Tuesday, June 30, 2020

What We're Reading Now! by WWK Authors

In A Star is Dead, the third Angela Richman novel by Elaine Viets, when a Hollywood diva dies after humiliating three homeless women, her staff, and the town's patriarch, Angela's friend is accused of killing her. Did he? Using her Death Investigator skills, Angela professionally unravels the complicated threads of the murders and deaths she encounters. A Star is Dead is a quick, but intriguing read.                                                                                                                   Debra Goldstein

During these unsettling times, I find myself more and more turning to old favorites. I'm not alone in my love for Sue Grafton's alphabet series, and Kinsey Milhone is one of my favorite fictional detectives. I remember reading A is for Alibi for the first time decades ago, being totally blown away by the tight plot, superb clue planting, and memorable main character. I remember thinking I'd like to hang out with Kinsey in real life. I worried that the book wouldn't stand up to rereading.

I didn't have to worry. The passage of time has done nothing but add another level of interest to the story of a woman who hires Kinsey to discover who murdered her philandering husband. I enjoyed the glance back into a past where pantyhose, typewriters, and telephone booths are still commonplace, and I loved visiting with Kinsey.                                                                 Shari Randall

I'm alternating old favorites I've always meant to read again with recent books. And doing a lot of beta reading, which varies from I-wish-I-could-write-like-that to get-back-to-basics.

I've just started The Crystal Cave, the first in Mary Stewart's Merlin trilogy (I think there's a fourth one that came later.) I love the way I can get lost in these books. I look up from reading, mildly surprised that I'm in my living room in twenty-first century Pennsylvania, not just outside Camelot.                                                                                                     K. M. Rockwood

I decided to pick from one of my piles that's been on the nightstand for a while and am glad I chose Joseph Finder's Judgment. It's one of the better thrillers I've ever read, done from the point of view of a woman judge, Juliana Brody. She's done everything right her whole life and has achieved a sterling reputation, living a satisfying life in Boston with her husband and teenage son. However, something comes over her at a conference in Chicago and she has a one-night stand in the hotel with a suave, handsome, sexy man. Back home, she is assigned a complicated case and is pressured to make a decision she knows would be wrong. When a video of that Chicago encounter is shown to her, and people connected with the case start dying, she knows she has to use all of her wits to save her reputation, and possibly the lives of her and her family. This was a terrific read.                                                                                   Kaye George

The Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear is one of the most popular mystery series around, and rightfully so. The fifteen books available take us from the time Maisie is thirteen and entering the household of a wealthy family, through her years as a nurse in World War One and later on when she acts as a detective and a psychologist. Her cases often reflect the brutal history of war and how it affects soldiers and civilians long afterward. Recently I’ve listened to Books 6 of this wonderful series: Among The Mad. A shellshocked veteran is threatening terrorist attacks on London. Sunday night I was fortunate to hear Jacqueline Winspear being interviewed by her editor. I heartily recommend this series.                      Marilyn Levinson

I’m listening to Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly. I know a lot of people who liked the movie but there is no way it is nearly as good as this book. First, movies can never replicate the intimacy of first person POV. Second, practicing law, I’ve known guys just like Mickey Haller – except for the chauffeur-driven Lincoln, of course. I knew one old lawyer who would read depositions while she drove herself on a long commute. (The police were not amused.) Third, Connelly so accurately describes the constant tension between making money and ethical representation that I googled him to see if he had practiced. He’s not even a lawyer! Someone talked!                                                                                                                                             Keenan Powell

Tear it Down by Nick Petrie: This is the fourth in the series I have fallen in love with. The gutsy and wounded hero with the righteous girlfriend you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley and loyal friends goes to Memphis to help his girlfriend’s friend who is in over her head. He confronts a carjacker who he instructs about how to drive his truck, gangsters and a human monster. Good stuff. I want more.                                                                                                                 Warren Bull

I just finished Hid From Our Eyes, the long-awaited new addition to Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Mystery Series. Usually, I dive into one of her releases and devour it in a couple of days. This one took me longer, probably because of my inability to concentrate lately. However, by the time I was midway through, I was totally immersed. The story covers three eerily similar homicides over a number of decades, but following the time jumps was never an issue and the many story threads tied neatly together by the end. She has done it again, serving up a complex and thought-provoking tale, complete with a maddening cliffhanger. I certainly hope I don’t have to wait as long to see it resolved in the next book.                                                                                                                  Annette Dashofy

Since my travel plans got cancelled due to the COVID-19 quarantine, I treated myself to a slew of books set in distant lands to satisfy my travel bug. First up was a winner, The Lost Man by Jane Harper. Set on neighboring cattle ranches in the immense Australian outback, the story offers a complicated and satisfying mystery with a genuine sense of the vast Queensland landscape and the cost of human isolation, so apropos for our time.                                                       Martha Reed

Cleo Coyle’s latest urban cozy, BREWED AWAKENING, 2019.
The husband-and-wife team of Alice Alfonsi and Marc Cerasini have written another winner in the Coffeehouse Mystery series. Clare Cosi, the intrepid amateur sleuth and manager of the Village Blend coffeehouse in Greenwich Village, wakes one morning in nearby Washington Square Park wearing a stranger’s clothing and unable to remember the past fifteen years of her life.

The usual Village Blend crew, including Clare’s ex-husband Matteo Allegro, his mother, Madame, and an assortment of baristas, join Clare’s fiancĂ©, NYPD detective Mike Quinn, liberating Clare from the hospital and assisting her investigation of why she was seen accompanying a hotel heiress minutes before the woman’s disappearance. 

Nothing makes sense until, after drinking many mugs of decent coffee, Clare strips away the drug-induced fog clouding her memory and solves several past murders.

A fast-paced ride through New York City and the Hamptons, laced with plenty of coffee brewing factoids and cookie and cake recipes.                                                                                                                                                                       Margaret S. Hamilton

When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal
Josie Bianci was killed fifteen years earlier in a terrorist attack on a train. Since then, her sister, Kit, an ER doctor in Santa Cruz, has rebuilt her life, but the pain and grief her sister’s loss continues. Kit was the studious one, overcoming so many odds to get through medical school, while Kit was the gorgeous one who fell deeply into drugs and sexual promiscuity. One evening Kit is watching the television news and she sees a woman who must be her sister, escaping from a fire in Auckland, New Zealand. She is a dead ringer for Josie. How could that be?

Kit travels to Auckland to find this woman, and her journey involves recalling a difficult and twisted path growing up in a dysfunctional home filled with pain and parental neglect. Once in New Zealand, she also meets a secretive and attractive man who helps her in her hunt for Josie. This book has all the emotions: grief, love, loss, anger, joy. The story of the family is engrossing, and the journey Kit takes is one of redemption.                                                                                                                                                                           Susan Van Kirk

What better than a great cozy read during these trying virus days?

After four back-to-back medical conventions, event planner Sophie Winston is ready for a break. But then she is given the opportunity to ghost write a cook book for big bucks. Given her bathroom needs a major redo—she accepts the assignment but finds out two women have gone missing. Sophie doesn’t think it is a coincidence, and one of them turns out to be the first ghost writer on the project she took over.

Set in the fall, as the book evolves the temperatures get colder and colder. Wouldn’t you know, ghost writing the book also means she must test cook all the recipes! But the recipes have codes handwritten beside them. They have to be clues.

This is one of the coziest cozy series I’ve ever read. The recipes alone are worth the price of the book. I always want to get back to Sophia, Mars, Daisy, Natasha, and Nina.                                                                                                                E. B. Davis 

Time to read thanks to the COVID-19 lockdown met desperation to reduce the to be read shelf induced by our decision to return to Maine. As a result, I’ve been zipping through a four-foot-high stack of books that I would prefer to donate to our local library rather than pack. So far, the endeavor is moving right along.

The Burning Room by Michael Connelly. This is the second Bosch book I’ve read. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed Connelly’s writing. Bosch is at the end of his career in The Burning Room. He enrolled in the DROP program at the LAPD and he’s got less than a year remaining on the force before retirement. The cold case unit has recently taken the decision to pair young, green, detectives, with seasoned pros, and Bosch has drawn Lucky Lucy. A former beat cop who not only survived the gun battle that killed her partner, but took down his attacker.

The duo are assigned the task of finding the person who fired the shot that killed a Mariachi musician. The shot was fired six years ago, but the bullet only recovered from the musician’s spine after his death. Soon after starting the assignment, Bosch discovers his partner is privately working the case of the Bonnie Brae tragedy where nine children died in an arson set fire. When Bosch learns his partner is one of the few surviving children of that tragedy, he decides the team should take on the case.

Connelly’s skill as a storyteller is apparent as he weaves the stories of these two disparate cases together without letting the reader become confused. Each case is fully formed and the decisions surrounding the partners actions make perfect sense and bring the book to a fully satisfying conclusion. One of the highlights of the story was the characterization of Lucy. She’s young enough to be Bosch’s daughter and Connelly pays homage to this generational difference through Lucy’s actions and language. Her youth and inexperience provide an interesting spice to Bosch’s seasoned investigation letting the reader know the LAPD will be in good hands after Bosch’s departure.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Kait Carson

Monday, June 29, 2020

Why Murder? by Nancy L. Eady

            Most people will agree that I am one of the mildest persons you will ever meet. I exude a harmless aura that draws strangers to me to ask for directions when I’m out walking around town or a crowded store. Years ago, in the late 90’s, I was sent to New York for a week on business. A group of us agreed to meet at a restaurant in Greenwich Village after hours. We all were staying at different hotels, so we traveled there separately. I got there early, and got lost, a few blocks off the beaten path. When I walked onto a street with a few Goth attire stores, and a few more people walking around in leather and chains, I realized I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. So, as humans mostly do when they are faced with the unfamiliar, I got scared. I decided the only way to convince people not to mess with me was to put on a “tough” face. That worked about three seconds; then I got so tickled at the idea of me trying to look tough that I couldn’t stop laughing at myself. It turns out people don’t mess with those they think are crazy either.
            My mildness makes me an unlikely person for writing mysteries. Because as an author, I have to put characters in not only dangerous but lethal situations. In order to spin my tales, I investigate ways for human beings to kill other human beings in new and creative, or at least sneaky, ways. But as difficult as that is, there is a flip side to writing mysteries as well. I write and read mysteries not for the joy of creating victims, but the joy of creating justice. As a writer and reader living in an imperfect world, at least in my fiction I can create a climate where people work together toward a common cause, and the good guys always win. Even though I can’t force those results in the real world, at least I can escape to a world where I make it happen.
            And that’s why I write about murder.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Learning by Teaching by Annette Dashofy

I’m wrapping up teaching a monthlong online writing course on Creating a Cast of 3-Dimensional Characters for Pennwriters. I posted the final lesson and assignment on Friday. All that’s left is commenting on homework and answering questions. My main goal for my students was simple: make them think.

I think I’ve succeeded. I know they’ve succeeded in making me think.

I love teaching writing workshops. Every time I do, I walk away having learned as much if not more than I’ve taught.

The timing of this class has been perfect. I’m plotting out my next book, creating the cast of characters—victims, red herrings, a villain, and the supporting players. As I make out my list of who’s who in this mystery, I’m doing the exact same exercises that I’m giving my students.

In a nutshell, I let each character tell me about him or herself. What brought them to this moment, how they feel about the other characters, what they want, and what they’ll do to get it.

I learned long ago that when I get stuck while writing, it’s usually because I’ve lost track of the villain. Erle Stanley Gardner, author of the Perry Mason series, once advised writers to plot from the viewpoint of the villain and write from the perspective of the protagonist.

That one bit of advice is probably the best I’ve ever received. If I don’t know what the villain is doing behind the scenes, I have no clue where my story is headed or what Zoe and Pete will encounter on the page.

Another workshop I taught recently revolved around the creation of red herrings and misdirection. Once again, I’m being my own student. This morning, I was scanning my list of suspects and their motives for potentially being the killer, and I realized I needed one more. It took me an hour to come up with a name, a motive, and—most importantly—a history. Where had he been since the time of the murder? Why had he been mysteriously absent? What was his connection to the victim? But once I finished “channeling” this new character (one of my students dubbed it “a stream of consciousness” and I love that description!), I knew in my heart that my cast was solid and complete.

And 3-dimensional!

As a writer, it’s amazing how much I’ve learned over the years. It’s even more amazing how much I’ve forgotten. Putting together a new workshop or dusting off an old one for a new presentation does wonders for bringing it all back. Watching a new student make the same mistakes as I once did brings it back even clearer.

Have you ever taught a class or a workshop (on writing or anything else) and felt you received as much as you gave?

Saturday, June 27, 2020

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things by Kait Carson

On or about July 13th we will be leaving Florida and relocating to Maine.  I wrote about this transition in my last blog. Since that blog, more boxes have been packed, decisions as what to keep or toss made and we’ve had workmen in the Maine house seeing to upgrades and repairs.
The process has been exhausting. Writing has been nonexistent even though I’m in the editing phase, which uses far different muscles than putting words on the page. Every spare minute has been devoted to the exodus. The end result is we are about 99% finished with everything we can do for ourselves. There are still the little surprises of forgotten items, but the worst is over. Or is it?
This is the second time we have left Florida behind. In many ways, I grew up here. The state has been a part of my life since 1957. Holidays and most summers meant visiting cousins who lived in Miami. In 1970 I attended the University of Miami and graduated in 1974. After a brief foray to Virginia and New Jersey, I moved here full-time in 1979. When we left in 2005, we wondered if we would ever return.
The longing to maintain a connection to Florida led me to set my books there. Both of my existing series are set in Miami and/or the Keys. My newest series is set in the Keys. I know that there will be visits, and research trips, but the desire to live here again full-time – that ship has sailed.
The excitement of the move is bittersweet. I’m making a conscious effort to catalogue a few of my favorite things. The graceful sway of a palm tree in the breeze. The way the sky turns angry before a thunderstorm. The endless color of winter blossoms. The rabbit that has visited us every spring since we moved in. I’m sure it’s not the same rabbit, but I would like to believe it’s a descendant of that first bunny who showed up on Easter Sunday. The gopher tortoises who can move with amazing speed when startled. The frog that appears in our tiki hut at odd times. The blazing sunrises and the cotton candy pink clouds at sunset.
Each of these items speaks to me of the Florida I am leaving behind. I’ll hold them in my heart on the trip to Maine and during the long nights of winter. But I know it’s time, and I’m looking forward to new adventures in an entirely new landscape.
Have you balanced the ebb and flow of a much desired move? Would you go back?

Friday, June 26, 2020

Light it Up by Nick Petrie: A Review by Warren Bull

Image by Yaoqi Lai on Unsplash

As I said when I reviewed his first two novels, it is always a pleasure to discover a new talented author and Nick Petrie is truly a find. He sustains his performance in his third novel. The dreaded sophomore slump is still nowhere to be found.

Nick Petrie follows The Drifter, and Burning Bright with another winner Light it Up

Peter Ash, a former Marine lieutenant, was sent on many combat missions. PTSD symptoms appeared just as he was leaving the service. And it is true that they may appear at any time after the trauma that caused them. In this novel, he has made progress in individual therapy and in group therapy with others who have the disorder.

Peter has been working with a group of volunteers reconstructing mountain trails after rain and snow has degraded them. It is hard labor that leaves him tired and satisfied. One member of the crew owns a business that provides protection for legal marijuana growers. It is difficult, almost impossible, to set up regular business accounts because federal legislation does not recognize the legality of the profits.

Large amounts of cash make marijuana businesses tempting targets for thieves. When his friend asks Peter to ride shotgun on a cash run after one shipment disappears, he and Peter both believe this is a short-time favor. Peter wants to help, but he also has plans to visit the love of his life who told him to get his act together before they make long-term plans.

When things go spectacularly wrong, Peter’s amazing survival skills allow him to live through a vicious assault. Much as he wants to see his love, he feels he made a promise and cannot leave the situation as it is. Peter’s kick-ass lover demands to be part of the action. What results is a clear warning to be careful what you wish for.

Part of what I enjoyed was the way Peter wooed his lady by long distance. I used the same strategy with the light of my life. 

The plot flows rapidly but stays within the possible. I admire the smooth writing that does not intrude on the suspension of disbelief. 

This book did not stay on my to-be-read pile. I recommend the author and the book highly.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Homesick For A Village That Doesn't Exist by Connie Berry

I do so hate finishing books. I would like to go on with them forever. Beatrix Potter

Finishing books—and leaving the world you've created—is always a kind of emotionally wrenching experience. I usually cry. Lauren Oliver

Last week I turned in the manuscript for The Art of Betrayal, the third book in the Kate Hamilton Mystery series. It's not finished. Rounds of edits come next, but pushing send is a milestone marking the end of something cherished. Here's a glimpse:

American antiques dealer Kate Hamilton is spending the month of May in the Suffolk village of Long Barston, filling in at her friend Ivor Tweedy's antiquities shop while he recovers from bilateral hip surgery. Kate is thrilled when a local recluse consigns a valuable Chinese pottery jar from the ancient Han dynasty—until the jar goes missing and a body turns up in the middle of a village pageant celebrating an eleventh-century folktale. As Detective Inspector Tom Mallory leads the investigation, Kate begins to see puzzling parallels between the crimes and the local legend. The more she learns, the more convinced she becomes that the solution to both crimes lies in the murky depths of Anglo-Saxon history and a generations-old pattern of betrayal.

After spending more than nine months with my characters, I'm feeling disoriented. And not a little homesick.

For me, the closest real-life parallel is the feeling I had when my oldest son left on the school bus for his first day of kindergarten. I waved madly (and cried) as the bus lumbered down the street, turned left, and vanished. My precious little boy was on his own.

My book will have to make its way in the world, too. Of course, I plan to help it along as much as I can. But months of living, breathing, and dreaming about this story have come to an end.

A fourth book is in the works—one that must be planned, plotted, written, and polished. That will take time, and I'll fall in love with that story, too.

But first I need a few days to mourn the book I've left behind.

Have you ever felt homesick for a book you've read or written?

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

An Interview with Nicole Leiren

by Grace Topping

Writing is usually a solitary occupation. However, more and more writers are teaming up to produce works, either under both names of the authors, under a single pseudonym, under the name of a well-known writer “with” a supporting writer, or collaborating with a number of authors on a single series.

This is the fourth in a series of interviews featuring authors who have taken a team approach. Bestselling author Nicole Leiren, who has been teaming with author Elizabeth Ashby in the Danger Cove Mysteries, agreed to tell us about her experience of collaborating with other authors. The latest book in their series, Dark Rum Revenge, was released in February.

Dark Rum Revenge: a Danger Cove Cocktail Mystery (Danger Cove Mysteries Book 24)
Back Cover Copy

As the new part owner of Smugglers’ Tavern, Lilly Waters has found a little slice of happiness. With a steady boyfriend, a renewed relationship with her parents, and a strong circle of friends, she is excited about what the future might hold for her in the never boring town of Danger Cove. The auction of Shady Pines, a creepy reportedly haunted old motel on the outskirts of town, causes an influx of real estate investors from near and far—some nice, some nasty, and all with plans for the property. As the tempers begin to flare, Lilly and her good friend, Bree Milford who owns the local B&B, visit Shady Pines to check out the potential new competition. But instead of answers, they discover the lifeless body of one of the most vocal (and irritating) investors. The police move in record time to point fingers, which leaves Lilly, Bree, and a former foe all in the middle of a dark and stormy recipe for danger. Can Lilly catch a killer, or will this haunted hotel claim another victim?   www.amazon.com

Welcome, Nicole, to Writers Who Kill. 

As a successful writer, what motivated you to collaborate with Elizabeth Ashby on the Danger Cove Mystery series? How did the collaboration come about?

Nicole Leiren
Actually, Elizabeth Ashby is the fictional mystery author who lives in Danger Cove. She was created by my publisher, Gemma Halliday, and is a nod or homage to Jessica Fletcher from Cabot Cove in the Murder, She Wrote series. All Danger Cove authors “collaborate” with Elizabeth Ashby. She’s been involved in some of my cases and made a couple of appearances in the third book in my series, Tequila Trouble.

What was it like writing with someone else? Are there different levels of participation when you write with another writer? You do one thing she does another? Please tell us about your process? 

While working with my co-author, Ms. Ashby, is pretty easy, collaborating with the other Danger Cove authors provides a unique set of challenges. For those of you not familiar with the series, all of the stories take place in the town of Danger Cove, Washington. We have different storylines that surround several areas of the town. I write for the cocktail mysteries, and we have other authors who write for the farmers market and quilting club (Gin Jones), the Ocean View Bed and Breakfast (T. Sue Versteeg), the bakery (Janel Gradowski) the pet sitters (Sally J Smith and Jean Steffens), the bookshop (Ellie Ashe), and the hair salon (Traci Andrighetti). So you can imagine how much collaboration must take place to make sure we are all on the same page.

There are mainstay characters (police force, attorneys, etc.) that are constant throughout each book. We have a Danger Cover “bible” that has information about the town, the common characters, and basic information about each of the places I mentioned above. We do that so we all describe the Smugglers’ Tavern or the Ocean View Bed and Breakfast the same way.  

Whenever I write a scene that includes any characters from another part of the town, I always send that scene to the author to make sure it accurately reflects their character(s) and offers consistency for where their character is in the timeline.

What’s the biggest challenge you face working on the same project?

The coordination is a big challenge, as I need to make sure the other author’s characters are represented appropriately, and when someone is writing my characters, that they do the same. Keeping timelines straight (whose book is coming out first and when) is also “fun” to keep up with. LOL.

Now with Zoom and other online technology, do you envision collaboration becoming easier?

I could see where that could help. As long as you could coordinate a time when any authors involved in the collaboration were available and at a point where they could contribute.

Do you bring different skills to the collaboration? How difficult was it to blend writing styles?

As I shared, this type of collaboration is a little different than perhaps a typical one. Fortunately, it allows for different writing styles (though our publisher has a Danger Cove expert who has read every installment and makes sure there is cohesiveness and consistency in the world.) 

Do you ever disagree? If so, who has the final say?

Well, the publisher ALWAYS has the final say *grin*, but when it’s a scene that involves another author’s characters, I will defer to their take on how their character might react. For example, one of my fellow authors, T. Sue Versteeg, has been working on the next Bed & Breakfast story. She sent me a scene that has my main character, Lilly Waters, in it. She had her doing and saying some things that didn’t really fit with how I would see my character handling the situation. I sent her back some notes and so she rewrote the scene to make it fit better with the Lilly the readers have come to know. This is super important to us that readers know that the Lilly they read about in a bed and breakfast book is the same one they’ll get in a cocktail mystery book. 

Our editors also ask us if we collaborated with the other authors on scenes that involve their characters. If you say no, they’re going to send those scenes to them, and it may require you to do a rewrite—so we always do that first.

What surprised you the most about the process? What did you learn from the experience?

I’ve learned how important it is to create continuity in a world where a reader experiences books and series written by different authors. As a reader, I would want that and am happy to be a part of such a unique and interesting project.

We are seeing more well-established authors writing with other writers. For example, James Patterson writes with a number of writers, including Chris Grabenstein. What do you think accounts for this trend?

I think readers enjoy getting releases from authors they love. Needless to say, keeping up with the volume can be challenging for even full-time authors. By collaborating, you are able to potentially produce works at a quicker pace, and it’s also a great way for newer authors to be mentored by a well-established author, or for two well-known authors to expand their audiences even further.

After writing with other authors, what advice would you give to writers who plan to work together?

This is a tough one, as authors tend to have ideas already in place for how they want something to play out or how they want a character to develop. I think it’s important to find someone who has a similar writing style and thought process as you do but also brings different things to the table. My critique partner has strengths that I don’t, which allows her to see things in my manuscript that I might miss, and I do the same for her. Finding the right writing partner is just as important. Being willing to have an open mind and some flexibility is a big key to success in any collaboration.

With a foot in the mystery world and the romance world, which one do you find more challenging or rewarding?

I truly enjoy both reading and writing both genres. I think the biggest challenge for me switching from romance to cozy mystery was the fact that while mysteries have a small element of romance, it plays out much slower in the mystery than it (obviously) does in a romance. Learning how to slow that all down and focus on the mystery aspects more than the romance was tough, especially for that first book. 

Please tell us about other projects you have underway?

I’m actually taking a short sabbatical so I can enjoy some time with my first (and only) grandchild. For those of you who read or will read Dark Rum Revenge, that book was dedicated to him. There are always ideas percolating, though, so I’m sure I’ll be hitting the keyboard with some new mysteries soon.

Thank you, Nicole. 

About Nicole Leiren

Described by those who know her best as perky, quirky, and effervescent, USA Today Best-Selling author Nicole Leiren likes to have fun -- in life, with her characters and, of course, her readers. She admits to being sassy (just ask her mother), and inspiration for her characters is drawn from the real-world heroes and heroines she meets while traversing the country. Nicole enjoys sharing the love, laughter, mystery, and occasionally a touch of the mayhem she forces her characters to endure--all for the reader's pleasure. Her real-world heroes and heroines will keep you turning the pages until you reach the whodunit or happily ever after (usually both).

To learn more about Nicole Leiren and her books, follow her at the following:

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Keep It Creative

When I told my high school career guidance counselor that I wanted to be a writer, he suggested that I teach English or become a journalist, since creative writing wasn’t a financially prudent career choice. I’ll admit this was back in the 1970’s, when career options open to women were basically as a wife, secretary, nurse, teacher or beautician. I really wanted to be an archaeologist, but no one I knew in Kansas City was one so I didn’t know how to go about asking for direction or advice.

In the end, I sort of opted to follow both suggestions. I started J-School at the University of Missouri then transferred to Secondary Education/English Literature and finished my B.S. at Boston University. I never actually worked at either job although I did get trained for it. After graduating with zero money in the bank, I took the best paying position I could find as a financial typesetter (my eighth grade typing class finally came through for me, thank you, Mr. Beltrim) and I’ve been earning a living ever since.

Meanwhile, I never stopped writing.

I began with a journal and a handful of poems, learning to weave heartfelt words into meaning before graduating to short stories. I distinctly remember pausing on a Nantucket corner one gray morning and realizing it was time to write a book. Even scarier, a mystery series. The concept filled me with hope and terror. I didn’t know if I could do it. I knew I had to try.

In the following years, life has offered a bushel of blessings and challenges. I didn’t handle the initial challenges well, but I learned from them, which was actually the lesson. I came up with seven guiding rules:

1. Do the work.
2. Follow the directions.
3. Ask for help.
4. Follow up and follow through.
5. Say thank you.
6. Cherish your friends.
7. Keep it real.

These seven rules have guided me for decades. Lately, though, I’ve been noodling around with adding an eighth one:

Keep it creative.

This one is hard and I’m still on the fence about whether it’s truly a rule or a principle. It’s been a struggle staying optimistic in 2020. Change always comes with a cost and it’s easy to fall back into stale thought patterns when meeting challenges in our lives and in our world. Familiarity is our comfort zone, our safety net, but repeating the same action and anticipating a different outcome is the definition of insanity, which is why I think working from home is making me nuts. (Which day is it? Which week?) I’ve decided that no matter what a creative response is the only response that will work.

An artist friend of mine, Michel Tsouris took the COVID-19 quarantine as an opportunity to create The Isolation Series, painting eighty new works while sheltering in place and offering a drive-by art gallery exhibition. That’s thinking outside the box. (Search michel_tsouris on Instagram to see her paintings. They're amazing.)

Realizing that I should also look at quarantine as an opportunity, I committed to editing a chapter a day of my WIP, promising to finish the editing by the end of May. I’m delighted to report that my fourth mystery novel is with my beta readers now.

Dr. Wayne Dyer said: ‘Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.’

What’s been your response to quarantine isolation, good or bad? How are you keeping it creative, and sane?