If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our May author interviews: Marla Cooper-5/3, Rhys Bowen-5/10, Cindy Brown-5/17, Martha Reed-5/24, Sherry Harris--5/31.

Saturday Guest Bloggers in May--Paty Jager-5/6 and Maren Anderson-5/13. WWK Saturday bloggers write on 5/20--Margaret S. Hamilton and on 5/27--Kait Carson. E. B. Davis blogs this month on 5/30.


“May 16, 2017 – The Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) today announced the finalists of the second annual Star Award, given to authors of published women’s fiction. Six finalists were chosen in two categories, General and Outstanding Debut. The winners of the Star Award will be announced at the WFWA Retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico on September 23, 2017.”

In the general category, WWK’s Carla Damron was one of three finalist for her novel, The Stone Necklace. Go to Carladamron.com for more information. Congratulations, Carla!

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Once a Kappa" was published as a finalist in the Southern Writer's Magazine annual short story contest issue. Mysterical-E published her "Double Crust Corpse" in the Fall 2016 issue. "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

Linda Rodriquez has two pending book publications. Plotting the Character-Driven Novel will be released by Scapegoat Press on November 29th. Every Family Doubt, the fourth Skeet Bannion mystery, is scheduled for release on October, 18, 2017. Look for the interview by E. B. Davis here on that date!

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.

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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What the Truck?!

Earlier this month, while lying on the couch recovering from a clutter clearing accident (darn New Year’s resolutions), I watched a Christmas movie that I had recorded in late November. It was a TV mini-series set in the old west. I was transported to a simpler time where skies were blue and free of smog; horses ruled the road and people looked well-groomed and impeccably dressed despite harsh conditions.

In one scene, an old codger named Nicholas, played by actor Ernest Borgnine, drove a buckboard wagon to transport a badly injured sheriff home. The story question at that moment was: would Nicholas be able to get the sheriff home in time to be with his family for Christmas? It was a nail biter so you can imagine I was completely engrossed.

Yet, I became distracted when I noticed a dust cloud with a glint of silver rolling down a dirt road in the background. What the… I bolted upright from my prone position and grabbed for the remote, knocking over a bottle of ibuprofen in the process. Stop. Rewind. Play. Land sakes! That shiny object was a 21st century truck (or SUV) rocketing down the hill heading straight for the pioneers. Well, that took me out of the story.

I pondered how this vehicle kicking up a dust cloud could pass by completely unnoticed. Since the scene featured an actor with the star power of Ernest Borgnine, I imagine the movie crew would have been very careful. Plus, they are usually watchful for intrusions on the set and if they miss something, professional editors catch it in post-production. One explanation is that the editors noticed and decided it would be too much money to digitally erase the truck. Or, maybe it slipped by unnoticed because everyone was SO focused on the characters’ actions and dialogue in the foreground that they didn’t pay attention to the background.

I wondered…am I concentrating solely on my characters’ actions to the exclusion of the background details, too? Did the murder in my story take place on the third floor of a two story house? Was the body buried in a flat prairie one day and in a mountainous terrain the next? Did the middle-aged murderer really grow 6” taller by the end of the book? Yikes.

I think continuity mistakes are inevitable in a first draft since a story evolves as it is written even if one uses a detailed outline. After completion, every major and minor change requires the writer to check for consistency throughout the book. The only way I know to do this is to keep track of tedious details, be vigilant during editing and get critiques.

How do you catch discrepancies that suddenly materialize and threaten to barrel through your story?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Peeking At WWK Writers' WIPs


After realizing last week that I had no idea what works in progress my fellow bloggers were writing, I decided to find out. I posed six questions for each of them to answer concerning their work. This week, WWK alumni James Montgomery Jackson and Alyx Morgan answer my questions.

James Montgomery Jackson

1. What is the title or tentative title of your WIP?
I have two WIPs: CABIN FEVER and “Future Novel

2. What is the dust cover blurb of your WIP?
I’m not quite at the point of polished blurbs but here are the teasers:

CABIN FEVER: Finding in the middle of winter a comatose, naked woman on the porch of his remote Upper Peninsula of Michigan home thrusts Seamus McCree (the series character) into the middle of murder and mayhem sponsored by a splinter of the Michigan militia.

Future Novel”: On the Vernal Equinox of 2091, Seamus McCree’s sixteen-year old great-grandson, S-7, is visited by a high-ranking officer of the hated Eastern Army. With his grandfather’s permission, she slips S-7 out of the so-called Neutral Territory of Upper Michigan into the United States of Eastern America to short-circuit the plans of an infiltrator from the  Western American States who is seeking to cause a world war.

3. In what stage of progress is your WIP?
CABIN FEVER: Will write the polishing “final draft” this spring.

Future Novel”: Wrote 30,000+ words last year and realized I started the story in the wrong place. Planning for the first time to try to write an outline first for this dystopian thriller.

4. How many hours per week do you devote to your writing?
Alas, last year I spent most of my time on bridge-related activities, preparing for the March 2012 release of One Trick at a Time: How to start winning at bridge. Much of the time I would normally have spent writing, I used to improve my own bridge game, so I wouldn’t embarrass myself at the tables! Although this year I will be promoting the book, I’ll actually be playing much less bridge and have more time to write.

5. What are your aspirations for your work?
I aspire to have people read them.

6. In relation to your WIP, where do you hope to be by the end of this year?
I’ve set unrealistic goals before and set a goal this year to set realistic goals. My writing goals are: #1 promote the bridge book; #2 submit BAD POLICY (CABIN FEVER'S predecessor) to small presses (which I have already started); #3 submit CABIN FEVER to agents: and #4 have a completed first draft (and maybe even a title) for “Future Novel.”

EBD-I have two additional questions for Jim.

Unlike “Future Novel,” aren’t your Seamus McCree novels set in present day?
Yes they are, but I have become increasingly concerned about the power of corporations in the US. I thought the best way to fictionally express that concern was to project forward 80 years to a point where corporations are the government.

Although your bridge book isn’t fiction the process of publishing and promotion should be very similar. Would you be our Welcome Wednesday guest on April 4th?
I’d be happy to. (I admit to first checking the calendar to make sure it was really April 4th and not April 1st!)



Alyx Morgan

1. What is the name the title or tentative title of your WIP?
REICHENBACH FELL?

2. Provide the jacket blurb of your WIP.
Living on the island of Alameda has always been peaceful, if not a little dull for high school sophomore Tabitha Patterson, until a series of thefts offers her a chance to put her love of Holmesian logic to use. Despite the misgivings of a certain police sergeant, Tab and her best friend Stu eagerly hunt down the clues necessary to solve the mystery. The closer they get, the more dangerous the villain becomes. When the crook threatens Tab’s grandmother, she decides enough is enough. Has Tabitha met her very own Professor Moriarty?

3. In what stage is your WIP?
The book is completed & in its [hopefully] final revision stage

4. How many hours per week do you devote to their writing?
Depends, roughly 4-10 hours

5. What are your aspirations for the work?
I’d love to see it published. I will send it to agents first, but might end up self-publishing.

6. In relation to your WIP, where do you hope to be by the end of this year?
I’d like to have sold some copies of my book, and be on the revisions for the next book in the series.

EBD-I also have two questions for Alyx.

Do you work with a critique group, Alyx?
I don’t, no. I have a few people who are my beta readers (one of whom has become my editor), but I haven’t joined an actual critique group yet.

Are you working on your second manuscript while completing revisions on the first?
No. I haven’t learned how to do that yet. When I finish these revisions & send it off to my readers & editor, then I’ll begin work on the second book. Until then, I feel that it’s better for me to focus on one story at a time.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Construction Work

Writing a novel can be overwhelming, especially if you've studied creative writing or learned anything about doing it well. There's so much to keep in mind--plot points, narrative arcs, character development, setting and atmosphere, dialogue, action, sensory details, emotional truth, motivation, suspense, surprises, secrets, transitions, ad infinitum. All of these factors and so many more go into making up a satisfying novel. How do we keep them all in our head and get them all down on the page?

As a reader, it just seems magical when a novelist brings all these elements and more into play to create a good novel. When important ones are missing, the reader may not know why the book isn't satisfactory, but she knows it just doesn't make the grade.

My own solution has been to work in layers, much like building a house. Once I've developed strong characters and a dramatic situation to involve them (laying the foundation), I write straight through a scene or several scenes, getting down what the characters do and say. This is the basic storytelling structure like the skeletal wooden framework of the house-to-be that rises from the foundations.

Next, I go back through and let the reader see and in other ways sense the surroundings of the scene as experienced by the viewpoint character--and I include emotions at this stage. After that, transition work take place. Each scene must be made to follow smoothly and inveitably from the one before it. Of course, by this time I may have moved the scene around to different places in the story timeline to create more suspense or generate surprise, to further a narrative arc or optimize a plot point.


Then comes the line editing. Can I say this more clearly? Or make this more truly felt? Or give this more emotional power of statement? Or compress this paragraph or scene to add tension and vigor or energy?

This is, of course, a simplified description of this whole process. It often goes in fits and starts on sections at a time instead of the entire manuscript. Frequently, while in one later process, I realize that I made an error or omission in an earlier process, and I have to tear down that section and rebuild. But in the end, I should have a snug brick cottage or grand pillared plantation house or fashionable urban apartment complex.

After that, the problem is how to sell it? How to convince the person in search of living space that mine is the perfect one for him? And that's another whole job!

How do you see the process of writing a novel? What areas do you find most often skimped? Which areas make you toss the book at the wall if missing or ill-written? And if you're a writer, which layer gives you the most trouble, the most joy?

Construction Work

Writing a novel can be overwhelming, especially if you've studied creative writing or learned anything about doing it well. There's so much to keep in mind--plot points, narrative arcs, character development, setting and atmosphere, dialogue, action, sensory details, emotional truth, motivation, suspense, surprises, secrets, transitions, ad infinitum. All of these factors and so many more go into making up a satisfying novel. How do we keep them all in our head and get them all down on the page?

As a reader, it just seems magical when a novelist brings all these elements and more into play to create a good novel. When important ones are missing, the reader may not know why the book isn't satisfactory, but she knows it just doesn't make the grade.

My own solution has been to work in layers, much like building a house. Once I've developed strong characters and a dramatic situation to involve them (laying the foundation), I write straight through a scene or several scenes, getting down what the characters do and say. This is the basic storytelling structure like the skeletal wooden framework of the house-to-be that rises from the foundations.

Next, I go back through and let the reader see and in other ways sense the surroundings of the scene as experienced by the viewpoint character--and I include emotions at this stage. After that, transition work take place. Each scene must be made to follow smoothly and inveitably from the one before it. Of course, by this time I may have moved the scene around to different places in the story timeline to create more suspense or generate surprise, to further a narrative arc or optimize a plot point.

Then comes the line editing. Can I say this more clearly? Or make this more truly felt? Or give this more emotional power of statement? Or compress this paragraph or scene to add tension and vigor or energy?

This is, of course, a simplified description of this whole process. It often goes in fits and starts on sections at a time instead of the entire manuscript. Frequently, while in one later process, I realize that I made an error or omission in an earlier process, and I have to tear down that section and rebuild. But in the end, I should have a snug brick cottage or grand pillared plantation house or fashionable urban apartment complex.

After that, the problem is how to sell it? How to convince the person in search of living space that mine is the perfect one for him? And that's another whole job!

How do you see the process of writing a novel? What areas do you find most often skimped? Which areas make you toss the book at the wall if missing or ill-written? And if you're a writer, which layer gives you the most trouble, the most joy?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Squinting

Squinting

I had cataract surgery on my right eye. I thought I would end up looking like a pirate, but they gave me a plastic eye patch. I looked more like a Cyborg. The operation went well and an operation is scheduled on my left eye for February 14. I’m walking around (often I’m walking into things) wearing glasses with one lens poked out.

It is hard to focus with one lens on my cornea and the other lens in front of the other eye. I can close one eye or the other. My poor brain gets tired. Reading and writing is hard to do.

Luckily, I have a few blogs already reviewed by fellow writers. Of course none of the other writers on the blog are fellows.

So, please excuse the brevity of this blog. I’ll be back to writing as soon as I can.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cats in Cozies



CATS IN COZIES
and other animals

Cats are prolific in cozies, and if it's not a cat, there's often a dog. Sometimes there are even both, or some other animal. Maybe Carolyn Hart started the cat craze in cozies. I'm not sure, but I know it was years ago when I started reading her books. Her character, Annie Darling, had a cat named Agatha in her mystery bookstore. Amanda Flower's character, India Hayes, has a cat in her series; Lorna Barrett's character, Tricia, has a cat in her Booktown series; while Krista Davis's character,Sophie, has both a cat and a dog in her Diva mysteries. And then there were the Cat Who . . . series. I'll admit I tired of them after a while. There are only so many times I could read about a cat licking its private parts. I didn't think the plots were strong enough to endure that.
 
 
Although pets aren't just in cozies, by any means, they are more likely to appear there. Maybe it's because readers of this genre are looking for something a little less threatening than a police procedural or thriller. And maybe it's because writers of this genre have cats or dogs. I know most, if not all, of the authors I mentioned have cats, dogs or both.
 
 
In my opinion, there are several reasons why authors include animals in their books:
 
 
One: Writing is a solitary life. The writer needs to isolate themselves as much as possible to write, and unless the writer has another job with social interactions, or an active family living with them, it could be a lonely life. A pet can alleviate some of that loneliness. Enter the cat or dog. They're a companion, and they sleep a lot, giving writers their needed solitude. From following the Guppy list serve (a subgroup of Sisters in Crime), cats seem to be the more popular pet among the writers who post there. Maybe it's because cats don't need to be taken out for walks. Also, if a writer has a cat or dog, they can write realistically about the animal's behaviors.
 
 
Two: Pets humanize the protagonist, show a tender side to them, and because both cats and dogs are popular pets, many readers can relate to them. Of course, children can soften a protagonist, too, but children create problems. It's hard for a sleuth, especially an amateur sleuth, to take off sleuthing on a whim when they have children to consider. Not that it's impossible, but it's much easier to leave a cat or dog at home than a child.
 
 
In my series, my protagonist, Catherine, has a cat. At the end of the second book, she also acquires a dog. Her romantic interest, the police chief of her small town, has a cat and ends up with the dog of a murder victim at the end of the first book. Because I've had cats and dogs for years, I find them easy and natural to write about. Do I enjoy reading books without animals? Absolutely. Do I like books with cats and dogs in them? Yes, but only if the book is well written with a good plot. I have a lot of favorite authors, who don't include animals. Cats and dogs are not as important as a protagonist I like and a well written book with a good plot.
 
 
Do you include cats or dogs in your work? Do you have a cat or dog?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

An Interview with Michele Drier

Michele Drier is a member of SINC and a Guppy. She recently finished writing her first novel, Edited for Death, and sold it to Mainly Murder Press. As a former news reporter and an art lover, she was able to pull a potent story together using her reporter experience and her love of art. The tale takes the reader back to World War II and is tied into the present time. It’s a story that keeps you guessing and will surprise you with its twists and turns. It’s one of those stories that is hard to put down. You will want to keep reading to find the next clue.
Dee Gatrell (DHG)

DHG: Tell us a little about yourself, Michele. What part of the US do you live in? Children, pets, grands?

MD: I live in California. That’s a pat answer, because right now, I live in the Central Valley (summer heat!), but through the years I’ve lived in all parts of California from Humboldt County (redwood forests, rugged seacoasts, 40 inches of rain a year) to Riverside (SoCal, Palm Springs, Mojave Desert, Disneyland, 12 inches of rain a year); from San Francisco (summer fog) to the Sierra foothills (winter snow).

The first member of my family to arrive here came to San Francisco from St. John’s, New Brunswick in 1849, and another ancestor, from Long Island, arrived in 1850. I have a great-great-grandmother who crossed the Isthmus of Panama by mule in 1852. I think the adventuring spirit was finished though, because most of us have never left, but we sure moved a lot!

I have one daughter who is a Neonatal Intensive Care RN (I’m very proud of her!), two granddaughters and, currently only one aged, lame cat. As all my animals over the years have been, Djinn was a rescue and was injured before I met him.

DHG: When did you start writing?

MD: I guess I’ve been writing, in one form or another, all of my adult life. I’ve been a newspaper reporter, had short stories published in college anthologies, wrote more grants than I can remember, have written white papers, policy statements, newsletters and annual reports. As many reporters do, I’d always thought about writing a novel. In my case, it just took about ...let’s just say a LOT of years to do it.

DHG: You just published your first book. Please tell us about Edited for Death. How did you get the idea? Are you an art or history fan?

MD: I’m both an art AND history fan! I’ve dragged friends and relatives through more cathedrals, castles and museums than they ever wanted to see. These two passions helped me mold the story in Edited for Death. Newspaper editor Amy Hobbes thinks she sees a way to write a book when California’s senior Senator dies, and she discovers he was born and raised in a small, nearby town. The quest into the Senator’s life and his family leads Amy to a secret that’s been kept for more than 60 years and now has ended three people’s lives.

DHG: Who published your book and where can it be bought?

MD: Edited for Death is published by Mainly Murder Press in trade paperback and is available at their website, at Amazon and at Barnes & Noble  or ordered from your favorite bookstore.

DHG: How many books have your written? Can you tell us a little bit about them? Which genres?

MD: Although Edited for Death is the first book I wrote, I published my second book, SNAP: The World Unfold in e-book formats this past summer.

Unlike “Edited,” a traditional mystery, “SNAP” is a flight of fancy...a vampire romance! It was an interesting challenge to write in two different genres. With “Edited,” although fiction, the plot, characters, settings have to be plausible. If the sun is low in the sky behind the Golden Gate Bridge, it dang well has to be setting!

With “SNAP,” although the sun still sets in the west, the whole premise is vampires...and though there may be plenty of people who want to believe in them, well, they haven’t been proven. There’s more latitude in writing a story that’s totally fantasy.

DHG: What is your favorite genre to read? What genre do you favor when writing?

MD: Probably mystery. I like a good tale that introduces interesting characters and keeps bringing up new plot possibilities, and characters who have a range of emotions and experiences. I prefer traditional mysteries, with complex threads. I love P.D. James, Elizabeth George, Kate Atkinson. If I never read another psycho thriller with a sociopath leaving women’s body parts all over the landscape, that would be fine. As a woman and a feminist, I also don’t like reading about “woman as victim”.

On the other hand, I love action! Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, Daniel Silva...bring ‘em on!

DHG: How many rewrites do you do on your stories?

MD: Oh, wow! Wholesale rewrites, probably two. Piecemeal, it can be several. I start a story by sitting down and writing Chapter One, and each time I come back to it (hopefully, every day, but lately, less than that) I read the last 10 pages or so already written. That can set me off on a different tangent, so those last 10 pages may get sliced to pieces. I’ve cut chunks out and moved then to another chapter; written a prologue and turned it into Chapter Four. “Edited” began life as a third-person, past tense novel. It’s now (and should have been from the beginning) a first-person, present tense.

DHG: Are you a pantser or a plotter?

MD: Oh, definitely a pantser! From the previous answer, you can see there are some drawbacks to that way of writing, but I don’t know how to do it any other way. In school, I was the one who always wrote the paper and then went back and outlined it. I never mastered how to make an outline first.

My characters will surprise me by acting in a way that I wouldn’t have thought about, or get into a situation that reveals hidden traits I didn’t know about. It’s a fun, but sometimes frustrating, ride!

DHG: Other than writing, what other career path have you taken?

MD: I’ve had two distinct and separate careers over the years. First was in the media, and I spent years as a reporter and editor. I was in and out of the business twice. Being in print media today is very, very sad. A newspaper was always expected to make money, but in today’s cutthroat advertising milieu, and the push-back to make more and more profit, telling a good story or covering an interesting event has fallen by the wayside.

The other career, for almost two decades, was as an Executive Director or CEO of non-profit social justice agencies. I’ve managed organizations that counseled sexual assault and domestic violence survivors; established day-care centers for low-income working mothers; led a state-wide organization that advocated for affordable housing and homeless programs; created and ran a large-scale agency that supported and encouraged the arts and arts education, and was the CEO of a legal services program that served about 10,000 seniors in Alameda County.

I guess I’ve always liked a challenge, and writing for publication in today’s environment sure fits that bill!

DHG: Thank you, Michele. Here’s hoping your books sell lots of lots!

MD: Thank you Dee, and thanks to the Writers Who Kill, for giving me this opportunity to share!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Building a Novel

I love a book with a strong sense of place.

Poor plot or no plot, doesn’t matter as long as I am transported to somewhere I have never been. I often read with a map in my hand if the setting is real, as in Victoria Thompson series set in New York City in the late Victorian period.

My own works are usually set in real places: Cambridge, Massachusetts or Wilmington, Delaware in the 1890s, or a small Massachusetts town in the early 1800s, even the two historical sites where I work. I have just started novel #7 set in a fictional town on the Delaware River.

The advantage of using a real setting is that there are maps and all kinds of information out there. I know who actually built and lived in the houses my characters inhabit. I know what was going on in the town at the time the action of the story is taking place. Though the houses are real, I took the liberty of moving them to another location. I chose Dana Street because that is where the fare on the trolley line went from five cents to seven cents. I also have a large selection of secondary and tertiary characters.

The advantage of- a made up location is that no one can say you got it wrong. In one novel I read, the bus, which was one I took frequently, went up one street and turned left. Well, it doesn’t, you actually have to change at that intersection. Minor but annoying.

So I have to begin by inventing a whole town. My first problem is that the land I want for my town is actually marsh and hard to build on. So I have to set down some foundation of rock or my town will vanish. I have been wandering around for days wondering what is under my feet.

When I laid out my town of some 700 people, it divided itself into Delaware Street where the better sort live, the middle sort to the north and the poorer sort to the south, in the marsh. I can already feel the mosquitoes. Good thing there is a breeze off the river most days. I already know this is a port of sorts, since the Delaware River was the highway to Philadelphia in a time when roads were poor if they existed at all. Fishing in the river and farming on the dryer land to the west, sustain the town.

The town had to be named after the prominent families, the Cobbs, the Pleasants and the Mannings. Delaware is filled with place names that incorporate a landmark. Crossing, Gap, Corner, Inlet, Point or Cape. Even Hummock. So Cobbs Crossing was duly incorporated. Now I had a map of the town with a tavern on the western edge on the main road from New Castle to Delaware City, both real towns.

A tavern…great place to find a body of a stranger. But who and why? Cobbs Crossing is not on a well traveled or important road. Why would anyone be murdered there?

Let’s keep spinning and see where we are a year from now.

Pictures: New Castle County Courthouse, Geologic Map of New Castle County and Delaware City from the air.

Monday, January 23, 2012

What Are You Writing?

Over the last year and a half, I’ve talked about writing my WIP, TOASTING FEAR. Most of my blogs have described my observations about writing, what obstacles I’ve encountered, how I’ve handled critique remarks and edits, what methods I’ve tried, how I’ve created characters—their arcs and motivations and what plot points I’ve determined.

All of the writers on WWK write blogs every week to discuss their writing. But another factor—the reason we blog—is to promote our work. It occurred to me that I have no idea what WIPs my fellow bloggers are creating, which, to say the least, is counterproductive. And if I don’t know, how would you, our readers, know? Blogging about our writing experiences and our interests is all well and fine, but we also must let our readers know what we are writing. 

For the next few weeks, I’m going to interview my fellow bloggers and blogger alumni, James Montgomery Jackson, Pauline Alldred, KB Inglee, Kara Cerise, Alyx Morgan, Gloria Alden, Warren Bull and Linda Rodriguez about their WIPs by asking each of them to answer the following questions or provide information about their work.

1. Name the title or tentative title of their WIP?
2. Provide the jacket blurb of their WIP. 
3. In what stage of progress is their WIP?
4. How many hours per week they are able to devote to their writing?
5. What are their aspirations for their work?
6. In relation to their WIP, where do they hope to be by the end of this year?

Over the next few weeks, I hope all of us will become acquainted each other’s work. I’m interested, and I hope you will be too. 


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lost in the Jungles of Final Revision


I’m in the throes of final revisions. Toss me a lifeline. Or at least some really fine imported dark chocolate.

There are several times when writing a novel is no fun. The first is the middle of the book. Middles are always sucky. There’s no way around it. 
They’re swamps that you just have to wade through, never being able to see more than a few inches ahead and full of traps, quicksand, and dangerous predators.

Every writer I know—and some of them are multiple NYT bestsellers—hates herself or himself and the book while in the middle. Once you emerge into the end, the pace steps up, your excitement returns, and you stop feeling your book is horrible and deformed. By the last page, you’re in love with it again.

In the first read-through and the revisions that come from that, you see problems, but it all looks fixable, and you’re stunned at how basically good the book actually is—or has the potential to be. Your beta reader told you about things that need work, but also said the book was going to be great. So you wade in and start hacking this off here and moving it over there, cutting out these and adding that, beefing up this character and toning down that one. You feel like you’re doing good work.

Then, you start on the final revision. This is not the last editing your book will get, of course. You’ll do line edits and proof it before sending it off to agent and editor where they will find new things that need fixing, and you’ll love them for it. This is just the final big structural revision before it goes out to others because anything else will need another good eye. (Every writer needs at least one good editor, no matter how good a writer and editor she is herself.)

This is where you’re making all the major and difficult changes that you left for later because they were major and difficult. This is where you’re honing theme and correcting pacing and making sure you use all the senses throughout and that you keep the reader engaged all the time. 

This is where you hack your way into the jungle of book with a mental picture of how you’ll carve out a gorgeous estate with a palatial residence, and then you get lost, and your bearers run off with the last of your food and water. You have to keep moving because if you don’t, you will sit down and cry as you starve to death.

This is where I am right now. I have come through this before. I know I will again. I continue repeating this mantra to myself as I keep cutting a path for myself. It’s not that I hate the book, as in the sucky middle. This time it’s that I’m afraid I’ll… Let. The. Book. Down.

But I’ve promised to have this done and send the book off to my incredible agent, and I have to make it something good enough to send her. I think I’ll have my husband take me out for dinner, and I’ll buy some luscious imported chocolate. And tomorrow, I’ll head back into the jungle of final revision.

Friday, January 20, 2012

And then you go on

And Then You Go on

When I got my Masters Degree I went back to work the next day to find that nothing had changed. I thought, “Now that I have an advanced degree, it will be easier to do therapy.” It was not. The people who were difficult to work before the degree ceremony with were just as difficult afterward. Shouldn't they appreciate the time and effort that had gone into getting my degree? Maybe they should but they didn't.

I had some of the same “magical thinking.” i.e., irrational ideas, about my Ph.D. I put in additional time and effort, managing to rack up considerable debt, very little changed in my life. Nothing changed about my work. Friends of mine in the program, who had been selling off their furniture piece by piece to squeak through financially, went to a car dealer with proof of their degrees. Before they had the pieces of paper that showed their degrees, the dealer would not sell them a new car. With the documentation, the dealer accepted their rust bucket, which was coughing up its carburetor and sold them a new car at a ridiculously high interest rate. I noticed people returned phone calls more quickly to Dr. Bull than they had to Mr. Bull. That was about it.

I wrote a 100,000 plus word novel. Nothing changed. Nine years after the idea for the novel came to me, the novel was published. A few things changed. I could call myself an author, although I later met unpublished people who used the same word for themselves. There is no clear demarcation so I don't disagree with them. I tried to sell the book. Ha! I tried to understand the voodoo of Amazon's rating of sales. Triple Ha!

I started attending the Great Manhattan Mystery Conclave, working with a critique group and seeking professional editors, which did improve my writing. I started to learn from Sisters in Crime and Guppies. I used Mystery Writers of America as a resource and found other information on line. I continued to write, won a few prizes, and started the process over again. I joined the Border Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime. I put three novels up on Kindle. A small publisher talked to me and brought one of them out as a paperback. I won a mysterious photograph of the month contest by Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine which edged my earnings from approved publisher just above the requirement and became an active member of Mystery Writers of America.

And now its time to go on. The more I achieve the more I change the goals I have for myself. It's great to win an award, to get something published, to have more than one title up at a time. I have enjoyed all of those achievements, but even though I believe and have evidence to show that my skills are improving, the process of working as a writer has not changed a whit. I sit down in front of a screen, type something crappy and then I have to tighten it with a red pencil, check to see that I did not change the characters names mid plot and send it through the refinery. Not much has changed in the day-to-day activities.

Now I go on.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I AM A WRITER!

I am a writer. I write poetry and mysteries. Although I've been writing for thirty years - not counting my teen years - I've only recently started calling myself a writer. Before that I labeled myself wife, mother, Girl Scout leader, teacher, etc. etc. but not a writer.

I first had something published the year I started college as a non-traditional student. My first English professor encouraged me to submit an essay I'd written in class to ICON, a Trumbull Campus literary magazine of Kent State University. It was an emotional piece, "Saying Good-bye" about the death of my eighteen year old son with cancer the year before. I received many positive comments about it which only encouraged me to start submitting poetry. From then until I graduated,I had at least one if not more poems in each issue of ICON, but I still did not call myself a writer.

Except for my first semester when I was unsure how I'd do in college after being out of school for so long, I always took extra classes - almost all literature, poetry or writing classes. I was that odd student who loved writing; term papers, poetry, research papers, whatever. It was something I enjoyed, but to me it didn't necessarily mean I was a writer.

When I graduated, I became a third grade teacher. I loved it, but missed the academic life so I went on to get a Masters. Fortunately at that time, I was able to get it in English and didn't have to pursue something relating to elementary education. Again I was in my element; reading, researching and writing. I'm still not sure how I did it because as a teacher, I always went above and beyond what was necessary. Probably on very little sleep. In those years I was a teacher, and that was the only way I saw myself; not as a writer.

Sometime after I got my Masters, I started my first book, a cozy mystery with a gardening theme since gardening is one of my other passions. I'd planned to write a mystery for some years, but I procrastinated until my sister, Elaine, came up with the idea that we should write a book together. We worked on it together in the beginning. However, since we don't live near each other, before long I took over the writing. It took several years, but I finished it. Since it wasn't published, I still didn't consider myself a writer.

Off and on for the next ten years or so, I sent out query letters and with each rejection, I stopped sending out those query letters for several months or longer before starting up again. But I didn't stop writing. I finished a second book in the series, a middle-grade mystery, and I'm almost finished with the third book in this series, and have lots of ideas for more books. I still hated to call myself a writer, though, because if I said that to anyone, they'd ask me what I'd published, and except for poetry over the years, I didn't have anything else published.

I entered the competition for the Guppy anthology FISH TALES, and was so excited when my short story "The Professor's Books" was accepted. Then in 2010 I entered the Love is Murder short story contest and won it for my short story "Cheating on Your Husband Can Get You Killed." I was recognized at the conference in 2011 and received my payment of 5 copies of Crimespree Magazine with my short story in it. Still I didn't think to call myself a writer. It wasn't until FISH TALES finally came out in the spring of 2011, and some of the previously unpublished Guppies started claiming that now they could consider themselves a writer, that I thought, "Oh, yeah! I am a writer." And it hit home even more when I was offered to become a member of the Writers Who Kill blog. A well-established blog with a following wanted me to be a part of their group. Now how exciting is that! Other writers consider me a writer , too.

It doesn't matter if my book, my baby, is not published yet. It will be even if I have to self-publish. THE BLUE ROSE and my other books will be published, and someday I'll be sitting at a table signing my books for readers because I am a writer.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Dare to Dream

The sky’s the limit

“If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.”

Too many times, we find ourselves staying someplace because it’s comfortable. Whether it’s a job that you hate, or a city that you’ve outgrown, we oftentimes will stay in that place because we’re secretly afraid of trying something new. We talk ourselves out of it, without realizing that’s what we’re doing. So many fear-induced excuses masquerade as logical reasons: “I’ve got too much on my plate right now”, “I’ve never tried to do [insert dream here] before, so I probably won’t be any good at it”, etc.

But the truth of the matter is that we’re scared of leaving the safety of what we already know. There is a serious amount of comfort in the sameness of life. Even when small obstacles get put in our way – a traffic accident, spilling coffee on your outfit, a friend or loved one complaining (for the 20th time) about their spouse/coworker/children – these are trials we’ve experienced many times before and know how to react to them. We know what’s expected of us, and how we should respond in those situations. So, when we entertain a thought of changing something in our routine, the part of our brain that likes the familiar rears up and searches for ways to talk us out of changing things.

But mixed in with the fear is a fair amount of excitement, we just don’t always recognize it enshrouded in all the fear. At first, it’s a very small voice that keeps the dream coming back to you; the “someday” voice. But each time it returns, the voice gets a little louder, until you (hopefully) can’t ignore it anymore.

Even people who appear to embrace change very well experience trepidation occasionally, I would assume. It’s just that they don’t let the fear stop them from roaming outside of their comfort zone. And I personally believe we all embody both sides of the change/no-change spectrum, just in varying degrees. For example, I see nothing scary or difficult in moving to another city (I’ve lived in over ten different ones so far in my life), but the thought of changing my hair color stops me dead.

I was even a little trepidatious when I was asked to join WWK as a bi-weekly contributor. I was honored, to be sure, but I worried that I wouldn’t fit in with the group, or be able to come up with two blogs a month for this site, in addition to the ones on my own site, and the other writing I want to do. But when I let the fear run its course, and I thought about the opportunity more, I realized that – in addition to being honored to be invited to the group – I really wanted to take on this task. I wanted to grow as a writer. I wanted to see what new and amazing experiences I would have. And I wanted to be a part of something as great as what my fellow WWK bloggers produce. Here was my chance to see where this dream of being a writer could take me.

So, thank you to E.B., Warren, Pauline, Gloria, KB, and Kara, for giving me the opportunity to blog with you all. I’m excited to be one among you, and look forward to a wonderful year!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

When Pigs Fly and Dogs Surf

I love a parade! It’s energizing--filled with up-tempo music, color and pageantry. The most impressive one, in my opinion, is the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California. With its magnificent floats covered in plant material and flowers (most floats have more flowers on them than an average florist uses in five years) it truly is the granddaddy of ‘em all.

This year’s hopeful theme was Just Imagine. I interpreted it as the creative spirit triumphing over negativity and obstacles. I think these imaginative floats succeeded in bringing “impossible” ideas to life. Who would believe a float could be built for six surfing dogs including, Tillman, the superstar surfing/snowboarding bulldog?

But it was. The “Surf’s Up” float was the longest and heaviest float ever entered in the Rose Parade. It contained 6,600 gallons of water and used a wave machine to generate a wave a minute for dogs to hang ten on. At one point, as this float started to make a sharp right turn from one major road to another, announcers enthusiastically speculated it might not make it. But of course it did. (To watch video of the surfing dogs go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JLva0y3ppg )

Another favorite, especially among the elementary school set, was the prehistoric dinosaur float. The head of the green dinosaur was ingeniously decorated using Brussels sprouts. Kids take note: Apparently there are other, better uses for this vile tasting vegetable.

While I wasn’t present at this year’s Rose Parade and had to watch it on television, I’ve attended three times in the past. The first time I was seated comfortably in the grandstand. The next two times I was squashed together with humanity on the cold, hard sidewalk. However, the floats seemed more impressive looking up at them from my position on the sidewalk. They loomed overhead creating gigantic shadows on the ground making me feel very small.

Yet, when I viewed the floats close-up at the post parade display area, it was easy to see that they were impressive not only because of their large size, but because of the meticulous attention to detail. Each rose had its own vial filled with water to keep it fresh and volunteers had painstakingly attached tiny seeds and flowers to create beautiful floral mosaics.

These creative, sometimes zany, ideas only succeed because of the planning and hard work that goes into making vision a reality. I imagine designers and engineers created many plans then added, subtracted and made changes until each float was exactly right. Sometimes success is due to quick thinking and prior planning--as in the case of the malfunctioning float that needed a tow.

I smiled when I saw a float with pigs flying planes. “When pigs fly” is a phrase implying that something is so impossible that it would never happen. But by believing in ourselves, hard work and pressing on through obstacles, our creative visions can triumph. Yes, in 2012 dogs surf and pigs do fly!


Photographs courtesy of Christopher Martin.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Dynamics of Tension

Writing about evil is sort of like making fudge. You can’t cook it too long or it will bind into a solid unmovable and tooth-breaking mass, but kept short and sweet, evil’s texture is irresistible. Writing evil is the beating stage of fudge. You can feel and see the deliciousness of it all and maybe understand why people indulge in evil. It’s as seductive as wanting to taste that fudge, but more, perhaps diving into the bowl and wallowing in its warmth and decadence. It’s a concept that Stephen King understands, and I’m learning.

I wrote a scene twice last month, which isn’t anything new. Sometimes I write a scene ten times until I get it right. The first time I wrote the scene in the POV of one of my perpetrators, inappropriately, since on page 240 I hadn't yet presented her POV. So, I rewrote it again from another villain’s POV. Although I had included this character in many scenes, I realized that he too was a new POV, and I couldn’t use that scene even if it would have been a good read. But— in writing through their POVs—I learned a lot about evil and my villains. They’re despicable and fun to write.

My villains just don’t give a damn. They like being bad. They like messing with moral people. They do what they want, when they want, and they wouldn’t think of considering another’s point of view or feelings. These are truly ruthless and selfish people. Villains like to use people. When they meet other villains who use them, it’s just a matter of time which one destroys the other. At a recent local SinC meeting, a DEA agent spoke confirming this notion. He said when the headlines announce violence in the Mexican drug wars that the drug suppliers were killing each other off.

Innocent people don’t expect to meet villains. It’s something we read about in the newspaper. Evil catches the innocent by surprise. But as a mother, I can easily envision my kids meeting up with evil. Being paranoid doesn’t mean you’re delusional. Duping innocents is a sickening aspect of villains that is true. Innocents are hurt. (My daughter carries pepper spray.) And yet, physical harm is only one aspect of hurting innocents.

Often that hurt shapes your main character’s emotional and mental framework. People react differently to adversity. Adversity makes them stronger or weaker. My heroes are so noble. They struggle—they try—they go beyond themselves, challenging their fears, changing and growing stronger. There is a power struggle between the main character and the villain. It is in the action and reaction between villain and protagonist, between evil and good where tension lies. When the main character acts, instead of reacts, forcing the villain to react can be a novel’s pivotal moment.

In writing from my villains POV, I’ve come to understand better the underlying dynamic of tension from which I can write my main character’s POV. Understanding the source of the tension in my novel, I hope, will sharpen my edge. Try it sometime.  It's fun and a great teacher.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Movie or Book? Which Kind of Imagination Do You Have?

Hi! My name is Linda, and I am a bookworm. I'm the kid who constantly heard "Get your nose out of that book!" and "You're deaf, dumb, and blind when you've got your nose in a book!" I was the kid who carried extra books to school beyond all the heavy required texts. I'm the kid who read ahead in the reading books to get to the end of the story.

Now, as an adult, I open a good novel at my family's and my to-do list's risk. I will disappear into the world of the book. My kids call it "Scorpio-ing." (I'm a Scorpio, and that sign is noted for its powers of concentration.) My youngest son has been known to jump up and down in front of his book-immersed mother, flapping his arms, to demonstrate to visiting friends how weird I am--though he and his sister inherited that ability to be swept up in an enthralling novel's world.

When I'm reading a good novel--classic, literary, mystery, science fiction, fantasy, makes no difference--the author's world and the people in it come alive for me, and I am living the book's story with them. I am experiencing that world and that story in a visceral way that is sometimes more real than the way I experience the quite-wonderful world of my daily life. I suspect I developed this ability as a survival mechanism in my dire childhood (which made "Mommie, Dearest" look like a fairy tale). Pouring myself into the book I was reading and the world it created in my imagination allowed me escape from some very scary times for a little kid. Novels kept me sane and allowed me to know there were many other ways of living in the world beyond the one in which I was currently caught.

That ability to live within the story I'm reading has served me well, though. It brought me whole, if scarred, from the kind of childhood that routinely tosses people into drug addiction, crime, mental illness, and suicide. It turned me into a writer at a young age. It allows me to experience my own stories while I'm spinning them in that same real way.

I enjoy movies, as well, but I have to say, no movie has ever given me that same total immersion into a different reality that a book does.I think that's because watching movies and television is passive while reading a book is active, drawing your whole brain into a co-creation of the world and people of the book. My oldest son can't do this. He's totally a movie person. His brain is wired a different way, very analytical, a whizz at math and computers where he makes much more money than all of the rest of us combined. So I know this isn't a given for everyone. I think it's a function of the type of imagination we are born with.

When I have had injuries and illnesses involving great pain and discomfort, reading novels has sometimes been the only way for me to gain some relief. For the hours I am caught up in the book's world and away from the pain troubling my body. I am living elsewhere and involved with other things. Mysteries and fantasy novels have helped me get through miserable nights when no medicine that I could take would do it for me and the equally great pain of grief. The Lord of the Rings movies are wonderful, and I love them, but they don't take me out of myself in the same way as the original books do.

What about you?  When you want to wander in a new story's world or seek relief from emotional or physical stress, do you turn to movies or to books? When you read your books, do you become completely involved in the story's world?


P.S. I'd like to thank Warren Bull for introducing me to Writers Who Kill and all the bloggers on here for inviting me to join them.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Farewell to Thursday Blogging

I have enjoyed blogging on Writers Who Kill and feel honored to be a 3942717149_b723d0877a_thumbnailmember but my life is very crowded at the moment. Finding time to work on my WIP and short stories is becoming increasingly difficult. Therefore reluctantly I must say goodbye to the blog readers.

I look forward to hearing about further developments in the lives and writing careers of my co-bloggers. Three imagesnew writers are joining the blog, Gloria Alden, Alyx Morgan, and Linda Rodiguez, and I am sure their contributions will be interesting and worthwhile reading.

Thank you again to the blog readers and to my co-bloggers, dedicated to the art and craft of writing.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

You Gotta Have A Gimmick

The other night, while procrastinating on my plot, I flipped through cable channels and caught Rosalind Russell belting out ‘Gypsy”. The song that grabbed my attention, though, was the three strippers schooling a neophyte Louise that simply taking off her clothes wasn’t enough. “You gotta have a gimmick,” they tell her and proceed to demonstrate how a trumpet, some light bulbs and a bit of gauze have lifted them out of the chorus.

Seems to me, mystery writers are in the same boat, constantly being advised to have a hook. “I need to be able to say it’s a cat mystery or a cooking mystery,” one agent told me. “You need to layer something in so we can sell it to people who are interested in that sort of thing.”

Problem is, all too often, those layers have the subtlety of ‘80’s leg warmers over stirrup pants. “Oh wait,” the amateur sleuth cries. “I can’t follow up on this clue until I meet with a new client for my free-lance astrophysics business.” Which is okay if astrophysics solves the crime – but all too often the business or hobby seems to be a concession to “we could call it an ‘astrophysics mystery’ on the cover.” And then the poor author gets stuck slotting in tips at the beginning of each chapter. (“80% of the universe is made up of invisible matter called ‘dark matter’.”)

I have nothing against cooking, owning cats or practicing free-lance astrophysics. Amateur sleuths should do something beside hang out with their police detective boyfriend waiting for another body to drop. I just don’t want to hear about it in detail. Even though Miss Marple knitted, Dame Agatha didn’t provide patterns in the back of the book.  Nero Wolfe raised orchids yet Rex Stout never included propagation tips. They were first and foremost detectives and didn’t need to dress it up with gauze and light bulbs.

Far from choosing books because I share a hobby with the protagonist, I find myself rejecting books whose covers proclaim “A Such and Such Mystery.” The obvious layering in of a hook is beginning to bore me. Even more, I resent being told “I can’t sell it without a hook.” One of these days, I’m just going to grab me a trumpet and take off my clothes.

Vaudeville no longer uses a giant hook to pull bad acts off stage. Is it time to retire the mandatory hook in mysteries as well.