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24 posts from February 2010

02/26/2010

What I Like to Read: Dick Francis

I’ve read them all. I loved them all. I reread them from time to time. They’re like old friends. Life getting you down? Just grab a Dick Francis novel. The bad guys are bad, but the good guys always win. To the Hilt is my all time favorite.

What’s your favorite Dick Francis novel?
Is there anyone writing now that reminds you of his style?

02/24/2010

The book signing that didn't really happen, or did it?

So, I had a signing today at Beks. I was prepared. I had four door prizes. That's three more prizes than visitors and the visitor didn't enter the contest. I had a laptop displaying my website. Free bookmarks, an attractive book display, and a brand new Sharpie for signing.

My cousin, her daughter and all her middle school buddies came in for a quick visit.

My Aunt and another cousin stopped by and had lunch with me and stayed to visit. 

My trainer from the YMCA showed up for a quick visit and solicited a donation of books for the YMCA Auction. And I got a nice email from someone that was sorry they couldn't get away to attend.


Total for the day; 1 visiter that wasn't related to me, $50 bucks for lunch, appetizers and a tip, 3 books donated to a charity auction, and an hour and half to sit, visit and nibble and I didn't even have to feel guilty about it because I was supposed to be there just sitting, and visiting, and nibbling.


All in all, it was a nice little break in the day. 


Next time I'm gonna borrow a box of kittens from someone and sit outside Wal-Mart. :)

Join Me!

If you're in the area, join me at Beks on Court Street in Fulton, Missouri, today from 2:00 to 3:30. We'll talk about writing, or mysteries, and you can pick up a sneak peek of Murder at Timber Bridge. Or just have a late lunch at Beks.

02/23/2010

Tuesdays with Friends Introduces NJ Lindquist

N. J. Lindquist s  N. J. Lindquist is an award-winning writer, inspiring speaker, and popular writing teacher. Like fellow-Canadians Louise Penny and Giles Blunt, N. J. has an engaging writing style and a unique worldview. Her choice of setting is the city of Toronto, whose multi-cultural, eclectic nature is wonderfully reflected in her books.

Publishers Weekly called N. J.’s first Manziuk and Ryan Mystery, Shaded Light, “captivating,” and said she “updates the Golden Age template with modern police techniques. ” In reviewing Glitter of Diamonds, her second mystery, Library Journal called Lindquist a “master of plotting.” Midwest Book Review said, “Humor, complications, and characters so real that you can just about touch them and smell their sweat.”

 N. J. is currently working on her third mystery. She also has a number of short stories, several of which you can read on her website.

 Welcome N.J. and thanks for being my guest on Tuesdays with Friends.


 Tell me something about N.J Lindquist. For example, what do you like to do when you’re not writing, or conducting workshops?

 Read. Mostly mysteries of all types, but some fantasy, books by friends, books about writing… Use my Wii Fit programs. I love Wii Fit! Shop (for clothing, not food. My husband took over the meals about 9 years ago. So nice… J ) Watch baseball, curling, basketball. Listen to music. Watch the odd movie…especially comedies… the old ones.  

 Tell us a little bit about your Manziuk and Ryan mystery series?

 I’m a big fan of many of the “Golden Age” authors – Allingham, Christie, Heyer, Marsh, Rinehart, Sayers, Tey, Wentworth, et al. Basically authors who wrote in the 1920’s and 30’s. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a fan of all types of mysteries, but my favourite are the classic style, where there’s a puzzle to be solved and the reader tries to guess “whodunit” before the author reveals the truth. So, when I started writing a mystery, it seemed sensible to try to write in that style, but in today’s world.

 My first mystery actually started with my walking through a Japanese garden many years earlier, and thinking it would be a perfect setting for a body to be found. (Why I thought that, I don’t know, but I’ve read mysteries all my life, so….) Years later, when I decided to try my hand at writing a book, I remembered that garden, decided whose body would be found.

 I set the garden on an estate north of Toronto, owned by a successful corporate lawyer. I added a team of detectives I felt were realistic for the city of Toronto at that time—Paul Manziuk, a somewhat tired career cop, and Jacquie Ryan, a young black woman with an MA and a chip on her shoulder. I spent hours and hours and hours figuring out all the clues and alibis, and so forth. And when it was published, under the title Shaded Light, many reviewers, including Publishers Weekly, compared it to the best of Agatha Christie. What more could I ask for?

 For my second mystery, I thought about the phrase, “Write what you know.” Well, I’ve been a baseball fan all my life, so I decided I knew enough to write a mystery set in the world of baseball and the surrounding media. So Glitter of Diamonds, which also has Manziuk and Ryan in it, is about baseball and the influence of the media and the lure of fame. And it, too, has been compared to the Golden Age novels, by Library Journal and many other reviewers.

 You can meet Paul and Jacquie and read the first chapter of each of my mysteries at http://manziukandryan.com

 I saw on your website that you also write coming of age stories for teenagers. Can you tell us a little bit about those?

 I honestly don’t know why, but when I first sat down to write seriously, many years ago, the voice that came out was that of a teenage boy. I’d been teaching high school and I’d worked with teens in other areas, so I really was interested in them. Why a boy and not a girl, I’m not sure. I think it may have been because I thought boys were more interesting. Or maybe because I’d read Little Women, Little Men, and Jo’s Boys so many times.

 Anyway, I wrote two novels and a bunch of short stories, all from teen male perspectives, between the time I got married and the time the first of my four sons came along. And then my writing kind of ended for a while.

 Years later, when my youngest son was five, and I’d become frustrated trying to find really good books for my older sons—especially books with good role models—I pulled out my old stories. My first novel has actually never been published, but my second became the book, Best of Friends. It’s about a very average, ordinary teen who discovers that who you are inside is more important than who you are on the outside. I eventually wrote three more books about the same characters.

 My other teen novel is In Time of Trouble, and it’s about a very different teen who has really messed up his life and is wondering if everybody would be better off if he wasn’t around. My site for them is http://comingofagenovels.com/

 What’s the biggest difference between writing for the adult market and writing for the teen market?

 I’d say it’s probably harder to write for teens. Adults are more forgiving, more willing to make excuses. Teens tend to have a shorter tolerance.

 Do you have a favorite character? Come on you can tell us. We won’t think badly of you if you like one of your creations more than the others.

 Well, I have four sons, and they’re all my favourite, although for different reasons. But, to be truthful, I do have a favourite character: Shane, in In Time of Trouble. I modeled him after several students I taught in high school, and so in one sense he reminds me of those days. But a bigger reason is that there are so many people like Shane, who don’t really know who they are, who put up barriers (humour, rudeness, toughness, smart answers, indifference, etc.) as shields to protect themselves; who won’t allow other people to get close; and yet who have all kinds of talents and abilities. I wrote In Time of Trouble for those people, as well as to show that just because someone acts like a bully or a jerk doesn’t mean there isn’t a hurting child inside.   

 Who’s your favorite mystery author?

 Oh, there are so many! I’ll go by writers whose books I collect: Dead: Tie between Georgette Heyer, Dorothy Sayers, and Agatha Christie. Living: Tie between P. D. James, Donna Andrews, Robin Burcell, T. Jefferson Parker, and Peter Robinson. But I’ve read thousands of books, and there are many more I love.

 What do you like to read?

 Mysteries and more mysteries. I prefer those closest to the classic style. Not really into the very hard-edged or the very cozy. But if it’s well-written, I’ll read almost anything that’s called a mystery or a thriller. I also like some fantasy. My second son is a huge fantasy reader and he loans me the ones he thinks I’ll like. He’s also writing and one of these days he’ll have books out. I really like what he writes, too. J

 What authors have influenced you most in your writing career?

 Louisa may Alcott is number one. I read Little Women when I was eight, and I totally identified with Jo.

 I first read the stories of Hans Christian Anderson and the brothers Grimm when I was seven. I continued to read them through the years. Alice in Wonderland. A Child’s Garden of Verses. Peter Pan. I had very few books, so I read them over and over and over. I can’t say specifically how they influenced me, but I know they did, and I don’t know how I would have survived without them.

 I recently wrote an article about the importance of books in my life and got two awards for it. You can read it online at http://hotapplecider.ca/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/The-Diamond-Ring.pdf

 I started reading mysteries when I was about 9 or 10. Julie Campbell (who wrote a number of Trixie Beldon, Ginny Gordon, Cherry Ames, and other youth books) definitely made an impact. I related to those books in ways I never did to Nancy Drew. I identified with Trixie – believed she could be real. That’s how I try to write.

 I read all of Jane Austen’s books when I was about 12. Then Agatha Christie, Earl Stanley Gardner, and John Creasy. Then on to Emilie Loring, Dorothy Sayers, P. D, James, Desmond Bagley, Josephine Tey, Dick Francis, P. G. Wodehouse….

 I learned much of my history from authors such as Thomas Costain, Pierre Berton, and Louis L’Amour. Loved the plays of Anton Chekhov, George Bernard Shaw. Blown away by Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment which I read just after my first son was born. I’ll never forget the “oranges” story in John Steinbeck Grapes of Wrath or the true story of David Wilkerson in The Cross and the Switchblade.…

 I know they’ve all influenced my writing, but in subtle ways. I like to incorporate a mixture of everything. Life is never all somber, or all funny, or all deep, or all mundane. It’s a mixture. And I try to put that mixture in my books. So you have “real life” with it’s mixture of the simple and the complex, the profane and the sublime, the gritty and the humorous. And always, deeper meanings if you look for them.

 Believe it or not, many of the writers I’ve studied and loved are poets. I double-majored in English and psychology, and my area of choice was the 16th and 17th century! So Shakespeare, Milton, Donne, Herrick, Herbert, and many others. Totally into the metaphysical poets with their complex metaphors! J But I also loved Robert Browning, Robert Service, Robert Louis Stephenson, e.e. cummings…

 And I’d have to add Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Ian Tyson, and other songwriters. Blows me away how they can put a whole novel into two lines! Songs like “Kawliga,” “Apache Tears,” “Irving Berlin is 100 Years Old Today….” To get more recent, Johnny Reid’s “Kicking Stones.” Wow! I get a lot of ideas from songs. And I write with music playing. Songs, I mean; not just the music.

 What is the best writing advice you ever received?

 Way back in first year university, I got something like 45, maybe less, on my first essay in English and thought I was doomed. No one had ever taught me how to write an essay. I honestly had no clue. But in addition to the mark, the professor had written what I had done wrong, what I hadn’t done, what I had done right, etc. on the sides and back of the pages. On my second essay, I got 50. More writing. The third was 60. More writing, explaining to me what I was missing, and what was good. The fourth essay mark was 75.

And I never looked back.

 At the end of that year, I tied with one other person for the highest mark in first year English; and when I graduated two years later, I got the medal in English. All because someone showed me what I was doing wrong and encouraged me to do more of what I was doing right. So I learned that if I wasn’t doing something right, I could find out what I was missing and fix it.

 Later, I always asked to see the changes editors made in my work when they published it, so I could learn from them.

 What advice would give to a new author?

 1. Read good writing, books on writing, and whatever it is you most want to write.

 2. Try all kinds of types of writing. Don’t limit yourself out of the gate.

 3. Start small. Short stories, columns, articles, etc. Build up a resume and learn what you’re doing before you start a book.

 4. Join a professional organization for writers and get involved. You can learn so much more from people who are successful than you can from people who are also aspiring writers.

 5. Find someone you respect who can point out what you’re doing wrong and encourage you in what you are doing right. You might have to pay for this, but it’s usually worth it in the time and energy it saves you. An objective person who knows what to look for can spot things you might never see on your own: because we “know” what we’re trying to say, it’s very hard for us to see we haven’t quite said it.

 I blog on writing at http://www.writewithexcellence.com/

 What’s the one thing you wish someone had told you when you first started writing?

 "You’re a very good writer and you need to just keep writing, and try all kinds of things.”

 I was “writing” in my head before I went to school. But my English teachers throughout elementary school and high school, with (thankfully) a couple of exceptions, were quite rigid and had no appreciation for creativity. So I was the quiet, obedient student who never made waves, but locked my “real” self away. Later, as an English teacher myself, I tried so hard to encourage and excite my students. My parents were supportive, but I was an adopted child and they had no framework to understand me, so they couldn’t help in practical ways.

 If you were shipwrecked on a desert island and you could only have five things, what would they be and why?

 Well, besides lots of food and water, and things like combs and tooth brushes, and clothes, and blankets, and tools, and a first aid kit… A Bible. Maybe an AlphaSmart, because it runs on batteries. And some way of playing music. I could live without books (because I can make up stories all day), but I can’t live without music. And some way to exercise. A treadmill or stepper or a stability ball or at least a couple of handweights.

 Tell us a little bit about your newest book and when it’s coming out?

 Good question. I’m currently working on a memoir. Or I should say “trying to work on a memoir.” I’m hoping it will be done some time this year. I think this is the book I “have” to write to just get it done so I can get to all the other fun things. It’s basically about growing up gifted and creative with people who had no clue who I was or what to do with me. 

 I also have a fantasy for children that’s nearly done, and which I have no idea what to do with. My younger granddaughter, for a solid year, kept asking me to write something for “her age.” So I did. And now she wants a second one! 

 And I’m working on my third mystery, Opaque Rays—and I ache to just get lost in it. It will be another Manziuk and Ryan mystery, and it has another unique setting—a floor of a high-rise where a group of individuals live. All are over 75, and all have been involved in some aspect of the arts. In their retirement, they wanted to control their own destinies, so two of them built a high-rise with one floor designed with individual apartments plus a large lounge and dining room, with a live-in staff and other daily or weekly staff. When one of the residents is murdered, Manziuk and Ryan have to follow a trial that leads to events from the past. Or does it?

 I have a page on my Web site where you can check on my Works in Progress and see how they’re going. http://www.njlindquist.com/wips/

 Okay, last question. What’s something you’ve always wanted to talk about in an interview, but no one’s ever asked?

 Perhaps the role my husband plays. He’s been a huge support. My biggest fan. My first (substantive) editor. I’d likely have given up years and years ago, except he wouldn’t let me.

GD TP Sept 200 2 inch

 

Tuesdays with Friends Introduces Susan Whitfield

02/22/2010

Now Available in Multiple epub Formats

Where the Dreams End is now available in multiple epub formats. Just go to Smashwords and use coupon number VS52W and get $1.00 off on your purchase now through March 31st.

Nobody Told Me I had to Talk

I wrote a book. Okay I wrote several, but finally one of them was good enough to see publication. Yay for me. Whoo Hoo. Oh, wait, but now I have to promote the book. No promotion, no readers. No readers, no money. Okay, there's not much money to begin with, but there won't be any without book buyers, so I have to promote. Which means, I have to speak. In front of people. While they all stare at me and wait for pearls of wisdom to flow from my lips. Oh My God. I'm going to die.

 Look, put me in a room full of mystery readers and I can happily chat all night long. Stand me up in front of those same people and I can barely remain upright much less speak coherently. I'm not joking. I'd rather face down a cobra. People are scary. I know, I know, I'm a people too, but that doesn't help. Picture them in their underwear? No good. I'd just imagine that I was naked. Remember that everyone in the room is either a reader or writer. They're friendly, they're nice. Nope, no good. Still terrified. It's an unreasonable fear, but real nonetheless. Why, when I sat down to write seriously for the first time that many many years ago did not someone mention to me that the punishment for getting published was public speaking? It's just not fair.

So, my advice to young and not so young writers embarking on their career...Take Speach in high school. Take a public speaking course at the junior college, join Toastmasters. Do Something to familiarize yourself with public speaking. That knowledge will be worth it's weight in gold when you finally hold that completed book in your hands.

02/21/2010

Now Available in Multiple epub Formats

Where the Dreams End is now available in multiple epub formats. Just go to Smashwords and use coupon number VS52W and get $1.00 off on your purchase now through March 31st.

02/19/2010

The Winners

As promised here are the winners of the KdBlog Twitfic contest.

Carolyn

Elle Robb

Jennifer Bondurant

They were all excellent entries and I had a hard time choosing.

Thanks to everyone for joining in the fun.

KD

What I Like to Read: Sarah Andrews

I love Sarah Andrews. Her protagonist, Em Hanson, starts out as an oil company geologist and gravitates into a forensic geologist. And Sarah, is a forensic geologist, so Em and Sarah, know of what they speak. I know nothing about the oil business or geology, but Em is a woman after my own heart.

I think Tensleep is the first book in the series. Check it out, then grab the rest of them...Bet you can’t read just one.

02/17/2010

TwitFic Contest at KdBlog

Here's your chance to win a copy of my short story collection, Nine Kinds of Trouble. Just write a super short story, you know, something that would fit in a tweet. Lets call it TwitFic. (I didn't invent that name) Which sounds kind of cool if you know what Twitter is and kind of dirty if you don't. Post your stories in the comments. I'll announce a winner on Friday. Extra credit if you can make me laugh. Top three stories get a signed copy of Nine Kinds of Trouble.

Here's mine but I'm not in the contest. I already have a copy.

TwitFic: Beth lost her job. She was hired by her ex. He was still an ass. Now he's dead. Beth owns the store. The perfect crime?  THE END

02/16/2010

Tuesdays with Friends Introduces Stephen Liskow

Steve Liskow 9 Small  This week's Tuesdays With Friends Guest is Stephen Liskow. Welcome to KdBlog Stephen and thanks for stopping by.


Short and Sweet?

 “Well, short stories are easier because they’re shorter, right?”

 I wish.

 Most people probably think of a “writer” as someone who writes “books,” whole-length suckers you can put on the shelf and sort by title.  I do, too.  But I worked as hard on each of my published stories—and the novella coming out this summer—as I did on Who Wrote the Book of Death?, the novel which will appear in May.  I probably learned more, too. 

 That’s why I love short stories.

 By virtue of their brevity, I can try out a new idea or technique and see if it works in a few pages.  If it doesn’t, maybe I can learn how to fix it.  And that knowledge carries over to everything else, including novels, but without having to dump hundreds of pages that took a wrong turn.

 Every short story re-invents my personal wheel.  Whenever I think I’ve found the One Absolute Rule for short stories, the next one shatters it to dust.  But it always teaches me something else, even if it’s something as simple as “Don’t try that again, dummy.” 

 The one constant is SAVE EVERYTHING YOU WRITE.  My first published story languished for over two years because the opening telegraphed the ending.  When I finally found a better finish, I just changed a few details along the way and sent it out. 

 That story followed an early rule: no more than four scenes and characters, and it only covered a few hours in real time.  Hold that thought, OK?

 My next attempt needed ten scenes and eight characters.  It covered about two weeks, too.  The idea came to me in the voice of a mentally-challenged young man who blunders into the wrong place at a bad time.  I’d never tried writing in present tense, but the character insisted that that was how he talked.  The first draft was like pulling my ribs through my flesh, one at a time.  A year later, when my ribs healed, I sent it out.  Contest judges and—later—an editor agreed that it worked and I had two more tools on the bench: present tense and a new voice.

 That new voice told me to try a child’s vision next time.  That story returned to two scenes, four characters, and a time-lapse of less than two hours, but the eight-year-old narrator’s tale relies on his not understanding what’s going on around him.

 That little boy taught me irony.  He made me decide what I had to leave out—which meant that the details that I kept had to be specific and evocative.  Looking at a story in a new way taught me more valuable lessons.  By the way, that story is the only one I’ve ever written that seemed to work from the very start.

 In writing, you learn what you need to learn when you need it in order to write the story you want to write.  Say that five times fast. 

 The novella hammered home some of the same lessons: a story creates its own rules when you give it room to grow.  It started its life as an oft-rejected mystery with too many characters, too many scenes (Does this sound familiar?) and too many words for most of the markets.  Trying to cut scenes or characters to shorten it worked about as well as treating a bleeding head wound by putting a tourniquet around the victim’s neck.  The story violated all my shibboleths, but until the novella contest came over the horizon, doubling its already extreme length never occurred to me. 

 Making the story longer meant it needed more complexity, too, which is my most recent lesson.  If the reader knows where he’s going to end up, he won’t watch the scenery along the way.  Make him enjoy the whole evening instead of just cutting to the goodnight kiss.

 I’m now revising several stories that have hung around so long they smell funny.  Two of them have more complex endings and others have more texture.  They all work better. 

 Who Wrote the Book of Death? has two POV characters, and they both live in present tense.  Both have ironic facets and both hold back (or leave out) information as long as possible. How did those things happen?

 Like I said earlier, I love short stories.

 And I’m still learning.


Stephen Liskow resurrected his love for writing in grad school and wrote five unpublished novels, one of which is currently in rewrite and will head out into the agent world in the spring. He's experimented with romance, comedy and somewhat mainstream material but most of what he writes is crime fiction in one form or another. Three years ago he was challanged to write a romance that somehow morphed into Who Wrote the Book of Death? that will be out in May of 2010 from Mainly Murder Press. 


In Who Wrote The Book of Death? someone is trying to finish the author instead of the book.  When PI Greg Nines agrees to protect a woman from death threats, he assumes that her name isn’t really Taliesyn Holroyd.  Unfortunately, he also assumes she’s really a romance novelist with a book in progress.  She assumes he’s no longer drinking after his own wife’s murder.  What else they don’t know could bury them both along with the book.

Nines realizes he’s falling in love with a woman who doesn’t even exist, but unless he can find the truth hidden in a maze of suspects—an angry ex-husband, an asexual lottery winner, a college rapist, and a philandering politician with mis-matched eyes—nobody will have a happy ending.

02/15/2010

My Favorite Characters

I read a lot. Between ten and twenty books a month. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but a lot, so mediocre books disappear from mind fairly quickly overrun by the outstanding ones. The ones that hang with me. In my case, I'd like to say that the books that stick with me were highly regarded literary masterpieces, but really, they're not. They're the one's that make me laugh, not the one's that make me think. The characters from those books are the one's I'd like to hang out with. 

Number one on the list...

Harry Dresden from Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series. He's smart, funny, humble, he wears an awesome black leather duster, he doesn't take himself too seriously and he can do magic. I mean, this guy is perfect.

Next up....

Stephanie Plum. She's a walking disaster with a gun. Her mentor is cooler than 007, her on and off boyfriend is the hottest cop in Trenton. Her family is cracked. Her cars self destruct and her best friend is a retired ho. What's not to like.

Number Three...

Charlie Moon, James Doss's main character. Charlie is a seven foot tall indian. He's smart, cute, resourceful, manly and shy around women. Really, he's clueless around women. He adorable. If a seven foot Native American can be said to be adorable.

Four...Elvis Cole's sidekick, Joe Pike. He's dark, mysterious, quiet, sexy and scary.

Five...Spenser's sidekick, Hawke. He's dark, really dark, mysterious, quiet, sexy and scary.

Six...Stephanie Plum's mentor, Ranger. He's um dark, mysterious, quiet, sexy and um, scary. I'm kind of detecting a theme here.

Seven...Jack Reacher. I mean come on, Reacher pretty much invented mysterious, quiet, sexy and scary. 

These are the people that I want on my side in a fight. These are the folks I want to go out with for a beer. Except for Stephanie, these are the guys I want next to me when something goes bump in the night.

What about you? Who are the characters that stick in your mind long after the story is over? 

02/14/2010

RIP Dick Francis

51WJBFPAM0L._SL500_AA240_  When asked who my favorite mystery author is, my answer for the last dozen years has always been Dick Francis. That hasn't changed, and I doubt if it ever will, but Dick Francis has passed away, so a light has gone out in in the mystery world. For fans of his books, we can look forward to more stories from his son Felix, but it will never be quite the same. Rest in Peace Dick Francis. We have enjoyed your stories and you will be missed.

02/13/2010

I Miss Wide World of Sports

Every four years when the winter games roll around, I miss ABC's Wild World of Sports. Back in the day before everyone on the planet had cable and sports had their own channel, Sunday afternoons we had ABC Wild World of Sports. We saw downhill, slalom, ice skating, ski jumping, pretty much all the winter game sports. What was the result of this exposure? Well, when the games rolled around, I knew who the best skiers in the world were. I knew who the best skaters in the world were because I'd heard all those names before and had seen them compete. I knew who to watch and consequently, I enjoyed the games more. 

Don't get me wrong, I like sports channels, but I miss those little glimpses into the oddball sports that I used to get back in the day when Wide World of Sports was on right before Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom and The Wonderful World of Disney. 

02/12/2010

What I Like to Read: James Doss

I really like Charlie Moon. He’s the Ute special investigator featured in James Doss’s Charlie Moon mysteries, but I love Charlie’s Aunt Daisy. She’s feisty, funny, grumpy and she’s a Shaman. She makes the story. Do yourself a favor and start with the first book in this series. You’re not going to want to miss a minute of Aunt Daisy.

02/09/2010

Tuesdays with Friends Introduces Suzanne Adair

Suzannebiopic

 This week’s Tuesdays with Friends guest is award winning author, Suzanne Adair. Suzanne, a native Floridian now transplanted to North Carolina, writes a historical mystery series set against the backdrop of the Revolutionary War. Her new latest book, Camp Follower was released in 2008.

KdBlog: Welcome Suzanne and thanks for being my guest on Tuesdays with Friends.

 SA: Thanks, KD. It's good to be here.

 KdBlog: I read that you are a Revolutionary War reenactor. My area of the country is full of Civil War reenactors, but we’re a little too young for the Revolutionary War. Tell us how you got involved with that?

 SA: One of my writing goals is to get inside my characters' heads. Early into my research for the first book, Paper Woman, I realized how much convenience and accessibility underpin my culture and shape my values and reactions. In twenty-first century America, most of us have cell phones, indoor plumbing, central heat and/or air conditioning, refrigerators, and automobiles. If I'm hungry for an omelet, I buy eggs, cheese, mushrooms, and onions from the grocery store. I don't have to maintain a henhouse and collect eggs every morning, or milk a cow and make cheese, or grow vegetables — although I do plant a summer veggie garden, so I have an idea of how much work it takes to grow your own food.

 During the Revolutionary War, very little was convenient or accessible. Danger and scarcity shaped decisions, especially for the middle and lower classes. If I wanted to get inside my characters' heads and create believable fiction about people who lived more than 225 years ago, I'd have to do more than read books and interview subject matter experts. I'd have to learn what clothing of the era felt and how I'd move in it. I'd have to learn what everyday challenges someone from that time faced, how their world smelled, felt, tasted, and sounded. So I became involved in Revolutionary War reenacting.

 My family and I spend a typical reenacting weekend at a site of a battle camped in white canvas army tents with no mosquito screens. We're dressed in eighteenth-century clothing made of natural fibers such as wool or linen. Our menu is limited to what would have been eaten back then and what we can prepare over a wood fire, and on occasion we eat scorched food. Sometimes we have access to running water. Rarely do we have access to flush toilets.

 I infuse my writing with the sensory impressions that I've gained from reenacting. Reenacting does give me a ballpark idea of the conditions our foremothers and forefathers encountered. But it's sobering to remember that the experiences I have in the course of a weekend are what people during the Revolutionary War endured 24/7. Those were some hardy folks.

 By the way, reenacting is also great fun!

 KdBlog: Tell us about Suzanne Adair. What do you like to do when you’re not writing or reenacting?

 SA: Read, dance (especially classical ballet), cook, garden, hike, bicycle, listen to music, and learn. I love to learn.

 KdBlog: Your interest in reenacting probably made the research for your series a lot easier. What’s the hardest part of writing a historical mystery series?

 SA: The first draft.

 KdBlog: What do you like best about writing historical mysteries.

 SA: I don't have to include modern technology and forensics details like DNA evidence or even fingerprints. I can focus on characters, their relationships, and how their thoughts, feelings, and reactions help them solve the mystery. And I can explore how they would have dealt with emotional and physical traumas and threats without the help of modern psychology.

 KdBlog: Who’s your favorite mystery author?

 SA: Gosh, do I have to pick just one?

 KdBlog: What authors have influenced you most in your writing career?

 SA: Robert Louis Stevenson, Daphne du Maurier, the Brontë sisters, Rudyard Kipling, Edgar Allan Poe, Victor Hugo, D.H. Lawrence, H.P. Lovecraft, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Arthur Conan Doyle.

 KdBlog: What is the best writing advice you ever received?

 SA: Never stop looking for ways to improve your craft. Persevere.

 KdBlog: What advice would give to a new author?

 SA: Be clear with yourself about the goal for your writing. If your goal is just to sell books, your path will yield different results than the path to becoming acknowledged as a professional author. You cannot easily jump from one path to the other.

 KdBlog: What’s the one thing you wish someone had told you when you first started writing?

 SA: "Don't sweat the rejections. It'll be almost 40 years before you're published." (I was in second grade when I first started writing.)

 KdBlog: Tell us a little bit about your newest book, Camp Follower?

51gMc59lwbL._SS500_   SA: First,here's the description from the Kindle edition: As the year 1780 draws to a close, the publisher of a loyalist magazine in Wilmington, North Carolina offers an amazing assignment to 29-year-old Helen Chiswell, his society page writer: pose as the widowed, gentlewoman sister of a British officer in the Seventeenth Light Dragoons, travel to the encampment of the British Legion in the Carolina backcountry, and write a feature on Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton. But Helen's publisher has secret reasons for sending her into danger. And because Helen, a loyalist, has ties to a family mistaken by the redcoats for patriot spies, she comes under suspicion of a brutal, brilliant British officer. Filled with action, mystery, and suspense that climax at the Battle of Cowpens, Camp Follower is the story of a woman forced to confront her past to save her life during the American War for Independence.

I pulled together the subplots for Camp Follower from a number of sources. First of all, the commander of the British Legion, Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton, has often been demonized by American historians, so I thought it would be an interesting twist to follow a story from the point of view of a loyalist and, in particular, show Tarleton and the Legion through the eyes of someone who was on their side of the conflict. Also, in Paper Woman, a character named David St. James admits that he killed a man years earlier in a duel over the man's wife. Dueling was illegal in the late 18th century, but many who engaged in it got away with it, and I was curious to explore how this character escaped being charged with murder. In addition, I was curious how a woman of the 18th century dealt with the psychological traumas of being sold to a rich merchant to be his wife, and how she would manage a repressed memory of abuse as a young girl. Finally, armies provided the greatest source of protection for people in most areas during the Revolutionary War, so many civilians followed the army as artisans, sutlers, and retainers. Such a lifestyle was grueling, and when an army was defeated in battle, as the British Legion was during the Battle of Cowpens (January 1781) (www.nps.gov/cowp/index.htm), its civilian followers often suffered terribly or died. I wanted to examine the plight of those brave civilians.

 KdBlog: Would KdBloggers need to read the series in order to understand what’s going on?

 SA: No.

Suzanne, thank you so much for joining us her on KdBlog today. My favorite thing in the world is to find a new author to add to my TBR pile. Now I have three new stories waiting for me. Thanks for being a Tuesday Friend and feel free to stop in again sometime.


 

 

02/08/2010

Writing With Family

I wrote my first novel on a computer that was so slow, it would have been faster to write it out long hand, but I wouldn't have been able to read the result. Since the book was total drivel, that might not have been a bad thing. At the time, I was working two full time jobs, my kids were in elementary school and my mother was living with us during the week so someone would be home with the kids, make sure they got fed, bathed and put to bed sometime before midnight. I came home, ate whatever my mom put in front of me and sat down at the computer. She read or watched TV and I'd brainstorm scenes with her. She read my finished pages, ridiculed the fact that I didn't know how to format my dialogue, proofread, critiqued, and made me get better. The book was still dreck. I still have it, but before I die I'm going to burn it so no one else ever sees it.

The next four books were written on a slightly better computer tucked into the corner of my bedroom. There was a window next to my desk. It leaked cold air and in the winter I needed fingerless gloves to type, a blanket to bundle up in and frequent breaks to walk around and warm up. I was only working one miserable job at the time, so I came home from work, fixed dinner, trotted the kids to whatever activities they had going at the time and dreamed of the day they would be able to drive themselves and I could come home and write. I know now that that dream was somewhat flawed, because having a teenage driver brings with it a whole new host of problems, but at the time, it seemed like it would be an answer to my prayers.

While I wrote, the kids clattered about the house. They came in my room, flopped on my bed and watched television. They told me about their day, and I read them bits of dialogue. From time to time I'd print out a page and have them read it. They would eventually yell goodnight and the thumping of their music, guitars or fights would disappear and I would write in silence until the wee hours of the morning. Waking the next day, grouchy, late and sleep deprived so I could do it all over again. I did that for five or six years. The boys grew up enough to drive themselves, and I had more uninterrupted time to write. I got to bed slightly earlier and was able to get through my days slightly less sleep deprived, but I didn't get much more writing done. My bedroom was still home central. The kids still flopped down in there when they got home. They told me about their day. I shared dialogue and pages. They critiqued, told me when the teenagers in my story were totally wrong. I emailed pages to my mom and she still performed her critiques, and brainstorming sessions. Sometimes electronically, sometimes by phone. I had a new dream. I dreamed of the day I wouldn't have to work. The time when I could get up in the morning and write until my fingers fell off. No interruptions, no sleep deprivation. It was my version of heaven.

I have a job now that allows me to work between six and eight months a year. My summers are spent at home. My kids are grown, one in the Navy, one married and moved to his own home. My mother has gone on to the great library in the sky and I can now write as much as I want. All day, all night. No interruptions. No schedules. My dream has come true. Sort of.

My room is quiet. Oh, the cat wanders in from time to time for a pat on the head and a little nap, but it's quiet here. I can get up in the morning and sit down at the computer and write. It's perfect. It's wonderful. It's boring, and quiet, and I get less writing done now than I did when I worked multiple jobs and chased kids and dogs out of the room when I had a difficult bit of dialogue that was driving me to distraction. Unlike Stephen King, I write with the door open, but now no one comes through. It's hard. It's lonely and it's taken me years to learn how to get things done without the bedlam of family bouncing around me. I'm getting there, but I can't wait to have grandchildren traipsing around my writing space, interrupting me and feeding the dog Crayons. I write best with family.

What about you? Is your writing time sacrosanct? Do write on a schedule and stick to it religiously? Tell me how you write. Maybe I'll pick up a tip that will help me figure out how to write without family.

02/05/2010

Facelift!

Facelift!
KdBlog is in the middle of a little facelift. Check it out and see what you think. kdblog.kdwrites.com.

What I Like to Read: Nancy Martin

Make an acquaintance with the Blackbird sisters if you haven’t done so already. They have everything, style, sex appeal, scandal, a mob connection, murder. What more could you ask for from a mystery protagonist? Nancy is also one of the booktarts over at TLC. Check out her books and visit TLC, you’ll thank yourself, I promise. The first book in Nancy's new series, Our Lady of Immaculate Deception will launch on March 2nd. It promises to be a romping good time, don't miss out.

02/04/2010

I Heart Gary Corby!

If you use MSWord for your manuscripts, check out these two posts, http://tinyurl.com/y8rhjmb and http://tinyurl.com/ye6fsw9
I've just bookmarked his blog.

02/03/2010

Tape to Disc to Electronic File

The progression of my entertainment media.
It occurs to me that twenty-five years or so ago, I replaced my favorite albums with cassette tapes. A few short years after that, I replaced my cassette tapes with CD's and in the last few years I purchased many of those same albums in MP3 format so I could listen on my iPod. And now, I'm starting the same thing over with my books. Over the years I've replaced my very favorite paperbacks with hardback copies because they hold up better for multiple reads. Now I've purchased many of those same books in electronic format so I can read them on my Kindle and iPhone. I've played the same tape to dvd to electronic format game with my movies as well. The publishing business isn't making a huge new change, it's just late to the party the rest of the entertainment business has already gone through. Why am I so slow to pick up on this? No idea. That's rather perturbing actually.

02/02/2010

Tuesdays with Friends Introduces Helen Dunn Frame

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Today's guest on Tuesdays with Friends is Helen Frame. Helen's a businesswoman with lots of experience in professional correspondence and today, she's going to share what it takes to write a successful business letter. If you are a writer in the 'search for an agent' stage, a successful writer corresponding with booksellers or editors, or just someone who wants to keep your family up to date on what's happening in your life, this is excellent information. Thanks for being a Tuesday Friend for KdBlog, Helen.



CREATING LETTERS THAT GARNER RESULTS     

 by Helen Dunn Frame

Years ago a friend whose second language was English often asked me to write letters for her. Whether it was to her insurance company, some religious leader, or the Governor of Texas, she always received a reply, usually a personal one.  In her eyes I was an expert.

 Long before I met this friend and personal computers replaced typewriters, I composed letters to my family to keep them up-to-date about my life.  In essence they were blogs before the term was created.  I used to send one relative the original and the others carbon copies, rotating who won the more legible ones.  Now I plan to start a personal blog about my adventure living in Costa Rica.  The goal: establish myself as an expert before completing Doctors, Dogs and Pura Vida.  Targeted readers are Baby Boomers who might find my “glimpses of life in Costa Rica” a helpful source for planning for retirement or at least for purchasing a vacation home.

 Writing a blog to get a following has become an important marketing tool.  Creating effective letters still helps to sell a manuscript or finished product, whether it is a query to a publisher, an appeal for a book signing, or a request for a review. 

 It still amazes me how many marketing letters or notices from organizations, often from a top executive, begin: “I would like to tell you . . .?”  Do you really care what the egotist wants you to know?  Frankly most of these letters end up in the trash unread.

 Bottom line, it can’t be emphasized enough that you keep the word “I” to a minimum.  Think in terms of the reader whose “I” is the most important one.  Not yours. Especially avoid starting a paragraph with an “I”.  Proofread the letter to make sure the number of times you use an “I” is minimal and absolutely necessary.

 For example, instead of opening the letter as mentioned above, hook the reader.  You may find that asking a question proves a fantastic beginning. “How do you get a book signing in June?”  Follow it with the answer, “You have a wedding in your book.”  This means, of course, that you thought ahead to logically include events in your book that enable you to market it more easily.  The wedding in my mystery Greek Ghosts was an integral part of the story, not contrived, and enabled me to have a book signing in June, the third event at the same store.

 Keep your letter to one page.  Write short sentences and paragraphs that keep the reader wanting to read the next one.  Use simple rather than complex words because not all members of your audience have college degrees.  Even educated people appreciate easily read and understood pieces. Finally, have an odd number of paragraphs.  For some reason, that incites the recipient to respond.   Don’t ask me why, but an even number psychologically suggests closure with no reply necessary.

 Just as you do in your manuscript, think action verbs and eliminate passive phrases like “There is . . .”   Use different words rather than repeat the same one, especially within one paragraph.  The title of your creation is different. After carefully devising it so it captures attention, repeat it where logically possible to promote recall.

 Also, check for certain words like “is” or “be” and other words you use a lot. Substitute action words wherever possible unless no other one makes sense.  Don’t create a convoluted sentence.  Finally, if you have a widow, a one word line, at the end of a paragraph, eliminate it.

 Set your letter aside for a couple of days after it feels finished.  Later read it like an editor.  You’re libel to exclaim, “Did I write that?”  Your response might indicate it was well done, or not.  Remember, even one typo can turn your reader off. Ask someone else to check it because another person is apt to catch errors. While computer programs have spelling and grammar check tools, keep in mind, you have to know grammar and how to spell to be sure you should change something.

 Finally, many good letters fail because the writer didn’t ask the reader to buy.  What results do you want?  Most likely a positive response like my friend received. Ask for it!



Helen Dunn Frame is an accomplished businesswoman whose professional writing skills and love of travel culminated in the fascinating mystery GREEK GHOSTS in which threads of her experiences have been woven.

In Costa Rica, where she has spent most of her time since 2005, she has had a number of writing projects including creating a second book in the mystery series, and an anecdotal book to help baby boomers research retiring in the country. In 2008, Helen was Editor of Coldwell Banker Costa Rica's Vista Magazine that utilized her writing, public relations, and real estate experiences.

Living abroad and traveling extensively in 50 countries, as well as having a Master's Degree in Sociology from New York University, has given Helen a deep appreciation for the value of diverse cultures. A graduate of the Journalism School at Syracuse University, she has been published in major newspapers and magazines as well as trade publications in the United States, England, and Germany.

Email Helen at: helen@helendunnframe.com

Website: www.helendunnframe.com

02/01/2010

Stop by KDBlog Tomorrow

And meet Tuesdays with Friends guest, Helen Dunn Frame.