Wednesday, August 15, 2018

An Embarrassment of Riches


by Janis Patterson
I've done it again. I didn't mean to, but I've done it again.

Every time I get buried by unfinished books - and that means more than the four or so I am always writing on at once - I swear I will not plot/plan another one until I've finished up everything I'm already working on.

I really mean it, but I just can't help myself. Book ideas keep hurling themselves at me with the density and rapidity of a snowstorm, and they're too good just to ignore.

For example - when The Husband and I went to Illinois for his high school reunion earlier this summer I was trying not to think of anything writerly, wanting just to have a good time seeing his old hometown and the kids he grew up with. No such luck. As we are both rabid historians, we spent a grey and lovely morning in the rain exploring an historic cemetery there. It was deliciously spooky, with clouds so low you could almost grab a handful if you reached up over your head, and lots of examples of over-the-top Victorian mourning cemetery art, and a dense, dark forest choked with sinister-looking underbrush hovering at the edge.

One thing that I find tragic and infuriating is that so many - especially of the older stones - have been vandalized. Pushed over, scored to illegibility, parts broken off - what kind of person would damage the stones of the long-dead? I do hope there is a special part of Hell for these savages, and that they get there soon! I mean, what kind of mentality would get pleasure from breaking the head off a baby lamb on the gravestone of a two year old child who died over a hundred and thirty years ago? They're sick - just sick!

While we were walking through the oldest part of the cemetery, looking for some of his relatives and Civil War casualties who were buried there, within twenty minutes I had a complete book - the second in my Rachel Petrie, Contract Archaeologist series - completely plotted. (Rachel's first book is A KILLING AT TARA TWO, and will be out this fall.) The main characters had walked in, introduced themselves and told me their function in the story. Later that afternoon, I sat down at my laptop and made a new file with a couple of pages of notes and a gaggle of photographs so everything will be fresh when I finally am able to write it. The title is A KILLING AMONGST THE DEAD.

Okay - that makes five books in my to-be-done queue. That's enough, I thought. I'll quit plotting for a while.

Yeah. Sure. Right now I'm almost finished with a Mindy McMann book called A WELL-MANNERED MURDER. She's a researcher for a non-fiction writer who always manages to get herself into trouble. I guess Mindy was jealous that Rachel was getting a new book, because while The Husband and I were in historic Jefferson Texas at a (fantastic!) symposium on the War Between the States a new Mindy book popped into my head, complete with action, setting and characters. It's about revisionist history, radicals and long-held grudges. While The Husband napped after the seminar, I pulled out my laptop and made another file, complete with storyline, character sketches and photographs. This one isn't titled yet, but it will come to me.

Note - I never go anywhere without my laptop. Do you? Sometimes on short trips I never take it out of its case, but I have to have it near me. The Husband calls it my security blanket, and I guess he's right, though so far I have resisted taking it along to the grocery store and my nail salon.

So - now you see why I sometimes get so steamed when people ask in all seriousness how I get my ideas, as if it's some special rare talent that must be learned. I would really like a place where for a week or two at least I DIDN'T get viable ideas. I can't tell you how many 'ideas' both complete and fragmentary I have tucked away on my computer, most of them good enough to be turned into or at least used in books. Don't these people think? Don't they have some sort of rudimentary imagination? How can they NOT get ideas from just about anything? I don't understand. I just don't understand.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

It Happens Every Time!

At least this is what happens to me.

Everytime I go out of town I get important emails. Emails that I need to respond to, but often there are those that I have information I either need to send or check but am unable to because I only have my phone and my iPad with me.

This past few days were no exception.

We went to our family reunion--was exceptionally wonderful, emotional, and fun! A grandson who lives in Nebraska and I haven't seen since he was 3, recently made contact, and he and his wife came to the runion. But that's a whole other story.

While we were at the reunion I heard from someone I'd done a job for and sent it as an attachment to her email. She didn't receive it.

The publisher of my Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series found a problem in the latest offering, and of course I don't have that manuscript on my iPad and couldn't even try to find what he had discovered, much less fix it.

The publisher of my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series, didn't receive a manuscript of one of the early books that I'd re-edited. I felt sure I had done it and sent it, but again, no way of checking.

Fortunately, I was able to put that all out of my mind and enjoy the time with family.

First thing when I got home, I started working on all these problems.

Anyone else have that happen?

Marilyn



First meeting since grandson was 3,  a true family reunion!

Sunday, August 5, 2018



Make Mine Mystery
August  5, 2018



Linda Kane
Best-seller lists are fantastic, but I think there are so many different definitions of what makes a successful novel, and I believe that most of them have one common thread.

In publishing, people often talk about the importance of a hook; a fantastic hook can make a book a best-seller. But I think a successful book has more than just a fabulous hook. A hook is what gets a reader to pick up a book and turn the pages, but the heart is what makes a reader feel, and heart is also what I believe makes a book successful.
I actually think most books have a heart—a sole idea that guides the story and feeds blood into its veins. However, some books have more powerful heartbeats than others. Some heartbeats are so weak you don’t notice them, while other heartbeats are so bold you don’t stop feeling them even after you’ve finished reading.
The heart is more difficult to define than hook. But I think one way of finding your novel’s heart is by asking: What is the question this story is asking? 
This question and the depths you go to answer it will define your novel’s heartbeat.


What qualities are readers longing for?
I think readers want to feel when they read. Readers may initially pick up a book because it’s in a genre they enjoy, it has a pretty cover, or they’ve seen it all over Instagram. But I don’t think a reader is really going to love a book unless it makes them feel something—wonder, suspense, love, fear, longing, wanting, wishing, anger, empathy, amazement, sadness, joy, disgust, surprise. I don’t know if the feelings matter so long as they are there in the book that you wrote and they are now sharing with you.



Monday, July 30, 2018

Ahh, The Bookstore in History

My string of past bookstore adventures (and current memories) begins way back--before the Internet, before e-publishing, and even before self-publishing was acceptable. Bookstores were as much a staple in most towns as grocery stores. For authors, it was mostly a matter of picking which to visit for a signing. In my experience no bookstore manager ever said "No" when I offered to do an "event" in their store. After all, those events, well advertised, brought in customers. At one bookstore I remember being greeted by a collection of my novels and non-fiction book displayed on an end cap across from the front door. At another, an enormous lighted sign next to a city expressway proclaimed "Radine Trees Nehring, here today, 1:00 to 3:00. (That still impresses the heck out of me. I have a poster of that sign in my office, since my husband caught it with his camera just as the "Radine" was centered perfectly on the moving message.)  I have thought since then that, though most people viewing the sign had probably never heard of me, seeing the sign sure could have made them think they wanted to attend the event or they'd miss something, um, "important."  Author visits were entertainment., often with refreshments added.

Fitting that entertainment issue was a related fact which, I assume, most authors were aware of. We were viewed by many bookstore customers as exotic creatures. Back then, no one who came to a signing asked "Oh, did you write these?" They knew, usually as a result of promotion by publishers and bookstore owners, who you were and why you were there, and they came to look at you, if not to buy your book. Therefore I learned early to dress in something that wouldn't pass muster in a church or business office. And, as many reading this know, I always had a hat on my head.

Carrie, the female protagonist in my "To Die For" mystery series, is a reluctant cook, creating her own rather peculiar (and easy) recipes when cooking is necessary, and there are two or three of her unique recipes in the back of all but the first of my novels. At one signing (in the long closed Corner Bookstore in Bentonville, Arkansas)  local members of our Sisters in Crime chapter made two of Carrie's "sort-of" cookie recipes and served them at a signing. Their cookie caper was a surprise to me, and I now remember that signing as one long, riotous party. I sold books, but that isn't what sticks in my memory. I remember "Carrie's Cookie Crisps" flaking into my mouth, and chewing the somewhat squishy bar cookie recipe Carrie ends up feeding to a baby in A Valley to Die For, the first novel in my series. Most of all, I remember and cherish the friends who made these treats, and the bookstore clerks who welcomed us.

Moving on, I did a number of events for Barnes and Noble after they built a store in Rogers, Arkansas. I had already made friends with the then Customer Relations Manager at the store in Fayetteville, AR and, when she moved to the new store, she friended me--in real life, not on a computer. (I did two or more events at area Barnes & Noble stores until that pleasure faded away.) One spring I offered to do a June bridal event in the Rogers store, featuring my novel A Wedding to Die For, as well as (I suggested) a display of the store's wedding advice books and magazines. The CRM loved the idea, even though I had done an event for the same book in her store only a few months earlier. I dressed as a mature bride-to-be, in a frilly white hat and appropriate costume, and the store held the well-advertised and successful sales event. I also headlined that store's first anniversary celebration, and was invited to make the first cut in the huge birthday cake positioned next to my signing table.

Those were the days.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

And the Favorite of My New Covers


This is absolutely perfect for INTERVENTION. For those of you who haven't read it, the intervention is done by a great blue heron spirit or an angel. This depicts that perfectly.

Now, once the covers and the newly-edited books are together, I'll be promoting the series like crazy.

This has been a wild year of re-editing old books--both series, the Tempe Crabtree series and the Rocky Bluff P.D. series.

I'm still working on a new Deputy Tempe Crabtree series and waiting on the new Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery to come out. I turned it in a while ago, but the process of changing those covers and the re-editing has slowed everything down.

I've been to the Public Safety Writers Association writing conference and will write more about that next time.

Marilyn


Thursday, July 19, 2018

Is Back Story Really That Bad?

by Linda Thorne

Ever since I started writing, I’ve been forewarned about the disastrous side effects of backstory. I know it’s essential to any story line, so I’ve taken the skeptics words to mean use it as little as possible, drop tidbits of the past only into the present, keep it low-key, and, when possible, keep it out.

I can practice the advice in short stories, but in writing my debut novel I had to break a few rules to keep the plot line intact. I remember treading cautiously into this minefield called backstory, keeping the naysayer warnings front and center in my mind.

In my work in progress, avoiding backstory has turned out to be impossible. Totally. The inciting incident occurs thirty years in the past. I tried adding it in pieces, adding it in present-day conversations, but it’s the inciting incident. Too me, it's essential for the reader to be there when it happens thirty years earlier.

So, I started thinking. What about all those books I’ve read and loved that had backstory? If avoiding backstory is the norm, maybe the norm is wrong or doesn’t apply in certain situations.

After All These Years, by Susan Isaacs is a New York Times bestselling novel I read some time ago. I liked the book so much, I went to the library and looked for another written by the same author. I checked out Isaacs’ Lilly White. Where her bestseller, After All These Years, had only the necessary amount of backstory, Lilly White was almost fifty percent backstory. Isaacs presents her story line using one chapter for Lilly White in the past and, in the next chapter, the present. She continues this pattern of shifting from a chapter in backstory back to a chapter in present time until close to the end when the past turns into the present and the climax chapters begin. I loved it and thought this tactic pure genius.


I've read other books with at least one chunk where the reader is taken back to a past time and place.

Two examples come to mind. There’s a fair-sized segment in The Blood in Snowflake Garden, by Alan Lewis that delves into a fictionalized historical event. The Blood in Snowflake Garden is Lewis’s debut novel and one that got him a TV movie option. Another example is Chester Campbell’s recent book, Hellbound. Campbell uses even less backstory then Lewis, but his fast-paced novel stops for a chapter to give the reader  
background on one of the characters. For some reason it didn’t seem to stop the flow of the story. I found the backstory in both these books interesting and necessary.



So, as I move through my work in progress, A Promotion to Die For, I write backstory because the story line will culminate with my character bumping up against circumstances surrounding an event that happened to her thirty years earlier. I don’t need to use half a book of backstory like Susan Isaacs did so well in Lily White, but I will have to dip into the past in several spots including the inciting incident scene that transpires in the very first chapter.

I think those who warn against using too much backstory are often correct, but I think there’s always exceptions to every rule, especially in writing. When I need to use backstory in A Promotion to Die For, I plan for it to appear deliberate because it is. I am doing everything I can to avoid anything that comes across as an info dump. I’m writing backstory that, not only knits its way into the present, but also claws its way there hoping that’s how the reader will see it.

I have it right in my head. I’m just hoping it works in my book.

http://www.lindathorne.com/

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Research Monster, or Down the Rabbit Hole Part Two


by Janis Patterson

My name is Janis Susan and I am a research geek.

Last week on the Ladies of Mystery blog I wrote about the necessity and moral imperative of accurate research in our writing. Once it was finished, though, I realized it told only half the story. Well, I realized it before I was finished, but just how long can you make a blog piece? It's a blog, not a novel!

So, I decided to carry on here and talk about the irresistible seductiveness of research. Currently I am working on a novella where the more research I do, the more I need to do... and even more I want to do. The book is part of a Christmas anthology set in Regency England, and while it has a mystery in it, it's primarily a romance. (Hey, we have to take the contracts as they come, don't we?)

As you probably know, I'm a dedicated pantser. That does not mean I don't have a bare-bones sketch of the book in my head that I might - or might not - follow. It's a starting point. The trouble with this is that while it's okay to think 'the heroine creeps out of the house and goes to a coaching inn where she catches a mail coach north to begin a new life, but ends up hiding from the villain in a church.' Reasonable sketch of proposed action, isn't it?

Ha! First, I need to decide which city she is heading for and how much she can afford to pay for a ticket out of her scanty funds (like all good romance heroines she has little/no money). Then I have to decide which London coaching inn serves that particular route, is there a church nearby and which church is it? For that matter, did the stage coaches run at night? Believe me, most readers of Regency romance/mystery are dedicated enough to know this kind of thing and will eat any writer alive who doesn't get the details right!

Thanks to the blessings of the internet it's not all that difficult to get enough information to be accurate in just a short time. Thanks to the curse of the internet it's far too easy to search on and on, getting just one more bit of information to increase your verisimilitude until you aren't really researching at all, you're just enjoying reading.

Like last night. I had gone as far as I could without more research in one of the climactic scenes building to the big finish, so I kept looking. The Husband asked if I wasn't going to come to the TV, as one of our favorite programs was on. Without even raising my head I said I'd come, I just needed another minute or two. An hour or so later he came back to say it had been a good program, but now it was time for another of our favorites to start. This time I did raise my head, frowned mightily and told him I had told him I just needed a few more minutes. (He's used to me - we do this regularly.) Finally he came back to tell me he was going to bed and was I coming. You've got it. I told him (this time without frowns, as I was too tired to frown) that I'd be along in a few minutes, I just needed one more reference...

I finally got to bed around two, but I did find everything I needed, and it's all extremely real. The London coaching inn is The Swan With Two Necks, the church is St. Lawrence Jewry rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1666 by Christopher Wren, the destination town is Coventry. I know why the inn has such a strange name, what is remarkable about St. Lawrence Jewry (and how it got that odd appellation) and yes, the coaches did run at night.

All for a small, three page scene, hardly more than a transition from one plot point to another.

However... I firmly believe that all knowledge is useful. Sometime I might write a book where some of this extraneous information is crucial. I might not remember it by that time, but I will probably remember that it exists, and have a vague idea of where to find it. Then I will have the sublime pleasure of going back down the rabbit hole one more time, probably finding more fascinating facts that I missed this last time. It's inevitable.

Help.

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.

Marilyn

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.

Marilyn

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:

Cliffhangers:

“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.”

Thrusters:

“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.”

Links:

http://jessicamorrell.com/

https://kathleenkaska.com/

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.