Writers’ Groups

Twice a month I moderate a writers’ group for men and women writing in diverse genres. This isn’t the first group I’ve worked in, and probably won’t be the last. 

Two people make a group, which means the novel I wrote in college was the topic of a group consisting of me and the typist and sometimes me and my boyfriend. But the first group whose intent was to bring its members’ work to publication was one I joined in 1989, and attended regularly for several years.

I’ve been thinking about groups and their purposes lately because even though I’ve been moderating the current group for several years, I rarely contribute. This one began as a walk-in opportunity for library patrons, but with the advent of the pandemic, we switched to zoom, and over the last several months, using a private (not library) zoom account, we have decided to become a private group, freezing the membership to its present number.

We are here for different reasons. Most groups are organized around a single goal that every participant agrees to. The group focuses on a certain genre, for example. A writer I knew back in the 1990s wanted to start a group for those working on crime fiction set in foreign lands. Since I wasn’t yet writing the Anita Ray series, I was out. The group fizzled. Another group was for established writers, those who had published at least one book in any category and now wanted to work on mysteries. That was fine until the woman who assumed the role of moderator invited writers she met and liked, which changed the dynamic. The unwritten rule that the group decided on whether or not to send an invitation to join after meeting the writer was buried and forgotten. The group of professionals helping others develop their work morphed into an entirely different series of sessions.

Other groups popped up over the years. I enjoyed one that included four people, including a moderator who gave lots of advice and then checked up on us to see if we followed it. I didn’t last long. In another we got assigned pages to read and comment on, which felt like work in addition to what I was writing.

I have enjoyed and learned from every one of these groups, but probably not what the group organizers were expecting. First, the more diverse the genres the better. A poet among mystery writers will teach about language and the rhythm of language. Writers of fantasy among literary fiction writers will challenge others’ imagination. Writers of nonfiction in a group of novelists will challenge us to describe reality, settings, physical details with greater precision. 

But mostly, groups of any kind of diversity will teach us about human nature. I still look back on some of the earlier groups to pluck out humorous or unexpected quirks for a fictional character. There’s nothing like watching writers grapple with different points of view on something intensely personal to them to see an emotional range in human behavior. The more diverse the group, also, the wider and more free-flowing the discussion, something I always enjoy.

Every writers’ group I’ve ever been in has been a terrific learning experience for which I’m grateful—the good will, the insight, the language skills, the thoughtfulness, the overall support. Writers are generous people, always ready to help their colleagues. I may not get (or ask for) help with a specific piece, but I gain every time I listen and learn.

Amber Foxx’s Goodbye Post: On Reading Diverse Mysteries

I realized this month that it’s time to move on, so I say goodbye with my final installment on this blog. I hope you enjoy it, and that it helps you discover some new authors.

*****

 I caught myself in a reading rut. I’m not the first person to have this experience, and others have addressed it already. Nonetheless,  here’s my take on the problem as a mystery reader.

What made me notice it was a book in which all the characters were white. I suppose such towns exist, but I’ve lived most of my adult life in majority-minority places. This book woke me up to the fact that almost all the authors I’d read recently were white. Most of them write a broader range of characters, but still, I want to hear from other voices. So, how did I end up buying books this way? What was I thinking?

Actually, I wasn’t thinking. Just clicking. We often get reading recommendations through algorithms. Goodreads or an online bookstore will send reminders that a favorite author has a new book, or suggest that “If you liked X, you’ll love Y.” Authors advertise on the book pages of what they perceive to be similar books. Other ads target fans of what are referred to as “comparison authors.”  It’s a system that promotes sameness, not diversity. For that, I had to exit the net of recommendations and start searching.

I liked this article from Writer’s Digest, in which writers of color discuss their experience. I agree with those who say there is an audience for their work, but publishers may not realize it.

This site is a great shopping resource: I Found This Great Book: A Home for Readers of Diverse Books. Its creator says he loves to browse bookstore and library shelves and discover new authors because of a cool cover, and he set up the directory—quite successfully, in my opinion—to give you that feeling. He gives a lot of space to indies, which I appreciated, since I love indie fiction. I wish more of those indies published wide, not exclusively on Amazon, but I still found new mysteries to read on my Nook.

Another site I used for discovery is Crime Writers of Color.

As a New Mexican, I have to recommend the Sonny Baca  books by the late Rudolfo Anaya. Most people know his classic coming of age in New Mexico story, Bless Me, Ultima, but he also wrote a series about a private investigator. These crime novels blend in much of the mysticism and cultural depth found in his better-known works.

I plan to read not only diverse American authors, but authors from other countries, other continents. African and Asian and Latin American writers. I can’t go anywhere in person during the coronavirus pandemic, but my reading can take me all over the globe into the worlds of people whose lives are not like mine.

My writing has me at home in New Mexico, of course. Working on the eighth Mae Martin mystery. And I’ll still be blogging. Follow me on https://amberfoxxmysteries.com, where you can also sign up for my newsletter.

Au revoir and Namaste.

Amber

Discovering the World as I Write by Paty Jager

Happy Holidays, Everyone! If you are American, I hope you enjoyed a happy Thanksgiving. Whether it was with, family, friends, or time to yourself.  And now we are approaching another holiday. I’m not sure how many cultures have a holiday in December, but for my family it is Christmas.

I enjoy learning about other cultures. If you are celebrating something besides Christmas, I’d love to know a bit about it. Please comment below.

If I had the money and the time, I would love to be a world traveler. In High School I loved World Geography. Our teacher had been to a lot of places so he could give us information that you don’t get from text books. He made learning about other people and cultures exciting. I think that, and my infatuation with the Nez Perce band that lived in the county where I grew up, is why I like to have Native American characters in my mystery books. I can show people a past they may not know about and a culture they have only seen stereotyped.

I’m excited about the book I’m writing now and the one that I will be writing after this one. They are both set in the places I visited this year. I’ll get to add in the cultures I experienced and have my characters see similarities with their lives.

Right now, I’m pleased to say that the 4th Gabriel Hawke book has released. It is available in ebook and print.

Chattering Blue Jay

Killer on the loose.

Tracking Rivalry.

Revenge could get them killed.

Fish and Wildlife Oregon State Trooper Gabriel Hawke is set to teach a class at a Search and Rescue conference in Idaho when a dangerous inmate breaks out of prison. It is believed the man is headed to Hells Canyon.

Hawke is enlisted to find the escapee. He’s paired with a boastful tracker who doesn’t follow directions, making them both targets.

Before the dust settles, the other tracker is dead and Hawke is twisting in the wind for letting the possible killer get away.

https://books2read.com/u/4NQJ2o

The first book in this series, Murder of Ravens, is also available in audiobook.

Book 1 of Gabriel Hawke series

The ancient Indian art of tracking is his greatest strength…

And his biggest weakness.

Fish and Wildlife State Trooper Gabriel Hawke believes he’s chasing poachers.

However, he comes upon a wildlife biologist standing over a body that is wearing a wolf tracking collar.

He uses master tracker skills taught to him by his Nez Perce grandfather to follow clues on the mountain. Paper trails and the whisper of rumors in the rural community where he works, draws Hawke to a conclusion that he finds bitter.

Arresting his brother-in-law ended his marriage, could solving this murder ruin a friendship?

Audible – https://www.amazon.com/Murder-Ravens-Gabriel-Hawke-Novel/dp/B0811SH9HC

iTunes – https://books.apple.com/us/audiobook/murder-of-ravens-gabriel-hawke-novel-a-gabriel-hawke-novel/id1479613781?mt=11

Google Play – https://play.google.com/store/audiobooks/details/Paty_Jager_Murder_of_Ravens_Gabriel_Hawke_Novel?id=AQAAAECsTCoMlM

Kobo – https://www.kobo.com/us/en/audiobook/murder-of-ravens-gabriel-hawke-novel

Scribd –https://www.scribd.com/audiobook/424661656/Murder-of-Ravens-Gabriel-Hawke-Novel-A-Gabriel-Hawke-Novel

Beek – https://www.beek.io/libros/murder-of-ravens

Nook Audio –

eStories – https://www.estories.com/audiobook/316004/Paty-Jager/Murder-of-Ravens-Gabriel-Hawke-Novel

Audiobooks.com – https://www.audiobooks.com/audiobook/murder-of-ravens-gabriel-hawke-novel-a-gabriel-hawke-novel/397345

Enjoy what is left of 2019!

Paty