Here are the two teams:
Team Noir: Sarah M. Chen, Craig Faustus Buck, Laurie Stevens, Gary Phillips, Travis Richardson
Team Cozy: Linda O. Johnston, Ellen Byron, Diane Vallere, me
Referee (in both photos): Stephen Buehler
Notice how Team Cozy is wearing more colorful clothes while Team Noir went for the darker shades.
We battled it out on the mat at XMA (Xtreme Martial Arts) World Headquarters. Five noir writers v. four cozy writers, going head-to-head, each reading passages from books, short stories or works in progress.
For purposes of this event, the definitions of cozy and noir were given to the audience as follows:
NOIR: Usually the protagonist is a regular guy (sometimes a criminal) who makes bad choices, then worse choices. Almost always it has a bad ending for the “hero”. Noir is dark, gritty, bleak, graphic. It’s usually more of a crime drama than a mystery.
COZY: The protagonist wins at the end, solves the crime. It is usually a lighter tone, sometimes with humor. Dead bodies are discovered not killed on screen. Many have cats or dogs. Usually the book/story takes place in a small town or community. The crime is solved or resolved at the end. They tend to be more “whodunits”. There are usually plenty of characters besides the hero.
The passages each of us read were fairly short, a few paragraphs, sometimes only a sentence or two. For each category (best noir/cozy scene, best death scene, best description of a character, best description of a location/room, best sex/romance scene) two of us battled head-to-head. After the two finished reading, the audience voted by applause on which one came closer to the given definition of noir or cozy. Our ref judged the applause level and kept track of the score. The cozy team was one author down but still managed to take the evening...barely. Yeah Team Cozy!
It’s great to have bragging rights, good for a lot of good-natured kidding in the future, but it was really just fun to hang out with my fellow authors and listen to all of the great and diverse writing in the mystery field.
I tried to select passages that went with the category, but that would also be fun for the audience to listen to. One of the noir writers came up to me afterward and commented that one of the ones I read had quite a noir bent to it, something that I’d briefly thought to myself at the time I selected it. Still, I’d characterize my novels overall as being pretty squarely in cozyland.
I don’t often read my work in public so I was surprised that I was only moderately nervous and, when the time actually came for the event, excited. I’ve talked on this blog about how I stutter so for me this was a great victory. I think the major reason for this was the passages I read were short and I wasn’t the only author participating so the focus wasn’t entirely on me.
I was originally going to read directly from my books, but decided to print the passages out on paper. This turned out to be a wise idea. I didn’t have to worry about flipping pages in a book while holding a microphone.
I’ll be reading from one of my books at the November meeting of Sisters in Crime/LA. All by myself. For five minutes. Now, I’m a little nervous about that. I feel privileged to be reading in front of the group. It’s a friendly and familiar environment, but I’m a lot more nervous about the meeting than last week’s event.
I have my selection ready. Like I did for the smackdown, I’ve been periodically recording myself reading to see where I need to slow down or speed up. I’m gradually imprinting in my brain the appropriate speed so, I hope when the time comes, I’ll read fast enough people won’t get too bored and slow enough they can actually understand what I’m saying.
Wish me luck and Go Team Cozy!