Monday, August 29, 2016

A JILLION DIFFERENT WRITERS

After more than twenty years in the profession I have decided that no two writers are alike.

We share a fascination with words and what they can do--yes. Most of us share an urge to succeed in being published--yes. We want to acquire appreciative readers--yes. But beyond that?

We are as varied as humans who read are.

The first big division of types comes, of course, in whether we write fiction or non-fiction. Non fiction ranges from blogs like this and letters to the editor ("opinion pieces?") to complex college texts and dissertations, to picture books about battlefields or butterflies, plus cookbooks and repair manuals, how-to books on health issues, articles and essays. (Though I know from experience that essays are often fiction-enhanced.)  Non fiction offers a huge variety of choices appealing to a jillion interests and needs. And the authors? As varied as those choices of course.

As to fiction--whooo. What do YOU like to read? Perhaps, since you are reading this on Make Mine Mystery, you are a mystery reader, but even in one category there is a mind-whirling variety from horror, blood and gore to gentle cozies. Me? I wonder what kind of mind produces horror stories.  Those writers seem like ordinary people. But . . . . I regret that I have never known a horror writer well enough to see what makes that person tick when it comes to words on a page or screen.

Romance--porn to sedate stories found in religious bookstores. Westerns--all over the fiction world: cowboys (and girls but, oh, she's usually the ranch owner), rodeo riders, bandits, outlaws, sheriffs and marshals, (good and bad), horses (that's consistent at least).

Then there's science fiction--and more, more, more.

Ah, well. The other thing I have learned is that writers' backgrounds vary as widely as their types of writing. For example, I write relatively cozy mystery fiction now, but I began as an essayist and article writer as well as a news reporter. (And, in truth, much news reporting is touched with fiction if only in the choice of stories covered and the manner in which they are told.) But, non-typically I think I had no interest in writing for paid publication until, as a senior adult, I discovered the Arkansas Ozarks. Being there interested me so much that, every day I woke up with a story to tell. At first it was all non-fiction, but then I began writing fiction set in real Ozarks locations.

Over and over I have heard writers talk about an interest in writing beginning something like this: "I wrote my first story when I was six, and . . . .  I also hear them say, over and over, "I create the locations for my fiction so I can put every activity in the type of place where I want it to occur. That way I have no problems with people saying 'Oh, that river isn't in XXXXX town.' "

And here I am, beginning fiction writing later in life, and choosing to set stories in real locations, all of them popular with tourists and Arkansans and described accurately down to the last doorknob and wildflower. (Want a visit to Arkansas's Buffalo National River, or the War Eagle Mill with its yearly craft fairs?  Read A River to Die For or A Fair to Die For. ) Yes, real locations take quite a bit of on-site research but I said that my chosen locations are popular with tourists and Arkansans. And, with my husband and me!

So--what's your personal story as a writer or reader?  All your stories are unique. Now, isn't that interesting?

Friday, August 26, 2016

A Writer's Greatest Fears

by Jean Henry Mead

The biggest drawback to a writer’s success is fear. Fear of criticism from one’s peers or condemnation from the general public. Fear of negative reviews or of spending a year or more writing a book that doesn’t sell. Fear of hiring an agent who won’t send your book to the right publisher. The list is endless.

Fear is a natural human response, especially when you step off into unknown territory such as a new genre, new publisher, new editor. Even bestselling authors fear losing their readers. So how does a writer overcome those fears? By believing in your abilities and talents. Persistence or staying power must be a tool in every writer’s bag. Marcel Proust couldn’t finish his epic Remembrance of Things Past until his mother died because he feared hurting her feelings. How many other books have been set aside and never published because writers feared repercussions?

The writing profession kindles fear and involves taking risks but writers have to come to grips with their fears and channel them into their work, such as thriller novelists who produce chilling stories for their readers. Writer Greg Lavoy advises fellow scribblers not to ignore fear. “Whatever is suppressed not only has power over you, but will help create obstacles to continually remind you of what you’re hiding from, where you feel you don’t measure up, and whether you don’t have faith in yourself. Success often has as much to do with finding what is standing in your way as with talent or persistence.”

Plugging in a night light for someone who fears the dark doesn’t eliminate fear of the dark, only the darkness. Similarly, not sending out submissions to new publishers not only eliminates fear of rejection, it eliminates the ladder to success.

The poet W.H. Auden said, “Believe in your pain. Take it seriously,know that it has meaning and utility, and that it grows a powerful kind of writing.” Unfortunately, most of us will do everything in our power to avoid fear and rejection so we don’t learn from it.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

How to Become an Author

 

by Linda Thorne

I may not be the biggest expert on this subject, but having gone through the process myself I have a little personal expertise. I made the decision in 2005 to become a fiction author. I’m an example of someone who should’ve or could’ve failed or given up, so my story may have some value to those who want to go this route, but are uncertain they can make it happen.

I was a late bloomer when I decided to write in 2005. My background didn’t hold out much hope for me either. My working career has been in human resources. A career in something like journalism would’ve better prepared me. I worked hard at getting a C in both English and creative writing classes in college. Next to math, which I’m not sure I ever passed, these two classes were my hardest. Why I suddenly decided to start writing would be a whole other post. If you’re interested, more information is given on my website in the biography section under How it Began at: http://www.lindathorne.com/bio/how-it-began/

Here are the steps to becoming a fiction author as I see them. Anything you choose to do will start out about the same. You must begin to act as if that’s who you are. In the case of being an author as opposed to a ballerina dancer or a tennis player, you’d:

  • Read good fiction. I’ve heard it’s good to read bad fiction too, but that didn’t work for me. When I read bad work, I wrote bad work.
  • Take classes and/or buy self-help books. Study the art of writing just like tennis players or ballerina wannabes would take classes and study their craft.
  • Have your work critiqued. None of us are adequate at judging our own work. This may hold true for those wanting to be ballerinas or tennis players. You need outside opinions.
  • Go to author events. Show up at writing conferences. It’s all part of the process to act like an author. Ballerinas go to ballet performances and tennis players attend tennis matches.
  • Keep your ear to the ground on what you need to do to succeed. Luckily authors don’t need to buy tennis outfits or tutus, but they do need to follow the author crowd.
  • Join local and national author organizations.
  • Submit your work all over the place. Rejection can sometimes give you the biggest hint on how close you might be, especially when rejecters send you encouraging comments or suggestions.
  • Don’t ever give up.

So, I’m not a famous author (yet) or have produced a significant amount of published material, but I set out to become an author and now I am. The steps are fairly simple especially if you add persistence to the mix.

Note: Friday August 19th, I'll be a panelist at Session 5 and also Session 7 at the Killer Nashville Writers Conference held at the Embassy Suites in Cool Springs, Tennessee. If you're attending the conference, hope you'll stop by one or both of my sessions.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Beginnings, Birthdays and Books

by Janis Patterson

Yesterday was my birthday. I won’t tell you which one, only that it’s a big one – one of the ‘0’ ones. An entire new decade lies before me, and it’s taking all my courage not to turn around and attempt to run the other way, back through previous decades which, no matter how scary they seemed at the time, suddenly seem safe and easy.

Every birthday is a step into the unknown; if you want to be picky, I guess that every day could be regarded the same, but a birthday – especially an ‘0’ one – is so much more cosmic. It’s a new beginning, much as the beginning of a new book.

Now that’s not so big of a stretch, to compare a birthday and a book. A new book is a completely different world, and world-view, and commitment. Your life will never be the same once you type ‘Chapter One’ or do your outline or whatever it is you do to start a new book. You are committed, either voluntarily or involuntarily, to a new state of being that will affect your life majorly for a while and minorly for the rest of your life. The actual length of time is immaterial, because when the project is over, you can’t go back to being the way you were before. You will be irrevocably changed.

Life is constantly in flux; each day is different, just as each page in a book is different. It’s just that milestones – birthdays, beginnings – always seem so much more noticeable. Especially the birthdays. Especially the big birthdays. The ‘0’ birthdays. It is a literal change in your life. But – whether it’s writing, or birthdays… it sure beats the heck out of the alternative!


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Slowing Down or Other Things Taking my Time by Marilyn Meredith

To be honest, it's a bit of both. I can't seem to accomplish as much in a day as I once could. Of the other things taking my time, I want to spend more of it with my family.



I became a great-great grandmother a few weeks ago. It was a big surprise as my great-granddaughter thought she was suffering from an infected spleen (she did have this but none of the docs she saw said one thing about the pregnancy). When she began having horrendous pains, she thought she was dying. Her folks made her go to the ER where they let her know that yes, she had a problem with her spleen but at the moment she was in labor and would soon be giving birth. What a surprise! And a good one.

My family is big, and some of them live right here in my house: my grand-daughter and her husband and two little girls, and a great-grandson and his wife. Yes, this is a big house. I love having them all close by. And right next door on the same property, my son and his wife live.

This is great for two old people (meaning me and my husband) as we have lots of support in many ways.

Recently, one of my publishers (who is also a friend) became very ill and she's in a rehab center 1 1/2 hour drive from me. My daughter-in-law drove me over to see her recently. Sadly, her relatives all live far away and she doesn't have much in the way of support. Seeing her, made me realize how blessed I am. 

I know I need to take the time to enjoy my family and let them know how much I appreciate them.

Oh, yes, I'm still writing, I do that early before everyone gets up (I've always done it that way.)

And because I have a new book coming out this month, I'm also planning the promotion. I think I have the ideal place to have my launch, a little different than last time. Haven't asked yet, but I'll do that this week. 

My blog tour will begin September 3rd so I'll certainly be busy then. 

Out this month: Seldom Traveled.






Monday, August 15, 2016

Two Publishers, Two Series

Today my guest, Judy Penz Sheluk, talks about her experience publishing her first two mysteries.

When I signed the contract with Imajin Books for SKELETONS IN THE ATTIC, the first book in my new Marketville Mystery series, several people asked me the same questions: Why didn’t I go with Barking Rain Press, the publisher of my first novel, THE HANGED MAN’S NOOSE: A Glass Dolphin Mystery, would there be a sequel, and if so, who would publish it?

The answer is that in the world of publishing, anything can happen, but Sheri Gormley, the acquiring editor/publisher at Barking Rain Press, has expressed interest in publishing the sequel, as well as any other books in the Glass Dolphin Mystery series, and I couldn't be happier. BRP is a terrific small press based out of the Portland/Vancouver, Washington area, with author-friendly contract terms. Sheri and her team are also extremely collaborative, which makes them a pleasure to work with. I
anticipate publication in late 2017 or early-mid 2018.

As for part one of the question, recently I've had several author friends impacted by recent changes with their respective publishers. Knowing that, it seemed only prudent not to put all my books in one publisher’s basket.

Becoming an Imajineer:
In 2014, while I was looking for a home for NOOSE, I decided to start another book. After all, it’s easy to get out of the writing habit, and darned hard to get back into it. But try as I might, I just couldn’t bring myself to write a second book in a series I hadn’t sold. I decided to try something completely different: a first person, single POV mystery without a true “sidekick.” (NOOSE is third person, multiple POVs, and there is a definite sidekick).

Coming up with the concept:
The idea for Skeletons came to me while I was waiting in the reception area of my lawyer’s office. I was there with my husband, Mike, to change our very outdated wills, and my lawyer had been delayed in court. While Mike read the newspaper, I started scribbling notes for the book that would become SKELETONS IN THE ATTIC. The opening scenes are actually culled from that experience.

Once I’d finished SKELETONS, I started looking for a publisher. It’s important to me, as a writer and a reader, to have read and liked at least some of their books (since no one can read an entire catalogue of books…) I had read, and thoroughly enjoyed, books by several Imajin Books authors, including Melodie Campbell, Rosemary McCracken, and Kristina Stanley. I decided to submit to Imajin when they opened for submissions on March 15, 2016. It meant waiting a couple of months for that window to open, but I was willing to wait for what I believed would be the right publisher.
I sent in my manuscript on March 15th (no flies on this writer!) and did a very happy dance (the champagne helped) when Cheryl Tardif, the acquisitions editor at Imajin, emailed me with a contract just a few days later. With an August 2016 publication date, it’s been a whirlwind ever since. First, I had to create a PDF ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) and ask authors I’ve read and respected for cover blurbs if they read and enjoyed the book (thank you Jeff Buick, Ellen Byron, Annette Dashovy,
Catriona McPherson and Diane Vallere for saying yes!) to the three rounds of editing before going to the proofreader, to working with Ryan Thomas Doan, an incredible cover artist, to setting up blog hop opportunities like this one.
Like Barking Rain Press, Imajin is also interested in book #2 in the Marketville mystery series. It looks like I’m going to be busy!
Two series, two publishers. The dream continues…

Book blurb for SKELETONS IN THE ATTIC:
What goes on behind closed doors doesn’t always stay there…

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville—a house she didn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.
Callie’s not keen on dredging up a thirty-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to expose the Barnstable family secrets. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic?

About the author:
Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, was published in July 2015. Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series, was published August 2016. Sequels are planned for both series in 2017.

Judy’s short crime fiction appears in World Enough and Crime, The Whole She-Bang 2, Flash and Bang and Live Free or Tri.
Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers and the Short Mystery Fiction Society.
Find Judy on her website/blog at www.judypenzsheluk.com, where she interviews other authors and blogs about the writing life.

Find Skeletons in the Attic here: http://www.imajinbooks.com/skeletons-in-the-attic

SKELETONS IN THE ATTIC is now available for pre-order on Amazon Kindle for the special introductory price of .99 (reg. $4.99). Find it here :http://getbook.at/SkeletonsintheAttic

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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Entropy Factor

by Janis Patterson

I love writing. I love the excitement of creating my own world, my own people, and my own story. Writing is perhaps the most wonderful fun anyone can have.

Unfortunately there is a lot more to being a writer than writing, and therein lies danger, for me at least.

I admit I’m somewhat slapdash. I will write three, maybe even four novels before I even think about publishing them. That’s one of the many, many reasons I am now self-publishing almost exclusively. I don’t like bending my schedules to the dicta of others. Never have, which accounts for my erratic and somewhat colorful employment history. However – if one is going to sell books, one must have them out there, which means doing a certain amount of non-writing work.

And that’s my problem. Currently I have two novels to put out this month (a gothic romance, THE HOUSE IN THE PINES) and a traditional mystery (MURDER IN DEATH’S WAITING ROOM), another traditional mystery which is fully edited and needs only to be laid out the way I want so it can go to the formatter (MURDER AND MISS WRIGHT), and another gothic romance needing a little rewriting and polishing before entering the publishing pipeline (THE MASTER OF MORECAMBE HALL).

I am also a couple of weeks late starting the new novel, a Western romance that is as yet untitled.  And I do want to start writing so very badly – but I’ve made a rule that I don’t start a new book while in the midst of editing, etc. I’ll have four books going at once in the writing stage, but the publishing takes too much concentration and I do them one at a time. Oh, and totally aside from writing/publishing I have a family and a life that also take time.

So that’s where it begins. I hate having to do things I don’t feel like doing (yes, I am spoiled – always have been) and it’s amazing how many non-writing things simply HAVE to be done. The car needs servicing. There’s a Matterhorn of laundry accumulating. The dog has a vet appointment. I have a doctor’s appointment. The Husband wants my special pot roast for supper. There’s the yard, and the dusting constantly lies in wait, though it’s not true I could bring in a fair crop on top of the bookcases in the parlor…

See what I mean? Entropy. Once I start side-stepping, it gets easier to side-step, more and more doesn’t get done and it gets harder and harder to catch up.

So I have discovered a solution. Cheat. Last night while The Husband watched TV I sat at my desk and stared back at the basilisk glare of my computer, accomplishing nothing. I didn’t want to accomplish anything except go sit by The Husband and split a bag of popcorn while watching some mindless cop show. Instead I could not restrain myself and started on my Western romance. The words just spilled from my fingers in a joyous flood and my spirits began to lift. All of a sudden sitting at the computer seemed fun once more. I was working again.

And my decision was made. I am going to spend part of each day writing, no matter what other publisher-related chores need to be done. The hard part will be stopping, but I’m sure I can do that and go on to the other stuff. At least, I think I can. Discipline has never been easy for me. But we’ll see. I’ll let you know how it turns out.