Please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com for information on guest blogs and interviews. October Interviews 10/6 Joan Garcia 10/13 M. E. Browning 10/20 Lori Lewis Ham 10/27 Krista Davis 10/31 Veronica Bond Guest Blogs 10/2 Kathy Manos Penn 10/16 Kate Lansing 10/30 Jule Selbo -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Summer Sillies by WWK Bloggers

 The Writing Prompt


I pumped my legs like pistons, climbing the stairs, and followed Burt, who raced ahead of me to the
roof. A flight below us, Jackson followed. He had a gun in his hand. His footfalls echoed ours as he chased us. The clang of the metal steps deafened me until Burt burst through the roof door at the top of the stairs. The heavy door banged shut behind us.

 

We were trapped. In a few seconds, an armed man would come through that door. I looked around to find a weapon or a place to hide.

 

“We wouldn’t be in this mess if you weren’t too nosy for your own good.”

 

Was Burt out of his mind? “This isn’t the time for recriminations,” I said, and scanned the nooks and crannies in the deteriorating brick I planned to restore for a rooftop oasis.

 

“You can’t leave well enough alone. You think you’re smarter than the cops.”

 

The door opened. The tip of a gun poked out like a periscope.

 

Our Endings


E. B. Davis

“No Burt, I don’t think I’m smarter than the cops.” I pulled my gun from my jacket pocket and aimed it at Burt. I took out my badge. “Because, I am a cop. Special Agent Renee Carter. Jackson here is my partner.”

 

Burt looked confused. “But you’re my neighbor. You’re a jeweler and an amateur sleuth.”

 

“I was undercover. We’ve been tracking your illegal activities now for over a year.” Jackson cuffed Burt and read his rights. I heaved a sigh of relief. Having to play sleuth with him had been trying. I bet he laughed after our investigative adventures. He’d thrown red herrings at me, trying to lead me away from his activities. But the herring I could deal with. It was the anchovies on his pizza I hoped never to smell again.

 

Tammy Euliano

“I am smarter than the cops. Get down.” I picked up a brick, measuring its heft in my right hand, and grabbed a small broken piece with my left. Burt lay on his stomach, out of Jackson’s line-of-sight. I tossed the small piece underhand to land to the left of the door, which swung wide at the sound. As soon as the back of Jackson’s bald head came into view, I threw a fastball – or fastbrick – right on target. He fell with a loud thud, the gun skittering from his hand. 

 

I retrieved the gun and handed it to Officer Burt. “You stay on meter maid duty, Burty Boy. Mom and I will take care of the real crime.” Breathless, she smiled at me from the open doorway, her cane pressed into the back of our assailant. This wasn’t the first mystery we’d solved together, and it surely wouldn’t be our last. Unless our publisher gets bought, of course.

 

Grace Topping

I waved my arms at Jackson as he peered through the narrow opening. “Okay, Jackson, we’ve had enough. Your invitation to a murder mystery dinner sounded like fun, but this has gotten a little out of hand.”

 

“I told you we shouldn’t have come,” Burt muttered.

 

A shot rang out and bits of stone exploded on the wall beside my head.

 

“Yikes, duck,” Burt shouted, pulling me down beside him near the floor. “I don’t think we are playing anymore.”

 

That realization struck home just as the bullet had landed. Now what could we do? We were unarmed and this was no longer playacting. Just then I caught sight of a long-forgotten television antenna that lay on the floor. I grabbed hold of it.

 

“Distract him while I come at him from the other side.”

 

“How in the hell am I going to do that?” Burt’s eyes were wide and frantic.

 

“I don’t know. You’re the mystery writer here. Think of something.” Spotting a brick nearby, I grabbed it and thrust it into his hands. “When I say now, toss this at him as he comes through the door.”

 

With that, I snuck around the roof skylight that was just high enough to cover me.

 

Jackson pushed open the door, stepped out, and fired another shot.

 

“Now!!”

 

Burt tossed the brick at Jackson. It didn’t land anywhere near him, but it was enough to distract him. Coming up from behind him, I swung the rusty antenna at him, hoping to knock him over and then we could pounce on him.

 

The antenna hit him with just enough force to cause him to lose his balance. He wavered, and 

before he could stand erect, he plummeted over the side of the building.

 

Burt looked stunned. “How are we going to explain this to the police, especially since you threatened him during dinner?”

 

“I was only following the script he gave us.”

 

Burt and I collided at the door trying to get through it at the same. With any luck, the script I left on the dining room table was still there and no one had taken it.

 

Kait Carson

Those people who think locked room mysteries are impossible puzzles should try meeting a gun-toting madman on a roof. I raced for the edge. My head spun as I looked to the street below. Down had been much closer the last time I was up here. Only one thing to do.

 

“Follow me, Burt.” I hooked a foot into a gap in the bricks and came down hard on my chin. The bricks were my salvation. Ignoring the pain from my bleeding lip, I grabbed a brick and hurled it in the direction of the stairwell. The clink of brick connecting with metal and the sound of a shot exploded in my ears. The gun, knocked from Jackson’s hand clattered to the pebble rooftop.

 

Burt’s laughter rang in my ears. He stooped to pick up the fallen weapon. A double-barreled shot-gun now pointed directly at my chest. “Maybe I should have said you wouldn’t be in this mess if you weren’t too nosy for your own good.” His finger tightened on the trigger. “You’ll never bother me again.”


KM Rockwood

I grabbed the edge of the door and gave it a mighty heave.

 

Jackson stumbled forward, his arms flailing wildly as he tried to regain his balance.

 

I zipped around behind him, dashing through the door as it clanged shut behind me. I threaded the sturdy padlock through the hasps and slammed it home.

 

Jackson wasn’t getting through that any time soon.

 

As I started down the stairs, I heard a single shot.

 

And I probably wouldn’t have to worry about that jerk Burt giving me a hard time any more.

 

Warren Bull

Burt rammed his shoulder against the door. Jackson cursed. He dropped the gun when the door slammed against his hand. The door swung open wide.  I dived at the weapon. As if it had a mind of its own, the gun bounced back through the opening. I heard it hit the metal steps as it careened down to the bottom.

Jackson was injured and unarmed. Great. But he was enraged. He burst through the doorway, growling like an animal.

 

“I can toss you both off the roof with one hand,” he said. “It’ll look like an accident. I’ll be long gone before the police arrive.”

 

"Not if we cooperate," I said, throwing a brick at his head. I missed, but it didn't matter.

When he lunged at me, Burt hit him in the back of the head with a piece of masonry. Jackson whirled so he didn't see the chunk of brick I threw that hit Jackson in the back. We kept it up and Jackson kept turning and lunging uselessly until he heard the police sirens. Then he dragged his wounded body back to the stairs. He started down much slower than he had mounted the stairs.

 

We watched the police arrest him and retrieve his gun.


"Okay, maybe you were smart to get him to chase us to where we could defend ourselves and keep him occupied long enough for the cops to get him. I bet that was the murder weapon and his fingerprints will be all over it," said Burt.


I smiled and said nothing. I had fled in panic. Burt saved us by ramming the door, but I was never going to admit it.

 

Shari Randall

“Oh, ye of little faith.” I reached into the pocket of my cocktail dress – how I love a dress with pockets! -  and pressed the button on a micro transmitter. The blades of a police chopper thumped in the distance. I sighed. It wouldn’t be here in time.

 

I hefted two bricks, one in each hand. I hurled one at Jackson’s hand, knocking the gun to the ground. As he bent to retrieve it, I hurled the other, hitting him square in his hipster glasses. As Jackson sagged to the asphalt, I grabbed his gun.

 

The chopper pulled even with the rooftop. Burt gasped, his face pale in the police helicopter’s spotlight. “What just happened?”

 

The chopper hovered, the down draft swirling as SWAT officers leapt to the rooftop and secured Jackson. I pulled Burt close. He was cute, but a little slow on the uptake.

 

“I’m not smarter than the police,” I said in his ear. “I am the police.”

 

James M. Jackson

Which was really bad technique since if I had been standing there, I could have grabbed the Sig Sauer P365 and twisted it from Jackson’s hand and broken a finger. But I wasn’t, so I picked up a brick. I didn’t bother pointing out to Burt that since I was the one who figured out Jackson was the killer, I was smarter than the cops (and that it was Burt who had taken the front stairs up, not the back stairs down).

 

All 5’2” ninety-eight pounds of Jackson slipped through the doorway following his P365, which was the thing I stared at.

 

Jackson directed the gun at my chest. “You got prayers to say, now’s the time to say them.”

 

I looked up at chimney swifts chittering overhead. “Thank you, Lord for the safety you have provided me.” I rifled the brick at Jackson’s knee. 

 

The fight was over in five seconds. I had Jackson pinned beneath me and his P365 secured in my pocket.

 

“You’re crazy,” Burt said. “He could have shot you.”

 

“He tried,” I said, “But he forgot to release the manual safety.

 

Margaret S. Hamilton

Little did Burt know. I had a plan. I padded in my sheepskin boots to the other side of the roof and whistled.

Herschel poked his big black head outside his rooftop kennel. Alert, poised for action, awaiting my command.

“Hershey, come!” I slapped my thighs. “Time for fetch!”

All hundred pounds of Cane Corso coiled muscle, topped with a massive head and heavy jaw, sprang to attention, crossed the roof, and made the four foot leap between buildings to join me, a wooden rolling pin clamped in his huge jaw.

Herschel dropped the rolling pin at my feet and woofed, tail wagging. I slipped him a treat from my stash behind a loose brick in the wall.

I picked up the rolling pin, but instead of throwing it, I screamed “Get the gun!” and added “Burt, out of the way.”

Herschel charged across the roof and leaped for Jackson’s gun, clamping Jackson’s lower arm in his mighty jaws. Jackson screamed and dropped his gun, Herschel still holding his arm.

I raced across the roof, snatched the gun, and handed it to Burt. “Make yourself useful while I call the police.”

I fed Herschel a handful of treats, and spent the next thirty minutes throwing the rolling pin for him. Herschel periodically stood on Jackson’s prone body, making sure his prey hadn’t gotten away.

Burt said, “I thought you spent time up here working on renovations, not playing with a guard dog.”

I rubbed Herschel’s short, coarse, coat. “You never know when you might need a Cane Corso.

 

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Dogs in Mystery by E. B. Davis

 

My fellow bloggers know I recently became a grandparent to a dog. I’ve always enjoyed pets in mysteries, perhaps living vicariously through those main characters and their relationships with their animals. I’ve never had pets so I’ve avoided using them as characters in my manuscripts. My fear is that my lack of experience with dogs would be apparent to pet-owner readers. But now, after six weeks of caring for a dog, I know why so many cozy mysteries include pets, especially dogs. Pets not only add a dimension to the coziness of those mysteries, but the pets can help their owners investigate. I want to enumerate my findings, but like any grandparent, I must first tell you a bit about my grand-dog, Rocky.

 

Two months ago, my daughter, Audrey, rescued Rocky, a Corgi/Beagle mix, from foster care. Rocky’s former owners had two dogs. When the mother of the family died, Rocky was put into foster care with a rescue operation. He is seven-years-old and very well trained. His stay in foster care lasted for only a few days when Audrey adopted him. We believe Rocky was the mother’s dog. He loves women over men and hangs out in the kitchen watching my every move while preparing and cooking meals. He has separation anxiety when left alone, which we now understand from other owners of rescued dogs is a common problem. We also believe the mother was at home full-time, and he had the companionship of the other dog. Although he was crate trained, the dogs shared a large crate. But without the other dog, crate training isn’t very effective. When left alone, he becomes morose and woeful.

 

When he first came to our Hatteras beach house a month after Audrey took ownership of him, I think Rocky was still in mourning. I don’t think he understood his abandonment was not his fault—he didn’t do anything wrong (at least that’s what we think is his perception). I’ve always had the idea that dogs could be smart and soulfully empathetic. Rocky has confirmed those notions. But not all dogs are so smart or as astute to their owners as Rocky.

 

From what I’ve learned from Rocky, I’ve compiled a list of ways that dogs and their needs can aid amateur sleuths. For those of you who are experienced with dogs, most of my observations will probably be no-brainers.

 

1.     People have discussions with their dogs. No matter how nuts, people talk to their dogs. Thinking out loud enables the main character to express his/her impression of people and use their logic to try out theories of the crime all the while including the reader. It doesn’t matter that the dog can’t contribute. Although they can nod or change their facial expressions. Readers can decide if they agree or disagree with the main character’s findings and logic.

2.     Dogs do have opinions of people. They can react to someone in a positive or negative way so taking the dog along in the investigation can be helpful. Owners know by how the dog reacts whether or not the dog likes or trust the new person.

3.     Due to a dog’s need to walk/exercise and use the facilities, dog owners are thrown together in the neighborhood or in dog parks. People talk to each other while tending to their dog’s outdoor needs. There are also those times when walking the dog allows for snooping. While I was walking Rocky, I noticed no one around. The neighbors had gone out for the day. All was quiet. We ducked under an unoccupied rental house to explore its sound-side views. I looked back into the neighborhood and caught our jerkwad neighbor on someone else’s property pulling out utility flags that had been place by a surveyor, something the homeowner had paid for. Like I said, he’s a jerkwad hatwack—not just my opinion. The jerkwad has become notorious. In a small place like Hatteras Island, reputations are important. So, you can also observe as well as interact with others while dog walking.

4.     The nose knows. Dogs noses can find evidence. Rocky unearths stuff we’d rather he didn’t, but in a mystery, his ability would be awesome.

5.     More commercial places are allowing dogs. Pet stores, ACE Hardware, the beach, and many bars and restaurants, especially if they have outdoor seating, are becoming pet friendly. People are curious about dogs. Many people come up to Rocky and extend their hands. They want to learn about him. Through their curiosity, asking questions, main characters can in turn ask people questions. Since they started the questioning, they can’t very well object.

6.     Protection—I’ve unfortunately had run-ins with bad dogs. I even wrote a short story about one terrible experience. A few summers ago, the brother of a beach friend of mine and his family came for vacation with their dog. They always violated the leash laws. When they were in the ocean, I was sitting in my low beach chair. Their dog came up to me, he was at the level of my throat since I was sitting, leaned into me, and growled. Luckily, my friend’s husband was sitting nearby. He yelled and took hold of the dog. Since then, I’ve avoided the dog, opting not to sit with them on the beach when they visit.

This summer, my friend reassured me that the dog had matured, settled down, and mellowed. I decided to trust her judgment. Rocky was sitting next to me when the dog charged. I’m unsure if the dog was lunging at me or Rocky. Even though Rocky was the smaller dog, he didn’t back down. Rocky doesn’t bark. I’ve never heard him growl—until then! That little dog howled and growled. The dog lunged for a second time. Rocky, the middle-age male that he is, wouldn’t put up with the designer dog and kept his defensive stance. Finally, the dog’s owner grabbed his collar. Like my neighbor, the dog is a jerkwad, at best. Mighty Rocky is my hero!

7.     Comic relief—dogs’ antics never end. We have Rocky on a long leach attached to a sand spike so he can roam. He’s quite good at tying us all up in his leash while we are sitting on the beach. The chairs, umbrellas, and tables become bound up. We’ve taken to moving the tables and chairs once the leash makes a Cat’s Cradle of our beach settlement. It’s easier than winding the dog back through his path.

 

In my next manuscript, look for Rocky as a character. We didn’t know what we were missing, even if they are a lot of work! Do you include your pets in your manuscripts?


Rocky can play peekaboo! I put that at 12-18 month child intelligence!


P.S. The Caroline Crimes Anthology, for which I wrote three stories before submitting one--I got into the anthology!! Look for "Stevie and Keith for the Save."


Wednesday, July 28, 2021

An Author Interview with Meri Allen (Shari Randall) by E. B. Davis

 

Justice will be swirled by amateur sleuth Riley Rhodes in the first in Meri Allen's brand-new mystery series, The Rocky Road to Ruin!

Riley Rhodes, travel food blogger and librarian at the CIA, makes a bittersweet return to her childhood home of Penniman, Connecticut – land of dairy farms and covered bridges - for a funeral. Despite the circumstances, Riley’s trip home is sprinkled with reunions with old friends, visits to her father’s cozy bookshop on the town green, and joyful hours behind the counter at the beloved Udderly Delicious Ice Cream Shop. It feels like a time to help her friend Caroline rebuild after her mother’s death, and for Riley to do a bit of her own reflecting after a botched undercover mission in Italy. After all, it’s always good to be home.

But Caroline and her brother Mike have to decide what to do with the assets they’ve inherited – the ice cream shop as well as the farm they grew up on – and they’ve never seen eye to eye. Trouble begins to swirl as Riley is spooked by reports of a stranger camping behind the farm and by the odd behavior of the shop’s mascot, Caroline’s snooty Persian, Sprinkles. When Mike turns up dead in the barn the morning after the funeral, the peace and quiet of Penniman seems upended for good. Can Riley find the killer before another body gets scooped?

Amazon.com


Shari Randall, now writing as Meri Allen, has created a new ice cream shop mystery series. Her previous Lobster Shack series was nominated for an Agatha Award for, Curses, Boiled Again.

 

In the first book of this new series, The Rocky Road to Ruin, readers meet Riley Rhodes, the main character. Riley’s history provokes the question: How can a librarian also be a spy for the CIA? We learn a bit about Riley’s latest CIA caper, and I hope in subsequent books we learn more. As a writer, I see subplots abounding from Riley’s background. Food blogging? Another gateway to subplots or complications of the main plot.

 

The secondary characters supporting Riley are positive influences with the exception of her stepmother, who is unintentionally passive aggressive or perhaps, it is intentional. And yet, it may be that Riley can’t stop resenting the woman, but for what reason? In any case, Riley will have to deal with her stepmother in one way or another once she determines who or what is the problem.

 

Welcome Shari Randall’s Meri Allen to WWK.                                                   E. B. Davis

 

What is the thinking on the name change? You are writing to the same cozy mystery market. Your writing was nominated for an Agatha award. Why change a successful brand with a new name? (I’m so against this because for me it’s the writer not the book.) 

My agent says the traditional thinking is, “new series, new name.” He’s the pro, so I followed his advice.

 

Is there a Penniman, Connecticut? If not, where did you come up with that name? Is it a New England surname? Is there a Seven-Mile River?

Penniman exists only in my book, alas, but it was inspired by my favorite bits and pieces of real Connecticut villages and towns – the covered bridges, the town greens, the unique bookshops and tea shops. The story is set in what’s called the Quiet Corner of Connecticut, the northeastern corner, and it is filled with many special small towns. But there is a real-life Eight Mile River near me. The name Penniman came to me because I’d decided to name Riley’s dad’s used bookstore The Penniless Reader, and I worked backwards from there for the town’s name.

Riley’s father was a former teacher and now owns a second-hand bookstore. Her stepmother, Paulette, was a nurse. How does Paulette have the money to support her champagne tastes?  

Paulette’s first husband was loaded and she got a sweet alimony deal.

 

The ice cream store, Udderly Delightful, was created by Riley’s best friend Caroline’s mother Buzzy, who has died. Caroline lives in Boston and works as an art appraiser for an auction house. Why does she want to keep Udderly Delightful open? 

For Caroline, holding onto the shop is holding onto Buzzy’s memory. Caroline and Mike were adopted by Buzzy after spending several difficult years in foster care. Udderly Delicious was Buzzy’s baby and a Penniman institution, and Caroline doesn’t want to give it up

 

Although Buzzy adopted Caroline and Mike, they are full siblings, and yet they have little in common. Why, if they were both raised by Buzzy, does only Caroline seem to have Buzzy’s values?  

This is a great question. Nature vs. nurture, right? I think Mike’s brash, outgoing personality, and athletic prowess took him in a different direction than Caroline, who is shy, artistic, and introspective.

 

Even though Buzzy has died, she is very much a character. Riley’s mother died when she was two years old. Was Buzzy like a mother to Riley also? 

Buzzy did fill that role for Riley, and that’s part of the reason she decides to take the job as the shop manager. Riley lived in Washington DC for many years and traveled extensively, so staying in Penniman also means she can be close to her dad.

 

Was Riley released from the CIA’s employ, or does she feel the need for a career change after what happened in her last assignment?  

Riley wasn’t fired, but a disaster in Rome made her doubt herself. She sees the job at the ice cream shop as a chance to regroup and shift gears. Riley has lots of creative ideas from her travel and food blog, so she’s eager to explore those possibilities.

 

When Riley is stressed, how can she possibly eat hot fudge sundaes topped with potato chips?   

A potato chip topping is delicious! The chips add a nice salty crunch.

 

Buzzy’s cat Sprinkles (does she have a urine problem or does the name refer to those adorning the top of ice cream?) is also a main character, an antagonist of sorts. Sprinkles plays a game with Riley that could get her hurt. Is there nothing Riley can do about it?  

Sprinkles, a fabulous snowy white Persian, is definitely named for the pretty ice cream toppings. She’s a diva who considers herself an adornment to every life she encounters. A former show cat, Sprinkles was kicked off the circuit for biting, scratching, and general bad behavior. She doesn’t want to share Caroline with Riley and resorts to all sorts of sabotage to get her way. It keeps Riley on her toes.

 

When a scruffy kitten appears on the farm, Riley names him Rocky because he looks like he’s already survived a few rounds in the boxing ring. But Rocky appears at the murder scene and has a nose for investigation. Will Rocky become Riley’s sleuthing sidekick? 

Rocky is my nod to Koko and Yum Yum, the cats in The Cat Who series. He’s an inquisitive little thing. Though he leaves most of the sleuthing to Riley, he’s usually where the action is.

 

Will readers become familiar with Riley’s “Rhode Food” blog? Will there be excerpts?  

What a great idea! There will be now!

 

You describe a waffle iron to make waffle cones, but waffle cones are thin and crisp. Is this a different type of waffle iron than those the home cook is used to? Are the waffles fried and then rolled while they are hot?  

Yes, that’s exactly right. Here’s a video. Riley has her eye on this waffle cone machine. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzL2acsqMJw

 

When was Riley in the army? Helicopter crash?  

Riley went in the Army right out of college. The crash occurred during a training mission in her first year, so her dream of being an army officer was crushed. After rehabbing from several broken bones, she returned to running, a passion of hers in high school, and decided to follow her love of books into a library degree and an eventual job at the CIA library (yes, they have their own). Riley’s background and training in the army, plus her frequent travels, put her on the radar of some higher ups at the CIA and she was approached about doing occasional missions.

 

Why do Caroline and Riley indulge Sprinkles in her obnoxious habit, which is? (It makes me shudder!) 

 I didn’t think it was possible myself, until I saw a friend’s cat do it. We don’t want to spoil anyone’s breakfast, so I won’t say what it is here. Read the book and find out!

 

Wouldn’t the alcohol in Boozy ice cream prevent it from freezing? Is it more of a slushy?  

Yes, alcohol lowers the freezing point of ice cream and sorbets, and an ice cream maker must take that into account. What Buzzy called Margarita Ice Cream is more of a margarita sorbet, and it gets even more delicious as it melts into a slushy.

How much ice cream research did you do to create the series? Was it fun? Delicious? Did you try to make any at home? Brownie Bomb, Peach, Sun Flower…homemade marshmallow topping…all of them sound like treats! 

First lobster and now ice cream! Suffering for my art! I’m spoiled. I love taking road trips and followed lots of back roads to some fantastic ice cream shops. Because I set the shop in the eastern part of Connecticut, I concentrated the research there and discovered some fabulous ice cream shops: Buttonwood Farms (which also inspired the book’s sunflower festival), the UConn Dairy Bar, Michael’s Dairy, We-Lik-It – I ate a lot of ice cream while writing this book.

Like many people in 2020, my husband and I spent a lot of time at home, and decided to invest in an ice cream maker. That little machine has earned its counter space. There’s a batch of chocolate chip ice cream going right now.

 

What’s next for Riley?  

Riley will be back for at least two more books. Book Two’s working title is Mint Chocolate Murder, and the murder will take place during a fantasy ice cream social. I’m having a lot of fun dreaming up ice cream treats for that one.

 

 

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Finding that Golden Nugget - Persistence Pays Off by Martha Reed

You would think after producing four mystery novels that I’d have writing them down to a science. Craft a catchy opening hook, develop an interesting plot with sufficient red herrings, introduce a few new stand-out characters, and catch the killer in eighty-five thousand words. Seriously, how hard could it be?

It turns out that writing every new novel is an arduous journey because each one of the little buggers is completely different in its own uniquely quirky way.

I completely rewrote my first manuscript four times until I was satisfied, and I almost gave up. I clearly remember sitting at my dining room table tugging on my hair while wondering, “When will this (@#*&!) be done?” When it was finally finished, I wondered if I even wanted to continue exploring my creative writing dream and begin another novel because I thought the experience would be too brutally similar. I doubted I was up to the task.

Talking it over with a wise friend, he said that when I was ready to quit was when I was really only beginning. I now call him Yoda. Promising to give it a fair chance, I dug in and to my surprise writing my second book was pure delight, the quickest one I’ve ever finished. I sat down, opened my laptop and the story flowed like I was watching a movie on a screen.

The third book involved weaving together three different and complex family histories and storylines. I had a lot of fun meshing birthdates and genealogies and that took some time, but in the end, it worked. Book Four came to me in an inspirational flash while I was listening to Tears for Fears music on a writer’s retreat. Grabbing my notebook, I scribbled down an initial outline during one day’s session and now, when I go back and review my notes, I’m amazed at how much of the completed story was actually represented on those first few pages. It was pure magic.

And now we come to Book Five.

Book Five involves researching a new setting and a location and that’s been slowing me down. Because of the internet, finding interesting new details to share with my readers is easy enough, but I keep getting distracted by this interesting information, especially when Googling street maps, and I tumble down long rambling rabbit holes. Eventually, when I do pop back up, I’m carrying a golden nugget of fact or some fascinating detail that will make my story so much better, one that I can really use. Then I’ll check the clock and wonder, “How on earth did writing that paragraph take me four hours?” I’ve even disbelieved the clock until I stood and my body reminded me that yes, I really sat planted in my chair for that long.

But mostly what I wanted to share today was about getting through the sloggy writing bits and finding those magical golden nuggets. Earlier this week I had three straight days of framing up a new chapter while thinking, “Where is this going? This is pure crap.” Taking myself for repeated walks, I considered whether the story was rolling off the rails even while my writerly instinct told me it was not and that I should continue to follow it out. Working on blind faith, that’s what I did. I hemmed and hawed and plowed straight through. The morning of the third day I saw a glimmer of something good, the merest hint. Fearlessly, I pushed on. On the fourth day I opened the same draft manuscript, started working on those same crappy paragraphs and tried again. And then suddenly magic happened. One of my new characters, previously silent and pretty much in the background stepped forward, transforming the scene with one surprising move into one filled with dramatic suspense. Where did that come from? I sat back, grateful and amazed, and in that moment my creative well of confidence filled back up until it brimmed over. Now I feel re-energized and ready to see where this odd story is going to take me next. As its writer and technically its first reader, isn’t this exactly what we want to experience with our work?

Have you ever wanted to give up on a story project? What was it that made you keep at it and got you through to the end?

Monday, July 26, 2021

Suspension of Disbelief by Nancy L. Eady

 As I write this, I am sitting on the couch trying to convince my 19-year-old she will not die because some huge fire ants bit her foot. I also commented that MOST people don’t kill ant beds while barefoot. She’s not listening, though, because we also found a huge ant (that sucker was over 1/4 inch long) in the house. Now she is convinced the ants “know who she is” and are “coming to get her.” This same child has been trying to convince my husband and me that Elon Musk is evil and “planning something” which includes the destruction of planet Earth. She used to believe COVID vaccines contain miniscule bits of metal allowing the government to track the vaccinated until we let her put a magnet to our arms and it didn't stay put. Critical thinking is not her forte, unless she is parsing any parental statement, suggestion, or rule. 

Excessive drama aside, I do envy her ability to suspend disbelief. Most authors depend on a reader’s ability to suspend disbelief at least partially. The tough part is giving the reader enough details to let them enter your world while remaining consistent with your own vision of the mystery you want them to experience. And if you ask a reader to suspend disbelief for a particular situation, setting or event, you need to be consistent. Don’t ask them to suspend disbelief for one thing then throw in something contradictory.  For example, a dog walker investigates crime better than the local police can but then the police solve the crime without the dog walker’s assistance.

With certain settings, the idea of suspension of disbelief applies even when the details are true. Just because something happened in real life doesn’t mean readers will believe it.  A city dweller may not believe a law firm in a small town would leave its back door unlocked so the strange man who has spent every day for years wandering the courthouse square muttering to himself can slip in to get his daily coffee. Having worked in the law firm where it happened, I know it is 100% true. And since I plan for someone based on him to be a major character in my next novel, I must find a way to either make that believable or convince my reader to suspend their own disbelief. 

What books have you read that made suspending your disbelief easy? What stories do you write that ask the reader to suspend their disbelief, and over what issues?  

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Step Away From the Review by Annette Dashofy

I, like many authors, have a love/hate relationship with reviews. We do what we can to get them early so Amazon algorithms will smile upon us. We search out flattering turns of phrases that we might be able to pull and use in social media to entice prospective readers. We (I) breathe sighs of relief when those first reviews come back saying wonderful things about the new book.

 


And yet, I implore authors, especially new authors, to avoid reading their reviews. As in, avoid it like the plague. Because, here’s the thing—as soon as strangers start reading your book, you are going to start getting those dreaded three-, two-, or even one-star reviews.

 


I can tell you from personal experience, you can have a hundred glowing five-star reviews, but the solitary one-star will put you in a funk for at least a week.

 

Or maybe that’s just me.

 

Some of the lower-rated reviews can be laughed off. The reader gave the book a one-star because it arrived damaged. Or because they didn’t like fantasy when the cover clearly shows wizards and dragons.

 

The sad truth is some people are mean. They not only don’t like your book, they want the entire world to dislike it as well.

 

I have at least one review out there (a one-star) in which the reader rants about every aspect of the story and proceeds to give away every plot twist, every reveal, including the ending. That one makes me break out in hives. Dude, if you disliked what you were reading so much, why not toss the book in the trash and move on? Why immerse yourself into the story so deeply that you felt the need to re-tell the entire thing in five long paragraphs on a review site?

 

(SIGH)

 

Most of the time, I put on blinders when I’m looking at my books on those sites. I avoid the reviews, find what I’m there to look for, and close the page. Unfortunately, the other day I got lured in. I clicked on the reviews. And as I said above, in spite of all the lovely five-stars, the handful of one-stars are what captured my eye and made me question my career choice.

 

At which point, I gave myself the same advice I’ve given others over and over again. Step away from the reviews. I did, but they still stung.

 

I’ve always been told those reviews are not for us. They’re by readers, for readers. Fine. Lately, however, there seems to be a new social media trend. Readers post reviews trashing a book and then tag the author. Why on earth do these people feel the need to do this? We’ve already faced truckloads of rejections from agents and editors to get to this point. It’s not like we need to learn what that feels like.

 

So I’m putting these questions out there: To my fellow authors, do you read your reviews? Have you ever found yourself tagged in a bad one? To my fellow readers, do you write reviews, even if you dislike the book? And if you’ve ever tagged an author in one of those bad reviews, can you please explain your reasoning? I’d really like to understand.  

Saturday, July 24, 2021

On Writing by Kait Carson

 

The five cornerstones of writing are who, what, where, when, and why. Every story, short or long, must answer those questions. Omit one and the story fails to satisfy. Address only those five questions and the story will have bones, but no heart. Heart comes from drawing the reader in and making them care. If your reader sees, hears, tastes, smells, and touches your scenes and story elements, they become an active participant. It’s what encourages them to turn the pages until the end.

 

Taped to the flat of my laptop are two post-it-notes. One has passwords for frequently visited sites, the other reads: Sensory Elements. That one is written in red caps. When I first began writing, I was so busy telling the story that I forgot to let the reader experience the story. This reminder post-it-note has gone from laptop to laptop until it’s nearly worn thin. I’m not sure I need it anymore, but writers are a superstitious crowd. I’m petrified I’ll neglect the obvious if I dispose of it.

 

The mantra of add sensory elements has followed me for so long that I’d forgotten when and where I happened upon it. A recent post by Kate Flora on Maine Crime Writers reminded me. I’d read her original teaching post a number of years ago and attempted all of the exercises. The hardest, and most valuable, for me was describing something five ways each time using only one of the five senses. Now, when I have a scene that seems flat, I consider the five senses and seek one sensory element that sets the scene apart.

 

My characters live in the Florida Keys. Heat bakes skin, breezes bring tangy whiffs of salt and seaweed, rain pounds and bounces from the pavement striking the skin like tiny knives, lightning smells of ozone and raises fine hairs on the body, fall morning air has the taste of a hearty burgundy wine, sand crunches underfoot, the noon sky darkens to midnight black in advance of an approaching storm. These descriptions help the reader participate in the story, and hopefully whet the appetite for more after the current tale ends.

 

Readers and writers, what brings you into a story and makes you want more?