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41 posts categorized "Writing"

08/22/2010

Killer Nashville Notes

Killer Nashville is over for another year. This was my first trip and I really enjoyed it. I met some great people and if I managed to make it home with all my business cards and swag, I hope to connect with them online so we can get better acquainted. Coral, if you're reading this email me. I lost you after the Jeffrey Deaver interview. Anyone that I met up with, that doesn't hear from me should stalk me on facebook or twitter because I suck at keeping track of all the cool cards that I pick up.

I did my first author panel. I didn't embarrass myself. I didn't fall out of my chair or trip on my way to the front of the room. I didn't spill my beverage or knock anyone's books off the table. For me, I call that a rousing success. The guys on the panel, J Michael Orunduff, Alan Ansorge, Bill Moody, A. Scott Pearson and our moderator, Don Bruns, didn't have any idea what kind of danger they were in. I'm glad to be able to report that we all survived. We had a great crowd. I'm sorry it wasn't bigger, but our room was about three miles away from the rest of the conference. There may still be some attendees wandering aimlessly through the halls of the Marriott looking for us. I hope someone finds them before they run out of food or water.

I had a really good time. Hope to meet up with some of my new acquaintances at Bouchercon by the Bay in San Francisco.

Here are some random thoughts on my first trip to Killer Nashville.

Random thought #1--With a look, wink, smile or simple tip of the hat, Southern men have the ability to make a woman feel beautiful. This is a talent that should be cultivated worldwide.

Random thought #2-- Clay Stafford, Beth Terrell-Hicks and all of the volunteers that make Killer Nashville happen are some of the nicest people ever and do a great job with their writing conference.

Random thought #3-- Killer Nashville is suffering from a few growing pains. The volunteers did a great job of making things work anyway. It's a great problem to have.

Random thought #4--Booksellers are some of my very favorite people

Random thought #5--Jeffrey Deaver is a very funny guy. Really enjoyed hearing him speak.

Random thought #6--Don Bruns has a lovely singing voice.

Random thought #7--Sperry's where we had the conference dinner serves fantastic food, but the room was way to small for our group. Just another sign of growing pains.

Random thought #8--I love sitting around visiting with other writers. Published, self published or unpublished, it's all great.

Random thought #9--Graham Brown is very entertaining, will have to try and get him to guest blog.

Random thought #10--I can't believe how tired sitting, talking, listening and buy books can make you. Maybe I'm getting too old for writing conferences. 

08/05/2010

Reaching Beyond the Borders

How do you build a readership? Agents tell you to start a website even before you are published. So I started KdWrites. Step One--Check

Next start a blog. Talk about whatever you want. Let people know who you are and what you do. If your blog is entertaining you can gain readers. So I started KdBlog.  Step Two--Check

Get into social media. Get your name out there. Make friends. Reconnect with old friends. So I opened a Facebook account, KD Easley, and a Twitter account, KdWrites. Step Three--Check  Then I took it a step further and joined Crimespace, Goodreads, Grouply and AuthorsDen. These sites skew to readers and that's my target audience. Step Three point one--Check

I've joined listservs for writing groups like Sisters in Crime and the Guppies. If you google my name, the names of my books or the names of my website or blog, the results come up with me. All Me! Quite validating to wander around the internet and find yourself. If you're feeling down, jump in and try it. So we'll call that Step Three point two--Check.

So, I've followed the guidelines. I've got my name out there. I'm making friends. I'm talking about books, commenting on other blogs. And if I'm not careful I can spend all my time flitting from site to site and never have any time to write. But here's the Question...Does it sell books?

Yes...and No.

I have sold a few books through my online contacts. I've made friends with some readers and that's been wonderful, but mostly it seems I've built a large incestuous group of writer friends. We talk about each other's books, we blog about each others books, we visit each other's blogs, we interview each other and it's all a great deal of fun, but we seem to be preaching to the choir. We're all writers and that means we are all readers, but it's a fairly small group of people considering the size of the online community and it doesn't seem to get our work out in front of readers that aren't writers and I for one don't know how to fix that. What am I missing in my social networking that will break me free of my tiny little corner of the writing world and send me out beyond the borders where the rest of the readers live?

Tell me what we need to be doing differently. Joe Konrath has done it brilliantly so I know it can be done. Any ideas KdBloggers?

07/19/2010

Locked Doors and Dead Ends

I'm working on the second book of a series I never intended to write. My main character, Brocs Harley is a repo man who got caught up in an ugly situation when his little brother is murdered. That book was called Where the Dreams End, and it was Brocs' story start to finish. A vignette into the darkest time in his life and how he dealt with it. Those that have read it, liked it. They liked the character and wanted to see him again. Hence the reason I've started working on book two in the Repo Man Series. The series that wasn't supposed to happen. 

I'm thrilled that readers want to see more of Brocs, but I locked a few doors and blocked off a few roads in book one and I'm paying the price now. As I run story lines through my head, trying to figure out how to motivate my repo man into investigating another murder, I find that I don't have as many routes available as I could have. There are just some things I can't explore because of what has already happened in book one. It's making this story a bit hard to tell.

Book one of the Randi Black Mysteries, Murder at Timber Bridge, was set up as a series. From the very first I knew that there was more to Randi than one story, and there are clues to the future in book one. Little hints of mystery or tragedy to come. I didn't kill off anyone important to the future of the series, I didn't block off any roads or lock any doors. I can take Randi anywhere. The difference, Book two in the series is in edit, book three is started, books four and five are roughly outlined. It's a fun road to travel with Randi and her family. Brocs, not so much.

For one thing, Brocs is a much darker character, his baggage is a lot heavier than Randi's. Things that work in Alden for the Randi stories won't work in Stantonville with Brocs. If I had known Where the Dreams End was a series book when I first sat down to write it, I would have done some things differently, but there you go, I didn't, and I didn't.

How about you? Have you ever looked at a story line while you were writing and realized something you were getting ready to do was going to limit what might come later? Did you plan a series from the start? How much leeway does an author have with readers if you choose a road the really shouldn't be available because of what has happened before? Will readers give you some slack, or will you destroy their trust and lost them?

I've been pondering some of these questions as I try to figure out where Brocs is going in his latest adventure, The Sins of My Father. What motivates him? Why does he care so much? What can happen to him at this point in his life to make him risk it for an investigation?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on any of these questions. Drop in and tell me what you think.

06/08/2010

Tuesdays with Friends Introduces Dorothy Francis

EdenPalmsMurderfront  Today's guest on Tuesdays with Friends is Dorothy Francis. Dorothy is a teacher and a musician from Iowa by way of Kansas and California. She's the author of 74 children and adult books and has no plans to stop writing any time soon. Visit Dorothy on her website dorothyfrancis.com and join Kdblog as Dorothy's shares with us her first steps into the world of publishing. Thanks Dorothy for being a Tuesday Friend.


MY FIRST STEPS IN THE PUBLISHING WORLD

One September many years ago school was starting WITHOUT ME.  I was no longer a student.  Or a teacher.  I was about to become a stay-at-home mom.  Only such women weren’t called that in those days.  Housewife was the word.  My husband had recently been discharged from the army and we were lucky that he had a teaching job. So far he had no paycheck.  This fateful day I’m writing about, he was at school and I went to the only place I could afford—the public library.

 I picked up a magazine from a reading table. “The Writer.” I’d never seen this magazine before and I glanced at the articles telling would-be writers how to write.  I’d never considered writing until I read an article concerning Richard Armor.  I recognized that name because my parents for years had subscribed to “The Saturday Evening Post,” “The Wall Street Journal,” The American Magazine.”  I’d grown up reading humorous quatrains by Richard Armor.

 And today in the public library, I learned that people GOT PAID for writing this kind of light verse.  Hmm, I thought.  I can do that.  I won’t say I memorized that article, but I read it very carefully and I copied down the market listings that the article mentioned. That night after supper I started writing.

  “What are you doing?”  My husband asked.

  “Writing a poem,” I replied.

  He sighed. “As soon as I get a paycheck, we’ll buy a TV.”

  “Really?” 

 TVs were in their early stages of availability, and although I was impressed with his promise, I continued writing my quatrain.

 We did own a typewriter, so I typed my quatrain double spaced.  That was one of the rules I gleaned from “The Writer.”  Write on only one side of the page didn’t apply to my situation.

 So I mailed the quatrain in to “The American Legion Magazine.”  In a short time (really, that’s true—a short time), I received an acceptance letter and a check for $10.  I thought that was the way the writing world worked.  You sent something in and soon you received a check.  No getting half of the $10 upon signing a contract.  No waiting until publication to get the other half of the $10.

 I hurried to the bank and cashed that check before someone changed their mind. My husband’s comment was “hmmmm.  Better write them another one.”

 And so I did.  But although I never received another $10 for just 4 lines, I did receive $5 for 4 lines from “The Wall Street Journal.”  When I told my dad, he said, “Hmmm.”  Don’t think he believed me until I clipped one of my WSJ quatrains out and showed it to him.  He said, “Hmmm.”  Don’t think he’d ever bothered to read the “Pepper and Salt” column.

 Lack of family interest didn’t dissuade me. I continued writing, gave up quatrains as I took tenuous steps into children’s short stories for Sunday school papers, and then took a major step into book publishing.  But that’s another story.

 Please let me add that the writing world had changed since I began back in the 1950s.  So far, I’ve never received total payment for anything upon signing the contract.  And now my author’s handbook tells me to promote my own books.  The author of that handbook had never met my mother who said, “Dorothy, you never need to brag.  It’s unbecoming.  It’s an embarrassment.  If you’ve done something wonderful, people will notice without your telling them.”  I hope Mother never learns that I PAID for a website to call attention to the wonders of my writing.

But that, too, is another story.

04/19/2010

Is it Nature or Nurture?

My son is my webmaster, computer guru and all round geek in residence. I also bounce ideas off of him from time to time, or discuss methods of committing crime. For the books, you know. Not for real. I promise.  

Even though he doesn't still reside under my roof. He and his wife do still come over for dinner sometimes. So we can still get that dinner time family dynamic going from time to time. The other night as we were eating, the conversation turned to a short story I was working on, then moved on to an idea I had, then switched over to ways to kill people, how and where to hide bodies, and finished off with how you could commit a murder and get away with it. The conversations wound down and in the quiet my son looked up and said, we have some really sick dinner conversations. That made us all laugh.

I started writing mysteries when my kids were in middle school. They've read, proofread and approved or disapproved my writing since they were too young to understand the juicy parts. They grew up discussing murder and mayhem over dinner. My daughter-in-law did not. She's fitting in pretty well, though. Bless her heart. She's even joined in the family business by dropping in a suggestion of her own from time to time. At home these conversations aren't a problem, at a restaurant, they can get you some funny looks. I just pray if anyone I know or am related to is ever the victim of a crime, the police don't confiscate my computer. If they went back over my web searches, I'd be tried and found guilty on the spot. Hey, I write books where the good guys always come out on top, but in real life, I wouldn't want to count on it. 

So what do you think, is this passion for crime I now share with my children a case of nature or nurture. I used to think it was all genetic. I mean, we do share other traits as well, but lately, with the addition of my son's sweet wife, I'm beginning to think anyone can be pushed into a life of crime. Even if it's virtual.

04/12/2010

What Makes You Say No Thanks?

I love mysteries. Hard boiled, traditional, police procedurals, amateur sleuths, series or stand alone, but I hate psychological thrillers. I can't stand that nagging tension that won't go away. The twisted mind of the killer gets inside me and makes me uncomfortable. I can't sit still, I don't want to read, and I feel like if I put the book down it will keep chasing after me. I feel the same way about Psycho thriller movies. I don't like the dark cinematography, the quick scene flashes, all those things designed to heighten the tension. I hate it, I won't watch it and I won't read it. It just creeps me out. 

There you now know what makes me say no thanks, well most of it. I don't like it when they kill or torture the dog, cat, bunny, child. And I don't like gratuitous violence, or graphic sex in books or movies. Hey, my imagination can take care of the violence, and well, the sex to as far as that goes. I know where tab A and slot B fit together, I can supply the pieces, just get me in the place.

Now, tell me what turns you off, stops you cold, makes you toss the book into the trash. Come on, I told mine, don't leave me here hanging all by myself. Tell you what, you share, and I'll see that one lucky commenter gets a KdBlog prize pack just for keeping me from hanging out here all by my lonesome.

04/05/2010

Reading As A Writer

I read. I am a reader. Most writers are readers. There's no better way to learn the nuts and bolts of your craft than reading. Immerse yourself in the genre that you write in. Read voraciously. I've been doing this since I learned to read. I've read a lot of books and I've especially read a lot of mysteries. I am a reader.

I am a writer. I write. I write blog posts, I write short stories and I write novels. So what? What does that have to do with reading? Well, everything. You can't really have one without the other. But once you are a writer, you read a little differently. I read books because they fuel my imagination. No movie producer ever made a picture that is as good as the ones I make in my head. But now days, because I write, I also notice little things that wouldn't have bothered me before. Like echos.

An echo is a word that's used too often or too close together. Twice in the same scene, or on the same page, or if it's a very distinctive word, more than once in the same book. An echo can also be a phrase used over and over. Another thing I notice, is cliché's.

"It was as dark as midnight." Maybe it was, but isn't there a better way to say that? The best one I ever read, and I can't remember now what book it was in, but it was a hardboiled classic. The writer said, "It was a dark as a sack full of assholes." It made me laugh, and I had no doubt that character was in a seriously dark place.

Poor sentence structure jumps out at me now. If a sentence reads awkward, it bounces me write out of the story as I try to reword it so it flows more smoothly. It knocks the reader out of the way and brings out my inner editor.

Adverbs. According to popular belief in writing circles. Adverbs are the devil's spawn. I don't believe they should be banned from use, but they need to be used with care. 

Overused words. Really, back, walked, shrugged, leaned. If overused, they become meaningless. That's another thing that brings out my inner editor.

Dancing eyeballs. I'm guilty of using these myself, but rolling eyes, or dropped eyes, are bad and painful to the characters I would imagine.

There are a million and one little things that I catch when I read now. Not all of them bad. Sometimes a beautiful phrase, or a perfect scene will make me stop and long to write so well. An amazing first sentence can make me a fan forever, but now I deconstruct and try to figure out how I could write something that would draw the reader into my story so quickly.

I still enjoy reading. I still read more than a book a week. I can still lose myself in a story, so becoming a writer with a busy inner editor hasn't reduced my love of the written word, but it has made me less inclined to finish every book I start. If an author hasn't grabbed my by the end of the first chapter, I'm not going to keep reading. If the writing is awkward, I'm not going to keep reading. I'm pickier about what I read, and less tolerant of poor writing, but now when a writer makes me smile, or cry, or laugh out loud, I feel like I've been given a gift. And sometimes, I feel like I should just pack up my keyboard and give it up, because I can never write that well. But instead of giving in to that urge, I work harder on my craft. In the end, it makes me a better writer.

Writer's write, but they also read.

If you're a reader, tell me what writer moves you the most. If you are a writer, who is it that makes you want to pack up your keyboard and just give up. I'll start. Julia Spencer-Fleming. I love her books. Love them. Can't wait for the next one to be released. I read them and reread them, and every time I read her work, I sigh in despair, because if I write until I'm 90, I don't think I'll ever be able to write and beautifully or as well.

Share your favorite writer, I'll send one lucky commenter a KdBlog trinket or two. And if I'm lucky, I'll find a bunch of new authors to add to my TBR pile.

03/30/2010

Tuesdays with Friends Introduces Kevin Hogan

Today's Tuesdays with Friends guest is, Kevin Hogan, a single dad working to make it as a freelance writer. Today he shares with us the difficulties of breaking into the freelance writing market. Thanks for being our guest today at KdBlog, Kevin.

BREAKING INTO THE FREELANCE WRITING MARKET

There is a blank screen staring at me when I wake each morning.  It is usually around 4 a.m., a few hours before my daughters wake and are looking for juice and cereal or wondering where the red shirt I was supposed to wash is.  A year ago I was laid off from my job as a manager of a hardware store and my wife, their mother, had left us. I was a little lost as to what direction to take and how to go about supporting, financially and mentally, my daughters. I turned to the one thing that I had always loved and wanted to do, writing.

Ten years ago I graduated with an English degree from the University of Maryland.  The only problem I had was that the concentration was in poetry, possibly the only thing less marketable then a degree in philosophy. I had watched the internet become a boom for writers with the advent of blogging and online publishing, so a few months ago I figured that I'd give it a try. It's been hard trying to break into this new frontier and I've had more disappointments then triumphs.  The one thing I have found, the most important thing, is that you have to keep your eyes open and never stop writing if you want to have a chance at making it as a freelance writer

Subjects to write about are everywhere and I find that if I spend 2 hours a day, put down a thousand words, I am then at least remaining aware, even though I may not be making money. You hope as you send articles out and troll freelance job boards that you can make a couple dollars here and a few more over there, but most weeks nothing much comes in.  It becomes a labor of love and you just have to be willing to keep several plates in the air.  I am working on two young adult books, a memoir, and several poems while writing for my two blogs and keeping an eye out for an opportunity like Kadi has given me to guest blog.

All writers hope for the big break, to write a novel or movie script that propels you to the upper echelon of writers and frees you from the fiduciary responsibilities we have to our families and selves. This probably isn’t going to happen and the best I can hope for is to make what I would working a 9 to 5 somewhere.  Being a single father I have to hustle to make ends meet, but I am at least afforded the opportunity to be there for my girls (besides saving me the cost of before and after school care) by being a stay at home dad and writer.

I have joined several listserves to keep my eyes open for opportunities and to find from others what they are doing to farther their careers as freelancers. Some focus on mechanics, some on publishing, some are just like minded people who act almost as cheerleaders when you feel like you might not make it. These are great jumping off points but are in the end just that and it takes tenacity to keep your fingers tapping the keyboard and sending things out.

This is where job boards for freelance jobs come in.  They can point you toward opportunities but it is highly competitive and takes some marketing of yourself.  I have several articles about different subjects that are solely used to send out as examples of my writing. It also helps to have a presence on twitter and facebook, places where you can network without much forethought. There are also sites like Suite 101 and Factoidz which, if an article is accepted, will pay you a percentage of the adsense revenue.  No way is this enough to live on, but if you can bring in a couple hundred extra a year it helps.  The best thing about sites like these is coming in contact, networking, with other writers and editors.

Ultimately for me it has come down to weighing how much I am willing to sacrifice for the satisfaction of being self employed.  I work tending bar when the girls are visiting with their mother and will paint houses and do other handyman jobs to keep the electric on, but I still put in my time filling the blank pages each day and hope that if I can get a few books published the royalties will ease our burden a little.  If it doesn’t happen and I can keep getting my work out piece by piece, and my girls are healthy and happy, I guess I still feel that I have succeeded as a freelancer.

03/29/2010

Why I Write

I write because I must. Because it fills a need within me. If I can't write, I get cranky, it aches in my bones like the flu. It makes me jittery and anxious if I can't fill this need. 

I write because I'm shy and tongue-tied, self-conscious, and awkward. My characters are none of these things and for a little while, I'm the cool kid, you know, the popular one that is always surrounded by friend. I'm that person when I write. My characters surround me like a blanket. 

I write because I'm a people watcher. Happier on the outside looking in than on the inside interacting. An afternoon of people watching, or aimless wondering in a spot that would be awesome to find a body, (hey, I'm a mystery writer) is a day nourishing my muse.  

I write because story telling is hardwired into my brain.

I write because I can touch people. I can make them laugh, make them cry or make them flinch.

I write because it makes me whole.

Why do you write? 

Drop me a line and let me know. I'll send a copy of Nine Kinds of Trouble to one lucky commenter.

03/23/2010

Tuesdays with Friends Introduces Stacy Juba

STACY JUBA6 5x7color web

This week's guest is my good friend Stacy Juba. I had the pleasure of reading her current book, Twenty-Five Years Ago Today and her upcoming book Sink or Swim several years ago when they were still works in progress. I enjoyed them then, and I can't wait to read them again and see how the final product turned out. Welcome to Tuesday's with Friends, Stacy.

 Recently, I gave away two copies of my mystery novel Twenty-Five Years Ago Today in a Goodreads First Reads contest.  I trudged out in the pouring rain to mail the books to the winners. When I returned home, I checked my e-mail and discovered that by sheer coincidence, I had won a book in a Goodreads giveaway. Since I’m an avid reader as well as a writer, I had entered several giveaways for fun.

I chuckled when I noticed the title of the book: Living Like You Mean It: Use the Wisdom and Power of Your Emotions to Get the Life You Really Want by Ronald J. Frederick. What a perfect book for my collection. The phrases “power of your emotions” and “get the life you really want” reflect the positive mindset I have adopted over the past few years. One area I had focused on a great deal was my long, rocky journey in the publishing business and where I wanted that path to lead.

It all started so well – or so I thought. At 16, I wrote a young adult novel called Face-Off (under my maiden name Stacy Drumtra) and entered it in the Avon Flare Young Adult Novel Competition. To my delight, my manuscript won first prize and was successfully published by Avon Books my freshman year in college. I naively believed that selling subsequent novels would be just as easy. 

Not quite.

I wrote one rejected young adult “problem novel” after another, until I reached my mid-twenties. While working as a newspaper reporter, I outlined my first mystery book.  I finished that manuscript, Twenty-Five Years Ago Today, shortly after I got married. I’d sit behind my desk, telling the story of Kris Langley, an obit writer and newsroom editorial assistant who stumbles across an unsolved murder on the microfilm. She grows intrigued by the cold case of Diana Ferguson, an artistic young cocktail waitress obsessed with mythology. 

After a couple years, I finally found an agent, but my books still didn’t sell. Editors had championed my novels before Publishing Committees, but my raised hopes always deflated with the inevitable rejection.  After our contract ran out, the agency didn’t renew it. Although they would be happy to see my next novel, I was only a few chapters into it. How could I sacrifice my time to pen another book that might never be published? 

Then, my novel-in-progress won the $1,000 William F. Deeck Malice Domestic Grant, and I couldn’t quit knowing that the grant committee believed in my work. I used the money to take on-line mystery writing classes and I pursued every opportunity for my completed manuscripts. For two years in a row, my novels finaled in the St. Martin’s Press Malice Domestic Contest for the Best First Traditional Mystery – and when good news failed to come, I scolded myself for letting my hopes escalate yet again.

Frustrated at coming so close, I read inspirational books like Ask and It Is Given by Esther and Jerry Hicks, The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, The Power of Intention by Wayne W. Dyer, Your Heart’s Desire by Sonia Choquette, and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. Every book was different and each supplied me with valuable information. I also created a vision board showcasing my personal and professional goals, and made lists of fears or doubts associated with achieving those goals. When I heard an exciting new independent publisher called Mainly Murder Press was seeking mystery novels set in New England, I sent off Twenty-Five Years Ago Today. 

Then the acceptance letter arrived and relief washed over me – relief that I had persevered and that I’d finally found a publisher willing to take a chance on my work. It took nine years to sell Twenty-Five Years Ago Today and a total of 18 years to hold my second published book in my hand. Mainly Murder Press is scheduled to release my third book, the mystery-suspense novel Sink Or Swim, in December 2010. The book chronicles a reality TV show contestant who is stalked after returning to her normal life.

Where this will all lead, I’m not sure. I have my goals and hopes, and view the road as wide open. I do know one thing with certainty. I don’t believe in coincidence…I believe in synchronicity.  In the jacket copy of Ronald J. Frederick’s book, it describes how the contents will help readers to break through old patterns, communicate better, and “be more present” in their lives.  These are topics that all of us can benefit from in this fast-paced world. You can bet that I’ll be reading carefully as I prepare for the next step in my journey. 

25 YearsFrontCover web version
 

Stacy Juba is the author of the mystery novels Twenty-Five Years Ago Today and the upcoming Sink Or Swim. She is a former journalist with more than a dozen writing awards to her credit. Her web site is www.stacyjuba.com. Check out the Twenty-Five Years Ago Today book trailer here

03/22/2010

Plot Driven or Character Driven?

I'm not a writing instructor, nor have I taken many serious writing classes. My grammar is shaky, and if you don't believe me, you can ask my critique partners or my editor. I've never delved into what makes a book work, or how symbolism is used in literature. My love of words is completely untainted by education. That's not necessarily a good thing, just a fact. The first time someone asked me what the theme of my story was, I was taken aback. What is this theme of which you speak? Hmmm? After a little thought and a quick perusal of my manuscript, I found that there was one, but it wasn't intentional, I promise. 

But the title of this post is, Plot Driven or Character Driven, so whats all this drivel about theme and symbolism and your total lack of education, you ask? Well, after a lifetime of writing and the better part of a decade pursuing publication, I've learned stuff, whether I wanted to or not. 

What I've come up with is this, Thrillers, are Plot Driven. Robert Ludlum, Lee Child, Clive Cussler and James Rollins write thrillers. I love thrillers. The protagonist gets dropped into the soup at the beginning and every time it looks like they're about to get out of it, something happens to make everything worse. Robert Ludlum is fantastic at keeping his poor hero and the reader breathless until the last second. You don't have time to wonder if what's happening makes sense because you're too caught up trying to help the hero out of his jam and waiting to see if he's going to survive, save the world and get the girl. It's fun reading, but I can't imagine writing that kind of story. For me that would require tons of research and hours of outlining. For me, once the outline's done, the story is over and I'm ready to move on to something else. I just can't wrap my head around that kind of chaos. Maybe it's because I'm a Virgo.

Mysteries, not all, but a significant number of them, are character driven. The reader doesn't have to worry about whether or not the world is going to be saved, they're more interested in whether the heroine is going to get away from the kidnapper in time to get the kids to their dentist appointment. Or, if dinner's going to burn when the knife wielding idiot storms into her house thirty minutes before her guests arrive. We want to know if Granny is going to marry her sweetheart, if Mama is ever going to give up playing matchmaker and if Junior will make the high school baseball team. Okay, we want to catch the murderer and see him punished as well, but the crime is interwoven into the lives of the characters and we care as much about the characters as we do about solving he mystery.

I love action movies and shows like 24. I enjoy a good thriller. But when I turn on my television for some pure entertainment, or pick up a book for mindless enjoyment, I lean toward more character driven plots. My favorite television shows, NCIS, JAG, Highlander, Psych to name just a few, are all character driven. The interaction of the characters brings me back episode after episode. Oh, there's nothing wrong with a good sword fight, but is he going to get the girl? 

So, what do you like? What do you write? Are you plot driven, or character driven and why?

Tell me what you think, or what your favorite television show, movie or book is and how it relates to the plot/character discussion. I'll draw a name from all the commenters. The lucky reader gets a copy of Nine Kinds of Trouble.  

03/15/2010

A Writer Wears Many Hats

I am a writer. I can say this with all honesty because I write, or at least I used to. Being a writer doesn't have anything to do with being published. It has everything to do with writing. But, since most of us equate writing success with publication, I'll include writerly hats that deal with the publishing side as well as the writing side.

So, what's the first hat the writer wears? The human hat. Seriously, you are a mother, daughter, son, father, sister, brother, uncle. You have some connection to other humans on the planet. Even if you are a solo act, with no one else in the world that depends on you, at some point you have to interact with other humans on the planet. Okay, you don't have to, but if you're squirreled away in your hermit's cave subsisting on roots and berries, and scraping out your writing in pictograms on the rock walls of your cave, your writing is going to suffer a lack. If you want to broaden your writing, you have to get out of your cave and interact with the world.

Hat number two is the family hat. If you're not living in a cave alone, you probably have some family. They are a rich source of writing material, but they can't always be relied on to leave you alone when your muse is speaking. Children want to eat, need rides to school and occasionally you have to keep them from leaping from tall buildings or killing each other. Husbands likewise want to eat and need help with simple household chores like finding the salt shaker or their car keys. Other family members expect you to show up for family gatherings even when your on deadline. 

The work hat steals a writer's time, and sometimes his soul. Unless your name is Stephen King, Janet Evanovich or one of a few other's that routinely sign for gazillion dollar advances, you probably have to work to provide the essentials. You know, just the little things, like electricity and running water. 

If you've managed to convince your family to give you writing time, and you've found a job that keeps the lights on and doesn't beat your muse down to a jibbering idiot, congratulations. You've written, you've slaved, you've queried, and wonder of wonders, now you are published. In your elation, your mind bubbles over with ideas for your next book, and a couple of short stories, but there are other hats you have to wear. Now that time you've carved between work and family isn't just for writing anymore. You have to put on a couple of other hats. You need a web presence.

You can hire a webmaster, so you don't have to personally wear that hat, but websites need content, and unless your webmaster is psychic, you have to provide that. It's still writing, in that you are sitting at your desk and typing on your keyboard, but it's not creating stories, it's basically creating ad copy. If you are a copywriter under your working hat, this part is easier than for most of us, but it's still time away from creating stories.

Your website is up and running. It's beautiful, but wait, you're not done with that web presence yet, your agent, editor and all the members of your writing group, say you need to have a blog. The blog itself is relatively easy to set up. Most blog engines are set up for people that don't code HTML for fun, but you have to post often. There should be at least three to five posts a week. Again, technically this is writing. And it can be about anything. What you're cooking for dinner, what you're going to write about, where you're going on vacation. It doesn't matter, but it needs to be compelling enough for people to want to stop in and read it. So that's five or six hundred words, three to five days a week or more. Thats five or six hundred words that aren't going into your work in progress, but blogs help sell books and you want to sell books, so you put on your blogger hat and do it.

Now your web presence is complete. The website is great, the blog is time consuming, but fun. You've got a few posts stacked up ahead and you're ready to get back to that work in progress. But wait, there's a new hat perched on your keyboard. It says social networking and a quick note from your agent assures you that if you want to sell books, and keep your publisher interested enough to buy the next two books in the series, you need to get on facebook. Oh, and while your at it, Twitter is a great way to connect with readers. You really need to be doing this. So, you pick up your new hat and go find your kids, or borrow one from a friend or neighbor and have them show you how to facebook and how to Tweet. It's takes a while to get the facebook thing set up, a couple of hours, but no big deal. The same with Twitter,and it's kind of fun. So now in the morning, you grab your coffee, open your laptop, check your email, send one back to your agent assuring her that your manuscript is going well, and you'll have the pages to her by your deadline, no problem. You post on your blog, tweet a good morning to the world. Check out the blogs of a couple of friends. Take a quick look at the news to make sure intergalactic war hasn't broken out, though you're sure you would have heard if it had. Someone would have tweeted about it. Finally you open up that file and start writing. Your stomach growls and you realize it's lunch time and you haven't eaten yet. That's okay, you grab a sandwich, sit back down at the computer, and write for a blissful few minutes, until you glance at the clock. It's after five. Hubby and the kids have just gotten home from their hike, and you realize, you have to take off your writer hat, because you have an event this evening. It's time to put on your promotion hat.

No, the website, blog and facebook aren't enough. You have to actually get out in the world, talk to readers, sign books, give speeches. Oh yes, that promotion hat comes in multiple colors and you have to wear them all. One for scheduling events locally, a different color for speaking to libraries, reader's groups, and classrooms. You need a hat for writer's conferences and book fairs. Because, you know, people can't buy your books if they don't know about them.

I won't even go into how many other hats you need if you're working with a small publisher, or are self published, but there are probably at least five more.

And what's happening to your next book as you frantically work, cook, blog, email, facebook, tweet, speak, sleep and eat. Well, it's just sitting there. Your muse has taken to curling up on the keyboard like a sleepy kitten while she waits for you to come back. Your characters have started yelling at you in your sleep. You're pondering waterproof pens to use in the shower, or installing a shelf in the bathroom so you can write while taking care of those mundane but important tasks. 

What's the point of this hat filled post? Well, what I've discovered is time management is the most important part of my writing life. I've been able to shelve a few of my hats. My work allows me months at a time to be home with my computer. My Children are grown, and I don't have the care and feeding of a husband anymore. I probably drove him nuts talking in my sleep. What have I found as my life has rearranged to allow me more time with my muse? I don't get near as much writing done as I did when the kids were home, and I worked fifty weeks a year. See, when I had fifteen different hats to wear, I managed my time better. I wrote during lunch breaks, while dinner was cooking, while the kids were at ball practice, and late into the night after everyone was asleep. Now I sit down at my computer in the morning with my stack of hats, check my email, blog, read the news, blog surf, piddle around Amazon to see if there are any books I want to read. I pet the cat, shoo my muse away, check twitter, turn on the weather channel, stare out the window at the birds and the squirrels. I return phone calls, set up author events, stop for snacks or a quick workout, and suddenly when I look at the clock it's time for the infomercials to start on television. My muse is snoring on the corner of my desk, I'm sick to death of my desk and my computer because I've been sitting there for hours. But it's okay, I'll write tomorrow.

03/07/2010

It's Read AN EBOOK WEEK at Smashwords

Drop in at Smashwords for, Read an EBook Week, and pick up a bargain.

Use Coupon Code RAE50 for half price on Where the Dreams End.

Use Coupon Code RAE25 for twenty-five percent off of Nine Kinds of Trouble.

It's a great time to try out an eBook.

03/01/2010

Fill Up Your Writing Bank

Just the act of going about your daily life can drain the deposits from your writing bank. Kids need to be dressed and fed. The boss expects you to show up and actually get something done at work. Your spouse needs you to notice them on a regular basis. There are PTA meetings, school board meetings, board meetings, angry customers, angry drivers, fussy babies, interfering family members, and well meaning but annoying neighbors. All of those things suck you dry until at the end of the day, just getting into your PJ's is a major accomplishment. But, hey, now you're supposed to write. 

How do you keep your writing bank balance from going into negative numbers? Everyone is different, so there's no one right answer to this question. A massage is good for me, or a nice dinner out. A movie or a walk in a beautiful park. For me, nature makes the biggest deposits into my writing bank. A glass of iced tea on the deck, with squirrels chattering above my head. That's a deposit. A beautiful sunset. That's a deposit. A chatty email from a good friend. That's a deposit. Find your stress relievers where you can. Do something nice just for yourself at least once a week. Even if it's locking yourself in the bathroom with a candle and a romance novel and a bottle of bubble bath. That hour to yourself is a major deposit in the writer's bank.

They say for writers to be successful, there needs to be some angst in their life. I can't completely disagree with that. I've done some of my best writing when my life was a complete disaster. It's nice to have another world to disappear into for a little while, where the problems are all of your own making and the solutions are logical and sometimes fun, but you can't make that escape if you can't get away from the overwhelming stress. You have to have a nice balance in your writing account.

I sat at the computer last night with a kitty purring on my feet. That was the deposit in my writer's bank for the day. What about you? Have you made a deposit today? It's early yet. Make one and share it with the blog. Maybe we can borrow your idea and make a deposit of our own.

02/23/2010

Tuesdays with Friends Introduces Susan Whitfield

02/22/2010

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.

02/15/2010

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? 

02/08/2010

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.

02/01/2010

Stop by KDBlog Tomorrow

And meet Tuesdays with Friends guest, Helen Dunn Frame.

01/31/2010

My 2 Cents On the Kindle/MacMillan Flap

I buy a lot of books. A couple hundred or more a year. Some in print, some ebook, very, very, very seldom in hardback. Why? I'm just not going to pay 25 bucks for a book. Not going to happen. I pains me that paperbacks have gotten as high as they are. I won't pay more than $9.99 for a paperback book. Nope, not going to do it. What about ebooks? $9.99 is my top dollar. I don't care if it's my favorite author and I've been waiting two years for his newest book. I'm not going to pay more than $9.99 for an ebook. That's already too much. I don't know how other people feel about this whole argument. More and more information is coming out all the time, but I think the people that are getting screwed here are the authors and the book buyers. And it's not Amazon that's doing the screwing. 

For a well written overview of what's taking place, take a look at this blog post by April Hamilton 

The publishing industry is changing. And it's a major change. Almost as big as when the printing press took over all those many, many years ago. Publishers need to remember that if the book buying public stops buying books, they will soon be out of the publishing business. 

And that's all I have to say about that.

01/25/2010

Can a Series Survive When Sexual Tension Turns to Marriage?

I'm pondering the future of a series here, and would like your thoughts. In a character driven mystery, the sexual tension between two characters offers opportunities to develop the characters, to delve into what makes them tick. It also give the writer the opportunity to move the plot or drive wedges between protagonists. My question is can you still use that feeling if your characters decide to get married? As most writers know, we have very little control over the characters in our books. Oh, we can throw roadblocks in their way, provide action, kidnapping, murder and mayhem, but their personal actions and reactions very quickly become their own. Characters you create so you can kill them off, decide they want to stay and take part in the story. Some of them don't like the area and move away. Some demand a larger part in the story and sometimes they fall in love. Oh you can take control, demand that they stick around, force them into the place you want them to go, but at least in my writing, when I do that, they become sulky and uncooperative. 

The reason I bring this up is I have a couple of characters that have decided they'd like to marry and I'm not sure that is a good idea. Far be it for me to ruin their lives or anything, but the byplay between these two has driven four stories so far, and I'm afraid in this case, wedded bliss might mean the death of the series. I mean, if they're blissfully happy, and living together full time, where's the tension, where's the humor. Should I allow them their till death do us part moment and wrap the series? Or should I devise a means of keeping them apart and take the chance that they'll rebel and wander off into the sunset leaving me with nothing. Or will their serious commitment make them more exciting, willing to risk life and limb for each other in a way they didn't before. 

Do you like married crime fighters? Is it possible to keep the sexual tension in a married couple without making them creepy? My own marriage was woefully short, and the only tension I can really remember had more to do with the fact that we annoyed each other beyond belief, so personal experience isn't going to serve me very well on this one. Tell me what you think.

01/20/2010

RIP Robert Parker

Img-931-1043_tb  It's the end of an era in crime fiction. Robert B Parker is gone. What am I going to do without a couple of new Parker books every year. How am I going to get my Hawke and Spenser fix. I am bereft. I always enjoyed Spenser's irreverent sense of humor. The complete rightness of his relationship with Hawke. The strict personal moral code they followed even if it meant breaking the law. I enjoyed these guys enough to put up with Susan, and that's really saying something.

And what about Jesse Stone. Is he ever going to get rid of that idiot ex-wife and get on with his life. Is Sunny Randall going to hook up with Jesse when he does? *sigh* I guess I'll never get these answers now.

My deepest condolences go out to his family and friends. As a fan I'm saddened but it doesn't come close to the pain they are feeling. Take care of yourselves and know that thousands of fans share your mourning.

God Bless and Rest in Peace

01/18/2010

Am I Writing Now?

I'm sitting in a restaurant, a book open on the table in front of me. Around me the clatter of silverware against crockery punctuates the soft rumble of voices. In the booth behind me a mother and daughter discuss plans for a nursery. Across the way, the rumble breaks out into laughter and everyone in the the room looks toward the sound and smiles. Before my eyes drop back to the page, I watch the hostess in deep conversation with a busboy. The hostess isn't smiling, the busboy is grinning and ducks into the back unrepentant. The hostess turns smiling to a new customer as they walk in, but the frown remains in her eyes. The businessman with his back to me in the booth on my other side, is having a loud conversation on his cell phone. He's pompous, and arrogant and I feel sorry for his latest customer and check automatically to see that my phone is on silent, then slip it into my purse. I loathe loud cell conversations in restaurants. 

The waiter brings my food, the hostess seats a couple at a table to my left. I savor my meal and eavesdrop unashamedly on their quiet argument. You see, it looks like I'm having a nice meal and enjoying a good book, but actually I'm writing. I won't repeat the argument or the conversations, but I'll use the ambience, the sights and sounds, the annoyance caused by the rude cell phone user. I'll make up a discussion between the hostess and the busboy. I'll tell a joke that will erupt out of the general rumble of conversations.

Another day, I'll sit on the stairs overlooking the beach. I have a big floppy hat, a bottle of water, and a book. My toes are buried in the sand, and I'll lean back and let the sun warm skin and muscles that just recently were bundled in layers against the cold. It looks like I'm just a pasty-white midwesterner enjoying the beach, and I am, but I'm also writing. I'm noting the sound of the crashing waves, the way the light sparkles off the water. The shadows under the pier, the look of the little pile of shells some child has stashed near the foot of the stairs. I make mental notes of the children splashing in the shadows, the squeals of delight as they play tag with a puppy, and the seal-like look of the surfers as they slip through the waves in their wetsuits. I'm enjoying the beach, but I'm also writing.

Every time I see the light dappling through the leaves, or watch a beautiful sunset. When I watch a mother giggle with a child at the park. Any time I see a young man spontaneously drop a kiss on the cheek of his lady, or watch a firetruck race by with lights flashing and sirens whooping, I'm storing away visions for future books. And because I find humor in the absurd, I do the same with misspelled signs, embarrassing moments, (usually my own) or strange and funny encounters with strangers. When you are a writer, you work twenty-four seven. All you do, and all you see is feeding your craft. So if someone catches you staring off into space and asks what you're doing, just say, I'm writing.

01/11/2010

Music to Write By

My books have theme music. No, they don't come with a soundtrack, but that would be really cool. Maybe something to work on in the digital version. But that's fodder for another blog post. No, the soundtrack for my books is in my head, or more accurately on my iPod. When I wrote Where the Dreams End, the first Brocs Harley mystery, Dire Straits, Brother's in Arms was the background sound. It's a dark mystery and Brother's in Arms is a dark, mellow album. And lo and behold, when Brocs comes home after a particularly awful day, the CD he slips into the stereo is Dire Straits.

When I wrote Murder at Timber Bridge, book one in the Randi Black mystery series, the Eagles were crooning in the background. I have a lot of good memories associated with the Eagles and apparently so does Randi, because during a long drive home when her life seems to be slipping back into a happier time and overlapping with the hopes and dreams of her youth, she slips in an old Eagles CD. 

I'm alternately working on an edit of an almost complete work, Book Three in the Randi Black Series and starting something new. The Eagles form part of the playlist for Randi along with a little Tim McGraw, and once in a while, a little AC/DC. But what about the soundtrack to the new work? Well, that one hasn't made it's musical preference known yet, but I have no doubt that it will soon, because I have to have music to write by.

Check out Where the Dreams End, featuring Brocs Harley and slip in a little Dire Straits while you read, and don't forget to knock the dust off that Eagles Greatest Hits album, because Murder at Timber Bridge will be out in April and you might just want a little music to read by.

11/24/2009

This is so cool, you'll have to watch it twice!


Thanks to Janet Reid for passing this on.


11/22/2009

Do Book Reviews Sell Books?

There's been a lot of debate on the subject of book reviews and whether or not they help sell books. What I've discovered since Where the Dreams End was published in August is, yes they do, and no they don't.

I'll try to explain. Positive publicity can help sell books. Hey, maybe negative publicity does as well, but I haven't been arrested or publicly humiliated since I had a book to sell, so I can speak to that, but the positive publicity I've received so far has sold books. I had an outstanding write up in my local paper the weekend of my book launch and mentioned the local stores that were carrying the book. They sold out and ordered more. I had friends and acquaintances call after they read the story and ask where they could purchase copies. Over the course of the week that the story appeared in the Fulton Sun. I sold over fifty copies. 

I had a book signing at the West Feliciana Parish Library in St. Francisville, LA. Milly Morgan and the library did a wonderful job promoting the event. There were articles in the local newspaper both before and after the signing. Over the course of that week I sold over fifty copies.

Okay, you say, so positive publicity sells books, but you started off this blog by talking about book reviews. So do book reviews sell books? 

Like I said at the beginning, yes, and no at least so far.

I had a wonderful book review at Red Adept's Kindle Book Review Blog. Since that review posted I've sold almost forty copies of the kindle edition of Where the Dreams End and two copies of my short story collection Nine Kinds of Trouble. So, yes, book reviews do sell books. But, since that review, I haven't sold any paper copies. So, no, book reviews do not sell books. I would imagine if I could land a review in the NY Times or one of the other giant book review sites, I would see sales that I could track back to those reviews, but right now, I don't have any print reviews to compare to the internet type.

For a new author, especially one with a small publisher, getting your name out there is the hardest thing to do. I've had very little time to devote to promotion since my book came out in August, but Dreams is starting to grow legs and take some baby steps. I can say with all honesty that I no longer have family ties or close relationships to everyone that has bought my book. Isn't that cool? People I don't know, have never met, may never meet, have purchase my book and read it. I think that may be the most awesome thing of all. 

Within the next couple of weeks, my time will once again become my own and I can devote my resources to promoting Where the Dreams End. In book promotion, you kind of throw out the ideas and hope something sticks. I'll keep track of my ideas, track my sales and report back on the results. If you have any great ideas, or cool ideas that you've used successfully and would like to share, drop a line in the comments section. I'll draw a name from the comments and the lucky winner will get a signed and numbered limited edition hardback copy of Where the Dreams End, so jump in with your ideas. I'll announce the winner on Monday November 30th. If you already have a copy of Dreams, go ahead and enter, books make lovely Christmas gifts.

11/21/2009

The Best Writing Advice a Writer Can Get

Just saw this on Janet Reid's blog. It's some of the best advice I've ever seen for a writer. 

11/17/2009

If you are an Author, Agent or Publisher...

Check this out. It's laugh out loud funny!

Tom's Glossary of Book Publishing Terms

11/12/2009

Wonderful Review

A terrific review of "Where the Dreams End" is up at http://redadept.wordpress.com/

What a lovely way to start the day.

11/02/2009

What's it take to write a mystery novel?

Writing a novel is a long process. It can take weeks, months or years to complete a project. If you want to complete a novel length work, you must be passionate about your characters and the world you've created. If you don't love the people that are going to be living in your head for the foreseeable future, you're not going to keep them around long enough to get a novel out of them.

When you feel that passion, you’ll know it. The people that have taken up residence in your head will not leave you alone. You’ll dream about them. You’ll race to your computer to get their actions on paper before they move on to the next scene. Your family will think you’re cracked because you blurt bits of dialogue during dinner, or mumble about scene changes or car chases as you do the laundry or drive to soccer practice. You’ll speak about your characters as if they are real people. Friends that aren’t acquainted with your characters will wonder silently who these strangers are and how you got mixed up in a murder investigation. Strangers will move away from you on busses and trains as you mumble and jot notes on the back of a grocery store reciept because you’re crazy.

When you reach that point, you’re going to get a novel. You might get a series. So get inside your head and find those characters, wake them up. Make them tell you where they live and who they love and why they kill. Then start writing.

10/26/2009

Art and the Demon Tobacco

Back in the fifty’s and sixty’s, everybody smoked. Good guys, bad guys, cops, women. Then people realized smoking was bad for you. In the eighties, the only people that still smoked on screen were punk kids, bad guys and hookers. Now days, nobody smokes on screen or on the page. Smoking hasn’t just been eradicated from public buildings and restaurants; it’s been eradicated from art.

I understand the theory behind the removal of demon tobacco from page and screen. We’re trying to protect our youth. And you can’t argue with success. Fewer children are smoking these days. Fewer people in general, but contrary to popular belief, people still smoke, and not just drug addicts and gang bangers.

My job as a writer is to depict characters and settings in a manner that draws in my readers and puts them into the story. My fictional world needs to feel, well…real. I don’t know about you, but people in my real world, still smoke. Not as many as in the past, and hopefully those numbers will continue to decrease, but cigarettes still exist and it’s clichéd to only have bad guys puffing on cigarettes.

I have characters that smoke regularly, I have characters that smoke occasionally, I have characters that don’t smoke and some that are adamantly and vocally opposed to smoking. That’s kind of what I see in the real world, so that’s what I attempt to put into my fictional one.

I find the cigarette question interesting, because I write murder mysteries. I write about people being brutally murdered and the investigations that lead to the capture or death of the killer or killers. When you’re writing about something as socially unacceptable as murder, does the fact that your star investigator smokes really send a message to your readers or is just a personality trait to be noted along with red hair and wrinkled Hawaiian shirts?

What do you think? Should art really imitate life or should our fictional worlds be cleaned up?

10/19/2009

Where do you get your ideas?

Everyone that’s ever written a story, a novel or a screenplay has been asked this question. I find it incredibly difficult to answer. Where do I get my ideas? Um, well. How about the woman overheard by a friend and passed along to me that said, “My ole man done had two heart attacks and he ain’t dead yet.” If that doesn’t get your imagination going… What about the waitress at the small town café that listens to your order, then tells you that’s not what you need to eat that day and sends in something totally different. And you eat it, and you like it, because you’re afraid not to. How about the family dinner at the nice Mexican restaurant that turns into hysterics because the mariachi band has decided to take up residence at your table and stay there. Or the trip to traffic court with your sons when you almost get charged with contempt because something struck your collective funny bone and none of you can stop laughing.

 

I guess my answer would be not where do I get my ideas, but how am I ever going to use them all?

10/12/2009

Writing Books can be Fun

These are my two favorite writing books.

Telling Lies for Fun and Profit by Lawrence Block, and On Writing by Stephen King. The information I picked up from these two books shaved years off the learning curve of my writing. If you’re new to the writing game, run, don’t walk to the nearest bookstore and get these books. If you’re an old hand and just want a refreshing look at what you’re doing while life goes on outside the closed door of your office, get these books. 

An you? What are you’re favorite writing books?

10/05/2009

What Welding Taught Me About Writing

A long time ago I went to welding school. It was just the latest in a long line of non-traditional pursuits. I've worked as a printer and a mechanic just to name a couple. I'm very mechanically inclined and welding seemed like something I would be good at. I imagined upon learning the secrets to the trade I would find that I had an innate natural ability. That I had a golden arm. I would weld things of such beauty that people would weep upon seeing them. A virtual virtuoso of the stinger and welding rod would be my medium. A combination of Mozart, da Vinci and Tammy Wynette all rolled into one.

What I discovered was that I sucked. I had no natural talent for welding. What I had was a total aversion to failure. I was going to learn to weld if it killed me. I worked, and sweated and welded and I got marginally better. At one point during the school I was working on a piece of pipe. Welding, if you don't know, is a long and tedious process, so I spent the better part of six hours welding on that pipe and it wasn't going well. When I finally finished, it looked like a metallic bird had left a deposit that dribbled around the pipe. I was supposed to call my instructor over to evaluate my progress, but he'd told us that before you called an inspector over to look at a weld, you needed to clean it up. Make it look as good as you could before the inspector got there for a look. The sparkle of a clean piece of work would sometimes  hide a tiny flaw that would stand out like flashing neon on a piece that hadn't been spiffed up. 

Being the good little student that I was, I got out my grinder, slapped on a wire wheel, and buffed the crap out of that bird poop weld. Then I called Jimbo over to take a look. Of course, the guy in the weld booth next to mine came over to take a peek as well. There was always someone around to share the criticism. Jim leaned over the pipe, bit his lip and took a deep breath.

"Isn't there something good you can say about it?" I asked.

The guy from the booth next to mine piped up. "It sure is shiny."

How does this pertain to writing, you ask? Okay, you didn't really, but I have to tie this together somehow.

I learned that if you take the time to polish, you can hid the small flaws. Let me explain. If you send out a manuscript to an agent and they read it, what are they going to see. Is it full of spelling, or grammatical errors? Are there typos? Was some of the paper in the printer discolored from sitting around too long in an opened container? Did you format your manuscript correctly? These aren't huge things, but they grab the readers attention. You don't want that agent or editor focusing on those little irritants, you want them falling in love with your story. 

Send them a polished manuscript that grabs their attention and even if there are a couple of small plot holes, or a character that she thinks might be done better, you might have a shot. Send out that same story with the poor formatting, the discolored paper, the spelling errors and a couple of small plot holes and that pesky character that needs work and you're well on your way to a form rejection. Agents and editors don't have time to walk you through the things that should have been done correctly before submission.

So here's what I learned from welding. Polish your work until it shines before you invite an agent in for a look. It might not get you accepted, but it will keep you from getting knocked out of the game before they get a chance to fall in love with your work.

09/30/2009

Book Signing Success

I was thrilled when people actually showed up for my book signing last night. It's always nice when you have someone to talk to instead of just standing around looking uncomfortable. 

There's supposed to be a write up in the paper next week, so I'm really excited about that too. All is well on the writing front. I hope things continue to move along. This is one of the most exciting things I've ever been part of and I am enjoying it immensely. Just wish my mom was still here to enjoy it with me. Hope she's looking down and smiling at me right now.

09/28/2009

Writer's Block

When I get stuck on a WIP or can't get motivated, I write short stories. I don't write one and edit it and worry it until it's perfect and I need to figure out where to submit, I just write, one after the other and usually one of them will catch my attention. I'll fall in love with the characters or the story and decide they deserve more than a few hundred or a few thousand words. When that happens, those characters are stuck in my head and I can't get them out unless I write. I guess it's the same principle as free writing. It gets me into a zone where my creative side gets to be in charge.

 

I also believe that sometimes, you have to give yourself permission to not write. If you keep pressuring yourself to write, and you keep fighting it and fighting it, then it gets to be something that's not fun and that just makes it harder to get back at it. So give yourself permission to not write for a week or a month or whatever. But while you're not sitting at the keyboard, make notes, let your subconscious out to play and by the end of the week, you usually can't wait to get back to the keyboard. Writing should be a joy, at least the creation part of it. Don't turn it into something that adds stress to your life. 

09/24/2009

It's International Punctuation Day!!!

Decorate the tree, cook the ham, punctuate something. It's International Punctuation day and we need to celebrate. 

Who doesn't love the sinuous curve of the question mark, the rigid excitement of the exclamation point, the small but definite finality of the period. And if that's not enough for you, just take a look at this. When punctuation fails, it can get ugly.

Signs at bus stops in North Miami Beach declared:  Say 'NO' to Drugs from the NMB Police D.A.R.E Officers.


If you want a fun look at punctuation, pick up Eats, Shoots & Leaves, by Lynne Truss. It's my favorite grammar book. Anything that can make punctuation funny is worth it's weight in gold!




09/23/2009

And the Winner Is.....

Jose Mojica is the winner of the first ever Mystery Flash Fiction Contest at KdBlog. Check out his winning entry below. It's a great story.

Thanks, Jose.

September 20th

 Every year since graduating college, I get a call on September 20th exactly at 7:00 PM. “Happy Birthday, Jay,” the elderly lady says. “It’s Grammy. I’m sorry I haven’t called....” The problem is I don’t have a grandmother, my birthday is in May, and my name is Mike. After five years, I finally decided to say something. “I’m sorry, but I’m not Jay...” “I know that,” the lady said. “Jay was my grandson. You killed him while boating in Cancun. The police said it was an accident, but I knew you were drinking. You always did.” “But I’ve never been to Cancun.” “Is this 555-3838?” the lady asked. “No, it’s 555-3839.” “Sorry, wrong number.”

09/21/2009

Writing for the Market

You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating. Write what you love. If you’re writing for the market, or trying to cash in on a trend, beware. By the time you’ve finished your work, found an agent, been accepted by a publisher it could be three years or more before your book sees the light of day. By that time, vampires, or mystery solving cats may have been replaced by erotic mystery solving aliens, or sleuthing parakeets. If you still love vampires, or mystery solving cats, knock yourself out. Just don’t count on cashing in on the flavor of the month.

09/14/2009

Guest Blogger Lonnie Cruse

Writer's Conferences: Are They Worth It?

Today KdBlog welcomes guest blogger Lonnie Cruse, author of the Kitty Bloodworth/'57 Chevy series and the Metropolis Mystery series. I recently visited Metropolis, Illinois to have my photo taken with the Man of Steel and to sit down for a face to face chat with my long time internet buddy Lonnie Cruse. She agreed after much arm twisting to write a blog post for KdBlog.  One of the many things we discussed during lunch were the pros and cons of writer's conferences, so Lonnie decided a blog post about that was the perfect choice. 

I really didn't have to twist her arm. Thanks for joining us today, Lonnie.


WRITER'S CONFERENCES/CONVENTIONS are they worth it?

By Lonnie Cruse

If you are a writer, somewhere on this planet, particularly in the U.S. there is a writer's conference or convention you can attend. Conferences are mostly for writers to meet, discuss writing, network with agents, publishers, or other writers, and try to get published and/or stay published. Some fans do usually attend and some books are sold.

Conventions are primarily for fans of writers to show up, buy the latest book, and get it autographed. Some networking is done by writers with agents, publishers, etc. but mostly it's for authors and fans to meet. Either event is going to cost an author quite a bit, beginning with the attendance fee, hotel room, travel expenses, any meals that aren't included, and of course, the dozens of book we swear we won't buy . . . but always do.

Writers are generally on very limited budgets unless we happen to be a household name, and many still hold down a day job and write at night. Or the reverse. But attending conferences is a HUGE chunk of the budget and many non-household name writers are lucky to sell ten books at one of these events. The really lucky might sell between twenty and thirty books.

So, what's the point? Why blow this much of the writer's yearly promotion money to attend one? The key is mostly networking. Networking with agents and/or publishers to become or remain published. Networking with other authors to keep abreast of the latest in publishing, or to get help with editing, or just plain get help. And to network with readers, get to know them, get them to know us, and more important, to know our work.

While there are a very few authors around who apparently have a death wish when it comes to their writing career because they treat fans and fellow authors alike with disdain, most of us are as thrilled as puppies at the pound to be noticed by anyone passing by. We love chatting about ourselves or our work. We love sharing tips, helping others, making new friends. And selling books, so we can write more or go to more of these events.  If you are a fan, don't be afraid to approach an author for an autograph or a quick chat.

Are conferences or conventions cost effective? No. Not in my humble opinion. Do they help the author? Boy howdy. So if you have a chance to attend a conference near you, take advantage. And don't forget to keep receipts and turn this information into your accountant. Mine says mileage is my best friend. I believe her.

Lonnie Cruse writes the Kitty Bloodworth/'57 Chevy series and the Metropolis Mystery Series. Her website is: http://www.lonniecruse.com or you can catch her weekly posts on Poes Deadly Daughters.

09/11/2009

Places I go, Characters I know


I'm lucky, my work takes me all over the United States. I been to Laura Lippman's Baltimore, oh yeah, I've seen the Domino sugar sign. I visited Jim Chee's Window Rock, and I've taken a gander at Elvis Coles, LA. I've had the opportunity to see the places some of my favorite writers use in their stories. If I'm lucky, I get to read one of those stories while I'm staying in the area. Then it really comes to life for me. That's all normal and good, but here's what happened to me last spring.

My work took me to Richland, Washington. It's one of the tri-cities tucked in between the Columbia, the Snake and the Yakima rivers. It is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. The people are friendly, the food is good, the weather is fantastic. Spokane is a very pretty two hour drive north. Seattle is about four hours, away. I really enjoyed working in the area. But, the whole time I was there, I had a nagging notion that there was someone I needed to see.

Here's the deal, I really wanted to go explore Seattle, but my exploring buddies were working the day shift and I was on nights, so if I went, it was going to have to be alone and I didn't really want to do that. I can explore and sight see alone, but something is gained when the experience is shared. I wanted to share it, and I was just certain that I knew someone in Seattle that could give me the grand tour if I could only remember who it was.

On the way to work one night, It finally hit me. The person I knew in Seattle was J.P. Beaumont. Yeah, J.A. Jance's character. I was absolutely certain that I had an acquaintance in Seattle. And I did, I guess, but it was going to be difficult for my fictional acquaintance to give me the grand tour.

What a talent J.A. Jance has, to bring a character so thoroughly to life that when I arrived in his neck of the woods I just knew I had a friend in the area. I can only hope that some day one of my characters will come to life for my readers in the same way.

Tell me, what writer does this best for you? Where do you go and what fictional character goes along for the ride?