body? Is this murder?" Jeep knew his father's work occurred when there was some combination of murder and dead persons' bodies -- though he wasn't exactly sure if dead was always the same thing as murder or sometimes different.

“I’ll go see, all right?”



Linda O. Johnston said...

How fun--that your own idea scared you, Monica! I like your beginning--only now I worry about whether your Satanist would have gone after the great characters you introduced.

Monica Ferris said...

He goes after the child. The story uses the SCA again - like it did in Murder at the War (aka Knight Fall) - this time at a Crown Tourney. IIRC, there are some really good scenes in it.

Betty Hechtman said...

I laughed at you toning down the Satanist because it was scaring you. I was thinking about a story once, more or less telling it to myself and it scared me to much, I had to stop it in the middle.

Mary Barton said...

Well rats you need to publish it or put it somewhere we can read it
I want to read it!

Mary Barton - Arizona