Hope and Despair

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Tomorrow is the birthday of the fourth book in the Adam Kaminski Mystery Series! What She Fears goes live tomorrow, August 16, and that’s both exciting and nerve-wracking.

Of course, I’m already hard at work on the next book. No rest for the weary, as they say. Book 5 (no title yet) is about hope. Maybe even about faith. It’s about music, art, and color.

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I struggled a lot with the opening scenes. I’m a planner, so I already had my character sketches and outline done before I started writing. I knew who I was writing about and what would happen in each scene. But something was missing.

I figured maybe I was distracted by the upcoming book launch. I’ve been doing a lot of promotion for the first book in the series (and it’s going very well — pick up your free copy of A Blind Eye here if you haven’t started the series yet!) so I decided I was just nervous about that. Distracted from writing.

NO DISTRACTIONS ALLOWED

Makes sense, right?

Distracted, I should add, is an understatement. A complete emotional mess might be more accurate. Will my readers like it? Will they love it? I think it’s my best book yet. But I admit to being a little biased.

DEFINITELY DISTRACTING

Some days I wake up full of hope, just knowing What She Fears will be a hit. Fans of Adam Kaminski will love it. Other days I wake up in despair. Everyone will hate it. No one will understand what the book is about or what it says.

Then — finally — it hit me. That had been my problem all along with book 5. Here I thought I was writing a book about hope. But I’d left out the despair.

How can you regain hope if you haven’t first experienced despair?

I love it when a story comes together. That one, elusive element that finally makes it all click. The glue that holds it all together. The book is about hope. The book is about despair. And like all good books, it’s about the journey.

The writing is coming along well now. I so enjoy the time I spend putting words to paper, watching my ideas come out into the open, seeing them take form. It’s enthralling and it’s invigorating.

I’ll share more about the next book in future posts, as time permits. For now, I remain hopeful about the launch of What She Fears. Take a look for yourself and let me know what you think! What-She-Fears-Web-Small

Learn more about me and my writing at janegorman.com. Sign up for my newsletter or follow me on Facebook or Twitter. My books are available at Amazon and a variety of other retailers.

 

Guest Blogger -D.J. Williams

I sat across from Michael Connelly’s agent and wondered how I ended up there. To say that Connelly was an influence in my pursuit to be a storyteller would be an understatement. Along with Grisham and Patterson, he is in the top three of my favorite authors. Connelly’s agent had read my first novel, The Disillusioned, or at least enough of it to request a meeting. I listened as he shared how they had built Connelly’s career culminating with finalizing the Amazon deal for Bosch. I shared with him a story idea that had been resonating for a few years and knew from his response that I had something unique.
When I left his office I knew that The Disillusioned was only the first novel in the Guardian series. But what was next? As I thought about my story idea and my conversation with Connelly’s agent, I had a moment of inspiration. To move the series ahead, a story from the 1920’s would become an underlying mystery revealed throughout the series. It wasn’t enough on it’s own. The challenge was to bridge the gap between these two eras. Eight months later I had a first draft of Waking Lazarus, an epic global adventure filled with riveting characters and page turning twists and turns. While I had written a first draft of Waking Lazarus in less than a year, it took months of rewriting and editing to cross the finish line.
I write in this genre because I love mysteries filled with suspense. I love the rush of diving into a scene and seeing what happens next. And I love writing stories that go beyond entertainment. As you’ll find in the first two novels of the Guardian series there are key themes of light versus darkness, religion versus faith, and power versus innocence that drives the characters forward. You’ll also find that there are strong female characters and colorful settings throughout to keep readers on edge.
One month ago, Waking Lazarus was released worldwide. Once again I’ve been humbled to capture the attention of industry veterans including Peter Anderson, Oscar Winner/Cinematographer, who has endorsed this latest adventure, “Waking Lazarus is a captivating visual story with a colorful narrative. Once I started reading, it was hard to put down.”
I will always remember those few hours being taught a master class in how to build a series that could potentially go the distance. Thank you Michael Connelly’s agent for imparting your words of wisdom!
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Waking Lazarus
by D.J. Williams
Jake Harris’ life hasn’t turned out the way he planned. Battling his addictions, and the shattered pieces of his family, he is hired to ghostwrite a memoir. From the 1920’s story of a controversial evangelist, to the present day mystery of a former District Attorney, everything changes when his search for the truth leads to an atrocity hidden from history. With a past he can’t remember, he begins to discover that he is not the person he believed himself to be. Rather, he is a threat to a secret society that has remained in the shadows for nearly a century. Jake is drawn deep inside a world he never knew existed that brings him closer to his own extraordinary destiny.
 

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A Sympathetic Protagonist

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The park was deserted—all mine. Perfect. My plan: run laps of the trail for four miles, and come home with plot developments for my work in progress. I took in the beauty of the setting and slipped into creative mode as my legs fell into the rhythm of running, ready for free-wheeling improvisation. Then, up the stream bank came a mother duck followed by a swarm of fluffy brown-and-yellow ducklings. It was a tough climb for their little legs, and I wondered if they would all make it up the steep slope. On my next lap, I checked. None seemed to have been left behind. At first, I couldn’t count the babies, they were so numerous, active and close together. When I finally could see them clearly, I counted eleven.

She herded them to hide behind her as well as possible when I neared and quacked them into order when they strayed too far. I wondered if she felt overwhelmed by the responsibility. Could she count to eleven? Could she tell them apart? After I’d passed a few times, she began to warn me off, making a soft hissing sound. The next time, she hissed and waddled toward me. The next time, she lowered her head and charged, eyes narrowed, hissing for all she was worth. I honored her efforts with a burst of speed, letting her think she had scared me. I don’t know if there is such a thing as courage in ducks, but she struck me as brave, a small animal going after an adult human.

A couple with an off-leash dog arrived on the far side of the park. I jogged across and let them know about the ducks, in case their dog might be tempted to chase. They said he took no interest in things like that. I went back to the trail. No ducks in sight, not even in the stream. How she had swept all eleven into hiding so quickly, I don’t know. It was an impressive exit. Unlike the dog, I took an interest. Distracted from brainstorming my work in progress, I got wrapped up in the drama of the ducks, feeling as if I somehow knew what it was like to have too many ducklings and to strive to defend them.

Pardon me while I anthropomorphize. The mother duck has some excellent characteristics for a sympathetic protagonist. In spite of being better equipped for flight than fight, she chooses not to fly from danger, though that would be her own best defense. Instead, she tries to fight. Protectiveness in relation to weaker beings is a trait that makes readers care about a character. Flaws, in the right dose, also help readers identify with a protagonist and feel compassion for her. The brave mother duck is imperfect. Waddling at me while throwing a hissy fit, she’s a comical yet touching inconvenience. Her success in driving me off the path gives her moments of illusory triumph, but in reality she’s the underdog—underduck sounds funny—and she’s chasing a red herring, unable to realize I’m no threat to her fuzzy eleven. Against hawks and cats, the real enemies, she’s far less likely to succeed. The odds are stacked against her and her ducklings, hypervigilant though she is, but she because she’s a gifted escape artist, she stands a chance. Readers root for the character who might—but might not—make it.

On my next run in the same park, I found that nature had taken its toll. She’s down to nine ducklings now. The loss of two makes her story stronger. She charged me with even more ferocity, straight away without allowing me a few laps before she attacked. The struggles in pursuit of a meaningful goal, the setbacks, and the sense that the protagonist is reaching her limits and still not quitting: all of this keeps the reader emotionally involved and turning the pages. I have to close this “book” since I leave Virginia for New Mexico tomorrow, and I won’t see the next chapter, but I’m rooting for the nine remaining baby ducks to survive, and for their hard-working mother to eventually see them fly. And I’ll keep her in mind as write this summer, checking that I have all my ducks in a row for establishing an engaging protagonist.

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Where to Begin by Paty Jager

paty shadow (1)I’ve started researching and writing the sixth book in the Shandra Higheagle Mystery series, Reservation Revenge. I visited the Colville Reservation where Shandra’s family lives and wrote about the visit and the woman who lives on the reservation and helps me with my research here.

Bookmark FrontDuring that trip I knew I would set a murder at the reservation and one of Shandra’s relatives would be involved. This is that book. While I’ve had a tour of the reservation and while on that tour acquired a wonderful topographical map of the reservation, I still have questions about the lake where the murder takes place and the area where Shandra’s cousin is hiding.  For these answers I’ve once again gone to my friend and fellow author who lives on the reservation.

The best part about having an author help with digging up the research is they understand the need for some of the tiniest mundane things. Like what are the plants in this area, how many police officers are on the reservation, who would be working the crime scene?

These are all questions I have to have answered before I can start writing the book. While I’m not a plotter, I need to know information about the place and who would be people my character would come across while trying to prove her cousin’s innocence.

And because this series is written from the amateur sleuth, Shandra, and the County Detective , Ryan’s, points of view, I have to have the murder scene figured out. Who was there, who wasn’t? Who was killed? What was the cause?  My main sleuths aren’t on the scene in this book. The murder happens four hours from Shandra, and she has to rely on talking to people and her grandmothers cryptic dreams.

So where did I begin this book? With a dream. A short to the point dream that unsettles Shandra and reveals there is trouble to come.

“Ella what do you want?” Shandra Higheagle pleaded as she stood looking up into the clouds that formed her deceased grandmother’s face. The droplets of rain falling on Shandra’s face were warm and salty. Tears.

What better way to start a book where the amateur sleuth uncovers the real murderer through dreams then with a dream.

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Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 25+ novels and over a dozen novellas and short stories of murder mystery, western historical romance, and action adventure. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters.

 

 

 

 

Location, Location: Using Real Places in Fiction

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When I read books set in cities I know well, I enjoy recognizing familiar locations. It makes me feel like I’ve set foot inside the story. There are good reasons, however, to invent addresses, businesses, even entire towns. The usual rule seems to be that if you say something bad about a place or set a disturbing event in it, make it fictitious. In Sacred Clowns, Tony Hillerman gave New Mexico an entire new pueblo, the fictitious Tano Pueblo, because he had a murder take place during a ceremony. He used real reservations for his other books. Every city, town and reservation has its problems, so it’s not maligning the entire place to write about a crime there, but he felt that the particular one in Sacred Clowns would be objectionable. He included spiritual ceremonies in a couple of other books, but not as crime settings, and only shared what was open for non-tribal members to know. Based on Hillerman’s wisdom, I’m setting a number of scenes in my work in progress at a Mescalero Apache ceremony, but the misdeeds take place in private homes or in other towns.

In my first book, The Calling, I “invented” two entire towns, even though they are intimately based on real places, because my protagonist doesn’t like living there. (I had fun coming up with the name Cauwetska. I looked up words in the Meherrin language that would make good place names, since many Southern towns’ names come from local Indian words.) I actually loved the little town that I turned into Tylerton, but the way its fictitious residents treat Mae wouldn’t reflect well on it. I invented Coastal Virginia University, too, because I wouldn’t want to attribute a professor like Charlie Tann to any real college.

I’ve sometimes invented houses or businesses because I needed specific architecture to suit the plot rather than because I was avoiding insulting anyone, but in certain cases real locations are the best.

How could I imagine anything as remarkable as Sparky’s Barbecue and Espresso in Hatch, New Mexico? It has crazy local color and live music, and I needed a setting where my protagonist encounters two musicians in a key event that ties three plot lines together in Soul Loss. The eccentricity of Sparky’s décor struck me as a perfect background to frame one of the characters. The establishment’s owner, who knows me as a regular Sunday afternoon blues fan, was happy to let me set a scene there.

In my work in progress (Ghost Sickness, book five in the Mae Martin Series) I set several scenes in Truth or Consequences’ popular coffee shop, Passion Pie Café, with the owner’s enthusiastic permission to employ a character as a barista there as well as to have a little drama take place during the busy breakfast hours. She even gave me a great idea for that scene. I needed Passion Pie because of their wonderful local artist table tops. The mystery revolves around an artist with a secret, and my plot required that his work grace one of those tables. Rio Bravo Fine Art’s owner also let me set scenes there and allowed me to have a fictitious artist exhibit in his gallery. One of T or C’s best-known artists, Delmas Howe, gave me permission to use one of his paintings in the story. It’s great having my New Mexico town come to life in this book.

I had to give Santa Fe a new exotic bird store, though. The owner of Feathered Friends of Santa Fe helped me with my research, and we agreed that I should invent some fictitious competition for her shop, a new and less well-run parrot store, because, well, something happens there. I can’t say what it is. But it involves parrots, two pueblo potters, an Apache cowboy and a struggling photographer, and something illegal. Stay tuned. Ghost Sickness will be released this summer.

Meanwhile, if you’re curious to get started on a mystery series without murders, you can go to Northeastern North Carolina and Norfolk, Virginia in The Calling, Santa Fe and Truth or Consequences in Shaman’s Blues, on a road trip across the country in Snake Face, and back to Santa Fe and T or C (and Hatch) in Soul Loss. Just for fun: Mae and Hubert’s house in Tylerton, Bernadette’s tiny Norfolk apartment, and Mae’s pea-soup-green converted trailer in T or C are all places I’ve lived in.

The Calling is on sale for 99 cents through this weekend on all e-book retail sites.callingebooknew

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