Friday, November 29, 2013


TITLE: Cross-Dressed To Kill
GENRE: Mystery

In this traditional mystery, a stellar female impersonator and his police detective twin brother put their lives, careers and friendship in jeopardy to corner a killer targeting Portland’s cross-dressers.

When the call came, Sam Carstairs abandoned his plans for a rare night off and grabbed his car keys. Dead bodies were a part of the job and since his promotion six years ago to Detective at the Portland Police Bureau he’d seen more than his fair share. Tonight promised to be no different, even if the locale wasn’t the norm.

He pulled to a stop before the Chinese Garden on NW Third and Everett and showed his badge to the nearest uniform. The EMS van and the two squad cars were positioned so their beams fell on the circular entrance to the garden itself.

“Detective Skelton is already inside, sir.” The officer pointed to the round opening which gave formal access to the Garden. “In the Fish Pavilion.”

Sam bent under the garish yellow police tape and headed along the stone walkway to the pavilion, one of the smaller structures overlooking Lake Zither at the center of the compound. He followed the faint murmur of voices toward the victim, a long shadowed figure resting on the granite tiles inside the small square enclosure. The pale moonlight reflecting off the lake water and long-leaved banana plants brushing against the pavilion roof made it easy to forget the Garden was in the heart of a bustling city. Peace, he thought. Must be nice.

“Hell of a place for this, isn’t it, Sam? No homicides in this area for a while now. And never inside the Garden.”


  1. Not entirely sure what you mean by "traditional" mystery in the logline (set my brain off down a rabbit hole of "what would a non-traditional mystery be?"), but the description itself sounds promising.

    The writing style is clean, not overburdened with description, but also not in a huge rush, either. It's not cluttered with minutiae about his life. On teh other hand, I might like a hint about what kind of person Sam is other than "detective". It wouldn't take much. Like, he's giving up his plans for a rare night off, but we have no idea what those plans were. Just a hint of that would add color, and it wouldn't take more than few words. Did he have a date? Was he going sit home and read, or get a table in the back of a smoky jazz club and people watch? A poetry slam? I know that's an odd list, I'm just thinking anything would differentiate him from the generic detective, early on. Though this is only the first page, our collective consciousness is full of the archetype, and it wouldn't take much.

    That said, I would have read on if it hadn't stopped where it did, and I guess that's the point. Good on yer.

  2. Sorry, I didn't mean for that to be listed as unknown. I'm Oliver.

  3. Oliver said a lot of wat I would have said ha I commented first. Even so, here're some thoughts:

    I am intrigued by the world that you're going to create here. I have friends in the Northwest Transgender World, and I'm curious to see it played out in print.

    I really would like some hint as to the character of your character, whether it be through physical description of some sort of interchange -- even a transactional one where I could see somebody react to him. What I do know about him is what you've told me -- he's a police detective, he works to hard, he's been a detective for six years. Show me something about him, too.

    The only other thing I see is stylistic and subjective: You use a lot of adjectives here -- garish, particularly, stands out -- and they disrupt flow for me as a reader. Maybe less description of things and more time spent with your character.

  4. I have a passive-aggressive keyboard -- that first sentence should have included a "what" and a "had" instead of a "wat" and a "ha"

  5. I liked this premise, it promises lots of tension between the two brothers and their very different careers along with the murders, of course.

    Loved the opening sentence, as well as the first clause of the second. But the back story dropped into the second sentence pulled me out of the story. Consider staying in the present and simply tell what happens. It might be more interesting to stress he went because of the locale. That makes the reader wonder what's so different about it that he would give up his rare night off.

    I'm also bothered by the word 'garish'. For some reason it sounds too girly when describing the actions of a male Detective.

    Having said that, I would definitely read more.

  6. I don't normally read mysteries, but your title caught my attention!

    Like others, I also wondered about the "traditional" qualifier. I hope it wasn't meant in terms of "this is a mystery about a cross-dresser, but don't worry; it's still traditional!" It can come across a little condescending. You don't need to mention genre in your logline at all, actually.

    The writing here is very tight, and I can picture the scene clearly. I would like a somewhat stronger sense of what Sam's like. To dovetail with Oliver's comment, you could try giving us a sense of how Sam feels about having to give up his rare night off (and yes, what plans he gave up). Is he resentful? Glad to be working anyway? Stoic (which is a valid response, but a little less interesting, because then there's no internal conflict. Even if he's glad to be at work, there's a hint of conflict, because it means for whatever reason, work is better than his private life).

    Good luck!

  7. Hello:

    This leaves the story with a nice hook: What kind of dead body are we likely to find, and why is it in this sort of place?

    The title of the book, "Cross-Dressed to Kill," is clever. But both the title and the logline create an expectation that isn't met in the writing. The title is cheeky, if not comic, but there isn't any humor in the writing. And the logline promises a look into alternative lifestyles. But the writing so far is very traditional crime procedural.

    Suggestion: to give the MC more of an edge in the first few graphs. Give him an unusual interest. The tough but brilliant Victorian detective in "The Moonstone" was a fanatic rose grower. And also, as he approaches the scene of the body, use more sensory detail: what did it smell like? lighting? Sounds? You can use that to strengthen idea of it being peaceful. Then the discovery of death packs an even greater punch

  8. Sorry, this cut off sooner than I wanted it to. Your use of moonlight is excellent in this section. I would like more of this, the contrast between the lights of the city and then the banana plants. It's close to the right balance. I think that if we got a sense of the city surrounding the peace and the police officer's personality, it would be really striking.

    Nancy Bilyeau

  9. I am another one that thought "garish" seemed out of place. I mean it is just police tape, a detective would see it an awful lot and I doubt he would think it garish every time.

    I also didn't like the repetition of describing the "circular entrance" and again the "round opening" to the garden. Just once is enough.

    I like the potential with the brothers, though.

  10. I recently visited Portland so I liked the setting details, and the cross-dressing component seems to fit given Portland's population and atmosphere. I'm a sucker for setting and this shows a lot of potential!

    Like others have mentioned, I wished a little humor or character was shown in the opening. The rare night off is a great spot to show that detail. "seen more than his fair share" is a cliche we've all heard, how can you spin this in a new way to show voice, and particularly, THIS character's voice? While I see this all the time, the line about his promotion feels overly info-dumpy. If there is a way to add this more naturally through dialogue with another character, or shown on the scene, I think that will strengthen the entry.

    I also agree the word garish is out of place for something so common as police tape. The crime scene itself may be garish, but even then, better to show it than tell us what it is.

    Strong premise! Good luck with your entry.

  11. I like the premise of this! I used to read a lot of mysteries when I was younger and this premise would probably make me pick up another one.

    I was pulled out of the narrative by the use of "garish" to describe the tape. Would your MC actually think that? Especially since he's a homicide detective and would see the tape all the time?

    Good luck!

  12. I found this premise intriguing in that it deals with a group within society that doesn't often get featured in stories (other than as oddball "charafcters"). My sense here (or at least my hope) is that we'll get a story that genuinely includes a variety of characters from differnt backgrounds threaded into the narrative.

    I also enjoyed the opening here, although it bordered in places on a very traditional "cop" voice with chunks of exposition. For example, "Dead bodies were a part of the job and since his promotion six years ago to Detective at the Portland Police Bureau he’d seen more than his fair share." feels like it's trying to fill the reader in rather than having the details come out naturally.

    Anyway, I do like the logline and I'd be interested enough to keep reading and give this one a chance.

    Best of luck with it!

  13. This premise reads so fresh and unique—I think you do more of a disservice in calling this a traditional mystery.

    I think we could be brought more into his voice—his perceptions—to really get a flavoring for his character from the start, as I’d assume there’s going to be some contrasting between him and his brother. As it was, there was a lot of description for the scene around him, but I wasn't getting a sense of who this character is. I think adding more voice to color his perceptions would add to this. With that said, I loved the final line of dialogue! It made me want to keep reading.

    Good luck!

  14. Should be 20 (Consider this the first bid)