Thursday, November 13, 2014

Down With Cubbyholes

As we know, there are many different sub genres for crime novels, from cozy and amateur sleuth through to police procedurals and noir. How would you characterize the kind of mystery you like to write and why did you chose this sub genre?

When people ask me what I write, I usually say novels. When pressed further, I’ll often say I’m a mystery writer. I find that it’s a whole lot easier than offering some intricate, convoluted explanation about the characteristics of various sub-genres and where I feel my work falls within those amorphous boundaries. After all,Agatha_Christie most people know what a mystery is—they’ve read them or seen mysteries on television. They’ve heard of Agatha Christie, even though they may never have read any of her work.

Which is fine with me. I certainly don’t mind being known as a mystery writer (I’ve been called worse things).

The truth is, I try not to pay much attention to genres, sub or otherwise. As a kid, when I’d go to the library, I wasn’t looking for any specific type of book. I was simply looking for a good book. A compelling, captivating, page-turner with great characters and a memorable plot. I know, not much to ask for, right?

It was only when I started writing, and then querying agents, that I found I had to place my work into a specific cubbyhole. The book will have to go on a bookseller’s shelf, I was told, and they need to know which shelf it will be. The publisher will need to market the book, I was told, and the marketing types need to know which readers to target. Certain reviewers will need to be contacted, certain conferences attended, certain awards aimed for, I was told, and all of that is genre-dependent.

I never set out to write a mystery; I was just trying to write a good book.

Ideas pop into my head and I run with them, not paying too much attention to the shelves they may eventually sit upon. Now, it so happens that my brain feels most at home wallowing in the word of crime (draw your own conclusions). I guess it’s not surprising, then, that most of my ideas revolve around bad (and illegal) things happening to my beleaguered protagonists.

However, I haven’t written exclusively in the crime realm. I wrote a horror novel (bad things happened to my protagonist in that one, too). And I wrote a YA coming-of-age novel. But pretty much everything else I’ve written could be classified as a crime novel.

So I guess, technically, I’m a crime writer. But if you ask me what kind of crime writer I am, I’ll probably just shrug and start mumbling something about simply trying to write a good book.

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If you haven’t had a chance to read the excerpt from my novel in the Kindle Scout program, there’s still time!  Check out RUNNING FROM THE PAST here. If you like it, I’d love a nomination! Thanks!

(This entry is “simul-posted” on Criminal Minds.)


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Monday, October 27, 2014

With A Little Help From My Friends

A Grand Experiment

My novel of suspense, RUNNING FROM THE PAST, is going to be part of a grand publishing experiment. For the next thirty days, you’ll be able to read an excerpt from the book, as part of the Kindle Scout Program.

If you like what you read, you can “nominate” it for publication. The more nominations the book gets, the better the chance it will get picked up for publication, where it can reach a much wider audience.

It’s sort of like American Idol for books.

What’s in it for you, you ask?

Two things:

First, my sincere appreciation. I’m sure you’re bombarded with people asking for favors, in your inbox, on Facebook, on Twitter. So thank you for taking a few minutes to read my work.

Second, if my book does indeed get selected for publication, you will receive a free copy of the entire novel as a thank-you. Plus you can say you read it at an early stage and helped it get published!

To read the excerpt, *CLICK HERE*




Here’s a description:

As Colby Walker gets to know his teenage son’s friend Jess, he spots the signs in short order: downcast eyes, passivity, angry red welts marching across the boy’s bare back. He understands what they mean because he’d been that boy, many years ago.

He’d suffered in silence, too.

Can Walker stand by and let Jess’s torment continue, leaving the boy’s future in the hands of the so-called authorities, the ones who had done nothing to help him during his own tortured childhood?

Hell no.

Instead of alerting Child Protective Services or returning the boy to his father, Walker “kidnaps” Jess, packs up the minivan, and takes his family on the lam, keeping one step ahead of Jess’s cruel father and unhinged ex-con aunt. But as the stakes increase—and his headstrong actions lead to his wife and daughter getting snatched, quid pro quo—Walker must finally conquer his past before he can save the lives of those he loves.

To read the excerpt, *CLICK HERE*


PLEASE SHARE

Because every vote counts, please let any (and all) of your suspense-novel-loving friends and family know about it, too!

Here’s a bit.ly link:  http://bit.ly/12QP79x

Thanks!


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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Feeding the Dark Side

Which type of character is more fun to write: villain or hero (in the classic sense of the word)?

Let me recap this week’s answers, so far (see Criminal Minds).

On Monday, Meredith said that “Characters should be fun to write--no matter what their role is in your story.” In other words, she thinks writing both villains and heroes are fun. Score: Heroes 1, Villains 1.

On Tuesday, R.J. said she enjoys creating the hero more than the villain. Running Score: Heroes 2, Villains 1.

On Wednesday, Tracy proclaimed her love for writing villains (even though she was under the spell of a high dosage of pharmaceuticals, we’ll chalk one up for the dark side). Running Score: Heroes 2, Villains 2.

Now it’s my turn to weigh in.

I’m tempted to say that I don’t like writing either heroes or villains. It’s difficult (emotionally trying) to write a sympathetic hero and then subject him (or her) to a wide range of nasty incidents. It’s cruel! It’s inhumane! It’s inconsiderate! But, it makes for good conflict!

On the other hand, it’s hard to write a villain; it’s hard to worm yourself inside his (or her) twisted mind as he (or she) goes about stealing, maiming, killing, or cutting off people in traffic.

But saying I don’t relish writing either the hero or the villain would be copping out. Besides, I guess I really do have a preference. While writing the hero may be more satisfying/rewarding/enlightening, writing the villain can be more fun.

A few reasons:

High Stakes – Most of my books are about the struggles of the heroes, so the portions written from the villains’ POV are often more concentrated and more intense (and focus on something of utmost importance). In other words, the villains are on stage for only a short time, and I try to make every moment count double (or triple).

Over-the-Topness – Depending on what kind of story I’m writing, I can draw my villains a bit larger than life than the hero. After all, things like laws—and common decency—matter little to evildoers, and the villains have to present a major challenge to the heroes. (I had a great time writing the villain, Dallas Pike, in my horror novel, THE TASTE. He was a very nasty man who pretty much did what he pleased. Fun!)

Feeding my Dark Side – In general, my heroes are nice people. Sure, they’ve got their flaws, but underneath they fall squarely on the side of goodness, justice, and unicorns. Sometimes it just feels great to write about depravity for a change, know what I mean?

Running score: Villains 3, Heroes 2.

(This entry is “simul-posted” on Criminal Minds.)


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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Hello? Anybody There?


Do you feel like being a writer is a career choice or a calling?


I’ve been and done many things before becoming a writer. Engineer, product planner, marketing manager, entrepreneur. In fact, writing fiction never even crossed my mind until relatively recently (ten years ago).


I disliked writing in high school (Although I loved to read, I didn’t love reading all those boring, assigned books written by dead guys for class. I stuck to my science fiction, much to the consternation of my father, the former English teacher.)


I disliked writing in college. I studied engineering, so I didn’t really have to write much. And certainly nothing creative, unless you consider the analysis of a system’s vibration profile creative (truth: writing a grocery list is more creative).


I disliked writing in grad school. Although I more writing was required there, I managed to fill my papers with technical jargon and buzzwords. We even had a roommate competition where we came up with a list of buzzwords we had to use in each assignment. Which kept us amused, if not the professors.


So if being a writer is a calling for me, the phone rang pretty late.


Actually, in my case, writing was an absolute choice. More evidence: Some writers say they HAVE to write. That if they miss a day of writing, they feel bad. Not me. I can go whole weeks, nay months, without writing, and I wouldn’t feel any different. (Now, if I were to go a whole week without eating, then I would feel bad. Maybe my true calling is eating.)

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This question brings up something I struggle with from time to time: my identity. When people ask me what I “do,” I (still) have a hard time saying writer. Yes, I’ve published six books (three traditionally,  three self-pubbed. Note the library “shelfie” with fellow Criminal Mind Clare’s books). Yes, I’m involved with writing organizations and attend writing conferences. Yes, I teach writing workshops (some start this month, sign up HERE). But I still hesitate before I claim to be a writer.


Maybe I’ll just tell people I’m an eater and ask for directions to the nearest buffet.

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My book, RIDE-ALONG, is now available as a trade paperback. Enter the Goodreads Giveaway HERE for a chance to win your very own signed copy!

http://amzn.to/Wgy0KE

(This entry is “simul-posted” on Criminal Minds.)


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Monday, August 25, 2014

Write On!

DC-area writers: September is the perfect time to take a writing workshop, and as it happens, I’ll be teaching FOUR different ones at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda.

Three are one-day (2.5 hour) sessions:

Whodunit? How to Write a Mystery (9/6, 10 am)

Elements of Fiction: Dialogue (9/6, 2 pm)

Writing the Dreaded Query Letter (9/13, 2 pm).

I’ll also be teaching an 8-week workshop:

Fiction II - Writing Compelling Fiction (Saturdays 10 – 12:30) beginning on 9/13.

Click HERE for more details and registration information. If you have specific questions, ask in the comments or shoot me an email!

Write On!


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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Give Me a Hand, Will Ya?

Why do you think the crime writing community is so mutually supportive?

First, let me address the assertion that the crime writing community is supportive.

Yes, yes, yes it is! The vast (vast!) majority of crime writers I’ve met have been generous with their time and advice, friendly, approachable, helpful, and supportive. They seem to operate under the credo, “If one succeeds, we all succeed.” Or “A rising tide raises all boats.” Or maybe “Mystery loves company.”

It’s a wonderful group, and I’m lucky to be a part of it.

Of course, there are many practical reasons why we (crime writers) need to be nice to each other:

    • We know dozens of ways to kill people without leaving any clues.
    • You might have to rely on a fellow writer as a character witness during your murder trial.
    • You never know when you’ll need someone to back you up with a rock-solid alibi.
    • You never know who you might need to drive the getaway car. Or who you’ll have to persuade to come out on a dark and stormy night, with a shovel, and help bury the bodies.

To be fair (at least in my experience), I have to say that most writers I’ve met, regardless of genre, have been very supportive. I guess it’s because we all struggle with that blinking cursor and the never-ending self-doubts about our work.

(This entry is “simul-posted” on Criminal Minds.)


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Thursday, August 7, 2014

No Threat to Society

What’s the worst thing I ever wrote?

Hmm. The worst thing? Hard to settle on just one; there are so many contenders.

I mean, seriously? Bad writing? I’m an engineer. They practically taught us to write in desiccated techno-speak. It seemed the worse I wrote, the better my grade.

Of course, writing is so subjective—one person’s dreck might be another person’s cup o’ tea. And when evaluating, do first drafts count? What about poetry? (The best/worst of my poetry couldn’t hold a candle to Tracy’s example yesterday.) What about stuff I wrote in grade school? Or college? (Did I mention I’m an engineer?)

You see, not such an easy question to answer.

Here’s what I can say:

My first attempt at a novel currently resides in an asbestos-lined vault, buried deep in my backyard, where it poses no threat to society. (I guess that answers the question, huh?) The prose is terrible and there are more plot holes than plot. (It wasn’t all bad. I liked the font I used.) Let’s stipulate that it’s best if we let that one continue to rest in peace.

A few years ago, I went back and took a look at my second attempt at a novel. The prose was horrid in this one, too, but I liked the story and the characters and the structure. So I decided to resurrect it from the depths of my hard drive.

I opened two windows on my laptop, a blank Word document in one and the manuscript in the other. I then proceeded to re-write every single sentence in the book, revising as I went along. After more revision, I can honestly say that it doesn’t stink!

I could go on with more examples of less-than-stellar work, but then I might run the risk of making this blog post the worst thing I’ve ever written.

And there’s only so much room in my subterranean vault.

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I had a lot of fun at the recent DC Noir at the Bar. Here’s a video of me reading:

 

 

(This entry is “simul-posted” on Criminal Minds.)


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