Thursday, January 31, 2019

Do as I Say, Damn It!

Have you ever written fan fiction? A pastiche? Tell us about that. If not, did you start out writing derivative fiction before finding your own voice? And you can tell us about that, too.

From Jim

I’ve never written fan fiction. Nor have I written any pastiches. But many years ago, as I was searching for a voice and style of my own, I did try to write in the style of other writers. It was a failure and very bad idea.

So, since I haven’t written fan fiction or pastiches, and since I do not today consciously imitate other writers, how can I contribute to this discussion? I thought of a way.

Recently, I’ve seen a couple of those “Mistakes Writers Shouldn’t Make” posts floating around the Internet. You know the kind: “Don’t use adverbs,” “Never open with weather,” “Avoid prologues,” “Only use ‘said’ as a dialogue tag,” “Don’t use that as a conjunction,” “Don’t have your characters purse their lips,” and so on. Many, but not all, of these posts lean heavily on Elmore Leonard’s famous advice to writers. I’m not sure how seriously Leonard intended those rules to be taken. I’ve heard some say he meant them as a joke. But whether he was offering straight advice or not, thousands have taken his list of rules to heart. And though I see a lot of merit in his advice, and the advice being offered so freely to writers everywhere, I object to the idea of people—critics, editors, and writers—telling others that there’s one correct way to write.

I appreciate Elmore Leonard’s talent. He was a master. But you know what? I don’t want to write like him. I want to develop my own style and voice. And if that means I accidentally use “shrugged his shoulders” instead of “shrugged,” then I’m a hack. Who is throwing books against the wall because a character in a book somewhere “blinked his eyes”?

Take, for example, the admonition against using any dialogue tag except “said.” This is so dogmatic and so random. We have dozens of powerful verbs that describe speech, so why not use them when appropriate?

“Go to hell,” he yelled/shouted/screamed.
“Oh, never mind,” he mumbled/grumbled.
“What about Tuesday?” he asked.
“I don’t think so,” she answered/replied.
“I love you,” she whispered.
“You’re such a selfish so-and-so,” I hissed.
“My leg,” he moaned.
“But I don’t want to,” she whined.
“Good morning,” she sang.
“Get out!” he bellowed.
Some others: quipped, snapped, harrumphed, snorted, mused, offered, chirped...

Okay, you may not like some of these, but where exactly is it written that these are bad style? And who exactly decided that they were bad? What are the criteria being used? It’s not like math. It’s not two plus two. There’s not necessarily a “wrong” answer.

A writer once told me NEVER to use exclamation points in my books. And, while he was at it, he said NEVER EVER use the word “well” as an interjection. Well, I found this to be the least helpful advice I’d ever heard. Akin to telling Picasso which colors not to use.

Remember too that norms go in and out of style. Today’s rules will be tomorrow’s fodder for ridicule. Don’t believe me? Here is a rather silly yet widely accepted rule from the Detection Club back in the thirties:

Only one secret room or passage is allowed  per story.  

And don’t forget that the verb “ejaculate” used to be perfectly acceptable as a dialogue tag...

Look, many of the rules floating around out there are useful, and we should bear them in mind as we write. But let’s not kid ourselves. These are mostly just someone’s pet peeves. Things that offend that person for some subjective reason. And that’s okay. But people in in glass houses... I have my pet peeves, too, and they’re often quite different from those of the majority.

Here’s an example. I am very careful to differentiate between the verbs bring and take. Most speakers of English are not. Nor are most writers. One implies a motion away from (take) while the other implies a motion toward (bring). But I don’t feel the need to rap knuckles with a ruler when someone uses “bring” when “take” is the more accurate verb. And it certainly would never make me throw a book against the wall and laugh at the writer’s ignorance. Language changes, usage changes. Speech and writing reflect those differences and changes. Write and let write, I say.

So, on the subject of writing in the style of other authors, I believe writers should find their own way. Use adverbs if you like. Or don’t. Start your book with a prologue if you want. Or don’t. Thousands of great writers have done so. And even weather. Go ahead and write “It was a dark and stormy night” if that’s what you want. Make your book your own.



Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Finding what works

Have you ever written fan fiction? A pastiche? Tell us about that. If not, did you start out writing derivative fiction before finding your own voice? And you can tell us about that, too.

by Dietrich

I’ve never taken a popular character from an original work and created a story from that. And I haven’t purposefully tried to imitate another writer’s style, although there are plenty of authors who’ve inspired me to write. I like to make up my world and characters, yet the new book I’m working on now is based on a true story that intrigued me, and it sure feels different from writing pure fiction. It takes more research to make it accurate, getting how these people thought, behaved and how they spoke. And there’s a good mix of fiction in there too. In the end, whatever gets a writer inspired to write a story, or whatever gets a new writer working to find their own voice and style is probably worth a shot. 

It’s not automatic. Like anything, it takes practice to become good at it.
I think the most important thing for a writer is to find their own voice so they can tell their own story, and that takes some work. I started out writing short stories, and aside from my love for reading short stories, it allowed me to play around with genre and style, working at it to find what best suited me, long before I tackled something novel length. And after writing a lot of shorts, I finally did stumble on what worked. And from there, I just played on those strengths and kept going.

In a Time interview, Elmore Leonard was asked if he had any advice for young writers. “I would say just start writing. You’ve got to write every day. Copy someone that you like if you think that perhaps could become your sound too. I did that with Hemingway, and I thought I was writing just like Hemingway. Then all of a sudden it occurred to me, he didn't have a sense of humor. I don't know anything he's written that's funny.”

And I know I’m not alone in believing that reading is very important for a writer. I try to choose books that will inspire me, those novels that have me shaking my head at how good they are, those writers with soul in their words.

“It’s inspiring to read great writing. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you'll find out.” — William Faulkner 

“Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.” — Joyce Carol Oates 

We’ve all got our own idea of what’s good, and a writer has to know where they want their writing to go. To make it work for me, there has to be a drive and a love for what I’m writing. There’s an excitement to starting with a single idea for a scene and seeing the world it turns into, all the while characters are growing and plots and subplots are taking shape, and twists and turns keep coming as I work on the story. What could be better than that?

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

My own stories, my own voice

By R.J. Harlick

Have you ever written fan fiction? A pastiche? Tell us about that. If not, did you start out writing derivative fiction before finding your own voice? And you can tell us about that, too.

Though like Brenda, I’m not exactly certain what ‘fan fiction’ is or ‘a pastiche’, I can safely say that I have never written any kind of fiction other than my own.  I have never tried to copy someone else’s writing style or based my stories on another author’s.

For me, writing is all about creating my own stories in my own voice. From the moment I set out on my writing adventure, this has been my approach. If I based it on another author, the fun of writing would completely disappear for me.

Meg Harris, her world and her adventures have grown out of my own imagination and my own experiences. Her wonderfully wild Three Deer Point property is in part based on where my own cottage is located in Quebec and in part on my dreams, in other words her rambling Victorian timbre cottage complete with a turret and perched on a rocky point overlooking a pristine northern lake is the cottage of my dreams. My own log cabin is considerably more modest.

Many of her adventures, other than murder solving, are based on my own, like the establishment of a network of ski trails in Red Ice for a Shroudor the wild whitewater paddling in The River Runs Orange. Like me, Meg discovers she’s not keen on whitewater paddling. Mind you, her mad paddle along a river completely surrounded by a forest fire was entirely created from my own imagination. I’m not certain I would be brave enough to do what Meg did. 

Although few of my characters are based on people I know, there is one character or should I say two who are entirely based on real entities. I use entities because I am referring to Meg’s beloved dogs, Sergei and later Shoni. Sergei is my DeMontigny, a gorgeous, curly haired, black standard poodle, my first standard, who was not adverse to getting into trouble. I even put some of his antics into Meg’s adventures, like the time Sergei cavorted around with a deer leg dangling from his mouth in Death’s Golden Whisper. And the puppy Shoni , who first appears in A Cold White Fear is based on Miss Molly, the youngest of our two silver haired standards, who we adopted as a delightful eight week old puppy.

As for Meg, she came into being through my own words. Yes, she grew up in Toronto like I did and loves the wilderness like I do, but she is very much her own person with her own likes and dislikes and her own strengths and weaknesses. She is not based on any character in my life or any character that I have read about. Her voice emerged on the page from the first words I put down.  I didn’t draw a character profile for her. She just happened. Somehow, I knew intuitively that this was the kind of person Meg was, this was her voice. And so it has remained from book to book, currently eight in the series. Yes, she has grown and changed as events happen in her life. But she is still the same person, who first appeared in Death’s Golden Whisper.

When I started out, I hadn’t thought of any particular underlying theme for the series. But when I began populating Meg’s world with members from her neighbour, the Migiskan Anishenabeg First Nations Reserve, I realized they too had their own stories to tell and were very much a part of Meg’s life. I also realized how little we, the broader population, knew about our indigenous neighbours. So, in an attempt to raise the visibility on Canada’s indigenous peoples, I decided to give the Meg Harris series an underlying Native theme, in which I interwove their stories and culture into Meg’s life. Each book would explore an issue facing indigenous people today. Thus far I have delved into issues that include police prejudice against natives (Red Ice for a Shroud), the controversy over ancient remains (River Runs Orange), missing native women (A Green Place for Dying),adoption of native children by non-native parents (Silver Totem of Shame), and the impact of residential schools on families (Purple Palette for Murder)

Canada has many wild and wonderous places. I decided that I also wanted my series to bring some of these places alive to my readers, so I had Meg travel. Thus far she has travelled to Canada’s Far North (Arctic Blue Death), Haida Gwaii on Canada’s west coast (Silver Totem of Shame)and to the North West Territories (Purple Palette for Murder).

Of course, there is lots of murder and mayhem, because it is after all a murder mystery series.  And I have great fun plotting out the nefarious dealings and having Meg solve them. But from the outset I wanted to make the Meg Harris mystery series more than a simple whodunit. Only you my readers, know how successful or not I have been.


Sunday, January 27, 2019

Using My Voice

by Brenda Chapman

Question: Have you ever written fan fiction? A pastiche? Tell us about that. If not, did you start out writing derivative fiction before finding your own voice? And you can tell us about that, too.

While I’m not entirely sure what constitutes fan fiction or a pastiche, I am confident in saying that I’ve never written either. As for derivative fiction, which is writing derived from another source, I wrote some poetry in university that could qualify as part of assigned writing exercises. For example, we had to write a poem following the exact structure of a Dylan Thomas poem. Oddly enough, in my latest Stonechild and Rouleau manuscript, I incorporate this same poem into a storyline. The lesson is to never toss anything away …

In my government communications work, I often had to take on the voice of the Department, usually the Minister as I crafted speeches, media lines or information for the public. Other than this official type of writing (which some called creative:-), I used my own voice in fiction-writing albeit through different characters. 

My first published novels were a series of four mysteries for the 10-13 age group. The stories were told through the eyes of my fourteen year old protagonist Jennifer Bannon - a girl struggling with her parents separation, poor grades, wanting to date a boy who has a girlfriend, and oh yes, nasty mysteries to threaten her world. While I was well beyond my teenage years, I could still imagine myself there and Jennifer's voice was essentially my own.



I currently have two series going. The Stonechild and Rouleau books are written in third person with through the eyes of different characters. This allows me some latitude to change up their voices and to experiment with relationships and interactions, but each book is linked by my writing style, which may be developing but is still essentially the same as in all my previous output.



The Anna Sweet novellas are an adult literacy mystery series, written in the first person through the eyes of Anna, an ex-cop PI who has her office in my actual neighbourhood. Anna shops in the same stores I do and drinks at the same pub. She's got my sense of humour and outlook on life even though our lives are nothing like each other's.




One of the hardest publisher questions for marketing purposes has to be: What writer's work does yours most resemble? While I understand the goal is to market an author's books on the coattails of a best-selling author (If you like this, then you'll like mine), I'm always stymied to come up with an answer. After all, isn't the goal to produce something original? How can one writer's style be the same as another's? In my mind, unique voice is everything.

I've often marveled at the writing styles and character voices of other writers. Each author brings their own wealth of life experience, reading, research, creativity to their work, and I believe like snowflakes, no two styles are ever exactly alike. This is the beauty of the craft. It's what makes readers keep buying new books, sampling new authors, and coming back for more. We are all storytellers, but the magic is in the execution.

So, to sum up this blog post, like many writers, I've experimented with point of view, setting, characters and plot lines, but I've always stayed true to my own voice. While admiring the work of other authors, I've attempted to learn from them but not to copy them. I've also worked to grow as a writer and to improve my own style. Every author is on their own journey and this is what keeps our industry fresh and exciting. I know it's what keeps me coming back for more, both as a reader and a writer.

Twitter: brendaAchapman
Facebook: BrendaChapmanAuthor
Website: www.BrendaChapman.ca


Friday, January 25, 2019

Jealous, who me?


Which crime fiction author are you insanely jealous of and why?
by Paul D. Marks, Robert D. Kidera, Travis Richardson, Wendall Thomas

I wish I had thought of Catriona’s title, Premise Envy for this post. I have title envy over that one 😄.
For today’s post and question I thought I’d ask three guests and friends, in alphabetical order, to offer their responses to this question. Each writes a different kind of mystery, so something for everyone. So, let’s get right to it:
***

Robert D. Kidera is the author of the Gabe McKenna Mysteries for Suspense Publishing. His first novel RED GOLD won the Tony Hillerman Award in 2015. His latest book, MIDNIGHT BLUES debuted in October of 2018. Kidera lives in Albuquerque with his wife Annette and his cat Woodrow Elvis. He has two daughters, a grandson and granddaughter. His favorite color is blue, his favorite food is New York pizza, and he hates long walks along the beach on moonlit nights. https://www.robertkiderabooks.com/ . Take it away, Bob:
“Which crime fiction author are you insanely jealous of and why?”
I’ll answer that question with another question: Is it possible to be insanely jealous and incredibly grateful at the same time? That’s how I feel toward Donald E. Westlake. How could he possibly have created such an off-center, off-beat menagerie of characters without them becoming off-putting but, instead, so downright real and even loveable? I have come to realize that he was a con-man himself, a conjurer and his written words are magic. I struggle to add some of that flavor to my work without dissipating his magical qualities. Of course, Westlake himself said “I believe my subject is bewilderment. But I could be wrong.” Maybe I should stop trying to understand his magic and just enjoy it?

I’m referring more to his Dortmunder novels, not so much the ones he wrote as Richard Stark, though they do possess their own magic (or perhaps dark magic). Dortmunder is heroic in his own way—the way it is with geniuses who endure the foibles of their comrades as well as their own. It’s the journey rather than the destination, isn’t it? And the journey isn’t just where you go, it’s the ones who accompany you along the way.
Westlake’s practice has informed the way I people my novels. My latest, MIDNIGHT BLUES, finds protagonist Gabe McKenna taking on a deadly human trafficking operation with the “assistance” of a reclusive 93 year-old World War II desert rat, a dwarf with a Thompson submachine gun, a thrice-divorced childhood friend on the run from his alimony obligations, an Apache long-haul trucker, a college professor who has lost all her grant funding, and a gimpy-legged former prize fighter who drives a hearse but serves the best barbecue in town. I blame Donald Westlake.
***

Travis Richardson lives in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter. He has been a finalist and nominee for the Macavity, Anthony, and Derringer short story awards. His short story collection, BLOODSHOT AND BRUISED, came out in late 2018. Find more at www.tsrichardson.com, you’re up, Travis:

Oh, Hey There, Jealousy.
Paul Marks asked me to write about “Which crime fiction author are you insanely jealous of and why?” with an offer to promote my recently published short story collection, BLOODSHOT AND BRUISED. I said yes and now I’m in a position of answering a question I’m not sure about.
I can’t think of a particular author who I’m jealous of. No name immediately comes to mind. I believe many authors who have achieved success got there by talent, hustle, and serendipity. (A pop psychologist once told me that serendipity is being ready and positioned so that lucky moments will happen.) Sure there are writers who cut corners, but I usually don’t think of them as having long-term careers. And there is something sad in that. (In a former life, I worked with Faye Resnick who believed she was an author because she flew to the Hamptons to talk about Nicole Brown Simpson for 48 hours while transcribers typed away.) Also, there are machines like James Patterson or writers who have passed on, yet their names have been franchised. In many ways, that seems to be less than fair for living authors trying to stand out in an oversaturated publishing world, but I’m happy for the co-writers whose names and incomes are raised. And would I turn down an opportunity to co-write a Patterson title? Probably not. I would, however, like to break the stranglehold that many readers have who only reach out for the familiar, but I’m not sure how.
When I read prose or a scene that blows me away, I often see it as a challenge to improve to that writer’s level. No jealousy there, just more steps up an ever-steepening writing skill-set mountain. But when it comes to areas where I feel inadequate and see others thriving to the point that it may lead to jealousy, it would be in the areas of social media skills, promotion, and those who maximize their time to achieve their goals. So, yeah, I’m looking at you 7 Criminal Minds authors, you no good… Oops. Sorry about that. Let’s shove that little green monster back in the suitcase.  


I’m a bit overwhelmed in the social media arena. In the physical, non-virtual world I often do well with the nuances of conversation. Listening, adding opinion, etc. based on the person in front of me. But the anxiety of writing a spot-on pithy comment that says what I mean with the possibilities of misspellings, misinterpretations, and or missing important elements like a negation so that I come off like an idiot supporting something I hate often leads me to paralysis. I am a bit jealous of those who see something or have a brilliant thought, pull out their phones, and post. I’ve taken hundreds of photos of things assuming I’ll post them, but never do. I’ll stumble across a stimulating article and think that I should pass it on with commentary, but rarely do (and when I do nobody reads it). And oh those brilliant world-changing ideas… they come and go without any documentation. I have too many filters in place, and it inhibits me. A 20th century antique in a 21st century world. 
I also suck at promoting. Some writers do it well. Others, not so much. Some overdo it and alienate people. In the lead up to my short story collection coming out, I felt I was plastering the world with my upcoming book, but I maybe did a quarter of the promotions my wife had suggested for me. And now that time has passed, I see it is very little. To those who promote themselves and others, well done. 
The final thing that I want and find that I have very little of is time. And when I have it, I don’t always maximize that precious resource very well. There are writers who are incredibly disciplined, and my hat goes off to them. It seems like many published authors were former journalists. They don’t need to wait for a muse or certain atmosphere to write. Nope, they sit, type, and create stories. I tried reporting for one semester in college, but the newsroom drove me crazy. Too much noise and too many distractions. Perhaps if I had stuck with it, perhaps my brain would have broken through the chaos and learned to write in focused bursts regardless of the location. While I have some discipline, I can always improve and am impressed to the point of envy by those who can churn out multiple novels in a year.
So that’s it. I thought I would have nothing but I ended up with three. Thanks again, Paul Marks for the invitation. My short story collection BLOODSHOT AND BRUISED: Tales from the South and the West came out in November. 16 stories include Anthony, Macavity, and Derringer finalists. You can find it here: https://goo.gl/m5x4rH (Look, I’m promoting, Teresa!)

***

Wendall Thomas teaches in the Graduate Film School at UCLA, lectures internationally on screenwriting, and has worked as an entertainment reporter, development executive, script consultant, and film and television writer. Her novel LOST LUGGAGE was nominated for Lefty and Macavity Awards for Best Debut Mystery of 2017 and her short fiction appears in the crime anthologies Ladies Night (2015), Last Resort (2017), and the upcoming Murder A-Go-Gos (2019). https://www.wendallthomas.com/ . Hit it, Wendall:

When it comes to the mystery community, I feel more awe than envy. I’ve yet to meet anyone I admire who isn’t generous to a fault and killing themselves doing the best, bravest work they can. Any occasional flashes of “insane jealousy” come from my own cultural schizophrenia.
I’ve spent my life ping-ponging between Henry James and Sam Shepard, Earth, Wind & Fire and Joni Mitchell, Ghostbusters and The Passenger, Preston Sturges and Sidney Lumet. As a writer, I’m divided, too. Both Lost Luggage and the upcoming Drowned Under— in which Cyd Redondo joins an Australian cruise in search of her missing former in-laws and stumbles onto a plot to kidnap the last Tasmanian tiger—are pure screwball. My short stories are pure Hollywood cynicism, and my work in progress, Devilling, opens with a woman dying on an abortion table while a pianist drowns out her screams.


So I’m gobsmacked by the writers who are able to move seamlessly between genres or sub-genres, by those who’ve perfected both the comic and the terrifying, by writers like (to join the chorus) Catriona McPherson and Tim Hallinan. The thing they have I really wish for is their representation—the agent who believes in them, allows them to follow their instincts, and finds a way to sell the books, that, in this world of brutalized branding, they might have been warned not to write. So it’s really “agent envy” rather than “writer envy” that occasionally turns me into what Bobby Charles called “The Jealous Kind.” Writers, I love.
***
Thank you, Bob, Travis and Wendall.

~.~.~
And now for my usual dose of BSP:

I want to thank Colman Keane of Col's Criminal Library in the UK for the great review of Broken Windows. In part, "What I really enjoyed in addition to a joined-up, coherent and satisfying case, was the backdrop of the city, depicted both physically in Mark's referencing of cultural hot spots and emotionally in the depiction of the attitudes and mood of the time. Plot, pace, setting, characters, resolution - all ticks. 4.5 stars," out of 5. Hope you'll check it out:





Please join me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/paul.d.marks and check out my website www.PaulDMarks.com

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Premise envy

"What crime writer are you insanely jealous of and why?"

by Catriona

Well, for one thing - any jealousy really would be insane. With apologies (because I've said this before), we're not in competition with one another. A writer writes one, maybe two, at most three books a year and many crime-fiction aficionados read three novels a week. Our fellows writers are allies, keeping readers hooked on mysteries until our next one comes out.

Of course, sometimes we really are in competition with one another - for bestseller spots, marketing spends, panel invitations at conferences, guest of honour places, shortlistings and awards. But none of those things - beguiling as they are (and they are!) - are at the core of what it is we love. Writing.

Mind you, I'm a wee bit jealous of anyone who's up for an Edgar this year because you know who's being honoured with a Raven award at the Edgars banquet? Only Marilyn Stasio, the legendary and famously reclusive NYT crime fiction reviewer. Assuming she goes to the ceremony, a whole load of lucky crime writers are going to get to say hello and thank her. (Or stare daggers from across the room and murmur threateningly through barely parted lips.)

But getting down to writing: I'm not jealous of whole careers or oeuvres - books are immensely personal and any writer's books could only have come out of her or him. But there are some ideas, characters, scenes and individual lines that make me want to stamp and pout because I didn't think of them, when I was trying to.



Idea:  DE Ireland's Higgins and Doolittle mysteries.
Waaaahhhh! No fair! [stamps and pouts]
When I was busy thinking up a series idea, I tried hard to see if my area of expert knowledge - linguistics - could be turned to account. I failed. Then along came Meg Mims and Sharon Pisacreta (collectively D.E. Ireland) with a series of mysteries featuring Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle as a crime-fighting double-act. Henry Higgins! The second most famous linguist ever. After Noam Chomsky, who - let's face it - would be a stretch in a cozy. I was gutted! I'm British, I write historicals and I'm a linguist. That historical, London-set series with a linguist in it should have been my brainchild. Mine! [cue maniacal cackling]. The upside is I got to read an ARC of book 1 and became a fan instead.

Character: Alexander McCall Smith's Isabel Dalhousie.
Waaaaaahhh! Theft! Cultural appropriation! [holds breath until changes colour]
If only I'd thought of writing a whimsical Edinburgh sleuth who solves low-stakes puzzles and drinks a lot of coffee in independent delis, I could have written off some pret-ty sweet days against tax: mooching round the art galleries in Edinburgh's new town; tootling off to the Borders to gawp at houses; identifying my favourite scone flavour in any one of many tea-shops.  Bawcht! Mind you, I don't travel in the same exalted Edinburgh circles as Alexander McCall Smith, so the cameos and walk-ons that are a big bit of the joy of Dalhousie novels would be missing.


Scene: Ellen Crosby's halfway catch-up
[I'm not sulking about this because, shamelessly, I sorta kinda stole it.]
I can't remember which of Ellen Crosby's Wine Country mysteries it was - maybe The Merlot Murders? - but there's a scene in one of her books where two people sit down on a wooden bridge, look at the scenery, and discuss where they've got to with their sleuthing. It's a calming, restorative pit-stop of a scene for them and for the reader. It frees up all the brain space you were using to keep hold of the threads of the story so far, so you can spend  it on the story to come. At the same time it's light and unclunky. I admired it then and I've used it more than once since. Thanks, Ellen!


Line: Laurie King's simple description of a complex idea.
Waaaaaaahhhh! Mine! All  mine! [throws toys out of pram then cries harder because toys are gone]
Now this one really hurt. I had been trying to write a scene where a group of people are gathered in a social setting and someone - out of ignorance, not malice - drops a brick, reminding everyone else of a matter they'd all rather forget. I wrote and deleted and wrote and deleted, then I re-read the first Kate Martinelli A Grave Talent, in advance of interviewing Laurie. At one point there's a social gathering, someone drops a brick and the ensuing shared feeling in the group is referenced with the line "A memory swept across the room." Perfect! So absolutely perfect and in six words too. Curses.




Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Awe vs envy...a study in green? by Cathy Ace


Reading: Which crime fiction author are you insanely jealous of and why?


This is a tough one for me to answer…maybe it’s because I’m not a jealous person by nature, or maybe because I truly believe one shouldn’t covet one aspect of another person’s life (in this case their creative output) without being prepared to take on all the crap they also have to live with….that being said…


I could just say, “Anyone who sells enough books to make an actual living at it,” but that would suggest there was some point in my life when I thought that might be a possibility…and there wasn’t. 

So the honest answer has to involve authors whose work “I wish I’d written”…with the caveat I don’t really wish I’d written any book that’s already been written by someone else – I only want to write my books, my way...and I'm incredibly grateful that I get to do that!


So, with all that out of the way…and bearing in mind I have no idea what these folks’ lives are/were really like, and I LOVE my life, so I really don’t want to swap life-experience with anyone (oh my, the conditions for this are mounting up!) these are the crime fiction authors I don't envy...but of whom I am in awe:


Agatha Christie: she had the chance to make the rules, then break them…to surprise and delight readers with plot shapes and twists for the first time. She built the foundation upon which so much mystery fiction is built. A LEGEND.




Patricia Highsmith: laid the groundwork for the psychological suspense thriller, creating unforgettable characters and twisted plots that every writer in this genre envies. A WIZARD OF THE WARPED.




Margaret Millar: when it comes to portraying the inner workings of the female mind, Millar has no equal – certainly before, and arguably since. Domestic suspense = Margaret Millar. A MISTRESS OF CHARACTERIZATION.




Martina Cole: broke the mould for female writers by creating hard-hitting, realistically gritty tales of families, relationships and crime that forever changed the way we think and read. A RULE BREAKER.
(I should probably mention that the eponymous pro/antagonist in Martina Cole's first book and I share a birthday...she's exactly ten years older than me...so I was on her side from page one!)

 
Marcia Muller for Sharon McCone, Sue Grafton for Kinsey Millhone, and Sara Paretsky for VI Warshawski: they showed us that not all private eyes had to be down at heel and possessed of questionable morals...and they could be women! A TRIO OF TERRIFIC TABLE-TURNERS.




Lynda La Plante for Jane Tennison, and Ann Cleeves for Vera Stanhope (with nods to Helen Mirren and Brenda Blethyn for bringing them to life so vibrantly): two strong women created two strong women...and changed the way female police detectives were, and are, portrayed in procedurals. Not side-kicks, not sleuths...real women, doing a damned fine job in a man's world. BRINGERS OF EQUALITY.

Am I jealous of them? Not really. No real green here. Do they inspire awe in me? You bet they do! And they all make me want to write the best books I can...at the same time wondering why I even bother. Aim high, and take your knocks! (And, yes, I have noticed they are all women!)

Please consider reading my new book?


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Green Monster


Terry Shames here:

Our weekly question is, "What author are you jealous of?"

I had to look up the word “jealous” to make sure I knew what it meant, and to my surprise, it has a strong element of “resentful.” So I can say that I’m not really jealous of any author. I don’t resent what someone else has, but I may wish I had it, too! So I’ll proceed with the caveat that resentment isn’t part of the equation.



Author? As in singular? No. What I envy is a lot of authors for a lot of different reasons.

I am jealous of young authors who got published right out of the chute and have long careers ahead of them. It took me years of slogging through rejections before I finally hit on my series character and became a published writer. I have so many ideas for books, and time looms large in the equation.



Here are some specific authors I’m jealous of for specific reason:

Catriona McPherson for her sense of humor. My God, where does this woman get her comic patter? Her timing? Her sense of glee that grabs her readers?



 Okay, Cindy Sample and Heather Havens, you too!



Lou Berney because….well, The Long and Faraway Gone and November Road. Need I say more? One brilliant book following on the heels of another. If he wasn’t such a great guy, a person could be tempted to be resentful.

William Kent Krueger for so many reason that it’s stupid. His beautiful writing, and the fact that he’s so damn nice. I hope he has dark thoughts that he keeps to himself, otherwise he’s too good to be true. Plus, he has the nicest wife!

Timothy Hallinan. God, three series, all spectacular. I am jealous of the philosophical depth in his books. There are paragraphs in his books that I reread just for the pleasure of musing on the thoughts.

I am jealous of Rhys Bowen for suddenly stepping off the cliff and soaring with her two historical novels. She said her publishers were uncertain, but apparently she wasn’t. Oh, to have that courage along with the ability to follow through with the ideas and find herself in the spotlight afterwards:




In a more serious vein, I’m jealous of authors some of whose works I don’t particularly admire as well as those whose work I revere, who have somehow hit a chord and become famous. That doesn’t mean I wish they weren’t successful; It just means I wish I could find that magic formula as well.

The fact is, though, that I’m grateful for having found a good publisher and loyal fans. Having toiled in obscurity for many years, I appreciate every reader, every editor who makes my work better, every workshop I’ve attended that gave me the tools I needed to perfect my craft. I am grateful that I have the means to write without worrying about paying the rent. I’m grateful that I have ideas that I’m excited about. I’m thrilled to have an agent who is right by my side in my endeavors.

Being jealous doesn’t get the job done. What does get the job done is writing. Long, hard hours of writing, rewriting, editing, and reediting. The writers I’m “jealous” of work just as hard as I do—or maybe harder. So I don’t have anything but delight and admiration for their success. Well, maybe I’m slightly still jealous of Catriona’s sense of humor…and her hair. 


 Terry Shames
A Risky Undertaking for Loretta Singletary, April 23, 2019