The Complications of Family

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As I write this post, I have to admit I’m not entirely focused on writing. I’m thinking more about my plans later today to head out to visit my Dad. Because today is Father’s Day, at least here in the U.S. Not that I need a reason to see my Dad, but sometimes it helps to have some extra motivation. It’s far too easy to let time slip by between visits.

I’m lucky. I have a loving family who live not far from me. Of course, for some people close proximity to family can be a curse as much as a blessing. Families are complicated.

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The complications of family underlie one of the running subplots in the Adam Kaminski mystery series. In the first book in the series, A Blind Eye, Adam learns something he didn’t previously know about his great-grandfather. Not a close family member, to be sure. But to Adam, the history of his family is the history of himself. As a former history teacher, Adam knows just how important the past is in framing the future.

With each book in the series, Adam learns a little bit more about his great-grandfather’s life. Tiny pieces of information that could easily be misunderstood or put into the wrong place in the puzzle.

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I’m enjoying figuring out this family puzzle as I write it. Of course, I do know the big picture. I knew that before I wrote the first book. But the details that come to light with each installation of the story sometimes surprise me, too!

For a mystery writer, family complications are a fertile source. Families can mean acceptance, love and joy, but they can also mean competition, jealousy, old grudges or catastrophic loss. And sometimes they mean all of those things at the same time.

In the Adam Kaminski mystery series, I get to explore not only the history of Adam’s family, but also his relationships to his mother, his father, his sister, his more distant relatives. Each relationship comes with its own story. Its own tensions.

In the fifth book, which I’m currently writing, I get to zoom in on Adam’s sister, Julia. She’s been a bit player in some of the books already, but now she’s getting a leading role. And it’s so much fun to figure her out!

If you haven’t had a chance to meet Adam Kaminski and his family yet, now’s a great time. I’m partnering up with a group of other mystery writers to do a free giveaway. Here’s the link to the page, where you can download free copies of A Blind Eye, along with 20 other mysteries and thrillers. Check it out!

Adam-Kaminski-Mystery-SeriesLearn more about Jane Gorman at her website, or follow her on Bookbub, Facebook and Instagram.

Did You Like It?

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If you follow many authors on social media or through their newsletters, then you’ve probably seen a request for readers to post reviews. These days, for whatever reason, reviews are king!

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It’s not a new concept. Even before the internet (remember that time?), I valued getting opinions from friends or family about books, movies, new exhibitions, whatever form of entertainment I might be considering. Who wouldn’t want to know if an experience would be worth the time and money you put into it?

These days, those reviews tend to come from anonymous strangers. The concept is the same, the implementation is quite different.

Does it matter if you’re taking the advice of a stranger as opposed to someone you know? Yes, I believe it does.

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I had an uplifting conversation yesterday with someone who is a fan of my books. She told me how much she enjoyed the level of detail I included — just enough to paint a picture, to draw her into the story. She related on a personal level to my characters and couldn’t wait to find out what happened to them in future books. You won’t be surprised to hear, I enjoyed getting her comments!

But I couldn’t help but remember, even as she spoke, that just that day I’d noticed a negative review posted to one of my books on Amazon. The reviewer found the characters to be flat. The level of description slowed the story down. Hmph.

Two different readers. The same details. Two completely different reviews. Reading, like so many other things, is subjective. What works for one reader will fail for another.

There’s not much we as writers can do about that. We write the books we want to read. We write the books we think readers will enjoy. Then we sit back and take the lumps with the praise.

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None of which changes that fact that reviews are — still — king. A growing number of marketing opportunities are limited to books with X number of reviews or a certain rating level. So we writers keep asking our readers to post reviews! Share your thoughts! One sentence or a few paragraphs! Good or bad, every review helps!

Then we step back, grit our teeth, and get ready to take our lumps.

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To learn more about Jane Gorman and the Adam Kaminski mystery series — and to leave a review — visit her website at JaneGorman.com, her Amazon page or follow her on Goodreads, Facebook , Instagram and Bookbub.

A Blind Eye, the first book in the Adam Kaminski mystery series, is now on sale for 99 cents.

What’s in a Name?

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I had the great pleasure of attending a presentation by Elizabeth George at a New England Crime Bake conference a few years back. Ms. George is one of my favorite authors — not just one of my favorite mystery writers, but one of my all time favorite writers. Crime Bake is one of those wonderful small conferences attended by a wide variety of mystery writers, designed to teach, discuss and celebrate writing and reading mysteries. Together, it was an idyllic combination.

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At her presentation, Ms. George drew from her book, Write Away, to share a few choice ideas and approaches that helped her strengthen her writing. I had of course already read her book, but it was fun to see which ideas she highlighted, to see what she considered the most important to share with a group of mystery writers and readers in a short amount of time.

She touched on a few topics, one of which was the importance of names. She’d struggled with a character in one of her books, she told us, until she realized she’d given the character the wrong name! Once the name was corrected, the character’s personality, strengths and weaknesses all fell into place. A name has meaning.

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I’ve been thinking about her presentation a lot recently, because I’ve been struggling with the name of one of my characters in my work in progress. Oddly, it’s not that I have a character without a name. It’s that I have a name without a character. The theme of my book is redemption and hope, and I believe I have a character named Saul. Or perhaps Paul. My Christian upbringing is exposing itself, but whenever I think of a person making a life changing decision and seeking redemption, I think of Saint Paul (also known as Saul) as he had his epiphany on the road to Damascus.

But I just can’t get the name to fit. Maybe I’m wrong about which character is seeking redemption. Perhaps I don’t have a character named Saul or Paul at all, he’s simply hiding behind the scenes directing things. I don’t know. I haven’t figured it out yet.

I’m reminded of Paty Jager’s post here on Ladies of Mystery last week about moving her story back to the town in which it belongs. Once the story is brought home, it all falls into place. It’s the same with getting the right name.

Unfortunately, I’m still waiting to meet my Saul.

Learn more about Jane Gorman at her website or visit her on Facebook, Twitter or Amazon.

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The Little Things

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A good book draws the reader in, makes her forget her own worries, the to-do list waiting on the fridge, the snow outside that needs shoveling (at this time of year, anyway!). How do the best authors achieve this? There are many ways, but certainly one is getting the little details right.

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If a reader has previously visited the town in which a book takes place — let’s say, Philadelphia — having the hero run up Broad Street and take a right onto Fourth would pull him right out of the story (for those not familiar with Philly, those streets don’t intersect). If a reader knows a little bit about history, having the murder happen in a historical location that gets its history wrong would be a buzz kill.

There are many resources available to mystery writers today, and I love to take advantage of as many as I can. As a member of the Sisters in Crime, as well as two local chapters (one in my area, the other online), I have access to online courses, in-person lectures, lists of helpful books, and of course experts themselves available to answer questions. I’ve listened to coroners, successful authors, and community workers share their stories. I’ve taken classes on crime scene investigation and firearms.

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Did you know there’s an email list just on forensics and crime scene investigations? It’s such fun! I can be checking my email — laughing at a joke from a friend, deleting unwanted ads for home loans and bodily enhancements — when I come across a detailed analysis of the decomposition rate of a dead body in a cold lake. Cool!

Sometimes my membership in these groups keeps me a little too busy, taking me away from my writing, particularly the group for which I serve as a board member. But it’s all worth it. It’s thanks to these groups that I have access to such fabulous information. And I know that when writing, sometimes the most important part can be the little things.

Learn more about Jane Gorman at janegorman.com, sign up for new release alerts at Bookbub, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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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.