Monday, October 29, 2018


Talent is nice, language skills are important, good ideas are valuable, but, for a writer, I think motivation is indispensable.

I'd enjoyed writing since beginning school, with accompanying good grades. I had edited a college newspaper, and so on, but I didn't get going, motivation-wise until coming to Spring Hollow in the Arkansas Ozarks kicked me into writing. Simply put, I wanted to share what I was experiencing with everyone.

That's what did it for me. Each writer may have a somewhat similar story--something that said "I need to share this, and it's time to write."

Of course motivation is not a one-time thing. It has to have enough steam to keep you going through the problems, hours and hours at the computer, and times of discouragement and rejection most writers face.

Okay, so I'm motivated. What next?

When I began writing about Spring Hollow in the Arkansas Ozarks for magazines and newspapers and, eventually, in the non-fiction book "DEAR EARTH: A Love Letter from Spring Hollow," I already realized that this beautiful area was doomed. We were located in a county that, largely because it holds Walmart's headquarters, was rapidly becoming urban/suburban. Progress has too often been defined as this kind of growth, though perhaps that's beginning to change just a bit. As we lose wild places, we begin to value them more.

So, my motivation became a test for me. Could I construct my part of the Arkansas Ozarks in words? Could I share and preserve it that way?

After taking up this challenge, I learned something. In many cases, writing what our senses and perceptions tell us about a place (and I do this in my fiction writing too) can be better than virtual reality. We convey more than sight and sound. We strive to open doors for the reader, to bring individual experiences and perceptions to their attention.

I asked myself, "Can I be so accurate and honest that what a reader brings to what I have written enhances the experience for them? What can I bring alive for them?

Well, the reader has to answer that of course, and what happens for him or her will depend, at least partly, on the life experiences they bring to the reading. But, if I am any example, albeit a prejudiced one, I do bring special places and experiences in the Arkansas Ozarks alive on paper and screen. How do I know this? Because I can re-read my own books to bring any area, past or present, alive. If my motivation was to accomplish this--well, for at least one person, it succeeded.

If you are a writer, what motivates you?

Friday, October 19, 2018

Writing a Non-Historical Mystery Set in the Past

by Linda Thorne

     My current work in progress, A Promotion to Die For, is a mystery set in 2005. You’d hardly call that a historical mystery. I’ve seen the word vintage used for time frames 20 to 50 years ago, but my novel is only 13 years in the past. So, for now, I’ll tag my WIP as contemporary with a touch of things old-fashion.

     Thirteen years ago, Blockbuster stores were everywhere, but not today. Flat Screen TVs were available, but not widespread like now. Big Screen TVs were the norm in 2005. Cell phones were little fold-up phones, nothing like the Smartphones of today. I don’t think FaceTime had made an appearance and social media had not taken off (or over) like it has today.

     When writing in the past, even if not the historic past, it’s always important to write time-period appropriate. The clothes your character wears, the TV she watches, the political and social world of the time she lives in must be real. 

     So I am writing my second book set in 2005 while marketing my debut novel in a 2018 world heavy with social media, stumbling through blogs and forums, and wondering if I should also join Instagram and what is this Pinterest?

    My lead character in my Judy Kenagy mystery series, complains in A Promotion to Die For about all the new technology, oblivious to what the future holds for her. I wonder how she would’ve fared in current time. See the excerpt below from chapter one:

I stayed ensconced in my swivel chair, hammering away on my computer until disrupted by a buzz from my beeper. My husband’s phone number lit up on the tiny screen and I reached for the desk phone but stopped when a ringing tune shrilled from my purse on the floor. I pushed the chair back, bent down and fumbled for the jingling little phone, grabbed hold and yanked it from my purse—too hard. I lost my grip and watched it sail over my head landing with a thud on the thin carpet. I dropped on all fours and crawled under the desk.

Damn! When did it happen that people could find you anywhere at any time? Cell phones, beepers, e-mails. I was pushing fifty and couldn’t react as fast as I used to. I snatched the phone off the floor and opened it. “Dan. What?”

“What took you so long?”

“I dropped the…Oouch!”

“Judy, where are you?”

“I’m under my desk where the phone fell, and I hit my head. Give me a second.”

On my knees, phone in hand, I pushed the chair away from the desk and used the seat as a prop to get to my feet. “You beeped me and then called. I’m not a juggler.”

“Sorry,” he said.

“Just me, still adjusting to all this new technology.”

      Have any of you written novels set in the past where you were forced to change the world of your character to match the time frame? Or have you read books where you noticed the author making the adjustment? It’s critical to get it correct or you’ll lose your reader early on to lack of credibility.

     I’ve had fun with this part of writing my work-in-progress.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Paraprosdokians – A New Look at an Old Technique

by Janis Patterson
I’ll admit, I didn’t know what a paraprosdokian was until a friend sent me a list of them. She’s always sending me jokes and funnies and, I’ll admit, I laughed heartily on reading them. Then the writing brain took over (doesn’t it always?) and I read them again, finally realizing that they were a lesson all in themselves.
By definition, a paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect. Here are a few of the best ones :
-- I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn’t work that way, so I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.
-- I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather. Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.
-- To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.
-- A bus station is where a train stops. A railway station is where a train stops. My desk is a work station.
-- You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive more than once.
-- The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas.
-- To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.
-- Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
You see what I mean? Each starts out with a statement that gives you an idea – then the second part puts an entirely new spin on the idea, usually turning your perception of it 90 degrees in a different direction. In other words, a turning point.
In real life, with real people, I’ll bet that most of us like a smooth stream – learn, meet, love, prosper, happy every after with no catastrophes or dead bodies or evil villains or whatnot. Such a progression is comforting and happy – and boring, at least from a story point of view. In our books, whether mystery or sci-fi or romance or whatever, we love to torture our characters and that is best done by surprise and change.
The character we trust turns out to be the villain. The safe house isn’t. The clue that proves the hero innocent is false. (See where I’m going?) A single incident pops up and suddenly the entire story is careening off in a different direction. Could we call these ‘plot paraprosdokians?’ Sure – if we can remember that tongue twister of a word! (You’re on your own there.)
Sometimes these plot twists can happen in a single sentence. Or paragraph. Or, in some rare cases, a chapter or more. It depends, as so much does, on the style of the writer and on the story itself, But they must happen, or your story becomes a sweet, linear telling of events that have no excitement, no challenge, and very probably no real interest.
For example, Bob comes home from work and finds a dead body lying in his driveway. He calls the police. The police find he has nothing to do with the body. Bob goes on and lives his life. Snoooooooze! Even though, if I were Bob, that’s what I’d want to happen in real life, but it makes for a boring and unsellable story.
By contrast, Bob comes home from work and finds a dead body lying in his driveway. The body is that of a fraternity brother from his college days, one who ostensibly died years ago in a frat house. Also, unbeknownst to Bob, the body was Bob’s new wife’s brother.
See? You can go on and on, turning each plot twist in on itself, each time giving your story more depth and complexity, as well as more danger and higher stakes for your protagonist.
Deepen your plotting – become a practicing paraprosdokianist. I think I just broke my spell-check. Whether you can spell it or not, though it works. Give it a try.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Writing Life--or at least Mine

The downside:

It's hard work. If you are really serious about being a writer, you need to put your fanny in the chair and write on a regular basis.

If you have a big family like mine, sometimes it's difficult because I enjoy being with my family--and writing is a solitary task.

In my case, I do not make the amount of money that really pays for the time I spend writing and doing research.

When a new book comes out, a lot of time--and money--needs to be spent on promotion.

The upside:

I love writing--the creation of a new world and the characters in it. I love seeing what's going to happen to these people I've grown to love (or in some cases, hate.)

Having friends with lots of other writers--some have become best friends.

Making friends with lot of readers--again some have become best friends.

The opportunity to talk about my books to interested audiences.

Attending mystery conferences where I'm able to see my writing and reading friends.

And of course, I have a new book out that I'm busily promoting, Tangled Webs, #15 in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series.

Blurb: Too many people are telling lies: The husband of the murder victim and his secretary, the victim’s boss and co-workers in the day care center, her stalker, and Detective Milligan’s daughter.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Make Mine Mystery
October 5, 2018

Linda Lee Kane

I subscribe to the Fussy Librarian, and they sent out an article regarding, ‘The Readers Speak.’ They asked more than 1200 people about pricing, free ebook promotions, what makes them buy books, and what makes them stop reading book blurbs.
I thought the information was interesting enough to share with all of you, so here goes:
On Pricing
Let’s look at the one area that every author agonizes over-pricing. Also, known
 as: Are ebook readers cheap moochers who don’t care if I eat ramen noodles for the rest of my life or are they willing to pay a reasonable price for this book that consumed two years and caused my children to resent me?
Question: What do you think is a fair price for a full novel in ebook format, that pays an author well, but remains affordable?
All ebooks should be free: 6 percent
99 cents: 8.7 percent
$1.99: 11.8 percent
$2.99: 16.5 percent
$3.99: 20.6 percent
$4.99: 18 percent
$5.99: 11.6
More than $5.99: 6.4
If you think that people are willing to pay 4.99 and 5.99 for your book, you’ve written off 64% of your market.
Now if you’re a best selling author you can get away with much more but until than, be smart and sell at price points that appeal to the vast majority of your readers.
Next month I’ll talk about the Novella Market.