No Way to Die: A Ming Dynasty Mystery
by P.A. De Voe
Author Guest Post
I am often asked about how I write. That is, where do I get my ideas and what’s my process?
I write Chinese historical mysteries set in the early Ming Dynasty (late 1300s and early 1400s), so the first thing I do is read through various Imperial China legal cases to get an idea of what was going on and how the court dealt with the problem. I am usually looking for a case that would highlight a particularly interesting cultural/legal element. For example, how the severity of punishment for a crime depended on the person who committed the crime as well as who his victim was. That is, was the perpetrator and victim of the same social status, what was their gender. Also, when a crime is committed, it’s not just an offence against one person, it’s a breakdown in the moral order, and therefore involves the whole community. This essential concept of a disrupted moral order lays behind early Chinese law and creates interesting dilemmas in developing a story.
The next thing I do is decide what the crime is and who’s the criminal. I need to think about gender, position in his/her family, and social class; why they broke the law; and who else would be held responsible for that person’s crime. In No Way to Die, the second book in A Ming Dynasty Mystery series, a stranger is found murdered.
Of course, the protagonists are critical to a successful tale. They add dimension and texture to the story. A Ming Dynasty Mystery series has two main characters, a male and a female. I needed two because Imperial China was a highly gendered world. There was a strict division between the sexes. I needed characters who could get around as they investigated the crime. After some thought and research, I found the perfect duo: Shu-chang, a male teacher in a small clan school and Xiang-hua, a young, female women’s doctor. Shu-chang could move easily through wine houses and public spaces. Xiang-hua, as a women’s doctor, had access to the world of women, which would be closed to the teacher. By working together, this intrepid duo come together to find the murderer and bring the moral order back in balance.
But—as important as the two main characters are, they can’t carry the whole story by themselves. Secondary characters are also needed to populate their world. They shouldn’t be stick figures, but should also have interesting personalities. They can be used to create dilemmas which fill out the story as well as complicate the story line. Red herrings and real clues are more easily spread throughout the mystery once all of these secondary characters are established.
Finally, I start plotting the mystery. I plot, outline, in order to have a road map for my story. Once I’ve completed my outline, I start writing. As with any road map, I still have flexibility to make changes, to delete a scene or even a character, to add a scene or chapter.
About No Way To Die
No Way to Die: A Ming Dynasty Mystery
Historical Cozy Mystery
2nd in Series
Drum Tower Press, LLC (April 18, 2019)
Paperback: 210 pages
Digital ASIN: B07PWJ715D
Through mystery and intrigue, No Way To Die transports the reader into the complex and engaging world of early Ming China.
When a peddler finds a partially mutilated body of a stranger, the unlikely duo of a young scholar and a local women’s doctor once more join forces to discover who killed him and why. In probing the highly gendered world of early Ming China, unanticipated questions surface, complicating their investigation.
As their case rapidly transitions into the unexpected, they find all roads leading away from the victim, forcing them to consider alternate routes. Was the death the result of inexorable bad karma and beyond their purview, or merely the result of mortal foul play? Was the murdered man the intended victim? If not, who was and why? The investigation leads to a growing list of potential suspects: a lustful herbalist, an unscrupulous neighbor, a vengeful farmer, a jealous husband, a scorned wife, and a band of thieves. Who is innocent and who is the culprit? To solve the murder and bring peace to the victim’s spirit, the duo must untangle the truth and do it before the murderer strikes again.
About P.A. De Voe
P.A. De Voe is an anthropologist with a PhD in Asian studies and a specialty in China. She has authored several stories featuring the early Ming Dynasty: The Mei-hua Trilogy: Hidden, Warned, and Trapped; the A Ming Dynasty Mystery series with Deadly Relations and No Way to Die; Lotus Shoes, a Mei-hua short story; and a collection of short stories: Judge Lu’s Case Files, stories of Crime & Mystery in Imperial China. Warned won a Silver Falchion Award for Best International Mystery; Trapped was a finalist for an Agatha Award and for a Silver Falchion Award. Her short story, The Immortality Mushroom, (a Judge Lu story) was in the Anthony Award-winning anthology Murder Under the Oaks edited by Art Taylor.
Purchase Link – Amazon
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