Well, I am done with another first draft, this time of a murder mystery called Poison the Well. It's the first mystery I've attempted; it's a genre I've loved since I was twelve, when my mom gave me a copy of Agatha Christie's amazing And Then There Were None for my birthday. I've been hooked on mysteries ever since, and have read probably 80% of Christie's humongous oeuvre, as well as most of Dorothy Sayers, Ellis Peters, and a handful of others.
It's an interesting genre to write in. I found that the most difficult thing (and the jury's still not in with a verdict as to whether I succeeded) was giving enough clues regarding whodunit that the reader won't get to the end and say, "Wow. That was cheap. I never even had a chance to figure that out," while not making the clues so blatant that the reader figures it out on page 12. Given that I knew whodunit from page 1, I felt like every clue screamed, "HEY! READER! NOTICE THIS! IT'S IMPORTANT!" The only person who, thus far, has read it from beginning to end didn't figure it out, and (interestingly) had devised a rather plausible alternate solution -- but she did say, when she got to the end, that she thought my solution was pretty good. I currently have two other folks (one being my long-suffering cousin Carla, who has been beta reader on just about everything I've written; the other is my wife) taking a look at it, and we'll see what they think.
Despite the fact that my writing is fairly plot-driven, the most important thing to me is the characters, and here I had an assemblage of detectives who were just plain fun to write about. The context is that a seemingly unsolvable murder has been taken on by a private detective agency, run by the elegant, silver-haired Parsifal Snowe. The twist? The detectives are all psychics, and use their various talents to obtain information about the suspects and the murder victim (whose identity is a mystery through most of the book). We have efficient, brusque Bethany Hale, who has precognitive dreams; gentle, hesitant family man Troy Seligman, who can perform astral projection; the swaggering womanizer, Seth Augustine, who is a psychometer -- someone who can pick up emotional signatures from objects; the odd, mysterious telepath, Callista Lee; and the stammering introvert, Jeff Kolnikoff, who is telekinetic. I can say without hesitation that they were some of the most entertaining characters that I've ever written about, and my friend who read the manuscript is already trying to nudge me into turning it into a series.
So, now I'm into edit mode, which I'm guessing will take me a couple of months to get through, and then there will be the edits from my beta readers -- Carla, my wife, and one or two other folks with sharp eyes that owe me a favor. But I hope by May or so to have my next book out -- if you'd like to put your mind to solving a murder for which (1) no one seems to know who the victim is, (2) no one has an apparent motive, and (3) over two hundred people had opportunity. How could such a thing happen? You'll just need to wait... and read Poison the Well.