Sunday, November 29, 2009
Here's the first -
Six blocks later, on the twelfth floor of her white stone office building, Julie unlocked the darkened door and smiled. She’d beaten Dade in. Not easy considering his Lake Shore Drive condo sat only a few miles away.
She flipped the overhead switch in the reception area to reveal the four butter-colored leather chairs, love seat, and round table with popular magazines, all waiting for the day’s clients.
Her catalog case squeaked as she rolled it along the variegated design of the short carpet leading to her side of the suite. Once rid of the case and her purse, she darted into Dade’s office, where she hung the decorations and hastily retreated down the hall to her own file-filled office. She had to do something about all this work. Only a few inches of her walnut colored desk were visible. Blocking that thought from her mind, she awaited Dade’s arrival.
Five minutes later, she heard the unmistakable sound of his quick stride. Her heart sped. Any minute now he’d discover her handiwork.
Then came the expected, “Julie McGuire, I’m going to get you.”
She smiled at the success of her efforts then counted one, two and three.
There he was, filling her doorway, charging the room with his energy.
Glancing up from her work, she wagged a finger at him. “You didn’t think I’d forget, did you?”
“I hate this kind of stuff, and you know it.”
“And I know you’re a fake. Come over here. I’ve got something you’ll like.”
He raised his eyebrows. “An interesting variation, but I’m game.”
A typical Dade remark. Julie snorted.
“I’ll let that pass. Happy Birthday, Dade.” She handed him the wrapped gift. Her heart raced with anticipation. Dade was bound to be floored. Though he was usually a “doer” and not a reader, he did have a weakness for Jensen’s books. Wait until he saw this one, which hadn’t even hit the shelves.
Still standing, Dade ripped open the wrapping. His whistle hurt Julie’s ears.
“How did you pull this off?” He switched the book back and forth in his hands.
“Oh, let’s just say I’ve got connections.”
“We’re in trouble now. This baby will seriously jeopardize client time for at least two hours.”
Julie felt the warmth spread throughout her, as she gazed at her law partner, taking in his azure eyes, the corners etched with thin wrinkles, and his untamed dark hair which stuck out in all directions as if he’d run a finger through it instead of a comb. That was Dade for you. He never concerned himself with trivialities. Then again, he didn’t need to, not with his God-given looks and his outgoing personality.
Dade had been a member of her honorary family for ages, even before her parents had passed away. He was a vital part of her past and present. Thanks to their law practice, she saw more of him than of his sister, Avery, whom she counted as her dearest friend.
“Sit down and read me the autograph,” she said. “I’m dying to hear what he wrote. I forgot to look.”
Dade flipped open the book atop Julie’s desk, then raised his eyebrows. “You know Jensen?”
“I just met him at the conference yesterday.”
“So you don’t know him that well?”
“This autograph says different.”
“Let me see that,” Julie said, spinning the book around.
She stared at the tight script, her face growing warmer by the second. It read, “Dade, your partner is worth stealing. Watch your step.”
“That’s strange. Well, he is a mystery writer. He’s probably staying in character.”
Dade snorted. “No, it’s more than that. He wants you, Julie.”
“I told you, we just met at a conference. He couldn’t be after me. I doubt if I’ll ever see him again anyway.”
Dade stared at her with knowing eyes.
He had to be kidding.
“Don’t give me that look.” Reaching around the desk, she poked him in the arm.
“I want you to stick around here, that’s all.”
“Well I’m not around for everything. Remember the agreement.”
“Oh, that,” he said, making it sound of little consequence. “You wouldn’t break it for once, would you?”
“And ruin a good thing?” Although outwardly laughing, inside she was serious.
She had something better than marriage. She could do whatever she wanted and still see Dade more often than most wives saw their husbands. They’d faced a lot together, business and personal-wise. He was there for her and she for him. They were partners. She didn’t need anything more.
She had all that, yet she was thinking of deserting him. Could she do it?
Dade stood up to leave. “As usual, partner, you’re right. I wouldn’t think of reneging on our agreement. On that note, I’ll scram. I do have cases up.”
“And I’ve got Miller on trial,”Julie said. “Hey, don’t forget your present. It should be a good read. Oh, and again, happy birthday.”
Dade’s face looked grim as he swiped the book from her hands. “Thanks,” he said curtly.
Julie stared at Dade’s stiff back as he lumbered off. Disappointment washed over her. She’d just given Dade a terrific birthday present. He should be happy. Was he upset about getting older or was it something silly like Jensen’s innocent autograph?
* * *
“That son of a bitch.” Dade heaved Jensen’s book onto the chair in his office. It bounced off the black leather edge and landed open on the floor.
If you like this excerpt, come on over on Wednesday to another of my group blogs at http://acmeauthorslink.blogspot.com/ for another excerpt.
Thanks for letting me share.
Signed copies for Killer Career are available for EZ Order at The Digital-Bookshop , in print & ebook, also in print at Amazon (unsigned) and on kindle.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
As some of you know, I just returned from touring Croatia and a bike tour of parts of Slovenia, Italy and Austria. And of course, my mind turned to murder. I don't recall anybody writing a murder mystery involving a bicycle tour, but why not? Seems to me one could develop a story very Agatha Christie-like on a bike tour.
So many methods for the killer to use. He could oil a sharp turn on a downhill switch-back. Or she could reach down and thrust a stick or rod between someone's spokes. Or he/she could bat someone across the bean while passing.
Great. Now I'll be thinking about bike-murder all day...
Consider this: We had eleven people in our twenty person bike tour (not including two guides) who were part of one group from Ormond Beach, FL. Who knows the relationship these folks had before the trip? Maybe one has been cheating with another one's wife or husband. Maybe two of them are related and there's a will contest going on. Maybe one is the parent of a child arrested because of drugs supplied by another tour member. Whatever. These folks knew each other before the bike tour, and they'd had interactive lives.
What a chance for murder.
Just try to account for twenty people on a bike tour. Who's where at any time? Folks ride in different groups, and mix it up after rest stops or meals. Trying later to reconstruct who was with whom and when would be difficult -- again, just like an Agatha Christie murder.
Riding on paved or hard-pack gravel trails in beautiful valleys underneath the Julian Alps is a dreamlike journey. The air is crisp and cool, fresh, and spirits are high. The heart is pounding and the muscles are burning. Who's paying attention to details? Oops, somebody missed a turn. Okay. We'll catch them later. Or will we? What if they don't come back? What if somebody bumped 'em off at the last turn?
Okay, I'm sick. But so are you. C'mon, admit it. You go places and think about murder too, don't you?
Don't be surprised if there's a bike in my next book...
Thursday, November 26, 2009
@Jan VerHoeff tweeted a few weeks back about finding one thing a day to be thankful for in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. She suggested using it as a status update. Although I have not always been faithful with posting it as my status, I have been finding that I have a great deal to be grateful for.
I've got what most of us have and take for granted: A great marriage to a wonderful man, healthy, intelligent (grown) children whom I am proud of, a home, a wonderful extended family which includes a couple of sisters who let me call and whine and then help me pick myself up again. I've got work and enough money to pay the bills this month. I've got a good church home, good friends and I've got a new book out.
Just for a minute today, go over your own list. Then rest and be thankful.
Christine Duncan is the author of the Kaye Berreano mystery series. Safe House, the second book in the series was released in September.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
In between are household responsibilities and friends, volunteer work and bill-paying. And don’t forget the day job – in my case, editing. You may have a longer commute than I do – from kitchen to office – but I often work outside of “regular” 9 to 5 hours, finding myself at the computer late at night.
Right now, we must include seasonal get togethers, shopping and travel and build them into our schedules. Don’t even think about the down time of getting a cold!!
So, when does your writing Muse strike in the midst of the hectic life? Mine has been prodding at me a lot lately…and at times I can’t always indulge the urge. For me, the best time to write is at night. Everyone else is settled down and it’s “my” time. Add to the fact I’m a night owl and it makes sense. How about you – when do you write?
Romance with an edge
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Monday, November 23, 2009
Well, I’m pretty sure that most editors and agents still consider POV hopping a pet peeve and a sign that they’re dealing with an untrained newbie. They would say, and I agree, that it's best to pick a POV and stick to it. But I can’t deny that many bestselling authors ignore this rule on a regular basis and still sell lots of books. Should we learn from this and follow their lead into a new set of fiction-writing rules?
I say no. First, pick any big name who changes POV and check out his earlier works. I think you’ll find that at the beginning of their writing careers, people don't violate POV rules. I think you have to obey the rules to GET published. But once you’ve got a couple best-sellers under your belt, the universe grants you a bit more latitude. For example, James Patterson seems to give almost every character in a novel some POV time, and worse, they’re all in third person except his protagonist who gets to be in first person! I can’t explain how he gets away with it, I just know he does.
On the other hand, Michael Connelly’s just that good. After several Harry Bosch books he began switching to the criminal’s POV, maybe just to keep things interesting. He’s just so good at what he does that he can make it work. Another writer might look like he was just making it up as he went along. But when Connelly does it, we trust that he knows what he's doing and we’re willing to go along for the ride. I know I’m revealing my blatant hero worship here, but I’d say if you think you’re as good as Connelly, go for it. Me, I’ll stick to one POV… most of the time.There are times that even we mere mortals can get away with going from first person to third person POV or having multiple POVs. For instance, what someone is telling a long story to your protagonist? That’s a reasonable time to switch POV to that of the storyteller.
Or, what if your detective is reading someone else’s letters? You could write a chapter that was the content of the letters, and put that chapter in the voice of the letter writer.
I’m sure there are other possibilities I can’t think of right now. The important thing is that it must be very clear to a reader (an agent or an editor) that you did it on purpose with a clear plan, not just because you didn’t know any better. I think it’s always safer to play by the accepted rules – at least until you’re as big as James Patterson.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Earl Staggs wrote recently about the often maligned flashback and his reason for using them. I thought I'd take a whack at another of those literary forms that drives some readers, and editors, to distraction: the Prologue. I like them. When, as they say, properly used.
I wrote Prologues in my first two Greg McKenzie mysteries. The fact that I haven't used one since shouldn't be taken as a slight. They just didn't fit or weren't needed in subsequent books. But in those first two, I thought they improved the story.
I write the McKenzie books in first person, from the protangonist's point of view. In the first book of the series, I used a third person Prologue to introduce elements that would improve the reader's understanding of things that would take place during the rest of the story. I wrote it in a dramatic style aimed at grabbing the reader's attention and holding it into the main plot.
In the second book, I used a third person Prologue to introduce the main plot point, which led to the murder. It also served to introduce all of the principal characters and suspects except for my two protagonists. They appeared in Chapter 1.
For my money, the kind of Prologues that gave the introductory chapter a bad name are those that launch the book with a scene from the end of the story and then build toward it. Or those that start from the unidentified murderer's POV. There are some others that have created justifiable ire, but in general I don't understand all the condemnation of Prologues. For some haters, it would apparently be okay if you just named it Chapter 1 instead of Prologue.
I've read comments from people who say they skip over Prologues. Pardon me, but if you're going to read a book, read everything the author put in it. That's like skipping over the dialogue.
I don't imagine my little diatribe has changed the mind of any Prologue dissenters, but them's my sentiments. What do you think?
Including two with Prologues, Chester Campbell has written four Greg McKenzie mysteries featuring a retired Air Force OSI agent and his wife. His newest book introduces PI Sid Chance in The Surest Poison.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Kane listed ten intelligence agencies in the United States: CIA, NSA,FBI, DIA, NCIS, ATF, DEA, NRO, ONI, U.S. Marshals. He said he knows of sixteen, even though he didn't list that many. One that he didn't know about, and that I do because of my research for my WIP, is the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI), the Air Force equivalent to NCIS.
Of course other nations have their intelligence agencies, too, such as AFI (intelligence branch of the Israeli Air Force), The Mossad (Israel's "secret" service), and MI-6 (Great Britain).
The more one knows about the intelligence agencies used in writing fiction, the more believable the writing is. Research is vital. I would suggest to begin with D.S. Kane before going to some of the following works:
John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
John LeCarre, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Thomas Gordon, Gideon's Spies: The Secret History of the Mossad
Peter Wright, Spy Catcher: The Candid Autobiography of a Senior Intelligence Officer
Thank you, D.S. Kane, not only for an interesting workshop, but also for information to help writers be better writers.
Oh, yes, to register for the 2010 Muse Online Writers Conference, click on the title. Registering now means you'll receive all the notices and won't forget until after the deadline.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
In his varied career, Lono Waiwaiole has been an editor, sports information director and professional poker player. He currently teaches english and social studies in Gaston Oregon and writes hard-boiled, noir mysteries.
Lono's debut novel, Wiley's Lament, was named a finalist for the 2003 Oregon Book Awards for fiction and an Anthony award for best first novel of 2003. It was followed by Wiley's Shuffle (2004) and Wiley's Refrain (2005). The three books feature a tough, cynical poker player named Wiley. The first two books are set in Portland, Oregon and the third is set part in Portland and part on the Big Island of Hawai'i. The Wiley books are known for being as noir as they come. The body counts are high.
In 2009 Lono stepped away from the Wiley series with Dark Paradise (Dennis McMillan Publications.) Dark Paradise is set on the Big Island. It is a modern day crime story whose roots lie deep in the imperialism and "internal colonialism" practiced by the United States on this island culture. The body counts are just as high.
This is the first of a two-part interview with Lono. You can read the second part of the interview tomorrow on The Hawaiian Eye.
Tell us about yourself. Everybody in Hawai'i is part something. What are your parts?
I'm half Hawaiian, a quarter Italian and a quarter Pennsylvania Dutch.
You've probably got the perfect Hawaiian name. Lono is the god associated with clouds, storms and earthquakes. Is that your muse?
I think Lono is also associated with fertility. I suspect my "muse" comes more from that angle, if any.
Your Wiley books are set in Portland, how did you come to set Dark Paradise in Hawai'i?
I moved from Portland to the Big Island as I was wrapping up the second Wiley book, so the third in that series is actually set in both places. Dark Paradise was written almost entirely while I lived over there, and my goal was to transfer some of what I was absorbing from that environment to my fiction.
Dark Paradise is a complicated novel with 10 point of view characters--Geronimo, Nalani, Dominic, Sonny, Buddy, Jesus, Kitano, Jay-jay, Kapua, Robbie. How were you able to get inside the heads of all those different characters?
Assuming that I actually succeeded in doing that (readers will render the ultimate verdict), I don't recall it being particularly difficult. You have to keep in mind that I was on a first-name basis with each of them. It might have been more difficult if they weren't all my children in the first place. As it happened, I knew everything they had ever thought, were thinking and would ever think.
Dark Paradise is set against the backdrop of the NBA Championship series between the Lakers and Pistons. Does that have significance in the story?
One of the things that struck me immediately about Hawai`i is the popularity of basketball. Since I am an addict myself, I always have an eye out for my next connection. The Detroit-Los Angeles series was happening when the actual event which triggered my fictional story occurred, and you couldn't go anywhere on the Big Island at the time without seeing it on a television screen or hearing people argue about it. Originally, the presence of the series was mostly atmospheric, but by the time I was done it had become the organizational structure of the story and somewhat metaphoric as well. The difference between those two teams and the way they were popularly perceived was similar to the way the less-informed view the islands.
That actual event, by the way, was "the biggest drug bust in the history of the Big Island." That actually happened, including the attempt to follow the drugs that ended up in the car being abandoned at the mall drugs intact. As usual, truth is stranger than fiction.
The reader won't find the usual chapters here. Instead, the story is divided up by the different parts of a basketball game. What's the significance in that?
See the previous question for the beginning of this answer. By the time I was revising the manuscript, my appreciation of the NBA playoffs at the time had deepened significantly as far as its application to the story is concerned. I think the characters are constrained by some arbitrary conditions they do not control, and the game parameters seemed like a way to symbolize those constraints.
Speaking of constraints, this novel is definitely noir in that everybody is trapped. Is that a good characterization of the locals in Hawai'i?
I just read a headline which stated that Hawai`i is the second-happiest state in the country. That may be true, but only because joy seems to be implanted in the Hawaiian DNA. I think this happiness is overlaid on a very distressed core which has easily discerned symptoms--exceptionally high levels of substance abuse (including food, I believe), domestic violence, child abuse, etcetera. Locals are unlike their tourist visitors--they know both sides of this picture. Within that understanding, I think they do feel trapped to some extent. It is not a world of their own making, but leaving it means leaving family and cultural ties as well.
Instead of the popular view of Hawai'i, you give us ice and gambling. Which one is closer to the truth?
That's the beauty of the situation over there as far as writing fiction is concerned--both are true (and both are exaggerated to some extent for effect). I think they are two sides of the same coin.
The most compelling characters in the book are Geronimo, an adulterous cop with a gambling problem (he's the good guy) and a teenager named Nalani who becomes an effective player because of the abuse she's suffered from her father. The big question in this reader's mind is, "Will Nalani be all right?" Even at the end, we're not sure. What do you think? Can you say without giving the ending away?
The answer to that question is the same as the answer to this one: Will the Hawaiian Islands be all right? I hope so in both cases. Certainly both have the potential to go either way.
Would you have your students read this book? Is there a lesson for them in it?
There is a lesson for my students in this book, both in its content and in the writing, but I do not encourage them to partake of it. In my school, I have to say Dark Paradise is not school appropriate. Fortunately for me, the superintendent of my school district is a fan of my books and hasn't run me out of town yet.
Was Dennis Mcmillan on board this project from the start? What kind of support did he give you?
He (Dennis) sent several of his shirts (they are collectible Aloha shirts) to the graphic designer, who came up with the cover. Oddly enough, Dennis lived on the Big Island longer than I did and knows it very well.
Dennis wanted this book from the beginning, but it started out as a project with my editor at St. Martin's. That editor moved on right after I delivered it, and St. Martin's decided to pass on it. The book was an orphan for more than a year after that while my agent tried to find somebody other than Dennis to publish it (someone more mainstream, let's say), but after I couldn't stand it any more I said send it to Dennis. To be honest, he was my first choice all along--not because of the potential money he represented, but because of the passion and the reputation for excellence.
As it turned out, he gave me the most important kind of support--he published the book, and he did so beautifully. The rest is pretty much up to me, but I'm okay with that. It was all up to me in the first place, right?
What's next? Will there be more Wileys? Any Hawaiian books? Will we see any of these characters again?
I am embroiled in a screen adaptation of Dark Paradise now. Someone in Hollywood thinks there might be a great film in the book somewhere, and my daughter and I are about to start on our third draft of a screenplay for that producer. We think it's great that they haven't already moved in another direction for screenwriters, but we are still several light years away from a movie actually getting made.
Consequently, I don't have a clear idea of what my next book will be. I have been so immersed in the characters from Dark Paradise that it seems natural to work with them again. On the other hand, Wiley is on the Big Island now, too, and it seems likely that his paths would cross with theirs in the near future. Oh, well, I don't have to sort that out until we finish messing with this screenplay--if we ever do.
Mahalo, Lono, for agreeing to the interview. I, for one, would jump at the chance to meet some of these characters again. These characters on the big screen with the Big Island scenery can't miss.
For more about Lono and Dark Paradise, hop on over to my Hawaiian Eye blog tomorrow.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
While thinking what I should post, frankly, I couldn't come up with a thing. It's drawing near to the holidays and to be perfectly honestly I've been focusing on my Thanksgiving dinner shopping list. Last year we went to a daughter's home for the holiday, which was a good thing because I was really sick with the flu--despite having had a flu shot.
This year, because a lot of people will be around, and by people I mean relatives, I wanted to do the honors. Besides, I love having all the leftovers to keep on feeding folks.
For most of this year I've been occupied with promoting my books, first it was No Sanctuary
that came out in January and then Dispel the Mist which appeared in August. While all that was going on I wrote another Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery and a new Rocky Bluff P.D.
Another Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel is due for publication after the first of the year and it all begins again.
Analyzing myself, I have a hunch I just need to take a breather and get back to "normal living." I have no more appearances for the rest of the month so though I do plan to continue writing on my w.i.p., yet another Tempe mystery, I can pretend to be just a wife, mom, grandma and great-grandma.
In December I only have two gigs--a talk at a bookstore (one of my favorites even though it's about a 2 1/2 hour drive) and a two day event in a local art gallery.
Of course I'll still be writing blogs and making appearances on Facebook and Twitter.
Frankly, it'll be nice to slow down a bit and relax--maybe I can get some reading in, mysteries, of course, something I've neglected later.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
This, of course, led to several weeks of doubting myself as a writer. I was just a big old fake. I talked to several other writers (thank goodness for writer's groups!) and found out I was not alone. I then remembered a brilliant post I'd read a few months back by Libba Bray, comparing the stages of writing a novel to a relationship. I post it here for your enjoyment.
Within Ms. Bray's post is a link to another blog by Justine Larbestier about Bad Writing Days.
I also include this link for your amusement.
Both posts pretty much sum up the fact that the majority of writers go through the same phases of infatuation, love, disappointment, resentment, make-up sex, and the inevitable break-up with each project they undertake. And we all have bad writing days. Remembering this always makes me feel much better when I start pounding my head against the wall when things aren't going well.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
by Ben Small
I just returned from a three week journey to Croatia.
Research, I swear.
And it worked. I'm putting the Arizona sequel I'd been working on aside, and I'm going with a story that came to me in Dubrovnik. My Croatian memories are fresh and the images -- you may want to glance at my Facebook photo albums -- vivid.
Yup. I'd go back in a minute; the beauty of Croatia speaks for itself -- again, check out my pictures.
You can learn a lot from a trip like this. Stuff you won't find on the internet. I think visiting a site important to a story aids a fuller development of character and story. Little stuff, like realizing that locals are friendlier in northern Croatia than in the South.
Dubrovniks and Splits are not unfriendly; they're just busy, focused on their work, on making money. Yugoslavia used to be Communist, you know...
As you may know, Slovenia has been the most successful of the former Yugo states. Slovenia occupied eight percent of the former Yugoslavia's population and territory, but was responsible for sixty percent of the Yugoslav economy. Slovenia is an engine that not only broke free from its chasis; hell, this dynamo took off to the races. Of the eight new European Union members admitted in 2004, Slovenia was the only contributor to EU coffers. Slovenia was the first of the new admittees to adopt the Euro. It's an economic powerhouse.
Croatia, in turn, is a little further back on the economic scale. Its primary industry is tourism. But Croatia's a long drive, two days at least, and you gotta go through five miles of Bosnia. Granted, the five kilometer drive along the Bosnian Coast and the Great Wall of Bosnia are impressive, but the border inspection folks flash their disapproval and sneer. Some car rental companies won't permit a Bosnian border crossing. You can go by boat, but again, this is a long coastline. The ferry from Split to Dubrovnik is an over-night.
We traveled Croatia by car, South-to-North through Dubrovnik, Jadronova, Hrka National Park, Hvar Island, Split, Montovon, Rovinj and countless seacoast and interior villages and towns. We saw history and culture, and we engaged the people. Thankfully, most of them understood some English.
We saw five star hotels and small villages, Communist-built common structures -- something a Chicagoan might compare to his city's "projects" -- and ages-old stone homes. We saw poverty, the middle class and the wealthy.
But nowhere did we see an unkempt house; nowhere someone with nothing to do. I watched a Dubrovnik man of fifty, weathered and bent, as he rolled granite load after load up a slight hill and on down an old stone road. A wheel cart, two hundred fifty, three hundred pounds of rock. Many, many trips. Every residence we saw, backcountry, seacoast, mountain, or city, showed the pride of its occupants. A tough pride, for sure, one tested and earned. Croatia's been invaded and occupied so many times, by so many different peoples, you can't blame its citizens if they focus on surviving. Croatian people, we saw, work hard, but they take pride in their community. Strong religious and family ties. A well kept house reflects success, pride, honor. Even in the poorest areas, we saw flowers in yards, in windows, fresh paint, maintained wood and stone and glass. Their residences reflect care and loving attention -- even the Communistic towers. You will see laundry on lines beneath windows, but you won't see Detroit.
We talked to Americans who live there now. They love Croatia. I can understand why.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Lesson 1. I really can run one more step (or one more mile) no matter how tired I am. I can write when I'm tired too. It's a choice.
Lesson 2. No one will care if I don't run (or write) but me. The world is not out there watching.
Lesson 3. Whining does not change lesson one or two.
Sometimes, I meet writers who seem to believe that they can only write under ideal conditions. I've met runners like that too. The problem is, I don't think there are any ideal conditions in this world. Or maybe I just missed the line where they passed them out, who knows?
This post may seem like I'm being cranky. Maybe so. But tonight, after a long day of work, bill paying, a five mile run, and a very late supper, the crankiness is directed inward. I need to remember why I write. Because I choose to. And I am the one who will miss it the most if I don't write.
Christine Duncan is the author of the Kaye Berreano mystery series. Safe House, book two of the series, was released in September.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
No matter our best intentions, we can stall. Is it the plot, or has one of our characters gone off track? Do we write our way forward, or go back and check all the threads, finding the one that we lost or dropped?
There are great suggestions for getting around these kinds of problems – and most writers run into them every once in a while – so dish! What is your best way to keep your plot storming along, and what do you do when it mires down, even momentarily? Makes no difference if you’re a seat-of-your-pants plotter or a plotter who lays out every twist and turn.
Romance with an edge
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Monday, November 9, 2009
Even as a fan I see the loss of independent bookstores as a cultural tragedy. Sadly, there’s not a lot we can do about it. The economics are hard to fight. But we CAN actively support the specialty stores that keep their doors open. The best way to do that is to buy your books there if you’re anywhere near one. But how do you find these wonderful places?
The easiest way is to become familiar with the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association (IMBA).http://www.mysterybooksellers.com/ . Through their website they can help you find just the books you want – by theme, by author, or by detective. But, more important to me is their comprehensive list of mystery book stores. They’re all there, from Aliens and Alibis in Columbia SC to Wrigley Cross Books in Gresham OR. You can easily search using their interactive map feature to locate the stores nearest you or whatever city you may be planning to bury that body in.
The IMBA has recently started up a new blog for authors http://knock-em-dead.blogspot.com/_ to make it easier for us to communicate with booksellers and each other. I suspect that many serious fans would enjoy those posts too.
I’ve met many IMBA members at mystery conferences and conventions and I can tell you these people are as devoted to the books as any fan. They also order my books, even in parts of the country where no one has heard of me… yet. So this short blurb is my pitch to you the reader and you the writer. Support independent mystery booksellers and their association all you can. These are the folks who will take care of you and show you the gems hidden in the stacks when the big chains are only interested in the best sellers.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Some people, be they readers, editors, or writers, object to flashbacks. I rather like them when they’re done right and use them frequently myself.
A flashback is one method we have of inserting backstory. When we feel something that happened before the current story began is relevant, we can stop the forward motion of the story and include the past event or information as a flashback. A flashback may be as short as a few sentences of narrative or may run for several pages and may contain dialogue, action, setting and description.
I have two problems with some flashbacks, however. The first one is length. If we detour from the current story too long, readers may get wrapped up in the flashback and forget important points from the current story. If there’s a lot of information needing to be told in flashback mode, I think it’s better to break it up into smaller portions and space them out within the current story.
My other problem is when writers overuse past perfect verb helpers (“had” and “had been,” for instance) in a flashback so readers will know they’re reading something from the past.
Here’s a brief example:
***She had divorced her husband years ago and her lawyer had been successful in negotiating a large cash settlement. Before long, she had settled into a life of lavish indulgence, which included traveling with and supporting younger men. I know because I had been one of them. Within two years, she had gone through the money and the men drifted away. Now she had been reduced to waiting tables at a diner in the seediest part of town.***
The use of so many “had’s” is considered passive writing, and can be avoided if a distinct transition is used to introduce the flashback. A good transition takes the reader into the past without a need for past perfect tense. Here’s the same example with “Ten years ago” as the transition, the passive verb helpers eliminated, and some additional tightening:
***Ten years ago, she divorced her husband and her lawyer negotiated a large cash settlement. She then settled into a life of lavish indulgence, which included traveling with and supporting younger men. I was one of them. The money and the men are gone now and she waits tables at a diner in the seediest part of town.***
But a clear transition is also needed to bring the reader out of the flashback and back to the present story.
Here’s one way:
***I remembered all that about her as I settled into a booth and she trudged over to take my order. I also wondered if she remembered me.
While some people object to flashbacks, there are times when they can be used effectively if they are brief and you have a clear transition into and out of them so readers don’t get confused.
Anyway, that’s my opinion. Any other takes on it?
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Not so long ago, if someone said you were creative, they meant you were different, or what author Nancy Slonim Aronie called “tapped by the goddess of artistic sensibilities.”
We’re all born with innate talents that are creative in their own way. Florists are creative in their arrangements as are plumbers who create unusual designs that hopefully don’t leak. And I’ve always admired the creative talents of wedding cake designers and chefs who garnish their gourmet dishes with sprigs of parsley and mounds of berries and whipped cream.
Aronie says, “Creativity is your soul expressing itself. Creativity is a continuing process. And process and souls expressing themselves have nothing do with selling or reviews or results or commercial success. They have everything to do with taking chances, being honest, letting us experiment with what feels right, letting ourselves make—as Annie Lamott puts it in Bird by Bird—'[lousy] first drafts.' This brainstorming of the gut will nourish your innards.”
Aronie’s creativity exercise is an interesting one. She basically says to allow yourself 30 minutes to decide which ordinary thing you’ll turn into something extraordinary. Then write about it. “What was the experience like for you? How will you remember it? How will you change the channel from ‘what a drag’ to ‘what a joy?’”
Some of the exercises she suggests are:
~Clean the hydrator in the refrigerator.
~Match all the socks in the sock drawer.
~Throw out all the stretched–out underwear that you never wear.
~Organize your videotapes.
~Rip pages from a magazine and make a collage that says ‘I’m creative’.
~Add a plant to your work area.
~Make an exotic mushroom sandwich on toasted country French bread. Serve it on your nicest plate with yellow and orange nasturtium.
~Put a love note under someone’s pillow.
Most of these things fall under the dreaded category of “housework,” and I can think of better things to do with the little time I have to be creative, although I have to admit that her suggestions are challenging.
Aronie has taught a workshop, telling students that “creativity is maintaining the balance between the heart and the mind, the dedication to the moment and the ability to stand by and surrender and let the stuff flow through.”
Not a bad idea.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Thursday, November 5, 2009
As authors and/or publishers, we often struggle to get reviews for books—especially positive, glowing reviews. Each author that gets a positive review basks in its warmth for a while, and we usually share them with others like pictures of a new baby… or perhaps a new boat or motorcycle.
As readers, we seek out reviewers whose judgement we trust, whose taste runs at least roughly parallel to our own, so we can be guided by their opinions.
A few months ago, I started a review site strictly dedicated to genre fiction, The GenReView. Thus far, I have published quite a few reviews of books in a variety of genres: fantasy, sci-fi, romantic suspense, mystery, suspense, GLBT. It’s been fun, although finding reviewers I can rely upon to turn out at least one review each month has been a bit of a trial.
But, as I read some of the online discussion group postings and listservs to which I belong, I’m wondering about the importance of reviews. (Yeah, yeah, I know—why am I stabbing myself in the back?) Seriously, folks. An uncommonly large number of people say that reviews mean little to nothing to them. I was really surprised at this, especially given the amount of time and money publishers and authors devote to gaining reviews.
Personally, I like to read reviews of books before I commit to buying and/or checking them out at the library. My time is valuable, and I don’t like to waste any of it. I figure, once I find a couple of reviewers whose views and taste are close enough to my own, I can use them as bellwethers for at least some of my reading forays.
Reviews in print are highly prized, yet are the hardest to obtain for most authors and publishers. Many newspapers have cut back on “frills” and reviews are often viewed as that sort of luxury. Plus, the sheer number of books being published each year makes getting the few review slots a very competitive process. Online review venues are becoming more and more important to those who want reviews, as fewer and fewer print reviews are available.
Here are some things other than reviews that people said influenced what they pick up to read, in no particular order:
- Friends’ recommendations. If a friend whose reading tastes are similar to your own says, “Hey, you gotta read this book! It’s awesome!” then chances are you will be influenced to at least give the book a shot.
- Recommendations from other readers on [insert name of appropriate listerv] list. Whether you regard someone as a particular friend or not, if they read the same sort of fiction you read, and you’ve heard them say other positive things about books where you shared the same opinion, you are often likely to trust their opinion.
- Advertisements in “target” magazines. If you read Ladies Home Journal, and trust it, and see an ad for a new romance novel there, you may be influenced to see what it’s all about.
- Past satisfaction. The fact that you have read past titles by the author and enjoyed those books, is usually an indicator that you will like the newest title. But as authors get long in the tooth, or perhaps long in the pen, there is a general consensus that often authors begin to run out of new ideas, or become too predictable. (Just how many times can notorious ex-IRA-enforcer Sean Dillon tell someone that he attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, and performed Ibsen there?)
- The amount of advertising about the new book that they saw on television or heard on the radio… or now, on the Internet. Radio, TV and Internet ads for books are popping up more and more often. As with most ads, some people view these as intrusive and annoying, but they still get the name of the new book in front of potential readers… and that often works.
Surprisingly, back-cover blurbs seem to have the least influence of all. Well… maybe not so surprisingly. I know that I have been too often disappointed by what the blurb on the back said, compared to the reality of the book inside the covers, and I think many people have had that same experience.
What do you think, as reader, publisher or author? Are “formal” reviews of books losing their importance to you? If you are an author or publisher, is it worth the trouble it now seems to be, to get those elusive reviews? Do you trust online review sites, or do you only rely upon NYT Bestseller lists? What’s important to you when considering whether or not to read a new title?
I’d like to know what you think!
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
The 442nd were Nisei, Japanese Americans from Hawaii and the west coast, the sons of Japanese immigrants. Many of the men had parents, brothers and sisters in concentration camps where they were guarded by other American soldiers. Shortly after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans living in the western states were rounded up, denied due process, and sent to camps. For their own protection, they were told, but the soldiers guarding the camps had their guns pointing in not out.
When Roosevelt offered able-bodied men in the camps the opportunity to prove their loyalty, many enlisted. They were formed into a unit that was merged with the 100th infantry from Hawaii and became 442nd. Their motto was "Go for broke." They fought in Italy and France where they became known as the Purple Heart Brigade for all the casualties they sustained. The 442nd was the most decorated unit in U.S. military history. Their rescue of the 1st Battalion of Texans, the lost battalion, was perhaps the greatest of their many accomplishments. After the unit was cut off, two attempts were made to rescue them. Both failed. Then the assignment was given to the 442nd. After five days of fierce fighting, they managed to bring out 217 of the original 228 Texans, while sustaining 814 casualties, themselves. I Company went in with 185 men and 8 walked out.
What made the 442nd such fierce fighters? They lived in a time when people of color, especially people of Japanese ancestry were considered inferior and disloyal, so they felt they had to prove their loyalty.
One of the characters in my work in progress is a veteran of the 442nd. He fought in North Africa, Italy and France before being wounded in the Vosges. His friends and family spent the war in detention because of the color of their skin. The story isn't far enough along to share with you yet, but I will share a resource about Japanese Americans during that period. At the Densho Archives, you will find oral interviews with both combat veterans and concentration camp residents. Their stories, in their words, will move you like nothing else.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
In fact, when I was in labor with my third child, despite my husband's urgings, I wouldn't leave for the hospital until the Perry Mason show was over. Pretty exciting since my pains were three minutes apart. Fortunately, we weren't too far from the hospital.
At the time we lived in Oxnard CA. I learned that at one time Perry Mason had his law office in Ventura and many of his mysteries were located in Oxnard.
I'm sure my fascination with Erle Stanley Gardner and Perry Mason had an influence on my own mystery writing. After I had several books published I wondered if anyone celebrated Erle Stanley Gardner in Ventura. I attended one such event and then it disappeared.
Soon after, I discovered that Temecula actually had an Erle Stanley Gardner mystery weekend. Gardner owned a ranch in Temecula where he continued writing mysteries with the help of four secretaries. Temecula's museum has many interesting artifacts concerning Gardner.
Of course I volunteered to give a writing presentation at the mystery weekend. I was accepted and have done so every year since. My next one will be on Novel Writing, this Saturday, November 7th 10 a.m. behind the museum in Old Town, behind the senior
So my love affair with Perry Mason paid off for me.
Has anyone had a similar experience with a fictional mystery character?
Monday, November 2, 2009
I was the architect of my protagonist and antagonist. They would do whatever I would decide in my novel and this process helped me escape from my reality. Talk about personal therapy?
As humans, I believe we all need an outlet regardless of what it is we do to help keep a roof over our heads. I happened to discover writing was a mental release for me. What I wonder, though, if I were a full-time writer, where would be my place to go and hide from reality? Hmmm, maybe one day I will have the answer to that question.
Link for Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_2_4?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=rolf+hitzer&sprefix=rolf
About the Author:
Rolf Hitzer was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in 1959 and raised by his parents, Erna and Julius Hitzer. Rolf attended Princess Margaret Elementary School, John Pritchard Junior High and Graduated from Kildonan East Regional Secondary School where he had majored in Culinary Arts.
Rolf is married to his wife Irma since 1997. Together they have a wonderful blended family with Rita and Clark Bodoano and Grand children, Alexandria, Patrick and Braeden. Jason and Leah Tutlies, and Grandson Easton. Mandel Hitzer, and the youngest Jessica Hitzer. Clearly the growth of his family is still a work in progress.
Rolf Hitzer has several passions besides writing, they include being at the log cabin on weekends. Spending time on the water with a fishing pole in hand. Wildlife viewing and especially Moose calling during the fall rut. Playing a range of Poker card games and a variety of board games.
Rolf is a Member of the Winnipeg Real Estate Board, The Manitoba Real Estate Association and the Canadian Real Estate Association. He is currently working on his second novel.
For more information on his book visit: http://www.hoodoosea.com/ .
About the Book:
The government of the United States of America is on the verge of startling the world.
Billions of dollars had been invested in its space program.
And now, the moment of truth has arrived…
Scott Reed is the man for the historic mission. He is the Wing Commander chosen by the elite brass at NASA. The assignment to test flight the first speed of light craft, held top secret, was about to shock the world. The risk? Utter and complete failure. The reward? Being a part of the greatest human accomplishment ever known to mankind.
Major James Harrow, second in command of the four person crew, despised his Wing Commander. Harrow was a proud and patriotic American. What was NASA thinking when they selected a Canadian to pilot the voyage? There was no comparison as to who was the better skilled aviator. This was his time, his moment. Major James Harrow was about to prove to everybody they were wrong to bypass him as Commander.
The weather conditions were perfect and lift-off for the test flight was text book. The triumphant cheers from Mission Control in Houston were echoed all the way to Cape Canaveral. The silent fear of the first hurdle of the flight had been succumbed. All systems were go! That is, until the crew and SOLT-X1 entered the Bermuda Triangle…
Sunday, November 1, 2009
I have become a lot more aware of all of these mixed genres since a: searching for favorite authors in bookstores and finding them in unlikely places and b: writing for Ravenous Romance, which just upped the ante for mixed genres with their anthology HUNGRY FOR YOUR LOVE.
Yes, romance and zombies.
Zombies are relatively new in terms of mainstream popularity, but they've already shambled their way into the horror market, the paranormal market as bit players, YA, and now...romance. For those that say it's just wrong, St. Martin's Press bought the print rights to HUNGRY FOR YOUR LOVE. This pleases me as I have a story in the anthology. :-)
I wrote a story several (okay, lots of several) years ago that I called 'zombie noir.' It was originally published in DANGER CITY , a noir anthology published by Contemporary Press. I was the only female author in the the book. The story, A MAN'S GOTTA EAT WHAT A MAN'S GOTTA EAT, prompted my father to say I wrote like a misogynistic drunken man. His observation probably explains why, when I showed up at the book launch party in Greenwich Village (yes, I wore black!), the publishers were surprised to see a dame.
In the spirit of Halloween, I am posting the opening paragraphs of this story as an example of mixed genre, specifically zombie noir. I hope you enjoy the excerpt.
Oh. Profanity warning. Not much, but a little.
The name’s T-Bone. Chuck T-Bone. I’m a private detective. You know, a P.I., a dick, a gumshoe. To be specific, I find missing people. It’s always been my specialty, even before the big change. After I died I changed my name to fit my new life - though ‘life’ might not be the right word under the circumstances.
Back in the old days, I was Charles Tyrone of Tyrone’s Investigative Services. But I bought it while doing a job for a prominent family - an Italian family with connections in all the wrong places. They paid me well and I’ve never had enough money to be choosy about who I work for. I’ve always tried to stay on the clean side of the law but it ain’t easy, even these days.
Yeah, I’m a zombie. Undead, living dead, ghoul, take your pick. I say we’re just ordinary guys and dolls trying to earn an honest day’s wages and put food on the table, same way we did before this zombie crap really started to hit the fan. You know, back a year or so when the dead starting refusing to stay buried. Having corpses walking around in various states of decay was bad enough, but then it became obvious that the deads’ favorite past-time was chowing down on the living. You’d step outside of your house and bam! Instant corpse kibble.
It was Wednesday morning, the middle of a hot July week. Smog lay over the San Fernando Valley in a thick haze and it was hotter than the Sahara outside. I was kicking back in my office, air conditioner cranked to the max as I waited for a new case to keep me in grub and pay the bills. Used to be that J.D. took up most of my pay but now I only drink it out of habit.
These days it was more important to pay the bills, especially the electricity so you could keep your home and your workspace nice and frosty. Dead meat rots if you don’t keep it cold. I was still in pretty good shape after six months. A little green around the gills, maybe, but nothing major. One of these days I was gonna go down to one of the local mortuary joints and get myself embalmed. But that took more do-re-mi than I had to spare, so in the meantime I’d make due with my J.D. I figure my insides must be fairly pickled as is.
It had started out to be a slow week and so far there were no signs of things getting on the speed track. My bank account was flatter than a ten year old in a training bra and if something didn’t break soon, I was gonna join the lines at the unemployment office.
I was just starting to sink into a depression darker than an African night when the door opened and she walked in. She didn’t knock, but then trouble rarely waits to be invited. Tall and still lusciously curved, she swayed towards me. This could’ve been on account of the fact that her dainty feet were encased in black stiletto heels, the kind that said “fuck me but don’t ask me to walk.” Nice gams, kind of slender, so slender that in a couple of places I could see bone showing beneath the seamed stockings.
Her hair, where it still clung to her scalp, was blond and luxuriant. Heavy make-up gave her once porcelain, now bluish complexion an almost natural skin tone, marred only by a gash across one cheek that no expensive mortician’s putty could hide. Her nails were painted red to match her lipstick and her low-necked, curve-clinging satin dress. A black silk scarf draped around her throat and shoulders didn’t quite conceal the gaping wound where someone had given her the King Kong of hickeys right above the collar bone. Her peepers were still an icy blue, but Brother, all the Visine in the world couldn’t get the red out.
All in all, I wouldn’t kick her out of my bed.
I would love to know all of your favorite or least favorite examples of mixed genres! What works for you and what doesn't? Inquiring Danas wanna know!
MURDER FOR HIRE: The Peruvian Pigeon (James A. Rock Inc, Yellowback Mysteries Imprint)
RIPPING THE BODICE (Ravenous Romance, as Inara LaVey)
Member, Sisters in Crime (National & NorCal Chapters)
Events Coordinator, SinC NorCal
TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES HAPPENED, So I posted Dana's entry again, but I'm saving part of the original because she did have a comment we don't want overlooked.