Monday, August 29, 2016

A Work in Progress

When you're the author of a book on writing, it's kind of inevitable that you will receive a lot of email regarding your own creative "process." (I put process in quotes because it's such an organized-sounding word for the weird unpredictable and erratic activity that is my version of writing.)


One thing I talk a lot about when I'm posting on writing is what I call layering. Basically that just means I write a lot of drafts. By reassuring myself that I will be "layering" in all the important and cool stuff later, I give myself permission to write what is frequently referred to in writing circles as the "shitty first draft".


For someone like me, it's really hard to write a first draft. Smothering my inner critic is incredibly difficult, but I have to put a pillow over her face in order to achieve that state of justpouringitoutasitcomestome which is pretty much what a rough/first draft is. You start with nothing but a blank page and then you try to build a world and characters so engaging, so believable, that others can lose themselves wandering through the hallways of your mind.


Now there is no one way to write. Anything you have to do to get the story down on paper (even cyber paper) is the correct procedure. And that initial hammer and nails, hauling up the framework, is generally a messy, ugly, sweaty business. But you have to have that foundation in order to layer on the good stuff. The drywall and flooring of the second draft. And then eventually, by the time you get to official edits, the paint and furnishings and décor.


Right now I'm working on Fair Chance, which is the third and final book in the All's Fair Series (which I'm writing for Carina Press).


And since I never do this -- and since we needed a blog this morning -- I thought I would show a bit of the layering that takes place between drafts one and two.


DRAFT ONE




“I knew you’d come.”


Andrew Corian, dubbed “The Sculptor” by the national press, was smiling that same old smile. Supremely confident and a little scornful. For a moment it was as almost as if he was seated at his desk in his old office at PSU and not in this dingy interview room at The Federal Detention Center in Sea-Tac.


“Sure you did,” Elliot said. He had been second-guessing the decision to meet with Corian from the minute he’d acceded to SAC Montgomery’s request, and Corian’s supercilious attitude just confirmed his doubts. They were not going to get anything useful out of The Sculptor.


Corian’s big hands, wrists handcuffed, rested on the resin table top. He spread his fingers, palms up in a have a seat gesture as Elliot took the chair across the table.


 “How could you resist? A chance to play hero one last time. A chance to convince yourself you got the better of me.”


“You’ve been hitting the psych shelves in the prison library pretty hard,” Elliot commented, folding his arms on the table top. He glanced casually around the room. He’d been in plenty of these interview rooms back when he’d been with the FBI. Neutral colors. Durable furniture. Mesh over the windows. Generic right down to the two-way mirror behind which stood Detective Pine of Tacoma Homicide and FBI Special Agent Kelli Yamiguchi.


Just in case they missed anything, the cameras overhead were recording the interview.


Corian’s eyes, a weird shade of hazel that looked almost yellow in the institutional light, narrowed at Elliot’s jibe, but his broad smile never faltered. He seemed to be a in great mood for a guy looking at a multiple life sentences.


“I don’t need to read a psychology book to understand you, Mills. There’s nothing complicated about your psyche.”


“But enough about me,” Elliot said. “Let’s talk about your favorite subject. You. Or more exactly, why you wanted to see me.”


Corian sat back in his chair. He looked a bit like a cartoonist’s idea of the devil. Gleaming bald head and immaculately trimmed Vandyke. He was a big man and prison had made him bigger. Leaner. Harder. He looked like he ate steroids for every meal and spent all his free time body-building. Maybe the body-building wasn’t far from the truth. There wasn’t a hell of a lot to do while sitting around waiting for trial. Not when you’d been caught red-handed, as it were, in a series of brutal slayings and mutilations spanning more than fifteen years.


He said, “I didn’t want to see you, Mills. I gave you permission to visit. That’s all.”


“Two letters in two months? We’re practically pen pals. Come off it, Corian. You want me to sit here and listen to you explain in detail how brilliant you were. How brilliant you still are compared to the rest of us.”


Corian’s smile widened. “That wouldn’t be the only reason.”


“It’ll be the main reason. You’re sure as hell not interested in bringing closure to the families of the victims.”


“You’ve never understood me, Mills.”


“You’re right about that.


“But you’re afraid of me.”


Elliot sighed. “No, Andrew. I’m not.”


They had never been on first name terms. Corian replied, “You should be, Elliot.”


“This is bullshit.” Elliot made sure his tone revealed nothing but boredom. “If the idea was to get me here so you could practice your bogeyman routine, you’re wasting both our time.” He pushed his chair back as though to rise.


Corian sat back and expelled an exasperated sigh. “Goddamn, Mills. Can’t you at least buy me a drink before you screw me over?”


“Look, you wrote me. I’m not looking to continue our relationship--if you want to call it that. I don’t need closure. I got my closure when they slammed those cell doors on you.”


That wasn’t completely true. Like everyone else involved in the case, Elliot wasn’t going to truly breathe a sigh of relief until Corian was tried and convicted. He wanted the reassurance of knowing Corian was locked up in a maximum facility until the end of time. The numerous court date postponements were wearing on everyone’s nerves.


Corian had the gall to look wounded. It was only partly an act. Being a psychopath, his own pain and his own frustrations were very real to him. It was the suffering of other people he was indifferent to.


“I’d appreciate a little courtesy. A few minutes of intelligent conversation. Or as close as you can manage.”


Elliot eyed him without emotion. “All right. But we don’t have all day. If you’ve got something to say, you’d better say it.”


Corian leaned back in his chair, smiling. “How’s the fall session shaping up? Have they hired someone to replace me yet?”


 “Oh, no one could replace you,” Elliot said sarcastically.


“True.” Corian grinned. “How’s Rollie? I read his book. When you think about it, it’s pretty ironic. The only child of a celebrity sixties radical joining the FBI.”


 “Yep. Ironic. Are we done with the chitchat?”


Corian’s smile faded. “All right. Ask your questions.”


“As of this date, sixteen bodies have been removed from the cellar of your property in Black Diamond, bringing the number of victims to twenty-three. Is that it? Is that an accurate headcount? Or are there more?”


“Headcount.” Corian’s smile was pure Mephistophelian. Partly he was acting. Partly he was simply…evil.


 



-----------------------------


Basically the first draft amounts to talking heads and feeling my way through the scene, trying to figure out what's really happening between these two. Part of the dialog will be placeholder because I'm still fine tuning character and relationship dynamics. I don't waste time on researching details at this stage because there's so much else to think about and I don't even know what those details should be yet.


Then, about seven or so chapters in, once I can see a bit farther than the reach of my head lights, I go back and start filling in the blanks, making the story feel real for both me and the eventual reader. This second draft is actually the most fun because it's where the story comes alive. It's where I begin to lose myself in that world I've created.


DRAFT TWO




“I knew you’d come.”


Andrew Corian, dubbed “The Sculptor” by the national press, was smiling that same old smile. Supremely confident and a little scornful. For a moment it was as almost as if he was seated at his desk in his old office at PSU and not in this sterile interview room at The Federal Detention Center in Sea-Tac.


“Sure you did,” Elliot said.


Corian’s powerful hands, thick wrists handcuffed, rested on the resin table top. He spread his fingers, palms up in a have a seat gesture as Elliot took the plastic chair across the table.


He had been second-guessing the decision to meet with Corian from the minute he’d acceded to SAC Montgomery’s request, and Corian’s supercilious attitude just confirmed his doubts. They were not going to get anything useful out of The Sculptor.


 “How could you resist?” Corian was saying. “A chance to play hero one last time. A chance to convince yourself you got the better of me.”


“Sounds like you’ve been hitting the psych shelves in the prison library pretty hard.” Elliot folded his arms on the table top, glanced casually around the room.


He’d been in plenty of these interview cells back when he’d been with the FBI. Neutral colors. Durable furniture. Mesh over the frosted windows. A guard outside the door. Generic right down to the two-way mirror behind which stood Detective Pine of Tacoma Homicide and FBI Special Agent Kelli Yamiguchi.


Just in case Pine and Yamiguchi missed anything, cameras overhead were recording the interview.


Corian’s eyes, a weird shade of hazel that looked almost yellow in the harsh institutional light, narrowed at Elliot’s jibe, but his broad smile never faltered. He seemed to be in a great mood for a guy looking at a multiple life sentences.


“I don’t need to read a psychology book to understand you, Mills. There’s nothing complicated about your psyche.”


“But enough about me,” Elliot said. “Let’s talk about your favorite subject. You. Or more exactly, why you wanted to see me.”


The rough material of Corian’s prison khakis rustled as he sat back in his chair. He looked a bit like a cartoonist’s idea of the devil. Gleaming bald head and immaculately trimmed Vandyke. He was a big man and prison had made him bigger. Leaner. Harder. He looked like he ate steroids with every meal and spent all his free time body-building. Maybe the body-building wasn’t far from the truth. There wasn’t a hell of a lot to do while sitting around waiting for trial. Not when you’d been caught red-handed, as it were, in a series of brutal slayings and mutilations spanning more than fifteen years.


He said, “I didn’t want to see you, Mills. I gave you permission to visit. That’s all.”


“Two letters in two months? We’re practically pen pals. Come off it, Corian. You want me to sit here and listen to you explain in detail how brilliant you were. How brilliant you still are compared to the rest of us.”


Corian’s smile widened. “That wouldn’t be the only reason.”


“It’ll be the main reason. You’re sure as hell not interested in bringing closure to the families of the victims.”


It was quiet in the interview room. On the other side of the heavy sound-proofed door a symphony of discordant sounds were reaching crescendo level: guards yelling, Televisions blasting, prisoners shouting, the incessant thunder of an industrial strength plumbing system, the chatter and buzz of walkie-talkies, the jangle of keys and slamming of steel doors.


“You’ve never understood me, Mills.”


“You’re right about that.”


“But you’re afraid of me.”


Elliot sighed. “No, Andrew. I’m not.”


They had never been on first name terms. Corian replied, “You should be, Elliot.”


“This is bullshit.” Elliot made sure his tone revealed nothing but boredom. “If the idea was to get me here so you could practice your bogeyman routine, you’re wasting both our time.” He pushed his chair back as though to rise.


Corian sat back and expelled an exasperated sigh. “Goddamn, Mills. Can’t you at least buy me a drink before you screw me over?”


The indignation was almost funny.


“Look, you wrote me. I’m not looking to continue our relationship--if you want to call it that. I don’t need closure. I got my closure when they slammed the cell door on you.”


That wasn’t completely true. Like everyone else involved in the case, Elliot wasn’t going to truly breathe a sigh of relief until Corian was tried and convicted. He wanted the reassurance of knowing Corian was locked up in a maximum facility until the end of time. The numerous court date postponements were wearing on everyone’s nerves.


Corian had the gall to look wounded. It was only partly an act. Being a psychopath, his own pain and his own frustrations were very real to him. It was the suffering of other people he was indifferent to.


“You want something from me. So be it. I’d appreciate a little courtesy. A few minutes of intelligent conversation. Or as close as you can manage.”


Elliot eyed him without emotion. “All right. But we don’t have all day. If you’ve got something to say, you’d better spit it out.”


Corian leaned back in his chair, smiling. “How’s the fall session shaping up? Have they hired someone to replace me yet?”


 “Oh, no one could replace you,” Elliot said.


“True.” Corian merely grinned at the sarcasm. “How’s Rollie? I read his book. When you think about it, it’s pretty ironic. The only child of a celebrity sixties radical joining the FBI.”


 “Yep. Ironic. Are we done with the chitchat?”


Corian’s smile faded. “All right. Ask your questions.”


“As of this date, sixteen bodies have been removed from the cellar of your property in Black Diamond, bringing the number of victims to twenty-three. Is that it? Is that an accurate headcount? Or are there more?”


“Headcount.” Corian’s smile was pure Mephistophelian. Partly he was acting. Partly he was simply…evil.


 
-------------------
Most of what I've written stays, but I start paring it down. Trying to say what I need to say in the fewest, cleanest words possible. Saving space for the sensory details that make a story come alive. Looking at pacing and making sure I'm not getting in the way of the characters.


Of course, my work isn't close to being done. After I've got a decent second draft, it goes to my editor and there will be more cleaning and pruning and adding and embellishing. And then copyedits and then line edits. Ideally with each round the story is getting tighter and more emotionally focused, more readable.


What about you? How many drafts do you write? How much does the book change from your original draft to your final draft? At what point do you lose yourself in your storytelling?

Friday, August 26, 2016

Writer's Olympics

I'm always so sad when the Olympic torch goes out. Monday night I sat in front of the TV and said, "Now what?" For two weeks I didn't engage in the debate of, "What should we watch tonight?" If the prime coverage wasn't on, I switched to the auxilary channel that was piping in Olympic events all day long. That channel was actually much more entertaining. There you got to see some raw events such as women's weightlifting. I was ready to lift the couch after watching that!




I am hooked to these events because I enjoy viewing all the things I could never manage myself. We watch all these Marvel superheros in the movies when there are real superheroes out there. People who can perform hurculean feats. I have such admiration for anyone that reaches this level.

They should have an Olympics for writers. It could have such competitions as:

     Endurance Writing - Maximum word count in a single seating. 

     Marathon Writing - 26.1 miles on a writer's treadmill. 

     Writer's reach - Maximum stretch length to retrieve a much-needed pile of notes on that book cabinet you can just barely reach without standing up from your desk.  

     Writer's stare down - Who can stare at a single word the longest.

     Writer's coffee challenge - Who can drink the most coffee without running to the             bathroom during a pivotal scene.

What do you think? I'd slay the coffee challenge! I can wiggle in place for at least a half hour after three cups of coffee.


Maureen A. Miller
Competing in the Writer's coffee challenge trials.
www.MaureenAMiller.com



Wednesday, August 24, 2016

You're Among Friends Here

So, how many of you know when the Not Your Usual Suspects blog launched? You might be surprised to know it was on December 13, 2010. That means our blog is nearing our sixth anniversary! Wow! It seems nuts that it's been that long, but it has.

Oh, and guess who wrote the very FIRST post which started: "On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me …a super cool, hip, new blog to share with fans, family and friends?"

Yep, that was me. Since then our blog has grown to encompass several more wonderful writers. While we've lost a few along the way for one reason or the other, surprisingly, our numbers have mostly grown. Most of the writers whose blogs you read here have gone on to become wonderful friends of mine. One of them is even my sister (Hi, Sandy Parks!).

I had no idea when I wrote those opening words to the very first Not Your Usual Suspects blog that several of the women and men of this blog would go on to become such cool friends who would share the many ups and downs of my publishing career. But they did and I'm ever grateful for it. Some I've yet to meet in person, but we still support each other virtually. I can't tell you how much I appreciate that!

For the past several years those of us who are able to make the Romance Writers of America annual conference make an effort to meet and talk about our past year's publishing experience. This year was no different. In July, five of us NYUS bloggers met over breakfast to share insights to the business and share our successes and frustrations. I look forward to it every year.

Below is a picture of us (left to right): Sandy Parks, Sharon Calvin, Anne Marie Becker, me and Dee Adams. Just ignore the glazed looks and dark circles under our eyes from a weekend of little to no sleep. We didn't mind a bit because we were among friends. And now that you're here -- so are you!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Life Experience! West Coast Trail.









Today I did something I've been wanting to do for years. I hiked out to Pachena Lighthouse on part of the West Coast Trail. The West Coast Trail is a 75 km hiking trail that runs along the western edge of Vancouver Island. It was originally called the Dominion Lifesaving Trail and was built in 1907 to help rescue shipwreck survivors from the treacherous waters of the Graveyard of the Pacific. Imagine surviving the shipwreck only to die of dehydration or starvation in a remote region.

Nowadays it forms part of the Pacific Rim National Park and is one of the most popular hiking trails in the world. It takes about 5-6 days to complete at a nice pace (DH and DS are contemplating doing it next year), but frankly my bones couldn't take it.  Today, I walked 10 km in, 10 km out, and was grateful we didn't encounter bears or cougars though we could hear the sea lions just off the coast. In fact, the most wildlife we saw were giant banana slugs on the path. We walked through temperate rainforest and negotiated a series of eight huge ladders that, for me, were the hardest part of the hike. 

I've set two books in the region, but the scenery and isolation is so inspiring I can't wait to set another story in this wonderful landscape. 

I hope you like my photos! 

What's on your bucket list?

Friday, August 19, 2016

A WRITER'S BUCKET LIST

I’ve been feeling my mortality lately. I suspect it has to do with reaching a certain milestone birthday (don’t ask).

As a result, I started thinking about all the people I know who have created bucket lists. These lists include everything from jumping out of airplanes (are you nuts?), to swimming with sharks (ain’t gonna happen) to taking on a younger lover (well, maybe).

Should I have a bucket list? What on Earth could I possibly put on it? I’ve kind of done the things I really wanted to do. Except for going to Ireland and I’ll be going in the spring. But there’s a whole lot I haven’t done in the writing department. Stories that would challenge me and definitely pull me out of my comfort zone. Before I die, I would love to write:

An amazing western. I grew up reading Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour. I loved the delineation between the good guys and the bad guys, the clear stakes, the sense of honour. I’d love to write a story that would make the reader feel the way I felt when I read westerns.

A great love story. Everyone knows I’m no romantic, but I think I’ve got one great romantic story in me. A cross between Wuthering Heights (Oh, Heathcliff…) and Casablanca (Play it, Sam). I don’t see how it can end well, but man will it make ‘em cry!

A thriller. This goes against my grain as a writer. I write quiet, character-driven stories. But just once, I’d love to write a story that keeps the reader up way too late, heart beating fast, nails bitten to the quick.

A scary book. It could be psychological suspense, I suppose, but I’m thinking full-blown horror, just because that stuff scares the bejeezus out of me. Imagine: being scared by a story you’ve written! I may chicken out on this one. I can’t help but think there are places in your subconscious you shouldn’t visit…

Maybe once I’ve taken those on, I’ll come up with another list, but these will keep me busy for a while. How about you? What’s on your writer’s bucket list?




Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Actions Speak Much, Much Louder Than Words

I picked up a new craft book (aren’t all authors addicted to improving their craft?) that has me excited about writing again. Part of my funk over the winter had been that writing seemed yet another job - with a long list of Must Do tasks - and like most of you, I had too many balls in the air already.

I wanted to buckle down and just write the damn book. I actually had people contact me and ask when the next in the Holly Price/ So About series would release—which should make me feel happy rather than pressured. Right?

Anyway, I stumbled over two books titled The 90-Day Novel

Okay then! 90-days! Score! (Is this where I admit it takes me a year to write a novel?)

The first craft book was a disappointment. It contained a very summarized rehash of things we’ve all heard a million times. Set your turning points, make the index cards, park your butt and go.

Yawn. 

The other one, by Alan Watt, hit the note I needed to hear. Step back and consider the possibilities, he recommended. What if…? 

What are you afraid of? Your heroine probably has the same fears. Can you work with that? Lots (and lots) of 5 minute writing drills occurred during the first week, but none of it needed to appear directly in the book. I was encouraged to scribble images, scenes, scene-lets, ideas, whatever. No pressure, because nobody was going to read or critique it. It was playing with words, which I hadn’t done in ages. It was diving into what I was passionate about—and how that drives my story. 

And through the process, the dilemma, which is the root perception cause of the problem (which is what your protag thinks she’s trying to solve) evolves. I realized “trust” is the emotion I needed to tap into and now, everything else is falling into place. The conflicts between all my characters really come down to that one, very basic emotion. Trust is crucial for a relationship. All relationships. Relationships between friends, family, lovers.

Trust is what happens when actions speak much, much louder than words. You can’t make someone trust you. From Holly’s perspective, when others’ actions are undermining her trust in them, going with what she believes is the right thing to do will show others she’s trustworthy—and hopefully won’t get her killed. 

I started this craft book adventure in connection with my own 100x100 challenge (a friend who’s 300 days in inspired me). The 100x100 challenge is to write at least 100 words every day for 100 days. Three weeks into in, I’ve filled half a spiral notebook. And the scenes, plot, and subplots are coming into focus. 

How’s your writing going this summer? 



Cathy Perkins is currently working on Book Two in the Holly Price/So About series. So About the Money was blessed by readers and booksellers with the Award of Excellence – Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements. 

A spin-off in that series, Malbec Mayhem features one of the secondary characters and is available now. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Villain, Villain, Who's Got the Villain?

by Janis Patterson

I like villains. I have to watch myself when writing and make sure the villain is not more attractive, intelligent and believable than the hero.
Why? I don’t know. Perhaps it has something to do with the aspect of danger a villain exudes. I’ve always liked the bad boys. No – not the scruffy, unshaven, semi-clothed bad boy of some romance fiction; while I realize they are very popular I don’t care for them at all. They all look as if they don’t smell very well. My favored bad boys own tuxedoes, dance well, probably are very knowledgeable about wines and are capable of anything to get what they want.
And therein lies the essence of a villain – they will do just about anything to get (or protect) their desire without respect to laws, rules or morals. Whatever it is that they want depends on them, and it does not have to make sense to us. Some person will kill to ensure that the secret of their great-grandmother’s infidelity remains secret just as easily as another will commit all kinds of mayhem to gain ownership of great riches or yet another will kill to protect his freedom.
So – in order to create a believable villain you don’t have to worry so much about what is at stake, but what it means to them. It has to be more important to him than anything.
Another thing is to be sure that your villain is a well-rounded human being – unless you want the old straight from a melodrama mustache-twisting, blackhearted Snidely Whiplash. One dimensional characters are too obvious – they never work and they are unworthy opponents for your sleuth. The idea of any person committing crimes, especially if it involves considerable risk to themselves, for the abstract concept of Evil belongs in cartoons. It can and has been done, but to my mind works only when the villain is a certified loony-tune. In most mysteries the villain isn’t known until the solution, so you don’t want your bad guy being obvious from the beginning, which means he has to blend in with the rest of your characters. And therein lies danger… at least for me.

Like I said, I like bad boys and have to keep a tight rein on the story to keep them from taking over the story. No matter how hard one tries to keep the hero from turning into a Dudley Do-Right of perfection and yet still keep them both real and interesting, villains are automatically (for me at least) much more nuanced and believable. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Rehashing Old Archetypes and Plots into Fresh Stories

by Sandy Parks

On a recent trip to Thailand and Cambodia, I encountered some unusual things that reminded me that everything “old” could be reworked and made new again. That is exactly what we as writers strive to do…take a well-used, familiar plot (or archetype) and make it something fresh for the readers.

In the Iliad, Homer’s strong male heroes boasted of killing Amazons, brave warrior women capable of defeating the best of men. This archetype or legend of female warriors is portrayed again and again through history in tales told or written by authors of the time. Wonder Woman, created in 1941, is based on the Amazons, this time with a lasso, red bustier and Amazon bracelets capable of deflecting bullets. The same archetype is repeated again today with Princess Leia, perfectly capable of leading men out of trouble in her own rescue. Another unusual twist is the popular television show Vikings, where we step back in history to pick up the story of fierce women fighting and leading battles. In all these stories, Amazons are put into new genres and yet are a fresh twist on an old story.

You might be curious what made me think of old being twisted into something new and novel. Southeast Asia is an area known for its waterways. Canals were a common form of transportation before decent roads became popular in the last fifty years. Any visit to the countries there will likely include sometime on the water. The main mode of transportation for not only tourists, but anyone wanting a quick boat ride is the “long-tail” boat. Why are they called long-tail? Well, now we are getting into taking something old and using it in a new and unexpected way.

Long-tail boat, Thailand

 The boats are long and thin to easily fit into many of the small town canals. For years they were the taxis of Bangkok. Their “long tail” is an engine directly mounted on the driveshaft with a propeller at the end. The canal water can be shallow and often filled with debris or water hyacinth (propeller clogging plants), so innovation was required to develop a boat motor to fit the conditions and offered enough power.

Canal in Bangkok, Thailand

Expense is also a major factor, as few can afford a fancy new boat motor. Thus, used automotive engines are bought and modified to turn the boat propeller. What kind of motors you ask? We saw Isuzu, Mazda, and many more that had no recognizable markings. The quality of the engines also varied as the economic conditions changed, but people were no less innovative.

Cambodia

We also caught sight of these motors used for many more household tasks where a little horsepower could be a time saving device. While at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, I was lucky enough to snap a quick (although a bit blurred) photo of another unique innovation using these engines. These very young monks were out for a ride.

Monks out for a ride at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

My husband and I looked at each other and said, “never thought I’d see that.” That’s exactly the kind of unique surprise a writer wants to give a reader. So, no matter how many times a story has been told, there will always be a perspective you as an author, with your unique life story, can bring to telling a tale. Don’t try to use an archetype or plot the way writers have before you. People change, society changes, and you as an author should change with it and tell an old tale in a new way.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

CONFESSIONS OF A NON-TECHIE





   
 I've been blessed with the ability to sing, act, stage manage, and write; learned to balance a checkbook and as Hilly sings in "On the Town," I Can Cook too," but ... I admit to being a technical "dummie," and the green-eyed monster lands on my shoulder whenever a friend brags about their absolutely brilliant, nerdy son, daughter or grandchild. The one they call whenever their computer does something that ties them up in knots. 
     When a problem and solution is nowhere to be found in Windows 10 or Microsoft Word for Dummies or scattered over several different chapters--well it could drive a person crazy (sorry Stephen Sondheim.) I am driven to making a cheat sheet and I passionately miss my old XP--it was so easy to find what I needed. Microsoft discarded the program because of age--isn't that discrimination?
     I heard the new Office was much like the old XP--just prettier--but remember that old cliche, "pretty is as pretty does?" I suppose if this generation was my generation, I would love the games, the streaming, the music and the myriad choices of social networks but what is--is--and technology has opened a whole new world so each day I take a deep breath, open the "help" books, use the "Tell me what you want to know" feature, pick up a pad and pencil and adapt.
     Finally managed to begin a new article, transfer stories and sold pieces to my new "friend," and try to climb the next mountain--transferring photos. Received gobbledygook when I tried to transfer photos from a CD-RW and while I can scan a photo, I can't transfer photos from my camera although the photos show in the little window on the printer and it reads PRINT. On my monitor a message appears asking whether I'm connected (doesn't that sound a bit like an insult?)


     This week I will contact a member of the Geek Squad who will be--to me--this generation's answer to Sherlock Holmes. I will be relieved and my work will continue but I will also feel like a relic from a forgotten age. does anyone else ever get that feeling?

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Year of the Story

Last month, I sat in a ballroom and listened to Robyn Carr’s speech as she accepted the Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award at RWA. Her speech was incredible, but one small phrase resonated with me. “Let’s make this year the year of the story.”

As a still-new author at a tricky spot in my writing journey, this struck me because it’s a reminder of why I began writing, continue to read books on the craft of writing, and read fiction until my vision blurs. I love telling stories, and I enjoy the challenge of learning to tell them better.

I came home deeply convicted to follow Robyn’s advice. I also came home to a brewing tragedy.

As I write this, we’ve just returned from a family weekend that revolved around my mother-in-law’s funeral. She was alive and semi-well when I boarded a plane for San Diego. Now she’s ... not. It’s still shocking how quickly it all happened.  

Over this weekend, we spent a lot of time comforting each other and mourning our loss. However, we also spent an evening telling stories – not just about her, but about her family. A younger generation learning family histories from their aunts and uncles. (And probably one of the last times I will be considered a “younger generation.”)

My husband’s uncle is perhaps one of the best storytellers I’ve seen. He has this wonderful voice and a great southern drawl, and he knows just when to pause for effect. All evening he was peppered with requests, interrupted with questions, and coaxed to remember events – both good and bad.

As I sat on the porch, these people I’d never met came alive for me. Not their faces necessarily, but their histories and their personalities.  I sat in the humid Arkansas evening, let the mosquitoes bite at will, and never once thought about checking my email or updating my status on Facebook. I learned how to tell a good story, and I reconnected with why I love to do it.

While I love connecting with readers and with other authors, I didn’t start writing because I love the idea of having a website, an author page on Facebook, or a Twitter feed. I’m not nuts about learning Snapchat or Periscope or Tumblr, or whatever new social tool comes up. (Except Pinterest. You’ll have to pry my Pinterest feed from my cold, lifeless hands.) 

Marketing is necessary and it’s understandable. Sales are a must, of course. However, I can’t market what I don’t have written – and no one will buy it if it sucks.

I have my must-read “keeper” authors. They create amazing characters who populate stories that draw me in from page one. Those are the authors who inspired me to write.

I want to tell memorable stories. Every person deserves to be remembered, to have what happened to them remembered – even fictional people.


So, for me, this is the year of the story.   

What about you? Favorite social tools? Introverted author? Favorite stories? 

Mia 

Find me at:

Friday, August 5, 2016

Collaborating for a Cause

I'm so thrilled to be a part of a multi-author paranormal anthology, which is now available for pre-order. Even more exciting to me is the fact that ONCE UPON A MIDNIGHT is a collection of stories that will benefit a charity. And not just a portion. That's right -- a hundred percent of the proceeds go to the Epilepsy Foundation.

What makes that even more personal is that the organizer of the anthology chose that charity because her daughter suffered from frequent seizures before she had brain surgery in 2015.

Who has a story in this awesome collection? How about Dakota CassidyRenee GeorgeClaudy ConnKelly CozzoneA D JusticeGena D. LutzAubree LanePM BriedeAmanda WashingtonNicole Garcia, Stephanie RoweMelanie JamesToni AleoTracey Jane JacksonJulia MillsDiane RinellaA K MichaelsJami Brumfield, moi - Wynter Daniels, and Michele E. Gwynn.

My novella in the collection, SPIRITED SEDUCTION, has some mystery, some suspense, a ghost, a psychic and of course, a villain.

So if you're in the mood for a really awesome deal, think about pre-ordering ONCE UPON A MIDNIGHT today. You'll get a taste of 20 terrific authors in one book. This collection is only available for a limited time. For only $.99, you can't go wrong!
Amazon :
US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01IL888AG
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01IL888AG
iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/once-upon-a-midnight/id1135312937?mt=11
Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/once-upon-a-midnight-3

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

What the Heck is a Bouchercon Anyway?

The wiki answer is: Bouchercon is the World Mystery Convention.


To get more specific, I’ll quote the website: “The World Mystery Convention is a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization which holds an annual convention in honor of Anthony Boucher, the distinguished mystery fiction critic, editor and author. It is the world's premier event bringing together all parts of the mystery and crime fiction community, and is commonly referred to as Bouchercon. [bough'·chur·con]” http://www.bouchercon.info/


For me personally, as a crime fiction author and voracious reader of the genre, Bouchercon is like coming home. Uhm. To a traveling home. Bouchercon visits another city every year. I’ve attended once in Cleveland and this year I’m headed to the Big Easy. New Orleans, baby!


I’m excruciatingly thrilled by this because 1. I LOVE New Orleans and 2. My new cozy mystery series is set in the city’s famed Garden District. Better still? The convention is just weeks before the release of book 1 in that series, Cat Got Your Diamonds. So, I’m over-the-top giddy right now. If the title isn’t cute enough, it’s part of the Kitty Couture series. Ha! I smile every time I say it. It’s adorable and fantastic.



But back to Bouchercon. The 2016 convention is lovingly titled Blood on the Bayou and is being attended by a number of immensely talented authors including Heather Graham and Harlan Coban. You’ll find me at Kids Day fangirling all over the infamous R.L. Stine. My family and I are bananas over his Goosebumps books. I love him. *winks* *whispers* Call me.



When I’m not signing my own books and buying enough new tomes to fill a second suitcase, I’ll be joinng in a second line parade (part of Bouchercon) to a historic theatre for the coveted Anthony Awards. I’ve also got tickets for the 8th Annual Queen of Burlesque show. (not part of Bouchercon) But I mean…while I’m in New Orleans, right?

I plan to see all my favorite sites again. Take my husband on this awesome Segway tour. And do lots of fresh research for the books in my new series. 


Are any of you planning to attend Bouchercon? I hope I’ll see some of you there.