Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Hey, Get Off My Lawn!

Have you ever tried to incorporate a popular trend (such as zombies or vampires) into your own work? Have you ever felt pressure to do so to increase sales/circulation?

Some people have referred to me as Mr. Anti-Trend.

To wit:

When bell bottoms and flares were all the rage (way back when), I would only wear straight leg pants. Five years after that, when straight leg jeans were in, I was sporting flares.

I do not own a smartphone (I refuse to get a phone smarter than me).

You know those skintight leggings that runners have been wearing for a decade? I don’t own any. Instead, I run in baggy sweatpants (the same ones I’ve owned for probably a decade). spinning

Don’t own any Apple products. My MP3 player is a Sansa.

I never rollerbladed or went to spinning class. 

I didn’t start watching Breaking Bad until the series had already ended.

I’m not on Instagram or Pinterest or Tsu or Reddit or StumbleBumble or whatever.

I don’t know the difference between a mocha, a macchiato, an espresso, a frappuccino, a cappuccino, a whatheheckuccino, a latte, and a flat white (although that last one sounds like the paint color I used for my wife’s dressing room). I think there’s coffee involved, right?

I still own luggage without wheels.

When I read a newspaper in the morning, I read a newspaper.

Sometimes I wear a watch on my wrist. One whose only function is to tell time.

In fact, I’m so untrendy I don’t even know what the current trends are!

I guess my answer to this question is obvious: No, I don’t write to any current trends. I write what I want, and figure if I like it, there must be someone else out there, somewhere, who might like it too.

Now, can anyone help me program my Betamax?

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


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Thursday, January 8, 2015

It was the Best of Lines, It was the Worst of Lines…

Some authors think that the opening line of a book is what grabs a reader. Do you agree with this? What are some of your favorite opening lines?

I’m a big fan of great opening lines. As a reader, I love getting sucked into a compelling story from the get-go. As a writer, it’s a chance to make a bold first impression, and I work diligently to come up with killer opening lines for my books.

A perfect opening line can set the tone for the rest of the book, offer a hint about what’s to come, introduce a fascinating character’s voice, or spark a question in the mind of the reader (ideally, it should accomplish more than one of those things). Perhaps most importantly, a terrific opening line can hook that reader fast and hard, letting you reel him in during the rest of the book.

Some of my favorite ones include:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” — A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

“Call me Ishmael.” — Moby Dick, Herman Melville.

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” — 1984, George Orwell

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” — Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

“It was a pleasure to burn.” — Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” — Rebecca, Daphne Du Maurier

“This was no time for play. This was no time for fun. This was no time for games. There was work to be done.” — The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, Dr. Seuss.

“The next to the last time I saw Tush Bannon alive was the very same day I had that new little boat running the way I wanted it to run, after about six weeks of futzing around with it.” — Pale Gray For Guilt, John D. MacDonald

“You may remember me. Think back. The summer of 1990. I know that’s a while ago, but the wire services picked up the story and I was in every newspaper in the country.” — The Lock Artist, Steve Hamilton

“The summer my father bought the bear, none of us was born—we weren’t even conceived: not Frank, the oldest; not Franny, the loudest; not me, the next; and not the youngest of us, Lilly and Egg.” — The Hotel New Hampshire, John Irving

“When Sean Devine and Jimmy Marcus were kids, their fathers worked together at the Coleman Candy plant and carried the stench of warm chocolate back home with them.” — Mystic River, Dennis Lehane.

And the favorite opening line(s) that I wrote:

“Never killed a cop before. Never had to.” — Ride-Along

 

What about you? What are some of your favorite opening lines?

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


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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.

********

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.

***

 

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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