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Guest Blogger: Dr. Shirley B. Garrett – What Makes Great Characters Outstanding (click for comments)

What Makes Great Characters Outstanding

by Dr. Shirley B. Garrett

 
shirleyI’m a psychologist as well as a writer, so characterization is important to me in both the characters I write and the ones I enjoy reading. My personal goal as a writer is for the psychology of each character to be accurate and provide satisfaction to the reader, without becoming too technical.

The secret to good characterization is to understand each character before you begin writing. My characters are so real to me in my mind; I know how they speak, move, and dress.

One of my favorite characters is Lula in Janet Evanovich’s, Stephanie Plum novels. She was a minor character in, One for the Money and has become an important secondary player, providing comedic relief throughout the series. Everything from her ever-changing hair color down to her too tight, poison green mini skirt says reformed “ho” trying to make a fashion statement in her new straight lifestyle. Janet doesn’t have to tell the reader that this character is anything but subtle. She shows it by having Lula drive a red Firebird, bling everything in sight, and navigate life in four-inch, knock-off, designer heels.

Know what drives each main and supporting character both inside and out. Lula’s internal drive is to heal her past and gain a healthy self-esteem. Like so many, she believes if she puts enough shiny red nail polish over the stinky stuff of her life, that she’ll achieve her external goal of acceptance, respect, and maybe even love. Despite this external focus, (If I look beautiful, I must be fantastic) the writer manages to let the reader understand deep rivers of light and dark run beneath her unique, bedazzled wardrobe.

You relay a good deal of information about a character by the people and places they frequent.  Lula made her debut in the series as a prostitute working a corner on Stark Street.  She changed her life after a near-death assault and now works for a bail bondsman by assisting Stephanie Plum, an inept, yet persistent bounty hunter. Lula still lives in the same place but operates on the right side of the law.

A character’s coping mechanisms are also revealing. In Sizzling Sixteen Lula stated, “There’s four ways to handle stress. There’s drugs, there’s alcohol, there’s sex, and there’s doughnuts. I go with sex and doughnuts.”

Another coping mechanism, denial about her size, is revealed by her insistence on squeezing her plus-size body into clothes so small they present a ripping hazard. While denying she’s overweight, and rationalizing it with numerous excuses, she reveals the truth by her constant shift from one crazy diet to another.

All of these behaviors are important, but a true craftsman has such a strong voice for each character, the reader knows who’s talking by the way they speak, the pronunciation, word choice, and cadence of the speech.

Bringing main and supporting characters to life in a reader’s mind does take a bit of effort—but it brings much pleasure to them. Happy readers want to revisit their favorite characters again and again.

~~~~~

Dr. Shirley B. Garrett, Psy.D, LPC, DAC, ASG is a writer, professional speaker, a Licensed Professional Counselor, and a nationally certified Doctoral Addictions Counselor. Her self-help book, Stop the Craziness: Simple Life Solutions is an easy to read toolbox of simple solutions to help people improve the quality of their lives, and is available on Amazon in paperback and eBook formats. She has completed her first psychological thriller/mystery, Deadly Compulsions, and her first chick lit novel, Hot Flash Divas.  Both are seeking adoption by an agent or publisher.

Guest Blogger Susan Van Kirk – Making it Personal (click for comments)

marryinhastefrontMaking It Personal by Susan Van Kirk

Have you ever wondered whether books you read have names, places, or events that are personal to the author? It’s like thinking about songs you love and wondering how they came to be written or what they mean to the composer.

My Endurance mysteries do have personal associations, and the series has themes and writing choices that permeate all four books. Three May Keep a Secret (2014), The Locket: From the Casebook of TJ Sweeney, an e-book novella (2016), and Marry in Haste (2016), are the first three books in the series, and the fourth, Death Takes No Bribes, will be out in late May 2017. Each title is taken from a Benjamin Franklin proverb in Poor Richard’s Almanac. He’s a favorite of mine, and also of my retired-teacher protagonist, Grace Kimball.

In each of my novels, I’ve used words provided by my children. Some of these words are tundra, helicopter, instrumental, disingenuous, and little pumpkin. The last one was not easy! They all think they can stump me with words that won’t fit into my plots. But so far, I have triumphed.

I was a public-school teacher for thirty-four years, and, like my Grace, I see former students every day in my small Midwest town. She, like me, remembers the crazy things they did in their adolescent years, memories that lighten the mood of the murders. Here’s an example: Grace is walking down the corridor of Endurance Hospital when she sees a hospital aide pushing a patient in a wheelchair. Andrew Weathersby. His locker was right outside my classroom his sophomore year. One day I heard a commotion and walked out my door to the hallway. It was a girl fight—the worst kind. Andrew nonchalantly leaned against the wall and pointed out his twin sister, Ally. “She’s the one on the top, beating the crap out of Lisa Watkins.” Then he leaned forward and shouted, “Hit her again, Ally!” Now, at least, he is using his muscles in a good cause.

Each book in the series has items, events, dates, places, and people who are special to me. In Threemonmouth-public-sq-circle May Keep a Secret, I described the Public Square (which is more like a circle) in the small town where I live  No one knows quite how to drive around it without driving defensively. I also borrowed the history of my town to use for the history of Endurance, a small town on the edge of the Illinois prairie, built by Scotch Presbyterians in the 1830s, civilized by women, and surrounding a college. This book introduces the characters, the town, and the dark secrets that end up causing two murders.

The Locket: From the Casebook of TJ Sweeney is a novella about a strange case my detective, TJ Sweeney, solved. Workers who are digging the foundation for a building find a skeleton, and Sweeney discovers that it dates to the 1940s. Who was this woman and how did she die? The last place she was seen was the Roof Garden, fashioned after an actual dance venue for the Big Bands in the 1940s. My parents used to go to such a building where they danced on the roof top during World War II when my dad was home on leave. I interviewed an 87-year-old woman who still remembered dancing there starting at age thirteen, and her excellent memories contributed wonderful details to this story.

My most recent book, Marry in Haste, takes place partly in a house I lived in for five years when I firstallen-house-jpg moved to Monmouth, Illinois. It was a huge Victorian built in the late 1800s. Marry in Haste is the story of two marriages, a hundred years apart. Each story contains a murder, and both plots share a dark secret that connects the marriages and the murders. Grace’s boyfriend, Jeff Maitlin, buys Lockwood House to restore it to its former beauty. He and Grace discover a diary written by a young girl, Olivia Lockwood, a hundred years earlier. Her story is both bittersweet and terrifying. In the present day, one of Grace’s former students is accused of murdering her philandering husband. The real house that connects the two plots was razed in 1990, but I kept the original house number—402—and it lives on in my book.

The final book, Death Takes No Bribes, takes place at Endurance High School. Grace has retired and her replacement, Ms. Jaski, is named for my first-grade teacher—a young woman I admired at age six, and who taught me to love reading. She hugged us every day when we left for home. Alas, she left to get married after that year, but I used her name because I’ve never forgotten her or what she did for us. When Grace returns to her old classroom, one of the things she notices is a “2002” carved on the teacher’s desk. She never found out who the artist was. That did not happen to me, but I retired from a teaching career I loved in 2002, just like Grace. So, I chose that date for a reason. In Death Takes No Bribes, the principal of Endurance High School, John Hardy, is murdered, and Grace must face the possibility that one of her former colleagues and friends may be a murderer. This last book in the series will be out this coming May.

It’s been fun putting personal memories into books that strangers will read, not realizing the origin of some of my choices. I hope you’ll come along on some of Grace’s murderous adventures and see that being a public-school teacher in a small Midwest town is anything but dull.

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005-color-1Susan Van Kirk grew up in Galesburg, Illinois, and received degrees from Knox College and the University of Illinois. She taught high school English for thirty-four years, then spent an additional ten years teaching at Monmouth College.

Her first Endurance mystery novel, Three May Keep a Secret, was published in 2014 by Five Star Publishing/Cengage.  In April, 2016, she published an Endurance e-book novella titled The Locket: From the Casebook of TJ Sweeney. Marry in Haste (Nov. 2016) will be followed by Death Takes No Bribes in May 2017.

Social Media:

Website and blog:  http://www.susanvankirk.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SusanVanKirkAuthor/

Twitter:  https://www.twitter.com/susan_vankirk

GoodReads:  www.goodreads.com/author/show/586.Susan_VanKirk

Guest Blogger – Susan Oleksiw – Finding The Ending (click for comments)

susan-1Finding the Ending by Susan Oleksiw
I recently finished a mystery novel that was hard to end, not because I wanted to keep working on the story but because I couldn’t seem to understand where the characters would end up and how they would feel about the change in their lives. The plot suggested several possibilities, but none seemed quite right. I rewrote this part several times, and every time I picked it up to work on any aspect of the manuscript, I wanted to rewrite the ending again. It is a common rule that the ending should fulfill the promise of the beginning, but that isn’t as simple as it sounds.
In three earlier books I struggled with the ending in the same way. susan-book-3In Family Album, I wanted Chief Joe Silva to reach out to Gwen McDuffy in a way that was clear to the reader as well as the characters. I reworked that ending so many times I thought I’d never finish the book. But I did. It’s not giving anything away to say that Joe proposes obliquely and Gwen accepts. There is, of course, more to come in their relationship in the following books.
The ending of Friends and Enemies was even harder because the character I followed in the and at the end, Eliot Keogh, was meant to be a minor character. Eliot’s return to Mellingham for a high school reunion after many years turned out to be the arc of the story. His growth from a man with a grudge to a completely different person happened without my even noticing until I came to the end. The susan-book-4challenge was to show how much he had grown from the man driving into town in chapter one. This is the ending both readers and editors have most remarked upon.
Endings in a traditional mystery novel or a cozy mystery would seem to be straightforward and almost easy—the murderer or other criminal is captured, features of the crime are explained if not already clear, characters reassess their position in relation to each other, and the reader is reassured that all is well with the world once again. This is the standard ending of comedy—the reconstitution of society. But in a mystery I like to see a deeper change in the individuals who have been at the heart of the story.
The general graph of a mystery shows the rise and fall of action, mimicking the rise and fall of emotion. But I see the graph of a character growing through the story as a steady rise as if on a staircase. The discovery of dark feelings isn’t a low point; it’s a step to a more honest understanding susan-book-2of experience.
In the most recent Mellingham/Joe Silva mystery, Come About for Murder, the trajectory of the story is partly Joe revealing himself as a deeply devoted stepfather to Philip. But the story itself opens with Annie Beckwith at the funeral for her sister and brother-in-law. She thinks throughout the novel about her sister’s marriage, and the fidelity husband and wife felt for each other. In the end she discovers this devotion in another pair, and she learns about her own capacity to understand and support it.
Some writers begin writing only when they know what the ending will be. In one sense I know pretty much who is guilty and how that will be uncovered. But the more important ending, the revelation of character and personal growth and understanding, eludes me until the last few pages, and then I write and rewrite and rewrite again until it becomes clear what has happened to the character, from beginning to ending.
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Susan Oleksiw writes the Anita Ray series featuring an Indian-American photographer in South India. In When Krishna Calls (2016), Anita and her aunt face the loss of their hotel and everything they care about. The Mellingham series features Chief Joe Silva. In Come About for Murder (2016), a member of a prominent family dies in a sailing accident. Susan’s stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

Jews and Christmas Music – it ain’t Chinese Food! by Debra H. Goldstein (click for comments)

christmas-musicJews and Christmas Music – it ain’t Chinese Food by Debra H. Goldstein

I’m Jewish, but I have a confession to make. I love Christmas music. There is something about listening to the songs that makes me feel good. Apparently, I’m not the only Jewish person who feels this way about these holiday songs. According to the American Society of Composers and Publishers, almost half of the top twenty-five Christmas songs have music or lyrics written by Jewish composers.

Most people are aware that White Christmas was written by Irving Berlin. Irving’s given name when he was growing up on the Lower East side was Israel Baline. Although he wasn’t observant and didn’t deny his Jewish heritage, it is ironic that he wrote the music for perhaps the most well-known Christmas song, as well as Easter Parade.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, A Holly Jolly Christmas, and Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree were all written by Johnny Marks. Jay Livingston and Walter Evans are responsible for the words and music of Silver Bells. Walter Kent composed the music for I’ll Be Home for Christmas, which was written as a tribute to the soldiers stationed overseas who dreamed of being home for Christmas. We also wouldn’t think about chestnuts roasting on an open fire if Mel Torme and Bob Wells hadn’t chinese-foodpenned The Christmas Song.

My point is simple. No matter what our religion, race, sexual preference, we can find points of commonality that can lead to everlasting things of joy. Whether you are celebrating Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or anything else, here’s Chinese food and Christmas music. Happy Holidays!

Guest Blogger Maggie King – A Detecting Book Group (click for comments)

murder-at-the-moonshine-inn-cover-lowA Detecting Book Group by Maggie King

Hazel Rose is back in a new adventure, Murder at the Moonshine Inn. After that harrowing confrontation with the killer in Murder at the Book Group, she vowed to leave investigating to the pros.

And for eight years she kept her word. Easy because people didn’t clamor for the services of amateur detectives—except in the pages of cozy mysteries.

So when Hazel is asked to find out who killed Roxanne Howard in the parking lot of the Moonshine Inn, Richmond, Virginia’s most notorious redneck bar, Hazel says, “No. Absolutely not. I’m a romance writer, not a detective.”

There was a sticking point: Brad Jones, the victim’s husband, is the prime suspect. He’s also Hazel’s cousin, and Hazel believes in doing anything to help family. Never mind that Brad won’t give her the time of day—he’s still family.

But the Richmond, Virginia Police Department were capable of finding the killer. Okay, the investigation was stalled, but Hazel figures they’ll get the killer eventually, and she refuses to feel bad about standing by her “no.” In fact, she’s quite smug as she pats herself on the back (saying “no” has long been an elusive skill for her).

Not so fast,” say the Murder on Tour book group. They’re quite keen on the idea of investigating. As much as they love reading mysteries, and talking about mysteries, the prospect of solving one fires them up.

In Murder at the Book Group, the book group members were all suspects. Hazel could trust very few of them and she had to be cagey and subtle in hunting down the killer. She had no idea what she was doing and had to “wing it” a lot—and Hazel isn’t a “winging it” sort of person.

But eight years later, the book group is congenial, trustworthy, and eager to find Roxanne Howard’s killer. The women are well-connected in the community—Trudy and Eileen are librarians, Hazel’s cousin Lucy is a successful business professional, and Sarah an active volunteer. Between them they manage to know or have a lead in to every suspect, witness, and information source they need to question. They are all personable (at least when they need to be) and know how to work their contacts.

With this group to support her, how could Hazel refuse? They agree to either travel in pairs or conduct the investigation in public places. But Hazel runs the show. And she’s probably the best-connected of all of them. She’s now a successful romance author and people love to talk to her. The book group members play their parts well. They research, pump people for information, unearth interesting documents, and move the plot along at a brisk pace. When Hazel gets booted out of a funeral where she’d hoped to narrow down the search for the killer(s), the book group takes up the slack.

A supporting cast helps as well. Kat Berenger (remember her from Murder at the Book Group?) has her own contacts. And Hazel’s husband Vince, a retired homicide detective, accompanies her to the Moonshine Inn, where they play very convincing rednecks. He also funnels information from the official investigators at the Richmond Police Department.

In her heart, Hazel knew all along that she’d cave and say “yes.”

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maggie-king-author-photo-72
Maggie King is the author of the Hazel Rose Book Group mysteries, including the recently-released Murder at the Moonshine Inn. She contributed the stories A Not So Genteel Murder and Reunion at Shockoe Slip to the Virginia is for Mysteries anthologies.
Maggie is a member of Sisters in Crime, James River Writers, and the American Association of University Women. She has worked as a software developer, retail sales manager, and customer service supervisor. Maggie graduated from Elizabeth Seton College and earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has called New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California home. These days she lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Glen, and cats, Morris and Olive. She enjoys reading, walking, movies, traveling, theatre, and museums.
Website: http://www.maggieking.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MaggieKingAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaggieKingAuthr
Buy link: http://amzn.to/2dtozWa

Guest Blogger: Vicki Batman – It’s all about Me! No, it’s about me! (click for comments)

temporarilyinsane_w10205_300-cover-6It’s all about Me! No, it’s about me! by Vicki Batman

In a book, secondary characters support the main characters, sometimes, as a best friend, a sidekick, a grandparent, or even as a bad dude. These characters can be fun to write, but when they take over a book–that’s a runaway train. Writers have to tame their creations and remember whose story they are crafting. Our plot focus is on the hero and heroine. Maybe the intruders can have their own book later on. Or maybe not.

In Temporarily Insane, I wrote a geek secondary character. But I wondered if I was on the right track about describing a geek. So I found this definition in Wikipedia: The word geek is a slang term originally used to describe eccentric or non-mainstream people. It is derived from the German word geck which means fool or fop. The term has evolved over time to mean something similar to nerd.

So what’s a nerd? Again, I returned to Wikipedia: Nerd is a descriptive term, often used pejoratively, indicating a person that is overly intellectual, obsessive, or lacking social skills.

nerd-head1

Those definitions perfectly describe character Stuart Steems, an auditor. After he interviewed Hattie Cooks, my heroine, he manipulated her to take him to her birthday party. Not far from her own days in geekdom, Hattie had a dilemma. She had felt like a geek in high school (like most of us) because she wore glasses and didn’t have the favored blonde hair and blue eyes. And zits. Then her mother’s lecture on being nice played in her head. So she said yes and…

“We need to cover the ground rules.”

“Ground rules?” His brow vee-ed. “Is this normal?”

“Absolutely.” I nodded. “The ground rules are: No kissing. No hugging. No whispering lovey-dovey stuff in my ear. No nothing. Understand?”

“I understand, but I thought people in love do this.”

“Let’s set the record straight right now—we are not in love. And here’s another rule: don’t speak to anyone.”

“Don’t talk to anyone—why not?”

Noticing the bizarre look on his face, I relented. “Okay, you can talk. Just say one sentence.”

“Is this a weird family thing?”

“Nope. It’s a Hattie-who-is-being-nice thing.”

Stuart and his dating ineptness provided humor in my book, a definite element when writing romantic comedy. And he popped up with more fun bits throughout, bits that were important to the story. However, Stuart ‘s story was not Hattie’s story. I had to remember to dribble his pieces in the appropriate spots, to keep my focus on her.

But Stuart wasn’t the only geek.

Allan Wellborn, our detective hero and love interest, adored Hattie all his life. When younger, he wore Buddy Holly type of glasses, hadn’t grown, had zits, too. A math wiz, he wore white button-down shirts sporting a pocket protector with mechanical pencils, a highlighter, and a pocket level. He played the trombone in the band and served as the Treasurer in the Accounting Club.

Poor Hattie was surrounded by the type. Most of us grew out of geekdom. The zits and hair were tamed, we were praised for our work, and spend moola on cool clothes. Fortunately, Allan improved for the better. In fact, she described him as might-ee fine.

What is the Number One rule about geeks? They rule! In this technology driven world, lots of geeks and nerds abound. It’s cool to be a geek! Look at the number one comedy show on television: The Big Bang Theory. And one of them has the hot girl.

BTW, I married an auditor. He’s never been geeky.

Truth or dare – were you a geek or cool cat?

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03-26-15-vlmb-head-on-hand-in-pink-sweater-2Award-winning and Amazon bestselling author, Vicki Batman, has sold many romantic comedy works to the True magazines, several publishers, and most recently, two romantic comedy mysteries to The Wild Rose Press. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and several writing groups. An avid Jazzerciser. Handbag lover. Mahjong player. Yoga practitioner. Movie fan. Book devourer. Cat fancier. Best Mom ever. And adores Handsome Hubby. Most days begin with her hands set to the keyboard and thinking “What if??

Links:

Website: http://vickibatman.blogspot.com/p/more-about-me.html

Facebook: http://bit.ly/293iZIz

Twitter: https://twitter.com/VickiBatman/

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/vickibatman/

Email: vlmbatman@hotmail.com

Amazon ebook: https://www.amazon.com/Temporarily-Insane-Hattie-Cooks-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01JBSHE0K/

Amazon paperback: https://www.amazon.com/Temporarily-Insane-Vicki-Batman/dp/1509209158/

Defining Perfection by Debra H. Goldstein (click for comments)

traveling-womanThank goodness my local cleaner offers one day service!  Since the May release of Should Have Played Poker, I’ve been traveling so much I often have to lie in bed for a moment to remember which direction the bathroom is in.  So far, I’ve been successful in having clean clothing and proper orientation.

Signings and conferences have kept me on the road to Nashville, Ann Arbor, Jackson, Green Bay, Atlanta, Huntsville, Anniston, New Orleans, and other places.  I’ve experienced flight delays that included the famous Delta shutdown, as well as mechanical problems that afforded me an extra night in Green Bay. I’ve been uniformly treated like a queen in bookstores that either ordered my books in advance so all I had to do was put out my swag and uncap my pen and funny stories or asked me to lug my books in on consignment.  Book talks have taken me from Carnegie to modernistic style libraries.  Different conferences have provided me with panel assignments that range from discussing cozy writing to whether writers have an obligation to include social issues. Other panelists have been New York Times bestsellers like Anne Perry or neophytes like me. 

Before I know it, this whirlwind will end. Hopefully, it will happen again in the future for another book, but even if it doesn’t, every aspect has been perfection.  I’m having a ball meeting new people, sharing ideas, and knowing that the written word still has an impact in this world. Thank you, the readers and my friends for making this possible. What more could I ask?

Guest Blogger: Terrie Farley Moran – Setting a Story in the Real World (Click for Comments)

Setting a Story in the Real World by Terrie Farley Moran

Hi Debra, thanks so much for inviting me. It is always great fun when you and I get a chance to hang out together.

Happy Labor Day everyone! Today is the day we celebrate the history of workers in America. I found this picture online some years ago. It was taken in 1909 and shows a float of the ladies auxiliary of the typographical union—one of the first unions to admit female members—as early as the 1860s.

labordaywomen (1)

I like to think that those hardworking women were the predecessors of Sassy Cabot and Bridgy Mayfield who are the proprietors of a café and bookstore known as the Read ’Em and Eat—breakfast, lunch and all you can read. They are also the protagonists of the Read ’Em and Eat cozy mystery series,moran books (1) including Well Read, Then Dead, Caught Read-Handed and Read to Death.

The series is set in the very real town of Fort Myers Beach which is made up of two barrier islands in the Gulf Coast of South Florida. I can tell you right off the bat that one of the reasons I picked Fort Myers Beach as the location is because it is extremely picturesque but the more compelling reason is that the subplot in the first book of the series, Well Read, Then Dead, involved the history of the Gulf Coast and most especially the Ten Thousand Islands, one the final lawless American communities in the late 1800s and early 1900s.The history is so captivating, I didn’t want to betray it by using a fictitious community anywhere on the Gulf coast.

I suppose there are real advantages to setting a story in a real place. A lot of my short fiction is set in New York City, where I’ve lived my entire life. Still, for accuracy sake, I occasionally have to look stuff up. At which Broadway crossing is the famous statue of Father Duffy, hero of WW I? Does traffic on Third Avenue run uptown or downtown? What is the address of the Waldorf Astoria?

And there are disadvantages when writing about a community that is not as familiar as the back of my hand. I had never been to Fort Myers Beach before I chose it as the location for the Read ’Em and Eat Café and Bookstore. I also knew that thousands of tourists visit the beach twelve months a year. So once again accuracy would be paramount, because the odds were that a goodly number of my readers would have spent far more time at Fort Myers beach than I ever had.

I was fortunate enough to visit the community a couple of times. (My daughter lives a few miles away.) I took pictures and memorized where popular sites were located in relation to other popular sites. One thing that really tickles my fancy is that Fort Myers Beach has its own Times Square. Complete with entertainers and fireworks displays, it is a wide shopping area built around a four sided “square” clock. Times Square leads to The Pier, which stretches far out into the Gulf of Mexico.

Now here is a caveat about describing a real place in your books. I had a scene set in Times Square. (I often do, they sell ice cream there. YUM!) For some reason, I was writing a much longer description of the clock than I needed to. So I was looking at pictures and searching my memory and I couldn’t decide how tall the clock is, other than it is a lot taller than I am. I called the Chamber of Commerce but no one there could help me. Then I called the local newspaper, The Island Sandpaper, and the editor, Missy Layfield drove from down island to Times Square to measure the clock for me. I seem to recall it came in at around fifteen feet.

So the moral of my story is that if you are going to set a story in a real location, either be very familiar with it or have some nice person like Missy Layfield willing to help you out.

Since today is a holiday, we may as well have a giveaway. This notepaper is designed by Florida artist Leoma Lovegrove, who lives a stone’s throw from Fort Myers Beach in the artsy community of Matlacha. (As an aside, Sassy and Bridgy visit Matlacha in Read to Death.) For a chance to win the box of notepaper, please leave a comment saying anything at all about Florida. To be entered, you should include your email in this format: yourname (at) yourserver (dot) com so the spambots can’t pick it up.

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Terrie Farley Moran is the author of the Read ‘Em and Eat cozy mysteries series, including the Agatha Award winner Well Read, Then Dead, Caught Read-Handed and Read to Death.

Terrie’s short mystery fiction has been published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and numerous anthologies. Her short story, “A Killing at the Beausoleil” was an Agatha Award Best Short Story nominee.

She also co-writes Laura Childs’ Scrapbooking Mystery series. Together they have written Parchment and Old Lace and Crepe Factor.

Website: www.terriefarleymoran.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/terriefarleymoran/

Guest Interview with Julianne Holmes (Click for Comments)

Julianne Holmes aka J.A. Hennrikus and I decided to try something different – an exchange interview.  Not only is she my guest today, but I will be visiting her tomorrow on the Wicked Cozy Authors blog. http://wickedcozyauthors.com/2016/08/09/a-wicked-wecolme-to-debra-goldstein. To learn more about both of us, leave a message or a question on both blogsites.

DSC_30831) You have had a career in arts management which has included establishing physical box offices, program operations, and running a non-profit that promotes and supports the arts.   Most of this work translates to the performing arts and yet, today, we are talking about you and the written word.   What made you chase wanting to be a writer when you obviously are already so well established in the theater related world?

I love working in arts administration—I’ve been doing it for over 30 years. But I’ve never been a creator in that field. I was always too afraid to try and go on stage. I found my passion, my work, in helping creators get their work seen. For me, writing taps into my own creativity. I’m not sure when I decided I wanted to write—fifth grade maybe—but I’ve been trying to get published for the past ten years, and finally had my dream come true last October.

2) You write another a different name – is there a reason for that? How did the premise for your books come to be and how did you get selected to write them?

There are two lessons in this story. First, when I started on this journey, I didn’t understand all the ways you could get published. I’m sure you didn’t either. One route is being a work for hire. An editor at Berkley had an idea for a series, and had created an outline and a wonderful premise. Second, I’ve been part of the mystery writing community for a long time, and met a group of women who had all recently gotten contracts. We decided to blog together, on the Wicked Cozy Authors blog. Via their agent, this opportunity was opened up, and I was connected to it. I had to write a proposal, and some sample chapters, and got the job.

Regarding the name, since it is a work for hire, I needed to find a penname. My parents were going to name me Julianne Holmes Hennrikus, but my grandmother told them it was too long, so I am Julie AnneClockandDagger Hennrikus. When I had to find another name, there wasn’t far to look.

3) Tell us about your books, especially their themes and your protagonist.

The Clock Shop Mystery series takes place in Orchard, Massachusetts, which is out in the Berkshires. Ruth Clagan inherits her grandfather’s clock shop, the Cog & Sprocket. She is also a clockmaker, but had a rift with him, so she is trying to heal that in JUST KILLING TIME. In the second book, CLOCK AND DAGGER, it is a few days before the New Year, and Ruth is trying to get the shop ready to be reopened.

I love writing this series. CLOCK AND DAGGER is about second chances, and throughout the series I try and show how Ruth not only fixes clocks, she fixes life in Orchard. Orchard also gives Ruth a chance to rethink her life path after a bad marriage. A handsome barber works next door, so there’s a little romance as well.

4) Clocks are not often a focal point in books, but you work knowledge about them in so well that one often doesn’t know something has just been taught.   Do you do a lot of research? How? And how do you decide what to leave out?

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAs it turns out, I have a friend whose husband is a clock maker. I didn’t know that before the series, but I’m thrilled to have him helping me with research. I also went to visit the American Clock and Watch Museum, and spent hours wandering around. I do learn more than I use in the books. What I want people to feel is how beautiful timepieces are, and how much of an art it is to fix them. I will say that ever since I’ve been working on the series, I notice them in people’s houses, and always ask about them. There’s always a story attached to a clock. It’s almost like they keep memories as well as time. I love that.

5) You have been active in Sisters in Crime – how has that influenced you?

I would not have this series if it weren’t for Sisters in Crime. I wouldn’t have a group of wonderful friends, who’ve made this journey so much better by being part of my life. Sisters in Crime is an amazing organization, and resource. Becoming a member was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

6) Shamelessly plug your new book. Tell us how we can get it and what you are working on now.

LOL! CLOCK AND DAGGER is book #2 of the series, and came out August 2. It is available wherever folks get books. I’m finishing book #3 now, tentatively called CHIME AND PUNISHMENT. It will be out next year. I’m so grateful to be on this journey. Thanks so much for having me on the blog!

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The Clock Shop Mystery series debuted in October 2015 with Just Killing Time, which was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Clock and Dagger was released August 2, 2016. As J.A. Hennrikus she has had short stories published in Level Best Books anthologies: Her Wish in Dead Calm, Tag, You’re Dead in Thin Ice, The Pendulum Swings, Until It Doesn’t in Blood Moon. As Julie Hennrikus she runs StageSource, the service organization for the New England theater community. She is on Twitter (@JulieHennrikus), Instagram (@jahenn), Pinterest, and Facebook. She blogs with the Wicked Cozy Authors, Live to Write/Write to Live, and is on Killer Characters on the 20th of each month. Julie is a board member of Sisters in Crime and the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime. She is also a member of Mystery Writers of America and the Guppies. JulianneHolmes.com

Guest Blogger: Bill Crider – How to Write a Novel (Click for Comments)

survivors will be shot again finalHow to Write a Novel by Bill Crider

I’m sure you’re read Somerset Maugham’s wise words about novel writing before, but they bear repeating, mainly because I’m going to elaborate on them for a bit.  Here they are: “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

My first novel was published the year I turned forty.  You could say I was a late bloomer, and I guess that’s true.  I’d always wanted to write, but I hadn’t known how to go about it.  I thought there was some arcane secret method that everyone knew but me.  So naturally I set out to learn what it was.

Having been a reader all my life, I assumed that the secret method would be found in a book, and I set out to read as many books about writing as I could get my hands on.  I read Writers Digest and The Writer.  I listened to writers talk about their habits.

You probably know where this is going, so I’ll keep it short.  I never did find out the secret.  What I did between the living and the dead (2)find out was that there was no secret.  Just as Maugham said, there are rules, but nobody knows what they are, least of all me.  Even after having written fifty or sixty books (but who’s counting?), I still don’t know.  Every time I sit down and see the words “Chapter One,” I feel as if I’ll never get any further.  But somehow I do.

How do I do it?  Well, I’ve adopted what I like to call the Alice in Wonderland approach.  When the White Rabbit asks the King where he (the Rabbit, not the King) should begin, the King answers, “Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

So the answer (for me) turned out to be in a book, after all, even though it wasn’t a book where I expected to find an answer.  It happens that for me, there was only one rule for writing a novel, not three, and it worked out unexpectedly well when I finally put it into practice.  And now that I’ve come to the end of this little commentary, I’m going to stop.

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50 075BILL CRIDER is a former college English teacher and is the author of more than fifty published novels and an equal number of short stories. He’s won two Anthony awards and a Derringer Award, and he’s been nominated for the Shamus and the Edgar awards.  His latest novel in the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series is Between the Living and the Dead. His new one, Survivors Will Be Shot Again, will be out in August from St. Martin’s Press.  Check out his homepage at www.billcrider.com, or take a look at his peculiar blog at http://billcrider.blogspot.com.