Tuesday, July 10, 2018

New Days for Me by Marilyn Meredith

I'm switching to posting on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays--and this is my first for this day.

Tomorrow hubby, daughter and I are headed off to Las Vegas--and no, not for the usual, no gambling or shows. This is the week for the Public Safety Writers Association's annual conference--and my favorite.

I'll be busy there as I'm one of the instructors for the pre-conference writing workshop and will be talking about writing descriptions of people and places. I'm also a moderator for a panel on and on one about point of view.

Both my hubby and my daughter work in the bookstore--and since it's at the back of the room where the conference is held they get to enjoy the speakers and the panels.

One presentation I'm really looking forward to is an inside view of the massacre at the concert in Vegas last year. A fireman who was at the conference and worked to save lives is one of the speakers. The other is a retired police officer who organized a place for all those working the crime scene to come for free food and drink People don't realize that where the concert was held was a crime scene and it took days for it to be completely investigated.

Another bit of news is some of my older Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries have been re-edited and will have new covers. The first in the series, Deadly Trail, has the first new cover.

The idea is to make them look more like those later in the series. This book was first published by a wonderful publisher who is no longer in business. Though the cover was nice it didn't fit with the new ones.

I'll see you again on the 4th Tuesday and share a bit about the conference.


Thursday, July 5, 2018

Keeping your Promise to your Reader

Make Mine Mystery
Linda Lee Kane
July 2018

What is Suspense?

Suspense arises from our reader's anticipation of what’s about to occur. They worry, even fear, what will happen to the characters they love. So always leave the reader hanging at the end of each chapter. Leave them wanting more.
To build suspense, we need to raise our reader's concern over how our POV characters’ plans can go array. Ever hear this comment when talking books with a friend? Nothing really happened, so I stopped reading. I’ve put down numerous books for the same reason, and some by authors who are household names, authors who should know better. But that’s the thing about suspense. It’s not easy to hold our reader's hostage for 300 pages. By employing the following techniques, we have a better shot of grabbing them by the throat. Then it’s just a matter of not letting go.
 “Show that something terrible is about to happen, then postpone the resolution to sustain the suspense.” ~ Writer’s Digest
 Promises, Promises
Every book makes a pledge to the reader. The difference between concept and premise is, something happens to the main POV characters that disrupts their lives. If you’re not familiar with the difference between concept and premise, there’s no one better to learn from than Larry Brooks. He has several posts on the subject.
Rather than asking yourself, “What should happen next?” Try: “What can I promise that’ll go wrong? Problems that will bring my characters to their knees.”
The central dramatic story question promises an intriguing quest.
By making promise after promise, we keep our readers engaged. Don’t tell the reader, of course. Instead, hint at the trouble to come; tease the reader into finding out. Do it right away, too. We need to establish our CDSQ on the first page. If we can accomplish it in the first paragraph, great.
Every promise, no matter how minor, should either set up or pay off a future scene. Once a promise is paid, make another. The most considerable promises, like the central dramatic story question, should be paid off in the climax.
For an example of a CDSQ,  look at Wings of Mayhem.
After unknowingly stealing his trophy box, can Shawnee Daniels a forensic police hacker by day; cat burglar by night, stop the serial killer who's destroying her life before he murders everyone she loves?
If your story drags, it’s often due to the lack of tension and/or suspense. In other words, you haven’t made your reader worry enough. How can we fix a dragging plot? By making more significant, more critical, promises. Promises that will devastate our hero and secondary characters. Promises they might never recover from.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Book Biz and Fun

When you can combine something to do with your book promotion and a fun trip, it's a great plus for a writer.

This past weekend, with daughter driving, we headed over to Cambria-- a beautiful village on the Central California coast. It had been a long, long time since I'd been there, and though they do not have any fast food chains, or even grocery chains, they have lots and lots of interesting shops and restaurants.

We'd come over for an author event, but it wasn't scheduled until Saturday so we had all day to explore--and explore we did. We toured the cliffs with their most interesting homes over the rocky shores. We spotted seals and otters playing in the surf.

As we drove around, daughter spotted a garage sale sign, and off we went. This time into a whole different environment, looked like the mountains, winding roads, lots of trees, huge homes, and deer. We even saw a fawn. The garage sale was in the huge driveway of an elegant home. The most organized and neat garage sale I'd ever seen. Daughter found many treasures and negotiated about more. (That evening, the homeowner called and she said if daughter returned, she could have something for a cheap price--and on Sunday another call, and the woman gave daughter a whole bag of stuffed animals. Daughter has lots of family to give to, plus she gives Christmas gifts to church kids who don't have much.)

Friday evening, we met an old friend of mine, Rebecca Buckley, I haven't seen for years, at a restaurant where we had a wonderful dinner, but even better a lot of chatter. She's a romance writer and attended the event I went to the next day also.

Before the event we poked around Cambria a bit more. The set-up for the author event was 11, but didn't start until 1. As with so many of these events, I met tons of wonderful people, and got to see author friends and met others.

Me, Lida Sideris, Sue McGinty

That evening we had a tour of Rebecca Buckley's home, the theater she owns, the restaurant in front, Harmony Cafe, and that's where we ate dinner--wonderful and topped in off with delicious gelato.

The next morning, we did even more sight seeing before heading home and back to reality.


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Learn and Learn Again

I welcome mystery writer Kathleen Kaska as my guest blogger today. Kathleen is not a newcomer to Make Mine Mystery. She was the 5th Saturday blogger for two years. After taking a position as the marketing director for Cave Art Press, Kathleen was left with less time to write, so she bowed out in order to complete several works in progress. A Two Horse Town, the second book in her Kate Caraway animal-rights mystery series will be released by Black Opal Books later this year. Let’s hear what Kathleen has to say today on a return visit to her old stomping grounds, Make Mine Mystery blogspot. Linda Thorne

By Kathleen Kaska

A few weeks ago, I attended the Chanticleer Authors Conference. My latest mystery, Run Dog Run, had made the “Mystery and Mayhem” short list. I attended hoping my book would win, but knowing the competition was fierce. I didn’t come home with the grand prize, but at least I came home with helpful writing tools.

On the last day of the conference, I attended Jessica Page Morrell’s all-day class, “Writing Craft Sessions that Will Take Your Work to the Next Level.” It was the best six hours of the entire three days and it was just what I needed. The morning session focused on the details of plotting, and the afternoon dealt with the necessity of learning from great writers. The information was so useful, I bought her book, Between the Lines: Master the Subtle Elements of Fiction Writing. Chapter three, “Cliffhangers and Thrusters,” caused me to take a closer look at my WIP, a hardboiled detective novel set in the 1940s.

Morrell describes thrusters as structural devices, usually at the beginning of a chapter or scene that push the story ahead and keeps readers turning the pages. Cliffhangers, of which I’m sure you are familiar, are actually thrusters that occur at the end of a chapter or scene, or even a book if you’re writing a series. This technique was not new to me, but it was something I needed to revisit.

After reading this chapter, I noted that my cliffhangers weren’t too bad. Here are three examples:

“The only thing he accomplished since taking this case was screwing his client’s wife.”

“The next time Kendrick laid eyes on Roman, he promised himself he’d slit the guy’s throat.”

“The snarl on her lip had disappeared, but the look of disdain had hardened.”

My thrusters need work, however. Here are three examples:
“Kendrick took a taxi back to the hotel.”

“It was just past nine when Kendrick called Damien Carver at his office.”

“New York City was a great place to live.” (This one made me cringe.)

Now, take a look at three cliffhangers and three thrusters from New York Times bestselling author Harlan Coben’s The Stranger:


“Did you fake your pregnancy?”

“It was two in the morning when Adam remembered something—or, to be more precise, someone.”

“She attached the image to the e-mail and typed two words before hitting send: HE KNOWS.”


“The stranger didn’t shatter Adam’s world all at once.” (This is the opening line of the book!)

“The stranger hated to do this one.”

“It was amazing how many things could happen in a single moment.”

The message: no matter how much you absorb, no matter how much you write, no matter how many books you’ve gotten published, the learning process never stops.

That terrible thruster, “New York City was a great place to live,” now reads: “It was ten in the morning. Kendrick didn’t care. He ordered an ice-cold draft and toasted the Big Apple.”




Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Seeing the Light

by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson

Every possible morning I go out to the hot tub for what I call my attitude adjustment hour. Actually, it's a time of exercise designed to keep my problem back working and reasonably flexible. As I loathe exercising in or out of water I never dreamed it would become one of the most pleasant times of my day.

About two or three houses to the East of mine is an absolutely enormous tree - some kind of oak, I think. Like most trees it has thin spots and holes in its leafy body. Some days - depending on clouds, haze, perhaps even how the breeze rearranges the leaves - the rising sun will shine through those holes and thin spots, turning them to glowing embers of the most brilliant gold. It is incredibly beautiful and so inspiring. For a precious few minutes - sometimes less than a minute - I am treated to one of the most gorgeous displays nature can provide. Then the sun shifts and what was a look 'beneath the skin of a glowing orb' turns into a very prosaic tree - still beautiful, but nothing except a tree after all.

So what does this have to do with writing? Nothing much, unless you take into account a writer's attitude toward her work. Most days we plod along, putting one word after another - sometimes well, sometimes just because we have to keep going and hope what we put down can be remade into something worthwhile - but then suddenly, like the sun turning the voids of a tree into brilliant and glowing gold, something transcendent happens and for a few incredible moments we can see everything about our story. We have a glimpse of the wonderfulness our story can become. We know where we're going and why, and sometimes even how. We have seen the light. Literally.

Not that writing is a magical process. It's hard work. You sit at a computer for hours, creating worlds and populations from nothing but imagination and caffeine, taking pure ideas and transforming them into words that hopefully will share what you see and feel with readers. Sometimes magic comes from books, but there's nothing magical about making them. Still, those magical moments of transcendent insight are worth working and waiting for, with or without a rising sun and a convenient tree.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Fun of Research

If all goes well, when this appears I'll be on the road to Tehachapi. For those of you who have no idea where or what Tehachapi is, it's a mountain community off Highway 58 between Bakersfield and Mojave.

It is famous for it's huge wind farm--monstrous wind turbines cover the hillsides.

And something called The Loop also draws visitors. It's a place where freight trains over a mile long go around a hillside, and if you are lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, you can watch the locomotives (four or more) pass over the end of the train.

The reason I'm going to visit is because my next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery is set in Tehachapi. Though I've been there several times, I want to make sure I get descriptions of places right--and also that the places I've made up could be where I've set them.

It should be a fun and rewarding trip.

I'm woefully behind writing this book. My Tempe Crabtree books usually come out in August, but this year not only have I been re-editing some of the earlier ones, I've been doing the same thing with my Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series. Plus, of course, life has intervened as well.

My intention, of course, is to make this next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery the best it can be. More about the trip next time.


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Make Mine Mystery

June 5, 2018
Linda Lee Kane
Writer's Block: Can You Use it as a Tool?
Writing is both fulfilling and frustrating. There are days, that no matter how much I want and need to make progress on a book, I am unable to put words on the page. Or, if I do force myself to write, every word feels wrong. I know I'll be deleting most of them the next day.
When I first starting writing, this terrified me. But over the past ten years, I've learned that writer's block is my subconscious telling me that something has gone wrong in my book. There a plot hole issue or a problem with a character arc. I need to back up and reassess.
  I often will go back to the beginning and read the entire manuscript. So that I don't feel as if I'm wasting time, I use this time to edit. When I return to the stopping point, sometimes I've recognized the problem and put the book back on track. If I'm still stuck, I reach out to a writer friend and talk through the issue.
So next time you're struggling with writer's block, give your WIP a good edit. Reassess your plot, make sure your characters are following their arcs, and then reach out to a friend to talk about why you're having trouble. It's possible your story has wandered off course and needs to be redirected.

MA in Education, PPS, School Psychologist, and Learning Disability Specialist, is the author of Death on the Vine, Chilled to the Bones and an upcoming re-release of the The Black Madonna.