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

October Interviews
10/2 Debra H. Goldstein, Two Bites To Many
10/10 Connie Berry, A Legacy of Murder
10/17 Lida Sideris, Double Murder or Nothing
10/23 Toni L. P. Kelner writing as Leigh Perry, The Skeleton Stuffs A Stocking
10/30 Jennifer David Hesse, Autumn Alibi

Saturday Guest Bloggers:
10/5 Ang Pompano
10/12 Eyes of Texas Anthology Writers
10/19 Neil Plakcy

WWK Bloggers: 10/26 Kait Carson


Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Lyrical Press will publish Kaye George's Vintage Sweets mystery series. The first book, Revenge Is Sweet, will be released in March. Look for the interview here on 3/11.

Shari Randall will be writing again for St. Martin's, perhaps under a pseudonym. We look forward to reading Shari's Ice Cream Shop Mystery series debuting next year. Congratulations, Shari!

Susan Van Kirk's A Death At Tippett Pond was released on June 15th. Read E. B. Davis's interview with Susan.

KM Rockwood's "Frozen Daiquiris" appears in The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense, edited by Judy Penz Sheluk. The anthology was released on June 18th.

Fishy Business anthology authors include KM Rockwood, Debra Goldstein, and James M. Jackson. This volume was edited by Linda Rodriguez.

Please read Margaret S. Hamilton and Debra Goldstein's short stories (don't ask about their modus operandi) in a new anthology, Cooked To Death Vol. IV: Cold Cut Files.

Warren Bull's Abraham Lincoln: Seldom Told Stories was released. It is available at: GoRead: https://www.goread.com/book/abraham-lincoln-seldom-told-stories or at Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/ydaklx8p

Grace Topping's mystery, Staging is Murder was released April 30.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Time Out

I’m a pretty accomplished handknitter, used to do it professionally, but I’m having trouble making my husband a pair of heavy, worsted-weight boot socks (finishing a Christmas present). I’ve had to rip back to fix errors several times now. The thing is that I’ve made hundreds of pairs of socks. I’m an expert sock knitter. But all those pairs have been knitted with many, many stitches of very thin yarn. This heavyweight pair handles differently, and I find myself making stupid errors. So I’ve set that sock aside for now. I’ll pick it up tomorrow, and it will all go smoothly. I’ve learned this through the years of knitting complicated cable sweaters and intricate lace shawls where I’ve had to rip back and reknit, rip back and reknit, until I give it a rest and come back to conquer whatever the current challenge is.

As a novelist, I’ve found myself in the same situation. I’ve written three novels in the Skeet Bannion series—the third, Every Hidden Fear, will be out May 6 and is available for pre-order—but I’ve been working on the first novel in a new series. After having to start over and revise the whole concept of the book once because I decided to do something different with it and then doing it all again (because it was to be a standalone but my agent wanted it to be a series), I was a little over halfway through this new book and desperately unhappy with it, feeling that I was going more and more wrong each day I worked on it. I kept telling myself, “You’re a professional writer. If you show up and do the work every day, you can make it good eventually” over and over just to get myself to show up and add more words to the hot mess on the page. Then I fell ill.

I’ve been down and out (and off work) for weeks now with something that kept getting worse until it finally turned into pneumonia. (Don’t worry. I’m fine now. Getting better all the time.) I wasn’t even able to read in the end. About the only thing I could do was sleep and knit. It was an enforced time out from the book—because I didn’t have the sense to do what I’ve learned to do with my knitting and take a voluntary one. Since I’m recovering and intend to start back to work on the new book today, I printed out what I had and gave it to my trusty first readers—something I never do with unfinished first drafts. I don’t like to have other people’s perceptions and comments until after I’ve finished that first creative envisioning completely. But I was feeling as if I needed to abandon this whole project—that my agent already had an editor interested in. So desperate straits called for desperate measures.

After hearing the same things from both of my readers—it reads great but there are these several trouble points—and having a light bulb go off over my head—oh, of course, that was the problem, and I can do this or that to fix it—I’m looking forward to getting back to work. It turns out that it wasn’t the disaster I imagined. All I needed was some time away from it to get perspective and a couple of pairs of trusted, fresh eyes to zero in on the real problems so I could see that they were fixable, just as with the knitting. I’m going to try to remember this for next time. Sometimes—as long as I don’t overdo it—a time out is exactly what is needed.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation?


E. B. Davis said...

Linda, there are many who say writers must produce everyday to really call themselves writers.

My opinion is that you can write everyday day, but if something isn't right about your book, the plot, a character, whatever doesn't feel like it's working--I say don't write--think. Stepping back is better then ending up with a bungled manuscript that you don't like and doesn't work. There are too many threads that will result in a total rewrite or nearly so, it just isn't worth it.

Like you, I finally decided to put my book out to beta readers, but in my case half got my concept, the other half did not. One of these days I'll find a group of writer/readers that suits.

I'm glad you were able to get the answers you needed from your readers and that your rewrites aren't extensive. It's hard to get out of your own head to see your work as others see it. One of the reasons, I think, writers need community--and that's a good thing.

Linda Rodriguez said...

EB, I'm very picky about my readers. As you noted, it's too easy to get folks who want you to write a different book from the one you're trying to write. That's just deadly, especially if you're at an early stage in the writing. I have two people I could trust enough to read this before I'd finished the draft--and I told them, "Don't tell me what you think about the book. Just answer my specific questions, please." It's very tricky if you haven't finished the first draft not to be overly influenced by someone else's opinion and get derailed from "your" book.

E. B. Davis said...

Linda, I had no idea that having the wrong readers was such a problem. Now that I aired the problem, which I was reluctant to do, I'm so glad I did because it never occurred to me that writers who serve as readers would want my book to be their book.

I read many genres and subgenres and usually appreciate them all for what they are--not evaluate them for what they aren't! That seems like a futile effort. But now I know what you say is true. I guess I thought writers, of all readers, would have a more academic approach. Their comments not only were unhelpful, but they got me thinking I was crazy, my book a sham. December wasn't a good month for me.

However, I sent it to a professional editor who reassured me that it was out-of-the-box, a good thing, not the same-old-samd-old that lands on her desk everyday. But, I'm guessing it won't suit every mystery reader. So, either an agent/publisher either will "get" it or they won't.

Readers whomever they are read subjectively. I'm still grappling with that concept.

James Montgomery Jackson said...

Linda, glad you are feeling better both physically and about your book.

Anything I do that requires me to really dive into it ultimately benefits if I am able to put it down, and after giving it a break view it with more objective eyes.

Sometimes what I thought was good, wasn't so much and other times when I despaired of ever getting it right, just a tweak was needed. Space away helped me know which was which.

I've long ago learned that I write for people who like the way I write. If someone wants long, descriptive sentences in their mystery, they should pick up James Lee Burke, not me.

It takes some time, EB, to find the right readers for you who can give you feedback without interjecting themselves into the process. But once you do, their are golden.

~ Jim

Shari Randall said...

It is wonderful when you find a beta reader who "gets" you and understands that you don't want a pat on the head (although that's nice, too) but you want to talk about the the manuscript - especially the flaws - how to make it the best it can be.
Glad you are back, Linda.

Anonymous said...

Taking a time-out of writing that particular thing helps. I often then work on a short story, which may or may not be a keepable effort when I'm done with it.

Finding good readers is hard. I have a writing group that meets once a month, and I bring problem sections to that group. I know what you mean about readers who want to make the book their story, not yours.

Sometimes I don't give my work to my husband (who is a very good editor) to read because he doesn't like some of my characters, and I get discouraged with his comments, even though he tries to be encouraging.

I'm glad you feel better and are back to writing.

Gloria Alden said...

Linda, I'm glad you're feeling better now.

When I was an artist instead of a writer, I'd often go back to a painting I thought I'd finished and see things I wanted to change. It's the same for me as a writer. I have three beta readers - two are part of my Guppy critique group and we've been together at least 5 years now. One of them thought, and maybe still does, that the romance between my two main characters should progress faster than it has, however she has come around - I think - to understanding why I'm moving slowly on it. My local beta reader has been very good. She is forming a group of four of us from our local writing group to do some serious work together since most of the others either write just poetry, or some other light bit of work. I'll see how that works since we all have different writing styles.

Sarah Henning said...

Linda, I'm glad you're feeling better! It's so nice to have a beta that gets it. That's gold, right there!

Warren Bull said...

I think sometimes ideas need to simmer for a while. And I've often thought after getting feedback, "Of course that is the problem."

Linda Rodriguez said...

EB, I've been in a number of critique groups over the years and found them mostly less than helpful. I finally set up my own that's run very successfully for over ten years now, but their schedule is not helpful for me any longer. Still meet with them when I can for the camaraderie and support but don't depend on them for critique. I have a couple of long-time trusted readers that I can turn to with a whole manuscript and not a lot of notice for a good reading. I value them and reciprocate the services. but it took years to get to this point. Keep trying and good luck.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Jim, you've learned the important things--step away sometimes and everyone won't "get" your book. I'm able to read both long, descriptive writers and short, staccato writers without expecting either to become the other, but I've learned that I'm in a minority in that.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Absolutely, Shari. I'm fortunate to be married to one of my beta readers. Normally, having your spouse critique your book is a disastrous idea, but mine is an award-winning editor of literary books, so it works out well with each of us being the other's first reader.

Linda Rodriguez said...

KM, writing a short story during a time-out is an excellent idea. Unfortunately, during this one I couldn't even read.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Gloria, I'm so glad you're getting a local critique group. I love mine, but their timeframe--one or two chapters per month--just doesn't work for me any longer. My deadlines mean I must move faster than that. However, they're still dear friends of mine, and we're major boosters of each other's careers.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Gloria, I'm so glad you're getting a local critique group. I love mine, but their timeframe--one or two chapters per month--just doesn't work for me any longer. My deadlines mean I must move faster than that. However, they're still dear friends of mine, and we're major boosters of each other's careers.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Thanks, Sarah. You're right. Solid gold.

Warren, why is that? I can tell something's wrong, and I can pinpoint what it is most of the time, but sometimes I have to have someone else point out what the problem is while I go, "Of course. Of course." *shakes head*

Carla Damron said...

Here's to hoping your next "Time out" is for a better reason!

Linda Rodriguez said...

LOL, Carla. I'd like the next one to be for a vacation, which might happen in a few years or so.