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

July Interviews

7/1 Lena Gregory, Scone Cold Killer
7/8 Jessica Baker, Murder on the Flying Scotsman
7/15 TG Wolff, Driving Reign
7/22 Leslie Budewitz, The Solace of Bay Leaves
7/29 Cynthia Kuhn, The Study of Secrets

Saturday Guest Bloggers

7/11 Mark Dressler
7/18 James McCrone

WWK Bloggers:

7/4 Valerie Burns
7/25 Kait Carson


Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.

KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.

Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!

Look for Kaye George and Margaret S. Hamilton's short stories in the new Mid-Century Murder by Darkhouse Books. Kaye's story is "Life and Death on the Road" and Margaret's story is titled "4BR/3.5BA Contemporary."

Grace Topping's second novel in Laura Bishop staging series, Staging Wars, was released by Henery Press on April 28th. Look for the interview here from April 29th.

Kaye George's second novel in the Vintage Sweets mystery series, Deadly Sweet Tooth, was released on June 2. Look for the interview here on June 10.

Annette Dashofy's 10th Zoe Chambers mystery, Til Death, will be released on June 16th. Look for the interview here on June 17.


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

First Chapter Blues by KM Rockwood

I decided to get down to work on a new book, tentatively named Earthly Treasures, the seventh in
The first Jesse Damon
Crime Novel
The dead body was
"off the page,"
but it did show up
in the first chapter.
my Jesse Damon Crime Novel series. I’ve tossed around ideas earlier and written a few bits of it. But now it’s time to get serious.

The first chapter came easily. It usually does. I have a very clear image in my mind of how the story should start. But experience has taught me to put it away for a week or so, then pull it out and read it with a critical eye.

It’s terrible. It includes entirely too detailed description (most of my work is sparse in that category,) a total overload of backstory, and much too much cliched and mundane narrative.

The first couple of times I realized I had written classically bad openings, I panicked. But I have come to expect that to be the norm for my first attempt.

Although this is a series, I want each book to be a stand-alone in its own right. I feel cheated when I read a book that I didn’t realize was part of a series and discover that I would need to go back and read the first one if I want to fill in the gaps. I don’t mind if some threads are not wrapped up—life is like that, not everything has a resolution—but I want a satisfying ending. No “to be continued” quasi endings.

So my tendency is to set the mood (often with the weather, which can be an important component of the stories) and provide an information dump right away.

This might have worked in Victorian times, but it’s not what today’s reader is expecting.

The first draft is about getting my own thoughts in order. By this time, I’m well aware that almost none of what I’ve written is going to appear in the final version. The first chapter—indeed, the first sentence—has to exert a pull on the reader that the most eloquent description of the setting and the weather will never be able to do. And eloquence is not my strong point.

The murdered body may show up as the first thing. Think of all the beginnings where the police are surrounding a crime scene where a murdered young woman’s body lies awaiting the coroner to order it brought to the medical examiner’s office for an autopsy.

My first chapter will feature the dead body in the parking lot of a church. It will skip over an explanation of Jesse’s background as a convicted murderer on parole. I will eliminate the dreaded “conversation in the car on the way to the beginning of the story.” And the sensual details—the odor of the rain on the asphalt, the threatening clouds, the lashing rain that drives everyone inside as soon as possible—will be used sparingly. I will studiously avoid anything that smacks of the “Dear Reader…” technique.

Sir Edward George Earle
1st  Baron Lytton
By my desk I have posted a copy of the famed “It was a dark and stormy night…” beginning, by Sir Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton (even the name is verbose) for his 1830 novel Paul Clifford. I reread it as necessary to remind myself to get to the point. Quickly. 

"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents - except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."

Now I’m ready to rewrite the first chapter. I’ll be convinced that it’s in great shape continue writing. Eventually I’ll realize that the story didn’t go quite as I expected, and that I will have to go back and revise the first chapter again. So I will set about making the necessary changes. I’ll repeat this process several more times until the first chapter bears little resemblance to my first thoughts. I hope it’s much improved (it’s definitely better than the original offering) but I do have to fight down an uneasy feeling that I have over-edited, and the best first chapter was at least five versions ago. Of course I didn't keep a copy.

Thank goodness for writing critique groups and beta readers!


Warren Bull said...

Thank goodness for beta readers, critique groups and trusted, skilled friends who help transform drek into gold.

KM Rockwood said...


Shari Randall said...

"The first chapter came easily" - I envy you, KM! Beginnings are my biggest struggle. I'll join you in that Amen of thanks for editors and beta readers and friends who will tell us where the story really starts.
I'm so glad there will be another Jesse Damon novel!

Gloria Alden said...

I can't wait until it's published. I enjoy this series so much.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

good news about a new Jesse Damon novel!

KM Rockwood said...

Shari, my novels tend to start with e envisioning the beginning and the end, which I can get onto paper (or computer screen, as the case may be.) But that's just the beginning of the work to make the chapter readable..

KM Rockwood said...

Gloria, you can be sure I'll send you a copy of this when it's done! I appreciate all your support with this series.

KM Rockwood said...

Thanks, Margaret! I'll be sending you a copy, too!