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Guest Blogger: Warren Moore – The Pinocchio Process (click to see comments)

The Pinocchio Process by Warren Moore

I’ve been writing since before I knew how to write – no, really. There are reel-to-reel tapes of a three-year-old me reciting songs and stories. My dad asks, “Did you make that up?” I say I did, and he says, “Pretty weird, kid.”

It really hasn’t changed too much since then. Although my parents aren’t around anymore, I still make up songs and stories, and sometimes, they’re pretty weird. One thing that has changed a bit over the years, however, is that some of them have been published, both traditionally and online. And in fact, that’s happened often enough in the last five years or so that I’m kind of having to reassess some things.

I have a day job: I’m an English professor at a small liberal-arts college in a small town in South Carolina, and I’ve been doing that for almost fifteen years. Make no mistake – that’s how I make my living. But since I started placing stories, and since my novel came out a few years ago, I’ve started thinking of myself a little differently. I’m still an English prof, but I’m coming to realize that I’m something else as well.

I’m a writer.

At this point, you can take a moment to shrug and say, “Well, duh.” But I think some of you may know what I mean. Five years ago, I saw myself as – I was – an English professor who did other things as a hobby – playing drums, writing stories. I still do those things, so what’s different?
Well, the way the world and I see what I do, for one. And examples of that form what I call Pinocchio moments, when I start to realize that I’m a real boy – I mean, a real writer. My stories are published (sometimes) alongside writers like Joyce Carol Oates, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, and Stephen King. I get paid for that work. (And that’s a big one – when someone tells you that they like the stuff you make up so much that they will make you a gift of money for it? That’s an affirmation.) I’ve had stories positively reviewed in USA Today and the New York Times. I’ve appeared on panels at conferences and conventions, and I’ve been lucky enough to be a guest at a signing at Otto Penzler’s Mysterious Bookshop. Perhaps best of all, some of my favorite writers, the folks who inspired me to write, have told me they like my work. I’m a Real Boy, it seems.

But unlike Mr. Collodi’s fictional puppet, there wasn’t a Blue Fairy to effect my transformation. I had been a Real Writer all along, even though I didn’t recognize it for a long time. What caused those Pinocchio moments? The fact that I put the work in, and that I put that work Out There. Once I did that, the world let me know what I might not have been willing to admit. And if you’re writing, you should do that as well. Reach out – let people see that, whatever else you do, you’re also a Real Writer. You may very well have been one all along. Pretty weird, huh?

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WARREN MOORE is Professor of English at Newberry College in Newberry, SC. His novel Broken Glass Waltzes was recently republished by Down & Out Books, and his short fiction has appeared in several online venues, magazines, and anthologies, including Dark City Lights (2015), In Sunlight or In Shadow (2016), and Alive in Shape and Color (2017), all edited by Lawrence Block. He blogs as “Professor Mondo” at http://profmondo.wordpress.com, and tweets as @profmondo. His work is available via Amazon and other retailers.

Guest Blogger: Heather Weidner – Plotter or Panster? What’s Your Style? I Think I’m a Binge Writer (click for comments)

Plotter or Pantser? What’s Your Style? I Think I’m a Binge Writer by Heather Weidner

Thank you so much for letting me stop by for a visit on your blog. I love to talk about books and writing.
Writers usually fall into one of two camps, plotters (those who plan, plot, and outline before writing), and pantsers (those who write by the seat of their pants). Plotters know the path and the plan to get to the end. Pantsers go where the characters and story takes them.
I am probably a hybrid of the two, though I lean heavily on the plotter side. I plot everywhere. I jot ideas on sticky notes and on scraps of paper. I carry a notebook in my purse for plotting emergencies. I have outlines, character biographies, and color-coded storylines. I keep a chart of all the places and characters. I describe them to the nth degree. This is also helpful if you decide to write a series. That way, my character’s eye color or the color of her kitchen doesn’t change in a later work.
I also use this to take care of my urge to write backstory. I put all the details in this document. Some of the information will never see the light of day, but it keeps me from overloading the story with too much history. Backstory or historical details are better sprinkled in throughout the work.
After my major plotting, I’m ready to start writing. And that’s when the pantser raises its head. I always decide I like a minor character better than another, and sometimes the story takes a tangent. In my first novel, Secret Lives and Private Eyes (May 2016), I planned to keep one character around for the series to create some tension. But as it turned out, I liked another character much better, and his role took on a life of its own. So, without spoiling the surprise, character two is around for book two.
After the plotting and the first draft, which my friend Mary Burton calls the “sloppy copy,” I am ready to revise. This phase takes me the longest. I can write pretty quickly once I get started, but it takes me forever to reorder, change, and revise. And what I think is chapter one during the writing stage, never ends up that way in the final, published version.
I try to write every day, but it doesn’t always happen. I work full-time in IT, and sometimes the only thing I wrote in a week were performance evaluations and budget recommendations. Life gets in the way. I’m much happier when I stopped beating myself up about writing and hitting daily word counts. I write when I can. I binge write. I get up at 5:00 AM and write or do my social media promotion before work. I write at lunch. My coworkers tease me when I write in the cafeteria (but they always want to know who dies in the next book). I write a lot on my days off, weekends, and holidays.
You need to decide what works for you and create your style. It is harder to pick up your writing after you’ve been away for a while, but you need to balance your writing with everything else in your life. The best advice that I’ve received throughout the years is to be persistent and keep writing if you want to be published.

Author Biography
Heather Weidner’s short stories appear in the Virginia is for Mysteries series and 50 Shades of Cabernet. She is a member of Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia, Guppies, Lethal Ladies Write, and James River Writers. The Tulip Shirt Murders is her second novel in her Delanie Fitzgerald series.
Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather has been a mystery fan since Scooby Doo and Nancy Drew. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers.
Heather earned her BA in English from Virginia Wesleyan College and her MA in American literature from the University of Richmond. Through the years, she has been a technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, and IT manager. She blogs regularly with the Pens, Paws, and Claws authors.

Private investigator Delanie Fitzgerald, and her computer hacker partner, Duncan Reynolds, are back for more sleuthing in The Tulip Shirt Murders. When a local music producer hires the duo to find out who is bootlegging his artists’ CDs, Delanie uncovers more than just copyright thieves. And if chasing bootleggers isn’t bad enough, local strip club owner and resident sleaze, Chaz Smith, pops back into Delanie’s life with more requests. The police have their man in a gruesome murder, but the loud-mouthed strip club owner thinks there is more to the open and shut case. Delanie and Duncan link a series of killings with no common threads. And they must put the rest of the missing pieces together before someone else is murdered.

The Tulip Shirt Murders is a fast-paced mystery that appeals to readers who like a strong female sleuth with a knack for getting herself in and out of humorous situations such as larping and trading elbow jabs with roller derby queens.

Contact Information
Website and Blog: http://www.heatherweidner.com
Pens, Paws, and Claws Blog: http://penspawsandclaws.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/HeatherWeidner1
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HeatherWeidnerAuthor
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/heather_mystery_writer/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8121854.Heather_Weidner
Amazon Authors: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00HOYR0MQ
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/HeatherBWeidner/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/heather-weidner-0064b233?trk=hp-identity-name
BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/heather-weidner-d6430278-c5c9-4b10-b911-340828fc7003

Book Links
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077CSZ53X
Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1310643581
Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-tulip-shirt-murders-heather-weidner/1127425899?ean=2940155054696
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-tulip-shirt-murders
Scribd: https://www.scribd.com/book/363967058/The-Tulip-Shirt-Murders-The-Delanie-Fitzgerald-Mysteries-2
24Symbols: https://www.24symbols.com/book/x/x/x?id=2468512
Playster: https://play.playster.com/books/10009780999459812/the-tulip-shirt-murders-heather-weidner
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36591325-the-tulip-shirt-murders?from_search=true

The End of Our Thanksgiving (click for comments)

The End Of Our Thanksgiving by Debra H. Goldstein
Thanksgiving week at the Goldstein’s house is coming to an end. The last child will be flying out tonight. The first one arrived last Tuesday. In between, a total of twelve people and one grand-dog descended on us. As parents, we will miss them and look forward to our next get-together. As curmudgeons, we are delighted to have our house back to ourselves.

Just think, we will be able to sleep until whatever time our body clock wakes us rather than setting an alarm for a dawn airport run or having a four-year-old jumping on our bed to see “are you awake?” while a 55-lb puppy bounds into our room, barely putting on the brakes before crashing into my nightstand to let me know she is awake. We won’t load carloads of people and food to take to our joint first cousin family Thanksgiving nor drag chairs from the formal dining room to squeeze around the kitchen table when we breakout the leftovers a few hours after getting home.

Uneaten food remnants are thrown out, beds changed, dog hair vacuumed up (not to mention paint dried from where the grand-dog scratched the laundry room trim to the point my son-in-law spent hours replacing, sanding, and painting while repairing the damage). Basketballs, footballs, dolls, and books are put away.

The house is quiet and peaceful, but not quite as perfect as the past few days.

Guest Blogger Margaret Fenton – Sometimes a Bad Day Turns Into a Good Day, Especially If There’s Gin (click for comments)

Sometimes a Bad Day Turns Into a Good Day, Especially If There’s Gin by Margaret Fenton

2007 was a great year. I went to Killer Nashville in August. I paid a lot of extra dollars and was given the opportunity to pitch my unpublished manuscript to either an agent or a representative from Oceanview Publishing. I chose the agent, a lady from New York whose name I no longer remember. I gave her my carefully prepared statement. I had written a mystery called Little Lamb Lost, about a child welfare social worker who gets to work one day and one of her clients, a boy just under two years old, is dead. The mother is arrested for murder. My protagonist, Claire Conover, was the social worker who was responsible for returning the child to the mother. Mom worked really hard to get her child back and make a good life for them both. Claire makes it her mission to figure out what happened. Sounds great, right?

The agent HATED IT. She berated me for ten minutes about how no one was going to buy a mystery where the victim was a child. Ever. I might as well give up and go home. I left that meeting feeling like my dreams would never come true, and that the two years I had spent on this manuscript were a horrible waste of time. And I had paid quite a bit of money to hear it. I went to the bar.

I ordered the largest gin and tonic the bartender could make. He noted the look on my face and did a great job. I sat in the bar and sipped. And sipped. And sipped. When my friend Don Bruns approached me, I was pretty buzzed. He asked me how the pitch went and I held back tears as I relayed what happened. Don is published by Oceanview, and volunteered to go get the rep from his publisher and let me pitch to her. I agreed and he left and returned with Maryglenn McCombs. I continued sipping.

I don’t remember exactly what I said to Maryglenn. I think it was a version of what I said to the agent, with the added statement that no one wants to read about a dead kid, apparently. She said it sounded interesting and asked to see it. I don’t think I believed her. No, really, send it to me, she said. I agreed, and suddenly the drinking became a celebration.

I mailed the manuscript when I got home and within two months I had a contract, an advance, and a pub date: June 1, 2009. I went on a small tour for the book and had the best time. Somewhere between the publishing of my first novel and my completion of the second novel in the series, Oceanview decided they were only going to publish thrillers. They asked me to make Little Girl Gone a thriller. I tried, but it’s not. It’s an amateur sleuth mystery. I sat on it for over three years, trying to decide what to do. I didn’t want to agent search. Eventually I decided to put it out through Amazon and CreateSpace. I miss having a publisher but like the freedom of making all the decisions. I’m working on the third book in the series, Little White Lies, and I hope it’s going to be out early next year. Thanks for letting me blog here, and I hope all your bad days turn to good days. If not, there’s always gin.

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Margaret Fenton, author of Little Girl Gone, grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and moved to Birmingham in 1996. She received her B.A. in English from the Newcomb College of Tulane University, and her Master of Social Work from Tulane. Fenton spent nearly ten years as a child and family therapist before taking a break to focus on her writing. Her work tends to reflect her interest in social causes and mental health, especially where kids are concerned. She serves as planning coordinator of Murder in the Magic City, a one-day, one-track annual mystery fan conference in Homewood, Alabama. She is President of the Birmingham Chapter of Sisters in Crime and a member of the Mystery Writers of America. Margaret lives in the Birmingham suburb of Hoover with her husband, a software developer.

Juxtaposing “Days of Wine and Roses” and “Where Did the Summer Go?” by Debra H. Goldstein (click for comments)

Juxtaposing “Days of Wine and Roses” and “Where Did the Summer Go?

You know how a song gets caught in your head? Two phrases are ringing in my ears, but I don’t know how or why my brain thinks they go together. Logically, they don’t. There just isn’t an intellectual way to reconcile “Days of Wine and Roses” and “Where did summer go?”

Why I thought of the latter question is easy to understand. We’ve passed the first official day of fall, the temperature has cooled, and leaves are changing colors and falling. If these things didn’t make the point to me, a few shopping trips did. One-minute stores were filled with patriotic July 4th merchandise, the next day they were offering Labor Day specials, and the Halloween stuff was already being pushed aside last week for Thanksgiving cards and turkey decorations. What’s worse, on the internet, besides Black Friday mentions, there already are Christmas countdowns.

“Days of Wine and Roses” doesn’t make as much sense to me. The play and the movie were about a young couple who became alcoholics and their fight for sobriety. Spoiler: one made it, one didn’t, but the open-ending left a slim chance for the future. If I was thinking of apples and honey, I would say my thoughts were influenced by Jewish New Year and the Day of Atonement I observed a few weeks ago. Or if it was my anniversary, birthday, or a just because day, I could understand roses (Yellow roses are my favorite, in case you ever need to know). Wine isn’t something that excites or even interests me, so why is this phrase pulsating through my mind?

Maybe it is a combination of my dislike of the change to daylight savings as this is the part of the year where it will get dark sooner and my mood will follow. Perhaps it is because I know we are in the final quarter of the year which means end of the year responsibilities loom – closing committee reports, taxes, and the year itself aging because that means the same for me. Of course, it could be the holiday commercialism that will abound for the next three months.

Then again, it could be that the juxtaposition of these two phrases represent a kind of rebirth. The year ends, but begins anew. Within the confines of family and friends, the holidays represent fun, joy, getting together, and probably partaking of a bit of wine. Days and seasons (not to mention the time to writing deadlines) pass way to quickly, but there is a constant rekindling of hope. The movie was open-ended; our writing and lives are the same.

Guest Blogger – Leslie Wheeler – Inspired by Edith Wharton and the Berkshires (click for comments)

                Leslie Wheeler

When I moved to the Berkshires many years ago, I was an aspiring writer. So, I naturally sought out other authors who had lived and written there. The author with whom I felt the most kinship and who turned out to be an important influence on a novel I would eventually write was Edith Wharton.

Like Wharton, I built a home in the area—though nowhere near as grand as The Mount, and located in a remote hamlet, instead of fashionable Lenox. As The Mount was to Wharton, my house was my first real home as an adult, and a place where I’ve spent many happy and productive hours, writing, gardening, and entertaining guests like she did.

Also like Wharton, I’ve enjoyed exploring the countryside. Sallying forth on foot or by car, I imagined Wharton touring the Berkshires in her chauffeur-driven motorcar, with Henry James at her side, their “imagination so tantalized by the mystery beyond the next blue hills.”

Like Wharton, I have often been struck by the “somber beauty” of the landscape. This beauty is lyrically described in her two Berkshire novels, Ethan Frome and Summer, and I’ve done my best to convey it in my own novel, Rattlesnake Hill.

Yet, again like Wharton, I’m well aware of the area’s dark side. Wharton found this darkness in the lives of the inhabitants of “villages still bedrowsed in a decaying rural existence,” as she described them in her autobiography, A Backward Glance. And it was these “sad, slow-speaking people living in conditions hardly changed since their forebears held those villages against the Indians” that she wrote about in her Berkshire novels, books whose bleakness puts their author squarely in the tradition of Nathanial Hawthorne and Herman Melville.

Each of the novels was inspired by a horrific, real-life event. In Ethan Frome, it’s a disastrous sledding accident in Lenox. In Summer, it’s the grim tale of a “mountain burial” on Bear Mountain, near Lee, that Wharton heard from the rector of her Lenox church.

In Summer, Bear Mountain is called The Mountain, an evil place that casts an ominous shadow over the surrounding villages. When Wharton’s protagonist, Charity Royall, goes there to witness her mother’s funeral in a squalid shack lit by a single candle, in the company of a motley crew of cursing, quarreling drunkards, she discovers that The Mountain is indeed a frightening place.

In my novel, Rattlesnake Hill replaces The Mountain as the locus of evil. The hill owes its name to the timber rattlesnakes that still haunt its rocky slopes. It’s also home to the Barkers, a wild clan known for their violent tempers, said to stem from the rattlesnake blood in their veins.

At the heart of my novel is a tragic story I heard about a love triangle that ended with the woman’s murder and her lover’s blinding. In Rattlesnake Hill, the tale of these doomed lovers reverberates across the generations until it’s finally repeated, more than a hundred years later, in another triangle that also ends with the woman’s death. When my protagonist, Kathryn Stinson, plunges into a passionate affair with Earl Barker, whose ancestor was involved in the long-ago triangle, and who also figured in the more recent triangle, the story threatens to repeat itself a third time.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

An award-winning author of books about American history and biographies, Leslie Wheeler has written three Miranda Lewis “living history” mysteries: Murder at Plimoth Plantation, Murder at Gettysburg, and Murder at Spouters Point. Her latest novel, Rattlesnake Hill, is the first in a new series of Berkshire Hilltown Mysteries, and will be released in February, 2018. Leslie’s mystery short stories have appeared in various anthologies including Day of the Dark, Stories of Eclipse, and the Best New England Crime Stories series, published by Level Best Books, where she was a co-editor/co-publisher for six years. A member of Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime, she is Speakers Bureau Coordinator for the New England Chapter of SinC. Leslie divides her time between Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Berkshires, where she does much of her writing in a house overlooking a pond.

Rattlesnake Hill is available at https://encirclepub.com/product/rattlesnake-hill-by-leslie-wheeler/  or http://bit.ly/2xGNH3G

Las Vegas, Other Tragedies and Humanity (click for comments) by Debra H. Goldstein

Usually, I write my blogs in advance and have them prescheduled to pop up at six in the morning. With Yom Kippur, the most important Jewish holiday, during which we atone for our sins and on which our fate for the next year is sealed, being this past weekend and a number of other things occurring, I wrote part of today’s blog, but never finished it. I was going to sneak it up a few hours late. But then I woke up to the tragic shooting in Las Vegas.

I don’t usually write political blogs nor comment on current events, but the world has gone to hell in a handbag. Whether by the actions of terrorists or lone wolf demented individuals, we no longer live in an Ozzie and Harriett or Leave it to Beaver era. Come to think of it, I never did. I grew up with protests, Vietnam, and the history of Kent State. I also grew up feeling safe to wander the streets of London in early morning to see if char ladies really existed, to run down a street in Boston, to hear a concert in Las Vegas, to dance at a club in Florida, to fly in and out of Paris, and to kiss my children good-bye as they went off to spend terms abroad.


My heart goes out to those who have been killed or injured in any and all of these instances. The waste of life, the loss of human potential cannot be measured. History teaches us the sins of hatred and violence accomplish nothing except decimating humanity so why are they repeated? I don’t have an answer, but I rile against those who act without thought for others.

We talk of communication, but there is none in these acts. A point is made, but it is lost in the tragedy of the moment. I reach out my hand to all of you for only if we communicate will there be a world and a life for us, our children, our grandchildren, and the generations to come.

Guest Blogger – Nupur Tustin – Touched by the Bard – Shakespeare’s Influence on the Haydn Mysteries (click for comments)

Touched by the Bard Shakespeare’s Influence on the Haydn Mysteries by Nupur Tustin

It was from the Cambridge Companion to Haydn that I learned that the great composer’s library contained the complete volume of Shakespeare’s plays—in the original English at that. Shakespeare’s plays were quite popular in the German-speaking world.

They were enacted in the Esterházy theater, and Haydn would have had to compose incidental music for these performances. They were even popular, Tim Blanning tells us in his biography of Frederick the Great, in Prussia. The king himself denigrated his subjects’ taste in the matter; nevertheless, the plays were widely appreciated by audiences.

That Haydn appreciated them as well pleased me no end. I enjoy Shakespeare. I especially like his comedies, but I’ve immersed myself in the tragedies as well. Naturally, I wondered how to incorporate something of the great bard into my Haydn Mysteries.

Comic writers from Shakespeare and Ben Jonson to Oscar Wilde and G.B. Shaw have used certain stock ideas to elicit laughter: the appearance and disappearance of an item; mistaken identity; characters acting at cross-purposes.

So, in A Minor Deception, the missing violinist Bartó’s travel trunk disappears, reappears, only to disappear all over again. The maids Rosalie and Greta discover it, and their consternation when it vanishes barely an hour later is fairly comic. To make matters worse, only Rosalie has seen it.

Greta, of course, stands staunchly by her friend, although there’s a suggestion Rosalie might be mistaken. As in a Shakespearean play, the reader is Rosalie’s only witness. And theories abound as to the cause of the trunk’s disappearance and the parties responsible for it.

In another scene, Rosalie and Greta bring down, at Haydn’s behest, the musicians’ violin case on the pretext that the Prince has ordered every case be polished in preparation for the upcoming imperial visit.

The maid, however, are actually looking for the emblem of Matthias Corvinus, a bygone Hungarian king said to inspire the Hungarian dissidents’ anti-Habsburg efforts. The musician who sports the emblem will likely be the traitor whom the missing violinist Bartó has maneuvered into the palace.

But in their haste to examine the violin cases, they quite forget the polish and rags that will lend credence to their pretext. And, yes, they are discovered by a key suspect.

It’s the kind of thing you might see on Frasier, a brilliant television comedy featuring a goofy but lovable psychiatrist, Frasier Crane, and his brother, Niles. While obstacles lend comic effect in a comedy, in a mystery, they help to delay the resolution of the mystery, making the solution that much harder to achieve.

In my short story, The Baker’s Boy, Haydn’s involvement in the mystery plot is inspired by an idea from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Like Macbeth, Haydn receives a prophecy: his fortunes will turn. And like Macbeth, Haydn isn’t content with leaving the matter to the fates. He can’t help feeling that he needs to intervene to prove the baker’s boy innocent of the baker’s murder.

The scrap of the Lord’s Shroud they’ve both purchased may not have sufficient power to protect them. But if Haydn can prove the boy innocent, then maybe he can allow himself to believe that the piece of shroud will reverse his own ill fortune.

In Aria to Death, the second Haydn mystery, the plot of The Merchant of Venice provides Haydn with an important clue to the location of the lost operas of Monteverdi that constitute his friend Kaspar’s bequest and for which Kaspar was murdered.

Kaspar’s uncle’s will contains references to Shakespeare’s play and the bequest itself is hidden behind a fake volume of the play in his library.

Portia’s father in Shakespeare’s play leaves behind a test of character for the young men courting his daughter. Kaspar’s uncle does the same for the many men seeking the Monteverdi operas he’s procured. He’s quite sure Kaspar has the strength of character required to earn his bequest. Unfortunately, Kaspar is murdered before he can find it and the solution to this puzzle is left to Haydn.

Needless to say, Haydn does work it out. All thanks to his knowledge of Shakespeare’s works.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A mystery writer and composer, Nupur Tustin is the author of A Minor Deception, the first in the Joseph Haydn Mystery Series. Aria to Death, the second in the series, will be released later this year. Her short stories have been published in Mystery Weekly and Heater magazines and are available on Amazon.  A Haydn story, The Baker’s Boy, is included in the anthology, Day of the Dark.

Haydn Series: http://ntustin.com
Sample Haydn’s Sleuthing Skills in “Whiff of Murder”:  http://ntustin.com/tasteofmurder
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ntustinauthor/
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8616151.Nupur_Tustin
Amazon: http://mybook.to/MinorDeception
Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/a-minor-deception
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1164641370
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-minor-deception-nupur-tustin/1124827923

Guest Blogger: Carol L. Wright – Writing to a Theme (click here for comments)

Writing to a Theme by Carol L. Wright

Remember back in school when the teacher would give you an assignment to write on a particular theme? Something along the lines of “What I Did on my Summer Vacation” or “What I Want to Be When I Grow Up”?

Well, for those of us who grow up to be writers, those assignments never end—especially if we write short stories. Many publications will accept short stories, but only on a prescribed theme. That was the case last winter with Kaye George’s call for submissions for an anthology of eclipse stories, entitled DAY OF THE DARK: STORIES OF ECLIPSE from Wildside Press.

So how do you write a story to that theme? For me, there are several steps:

1. Consider alternate meaning

First I played with the words of the theme—doing a little free association. What spin could I get from Day of the Dark? Darkness . . . night . . . evil . . . blindness . . . Being left “in the dark” about something appealed to me, so I had my starting point.

2. Include required elements

Since I had to tie it to the eclipse, I had to learn more about it: what it would look like, and where and when it would be visible. I knew that before astronomers understood the physics of the event, eclipses were seen as portents of evil or destruction. Surely, that’s a good start—especially since Kaye also wanted the stories to have a mystery element.

3. Explore other treatments of the theme

Going online, I found many quotations about eclipses, but the one that suited me best was from John Milton’s Samson Agonistes:

Oh dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon
Irrecoverable dark, total Eclipse
Without all hope of day!”

Now that’s something I can sink my pen into!

4. Open up more possibilities

“What if’s” are a writer’s best friend. What if there is only one chance to get a picture of something special, but because of the eclipse, there isn’t enough light for it to come out? Or what if, like Mark Twain and Halley’s Comet, someone is born during a solar eclipse and expects to die during the next one? These ideas feed the imagination.

For my story, I went with “What if a husband and a wife were each keeping the other ‘in the dark’ about some life-changing information?” Kind of piques your curiosity, doesn’t it? I hope so!

5. Figure out my characters

Okay—I have a husband and a wife who are not being completely forthcoming with one another. How old are they? How long have they been married? Are they happy? Do they have kids? Where do they live? Where do they work?

6. The fun part—write the first draft

I’m what we writers call a “pantser,” meaning I write from the “seat of my pants” rather than following an outline. I love the crazy, messy, imaginative experience of writing a story without really knowing all the twists and turns it might take in advance. It gives me moments of surprise as my characters say or do things I never saw coming. It feels almost collaborative, and it is usually a lot of fun.

7. The work part—editing

Like many writers, I sometimes find extra words, dangling plot threads, or inconsistencies (probably in part because I’m a pantser). I go through the entire story several times, hoping to catch all the problems, leaving a smooth, coherent, and interesting story that is within the prescribed word count.

Then I might take it to my critique group. They pore over it and give me their perspectives on word choices, plot twists, errors, and omissions. If I’m hitting a snag, their help is indispensable.

After a bit more polish, I’m ready to submit it.

8. The waiting part

It always takes a while for journal or anthology editors to read through the many submissions and make decisions about which to include in their books or journals. And then it takes more time for the publisher to work its magic and produce a finished issue or a book you can hold in your hands.

But it is definitely worth the wait.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Carol L. Wright is a former book editor, domestic relations attorney, and academic. She is the author of articles and one book on law-related subjects. Now focused on fiction, she has several short stories in literary journals and award-winning anthologies. Her new novel, Death in Glenville Falls, is now available. ( https://www.amazon.com/Death-Glenville-Falls-McIntyre-Mysteries/dp/0974289132) It is the first in her Gracie McIntyre Mystery series.

She is a founding member of the Bethlehem Writers Group, LLC (http://bethlehemwritersgroup.com), is a life member of both Sisters in Crime and the Jane Austen Society of North America, and a member of SinC Guppies, PennWriters, and the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group.

Raised in Massachusetts, she is married to her college sweetheart. They now live in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania with their rescue dog and a clowder of cats. You can follow her Facebook page: (https://www.facebook.com/Carol-L-Wright-Author-190854476717/) or learn more on her website: (http://carollwright.com).

Do You Love Me? (Click here for Comments)

Do You Love Me?  by Debra H. Goldstein

Many of you know I love Broadway shows. There is a Facebook test making the rounds where one identifies how many, out of one hundred shows, one has seen either on Broadway or in some other theater production. I’m so nerdy, my score was over 80 – and that is not counting if I’ve seen a show more than once.

For example, I saw Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway with Zero Mostel and later Herschel Bernardi, in London with Topol, and at least twice in community theaters. As today is Joel and my anniversary (it really is today – August 14 – 34 years), one of the songs that Tevye, the main character, and his wife, Golde, sing to each other comes to mind. The song, Do You Love Me?, is sung after Tevye gives permission to one of his daughters to marry a man she loves. He gives his blessing even though it means her life will be difficult and located in a geographic area where Tevye may never see her again. Confused that marriages are based upon love rather than how his was arranged, he raises the question with Golde whether she loves him.

In the song, they sing of how nervous they were on their arranged wedding day, but how they were assured it would work out. Tevye begs his wife to answer whether she loves him. She replies by listing all the things she does from washing his clothes, making him dinner, milking the cow, giving him children and sharing his bed. Eventually they conclude that after twenty-five years, they love each other.

The song is simple, but it reflects the reality of marriage. Unlike fairy tales, marriage isn’t “They Lived Happily Ever After.” Marriage can be the special wonder of physical attraction and the honeymoon period, but it also has moments of reality that aren’t always beautiful highs. As Golde sings, the day to day reality of marriage includes basic life activities that aren’t romantic. The key is whether, as a couple, one gets through them together. It is the single memories two separate people unite to create.

Sometimes we take these moments for granted. We’ve been there, done that, and gotten used to each other’s habits and interests. There are many distractions that sometimes result in the relationship becoming secondary or even stale. That’s when we stop and take stock of why we fell in love and married.

I could ask Joel if he loves me, but I know the answer is the same as mine. After thirty-four years, it’s nice to know.