The Fun Kind of Research

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I had the great pleasure this month of conducting some serious research for one of my upcoming books.

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Each of my books takes places in a different city, town or country. I’m currently working on book 5 in the series (as yet untitled), which takes places on a cruise. But I’m also planning ahead to book 6 in the Adam Kaminski mystery series, and that takes place in Provence.

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The beauty of the small towns and villages that thrive in this part of southern France is astounding. The cracks and crevices that add character to the facades of houses built hundreds of years ago, the color of the fading limestone contrasted with the bright pinks and greens and blues of painted shutters.

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The Mediterranean-style roof tiles, red and pink and brown in the golden, late afternoon sun. The air that smells of the vines, freshly cut and burning in small piles in the small vineyards that dot the countryside.

I am grateful to be fortunate enough to be able to travel, to see parts of the world so beautiful they make me stop, take a deep breath, and think of all the things that are good and sweet in my life.

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My goal with my writing — what I strive to achieve — is to share that joy, that beauty, with my readers. To let you see this world through my eyes, so that you, too, can stop and breathe and be happy.

And, yes, of course there’s always a murder to solve, too.

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Learn more about my books at janegorman.com.

 

 

 

 

Hope and Despair

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Tomorrow is the birthday of the fourth book in the Adam Kaminski Mystery Series! What She Fears goes live tomorrow, August 16, and that’s both exciting and nerve-wracking.

Of course, I’m already hard at work on the next book. No rest for the weary, as they say. Book 5 (no title yet) is about hope. Maybe even about faith. It’s about music, art, and color.

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I struggled a lot with the opening scenes. I’m a planner, so I already had my character sketches and outline done before I started writing. I knew who I was writing about and what would happen in each scene. But something was missing.

I figured maybe I was distracted by the upcoming book launch. I’ve been doing a lot of promotion for the first book in the series (and it’s going very well — pick up your free copy of A Blind Eye here if you haven’t started the series yet!) so I decided I was just nervous about that. Distracted from writing.

NO DISTRACTIONS ALLOWED

Makes sense, right?

Distracted, I should add, is an understatement. A complete emotional mess might be more accurate. Will my readers like it? Will they love it? I think it’s my best book yet. But I admit to being a little biased.

DEFINITELY DISTRACTING

Some days I wake up full of hope, just knowing What She Fears will be a hit. Fans of Adam Kaminski will love it. Other days I wake up in despair. Everyone will hate it. No one will understand what the book is about or what it says.

Then — finally — it hit me. That had been my problem all along with book 5. Here I thought I was writing a book about hope. But I’d left out the despair.

How can you regain hope if you haven’t first experienced despair?

I love it when a story comes together. That one, elusive element that finally makes it all click. The glue that holds it all together. The book is about hope. The book is about despair. And like all good books, it’s about the journey.

The writing is coming along well now. I so enjoy the time I spend putting words to paper, watching my ideas come out into the open, seeing them take form. It’s enthralling and it’s invigorating.

I’ll share more about the next book in future posts, as time permits. For now, I remain hopeful about the launch of What She Fears. Take a look for yourself and let me know what you think! What-She-Fears-Web-Small

Learn more about me and my writing at janegorman.com. Sign up for my newsletter or follow me on Facebook or Twitter. My books are available at Amazon and a variety of other retailers.

 

A Reluctant Hero

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The Adam Kaminski mystery books each take place in a different city or town around the world, but they all have one thing in common: Detective Adam Kaminski.

I’d like to use this month to introduce you to Adam, give you a chance to get to know him a bit. He’s a strong man, a brave man, but also a man with a few problems. In fact, for What She Fears, book 4 in the series, I had to write a psychological evaluation of Adam (something to do with his behavior in All That Glitters…). That was an eye opening project!

For this blog, instead of providing a psychologist’s perception of Adam, I thought I’d let Adam speak for himself. So here’s Adam Kaminski, describing himself in his own words:

GrangerLogoI grew up in Philadelphia. The Port Richmond neighborhood, d’you know it? It’s not bad. We were happy. Well, I was happy. Dad worked hard. A lot. Mom, too. Dad’s first generation American. His dad came from Poland with his father — my great grandfather — during the war. Lots of stories there, I’m still looking into that.

We didn’t have a lot of money but my folks managed to put me and my sister through college. I helped out. I had a couple of scholarships, a few part time jobs. It all paid off — I got a teaching gig right out of college. I guess it’s easier to get a job teaching history if you’re willing to work in the city. I didn’t see a reason not to. It’s where I lived, where I grew up. Why not teach the kids growing up around me?

Man, my folks were proud of me. They always taught me how important education was. The most important thing, right after family…

Excuse me.

Adam pauses to take a sip of the water on the table next to him, wiping the condensation from his hands onto the legs of his jeans.

I’m still in Philly. But I don’t teach anymore. Not anymore, not after….

Look, all that matters is, now I’m a cop. There are bad guys out there and it’s my job to catch ’em, to stop them from hurting anyone else. Turns out there is something even more important than education. I learned the hard way, you gotta keep your kids alive before you can think about teaching ’em. You can’t teach a dead kid.

The psychologist suggests a break, but Adam shakes his head. He’s fine to go on, just get this over with.

I liked teaching. I’d like to think there’ll be a time I can do it again. Without remembering those other kids. The ones who didn’t live. The ones I didn’t protect.

For now, I’m focusing on the job. It’s good. I’ve got a great partner, Pete. He keeps me in line. I can get angry sometimes but Pete, well, he’s by the book. Absolutely. Keeps me steady.

Adam’s leg has been bouncing up and down as he speaks. He seems to notice it and he crosses his legs, right ankle on left knee, the chair squeaking as he shifts his large frame.

Oh, but on the plus side, I just got engaged. Kind of exciting. It’s been a rocky relationship, but I think we’re good now. She’s not close to her family. I met her when I was in Warsaw. I went out there for some easy, political visit. Right? Ended up solving a murder. Trouble seems to follow me. It was tough, but it brought me closer to my cousin in Warsaw and I met her, so that’s good.

Now I just need to convince her that my job is a good career. There’s nothing wrong with being a cop. She should be proud of what I do. She doesn’t like to talk about it much. With her friends, at her job. But I think she’ll get it. Then I’ll know we’ve made it.

The psychologist asks what lessons Adam has taken away from his life experiences.

Always protect the ones you love. And do the right thing. It’s not always easy. But it’s worth it.

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Learn more about the Adam Kaminski mysteries at my website, janegorman.com.

Start with the first in the series, A Blind Eye, available at Amazon, Nook, iBooks, and other retailers.

 

 

 

Murder Without Violence

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I had the great pleasure this past weekend to attend a meeting of my local chapter of the Sisters in Crime (the Delaware Valley Chapter). The guest speaker for the meeting is a Conservator at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (which is, coincidentally, where I earned my PhD in Anthropology). Because it is a museum of archaeology rather than fine arts, Molly Gleeson conserves artifacts and other specimens. That includes human remains.

It was a fascinating talk — as they always are at these meetings. Ms. Gleeson prefaced her talk by warning us that she was going to show us images of human remains, then admitted that for this particular audience that might not be a problem. We all write and read about murder. We’re used to human remains, right?

IMG_2463Well…maybe. A murder mystery can be many, many things. It can be light hearted and funny. It can be chic lit. It can be dark, gritty. And it can be gory, a story of violence and evil. When choosing a new book to read, a mystery reader has to know what she’s getting into — or she reads at her own peril.

Personally, I prefer not to read gruesome stories. I particularly avoid books that include rape scenes, but I generally skim through (or avoid altogether) stories with too much gory detail, too much vividly painted violence. I write the books I like to read. Relatively dark mysteries, gritty even, but with the violence taking place almost entirely off the page.

As an aside, one of the most beautiful death scenes I’ve ever read was written by the late, great Ruth Rendell (who, incidentally, did not shy away from violence when she felt it was called for). I always picture that pretty corpse floating peacefully and elegantly down the river, surrounded by wildflowers, whenever I’m trying to write my own murder scenes. I have not yet achieved Rendell’s level of artistic description of death, but I’ll keep trying.

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 2.05.07 PMWhich brings me back to the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Sisters in Crime. Each month, a technical speaker is invited to come to our group, to share his or her knowledge of biology, ways to kill a person, how crime scenes are handled, even about ancient methods of human preservation (mummies). To an outsider, we probably seem like a pretty gory bunch.

Quite the contrary. In our group, you’ll find cozy writers, young adult writers, and many, like me, who write traditional mysteries that are high on mystery but low on sex and violence. But one thing we have in common: we’re all well-informed on those gory topics that inform the background of our stories, but don’t make an appearance on the page.

How about you? How much violence do you want to see in the mysteries you read?

janegorman.com

 

 

There’s Always More to Learn

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I love learning. Always have. There was a time in my life when I thought I’d have the privilege of being a perpetual student (which is to say, a professor…). That didn’t turn out to be my career, but it hasn’t stopped me from pursuing my dream. I read. I travel. I listen. And wherever I am, I learn something.

I’m taking a course now on body language — how to read it, how to write it, how to use it to communicate more effectively. I’m definitely learning a lot. Experts on body language will read postures, gestures and facial expressions to understand what people are really saying, their hidden words. It can be fun to test out in the real world!

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One of the things that struck me in this course on body language is how differently people learn. Some of us learn best by reading, others by listening, and others simply by doing — the old trial and error technique. I’m not surprised to hear that, but I’d never thought about how to apply that knowledge when I was teaching. I am now thinking very much about how to apply that knowledge when I am writing.

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Learning in a group setting by listening to an expert

Writing is a skill, and while there is an art to it that perhaps cannot be learned, there is certainly a craft that can be. With each book I write, I strive to improve. Throughout the year, through the benefit of courses, conferences and workshops, I learn more about technique, style, character development. I practice, beyond what appears on the pages of my book. I write short stories, enter competitions, seek feedback from experts. Membership in organizations like the Sisters in Crime is invaluable.

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I practice writing whenever I can — and whenever the cats will let me!

I’ve always thought I was the type of person who learned best through reading. But as I write more, and work on my craft more, I realize that I also learn through doing. Practice and more practice, as they say. Of course, it doesn’t feel like practice when it’s something you love to do, does it?

I hope the work pays off, and that as my readers work their way through the books of my series, they find that each book is better than the one before.

More information about my books and links to online retailers can be found at janegorman.com.

Hope, or, Why we love a good #mystery #series

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At this time of year, it seems perfectly reasonable to write about hope. We gather with family and friends, cuddle up in front of a cozy fire, laugh, talk — and read, of course! As the song says, “we’ll conspire, as we dream by the fire, to face unafraid, the plans that we made …”

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I’ve been thinking about plans and hope. Not my plans (or my hopes) but those of Adam Kaminski, the hero in the Adam Kaminski mystery series.

Adam has dreams. Or at least he did. Until his view of the world was shattered through one cruel, heartless act. That devastation changed his dreams and changed his life course. He left teaching to join the Philadelphia Police Department, intent on chasing down the bad guys who posed a threat to the safety of the people he loved and cared for.

My job as author is to force Adam to face his lost dreams, to help him strive for his lost hope. It’s not easy! Sometimes it’s so much easier to let him sit back, take life as it comes, watch from the sidelines even. But that wouldn’t make for very interesting reading.

In any mystery, the detective, whether amateur or professional, must throw himself into the path of danger. She must face her fears, thwart the villain. And in each book, that’s exactly what happens. But the attraction of a series is that other story, the longer story arc that the character follows over multiple books.

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For Adam Kaminski, that longer story sends him on a quest to find the truth about his family legacy and to find the hope that he lost, the hope that led him to be a teacher in the first place.

Whenever I’m tempted to make life easy for Adam, to let him zip through a case, solve the murder in front of him without delving too deeply into other mysteries, I remind myself of his dream. I owe him. He needs me to let him dig deeper, to send him to unknown places, so that he can find the answers he needs, the faith in humanity that will give him back his hope.

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Links to all available retailers for the Adam Kaminski mystery series can be found at my website.

 

A Fresh Start

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I’m in the early stages of drafting the fourth book in the Adam Kaminski mystery series, mysteries that take you places. Right now, I’m developing characters – one of my favorite parts of writing.

My main characters I already know, of course: Philadelphia detective Adam Kaminski, his partner, members of his family. These recurring characters grow and develop in each book in the series, a different kind of challenge for an author. Today, I’m working on new characters. Thanks to the theme of my books – each book embroils Adam Kaminski in a murder investigation in a different city – I also get to develop new characters for each story.

The first new character I create is the victim. For me, the victim defines the story. I have to ask myself, who has to die? How? Most importantly: why? What’s the motive? Which of course leads me to the killer. And thus the plot.

So I create the characters, the victim, the killer, the other people involved in the story. I figure out their backgrounds, their likes and dislikes, what their childhoods were like, their favorite ways to enjoy themselves, their fondest memories, their feelings about their parents, the way they dress, the way they imagine themselves. Once I know these things, the physical description follows naturally – it comes from the character. A person who is insecure might be nervous, jumpy, twitchy. Another character is tall, upright, unbending, sure of himself.

I write using the program Scrivener. I know that for writers Scrivener tends to be a love it or hate it kind of tool. I love it. Scrivener provides templates for character sketches, which makes it easy to keep all this information organized.

Another of Scrivener’s many features is that it lets you include an image on the screen as you write. So as I’m developing characters, I search the web looking for photos of people who have the attributes I’m looking for in my characters. I never use a photo of someone I know – the physical appearance might be correct, but I would risk writing up that person’s personality instead of the character I’m trying to create.

The character I have not yet been able to find a perfect image for is Adam Kaminski. I have such a strong feeling for who he is and what he looks like, I’ve rejected every photo I’ve found. For him, I write without an image – a problem I had to overcome to create a facebook ad. I know that in ads, photos of people work much better than photos of things. So a picture of a man who might be Adam Kaminski is more likely to be successful than a photo of the book cover. All well and good, but the challenge I faced trying to find a picture I could live with! (Do you know how hard it is these days to find an image of a young man without a beard?).

I ended up with an image I like, at least in part because the young man is looking down, so you can’t see his face straight on. It still leaves a little mystery, a little bit of his appearance left to the imagination. For that’s where my characters really come to life: in the imagination of my readers.

To meet my characters for yourself, visit my website at janegorman.com or stop by my amazon page.