An unusual title, isn’t it? Let me explain. It’s called “keyword stuffing”, and it’s why authors create blogs.
Sure, a few living and breathing people will read your post, but with so many books available, the odds are slim that anyone will actually click through to Amazon and buy your book. No, a blogger’s real target audience is the head librarian of the digital universe, Google. Every few days, the Google Monster lumbers past all the websites and blogs of the world and slurps everything up. If you choose the right keywords to satisfy his discerning palate, you could find yourself on the coveted first page of Google for your search phrase. Want proof? Just search for ‘lumbers by and slurps’ in a couple weeks.
So, my arbitrarily chosen topic for today is ‘Book Research’, and it is hands-down my favorite part of the writing process. Research, for those of you who don’t know, is the part where authors have carte-blanche to ask nosy questions, eavesdrop on private conversations, visit sketchy websites, and peer into windows with virtual impunity. And if you set your book in an exotic locale, you can write off some of your travel expenses.
I actually spend much more time on research than I do on writing. Everything in Death Of A Dummy (published by Cozy Cat Press), no matter how seemingly trivial, was researched far more than it needed to be. From the polarizing Petanque scene (described by myself as ‘engaging’ and by a reviewer as ‘mind numbingly boring’), to the preparation of lip-smacking crepes: everything was meticulously studied and organized in Scrivener, my writing software of choice. I took my time and consulted with real archaeologists and historians. I read widely about Quebec history and wax museums, and made frequent trips to Quebec to feast on champagne and caviar in the finest restaurants. I did this all for you, the reader, to make sure my book was the very best it could be.
Even the mime on the book cover is based on a real Quebec City street performer–and yes, he was mercilessly stalked and studied too. But I should back up a little and give you a rundown of the book, just in case you’re one of the roughly 7,399,999,700 people on earth who haven’t read it (based on a Mar 2016 world population estimate of 7.4 billion].
The main character in Death Of A Dummy is a Vancouver surfer named Paul who buys a building in old Quebec. His plan is to set the building up for vacation rentals, hire a caretaker, then return home to Vancouver. But when he arrives at his new building, he finds a few surprises. First, there’s a run-down wax museum in his basement that hasn’t been open since the eighties. And to a guy like Paul who embraces idiotic business ideas, that’s as good as catnip, so of course he can’t resist a grand reopening. The second surprise comes in the form of an old lady who mysteriously shows up in his front parlour asking for her job back (if you’re into symbolism and can’t find the CliffsNotes for my book, she’s like one of the dusty old wax figures in the museum, and this is her second chance at life as well). She becomes Paul’s sidekick and helps him renovate the museum. While tidying up, they make a discovery that sets a fast moving plot into motion that results in two murders. Let the good times roll!
Getting back to the guy photo-bombing the cover. He’s a street mime named Remy who is the only tenant in Paul’s building. I know some of you observant Canadians are wondering why he appears to be standing across the river in Levi. Well, I assure you that everything does, in fact, occur smack dab within the fortified walls of Vieux–Québec, so we’ll just have to imagine he was visiting friends or riding the ferry when this picture was snapped. Anyway, he is one of the murder victims in the book. And I’m not giving anything away because its written right on the back cover. But the reason for his murder is the key to the mystery… Oops, I better leave it at that!
Now, the REAL mime who inspired this character is alive and well, and to my knowledge, he still plies his ancient trade on the cobblestone streets of Old Quebec. In fact, I recently discovered that he has a website. His ‘stage’ name is Mario Net (a play on the word Marionette), and I posted some real photos and a video video of his performance on my Facebook page, Quebec Wax Museum Mysteries. He could be the best living mime in the world! So many street performers that call themselves mimes just paint themselves and stand still. But Mario Net is professionally trained in that classical style where they tease the audience through impersonation. But I digress…
Whenever I visited Quebec with my wife and daughter, Mario Net was the highlight of our trip. It must have made him feel uncomfortable to have three grinning stalkers (and a dog) follow him around. But he quickly became an obsession so we couldn’t help ourselves. When we got bored in our cramped apartment on Ste-Ursule, someone would always suggest, “Let’s go look for the mime!’ and then off we’d go. When we found him we would watch, utterly transfixed, until it was time for him to move to a new location. When he started to pack up his things, we didn’t want to come off too creepy, so we’d casually wander away like we had other places to be too. Then, after giving him a head start we’d discreetly follow him. Occasionally we would lose him in the crowd, but since we knew his favourite spots in both the upper and lower town, he was never free from his superfans for long. That’s when we would subject him to our own bit of dinner theatre, pretending we just ‘stumbled across’ him again. One of us might say, “Oh look, it’s the mime,” just loud enough for him to hear, and then another of us would glance at our watch impatiently as if to say, “Hmm, is there really time to stop and watch? Well, maybe for just a minute.”
I’m sure he saw right through our act because, after all, mimes are known for their keen powers of observation and charades were his specialty. I hope he wasn’t too annoyed; I know street performers have a set of things they do in their act repeatedly, and they probably don’t want someone watching their whole bag of tricks cycle around.
Anyway, we continued this way until October, when the tourists thinned out, autumn leaves blew across the empty streets, and street performers became an endangered species. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a few weeks before Halloween, and many days had gone by with zero mime spottings. Then, one afternoon, while returning to our apartment on leaden feet after another fruitless search, we spotted him crossing through some back streets. He must have noticed us too because he quickened his pace. You know how it is when you finally find something you’ve been looking for, and you get a over-excited? Well, I trotted over to have a chat with him (my wife maintains it was more like a full gallop), and I breathlessly said something lame like: “We were looking for you everywhere! Where were you?”
And then he looked either startled or defensive, and replied in clipped English, “I was around.”
Just that. Then a long pause.
I’m not sure what sort of conversation I expected to have with a mime, but I really wasn’t thinking that far ahead. And I’ll never forget his expression. It seemed peevish (and trust me, peevish is not a good look, especially when delivered by someone who makes their living on facial expressions). I suddenly felt very self-conscious, and I turned and walked away.
We never saw him again that year. But several years later during another vacation in Quebec City, there he was again, but sporting a new costume. Now, he was wearing a bright tangelo (or was it electric vermillion? I told you I do too much research!) tuxedo, candy cane striped pants and a black top hat. I’ve got pictures of both of his outfits on my Facebook page if anyone is interested.
This is Tangelo
This is Electric Vermillion
I’ve also had some brief chats with him in recent years, and he seems to be a fascinating guy. Hopefully somebody will make a documentary about him some day.
I’ll save the rest for next time… Thanks for reading this entire post!
PS: cozy blog mystery book cozy cat cat.