A NEW IDEA

copy        Left Coast Crime, the conference in Phoenix, was a lot of fun. From what other attendees have told me, it always is. LCC in Portland last year was my first, and I had a great time. This time, as I told you in my last blog, I wasn’t on a panel, which was disappointing. Instead, I had half-an-hour to myself to talk about whatever I wanted, but I was the one who had to attract an audience, and that was scary. I had visions of sitting for half-an-hour alone, looking lost and unloved.

I devised a plan. First, I decided on a topic. I thought I might attract visitors if they knew what I was going to talk about. My topic, announced in the conference program, was “You’re Never Too Old.” A good friend did a poster for me, although there was nowhere to post it except inside the room.POSTER__72ppi

At the conference, I talked to everyone I knew and lots of people I didn’t know and invited them to come and see my presentation. To my dismay, I found that the rooms allocated to the single presenters were located at the very end of the meeting rooms, so it would be unlikely that I would attract a casual visitor. Someone would have to come looking for my presentation room.

I felt like a huckster, saying to everyone I met, “Remember. Come hear me 9:30 Saturday morning in Russell B.” But it worked! I got twelve or fourteen people to attend, many of whom I knew but at least four attracted by my topic. Yay!

I talked about my childhood desire to write, and the way my ego was squashed when I wasn’t accepted for the high school magazine. Although I majored in English Literature and minored in Philosophy (not good choices for a future career), I didn’t do any creative writing until many years later, when I took an interesting course which asked the participants to write an early memory in the voice of the child to whom it had occurred.

CAROLE Speaking    It was an interesting experiment and proved to be life-changing for me and for others in  the class. Many broke down in tears when they wrote a painful memory–and most were painful–in the voice and as the child to whom it happened. class.

Soon after that I joined a group of friends in reading THE ARTIST’S WAY by Julia Cameron. We read a chapter a month and did the exercises. I bogged down when I was supposed to spend a week without listening to television, radio, or music or reading a book or newspapers. I couldn’t do it. A week of living in my own head was impossible.

One exercise stayed with me for a long time though. First thing every morning I wrote three pages without thinking and without stopping. The pages were garbage, and I eventually threw them out, but they were very freeing. When I was still working, at a job with long hours and a long, traffic-filled commute, I got up at 4:30 in the morning to do my “morning pages.” These experiences were part of my journey to the dream of being a writer.

A woman who came to see my presentation suggested that I carry the theme, “You’re Never Too Old,” further, inspiring other older people–and there are lots of us–to realize their dreams of writing and publishing their stories, their memories, and in my case, my mystery novels. She suggested I write a self-help book for guidance, and I think I’ll do it.

 

 

OFF TO LEFT COAST CRIME

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       Next week I’m going to Left Coast Crime, a convention sponsored by fans of mystery literature for fans of mystery literature. Officially it is the “Western North American Regional Mystery Conference”. “Western” is defined by the Mountain Time Zone and zones westward to Hawaii. The conference is held yearly in the first quarter of the calendar year and rotates north to south on an annual basis.
Last year was my first time at Left Coast Crime. It was held in Portland, and I went by myself, not knowing what to expect. It rained a lot, I guess because it was in Portland, and I never left the hotel, but I had a terrific time and met a lot of other mystery writers and mystery readers.

So I decided I’d go again this year. It’s being held in Phoenix, and it’s called The Great Cactus Caper. The American Guest of Honor is Gregg Hurwitz, and the International Guest of Honor is Ann Cleeves.
Last year I was on a panel with four other mystery writers, and we had a topic: “She Said, She Said: Writing the Female Protagonist”. It was a lot of fun, the moderator (Meg Gardiner) and the other panelists were great, and the pressure wasn’t all on me.

This year I have been assigned twenty minutes in a room by myself where I can doClimbing young adult at the top of summit

anything I want (within reason, of course). I’ve chosen as my topic “It’s Never Too Late.” As a writer who only began publishing really late in life, I plan to talk about becoming a writer and writing seriously after retirement. I just hope that I’m not talking only to myself!

Now I need to spend some time planning what I’m going to say. If, indeed, there’s anyone there to say it to. I hope that some of the participants, both fans and writers, will want to hear what I have to say.

Wish me luck!

A Time to be Bold

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Romance is in the air. We celebrated Valentine’s Day yesterday, a day for lovers to be together, for friends to celebrate friendship, for admirers to share their feelings. For many, this is a day to be bold. Romance requires a certain amount of boldness.

In the best romantic stories, the hero(ine) must fight for his or her love. Whether overcoming insurmountable obstacles to be with the one they love or fighting for the heart of the one they love, the heroes and heroines of classic romance understand the need to be brave. The need to be bold. Romance is not for the weak of heart.
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Characters in a classic murder mystery have a similar need. A need to be brave, a need to be bold. The detective must determine not only who has the means and the opportunity, but also who has the motive, boldly digging into lives that the suspects would prefer to keep private.

Each character in a mystery must be bold, to face the inevitable confrontation with the detective, to face the other suspects without succumbing to fear, and to deal with the secrets that always lurk just below the surface of their own lives.

And of course the killer must be bold. Bold enough to hide the truth, to lie and to misdirect. Bold enough to be a worthy opponent of the detective.

I’ve hit that point in my work-in-progress when it’s time for me, as an author, to be bold. I’m putting the finishing touches on the last draft of What She Fears, book 4 in the Adam Kaminski mystery series.

It’s the last draft for now. I’m sending it off to my editor and it will come back with pages of notes, changes, revisions, additions, deletions. Some minor. Some that will require rewriting a significant portion of the text. As a writer, I dread this step. Not because of the suggestions — those will no doubt improve the work.

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No, my fear is in sending this text, a text that up to now has only been seen by my eyes, out to be read by someone else. Someone out there. Someone whose interest lies not in complimenting me or praising me, but in tearing my work apart, exposing its weaknesses and highlighting its flaws.

I’m not alone in this, and I gain strength from knowing that everyone who has written their heart and soul onto a page understands this feeling. With every new draft I share, every new book I release, I swallow my fear, tuck my doubts out of sight, and bravely go where every author has gone before. It is a time to be bold.

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Visit janegorman.com for information on all of Jane Gorman’s books.

Writing About Something I Know Little About

This is something that I often do. I’m working on my next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery and it has a lot to do with wild fires. I’m not a firefighter, except for one retired fireman married to my cousin, I have none in my family. (Cousin’s hubby wouldn’t be helpful because he fought city fires.)

Fortunately, I have a friend who is also in my critque group who has been a volunteer fireman for years and often works on the big forest fires around the state. Believe me, I’ve truly picked his brain.

I’m good at this because of course, I’ve never been a resident deputy sheriff either. Living where I do, we’ve had several I’ve become acquainted with over the years. In fact, I wrote an article for the newspaper about the woman who inspired me to write about a female deputy sheriff. As for the real-life deputies who came after her, the first was a layed-back guy who had some traits that I borrowed for Tempe. Even the more gung-ho type we have now was kind enough to let me see inside his truck so I’d know what one looked like.

And for all of us writing about murder–I doubt that many of us have known a murderer personally or what really makes one do what the or she has done. But it hasn’t stopped any of us from writing about murderers and the acts they commit.

What I think that says for all of us is that we’re good at researching what we want to know and have incredibly lively imaginations. And of course, we’re counting on our readers to be transported to the world that we’ve created.

What else can you think of that helps you to write about people and subjects you really don’t know much about?

Marilyn who also writes as F.M. Meredith

 

 

 

Researching a Mystery by Paty Jager

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I’m not a forensic coroner or a lawyer or even a law enforcer. I’m the wife of a rancher and I write murder mystery.

As I write this next book in my Shandra Higheagle Mystery Series I’ve come across questions that have required answers by professionals. When I start a book I know how the victim will die and where. But I ultimately need to know what their injuries would look like say if they fall off a cliff or are stabbed with a blunt object or shot at close range with a small caliber gun.

These are all things coroners have seen and can tell me. But how do I get a coroner on speed-dial or in my case speed e-mail? I’m part of a yahoo loop that is filled with every kind of occupation a mystery or murder writer might need expertise about. The yahoo loop is crimescenewriter@yahoogroups.com

That’s how I connected with a coroner who not only answered my question I put on the loop but also emailed back and forth with me as I asked more questions and what-if’s. She has lots of knowledge and being a budding writer is willing to help out fellow writers.

Writing the opening and how the victim is killed and what is discovered went well, knowing I had the correct information and knowledge. Then I brought in some secondary characters and a sub-plot. For the sub-plot I needed some legal information. I turned to my niece who is a para-legal and what she couldn’t answer she knew where to send me to find the information. After my niece and I discussed the issue I wanted brought up in my book and how I wanted it dealt with, she suggested I contact a law enforcement officer.  I happen to have one in the family. 😉

I sent off an email explaining what I wanted to do, how would it be handled, and after some back and forth ,that element of the sub-plot was worked out.

Writing mystery books is my favorite writing experience. Not only do I have to puzzle out a mystery that will keep the reader thinking, I have to make sure the forensics and laws will work in the story and enhance the overall realness of the crime and the killer.

Have you read books where you could tell the writer hadn’t researched the laws or forensics? Did it bother you while reading the book or is that something that doesn’t bother you?

~*~

Award-winning author Paty Jager and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. She not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it. All Paty’s work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Her penchant for research takes her on side trips that eventually turn into yet another story.

You can learn more about Paty at:

her blog; Writing into the Sunset

her website; http://www.patyjager.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh My, I Forgot!

In my defense, I was thinking I was supposed to post on the last Monday, when actually it’s the 4th Monday, which is today and almost over.

I’d decided to write about “good” authors and “bad” authors, but not good and bad in the way you might think. I’m not referring to how someone writes, but rather, how someone acts.

Over the years, I’ve been around many popular or big name authors–and some who are only big name authors in the own minds.

In my experience, most of the most popular and well-known authors are friendly and nice, even to authors who aren’t as popular or well-known. Here are a few who come to mind: Mary Higgins Clark is probably at the top of my list because I’ve met her twice, once at a small mystery conference years and years ago, and the many years later at the Editors and Agents cocktail party in New York before the Edgars. She greeted me like we were old friends– and introduced me to her then new husband. She chatted with me for several minutes. A truly classy lady.

William Kent Krueger, who has won many awards for his writing, I’ve met many times over the years at various conferences and conventions. He always acts like he’s happy to see me and asks after my husband.

I can name others, but you get the idea.

Then there are those who are on the opposite end of the spectrum. I’m not going to name names, but here are a few examples. There’s a quite popular author whom I ran into many times–but no matter how friendly I greet her, she acts like she has never seen me before or that perhaps I’ve turned invisible. I’ve seen her do that with others too, so know it’s not just me.

There have been a couple of times I’ve been on panels with authors who acted like I didn’t have the right to be seated by them–and certainly didn’t want to waste any time listening to what I had to say.

One more example, a writer who declared that far too many authors with small publishers attended a particular conference.

Guess what? I’ve never purchased another book by the above authors. No, of course it’s not going to hurt them any, but I know I wouldn’t enjoy reading something written by them once I knew their true feelings.

I’m not a “popular” or “well-known” author, but I if I were, I know that I’d be the kind of author that I am now–approachable and friendly.

Have any of you had experiences with the “good” and the “bad”?

Marilyn Meredith who is also know as F. M. Meredith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Mystery That Almost Wasn’t

 

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     Now that the holidays are over and I’ve broken all my New Year’s resolutions—why do I bother to make them?—I’m about to publish my next novel. It’s a stand-alone mystery set in Southern California and San Francisco. It’s a book I wrote between the first and second books of my Florida series featuring Detectives Andi Battaglia and Greg Lamont. The book, which I called PSYCHIC DAMAGE, was hard for me to write, and when I finished it, I didn’t like it much.
I didn’t like the protagonist, a whiney, nail-biting woman named Eva Stuart who can’t make decisions on her own, is addicted to going to psychics to get advice on how to live her life, and leaves a really desirable man because she thinks he doesn’t love her as much as she loves him. The story begins with the murder of her favorite psychic.
When I finished writing PSYCHIC DAMAGE, I wondered why I had thought this would make a good story. I wasn’t happy with it, but I did what I had to do. I sent it out to agents, took it to a couple of conferences where I pitched it to agents and publishers, etc., etc., but I got no serious bites. I decided no one else liked my protagonist either.
So I buried the book and went on to write the second book in the Florida mystery series, SO MANY REASONS TO DIE. I liked that one. It didn’t give me any trouble, and I liked Andi Battaglia and Greg Lamont, my characters.
Several people who had read the whole or portions of PSYCHIC DAMAGE asked me what had become of it. I said I didn’t like it, so when I finished it, I put it aside. One person in particular, my writing teacher, kept reminding me of this novel that I had written. She kept telling me it was good. “Go back and read it,” she said. “See what you think now, after a couple of years.”
For a long time I didn’t do what she suggested, didn’t go back and read it. Finally, exasperated and having trouble with the third novel in the Florida series (must I always have trouble with my books? Will nothing ever come easily?) I reread PSYCHIC DAMAGE. And what do you know? It’s not a bad book at all. It’s a good book. I like it. I still don’t like Eva, my protagonist, but she does have a significant character arc in the book. She becomes a better, more self-assured person, no longer relying on psychics and able to stand on her own. She even stops biting her nails!
I hope when PSYCHIC DAMAGE is published, you’ll read it and let me know if you learn to like Eva Stuart while you read the book. I did!