Friday, July 29, 2011

News from New Zealand

New Zealand News

Last week I wrote about news of the Midwest. This week I will tell you about the news in one paper that I borrowed after it was discarded by my seatmate on the flight from Auckland to Christchurch. I make no claim to describe all print journalism in the land of the long white cloud.

The lead story was about a woman who survived a head on collision with a drunk teenager who was driving in her lane. Good news and well worth covering. However the paper showed a picture of the woman, who was very attractive, in a bikini. Now, I do not know what she wears when she drives but it is midwinter here.

Another story was about a teenaged couple who killed one set of parents who disapproved of their relationship and then invited their friends over to have a party. I don’t remember where they lived. The parents might have had a point.

A third story was about an Italian woman who supported her husband’s political career but when he lost an election for mayor she dressed in a cat woman suit, and waited with a gun to kill him. According to the story she told police she had a change of heart when she had him in her sights and decided not to shoot.

Rupert Murdock’s wife reportedly assaulted a protestor after he threw a pie pan full of shaving cream in her husband’s face.

Were these four stories the most crucial information for the public to know? I could be wrong but I suspect not. I wondered if the paper was owned by Rupert Murdock.

I also noticed many want ads under the heading of Adult Entertainment. Some ads seemed to be jobs to be filled. Others seemed to be ads by entertainers searching for an audience. The three most common attributes described were blonde, thin and large bra cup size.

There was extensive news about rugby and full paragraphs where I knew each and every word individually but I could not understand what they meant together.

I don’t think I’ll subscribe.

Other tidbits: The water drains from the sink counterclockwise opposite from the direction in the United States. The stars visible in the sky at night are in different constellations. I have seen the Southern Cross. There was a 5.1 earthquake the first night we were here. We slept right thorough it but have been assured that we will have other chances to experience one.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mack the Knife

By now, the surgeon has removed one painful joint and replaced it with an artificial one and I’m ready to start rehab.

As an RN, I have helped many individuals prepare for surgery but this is my first time going under the knife. The cutting doesn’t worry me but anesthesia does. Someone is making sure I take in oxygen. The last time that happened I was too small and undeveloped to check up on the quality of care I was receiving. I remember one patient reading Robin Cook’s COMA as he waited in the corridor to go into the thumb_surgeon_ready_to_dive_inoperating room.

I learned what can go wrong in surgery and during recovery. However, I can’t operate on myself, give myself anesthesia, or develop a physical therapy plan. When I fly, I don’t spend time worrying. I’m not flying the plane and no one in his right mind is going to ask me to do so. I can be a first class neurotic driving a car in rush hour or on a highway during a snowstorm but then I feel responsible for not causing a disaster.

I have friends who enter into any medical treatment with suing on their minds. Their radar is tuned in for errors, especially ones they have seen in ads on TV. I think that’s a little like fighting with the cook. Not that errors aren’t made but I hope not to me and, if one does, I’ll deal with it then.

Most of all, I miss reading and commenting on the blogs on Writerswhokill and all the other interesting blogs out there. I enter the hospital, dreaming of the day I return home.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Interview with Susan Ferguson Part Two

Interview with Susan Ferguson Part Two

Susan Ferguson, editor and writer

Tucson, AZ

You were telling us about your experiences as an editor.

I find editing deeply engaging and enlightening. While some parts of it -- the reviews of spelling, punctuation and grammar -- must certainly satisfy the English instructor in me, I also find that I love tracking and analyzing how other writers assemble their work. When I edit a manuscript, I feel like I am journeying on a path created by the writer and that I must observe and remember everything along the way in order to learn something from the journey -- and the writer. I feel like I am the first one who has ventured on the path since the writer created it, and seeing that new world is a delightful experience. If I can make recommendations that will help the writer help the reader better appreciate the new world the writer has created, I feel like I will have made a significant contribution not just to the writer's work but also to the reader's understanding of the work.

When I read your work I find I am quickly engaged in the story on a sensory and emotional level. What are some of the ways you do that?

I have always been a details person. Since I was a little kid, I have engaged my sensory skills and my memory to "record" the objective elements of a place or event. My mind is cluttered with "images" of places, people and things that I want to believe will be useful someday -- in conversation, in writing, in other creative endeavors. More importantly, however, is the way I reflect on and analyze an event after I have experienced it in order to understand how the elements of the event influenced my emotional reaction to it. Being able to tie together the sensory elements of a situation with the emotions that resulted from it is my way of reaching some sort of conclusion about and coming to terms with the experience. This combination of sensory detail and emotional connection is strongly linked in my writing.

Are there different types or levels of editing?

Most definitely. On a fundamental level, there is copyediting or line editing, which focuses on the identification and correction of spelling, punctuation and grammar errors. It may include a basic analysis of style and format for consistency. Some editors will include basic fact-checking at this level. Some writers (and editors) may refer to basic copyediting as proofreading, although proofreading generally doesn't take place until printers' "proofs" have been created and a manuscript is on the cusp of becoming a printed book.

As we move up the editorial complexity ladder, we find substantive editing, which focuses on matters of clarity, organization and consistency of style and content. Editors who provide substantive editing services are looking at content, form, style, voice and structure; at this level, fact-checking is definitely included. Modification of content and/or reorganization of sentences, paragraphs or sometimes whole sections of the manuscript may be necessary to achieve a more effective manuscript. Any questions that arise during this level of editing are usually directed back to the writer for clarification or correction, so it is important that the editor and writer have a good working relationship. There are different levels of substantive editing; again, it is important that the editor and writer have a solid working relationship in order for the editor to understand what steps she can take to improve the work independently and what steps require the involvement of the writer.

Some editors specialize in permissions editing -- contacting sources (particularly in nonfiction works) to seek authorization or permission to use specific materials. Other editors focus on index editing -- creating an effective list of contents so that the text can be used as a reference work or textbook. Some editors specialize in fact checking and research -- reviewing factual references for accuracy and attribution. Other editors specialize in a topic or field, using their professional expertise to help writers with accuracy and correctness. I am a generalist, with specialized skills in writing development, teaching and editing.

Developmental editing can be complex or simple. Many developmental editors work with writers to generate the theme and content of a manuscript when the writer has an idea but may be having trouble focusing on a specific aspect.

Other developmental editors work with writers' early drafts and recommend changes to organization and style in order to help the writer develop content. Still other developmental editors may concentrate on research and revision as a way of helping writers expand content. Developmental editing requires a good working relationship between writer and editor.

In the years I have been editing manuscripts, I have met and worked with at least two types of writers: those who believe that every word they have written is sacred and cannot be deleted without much angst and debate, and those who trust the judgment of an editor who says, "This word/phrase/sentence/paragraph/section about ___________ is not relevant to the passage/work and can be changed or deleted." I want to believe that a writer who hires an editor is doing so because he or she trusts the judgment of the editor, not because he or she wants to engage in a power struggle over the suitability of a nonsensical cliché in the middle of an otherwise well-written passage. The writer who hires an editor just to get someone to oooh and ahhh over every word might as well save his or her money; a good editor will make recommendations to improve a work.

I had some great help with my writing but your comments and suggestions sound most like I made them myself. How do you capture another writer's voice?

Maybe this is the result of all those years of being a journalist and listening to the different "voices" of interview subjects. As a journalist, I believed it was important to acknowledge the unique style of speech, word choice, sentence structure and overall organizational system of each person I interviewed so that I could convey the source's style in the articles I wrote. As an editor, I "listen" for these same elements in the writer's voice; when the style changes for whatever reason, I try to recapture the writer's original voice in the recommendations I make to the writer.

--Ferguson Editorial and Design at

--Ninth Month Publishing at

Inquiries about editing services can be made by dropping me an email at or filling out the contact form at

Thanks for inviting me to Writer Who Kill, Warren,

Thanks for sharing so much information about your writing editing, Susan.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Never Ask Your Mother for a Review

I wrote my first novel on my lunch hours. Every day I took my lunch to an empty office and wrote on the computer there. The finished novel was too short. The characters were undeveloped. There was no sub plot. The murder was implausible. The good things about it were the setting, and the fact that I finished it. I still have a copy somewhere.

I chose mystery because my mother had hundreds of mystery books, and I read them avidly each time I visited. I met Sherlock Holmes when I was in high school and I couldn’t resist. I read all the cannon except Valley of Fear. I couldn’t stand Conan Doyle’s take on the Molly McGuires.

I worked my early stories around other people’s characters, not fan fiction exactly. I would take another author’s creation and change the name, but little else. No one ever recognized them because no one ever read them.

When my mother suffered a prolonged illness I made the eight hour train trip in each direction once a month. I used that time to create my own cast of characters. I put them together in small groups and they began to interact. I wrote in long hand on yellow pads; the handwriting varies in response to the smoothness of the rails.

My mother was in a hospital across the street from the Cambridge Public Library. I would visit her for half an hour, do two hours of research in the library, and go back for a second short visit. I added the historical background to the characters as they interacted on the page.

By the time my mother was moved to a nursing home I had the bones of a novel. There was a lot wrong with it. No murder for one thing. I knew I would have to add a murder if I was going to sell it.

But I had enough to put in a red binder and give to her before she died. To my knowledge she never read it.

I have reworked it a number of times since I bound it up in red. There is a murder, more police procedure, more complex characters. Members of the cast have appeared in print in short stories.

It took me a while to realize that I had written it to please myself, not her. It was enough to have given her the red binder. She didn’t have to read it or to comment on it. She died before any of my short stories were published.

She never knew how she inspired me. Or perhaps she did.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Review-The Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor

Andrew Taylor has won numerous awards, including CWA’s Cartier’s Diamond Dagger, Ellis Peter’s Historical Dagger and the John Creasey Memorial Award for the Best First Crime Novel, the Martin Beck Award, and he has been nominated for many other awards over his thirty year career. He has authored over twenty-five mystery novels. This review is of his latest book, The Anatomy of Ghosts. E. B. Davis

When it comes to ghosts, nothing much has changed in two hundred years. Taylor sets his story in Cambridge, England at the end of the eighteenth century in a fictitious college. Like the unchanging ghosts, the physical setting also provides continuity. The author advises readers that they may recognize the setting because he modeled it after a real college within the university. These elements remind the reader that the human condition never changes.

The story is primarily a mystery, one of murder, the other a death precipitated by immortal actions. Taylor offers the reader two sketchy scenes of the deaths before he introduces his main character, John Holdsworth—bookbinder, bookseller and printer by trade. The ghosts of his drowned son and wife plague him. After his business fails, he accepts a commission from a wealthy and influential widow whose son, attending college in Cambridge, has gone mad. Her ancestors founded the college, and her two goals for Holdsworth are to bring her son home restored and sane and to assess the college’s library.

Taylor adds romantic complications, lies, political rivalries, and class structure into his well mixed plot. Because these complications rely on human weakness, the reader has no doubt as to their authenticity. Goodness is measured by conscious self-inspection by characters who try to balance their desires against moral outcomes as they make choices. Holdsworth solves the murder by understanding the characters’ emotion and moral landscape. When he unearths the facts and puts his moral assessments of those involved together, he solves the mysteries.

Readers will identify with The Anatomy of Ghosts because the issues remain unchanged—are we to serve for the greater good or will our selfishness destroy those around us? Human conflict and guilt comprise the anatomy of our internal ghosts. But even though Taylor provides evidence that we haunt ourselves, he never proposes that the concept of external spectral spirits is invalid. Ghosts exist, and we will always be haunted.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Midwest News

By the time you read this I will be in New Zealand, but I will try to keep up on what's going on back home.

News From the Midwest

Independence, Missouri

After getting reports of an alligator moving through the forest, police officers, urged on by the Missouri Department of Conservation, took two shots at a large reptile by a stream bank. A man living nearby approached the officers and told them the creature was a concrete lawn ornament. A police spokeman told reporters the man had used it to keep trespassers away. They suggest he get a “No Trespassing” sign.

The police chief expressed support of his “brave boys in blue” and said he hoped to send them out to deal with pink plastic flamingos that constituted a public threat as “eyesores.”

Prairie Village, Kansas

A psychotherapist with more than 25 years in practice was sentenced to 32 months in prison for selling marijuana to one of his clients. A search of his home revealed additional illicit drugs. He surrendered his license, apparently having surrendered his common sense at some time in the past.

Topeka, Kansas

A man exiting a supermarket discovered that high winds had sent a shopping cart into his parked car, denting the vehicle. After failing to break a window by throwing the offending cart at it, the man drove his car through the front double doors, ending up in the frozen food section of the store. He drove out of the store and rapidly departed the scene.

Kansas City, Missouri

The International House of Pancakes filed suit against the International House of Prayer for trademark infringement. Apparently this was to assist those who confuse communion wafers with blueberry waffles.

Aurora, Missouri

A teenaged girl took matters into her own hands when a substitute school bus driver smelling of alcohol sped along his route with a bus full of students. She used her cell phone to call police and let them know the location of the errant bus. She stayed on the phone until the driver was pulled over and arrested.

Chicago, Illinois

A woman in the Chicago area drove her Neon twenty miles for an oil change. When mechanics popped the hood they found a black and white cat perched on the radiator hose. The woman is not the cat’s owner and is now looking for a home for the feline now named “Neon.” The dealer’s service department did not charge the woman any extra explaining, “Cat removals are free on Thursdays.”


Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Nose is for more than colds

I think smell is a neglected sense in fiction. We know about the smell of copper for blood at crime scenes and that dead bodies don’t smell good but there’s a myriad of scents in the world that aren’t included in stories.

Is that because smell is a more primitive sense connected to the limbic system instead of to the higher parts of the brain? Smells connect directly to our emotions. I have friends who hate the scent of flowers because it reminds them of a funeral they didn’t want to attend. A person might dab on a perfume she loves and cause an outbreak of nausea in a crowded elevator. I dislike the smell of gasoline but an ex-alcoholic friend tells me she relishes the alcohol scent in gasoline.

Every summer I’m reminded of the variety of scents in the world. HEADDOWNNothing else smells like a growing tomato plant. An apple picked from a tree in the garden is a different species from the shiny object in the supermarket. Healthy earth doesn’t smell like dirt. The garden after rain has a different odor from the garden wilting under ninety degree temperatures. Freshly cut grass has a pleasant scent whereas rotting grass can make a person gag. No matter how many equality laws are passed, male and female locker rooms will never smell the same.

The smell of apples cooking or of beef stew simmering reminds me of happier moments in my natal family. If people can tell me I’m wrong about the lack of scents in fiction, I’ll welcome the correction and look forward to reading stories that evoke the sense of smell.

Next Tuesday, I’ll be having surgery. All the odors I recall from the many years I worked in hospitals, I’ll experience as a patient.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

An Interview with Editor and Writer Susan Ferguson

Interview with Susan Ferguson Part One

Susan Ferguson, editor and writer

Tucson, AZ

Can you tell us a little about yourself? Can you tell us a little about your writing and your editing?

I'm a native of Missouri with a very diverse professional background: I've worked as a farmer, florist, greenhouse manager, print journalist, marketing and editorial communications specialist in the daunting world of temp services, a graphic designer, ad copywriter, magazine editor, independent writer, independent editor, book designer, independent publisher, business manager and editor for two literary journals, and a college English instructor. Oh, and a mom. If I had to rank these things, I would say that editing and book design are my strongest skills, with “momming” not too far behind.

I have a bachelor's degree in English with journalism minor. Three years ago, I completed a master's degree in English with an emphasis in creative writing. I loved working as a print journalist because there was so much power in presenting the "truth" to readers, even if that truth was at times highly subjective in the minds of my sources. So it's no surprise that I gravitated toward creative nonfiction during my graduate work; creative nonfiction straddles that line between truth and fiction, objectivity and subjectivity, requiring that the writer maintain an intense level of honesty and integrity while at the same time interpreting the truth through his or her own experiences and knowledge.

My own writing includes nonfiction, creative nonfiction and fiction. Shortly after completing grad school in 2008, I wrote a 200-page study guide called "Pass English Comp: The Study Guide for Critical Thinking, Rhetoric, and College Writing" that I hoped students would use to cut through the academic agendas so they could learn genuine skills that would help them generate effective college essays. I self-published the book and used it in composition classes that I taught in Texas; an adjunct instructor at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph used it for his classes for a couple of years. Students using the book did indeed learn the technical writing skills needed for writing college essays, but because the book was self-published, I ran into roadblocks in trying to get it "adopted" as a curriculum text. It is currently marketed on, and on my publishing company website,

Late in 2010, I released a collection of short stories: "Gaze: A Collection of Stories." Several of the stories have been previously published in literary journals, and a couple of the stories were recognized by the Missouri Writers Guild, but no editor has ever welcomed the entire collection. My "clock" was ticking, so I took the chance and self published fifteen of my favorite stories. "Gaze" is also available through the aforementioned outlets. As for other writing activities, I am currently revising a creative nonfiction work I started in graduate school.

As an editor, I have been reviewing other writers' copy and manuscripts for at least 25 years. For the first fifteen years, my editing work focused on articles for newspapers and magazines. In 2000, as the traditional publishing industry began to lose ground to self-publishing interests, I made a concerted effort to concentrate on providing editing services to individuals with book-length manuscripts; many of these manuscripts have been memoir and historical fiction. More than half of the manuscripts I've worked on have been published by small independent presses or by the writers themselves.

One memoir, "Journey Toward Justice," by Dennis Fritz,


received the 2007 Preservation for a Saner Society Literature award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency for its powerful message about wrongful conviction and exoneration.

The National Council on Crime and Delinquency is a non-profit that focuses on criminal justice reform, with particular interest in assisting youths and juveniles with rehabilitation rather than imprisonment. From the council's website at

"The PASS Awards (Prevention for a Safer Society) is the only national recognition of print and broadcast journalists, TV news and feature reporters, producers, writers, and those in film and literature who try to focus America¹s attention on our criminal justice, juvenile justice, and child welfare systems in a thoughtful and considerate manner."

"NCCD established the PASS Awards to recognize and honor the media¹s success in illuminating stories that further public understanding of criminal justice, juvenile justice, and child welfare issues. NCCD is seeking stories that illustrate current realities or the promise of reform, especially those that help people understand the complex causes of crime and what must be done to prevent and control it. A critical link in successful policies related to these issues is the education of the public. The media is uniquely positioned to be this link, and we gratefully acknowledge their efforts to fulfill that responsibility."

I’ve heard Dennis speak. It’s wonderful that you were able to help him tell his remarkable and chilling story of spending eleven years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Why don’t we continue this discussion next week?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Civil War Writers

As I drive down the street near my house in the Washington, D.C. suburbs I see reminders of the Civil War interspersed with modern buildings. On the right is a branch of a bank that funded the Confederacy. Further down the road next to my hair salon is an old church that was used as a hospital and horse stable during the war. One gravestone still has a chunk missing – the result of target practice by Union soldiers. On the left near the Ford Dealership is a placard marking the site where military aerial reconnaissance and attack missions took place using a hot air balloon.

These historic sites remind me that this month marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. Given that, I thought it would be fitting to review the greatest contemporary literary books published during the war. To my surprise there wasn’t one exceptional novel published during this time.

Perhaps the most influential book of its time, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe, was written prior to the war. When she first met Abraham Lincoln, he reportedly greeted her with some version of, “So you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this Great War.” Another famous classic, “The Red Badge of Courage,” that many people think was contemporary was actually published 30 years later. And author, Stephan Crane, wasn’t even born until about seven years after the war ended.

A recent Boston Globe article puzzled over why the Civil War did not produce any great works of contemporary literature. Present and past critics agree that there wasn’t a poem or novel that captured what the war truly meant and felt like. However, one scholar now theorizes that the war eventually changed what American authors such as Whitman, Emerson, Hawthorne, Dickinson and Melville believed and how they wrote.

While not a novel, I believe one of the most famous contemporary written pieces was a speech that became known as the Gettysburg Address. On November 19, 1863 Abraham Lincoln began, “Four score and seven years ago…” and with approximately 272 words stated that the people who died did not die in vain and reaffirmed the notion of equality. Sometime later while reflecting on his speech he said, “I failed, I failed, and that is about all that can be said about it.” Perhaps we can only understand the impact of what we write in hindsight.

So, it seems to me that the writers who captured the many facets of the Civil War were not well-known authors but a diverse group of people: slaves, women, men, camp followers, generals, nurses, Underground Railroad workers, the president, soldiers, spies etc. They recorded their experiences and feelings in diaries, letters, songs, speeches and newspapers. Unfortunately, a number of people were illiterate so we will never read their stories.

I think we owe all of these writers a debt of gratitude for allowing us insight into their world – a world that was to become ours.

Monday, July 18, 2011


I read an interview in Esquire Magazine years ago with Kris Kristofferson. He said, to paraphrase, that when building a career or learning your profession or art, sometimes you have to be selfish. At the time, I was in my twenties. I remember agreeing with his statement, still do. But…life changes.

Everyone expects the self-indulgence of twenty-something-year-olds. No one expects someone in their fifties to act self-indulgently. In fact, images of the supportive mother or grandma come to mind. So, here I am building a new career in my fifties and being self-indulgent. How becoming is that?

Not very becoming if we follow the “norm.” But what is the norm? Is normal, normal anymore?

Our economy has destroyed our images of what we call a normal life path. In our fifties we should be: looking forward to retirement in a few years, getting satisfaction from careers that we’ve advanced in and have dedicated thirty years of our life to, devoting ourselves to giving-back to charities and those who have supported us, and, for those of us with children, enjoying the forthcoming generations. In 2008, when the stock market dropped to half its value, retirement plans for many became unrealistic, a fantasy. Some of the first people let go were those of middle management because they were high paid and had the most benefits. Many people who have become unemployed have had to build new skills for new careers. Job searching alone is a time sucking chore although rarely selfish.

Self-fulfillment and actualization became catch-phrases years ago. Not everyone building a new career is unemployed. Those who have become disillusioned by their first careers start new careers using hobbies and interests as a basis. People in their fifties are part of the so-called “Me” generation. You can call us self-indulgent, but you can’t call us lazy. Building a new career is hard work. And by the way—what’s wrong with doing something you like?

When my husband becomes dissatisfied with his business and my children are experiencing the turbulence of changing from students to professionals, do I have the right to be selfish? Are all my above paragraphs self-justification for selfishness? I wish I had a definitive answer. My problem is I can’t stop writing.

Friday, July 15, 2011


An Aotearoa Story


It was a holiday weekend and my Sheila was doing hard yaaka while I was pissing around. Luckily she did not go wobbly or whinge about it. She went to the local chippy shop to get a clipper. Well that went straight down the grugler. She had to go to wop wops but being no drongo she found the goods. The chick came home to bash my ear about it. I admit I was a bit of a dag when she couldn’t figure out how use the clipper but for me it was a piece of piss. Some cockle, eh? I’m mean, I’m not skiting or anything. Then we went out for shark and taties. Since we aren’t de facto any more we’ve been happy as larry.


Do you speak Kiwi? Did you follow me, mate?

This coming Monday though mid November I’m going to be on the land of the long white cloud, New Zealand, We’ll even have some rellies visit us there. I plan to keep blogging, though, you can’t get rid of me that easily.

I won’t be able to reply quickly to remarks on my blogs after this date since it will be tomorrow where I am when the blog goes up here today, but I hope you will continue to read and comment.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

With or Without a Parachute

When I moved into my new house in Orange, Massachusetts, nothing grew in the garden except grass. The builder thought he was doing me a favor by planting grass but he wasn’t. I’d prefer white clover and no mowing.

Creating a garden from scratch is a little like sitting in front of a blank screen, fingers itching to begin a new story. I studied gardening books, searched local garden centers, and wandered through the surrounding area to check out other gardens. I wanted to know what grows in Orange and to find design ideas worth copying.

Two Pekingese dogs barked at me as I stood close to a white picket fence and contemplated one of the neatest gardens I’ve ever seen, not a weed in sight. Out of the corner of one eye, I saw a flash of orange, the fashion shade for prison outfits. A skydiver, missing me by inches, landed on the perfect lawn and frantically tried to reel in his tumblr_lmdxe5BjfY1qfkztjo1_500parachute. The dogs went wild.

Even after an appraiser commented that I lived near an airport, I hadn’t given much thought to the fenced field and gas pump I could see after a short walk down my street. The first private sport parachuting school in the US opened on May 2, 1959 in Orange. Not to belabor the obvious, it’s called Jumptown. All summer, and often in early spring and late fall, brightly colored parachutes dot the sky. I can hear the jumpers but not what they’re saying. If I were a jumper, the words would probably be that I’d changed my mind. Even for a million dollars, I’d have a hard time jumping out of a plane.

However, once a story is written, revised, and mulled over, I believe there comes a moment when the story takes off as though in a free fall. Without that leap, stories might be interesting, technically perfect, and easily publishable but they still haven’t reached their potential.

Do you have a favorite point while writing when the story seems to launch itself?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sue Palmer Fineman interview

Today we have Sue Palmer Fineman blogging with us. Sue recently published The Mitchell Money with Wild Rose Press. We're happy to have Sue tell us about herself and her books today.

DHG: Tell us about yourself, Sue.

SPF: I'm a grumpy old lady who enjoys reading, so when I retired from my day job, I thought I'd try writing a short story.  But my short story turned into a full-length novel. I fell in love with the setting, the characters, and the premise of the book.  Over the years, as my skill level as a writer improved, I rewrote the book several times, until I was satisfied with it. The Mitchell Money then got published by The Wild Rose Press.  I wrote three sequels to that first book.  One was so bad, I threw it away.  I called it “practice.”  The other two sequels are as yet unpublished.

Since then I've written nearly thirty books, some really awful ones and some I think came out pretty good.  I threw some away, others I edited until I was satisfied with them.  Most of my novels are romantic suspense, and some have light paranormal elements, like ghosts, visions, past lives, and such.  I've also written two books I'd put in the category of women's fiction.  They contain romance, but the books are about the woman's journey and growth rather than the romance. 

DHG: Tell us about The Mitchell Money? Where did the idea come from? It is published with Wild Rose Press, right?

SPF: Right.  The Mitchell Money was that first book I wrote - and rewrote - and rewrote.  I lived in Gig Harbor, Washington at the time, and many of our friends and neighbors had winter homes in Arizona.  I was sketching the floor plan of a house one day - a long-time hobby of mine - and as I looked at the plan, I wondered who'd live there.  What was their story?  I pictured a woman living in a tiny motor home with her husband while they had their new home built in the hills outside a town I called Maystown, Arizona.  The husband dies suddenly and she can't find their money.  If she can't find it soon, she'll lose the half-built house - her dream house - and the land it sits on.  It’s her only monetary asset.  During her marriage, her husband never allowed her to work, so she has no job skills, no way to make enough money to pay the hefty construction loan payments.  She's alone in a place where she doesn't know anyone, she's nearly broke, and she's scared.

The rancher next door is a former cop, a surly widower who's being stalked by the town gossip, who wants to marry him.  Only he can't stand to be around her.  He runs into Rachel's car, denting her fender, and blames her for the accident.  When she sees the cell phone in his old pickup truck, she blames him for not watching where he was going.  She never wants to see him again.  Trouble is, he's the only man in town who can help her find the missing money.  

I knew the title before I began writing, and I found his name right away - Gary Martinson.  I struggled to find the right name for her, and when I did, Rachel Woods came to life.  Her husband was a controlling, secretive man, and she’d been desperately unhappy in her marriage. 

Gary worshipped his wife, but she died years ago from cancer.  He’s the most unlikely hero you'll ever want to meet, but you'll fall in love with him.

DHG: I know you published The Mitchell Money with Wild Rose Press. What about the other books you have? Are you self publishing them? Give us a bit of information about them, too.

SPF: I put the three books in the Gregory Series up on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  They’re romantic suspense with a little humor mixed in.  The Gregory brothers were all adopted, but they’re brothers in every way that counts.

On the Run is the first book in the series.  Neen has been on the run from the drug lord’s killers for three years.  She carries a big purse with all the essentials, including her gun and clean underwear.  Greg, the macho brother, is working undercover with the FBI to catch a dirty agent in the DEA.  To do that, he needs Neen’s help.  He finally finds her, but after three years on the run, she’s not exactly the same, sweet girl he met before the drug raid. 

The second book in the series, On the Lam, is about Greg’s brother, Bo.  He’s a former Marine whose elbow was shattered in Iraq.  He’s the responsible brother, the one everyone in the family turns to when they need help.  He doesn’t want any more responsibility, but when a friend sends a battered woman running away from her abusive husband to him, he can’t turn her away.  Callie looks like Snow White and speaks with a soft Texas drawl, but the woman is trouble.  She neglects to tell Bo that she has a little boy and her abusive husband is the county sheriff.  

The third book, On the Edge, is about Greg and Bo’s older brother, Chance.  Chance is half Korean, an attorney whose ex-wife was murdered, leaving him with three grief-stricken children.  After another woman is murdered, Chance learns he and Baylee Patterson, a newspaper reporter who wrote some not-so-nice things about the killer, are both on the killer’s “list.”  The police detective advises Chance and Baylee to leave town.  Chance’s kids are in Texas with his mother, so he and Baylee head for Texas, hoping the police find the killer before the killer finds them.  Chance and Baylee had a one-night stand the night his divorce became final.  He promised to call and didn’t, so it’s an interesting ride to Texas.

DHG: What is your favorite type of books to write? What are your favorite books to read?  

SPF: I’ll read almost anything, but everything I write has some element of suspense or mystery.  I especially like writing about a woman finding strength to overcome something and unexpectedly finding love along the way.    

DHG: When you write, do you have a schedule? So many hours in the morning etc?

SPF: I don’t have a schedule, and I don’t push myself to write a certain number of words a day or week or whatever.  Once I begin a book, I’m compelled to keep writing until it’s finished, however long that takes.  If I set page or word goals, my mind is on that goal instead of the goal of getting the book written.

DHG: Do you consider yourself a pantster or a plotter, and why?

SPF: Oh, I’m definitely a pantser.  If I know the plot before I begin, I lose interest in writing the story.  I have to keep writing to find out what happens.

DHG: What is the link to your website?

SPF: I use my blog as a website.  I have the first chapters of my four published books on the blog.  

The Mitchell Money is available at
The Gregory Series is available at and
You can also go to and search for Sue Fineman.  My books should all pop up.

DHG: Thank you, Sue. And I wish you the best with your novels.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

July 4th may be when we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but since I moved from New England to the Mid-Atlantic I have discovered it is the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg.
The shift from an emphasis on Colonial and Revolutionary War history to Civil War history has been culture shock for me.

I now live less than an hour from the prison camp where the Confederate prisoners were sent after Gettysburg. Fort Delaware is on an island in the Delaware River. It secured access to Philadelphia by water from the War of 1812 until it was decommissioned after WWII.

As a writer, I intended to walk in the footsteps of my protagonists: that included attending re-enactments and dressing like my protagonists whenever possible. On the ferry ride to the fort for Garrison Day years ago, I met a woman in a hoop skirt, trying to keep her hat in place with one hand while battling the bottom part of her attire with the other. That hoop skirt could have powered a small boat. I decided right then I would never wear such a garment.

I went home and made my first piece of period clothing from a fawn colored bed sheet, a Quaker farm wife’s dress. It may not be entirely accurate, but it has served me well for years.

Delaware was an important stop on the Underground Railroad. Freedom was on the other side of the Delaware State Line until the Fugitive Slave Act was passed. We were one of three slave holding states that remained loyal to the Union. Since the Emancipation Proclamation freed only slaves living in Confederate territory, the 1800 Delaware slaves had to wait for a constitutional amendment to free them.

Very little of my writing is set During the Civil War, but one unpublished YA novel bears witness to my fascination with Fort Delaware. Ruth meets an escaped prisoner, a Yankee guard, and learns her family secret, their involvement in the Underground Railroad.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Bonner Bridge

It was a dark and stormy night. (Really, it was!) I drove across the Bonner Bridge while holding my breath—you know, using the usual black humor we who love Hatteras Island brave when crossing the bridge. When I hit terra firma on Pea Island, I exhaled in relief. And then—I drove off the road.


I couldn’t see the road because it was covered in water. My Trail Blazer rocked and pitched—the reason I knew that I was unintentionally driving off-road. (Make a note here, folks, 4 wheel-drive is essential in the Outer Banks because roads can suddenly become nonexistent.)

What didn’t I know?

The road (Route 12, which encompasses the Bonner Bridge and is the only road onto Hatteras Island) had just been opened after being closed for days due to the amount of rain that had fallen during the previous week. I guess during the day the road could be seen even if covered by a sheet of water. But at night, no! I’m glad the road was open so that I could get onto Hatteras Island. The cost, though, could have been horrible had I not been knowledgeable of the road and the hazards.

My reason for relating this tale is that the Bonner Bridge/Route 12 through Pea Island is the only land/car access to Hatteras Island, and it is that connection which has resulted in a stalemate in replacing the Bonner Bridge.


Peas Island is a National Wildlife Refuge, which environmentalists wish to protect and preserve. Sounds like an admirable pursuit, right?

Here are a few facts.
  • The Herbert C. Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet on the Outer Banks of North Carolina is the only means of land access to Hatteras Island not only for residents but also for tourists, fishermen, and others who spend more than $300 million a year in the area.

  • The Bonner Bridge was built to allow direct access to Hatteras Island and was opened in 1963. At the time, the estimated lifespan of the bridge was 30 years. As it stands today, the Bonner Bridge has carried the entire vehicular traffic load between Hatteras Island and the rest of Dare County for almost 1 ½ times its originally intended lifespan. The bridge is now approaching its 16th year of duty beyond its initially projected retirement date back in 1993. In 1997, the state Department of Transportation estimated that the useful life of the bridge was only seven more years. That deadline came and went in 2004 with no definitive action on a replacement.

  • A North Carolina Department of Transportation Bridge Inspection Report from June, 2006, rated the condition of the existing bridge as "poor." To give an idea of the scope of that rating, on a scale starting at one as its lowest point and going up to 100, the Bonner Bridge rated a two, according to that inspection report.

  • This closure [of the bridge] would directly affect access, emergency response, emergency evacuation, and utility service for the residents of Hatteras Island and for the many people who visit each year.

  • Average daily traffic flow over the Bonner Bridge exceeds 5,000 vehicles per day, and that number can double to around 10,000 during summer vacation months.

The bridge must be replaced. There were eight options studied, but only three of the eight were considered. Option 1 replaced the existing bridge with land enhancements to avoid the situation I described at the beginning of this blog. Option 2 would build a parallel bridge slightly inland and connected to Pea Island to the southwest of the existing road and then join old Route 12 closer to Hatteras Island. Option 3 would build The Pamlico Sound Bridge Corridor—a 17.5 mile bridge bypassing Pea Island and connecting directly to Hatteras Island in Rodanthe, the option favored by environmentalists.

In December of 2010, after 17 years of debate and evaluation through numerous Environmental Impact Statements, the Federal Highway Administration decided to replace the bridge using Option 2. Option 1 was eliminated due to the engineering problems the existing bridge has incurred. Option 3 was eliminated due to excessive cost. The compromise between cost and environmental impact was necessary. With the existing bridge’s score of 2 on a scale of 100, human lives are at stake.

Soil erosion around bridge supports is the leading cause of bridge collapse and it is the reason for Bonner Bridge’s poor safety score.

  • Though engineers have not yet determined why the Minneapolis bridge failed, bridge experts said its collapse was not necessarily the result of a physical breakdown. Of the 1,502 recorded bridge failures between 1966 and 2005, almost 60 percent were caused by soil erosion around the underwater bridge supports, according to Jean-Louis Briaud, a civil engineer with the Texas Transportation Institute.    (Read more: An Amazing Bridge Collapse Statistic — Urban Workbench.

On July 1, 2011, the Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Refuge Association filed a lawsuit against the NC Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration challenging the December 2010 decision. The building phase of the new bridge would have taken 3.5 years. Now, no one knows if and when a new bridge will be built.

No one would argue that the 2010 decision was an optimal choice because there were none. The decision was a compromise, a necessary one to stave off impeding disaster.

As a writer, I focus on the aberration of murder, especially premeditated murder. I’m watching and waiting for the Bonner Bridge’s collapse. I’m asking myself what constitutes premeditated murder. And I’m hoping that no one dies.

Update: "Plaintiffs are seeking an injunction to stop the project until the NEPA regulations are complied with. The judge could dismiss the complaint, schedule a hearing, issue an order from the bench, or a combination of actions. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Chief Judge Louise Wood Flanigan in New Bern. The summons served July 4 on the defendants must be answered within 21 days."  The Island Free Press

Let's pray the judge has enough fortitude to dismiss this complaint.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Interview with Kristin Lindstrom

Kristin Lindstrom took time from her schedule to some WWK questions posed by Jim Jackson a couple of weeks ago. We think you'll find her take on the changing industry interesting and wish her great success in her new endeavors.
JMJ: The authorial community is abuzz with speculation about your recent decision to change from Lindstrom Literary Management LLC to FlyingPig Media LLC. What’s the real story about your decision?
KL: The publishing industry is in a state of dynamic change. The market was hit hard by the 2008 recession, and certainly I felt it in my business; at the same time some exciting things have been happening. Technologies for ebooks and print-on-demand books have finally matured and reached the point where they are economically feasible. That puts the power of publishing into the hands of individuals. And in turn this creates opportunities for someone like me.
Before I was a literary agent, I worked as a marketing consultant for many years, managing the overall process of pulling together advertisements, brochures, annual reports and the like. Flying Pig Media calls on both my literary agency and marketing/production experience. It feels like a nice fit.
JMJ: Some literary agencies appear to be trying to do traditional agent work and add additional services, including publishing. Why not go that route?
KL: I think it would be easier for a larger agency to add publishing services than it would be for an independent agent like me. That’s because they have more staff whose efforts can be redirected into the new business. For me it came down to deciding how to divide my time; bringing on publishing services required enough of a commitment that it became clear that I’d have to devote myself to it full time.
JMJ: I like the name of your new company, but then again, I spent more than a decade in the Cincinnati area where Flying Pigs are common (e.g. the Flying Pig marathon and Flying Pig bridge tournament). Since you don’t live in Cincy, I’m guessing you chose the name in reference to the once impossible future now being the very realistic present?
KL: We went through a lot of names, all of which were already tagged by somebody else. I actually have a flying pig from Indonesia that the logo is a based on. A friend suggested it and I liked it immediately. When doing research, I came across Flying Pig barbecue places, the Cincinnati marathon, and a Flying Pig bookstore, but no Flying Pig Media (except in Australia). But it also represents the notion that yes, pigs fly and your book can be published in a professional way.
JMJ: At the time of our conversation, your new website is under construction, but your temporary page mentions five areas where you plan to help authors. What kind of author would make a good candidate for your services?
KL: Of course, as a publishing consultant, I’ll be dealing with a wider range of clients than before. But it’s harder to say what makes up an ideal client. I’ve set the business up so that people can pick individual services, or come to me for the whole range. 
Someone interested in concept development may only want to brainstorm a few ideas with someone. Another client may want an in-depth craft/content edit. Still another may need what I call creative management for getting ebooks or print-on-demand books through the design, formatting, and production stages. A client may want a combination of those services plus marketing and promotion.
I’ve always enjoyed dealing with authors who are working writers, people who are not just producing a single book, but who are producing a body of work. But by the same token, someone who has poured his efforts into one book should be able to have the same opportunities for getting that book published in the best manner possible.
JMJ: The literary agent business is primarily commission based. Are you basing your new pricing structure on time and expense or will you offer some services as a fixed fee? (Laughs—and are you offering limited time discounts for authors who mention Writers Who Kill?)
KL: Fixed fees are often a problem on both sides of the equation. A client may feel that he is being overcharged while at the same time the consultant thinks she should have charged more!
I expect to evaluate each project as it comes in to determine how much time it should take. I’ve found that for an edit priced on either word count or by the hour, for example, the end prices are remarkably close.
No limited time discounts yet. But you never know.
JMJ: In the mid to late 1800s my great-great-great grandfather started a publishing company to retain total control (and profits) from his writing. Many people only think of e-books when they consider self-publishing. With 21st century technology, I suspect more authors will also be getting into independent print publishing as well. Your thoughts?
 KL: Absolutely. The author who wants to publish a book doesn’t have to go to the classic ‘self-publishing’ companies that take a large chunk of the rights and charge for production of the books.
Companies like Lightning Source, a subsidiary of Ingram and CreateSpace of Amazon, offer true print-on-demand services. In the day, when POD was first introduced, the technology simply did not print on demand. The company would wait until a significant number of orders came in and then would go to press. Now, books can be printed in very small quantities and the vendor can still make a profit. Both Lightning Source and CreateSpace can then act as the distributor, ultimately taking their fees depending on the pricing model the writer chooses.
JMJ: Many authors are so confused by the myriad and continuing changes in publishing that they don’t know how to make a decision between traditional and independent publishing. What questions should they ask themselves to help clarify which approach that’s best for them?
KL: It is very confusing for authors trying to decide whether to seek a traditional publisher or take matters into their own hands. 
My personal experience in the last couple of years indicates it’s extremely difficult to get picked up by a mainstream publisher if the author doesn’t have a ‘platform’ that will lead to many sales. Even the singer Jennifer Hudson was rejected by a number of publishers for her weight-loss book and she’s famous in addition to being the spokesperson for Weight Watchers!
Also, timing may be another consideration for a writer. To publish with a traditional publisher, an author must first find an agent, which can take quite a while. Then the book has to be sent around to publishers, which also can take a long time. Then if the book is picked up, its release date will likely be a year and a half to two years from the date of purchase. And once the book is published, it will take 10 months to get the first royalty statement. It’s an extremely long cycle.
By contrast, a writer who decides to publish independently can have an ebook and POD book completed and in the market within a matter of weeks.
Of course, some authors may feel they need the gravitas of the publisher behind them rather than the ‘stigma’ of having self-published. And for marketing support. But opinions on independent publishing are changing daily and it’s a very different game than in the past. And for most authors, publishing houses don’t have sufficient budgets to provide marketing for all their authors
JMJ: Thanks so much for your time today, Kristin. Everyone at Writers Who Kill wish you great success with Flying Pig Media.