Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

Fans-Whether in Sports or Writing, It’s All the Same

September 28, 2015 7 comments

pile o booksFANS – WHETHER IN SPORTS OR WRITING, IT’S ALL THE SAME by Debra H. Goldstein

When I moved to Alabama, a colleague asked if I knew who was number one in football. Not being a sports enthusiast, but reading all parts of the newspaper religiously, I replied that the polls said my alma mater, the University of Michigan, was ranked number one.

“No,” I was told. “Alabama is number one.”

I scratched my head and wondered about him. Apparently, he didn’t keep up with the news and his taste in clothing – a crimson blazer and a houndstooth vest – left something to be desired. At least, it wasn’t as loud a combination as the burnt orange blazer and navy blue tie another guy in the office seemed to sport every Friday.

It didn’t take long for me to understand the fervent loyalty Alabama and Auburn fans have for their teams. They live, breathe, and probably would sell their first born child for if it would insure a victory. They revere their coaches as Gods – at least as long as their teams are winning. Some people think their devotion to their schools is crazy.

There was a time I was a member of that latter group, but not anymore. Since becoming a writer, I understand the value of fans. They are the people who validate my efforts and those of my fellow writers. They encourage and give us purpose. When a person says “I liked your book” or “Your book really made a difference in my life,” it means the world to us.
That’s why, having fans and being a fan is a reciprocal relationship. Readers trust us to give them the best book possible. They want us to transport them away from their everyday lives, even if only for a few minutes. Hopefully, we not only do that, but we treat our fans with respect and admiration.

Without our readers behind us, much like a team playing a championship game, we are nothing. So, it is a two way street. We must be our fans biggest fans.

Advertisements

Guest Blogger: Maggie Toussaint – The Evolution of a Bad Guy

MaggieToussaint_Large

Maggie Toussaint

The Evolution of a Bad Guy
By Maggie Toussaint

When I began plotting my second paranormal mystery, Bubba Done It, I knew one thing for sure. All the suspects had the nickname of Bubba. Other than that, I didn’t have a clue.

Before I could cast men in the suspect roles, I considered my setting and the types of characters I needed. I’m familiar with the setting as I use a fictional locale that’s similar to where I live in coastal Georgia. We have townies and imports. We have people with plenty and people with nothing. We have blacks and whites. We have a stalled economy and our share of foreclosures.

All of the top suspects needed a motive to kill the banker. Some good motives to consider were previous criminal record, financial trouble, and love.

The sheriff immediately adds four Bubbas to his suspect list. Since seafood is the main industry around here, it would be good to have a fisherman Bubba. I also wanted someone who’d moved to the county as a retiree, someone who didn’t quite get locals or their customs. That worked. Two Bubbas down, two to go.

Drugs are a universal problem in today’s world. I decided upon a Bubba with a bad track record as a crackhead, but who had allegedly reformed into BubbaDoneIt_cover2an evangelist.

Lastly, I wanted to ensure my sleuth Baxley Powell had a definite call to action. She’d taken the heat in Book 1 as the top suspect, so for Book 2, I found a patsy in her brother-in-law. Why would he want to kill the banker? Baxley knew her Bubba was a dreamer who often needed money for get-rich-quick ventures. Baxley and her husband had bailed Bubba Powell out of financial scrapes for years.

With her husband dead, the task of saving Bubba fell to Baxley. She’s certain he couldn’t have done it.

Or at least she feels that way at first. With each layer of story revealed, she discovers more reasons for the Bubbas to have killed the banker. Her challenge is to sort through the evidence, in this world and the next, to finger the killer.

To summarize:
Populate your suspect list with characters fitting to your setting.
Give the suspects motives to kill your victim.
Layer the suspects’ relationship with the victim to create complex characters.
Make sure the sleuth has a clear call to action.

Maggie Toussaint

Buy link for Bubba Done It:
Kindle
Amazon hardcover

5 Tips for Writing a Good Article or Blog Post by Lourdes Venard

January 5, 2015 11 comments
Lourdes Venard

Lourdes Venard

5 Tips for Writing a Good Article or Blog Post by Lourdes Venard

With social media, blogs, author newsletters, online news sites, and more, there’s an overabundance of items to read. If you’re like me, you’re never able to read it all. Some days, I can barely keep up with my email!

So how do you make your item stand out? I’ve been in the newspaper business for 30 years, and I’m editor of First Draft, the newsletter for the Sisters in Crime Guppy chapter. Below are five tips I’ve learned through the years and which you can use, whether you are writing for a blog, a newsletter, or even a Facebook post.

1) Give a promise of advice. Did you notice the title for this article? I purposely picked five points I wanted to touch upon. Telling readers that you are giving them five pointers (or any specific number) is one way to grab the busy reader’s attention. I learned this technique from a marketing professional, but as I thought about it, it’s really a time-honored way of getting people to pay attention. Moses, after all, came down the mountain with 10 very specific commandments.

2) Grab them with your first sentence. This is a lesson from Journalism 101. Journalists call their first sentences the lede, and the idea is to Publishing_eBook_final_090514either impart the most important information or have something that will hook the reader. A good lede is golden. One of my favorite crime reporters (who became a crime fiction author) is Edna Buchanan, who wrote for The Miami Herald. She was known for her offbeat ledes, such as the one that topped a story about a drunk ex-con who wanted his food immediately and got into a fight in a Church’s fried-chicken outlet while still at the counter. He was shot and killed by a security guard. Her lede: “Gary Robinson died hungry.”

3) Write with authority and write what you know. This is one of the first lessons that I learned as a young journalist. Obviously, you need to have all the facts to back up your authority. Once you do, convey to the reader that you know your stuff. Comb your article for “probably,” “maybe,” “supposedly,” and other milquetoast words. The “write what you know” part comes before the “authority.” A journalist does a lot of reporting, more than what goes into the final product. If you are writing about a new subject, research, research, and research. Don’t make assumptions, and get all your facts. Then write as you know your subject—which you should, at this point.

4) Keep it short. More is not necessarily better. As an editor, one of the things I do most often is trim. Remember, readers don’t have unlimited time. If you have a long article or blog post, they may never reach the end. Strunk and White’s The Element of Style exhorts writers to “omit needless words.” This book is one of the slimmest volumes ever written on grammar and good writing, yet it is a classic. The authors certainly took their own advice.

5) Be genuine. There’s a place for blatant self-promotion, but if that’s all you ever do on the Internet, people will notice—and you will get a reputation. Be yourself, share as much about yourself as you are comfortable, and be social—because that’s the idea behind social media, right? I admit, as an introvert, I sometimes struggle with social media. I like posting inspirational sayings on my business Facebook page, but find that people really connect with the personal—photos of my cat (very popular!), the deer in our yard, my family, and food I’ve cooked. People also like personal, self-effacing stories. When a writer whose books I read turns out to be funny, passionate, or offbeat online, I love her all the more—and she doesn’t need to tell me for the 20th time that her new book is out. Believe me, if I like her, I’ll make a point to seek out her newest books.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Lourdes Venard has worked at major American newspapers, including The Miami Herald, Chicago Tribune, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and Newsday. She is also a freelance book editor, editing both fiction and nonfiction. Her work as a freelance editor spurred her to write Publishing for Beginners: What First-Time Authors Need to Know, an e-book available at Amazon.com

Guest Blogger John Scherber – The Artist Turns Detective

December 8, 2014 5 comments

perf5.500x8.500.inddThe Artist Turns Detective by John Scherber

A lot of people would like to paint, and I’m no exception.  In high school I had a close friend who painted, and I always wondered how well he did with it later in life. I took a run at it myself in those days and bombed badly. Much later I returned to it in a more methodical way and became fairly competent, but I didn’t quit my day job.

What I did learn from painting is that you have to see things differently. There were exercises where, for example, you’d paint a vase upside down. It helped to keep you from thinking of it as a vase––putting a name to it––only seeing the action of light and shadow on the surfaces, which is what you painted. Names come from a different part of the brain and they get in the way.

Later, I wondered whether seeing things differently be any use in solving a crime. My painter character, Paul Zacher, living in Mexico with his historian girlfriend, doesn’t think so when he’s asked to look into a murder by the widow of the victim. He knows he sees the relationships of curves and contours to each other, the different colors within the shadows on human skin. But what would he pick up at a crime scene that the police missed?

That’s the premise of my book, Twenty Centavos, the first of a series of mysteries involving Paul Zacher, his girlfriend Maya Sanchez, and their retired detective friend, Cody Williams. They are mostly set in San Miguel de Allende, a colonial mountain town in the center of México with a large expatriate population. I’ve lived there too for the past seven years.

At thirty-five, Paul is a guy with an irreverent sense of humor who does fairly well as a painter, showing at two galleries, and he likes his life. When the book begins, he is engaged in a series of nudes posed with statues of Mayan Gods against a jungle backdrop. The show he’s preparing for will be called Gods and Goddesses. Getting pulled into a criminal investigation, he finds himself at odds with the local police, and with himself as well, because he sometimes feels like a snoop. As an outgoing guy with an ironic sense of humor, he’s uncomfortable with his new need to be covert and even sneaky at times in order to solve a case.

When I began this book I was on a painting trip, driving down a long curving mountain road outside of Taos, New Mexico, when a scene came to me of a woman coming to pose for a nude portrait at a painter’s studio. She was not an experienced model, but wanted to preserve an image of herself in her prime at the age of twenty-eight. She was also wondering whether it might be fun to engage in a little rendezvous with the painter as well. He was an attractive guy and she knew he liked women.perf5.500x8.500.indd

As it developed, I turned this scene over and over in my mind and virtually memorized it. When I arrived at my hotel in Taos, I immediately sat down at my laptop and wrote it.

Paul Zacher, who already knew he was attracted to his new model, is nonetheless loyal to his Mexican girlfriend. As a painter, he views the naked body as landscape; hills and valleys, outcroppings of bush here and there. But even more, for him the studio is a place of discipline and concentration, and to get involved with a model means chaos. His reaction is complicated by the recollection of an earlier encounter where he had stumbled in the studio. Upon this model’s arrival, a fine misunderstanding follows.

Naturally, solving this case led to others. I found I was already working on the second book of the series, The Fifth Codex, even before I was finished revising Twenty Centavos.

Currently there are twelve published and another in process. They fall into two categories, artifact and relationship. Twenty Centavos is focused on ancient Mayan ceramics, and The Fifth Codex deals with the discovery of a fifth Maya book, where only four had been previously known. The fifth one, Strike Zone, is centered on the recovery of a skull cast from the remaining gold of the Aztecs in the days of the Conquest. These are the artifact books. The ninth concerns an attempt to steal Mexico’s greatest religious treasure, the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Brushwork, the third of the series, is about revenge. Daddy’s Girl, Vanishing Act, and Identity Crisis focus on love, loss and greed.

This is a rewarding series to write. I love the backdrop of the upscale expat community in San Miguel, and the continuity and developing relationship of the three core characters. As with so many successful series books, these are the books I myself want to read.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

DSC_0005-1John Scherber, a Minnesota native, settled in México in 2007. He is the author of twelve Paul Zacher mysteries, (The Murder in México series), set in the old colonial hill town of San Miguel de Allende, as well as his three award-winning nonfiction accounts of the expatriate experience, San Miguel de Allende: A Place in the Heart, Into the Heart of Mexico: Expatriates Find Themselves Off the Beaten Path, and Living in San Miguel: The Heart of the Matter.  In addition, two volumes of the Townshend Vampire Trilogy have appeared, and a paranormal thriller titled The Devil’s Workshop.

His work is known for its fast pace, irreverent humor, and light-hearted excursions into the worlds of art and antiques––always with an edge of suspense. Neither highbrow nor lowbrow, his books are written as entertainments and dedicated to the fun of reading. While he has acknowledged being no single one of his characters, he also admits to being all of them. Find John on Facebook and Twitter, and visit his website at: http://www.sanmiguelallendebooks.com

Guest Blogger – Connie Campbell Berry: Is A Critique Group Right for You?

October 20, 2014 9 comments

Is A Critique Group Right For You? by Connie Campbell Berry

Connie Berry

Connie Berry

You’ve spent months alone with your characters. The setting of your novel is more real to you than your hometown. You can quote whole chapters word for word. You laugh and cry at all the right places. But is your manuscript ready to be seen by agents and publishers?

Maybe not.

What you need is feedback. An unbiased take on your dialogue, characterization, and plot flow. Someone to point out lapses in continuity or point of view. Someone to catch the typos your brain automatically corrects. But where can you find unbiased readers who don’t demand your firstborn in payment?

One option is to join a critique group. After belonging to several, here are the top ten things I’ve learned:

1. You can’t write a novel by committee.
Critique groups work best when members feel free to express honest opinions and writers feel free to ignore them. You are the final arbiter of your work.

2. Agree on the guidelines.
Will you meet in person or online? How many pages will you submit? How long will you have to complete critiques? My suggestion is to limit submissions to
fifteen or twenty pages, double-spaced. Two weeks to complete critiques is usually workable. The important thing is to agree in advance.

3. Limit the number in the group.
More than five is probably too many. Critiquing four submissions every two
weeks takes time. Most of us have day jobs and families.

4. Seek a group with relatively similar skills and projects.
Including an inexperienced writer with those more skillful can work, but it can also be frustrating. Critique partners aren’t teachers or editors. And while good writing is good writing, the norms for various genres vary wildly. Would a group of cozy mystery writers really get dystopian fantasy? Would a writer of steamy romances fit into a group writing Christian historical fiction?

5. Share approximate word count in advance.
If three manuscripts fall in the 75,000 to 80,000 range and one is an epic of 250,000 words, you’ve got a problem. Will three of you hang in there with the fourth for several additional months? If manuscripts are dissimilar in length, agree on a plan. Those with shorter manuscripts might agree to post revisions or another WIP.

6. Don’t expect to be told how magnificent you are.
Be open to both positive and negative feedback. If you don’t want an honest
critique, ask your mother to read your manuscript instead.

7. Don’t argue.
Avoid the temptation to defend or explain your work. You’ve made no promises to agree with or use the feedback of others. Asking questions, however, can be very helpful. For example: “Can you tell me why that section didn’t work for you?”

8. Be timely.
Submit on time and finish critiques on time. Period.

9. Include positive feedback.
In addition to pointing out what doesn’t work, tell your critique group partners what you loved: a character finely drawn, a passage you just couldn’t put down, a lovely turn of phrase, the place where you laughed out loud. There is always something positive to say.

10. Give group members the right to opt out.
No explanations necessary.

If you are interested in forming or joining a critique group, find a local chapter of one of the national writers’ organizations like Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, and American Christian Fiction Writers. I hooked up with my first critique group through the Guppies, an online chapter of Sisters in Crime, dedicated to helping writers get published.

Attending writers’ conferences and workshops is another great way to meet fellow writers. The critique group I’m in now was formed at Seascape Writers’ Retreat in Connecticut.

Or you can find a group online. Check out these possibilities:
Ladies Who Critique (www.ladieswhocritique.com)
The Critique Circle (www.critiquecircle.com)
The Writer’s Chatroom (www.writerschatroom.com)
Absolute Write (www.absolutewrite.com)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Connie’s WIP, An Antique Murder, takes place on a fictional resort island in Lake Champlain. Leaf-peepers have come and gone on historic Lanark Island, and the locals gather for the Tartan Ball, the annual end-of-leaf-season gala. Among the invited guests is Ohio antique dealer and young widow, Kate Hamilton. Kate hoped never to return to the island where her husband died. But when his sister, proprietor of the island’s historic inn, claims to be in danger, Kate reluctantly agrees. Then a body turns up, and Kate finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. Kate has an alibi, but when the police arrest the gentle, mentally disabled man who tried to save her husband’s life, Kate launches her own investigation. What she uncovers is a secret that will rewrite Lanark’s history. And perhaps Kate’s future.

Like her main character, Connie Campbell Berry grew up in the antiques trade. She and her husband have two sons, a lovely daughter-in-law, and a sweet Shih Tzu named Millie. Connie loves travel, technology, knitting, and mysteries. Her day job is teaching a large, interdenominational Bible study.

Guest Blogger Debbie Herbert – Crystallizing Your Book Idea … for Paranormal or Any Genre

September 8, 2014 17 comments
Debbie Herbert

Debbie Herbert

Crystallizing Your Book Idea . . . for Paranormal or Any Genre
By Debbie Herbert

I love paranormal romance because the possibility of magic tingles my creative drive and curiosity. The speculation that there might be something more to reality than can be perceived through our senses provides a natural “what if” environment writers need to create stories.

Plus – I’ve never outgrown my love of fairytales and mythology!

Not only do I write paranormal romance, my subject matter isn’t of the popular vampire or werewolf variety. I chose to write about mermaids. I’d completed three other novels (as yet still unpublished) before switching to mermaids and landing multiple contracts with Harlequin Nocturne for a series.

It all started with a dream. I was swimming in a deep body of water when I noticed a man dumping something from the side of a boat. Curious, I swam over. The man noticed me and his expression was so evil that it frightened me and I woke up. Like a typical writer, I started asking those ‘what if” questions: what if he were a killer? what if he was dumping a dead body? what if I were a mermaid and he caught me?

And from that one dream, I created a world in which a clan of mermaids secretly lived deep in an Alabama bayou.

Okay, great ideas are had by all writers. How do you begin the whole unwieldy process of stringing together thousands of words into an interesting, coherent story?

We all have our own process. I’m sharing mine today in the hopes it may spur you to try something different that might make it all a little easier or clearer.

My starting point is answering these three questions:

1. What is the HOOK or PREMISE? What makes your book unique? What’s it about? Just write one sentence – the shorter the better.sirenssecretofficialcoverjpeg
2. What is the GOOD VERSUS EVIL in my world? I think for paranormal writers, this is important. Are your supernatural beings seeking power or dominance over humans or other creatures? For mystery writers, it may be an evil killer versus potential victims that provides this conflict.
3. What are the STAKES? The stakes are huge in paranormal worlds – it is often no less than world upheaval or human subjugation to supernatural beings.

If I can grasp these, I can go on to develop character and romance ARCS and external and internal conflicts. The questions form my logline and blurb. This is how I start every book. It’s how my brain works. Here are some examples from my books:

1. CHARMS – How can a teenage witch help an immortal on the run from another enemy immortal? Note: In Immortal legends there is already a strong, built-in good versus evil theme. The hook was combining the worlds of witchcraft and immortals. Stakes: Control of immortals and humans by an evil warlock clan.
2. CHANGELING –What happens to a child kidnapped by fairies and raised by them? Good versus Evil is between two warring fairy worlds. Hook is the reverse fairy tale. Stakes – if bad fairies win upcoming battle with good fairies, humans will suffer from bad fairies.
3. FAMILIAR MAGIC – How can a magical cat help an outcast middle grade girl? The evil are the bullies. The Hook is that the book is written from a cat POV. Stakes: character and animal’s happiness and survival in MG school world.
4. SIREN’S SECRET – Hook: What would happen if a mermaid saw a serial killer dumping a body at sea? Good versus Evil – serial killer versus cops. Stakes: Killer could expose mermaid world and endanger their species.
5. SIREN’S TREASURE – What would happen if a mermaid was captured by modern-day pirates? Hook – treasure hunt. Good versus evil – kidnappers versus law enforcement. Stakes: Missing H-bomb captured by American enemies. Stakes: World peace.
Siren'sTreasurecover6. SIREN’S CALL – What would happen if a siren met a man not affected by her magic? Hook – hidden world of Okwa Nahallo – (Choctaw legend of mermaids in the bayou) and Indian lore. Good versus Evil: Female stalker versus cops. Stakes: Main character’s life and happiness of hero – prevention of future murders.

Once you’ve answered these questions you can go about the nitty gritty details of plotting your book. I’m pretty low tech. I get a posterboard and divide it into 20 sections which represent each chapter. I fill in the turning points and any scenes that have come to mind. I don’t worry about filling every square, I just fill in what I have and GO.

How do you begin your novels? I’d love to hear your process as well!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Debbie Herbert writes paranormal romance novels reflecting her belief that love, like magic, casts its own spell of enchantment. She’s always been fascinated by magic, romance and gothic stories.

Married and living in Alabama, she roots for the Crimson Tide football team. Unlike the mermaid characters in Siren’s Secret, and Siren’s Treasure, she loves cats and has two spoiled feline companions. When not working on her upcoming books, Debbie enjoys recumbent bicycling with her husband as well as spending time with her two adult sons.
A past Maggie finalist in both Young Adult & Paranormal Romance, she’s a member of the Georgia Romance Writers of America. Debbie has a degree in English (Berry College, GA) and a master’s in Library Studies (University of Alabama).

Connect with Debbie on social media or learn more about her books.

http://www.debbieherbert.com
http://goo.gl/cdgxFT – buy link for Siren’s Secret
http://goo.gl/ymsQdL – buy link for Siren’s Treasure
Twitter: https://twitter.com/debherbertwrit
Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Debbie-Herbert-Author/151793451695632 Debbie Herbert Author

Guest Blogger Teresa Inge – Why Research is the Extra Element in Writing

August 18, 2014 11 comments
Author Teresa Inge

Author Teresa Inge

Why Research is the Extra Element in Writing by Teresa Inge

I grew up in North Carolina reading Nancy Drew mysteries. Combining my love of reading mysteries and writing professional articles led to writing short fiction and a novel.

I also love it when I research a new story I am writing. Most of the time this means a road trip with my family to the story’s location and most of the time I discover new ideas.

When researching my current story “Wine Country Murder,” my husband and I toured the Williamsburg Winery in Virginia. We elected to do the Reserve Wine Tasting tour, which meant visiting the basement where wines are produced and stored. I took pictures of oak barrels, machinery, and anything else I found pertinent to my research. Soon, the wine was flowing and so were my thoughts. But when a bat flew above our heads, it corked a new story plot. Later, the guide mentioned that bats often fly into their basement. I just never know what I will discover during research.

My family also joined me on a weekend trip to the Cavalier on the Hill hotel in Virginia Beach to research “Guide to Murder,” in Virginia is for Mysteries. As soon as we arrived I combed the grounds where the murder would take place. I took pictures, explored areas not meant for guests, and did lots of snooping!  Since this was a historic hotel, I stumbled across vintage items such as an old sauna that had a large lock strapped across the front. The enormous sauna was tucked in a dark corner on the bottom floor. I could only imagine guests of the 1920′s and 30′s going into the sauna for good health.

We next ventured to the Outerbanks in North Carolina to research a “Milepost Murder.” While driving through Nags Head during a summer storm, I noticed a wobbly street sign. I thought what if I kill a character with a milepost sign. Milepost signs are located throughout the Outerbanks to guide tourists to restaurants, hotels, and businesses. I then based the story on my favorite beach shop in Nags Head, and added a twist by placing a bar next door. My daughter made up the title to complete the story.

Since mystery readers are savvy and intelligent, authors have to conduct Internet research, interviews, and sometimes visit the story’s location to ensure facts are correct. Even though mystery authors write fiction, facts must be real.

Another trip included driving across the Rudy Inlet Bridge in Virginia Beach. I wondered what would happen if a vehicle went over the side. Would it sink? Float? Could a barge fit in the inlet? These questions led to researching “Fishing for Murder,” in the FishNets anthology.

Since I needed answers, I made my way under the bridge and discovered a small barge in the inlet. As I began taking pictures, a homeless woman scurried up the bridge wall and out of sight. I had disturbed her hiding place. Just as I turned, a man on a bicycle with a basket of beer approached me. He asked why I was taking pictures. The situation was daunting but it brought new light to my writing when I discovered an underground of homeless people.

While researching “Shopping for Murder,” in Virginia is for Mysteries, I based the setting on the Great Bridge Shopping Center in Chesapeake. Like most shoppers, I had always pulled into a front parking space and walked into the store. Since a scene in my story required a speeding vehicle behind the center, I drove my car to the back to do my research. Dangerous. Perhaps. But I had to know if a vehicle could fit in the small space.

Since mystery writing can be isolating, I enjoy conducting research since it adds an extra element to my writing process.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Teresa Inge grew up in North Carolina reading Nancy Drew mysteries. Today she doesn’t carry a rod, like her idol, but she hotrods. She assists two busy
executives and is president of Sisters in Crime, Virginia Beach chapter.

Love of reading mysteries and writing professional articles led to writing short fiction and a novel. Teresa’s published stories include Fishing for Murder in the Fish Nets anthology and Guide to Murder and Shopping for Murder in Virginia is for Mysteries.  Her website is http://www.teresainge.com.