Thursday, October 31, 2013


by Alan

How has writing your main character changed you as a person?

I’d like to think that writing about my protagonist (any of my protagonists) has made me into a sharper, more self-actualized, wittier, more thought-provoking, more handsome person.

I’d like to think that, but I can’t.

I’m the same semi-schlubby person who wears sweats when he writes. Who occasionally spills food on his shirt. Who sometimes forgets a word that he used JUST YESTERDAY which bugs the crap out of him. Still the same guy who roots for the Washington Professional Football Team no matter how poorly the team plays.

Now what has changed, due to my writing, is my writing. The more I write, the better I get (at least I think so). I came to writing fiction relatively late in life, as compared to many of my contemporaries, so I’ve had to learn a lot in a short amount of time. And I’m still learning (I’m a little weak on grammar; I don’t know a dangling participle from a flying Wallenda.).

With each scene I write, with each draft and second draft and eighth draft, I feel more comfortable creating new worlds and characters. More comfortable with plots and descriptions and dialogue and settings. More comfortable using the strike-through feature. More in control of my story.

More like a real writer.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Et tu Elizabeth?

By Tracy Kiely

My character, Elizabeth Parker, and I share many of the same traits.  This isn’t too surprising. After all – I created her. We both grew up in Northern Virginia, attended Catholic women’s college, and along the way, dated and worked for several idiots (although we never dated someone we worked for). Our families are packed full of colorful characters and we have a healthy admiration for Jane Austen, biting sarcasm, and Cary Grant. That said, we also have our differences. Elizabeth is kinder, more loyal, and quicker on her feet. Conversely, if I were to stumble across a body, I would immediately call the police, offer what I knew, and then step the hell out of the way and let the professionals do their jobs.
Which, I suppose, is reason number 469 why no one writes books about me.
Of course, that isn’t this week’s question. The question is has writing main character changed me as a person. I thought about it and realized that, well, no, she hasn’t. I started to worry. Was Elizabeth was some kind of underachiever? Did all the other protagonists point and make fun of her? Apparently, my blog mates all created special, magical characters who in turn changed them for the better.  Their lives were made richer by seeing places, people, and everyday events through their character’s eyes. I grew despondent.  My creation was a selfish, lazy pile of words. It was 8th grade science all over again when, for three months, I played classical music to a fern tree sapling and charted its progress against the fern kept away from music. Guess what? Both died. Seems I forgot to water them enough. Music may do wonders for the savage beast, but it does squat for a dehydrated fern.
I had once again created a failure. A self-centered, ego-centric creation, who much like those dead ferns, didn’t even know I existed. I’ll be honest; the revelation brought me to my knees. After all I had done for her, too! I have saved that woman’s life more times than I can count AND I’ve hooked her up with two very hot men (granted one turned out to be an ass, but that is besides the point). I’ve given her cute clothes, and friends, and even a trip to London.
It was right around this point that I thought about killing her; like the ferns, only quicker.  
I was spared from doing this by a sudden headache. Looking outside, I saw that a storm was coming. I get headaches now before a storm hits. I didn’t always. It only started a few years ago. That’s when it hit me. Elizabeth also gets headaches before a storm. She didn’t initially; it was a suggestion made by an editor (give your protagonist problems, she advised. I gave her headaches.). BUT – here’s the thing – I never got them before I created Elizabeth! NEVER!
The good news: Elizabeth isn’t an underachiever.
The bad news: Apparently, she’s just kind of mean.
On the other hand, she might just be paying me back for all the times I threw her in the path of a dead body.
Touché, Elizabeth, touché.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

They're not like me

How Has Writing Your Main Character Changed You as a Person?

By Vicki Delany

I can’t say it has. Not at all.  The act of being a writer has changed me, made me more content with my lot, allowed me to lead the quiet, simple life I like.

But changed by my characters? Not really.

Molly Smith, in the Smith and Winters series from Poisoned Pen Press, is 26 years old when the series begins. I’m a lot more like her mom than I am like Molly. Her mom, in fact, is the sort of feisty person I’d be if I wasn’t so afraid of confrontation.

Then there’s Fiona MacGillivray of the Klondike Gold Rush series.  You wouldn't want to hear that I’ve become anything like Fiona. A woman on her own since the age of 11, in late-Victorian times, Fiona has survived by being ruthless, unscrupulous, and never afraid to turn a mark to her advantage.  The only reason she’s gone to the Klondike to open a saloon and dance hall, at to live on the right side of the law for a change, is so her son Angus can stay with her rather than be packed off to boarding school while Fiona goes about making her less than honourable living.

Initially, Fiona has only one loyalty – to Angus. But as the books progress she begins to accept the friendship of the people she meets in the Yukon. She even takes on a business partner; a tough little street fighter from the slums of Glasgow called Ray Walker.  And her defenses begin to crumble ever so slowly.

I trusted few people in this world. Angus, of course, who would love me no matter what. Ray Walker, I trusted with our business. I had friends here in Dawson, an experience that was somewhat new to me, but no one I would permit to know the details of my life or of my secrets.

Only Richard Sterling came close. And when I sometimes looked into his warm brown eyes or saw the edges of his mouth turn up in a rare private smile, I thought that if I were looking for a man this is the one I would choose.

                … Gold Web, by Vicki Delany

Maybe, Fiona is becoming a little bit more like me!

Gold Web, the fourth in the Klondike Gold Rush series will be released by Dundurn Press in December. Until then I will be running a series I call Klondike Fridays on my blog, One Woman Crime Wave.  Interesting facts about the Klondike Gold Rush along with lots of great pictures.  All that research I couldn’t squeeze into the book. Check it out here.

Gold Web is now available for pre-order from all your favourite sources.



Monday, October 28, 2013

Changing you, changing me

How has writing your main character changed you as a person?

by Meredith Cole

The main character in my mystery series was very different from me from the beginning. I started writing about Lydia McKenzie when I was about to become a mom. And Lydia was a single woman in her twenties. It was fun to write about someone who didn't have to worry that their newborn had colic, and could just go out clubbing all night if she wanted to.

Lydia's worries were pretty different from mine (I didn't have to worry about tracking down a serial killer and she didn't have to fret about paying for someone's college someday). But we were both artists who wondered if anyone was ever going to buy our work (photos her, books me) and we both worried that our neighborhood (Williamsburg, Brooklyn) was getting too expensive and too trendy. And while I began to look around for the place I wanted to move my family to next, Lydia clung even tighter to the neighborhood.

Writing fiction definitely allows you to see the world from a new point of view. Lydia helped me see my neighborhood differently. I walked around thinking about what she would notice and how she would react to the things that happened to me. I learned to slow down and observe more carefully. I thought more about photography and framing shots. I paid more attention to vintage clothes.

In the end I'm not sure if Lydia changed me much, but the act of writing about her definitely did. I became a published author, thanks to her, and launched a new career. I moved to Virginia and have a house and a mortgage. And she is still in Williamsburg worrying about killers, rents, finding her true love and launching that art career still. But I think we're both pretty happy to still be so different.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Thanks, But No Thanks!

By Sue Ann Jaffarian

 My response to this week's question is a happy and hearty N-O!

My real life has never taken a turn that parrots something I've written. But, like Clare, I often use experiences from my life in my books.

Odelia Grey, the protagonist of my flagship series by the same name, has a much more interesting and dangerous life than I do, even though we are both middle-aged, plus-size paralegals working in law firms. 

And I like it that way.

For instance, I've never fired a gun, found a dead body, been shot or shot at, been beaten or beaten someone else, had to run for my life, escaped from a burning building, had to rescue a boss, had my home broken into or a pet kidnapped. I've also never met a contract killer (that I know of) or made friends with a fugitive (that I know of).  I've never even been questioned by police regarding a crime.

Then again, I guess there's still time ...

I just started the 10th Odelia Grey novel. It has a working title of Junk In The Trunk and opens with Odelia finding a corpse in the trunk of her car.

No. No. No. Don't even think about it.
* * * * *

Coming Dec. 2013
News on other Odelia Grey fronts:

Secondhand Stiff, the 8th Odelia Grey novel, will be released the beginning of December, and I just completed Murder Ball, the 9th book in the series, due out in 2014.

And look for the audio edition of Too Big To Miss, the first book in the series, to be released in early 2014.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Do my stories ever come true?

Oh my God, no!  And I'm so glad about that.  The body count  - even at my end of the cupcake/chainsaw continuum - is a lot higher than I would want in reality.

In fact, the first time I can ever remember being frightened by a book - properly frightened; with sweaty palms and a cold lump in the pit of my stomach - was when I read a children's story about a little girl, ill in bed, who amused herself making a book that came true in her dreams. Gaaaah!  She drew a stick-figure child in a house and then, in her dreams, the stick-figure child was trapped in there because the door she'd drawn didn't have a handle.  Gaaaaah!  At one point, the little girl woke up and, trying to stop the horror, scribbled over the illustration, then fell asleep again and saw that the house was bound in thick black cords and the stick-figure child couldn't see out anymore.  Gaaaaaah!

It was second only to the famous Singing Ringing Tree on telly for childhood trauma.

The Singing Ringing Tree - and I apologise to any forty-something Brits who're now headed back to therapy because I've reminded them - was a 1950s east-German fairytale, bought by the BBC and broadcast on children's television without any executive actually ever watching it.  Of this I am quite sure.  I imagine a scheduler looking the bright colours and reading the synopsis (a princess, a prince and an evil dwarf) and thinking airily "Oh, it's just Rumpelstiltskin, basically."

Well.  They put it out in black and white, with a hypnotic English voice-over and the unnerving original German sync-sound fading in and out in the background.  David Lynch would have been proud. 

It was shown over and over again between the mid-sixties and 1980 and none of us will ever recover.  Such was the mark it made that when, well into the new millennium, a national poll of scary telly was taken, The Singing Ringing Tree made it into the top twenty.

If I thought it could come true, even in my dreams, I'd be laying in a lot of dried protein and heading for the hills.

So, in conclusion, my answer is no.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


by Clare O'Donohue

I routinely use bits and pieces of my real life in my fiction. My quilting shows up in the Someday Quilts mysteries. The town in that series, Archers Rest, began life in the cemetery of Sleepy Hollow NY. (The real one, not the one in the FOX TV show with the super dreamy English actor playing Ichabod Crane.). I was wandering through the cemetery looking for names to use for my characters and I came across a man's grave from the mid 1700s. His name was John Archer. I liked the name, liked the idea that I was standing where John had gone to his rest, and so... well, you get the idea.

And, as I've mentioned before, my work as a TV producer provides some of the background information for my Kate Conway mysteries. While I don't use the stories I've actually produced for TV shows, certain elements about the job and the people I've met does creep into her world. The line in Missing Persons about Kate being yelled at because she ended an interview when a tornado struck - yep, that was me who got yelled at by an executive producer who had clearly never experienced the "run for the basement" effect a tornado can have on a person.

But that isn't this week's question. This week's question is "What from my fictional world has turned up in my real world?"

Well, nothing actually. No odd, "hey didn't I write something similar" moments. No "he kind of reminds me of  one of my characters" encounters. Nada. Zip. Not even once.


But given the number of people who've turned up dead in my books, a character being stalked, another being shot, a town being shot up with my heroine in the middle of it... I'm pretty happy about that.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Dead Politicians

Question: If you write it, will it come? Does life imitate fiction?

Answer: All the time. The strangest story of all is this:

When I wrote Dead Politician Society, I was angry at Toronto's political climate. I took my rage out on the page: I created fictional versions of politicians who bugged me and wrote them into my novel as corpses. [Legal note: I changed names, life history, gender, ethnicity--everything about the people themselves. Only their policy remained--and that's what I was murdering.]

The real life inspirations were all career politicians, in office for decades. DPS came out three years ago, and here's where they are now:

Victim #1 resigned from politics. [Side note: He's a great guy doing great environmental work now.]

Victim #2 was based on a couple; one is now dead and the other's career has lost its thunder. [Side note: I was very sad when I heard that he died. I think the loss of a great mind is a loss for us all, even if his political views were in direct opposition to mine.]

Victim #3 was involved in a scandal that nearly landed him in jail and did force his resignation.

Victim #4's political career ended in a surprise downturn after years of promising success.

Victim #5 recently resigned just before a scandal hit the press.

Politics are volatile, so I don't credit myself with any literary voodoo powers—and no, I won't write your ex-husband into my next novel for any amount of cash. But this kind of freaks me out, so I'm sticking with fictional victims going forward.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Beware What you Wish For

This week's Q: If you write it, will it come? Have you ever noticed your real life taking a turn that's uncannily like something you've just written about?

For me, the more likely scenario is that something that’s already happened in my life gets turned sideways and winds up in the book. Nothing uncanny about it, merely a writer’s desperate means of sucking up every available experience to see what can be repurposed for the next book. It’s never a quick turnaround, or a complete one, or one that’s entirely planned.  Jokingly, I told my S.O. about ten years ago that I’d have to kill someone who was bugging him. It took seven years, a totally invented plot, and an unkind character twist (after all the real person didn’t have a homicidal bent) but in 2010, I made good on my promise.

As I think about the two published books in my Dani O’Rourke series, plus the one currently in production and the stand-alone I’m working on right now, what might I wish would leap off the page and into my life? Would I want to start dating a homicide cop? Not really. Dani can’t seem to get through a dinner in North Beach without his cell phone interrupting and the evening being short-circuited by duty calling. Her ex-husband might seem like a good catch. After all, he has two Porsches, a Paris pied a terre, and four hundred and fifty million dollars. But life with Dickie comes at a price and if I’m half as smart as the protagonist I created, I would know better than to think I could change him.

How would I feel if I were being stalked some day while I was walking on a secluded trail? Not so good, thanks. Found out my best friend had been in a terrible accident? Stumbled over the body of a trophy wife tucked under the office furniture? Maybe I’m just not writing about the right things.

There’s a good idea: Write a scene in which my protagonist wins the lottery, buys a first class ticket to Hong Kong or Paris, and finds the perfect Chanel traveling outfit. What the heck. I’ll do it right and write in a Fendi bag and a suite at the Peninsula or the George V. Then, I’ll buy a lottery ticket and while I’m waiting for my actual life to follow my fictional lead, I’ll write a scene in which Dani is kidnapped…no, wait.

- Susan

Friday, October 18, 2013

Oh No you Didn't

by Gary
On the pocketfullofbooks site, Anna our host (she doesn’t provide her last name) recounts various examples of authors behaving badly as they react to criticism.  There’s the author who attempted to sue an Amazon reviewer.  There was the author who sent his self-published book to a number of bloggers he claimed had promised to review his work and nary a review showed up.  Thereafter on the writer’s site he posted a warning to these reprobates, and you knew he was serious ‘cause he USED ALL CAPS.  Turns out this chap had previously been blocked from Goodreads.  Wonder why. 
Then there was this by a writer on Amazon: “There is the stupid cow from Goodreads who has been real nasty and keeps doing up really bad reviews of [my book], then gets her friends to go in and ‘like’ her bad reviews so that that review will be pushed up to the top of all the lists. Now she’s put it up on Amazon! She is a disgruntled old cow who doesn’t like me and how I got published. There’s no point in saying anything about her or responding (she loves that) but what we can do is push her review back down the list by bringing all the good reviews back to the top. How do we do this? Well at the end of each review there is a little button where…”
There’s also the possibly apocryphal story of a certain big time bestseller who had a thin skin. Reportedly he would use the name of his critics and make them pederasts or give them small penises, or both I suppose, in a novel if a critic had pissed him off in a review of a prior work.  Take that ye varlets!
I don’t make murder victims out of people who have pissed me off but I have certainly modeled characters riffing on the dickish behavior of people I’ve interacted with in various settings or have seen in the media.  Like how can you resist skewering a self-righteous boob like Congressman  Randy Neugebauer, a GOPer from Texas.  Two days into the government shutdown he voted for he was caught on video berating a park ranger.  Telling her she should be ashamed for fencing off the World War II memorial from these aging, infirmed vets I’m pimping to curry favor with my base.  Okay, that last part I added but you get my drift. 
Certainly we’ve all had the experience of dealing with the clerk behind the counter, the gate keeper of a bureaucracy big or small, who act like a baron or baroness overseeing their lands.  They control a cog in the machinery of the thing you need; be it to get your driver’s license renewed; that dealer owner part for your car you don’t know the technical name of and they won’t look up; the confirmation you did indeed get the right building permit; or I already filled out all the forms you told me to and now you tell me, they’ve somehow been misplaced?  And my only recourse is to fill them all out again?
Okay, maybe those unfeeling wretches deserve slow, painful deaths…on the page.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Good Morning, My Ass!

by Alan

Do you ever take out real life rage on fictional murder victims? Are any of your victims based on people who pissed you off in real life?

Real life rage? I’m a mild-mannered guy. I very rarely get to the stage of “rage.” About as hot as I get is “slightly perturbed.” If things really go wrong, I might push the meter to “irked.”

Unless you count that guy who cut me off on the Beltway. Or the person who dented my bumper in the parking lot and didn’t leave a note. Or the telemarketer who woke me up at 5:30 in the morning. Or maybe if you consider the neighbor who runs the leafblower six hours a day during Fall. Or the bank teller who takes forever just to log in a simple deposit. Or the grocery store that didn’t have one SINGLE RIPE AVOCADO when I needed to make guacamole. Or the little old lady who said “Good Morning” to me when it wasn’t really such a great morning. I mean, who died and elected her Queen of Inane Greetings, anyway?

Okay, maybe I do have a slight anger management issue.

In my books, though, I can’t remember singling out a specific person, either as a victim or a criminal, to be the recipient of my real-life rage. (I definitely don’t want a lawsuit. I’m pretty sure that would piss me off.)

But in my book DEADLY CAMPAIGN, I went after an entire group of people—politicians. (Of course, after the events of the last month, is there a person in this country who doesn’t harbor a great deal of rage toward them? For the record, I wrote that book before it was in vogue to actively hate our congressfolk). I didn’t take sides; I skewered the politicos in a bipartisan fashion (I’m an equal opportunity skewerer.)

And I must confess, it felt pretty good.


giveaway graphicHere’s something else that feels pretty good. Giving away stuff! To celebrate my birthday, I’m giving away an ORLOFFAPALOOZA prize package to one lucky winner: A copy of all six of my books (three trade paperbacks, three ebook originals) plus a bonus download of FIRST TIME KILLER in audio. Click thru to enter. Go ahead, don’t be shy…You gotta play to win!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Killing Them Legally

By Tracy Kiely

Like my protagonist, Elizabeth Parker, I graduated with a degree in English Literature. Then I just sat back and watched as the job offers ROLLED in. So much demand – such a variety of opportunities – the choices were endless!
I do remember going to a headhunter at one point and having her ask what my typing speed was. I think I gazed at her with the same expression if she’s just unleashed a torrent of French upon my non-Gallic ears. “I don’t see what that has to do with anything,” I naively replied. “I’m looking for a writing position.”
I was quickly assured that I would indeed be writing – lots of letters and even the occasional memo! The only snag was that these works would not be originated by me – only typed by me. “But I’m sure they would value your input,” she added.
And so I ended up fresh out of college working for a place which was about as far away from my lofty goals as you could possibly get, but inasmuch as it actually provided me with a paycheck, it was a hell of a lot more than anything my lofty goals had been able to produce so far. We all start out somewhere, I thought, and a somewhere that pays is a pretty nice somewhere. However, I think it was about a week into the job when I realized that my boss was, um, horrible.
How can I describe him? First off, he had a wardrobe that would make Herb Tarlek gag. (I’ve just dated myself, eh?) He also shunned deodorant – which was unfortunate as our office had no AC, and he kept his long hair greased back and firmly shellacked in place. Now, none of this would have mattered if it weren’t for the fact that this also guy thought he was a ladies’ man, man about town, a mover and a shaker, and that his staff was as passionately interested in his life as he was.
Which, by the way, was PASSIONATE indeed.
Staff meetings routinely ran into multiple hour sessions because they needed to include detailed updates about his mother’s health, his love life, and his past successes.  One of my duties was to duly record these meetings so our five-person staff could stay apprised of each other’s activities – something that obviously could not happen otherwise what with us all working together in the same large room.
Now, in DC offices there is something known as a vanity wall. It’s a wall that is jam-packed with framed pictures of celebrities, complete with personalized inscriptions. Many times the pictures will actually feature the owner of the office huddled in close with the celebrities. A vanity wall says, “Hey, look at me! Look who I know!”  My boss didn’t have one – he had three.
Which was fine, expect for one tiny thing.
One of my “writing” jobs was to send out daily “birthday hellos” to celebrities. These letters included phrases such as “you are a beautiful, significant human being” and “the world is a better place because of your glorious birth and the beauty of your craft,” and I would send them to people like Linda Evans – the actress who played Krystal on Dynasty.
Who is, I’m sure, all of those things and more. That’s not the point.
The point was that I quickly learned that these celebrities would then send back an 8x10 glossy via a publicist with a generic note of thanks.
Guess what happened then?
Yep – they magically obtained an inscription and were added to the revered vanity wall.
I dare you to try and keep a straight face at your desk, when Linda Evans is smiling down at you, next to an inscription that reads: “Bill, Wonderful to see you again. Linda.”
Anyway, I used much of what I learned on that first job to create Elizabeth’s work environment. How could I not? It wasn’t so much that the job was horrible – it wasn’t, really. It was just that it was my first real job, and I guess I found much of it was filled with the ridiculous. I wanted to recreate that feeling of “What the hell am I doing here?” for Elizabeth, as she looked around her life and wondered what her next step was.
I think we all use real people as the basis for some of our characters – the trick is to give them other qualities and traits (or genders) so as to cover your tush should you get sued.
Hey – it’s cheaper than therapy!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Revenge is a Dish...

My Revenge

By Vicki Delany

Do you ever take out real life rage on fictional murder victims? Are any of your victims based on people who pissed you off in real life?
Oh, yes. I got my own back. Not by creating a victim but a criminal I wanted to bring down.

Way back in 2006, I needed a new bike.  I’d been riding an old garage-sale clunker for years, and I finally decided I’d get a nice new one.   Which I did.

That was around the time I was starting the Constable Molly Smith series. I had a good idea for the main plot of the book, a cast of characters, the location I wanted.  And so I began writing IN THE SHADOW OF THE GLACIER.

Two weeks after purchasing my new bike, it was stolen, from the commuter train station. I got off the train to find, where my bike should be, only a broken lock and chain.

I was, should I say, not pleased.  I decided just about immediately that I had to get revenge somehow.

And so I wrote a sub-plot about a series of bike thefts into the book. Because it had to be something personal, I made my young cop, Molly Smith, a cyclist.  Whose bike is stolen.

You can be sure that the bike thief comes to a very nasty end.

Revenge can be sweet, can’t it?

Here’s the cover for IN THE SHADOW OF THE GLACIER. Note the bike...