MISSED WRITING OPPORTUNITIES AND WHY by Marilyn Meredith

Not too many years ago, when our chapter of Sister in Crime and many who wanted to be mystery writers and a program chair who brought in great speakers, not only did I get some great ideas for plot from them, but also was asked to write a book for them.

One would have really been fun. Our chapter went to the nearby airport and heard and viewed all about the police and sheriff’s helicopters. We heard exciting tales about what they did and arrests they’d made. One of the police pilots seemed to focus on me while he was talking. Afterwards, he came and asked if he could speak with me.

He wanted me to write a book about him and all of his exploits. He offered to take me on “fly-alongs” so I’d know what it was like to fly all over the big city and spot criminals, and sometimes actually land to arrest them. Believe me, I wanted to do it. I took his card and told him I’d get back to him.

At the time, I owned and operated a licensed home for six women with developmental disabilities. My husband and I ran it together. The big city where the police officer and his helicopter were stationed was about an hour and a half drive from my home. Though truly torn, I knew it wouldn’t be fair to my husband or the women I cared for to be away as much as giving a book like this justice—so I turned it down.

The second opportunity was when our SinC chapter had a police detective from the coast who told us all the details about a horrible murder of a teenaged girl, by three teen boys. Afterwards, he asked me if I’d co-write a true-crime book with him about this horrendous crime. Again, to do the job right, I’d have had to be away from home far too much. However, that wasn’t the real reason I turned it down. The thought of interviewing the parents of the dead girl and those of the boys was not something I wanted to do. I know all of their hearts must be broken.

And I’ll close with the one opportunity I accepted and wished I hadn’t. I accepted the job through a ghost-writing company that I’d worked with before, to write the story of a big time but supposedly reformed drug dealer. I didn’t have to meet with him in person; we did everything through email. His story was fascinating. He managed to avoid being caught while selling to some of the most influential people in a wealthy beach community in southern California, and then his change of life style when he moved to Hawaii.

We seemed to get along fine. He was happy with what I’d written until it was time for him to make his final payment. He became verbally abusive, told the company I worked for I hadn’t written anything the way he wanted. The worst of his emails came when I was at the Public Safety Writers Association’s annual conference. I sent him an email telling him where I was and who I was with: all sorts people from different law enforcement agencies from police, FBI, NSA, etc. and I planned to seek their help. That stopped him. I never heard from him again. I have no idea if he published his book—and frankly I don’t care.

I’m not quite sure why those memories popped up, but I thought you might find them interesting.

Have any of you ever turned down a writing opportunity?

Marilyn

Writing Makes me Happy by Paty Jager

I started this writing journey decades ago because I had a need to write. That sounds hokey or corny to some but it was my husband who first realized when I didn’t have time to write, I became cranky. LOL I would become irritable and crabby when I was so busy raising kids and taking care of the chores that I didn’t have time to write. He would say, “Go write for a while. Leave the dishes, or do the laundry later.” And I would go write, and the real world would once again be a happy place for me.

My best guess would be, anyway from what I’ve noticed over the years, my overactive imagination would keep me up at night with ‘what ifs’ and tragedies befalling family members. When I write and am engrossed in causing all kinds of trouble for my characters, my mind is at ease and I sleep better. If I don’t write, I put all of the danger into potential threats to my family members and friends. Weird, right?

I also enjoy the research. Over the years, even as a child, I would read books and discover new places, new people, new cultures, and learn about things I didn’t have where I lived. That was exciting to me! As a teen I loved the old Gothic Romances by Phyliss Whitney, Mary Stewart, and Victoria Holt. I enjoyed living in mansions, the terror of crossing a moor in the dark, experiencing a time and country that was so different from what I lived. I also liked they were the thickest books in the school library. I could go through a thin novel in two days, reading during lunch, afterschool and when I was supposed to be sleeping. 😉

I started reading mysteries then and continued as an adult. A good mystery for me has twists and turns and engaging characters. I devoured books by Agatha Christie, Dick Francis, Dorothy Gilman. Lilian Jackson Braun, Tony Hillerman, and Sue Grafton.

Putting a bit of mystery in everything I write has shown me that I am a writer who has to write mystery to feel I’ve built a complete story. And that is why I write mystery books. It is what, is deep in my core. I like writing twists and turns and having justice at the end of the story.

My innate need to always write about justice or injustice has brought me to writing mysteries with Native American influences. Whether it is characters or setting. Their plight has always tugged at my conscious and now, with writing, I have a way to show they are human and viable people just like everyone else. They have been trod upon and nearly annihilated, yet because of their faith and resilience they are growing stronger and becoming a voice that needs to be heard.

Writing mysteries with Native American elements is what makes me happy. I have a couple of romance series I need to finish, and I tried. However, my heart isn’t into those at this time, so I will continue to write the stories that are calling to me.

Here is the latest release of my new Spotted Pony Casino Mystery series.

Poker Face

Spotted Pony Casino Mystery

Book 1

Dela Alvaro is a disabled veteran who grew up on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation. When an IED in Iraq ended her military career, she came home to reassess her life and landed a job in security at the Indian run casino on the reservation.

Not even a year into being the assistant to the head of security, Dela is promoted on a trial basis. When one of the casino employees is found stabbed and stuffed in a laundry chute, she knows she can kiss head of security good-bye if she doesn’t find the killer before the media gets hold of the story.

While she is in over her head, she can’t decide if the FBI Special Agent called in to help is a blessing or a curse. It’s a man she ran across in Iraq who overrode her authority. When a second casino employee is killed, Dela has to decide if she can trust the special agent with not only keeping her job but keeping the rest of the casino employees safe.

Universal Buy link:

https://books2read.com/u/brPxxw

What I Like and Dislike About Writing

Writing is something I’m compelled to do. I’ve written in one form or another since I was around four. The first of my telling stories was in a series of pictures about the soap opera my mother listened to on the radio every morning—My Gal Sunday. While mom worked in the kitchen with the radio tuned in, I sat at a little table with a tablet and crayons, depicting what I heard.

During my grammar school days I wrote lots of stories, some were my versions of “Little House on the Prairie,” and an old series of books of my mother’s about the life of Elsie Dinsmore. I also wrote and illustrated a fairy tale my mother sent off to a publisher. She must’ve thought it was good—the publisher sent back a nice rejection letter.

My junior high years I wrote plays for the neighborhood kids to star in and a magazine which I sold to my friends for a nickel. I wrote essays, stories and poems during my high school years. I married young and was kept busy running my household and raising five children. My writing turned to newsletters for PTA and plays for my Camp Fire Girls to perform. I did write two novels during that period of my life and have no idea what happened to them.

My sister labored on our family’s genealogy and when she was done, I used it as a guide for writing two historical family sagas—a huge undertaking requiring lots of research. Both books, after a lot of criticism and work, were published. And I was hooked.

I love the writing process. Because I love to read mysteries, I started writing them. Being inside another place, seeing exciting events through the eyes of imaginary characters became my obsession. Planning the mystery, where it would take place, who would be the detective, deciding who should be a victim and who might want to see that person dead, how the person was killed, all became part of the enjoyment of writing.

I do like the editing part—though I confess to missing mistakes and I’m grateful to my editor for finding plot holes and typos.

Even after all the editing, I don’t like it when a reader lets me know about a mistake she’s found. Oh, I’m glad she pointed it out because it can be fixed, but I’m unhappy because the mistake was missed during the editing process.

Researching is often fun: talking to people in law enforcement, going on ride-alongs, attending mystery and writing conferences, meeting other writers and readers.

What I dislike about the whole business of writing is planning promotional events: making the phone call or going in-person to ask to hold a book signing in a particular place. Though I do enjoy talking to readers, I’m not happy with trying to convince someone to buy a book. If they aren’t interested after I’ve told them about it, I’m not going to push.

I like being on panels at writing or mystery cons, but what I don’t like is when one author tries to hog the whole time period for him/herself.

Though I do like some ways of promotion, I’m not fond of any that takes a lot of time away from writing and costs a lot of money. Anything effective seems to do both.

No matter, when I’m finished with one book, an idea for another is usually rolling around in my brain.

Okay, I’ve had my say. I’d like to hear from my author friends, what do you like best about writing? And what don’t you like about the process?

Marilyn

Tactile Pleasure of Mystery Writing

For the last several months I’ve been rewriting a mystery from first person to third. This was more fun and more rewarding than I at first expected and I’m pleased with the results. One of the best parts of the work was rearranging the plot and reworking and developing the subplot. I have a general rule that when this part of writing a mystery gets tedious, then it’s time to start over. That didn’t happen this time, and I enjoyed one of my favorite aspects of crime writing.

Setting up and working out a mystery is for me the same as working out a puzzle, or finding a new tool and learning how it works. I like moving pieces around, setting up clues, keeping track of lines of dialogue that can be used later, reworking a clue, slotting in hints in dialogue to guide or mislead the reader, or lifting and replacing scenes. Dorothy L. Sayers called this process of working out a plot a “tactile” pleasure, and indeed it is. I’m not talking about notecards; I’m talking about the mind’s perception that the hands, fingers, are moving physical items around on a surface.

Some years ago, I signed up for a design course to learn more about how designers work to help me think about book covers. It was a revelation. Never had I more truly understood the difference between a writer’s mind and that of a designer. The first lesson was to use our names in a design as a way to introduce ourselves. I fussed for days over fonts, letter placement (vertical or horizontal), and more unimaginative details.

The student work I remember best was a drawing of the letters of his name tumbling out of a cornucopia in random order. I never produced anything equal to the work of the other students but I learned to release objects as well as ideas from their given, or assumed, boundaries. Which, when you come to think about it, is kin to what’s happening in crime fiction—individuals breaking rules and crossing lines, violating boundaries and challenging others to contain them.

The term “boundaries” has come to mean an emotional guide we use to protect ourselves from others or establish areas where connection is possible. We establish rules of interacting, and talk at length about how to do this. But boundaries are also physical, lines on a map drawn between nations or neighbors. We think of them as fixed, but experience tells us they’re not. Mystery writers have no trouble rearranging the world to suit our purposes. It makes me think of Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill at the Yalta Conference in 1945, rearranging the map of Europe before the war was officially over.

Rearranging a plot is rarely so significant as Yalta but slipping the pieces out of logical, rational place can produce the startling results that jiggle the brain out of its comfortable path. Examples abound in the work of Anthony Berkeley, a writer of the Golden Age, in his repeated challenges to the idea of justice and the issue of justified homicide. By seeing an encounter between two people in terms of its individual steps, the writer can pull apart the entire progress and rearrange the steps into a challenge to the standard perceptions of crime and violence. Every time a writer makes a change in the story, no matter how minor, she is turning what is regarded as a straightforward crime into a plot, and leading the reader to break established boundaries and ways of thinking about a particular event. This is a useful skill that might well be applied to all areas of life.

The Angst That Doesn’t Go On The Page by Paty Jager

Many literary prose are filled with angst and trepidation. I wonder if literary writers feel the same angst and trepidation that genre writers do?

This is a confession of sorts. Before I started writing mystery, I just researched either history, settings, occupations or whatever I needed to make the story real and conjured up characters that I liked and hoped readers liked. Those were my romance books.

Then I wrote an action adventure trilogy. I researched and read and studied. I came up with a high IQ character and hoped I could pull her off. I set books in areas I had never been, but I found people who had or lived there. I dug deep to make sure I had all the knowledge I felt I needed to write those books. When the first one released, I knew it was going to flop. How could I write about an anthropologist with a genius level IQ and make people believe her?

But I did! Readers loved Isabella Mumphrey. The first book won an award!

After all the angst and worry, I decided to try my hand at the genre I really wanted to write– mystery. And what did I do? I made my character half Native American. Mainly because I feel it is a culture that gets shoved under the rug and partly because I love research and learning new things. I thought why not learn about the culture along with my character.

But I worried I couldn’t pull her off. That someone would tell me I didn’t have the right to write such a character or I wasn’t portraying her correctly. However at book 14 in my Shandra Higheagle Mystery series, I have people who love the information on the culture that I include in the books. This makes me happy that I am informing my readers about a culture they may not know about in an entertaining way.

Then I start writing another book and I worry this one won’t be as good as the last. Or I feel it’s lagging, not enough twists, or not enough culture… There is always something I feel I didn’t flush out enough.

This goes on daily as I write. My books go through critique partners, beta readers, a line editor, a sensitivity reader, a proof reader and my final arc readers before it gets to the public. And I still worry that something was missed.

It isn’t until my ARC readers send me the links to their reviews that I know if my book was mediocre or they enjoyed it. I”m happy to say the newest release has been a joy to get reviews and emails about. The subject lines have been: I loved it! You did it again!

These are worth all the worrying, angst, and beating myself up over the characters and plot.

Here is Abstract Casualty

Book 14 in the Shandra Higheagle Mystery series

Hawaiian adventure, Deceit, Murder

Shandra Higheagle is asked to juror an art exhibition on the island of Kauai, Hawaii.

After an altercation at the exhibition, the chairwoman of the event, Shandra’s friend, arrives home with torn clothes, scratches, and stating she tried to save an angry artist who fell over a cliff. Shandra and Ryan begin piecing together information to figure out if the friend did try to save the artist or helped him over the edge.

During the investigation, Shandra comes across a person who reminds her of an unhealthy time in her past. Knowing this man and the one from her past, she is determined to find his connection to the dead artist.  When her grandmother doesn’t come to her in dreams, Shandra wonders if her past is blinding her from the truth.

https://books2read.com/u/4XXLke