Guest Blogger ~ Heather Weidner

With a Little Help from Some Friends

Heather Weidner, Author of the Jules Keene Glamping Mysteries and the Mermaid Bay Christmas Shoppe Mysteries

I am extremely grateful for all the authors who have shared their ideas, advice, and successes with me through the years. Writing is mostly a solitary process, so it’s nice to know that you’re not alone and that others have experienced what you’re going through. Here are some tidbits that I’ve picked up through the years that have helped me improve my craft and to stay focused.

When I’m working on a new novel, I plot out a simple outline. I learned from Donna Andrews to color-code the different kinds of action in your outline, so you can see it over the course of the book. For example, I mark all romantic elements with pink, humorous items are orange, clues are green, etc. It helps create a visual as you write, and it shows you where you’re missing elements or when you’ve overloaded the story.

I learned from Mary Burton to keep a running list of over-used words. Add to it as you write, and then at the end of each revision cycle, search your document and remove the culprits. She also calls your first draft the “sloppy copy.” Typing “the end” doesn’t mean you’re finished. It’s the beginning of the revision cycle.

I learned from the late Kathy Mix to keep a list of character names for each book. Her rule was to name each character with a different letter of the alphabet. If she already had a Krissy, then she couldn’t have another character whose first name started with a “K.” I build a chart of characters for each book and note where the characters appear. I also create a list of key locations. I enter all the important facts, so I can keep track of the details.

Mary Miley gave me some great advice about honing dialogue. She recommends cutting out the unnecessary pleasantries and chitchat that don’t move your story forward.

Elaine Viets said to know your genre and who is publishing in it. Do your research and know the conventions before you query agents or publishers.

Lynda Bishop recommends that authors keep a timeline for each book to make sure all events are in order and make sense. This helps with pacing. This helps me keep the days straight (so the character doesn’t have lunch two times in the same day).

Tina Glasneck suggests that authors create a calendar for each book launch. Mine starts three months before the launch and runs three months after. Plan all events, interviews, blogs, and media campaigns. Make sure that you track the details.

Jane Friedman tells writers that their platform grows from their body of work. An author’s website and blog should be at the center of all of your marketing.

Frances Aylor and Alan Orloff gave me the best advice for writing. Butt glue (Frances) or BICFOK (Alan). They’re essentially the same. If you want to be a writer, put your Butt in the Chair and Fingers on the Keyboard.

Hollywood has come to Fern Valley, and the one stoplight town may never be the same. Everyone wants to get in on the act.

The crew from the wildly popular, fan favorite, Fatal Impressions, takes over Jules Keene’s glamping resort, and they bring a lot of offscreen drama and baggage that doesn’t include the scads of costumes, props, and crowds that descend on the bucolic resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Added security, hundreds of calls from hopeful extras, and some demanding divas keep Jules’s team hopping.

When the show’s prickly head writer ends up dead under the L. Frank Baum tiny house in what looks like a staged murder scene with a kitschy homage to the Wizard of Oz, Jules has to figure out who would want the writer dead. Then while they are still reeling from the first murder, the popular publicist gets lost after a long night at the local honky-tonk and winds up strangled. Jules needs to solve both crimes before filming is canceled, and her business is ruined.

Book Links

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1685122000

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BHLSYBZ9?ref_=pe_3052080_276849420

Barnes and Noble: Film Crews and Rendezvous: A Jules Keene Glamping Mystery by Heather Weidner, Paperback | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)

BookBub: Film Crews and Rendezvous: A Jules Keene Glamping Mystery by Heather Weidner – BookBub

Books a Million: film crews and rendezvous : : Booksamillion.com

Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/shop/heatherweidner

Fantastic Fiction: Film Crews and Rendezvous (Jules Keene Glamping Mystery, book 2) by Heather Weidner (fantasticfiction.com)

Goodreads: Film Crews and Rendezvous by Heather Weidner | Goodreads

Kobo: Film Crews and Rendezvous eBook by Heather Weidner – EPUB | Rakuten Kobo United States

Scribd: Film Crews and Rendezvous by Heather Weidner – Ebook | Scribd

Through the years, Heather Weidner has been a cop’s kid, technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, and IT manager. She writes the Jules Keene Glamping Mysteries, the Mermaid Bay Christmas Shoppe Mysteries, and the Delanie Fitzgerald Mysteries.

Her short stories appear in the Virginia is for Mysteries series, 50 Shades of Cabernet, Deadly Southern Charm, and Murder by the Glass, and her novellas appear in The Mutt Mysteries series.

Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather has been a mystery fan since Scooby-Doo and Nancy Drew. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers.

Social Media Links

Website and Blog: http://www.heatherweidner.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/HeatherWeidner1

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HeatherWeidnerAuthor

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/heather_mystery_writer/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8121854.Heather_Weidner

Amazon Authors: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00HOYR0MQ

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/HeatherBWeidner/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/heather-weidner-0064b233?trk=hp-identity-name

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/heather-weidner-d6430278-c5c9-4b10-b911-340828fc7003

TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@heather_weidner_author?lang=en

Voice as Unique as a Fingerprint

My mind spins so many different directions when I’m “stewing and brewing” the next book or chapter. The other day, as browsed the email of free photos from Depositphotos a vector caught my attention. It is in this post. I thought could I use that for anything, and poof! the idea for this post came to mind.

Everyone has a unique to them fingerprint. It is theirs and theirs alone.

The same can be said for a writer’s voice. Not their speaking voice, their style of writing. Some writers use long, elaborate words or sentences. They spin their tales with sinewy prose, weaving the tale in between the actual words on the page. Then there are others who use precise words, short sentences, and graphic descriptions.

No matter what the writer writes there is a telltale “fingerprint” to their writing. Think about some of your favorite authors. Why do you read each one of their books? Is it how the story is worded? The characters? The plotting?

Characters? Plotting? How can that be voice? Again, think about your favorite authors. Do the characters seem similar even if they have different names, backgrounds, and ethnicity? Every author puts a little of themselves into their main and sometimes secondary characters. They can’t help it. Otherwise, how would they be able to describe feelings, emotions, and even the setting around them, if they didn’t allow a bit of themselves to slip into the characters.

And Plotting- You can give five authors the same basic theme for a book and each one would put their own spin on how that theme or plot played out. Again, they would each put their knowledge, feelings, and imagination into that story, making it their own with their unique voice.

I’ve always thought of my writing as simple and engaging- not really having a memorable voice. However, many readers tell me they enjoy the simplicity of my writing. They can see the story as it unfolds and not have to guess what words mean. I take that as a compliment to my style. Especially, when I’ve had several people also say that my books brought them back to reading.

My true voice, I think, is that all my stories are about justice. Not just the bad guy getting what he deserves but also showing the injustices that are in the world. I will throw in a cause here and there in my books to bring it to the attention of my readers. And thankfully, they understand that is what I’m doing. I don’t preach. I reveal the injustice and leave it up to the reader to do more digging if it intrigues them. That is my voice. As unique to me as my fingerprints.

Coming at the end of this month, book 10 in my Gabriel Hawke series, Bear Stalker.

Greed, misdirection, and murder has Hawke rushing to track his sister in the Montana wilderness before she becomes the next victim.

Oregon State Trooper Gabriel Hawke’s sister, Marion, is on a corporate retreat in Montana when she is suspected of murder. Running for her life from the real killer, she contacts Hawke for help. 

Hawke heads to Montana to find his sister and prove she isn’t a murderer. He hasn’t seen Marion in over twenty years but he knows she wouldn’t kill the man she was about to marry.

As they dig into possible embezzlement, two more murders, and find themselves trying to outsmart a wilderness-wise kidnapper, Hawke realizes his sister needs to return home and immerse herself in their heritage. Grief is a journey that must be traveled and knowing her fiancé had wanted Marion to dance again, Hawke believes their culture would help her heal.

You can pre-order it here:

https://books2read.com/u/mdjNzW

Fiction or Fact: That Is the Question by Karen Shughart

If you’ve read any of the books in my Edmund DeCleryk Cozy mystery series, by now you will have noticed that with each murder there’s a historical back story that gives clues as to why the crime occurred.

When I conceived the series I decided to write about what I knew, which meant describing the beauty where we live up here on the southern shore of Lake Ontario: the beaches; fruit orchards; quaint homes and cottages, and the stunning weather that changes with each season. There’s also our close knit and friendly community and a rich tradition of history.

Across the lake lies Canada and in the middle of it, where the depths can reach 800 feet, shipwrecks occurred starting long before the Revolutionary War. The British invaded our village and burned most of it down during the War of 1812, and an active and committed abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad helped to change the course of history. In the 1920s, rumrunners from Main Duck Island in Prince Edward, Ontario piloted across the lake to Chimney Bluffs-drumlins created by icebergs with a broad beach below-to supply the speakeasies here with booze. During World War II, several prisoner-of-war camps housed German soldiers, one of which has been converted to a state park near our home.

Photo by ArtHouse Studio on Pexels.com

I’ve been asked numerous times, at books talks and signings, about the inclusion of history into my books and the incidents are real. While the historical events are based on actual occurrences, I remind my readers that I write fiction, so history is merely a way to enhance the plot. Mostly, the characters are fictional and the details surrounding the events are figments of my imagination, although I do occasionally slip a real character into the mix.

In book one, King George, III had a minor role; in book two, I name-drop Morgan Lewis, the fourth governor of New York and quartermaster general during the War of 1812, whose father was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. In Murder at Freedom Hill, I mention Abe Lincoln  once or twice along with Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony, but only to provide context to the back story.

I just started writing book four in the series, Murder at Chimney Bluffs. It’s early days, so at this point I have no idea who my historical celebrity will be, but whoever it is will have either supported Prohibition or opposed it, or be one of those mysterious crime bosses who organized the trips back and forth across the lake. I’ll figure it out as I move forward.

What I tell my readers is that what I love about writing fiction is that I can pretty much do anything I want with the plot, name dropping and historical events notwithstanding.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Art of the Literary Device by Heather Haven

Google states a “Literary Device is a writing technique that writers use to express ideas, convey meaning, and highlight important themes in a piece of text. A metaphor, for instance, is a famous example of a literary device. These devices serve a wide range of purposes in literature.”

And that’s probably as good of an explanation of a literary device as any other. It changes hues from one genre to another. Probably not that much, but enough to separate the people who know what they’re doing from the attempters. I was an attempter in the field of romance. Once. At about chapter 8, I was bored out of my mind. Where’d the dead body go, I asked? So, I added one. Instantly, there was a lot more zip to everything, including my step. But it was no longer a romance story. Let’s face it, if there’s no dead body in my novel, I’m not interested in writing it.

According to song and legend, Edgar Allen Poe was one of the first to qualify as a mystery writer. One of his short stories, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” from 1841, paved the way for a lot of us. Arguably, there are 10 device steps that are needed in order to write a good mystery: a hook, atmosphere, a crime, a sleuth, a villain, narrative momentum, a trail of clues, foreshadowing, red herrings, and, of course, a satisfying ending. It sounds a lot easier to do than it is.

But other genres have latched on to their own devices. I don’t always know what they are or recognize them when they’re hurled out at me. But when I do catch on, I try to learn from them, even if they aren’t applicable to what I do.

Recently we went to see the national tour of Ain’t Too Proud the Life and Times of the Temptations, the Broadway musical. The musical is based on the book “Temptations” by the group’s founder, Otis Williams. For those of you arriving from another planet or born after the year 2010, they were the biggest singing group to come out of Motown, rivals to Diana Ross and the Supremes. And if you’re going to ask who Diana Ross and the Supremes are, please don’t do it in my presence. Or allow me to get a strong scotch first.

Ain’t Too Proud was one of the best productions of any show I’ve seen in a long, long time. Each performer was of star quality, from the leads to people playing multiple roles. The acting, singing, dancing, costumes, lighting, and sets went to a level of perfection seldom achieved in live theater. I have a background in theater and worked backstage on Broadway for 10 years, so naturally, I think I know what I’m talking about. It doesn’t mean I do, but try telling me that.

Anyway, the writer of the musical’s book, Dominique Morrisseau, is first-class. The storyline was clear, well-paced, entertaining, emotionally moving, and all the stuff a really fine book to a musical ought to be but seldom is. And the writer applied a device using verb tenses that astonished me. I will try to explain it. There would be a scene where one character would initially say they were going to do a specific thing. Then after a small amount of dialog, that same character would repeat the same line, but state they were doing that specific thing.  Further on in the scene, the same character would use the same sentence, but this time announcing the long-term result or outcome of what they’d done. So we would go future, present, past, in one fell swoop. Whether it was a few months or years, the plot advanced solely due to these tense changes. I did note that the same words had to be used each time in the sentence and said by the same character for clarity, but this device worked.

It would be great to know if any of you have either seen this device used before or have used it yourself. It was a first for me. And I loved learning about it! But whatever you do, try going to see Ain’t Too Proud. It will make you and your heart sing.

What To Write

While I always have a lot of ideas bouncing around in my head, when I finished the latest Spotted Pony Casino book, I wasn’t sure which idea I should write next.

Should I just pick one of the titles? I have a list of gambling terms that I use for the titles in the Spotted Pony Casino series. Or should I use one of my ideas and figure out which term/title would work for it? I pondered this as I began the next Hawke book. I like to be thinking about several books ahead while I write the current one. It’s how I can finish up one and dive right into the next one, because I’ve been thinking about it in the back of my mind.

I had a little help from my subconcious.

One night as I was taking a shower a scene popped into my head and I knew which idea I’d be using. I got out of the shower and wrote the scene down. Now that I know the direction the next story is heading, I can pick one of the ten titles I have to go with it, and I can begin plotting the suspects and motives.

When I finish writing the current Hawke book, Bear Stalker.

Because I write two series, hopping from one to the next I have also been wondering which of my Hawke ideas would be the next book. There are times I can have two to three books in a series lined out in my head and on paper, but I’m working on book 10 in the Gabriel Hawke series and while I have three more ideas written down, I wasn’t sure which direction I wanted to go.

The other night, just as I was about to drift off the opening scene for the next Hawke book trickled through my mind. I immediately grabbed the notebook by the bed, went into the bathroom and closed the door to not wake hubby and the puppy, and started writing it down.

As I wrote the opening scene, I realized the story would play out differently than I had originally planned for this scenario. I love when my brain figures out a better story line than what I’d first thought.

This new idea should make the readers who like when Hawke tracks in the mountains happy and will keep them wondering how many bodies Hawke will come across. 😉

When ideas come to me like this- out of the blue when I’m not trying to figure something out-I call them gifts. Because they are always better than what I had come up with while forcing myself to figure out a story line.

The mind is a wonderful thing. I hope we don’t lose our originality and creativity to machines.