Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Kristen Kittscher Takes the Dare

For this week's guest post, Thirteener Elsie Chapman dared author Kristen Kittscher to do a write-up based on a truly hilarious Twitter conversation discussing potential book titles.

Bio: Kristen Kittscher’s debut middle grade mystery THE WIG IN THE WINDOW (Harper Children’s) will be released in Summer 2013. It follows the comic misadventures of two tween sleuths who suspect their school counselor is a dangerous fugitive — and just might be right! A former middle school English teacher, Kristen lives in Pasadena, California with her husband, Kai. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her running her after-school tutoring business or taking orders from her hopelessly spoiled pets. You can follow her antics on Twitter, her website, or at the YA/MG mystery writers' blog, Sleuths, Spies & Alibis.

I knew the title of my middle-grade mystery/comedy, THE WIG IN THE WINDOW, offered the potential to spawn some equally mysteriously silly sequel titles. After all, there’s not much of a limit to alliterative weird things that can be placed in architectural features:  The Rhinestone in the Rootcellar! The Pancake on the Patio! The Lollipop on the Lanai! 

 However, I didn’t realize the true wealth of possibilities until I announced my recent sale of WIG’s sequel, THE TIARA ON THE TERRACE. Title silliness took over my Twitter feed. Some felt strongly I should continue my head-centered theme: THE HEADGEAR IN THE HALLWAY. THE EARLOBES IN THE EAVES. Others felt that a dental focus could prove interesting. THE VENEERS ON THE VERANDA. Yet more – indeed, maaaaybe a Friday the Thirteener I know – let things turn, um, south? There was talk of other P words, a pantry – and a mystery we were all certain we didn’t want to solve.

The richest potential, though, lay in new genres. Why limit myself to middle grade mystery? Versatility is key in a landscape of ever-changing publishing trends. Dystopians are big. Maybe it’s time for THE ACCORDION IN THE ASHES, my futuristic look at a world in which polka music has died and destroyed civilization along with it. Paranormal romance might be fading, but maybe I could bring smexy back and stay true to the teeth/head theme with THE FANGS IN THE FOYER.

Perhaps the wisest career advice was the suggestion that I write erotica for the very mature with THE DENTURES ON THE DUVET. It is always good for career longevity when a fan base can age up with an author. Way, way up.

But why stop at the human – or even otherworldly – realms? A literally captive audience in homes across the world has long been ignored, with nothing but the occasional Animal Planet show and access to a window. For years they’ve had to be content playing second fiddle in cozy mysteries or cuddling up with the likes of Dr. Evil. It’s high time they get out of the litterbox and into the spotlight.

I bring you – courtesy of a Friday the Thirteeners dare – an excerpt of the first thriller for the feline market, THE WHISKERS IN THE WOODSHED. In this scene, two kitten sleuths are spying on their school counselor. Those who accuse me of having taken an excerpt from THE WIG IN THE WINDOW and doing a find/replace with cat names are spreading vicious lies. It’s well known that cats have school counselors and opposable thumbs. Also, I changed at least 10 other words:

I caught a glimpse of a black shape in the flower bed directly under Dr. Snuggles’s kitchen window. My tail went stiff. It was Mittens. She was going to get us caught. I knew she was.
“Get your binoculars, Fluffy.” Mittens’ meow quavered over the walkie-talkie. “Now.”
From inside came a dull grunt and thwap of a cleaver. In a daze, I rummaged in the catpack. My paws shook as I adjusted the binoculars and looked toward Dr. Snuggles’s kitchen. A slight gap in the blinds gave me a direct view.
Still holding the phone tucked between her shoulder and neck, Dr. Snuggles hunched over something on the floor. I chuckled, relieved. Mittens was playing it all up, of course. It’s not like you can murder someone while chit-chatting on your cell. I was about to lower the binoculars when my eye caught sight of the cleaver.
I gasped. It sat on a large carving board, smeared with blood. Even more blood pooled in the board’s gutters like a moat. Splatters of crimson covered the sink, the faucets, and the tile countertop.
Dr. Snuggles hoisted something up then let it thud to the floor. On her second heave, I saw it was an oversized trash bag.
The Director of Counseling at Luna Vista Middle School had just butchered someone with a cleaver, and now she was cleaning up the body parts as if she were gathering some old odds and ends for Goodwill.
Dr. Snuggles looked up. Mittens must have seen it when I did. Emblazoned across her downy white fur were the unmistakable outlines of two bloody pawprints. In their final moments, grasping claws had streaked long red ribbons down her chest.
“Run!” Mittens yowled.

Will Mittens and Fluffy escape Dr. Snuggles in time? Find out...in THE WHISKERS IN THE WOODSHED! Coming soon — or whenever feline literacy rates catch up. 

Of course, while these upcoming projects will certainly keep me busy for quite some time, I'm always on the look-out for new title and genre ideas. What do you suggest?

(Many thanks to Lucky 13ers Alison Cherry, Elsie Chapman, Emma Pass, Caroline Carlson, Debra Driza, and Brandy Colbert for their title suggestions and Twitter rowdiness.) 

Thanks so much for playing, Kristen! The hashtag world may never be the same again.

Thirteener Shannon Messenger is up for Truth or Dare this Friday! Submit one to her here; if you're an author and would like to play, contact us here!


  1. I don't know about your, but THE WHISKERS IN THE WOODSHED sounds like an absolute bestseller ;) And your title theme IS a lot of fun! How about THE DORK IN THE DUMBWAITER?

  2. I KNEW that polka music would be inadvertently responsible for the end of the world. Thank you for verifying that, Kristen!

  3. "P" in the pantry. What could it be? Nothing is coming to mind. P...P...P... Pinky fingers? Palms? Pituitary glands? Elsie, Kristen, do a girl a favor and spell it out for me. In bold letters.

    1. Dear, sweet, innocent, lovely, April. You MUST join the ranks of us MG authors. The YA world is a filthy -- and , well -- hairy place...

    2. Hairy place. Oh, man, that's funny.

      Yes, I am well known for my sweetness, and my innocence. It's true. Elsie, back me up on this. Also, can either of you think of a rhyme for "tubes" off the top of your head? I'm working on a bit of poetry and I'm stumped.

    3. Rubes. Or, hey, MOOBS. I hope that didn't burn your delicate ears, April!

  4. Thanks for doing this. Too funny. "My tail went stiff." Hilarious.

  5. Oh, you know this post makes me happy. Also, you MUST consider Elsie's suggestion of THE DORK IN THE DUMBWAITER, if only because of our extensive conversation about dumbwaiters during our adventure last week. And really, who doesn't love a dumbwaiter?

    1. I would live in any house that has a real, working dumbwaiter.

    2. Elsie, I once did live in a house with a real, working dumbwaiter! I was twelve. Of course I tried to crawl in and ride it like an elevator. Bad idea. Now that I think about it, Brandy: I WAS the dork in the dumbwaiter.

  6. HAHAHAHA! So proud to have been part of the (ongoing) madness. How about THE TOENAILS IN THE TOPIARY? Or THE NOSE-HAIR IN THE NOOK? Or…

    1. Ewww, nose hairs...something about these titles and hair...

  7. Very fun :-) Proof that MG is really the cool place to be, right?