My Voice by Paty Jager

From the first writer’s meeting I attended decades ago I heard people talking about voice. My first thought, being a newbie writer, was, “What is voice?”

No matter how many people explained it in various ways, I couldn’t grasp what they were talking about. But writer’s voice is the writer’s influences into the story. The writer’s feelings and emotions that are shown through the characters in the book. How the syntax and phrases flow in the story.

It has taken me over a decade to see my voice in stories. Where readers think I did a good job describing setting, I think it might have been sparse but it was as I saw it in my mind. My writing has always been, what I’d call sparse. When I first started writing, historical romance books had to be 90-100,000 words. I struggled to get to 90,000. I’ve always been a minimalist with it comes to words, in writing and when talking. 😉 However, I do try to make the few words I use have an impact. Whether it is setting, a character, or dialog.

When I come up with new main characters, I don’t just sit down and start filling out a chart or character sheet on them. They live in my head for several months or a year, living a life outside of their books. When I sit down and write their books, I’ve been thinking about the book, the title, what they will encounter and how they will react before the book starts.

With my mystery main characters, who are Native American, I read all I can by and about their tribes. I want to try to see and feel things as they would, not as a not quite senior citizen white woman would see it. I’ve always been interested in other cultures and felt anger over how so many races have been mistreated. I use this as my catalyst to feel and hopefully show the correct emotions when I write.

My latest project has been something I knew I would write the second I’d decided to write the Gabriel Hawke novels. I have heard and seen so much about the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women cause that I had a desire to tell the story and hope that it would open more eyes to the problem.

Where does this come in with my voice? My voice in my books, is not only concise working and phrases, it is the need to show justice can be found and a need to show where there is an injustice. My beta readers, line editor, and final proof reader all say this is my best Gabriel Hawke book.

The woman, Kola Shippentower-Thompson who worked with me to make me see how things worked on the reservation when a tribal member is missing gave me this review: “The story was captivating, I couldn’t put it down. So many memories were brought to surface, so many emotions, like this has been lived before, because it has, this is a glimpse into our reality in the Reservation. Thank you for seeing us & helping tell part of the story.” She is the Co-founder & Director of Enough Iz Enough, a non-profit organization that works to teach women and children how to be vigilant and safe and who support the MMIW cause. Proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to the Enough Iz Enough organization to benefit the MMIW movement.

When Kola was reading the book, she told me she had to stop at one point because it brought back so many sad memories. She has lost multiple family members and has never received any answers about what happened to them.

My hope is that this book will enlighten more people to the plague of violence they Indigenous women, children, and even men have been enduring. The ebook is available for pre-order publishing on May 18th. The print books should be available by the end of the month.

Stolen Butterfly

Gabriel Hawke Novel #7

Missing or Murdered

When the local authorities tell State Trooper Gabriel Hawke’s mother to wait 72 hours before reporting a missing Umatilla woman, she calls her son and rallies members of the community to search.

Hawke arrives at the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation and learns the single mother of a boy his mom watches would never leave her son. Angered over how the local officials respond to his investigating, Hawke teams up with a security guard at the Indian casino and an FBI agent. Following the leads, they discover the woman was targeted by a human trafficking ring at the Spotted Pony Casino.

Hawke, Dela Alvaro, and FBI Special Agent Quinn Pierce join forces to bring the woman home and close down the trafficking operation before someone else goes missing.

Pre-order purchase link: https://books2read.com/u/baZEPq

This also happens to be my 50th published book! I’m having a 50 Book Bash event at Facebook and this week I am featuring my Mystery Books. So come on by, learn about my mystery books, leave comments and get in the running fore the daily prizes. Here is the URL: https://www.facebook.com/events/299774331600785

Adding my voice to my books wasn’t a matter of me finding my voice. It was a matter of me realizing what my voice was. Can you tell an author’s voice when you read a book? Or do you just enjoy the characters, the narrative, and the dialog and afterword, just smile, knowing it was a good read?

The First Draft by Karen Shughart

I started writing the first draft of the third mystery in the Edmund DeCleryk series several months ago. It’s entitled Murder at Freedom Hill, and as with the first two books, the murder is linked to an historical event, this time the Abolition Movement and Underground Railroad. Both are part of the history of the village where I live in upstate New York, as are the historical backstories with the previous books, portrayed with a bit of poetic license.

When I start writing a draft, I know the setting (it’s always the fictional village of Lighthouse Cove, NY), have chosen the victim and other characters.  There will be a trip or two to Canada, it’s right across Lake Ontario from Lighthouse Cove; the communities bordering it on both sides are intricately linked by related historical events.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I’ve contacted my technical experts with questions on investigative procedures and sentencing guidelines. I have the basic trajectory of the story in my head, and usually have identified the murderer. And I plan for the recipes that will appear at the end of the book, courtesy of Annie, Ed’s wife.

After that it’s a bit of a free-for-all. Structured chaos. The road not taken. Once the first draft is finished, I start to think about changes I want to make in the plot. Sometimes that means getting up in the middle of the night and writing down idea so that by morning they haven’t been erased by a dream or two I may have had in the interim.

I’ve been asked if I create an outline or use index cards when I’m writing a book. I don’t, although I know many authors who do. For me, it’s too confining. I’d rather go where the story leads me instead of being boxed in by my own rigid expectations. Case in point: since starting the first draft of Murder at Freedom Hill, I’ve changed the murderer three times, added a few twists and turns, and lengthened the time it takes to solve the case. It’s a true, excuse the cliché,  work in progress.

The first draft is messy and meandering, and it’s now that the hard work begins. I know I’ll need to clean it up, cut and paste, do a significant amount of wordsmithing, expand the investigation, eliminate overused words, and insert the historical backstory chronologically and strategically. I’ll also need to decide which recipes to include.

The first drafts of Murder in the Museum and Murder in the Cemetery ran about 40,000 words. My background is journalism, so I learned to write sparingly. I think I’m finally getting the hang of it, this draft ended at 55,000 words, a lot closer to my goal of 70,000+.

Writing the first draft is lots of fun, I go with the flow and see where the story takes me.  But now, the real work begins.

Guest Blogger~ Tilia Klebenov Jacobs

Character Matters

by Tilia Klebenov Jacobs

The prep stage of writing can be a time of enchantment when characters and motivations emerge like flowers blooming.  As I laid the groundwork for a story that would eventually be called “Perfect Strangers,” I felt as though I were not creating so much as discovering the answers to key questions.  Specifically, what kind of person creates multiple identities in order to rob a marijuana dispensary?

Authors say there are two kinds of writers, plotters and pantsers.  Plotters write outlines, sketch character bios, run their stories past lawyer friends to see exactly what kind of trouble they’ve gotten their protagonist into, and generally research down to the last stray molecule of information.  By contrast, pantsers prefer to fly by the seat of their…trousers. 

 I am a plotter.  This may have something to do with my days as a middle school teacher, when I would routinely tell my students that failing to prepare is preparing to fail.  Mostly, though, it just has to do with being me.  I like knowing where I’m going before I set off, and I like knowing who I’m writing about before we embark on mayhem together. 

For “Perfect Strangers,” I filled in a bio sheet that I’ve developed over the years.  I started with the basics:  name, age, sex/gender identity, job; and went on to such details as education, hobbies, and living and work spaces.  I decided how many kids were in the family of origin, whether the parents were married, and if so whether it was a happy marriage.  I described my character’s religion, ethics, and politics, and added a brief timeline of his life up till now.  Thus did I make my protagonist, Gershom McKnight, a recently paroled convict.  He was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the single child of unhappy parents who did not encourage their son’s talent in visual arts (useful for a career as a forger later in life).  He was a juvenile delinquent who became a felon at age eighteen, and his best friend is his cellmate.

My biographical information on Gersom also told me how he sounded.  My notes under “Tone and Narrator” read as follows:

Narrator has spent 10ish years in prison.  S/he, but probably he, is smart, resilient, and resourceful, but at best an autodidact. Can have plenty of humor, but not lotsa highfalutin’ vocab and descriptions.  Tone is conversational, a cross between boasting and confiding.  He knows stuff, and how to do stuff, and is proud of it.

Suddenly, I could hear my fictional character talking.  I knew his voice, his sense of humor, his wry asides.  Now he and I could tell his story.

Many of the details I come up with never appear in the story they undergird.  For example, Gershom’s family life is never mentioned in “Perfect Strangers.”  However, all these data points serve me in the aggregate by giving me a precise picture of who I’m dealing with, what they sound like, and how they will behave once the action starts.  For me, it is a joyful process of discovery.

Mystery Writers of America Anthology

“It’s been said that all great literature boils down to one of two stories — a man takes a journey, or a stranger comes to town. While mystery writers have been successfully using both approaches for generations, there’s something undeniably alluring in the nature of a stranger: the uninvited guest, the unacquainted neighbor, the fish out of water.  No matter how or where they appear, strangers are walking mysteries, complete unknowns in once-familiar territories who disrupt our lives with unease and wonder. In the newest collection of stories by the Mystery Writers of America, each author weaves a fresh tale surrounding the eerie feeling that comes when a stranger enters our midst, featuring stories by prolific mystery writers such as Michael Connelly, Lisa Unger, and Joe Hill.”

IndieBound / Bookshop.org / Barnes & Noble / Amazon / Books-A-Million  / Audible.com 

Tilia Klebenov Jacobs is the bestselling author of two crime novels, one middle-grade fantasy book, and numerous short stories. She is a judge in San Francisco’s Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition, and a board member of Mystery Writers of America-New England. HarperCollins describes her as one of  “crime fiction’s top authors.” Tilia has taught middle school, high school, and college; she also teaches writing classes for prison inmates.  She lives near Boston with her husband, two children, and pleasantly neurotic poodle.

Website:  http://www.tiliaklebenovjacobs.com/

FB Author Page:  https://www.facebook.com/Authortiliakj

Twitter Handle:  @TiliaKJacobs

The Pains of Getting it Correct by Paty Jager

I have had book 7 in the Gabriel Hawke Novels written over a month ago. It went through my LEO (retired Law Enforcement Officer) and my CP (Critique Partner) But I have been waiting for my sensitivity reader to get to it.

This book is set on a reservation, deals with a missing Umatilla woman, and is set predominately in an Indian casino. For those reasons I have someone who lives on the reservation, is part of the MMIW organization, and she has worked in an Indian casino reading the book.

The problem: I had this book slated to publish May 1st in coordination with May being the month 15 years ago my first book published. This book will be my 50th. I have planned a HUGE Facebook 50 Book Bash event to last the full month of May. The plan was to start the month out announcing the 50th book was published.

That is not going to happen now. I will have to announce the pre-order on May 1st and set the publish date for the end of May. There are still too many people the book has to go through before it can be published. And I have to get it returned with my sensitivity readers comments first.

2nd cover/ deleted the 1st

I also sent her the cover… Her comment was the woman on the cover wasn’t brown enough. My cover designer made another cover with a different woman on it, with a browner skin tone. But then I thought, “None of the other Hawke covers have people on them. So now we are working on a cover without a person. Hard to do with the main location of the book being a casino and I don’t want to put a casino on the cover.

Covers with casino scenes will be for my Spotted Pony Casino Mysteries that will be my new series coming out in June. This fictional casino is the one featured in Stolen Butterfly, Gabriel Hawke Novel #7. And the main characters in that series are introduced in this Hawke book.

So I plunge on with book 1 of the new series, and hope my imaginary casino and how it is run and the employees will work for my sensitivity reader and I won’t have to rewrite too much of the new book.

While I enjoy using fictional settings, I like to get all the nuances of a culture and work place correct. And that is why, my 50th book may be released later than I’d planned.

To Gore or Not To Gore… And How Much?

by Janis Patterson

When one writes mysteries, one has to come face to the face with the problem of violence – when, to whom and how much. Almost every mystery – those for grown-ups, that is – includes an assault and/or a death. It is very rare to see a mystery without one or the other and usually both. Dead bodies are pretty much the raison d’etre of a mystery!

The question is, how did the body get dead, where is it found, what condition is it in, and how much – if any – of the actual crime do we show?

What they’re now calling cozy mysteries – the kind with a ditzy amateur sleuth with a terrible love life, a cute job, probably a shoe obsession and perhaps intelligent animals which may or may not solve the actual mystery themselves – usually back away from violence and its aftermath as much as possible. (And yes, I know there are exceptions, but it is the exception that proves the rule!) The dead body that propels the story is so sanitized and occasionally de-humanized that in some stories it resembles little more than a stage prop. Which is distressing but not surprising, as more and more publishers are demanding that the body appear in the first few pages if not on the first page itself. This makes it hard for the reader to regard said dead body as little more than a plot device instead of something that was once a living, breathing complete human being. (In case you didn’t know, this ‘where does the body appear’ thing is one of my hot buttons!)

What we used to call cozies are now in the labeling limbo of ‘traditional mysteries’ which to me means more realistic characters, more realistic actions by those characters, but with only minimal violence. There is blood, but only a tangential mention. My favorite description (taken from one of my own books, of course) talks about the body hastily covered with a now-stained bedspread (at the time of my sleuth’s arrival) with just a lip of wet red peeking out from under the edge. Enough description to evoke a feeling of horror at such a heinous and violent act, but most definitely not enough to revolt or sicken the reader. It’s sometimes a difficult balancing act.

In a hard-boiled or noir mystery, the violence is not only part of but sometimes seems to be the reason for the story. Descriptions of violence, whether or not they result in death, are often and lovingly detailed. Remember how often Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer either was beaten up (each blow described) or beat up the bad guy (each blow described.) He wasn’t the only one, either. There are scores of such novels celebrating violence written every day.

My personal bête noir example of gratuitous violence is Robert Ludlum. Yes, his novels are generally classified with thrillers, but in each one there is a mystery, and I’m trying to make a point here. I have publicly called his books ‘the pornography of death.’ Think about it – in sexual pornography nothing is hidden; every moan, every stroke, every touch, every single action is described, usually in loving and minute detail. Ludlum’s (and others’) do the same thing with violence. Every split of skin from a blow. The explosion of skin and the fountain of blood caused by the entry of a bullet… or a spear, or some other penetrating object. The crisping and blackening of skin as it begins to burn. Personally, I find it sickening, but considering how these books sell I’m obviously in the minority!

My feelings toward violence in my books are sort of like mine about sex in my books. They both happen, and we as readers know they happen, as we see the results, but they do not happen ‘on screen’ and there are no overly graphic descriptions.

Once a couple of decades ago I was doing make-up on the set of a horror film. A grizzled old hand and I were watching as an actor was being glued (yes, glued!) into his costume. The gaffer snorted derisively, saying that clump of foam and make-up wasn’t really scary.

Well, it was pretty scary-looking to me! When I told him, he said the purpose of a horror film was to scare people, and not all people were scared by all things. To really scare people, he said, you give a suggestion – a shadow, a hand or a tentacle, and let people create in their own head the thing that scared them the most. “Don’t show the monster,” he said. “Let people create their own monster.”

It’s the same thing with violence. A suggestion – ‘a lip of wet red peeking out’ – can evoke more feelings, more visceral reaction, than an entire thesaurus of detailed description. And that’s why I don’t write overt gore.