Wednesday, March 29, 2017

So what if?

by Dietrich Kalteis

What sources do you draw on for ideas for your stories?

Ideas can spring from just about anywhere: memories, headlines, newscasts, personal experience, what happened to the neighbor, dreams, song lyrics. They can be imagined or borrowed, and when I find something interesting I often find myself thinking, “so what if?” And it starts me writing a single scene. And from that, it leads to the next scene. 

The idea for my first novel Ride the Lightning came from a bit of dialog I wrote for another short story. Two characters talking and it just grew from that. For the next one, The Deadbeat Club, I came across an article about the thousands of grow-ops here in British Columbia that contribute to forty percent of all the pot in this country. From that I came up with a pot grower up in Whistler who grows a killer strain and just tries to stay off the radar when a couple of rival gangs come up from Vancouver to squeeze him out. The idea for Triggerfish came from a program I watched about these high-tech narco subs being built by drug cartels in secret locations in the jungles of the Amazon — subs that can travel two thousand miles virtually undetected. I checked the distance from Mexico to Canada, and I had the starting point for my story. House of Blazes started out as a screenplay I wrote about a dozen years ago, set during the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco. It was a time of lawlessness, corruption and debauchery, the perfect setting for a crime novel. As I started writing and sifting through piles of research, I found a recent article about 11 million dollars worth of gold coins a couple discovered on a property they own not too far from San Francisco. The gold had been minted in San Francisco around the time of my story, and experts still can’t explain how it got there. It fit perfectly into my story and expanded it from the original screenplay.

When I come up with the spark of an idea I have to be totally jazzed about it since it’s going to take the better part of a year before I’ve got a novel to send out. And that spark is usually just for a single scene and maybe an undeveloped character or two, and everything just builds from there. I don’t know where the story will go at that point since I don’t plot out my stories. As I keep writing other scenes come to mind and the characters develop and usually by the second draft the whole thing starts taking shape.

It’s interesting to find out how some of the greats came up with ideas for their stories. For instance, Mark Twain based a character on a childhood friend and came up with Huckleberry Finn. John Steinbeck wanted to tell about the hard times people had to endure when he wrote Grapes of Wrath. After a classmate got jumped by a gang on the way home from school, fifteen-year-old S.E. Hinton started writing The Outsiders. And Jules Verne was flipping through a newspaper one day when he spotted an ad offering a chance to travel the globe in just eight days.

I keep an idea file for scraps to be used for future stories. Some of them I’ll use, and some I probably never will, but one thing’s for sure, there never seems to be a shortage of ideas out there that can get one thinking, “so what if?”

Friday, March 24, 2017

Movies Inspired Me to Read the Book

by Paul D. Marks

Reading—What authors particularly inspire you? Do you read them when you are working on a book?

To the second question, I’d say I have and can read some of the following while working on something, but I don’t necessarily do so on purpose. Sometimes that’s just what I happen to be reading at the time.

Now to the first question: I’m inspired by a lot of authors and a lot of individual books where maybe the writer’s oeuvre doesn’t hit me but they have that one book that’s a knockout. And my two favorite books, both of which inspire me in different ways, are not mysteries or hardboiled novels.

My favorite book of all time is The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham. But I have to admit that I saw the movie first, the original Tyrone Power version, and that’s what inspired me to read the book. I couldn’t relate to everything in it of course, but I related to a lot of it, mostly the main character, Larry Darrell’s search for meaning in an insane world. I relate to the character of Larry on a lot of levels, his disillusionment after the war (WWI), and his search for peace and meaning in life. I found the book inspiring. Still do.

Later on, I saw the Bill Murray film version when it came it out. I didn’t like it nearly as much as the Power version, though it’s grown on me over the years. And it was my understanding that Murray wouldn’t do Ghostbusters II unless he could do his version of The Razor’s Edge, because he also found it so inspiring. Not sure if that’s true though. And, as a sidenote, the day after it was released (I think—hey, it was a long time ago) I saw him on the Warner Brothers lot (though I think then it was called the Burbank Studios, it’s kind of like the song “Istanbul was Constantinople, Now it's Istanbul, not Constantinople,”—well, it used to be Warner Brothers then it was The Burbank Studios now it’s Warner Brothers again, so a studio by any other name…). He was leaning on a car in one of the parking lots, reading a review of it—everybody has to check their reviews.

My other favorite book is The Count of Monte Cristo. Who doesn’t love a good revenge story and this is the best of all, especially the way the Count hoists the villains on their own petards. It's the ultimate revenge story and revenge is so satisfying, served hot or cold. As such, it almost counts as a mystery or hardboiled story. Almost.

And while I’ve read books, both fiction and non-fiction, since I was a little kid, I’m a movie guy at heart, so I came to a lot of writers and their books via the movies. This happened with my favorite mystery writer, Raymond Chandler. And he is the top of the heap to me, bar none. I love his style, his turn of phrase. His depiction of a Los Angeles that still existed to some extent when I was a kid. And I came to him through the Bogie-Bacall version of The Big Sleep. His prose definitely inspires me and I keep trying to write my own version of the opening to his story Red Wind.

When it comes to noir, David Goodis is the man. And guess what, I came to him through the movies too, another Bogie-Bacall movie, Dark Passage, based on Goodis’ novel of the same name. I’d seen that movie several times and finally decided to check out the guy whose book it was based on and I was hooked. I devoured everything by him and back then you had to find used copies of his books cause there were few, if any, new production books out there like there are today. My fave Goodis novel is Down There, which was made into the movie Shoot the Piano Player by Francois Truffaut. I’m not a big fan of the movie, but the original book is terrific if you like down and dirty noir stories. This one’s about an ex-GI, a former Merrill’s Marauder, now a piano player who finds more trouble back home than in the war and he had plenty there. Goodis has been called the “poet of losers” by Geoffrey O’Brien and his stories deal with failed lives and people who are definitely on the skids. They’re often people who weren’t always in this position though and the interesting part is seeing how they deal with their downfall—not always so well. Goodis inspires me so much that I wrote a story that might be considered an homage to him. Born Under a Bad Sign was originally published in Dave Zeltserman’s Hard Luck Stories magazine, but is now available in LA Late @ Night, a collection of some of my previously published stories.

Along with film noir, the early hardboiled writers (though there is some crossover) have influenced and inspired my mystery-noir sensibility: Chandler, Cain, Hammett, Dorothy B. Hughes, etc. Along with these writers comes John Fante, although Fante doesn’t fit in either the noir or hardboiled categories. Nonetheless his thinly disguised autobiographical tales of a struggling writer's life in early 20th century L.A. made enough of an impression on me that I wrote to him shortly before he died.

Farther down the time-line road, I was drawn to Ross MacDonald with his psychological insights and stories that constantly double back on themselves and James Ellroy with his corrupt and sultry grittiness. Of current writers, Walter Mosely, Carol O’Connell, Michael Connelly and Kem Nunn’s Tapping the Source help to inspire me.

But for me Chandler, with his elegant descriptions, metaphors, characters, depiction of the mean streets and his ville fatale relationship with Los Angeles, will always be on top.

What draws me to many of these writers and the noir and mystery genre in books and films is that they're about the other side of the American Dream, the dark side. There's an inner core of darkness and corruption in society, a feeling of fear and paranoia. There's a moral ambiguity in the writings of most of these writers and in these films. They are the equivalent of an Edward Hopper painting (another major influence on my writing) with its cold light and shadows, filled with a sense of loneliness, alienation and angst.

In much of noir and some hardboiled writing (and there is often, though not always a difference between the two) there's no sense of redemption, but much betrayal. No good guys, just bad guys and worse guys. The hero is flawed. People's own flaws and weaknesses create their fallibility and ultimately lead to their downfall. I think this appeals to me in the sense that it's a realistic, though often pessimistic and cynical, view of society. And in my own writing, both in my novels White Heat and Vortex, and many of my short stories, the characters are flawed, the situations ambiguous.

So my inspirations seem to go from the heights of the Himalayas (Razor’s Edge) to the gutter (Down There), which is kind of noir in itself.  What about you—what/who are your inspirations as a writer, as a person?


And now for the usual BSP:

Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea is available at and Down & Out Books.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Day I Dodged

It should be my day today (Catriona), but I'm handing over the blog to my friend and fellow writer, Lori Rader Day, as she celebrates the publication of her third novel THE DAY I DIED, the follow-up to the Mary Higgins Clark winning LITTLE PRETTY THINGS. I was lucky enough to read TDID early on, and it's absolutely fandabbydozy. 

So, without further ado, over to Lori.

What authors inspire you? Do you read them when you are working on a book?

Which writers inspire me? This is not sucking up. I will read anything Catriona McPherson cares to write. Her grocery list? Bring it.

But since she is my host today, I should probably think of other writers who inspire me.

My first mystery/suspense inspirations were Lois Duncan, Agatha Christie, and Mary Higgins Clark. Imagine the 12-year-old me carrying my Mary Higgins Clark library copy of A Cry in the Night onto the school bus to seventh grade to share with my friends. Yeah. That really happened.

Today I’m still inspired by the careers of those three women and by those who follow in their footsteps: Tana French (The Likeness is my favorite) Megan Abbott (The Fever), Lisa Lutz (Heads You Lose with David Hayward is a book more people should read), and Ann Cleeves (I love Vera!). I also read male authors, of course. Favorites include Charles Todd (I’m cheating there, I know) and William Kent Krueger.
I do read fiction when I’m writing, or I wouldn’t read fiction at all. But let’s be honest: I do sometimes put off reading books that I think might influence me too much in what I’m writing. Instead, I might read a novel that is so different from my style that I’m unlikely to borrow. (M.C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth series is great for this, or Alexander McCall Smith’s Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency.) Confession: I have not yet read Lou Berney’s award-winning The Long and Faraway Gone because I’m pretty sure it’s going to give me a severe case of Why Botherism.

I don’t have time to feel more insecure than I already do. Thanks anyway, Berney.

What I read most when I’m trying to get my head out of my own work-in-progress for a while is nonfiction. The best kind of nonfiction is work that may spark ideas for my own project, but that’s hard to predict. The best examples I’ve had of this are the Jon Curran Agatha Christie notebook books and a recent read that blew me away, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin.

Not all of my nonfiction reads have to be about my favorite authors, of course. I’m also a fan of books by Erik Larson, Melissa Fay Greene, Sarah Vowell, David Grann, and books like Hello Goodbye Hello: A Circle of Remarkable Meetings by Craig Brown and The Fiddler on the Subway by Gene Weingarten—essay collections that have nothing to do with what I write but send my mind pinging all over the place. That’s what I’m looking for in anything I read, whether I’m drafting or not: distraction, energy, and that excitement I used to get as a kid, finding a new favorite story. It’s hard to get as an adult, as someone steeped in books all the time. But when you find it, it’s just as magical as it always was.

Catriona again: Over to you all, Criminal Minds readers - who inspires you?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Simon Says vs Chatty Cathy Ace

“Reading—What authors particularly inspire you? Do you read them when you are working on a book?”

Oh heck – this is a tough one to answer! Second question first – I don’t read when I’m writing…I just cannot do it. Not because I’m afraid I’ll start writing just like Agatha Christie (!!!) or any other author, but because when I’m working on a book I’m so completely immersed in the world I’m creating that I barely have room for the real one, let alone the inventions of other authors. So, not reading novels while I’m writing one is my way of hanging onto my sanity.

Some of my Christie books
As for reading when I’m not writing – yes, I still do that! Over the years I have broadened and deepened my list of “authors whose work I have read”, but I have to admit I am probably still most influenced by those whose works I read earliest and have therefore re-read for the longest period of time. Agatha Christie’s works have had a profound effect on me; I own at least one copy of everything she ever wrote (plays and memoirs included) and have lost count of the number of times I have read each one. I’ll admit not every book is “brilliant in every respect”, and some might be said to be a little “clunky”, BUT Christie at her worst is better than so many other writers, I’ll step back into the metaphorical “comfy slippers” her works offer at the drop of the proverbial hat rather than wade through something that doesn’t hold me, or appeal to me.

I also read a great deal of Patricia Wentworth, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L Sayers and Ellery Queen when I was young – and still read their work now, so all of that must have influenced me.

As I write this blog post I am asking myself “In what way/s have they influenced me?” and this is what I’ve come up with…

Structure, setting, characterization, the laying down of clues, playing fair with the reader or specifically deciding to not do that – all these things were laid down in my psyche because of my early reading. Topics? Christie, Wentworth, Marsh, Queen and more wrote about extra-marital affairs, sex before/outside marriage, drug dealing and addiction, alcoholism, espionage, violent theft, serial killers, psychopaths, sociopaths, narcissists and so many types of characters or situations we often forget they tackled when we think of their work. They might not have used foul language, or have dwelt on the gory physiological aspects of a crime, but they certainly examined the psychological damage done, and did so in a pretty intense way in many cases. So, by starting my crime-reading life with their books, I gave myself a framework for when I began to write. Every topic I’ve mentioned above is contained within what I’ve written in my traditional Cait Morgan Mysteries. So, there’s that…

Nowadays I try hard to read works by authors I have met and come to know – and I have to admit I am not sure how much that reading influences me. I suspect it does in that it marks out for me what “their territory” is…and allows me to see what’s working well in the marketplace and how good writing sells. I’m always trying to learn, and, while I believe there’s a lot to be learned from authors who were working many decades ago, I am also sure there’s a great deal I can learn from those who are writing today. 

With Sue Grafton - a living inspiration!
An example here would be the work of Sue Grafton; I think it was the Kinsey Millhone books that allowed me to understand the different way that a “Golden Age” book (be it about the sleuth Miss Marple or the PI Poirot) vs a “modern” book about a professional investigator can and should work. Let’s be honest, we never get the feeling that Poirot is taking on a case because he needs the business – I know he has Miss Lemon to organize his correspondence and immaculate filing system, and that he is commissioned to take cases but, rather like the Sherlock Holmes tradition, we’re aware of Poirot “picking” his cases rather than having to do something to allow him to pay the bills (for Poirot aficionados, yes, I know there are a couple of times where the state of his bank account means he takes a case he might have allowed to pass him by, but that’s not his usual motivation). Kinsey Millhone is a true professional, and her “cases” often build from seemingly innocent/slightly boring or uninspiring beginnings. That’s how my WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries work – with my four professional private investigators taking on a case – after the proper signing of contracts, of course – which leads them somewhere they never expected. Of course, Kinsey's in the USA in the 1980s and my WISE women are in Wales today, know. So there’s that…

This is a bit like peeling an onion…I know I have never, ever, set out to "copy" the style/shape of another author's work, but there must be innumerable ways in which what I read fifty years ago (Enid Blyton’s “Secret Seven” books) or fifty days ago (Elly Griffiths’ “The Crossing Places”) has and will influence me – be that in a turn of phrase, or an entire structure for a character/tale/series. Maybe I’ll never really know where certain inspirations come from, and maybe that’s for the best; I’d like to believe I’ve come up with some of the stuff I write all on my own, you see!

Cathy Ace is the Bony Blithe Award-winning author of The Cait Morgan Mysteries (#8 The Corpse with the Ruby Lips was released on November 1st) and The WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries (#3, The Case of the Curious Cook, was released in hardcover in the UK on November 30th and in the USA & Canada on March 1st).  You can find out more about Cathy, her work and her characters at her website, where you can also sign up for her newsletter with news, updates and special offers:

Monday, March 20, 2017

Inspiring Writers

Q: What authors particularly inspire you? Do you read them when you are working on a book?

-by Susan

I fall back to Jane Austen when I’m pushed to say who really influences my writing. That combination of wry wit, social satire with deft and utterly believable characterization gets me every time. How is it that every time I read one of her novels, I am caught up in a drama whose ending I know as well as I know the names of my children? To me, it’s magic. I’m not sure how she does it, but I reread her books to catch the sparks and to remind myself that dialogue has to sound real without being real, if you know what I mean.

One recent novel that I love has some of those elements. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows is an epistolary novel, itself a kind of throwback to another era, and the author (Shaffer wrote it and her niece Barrows helped whip it into shape when Ms. Shaffer became too ill to see it through to publication) tells her World War II tale through the voices of a handful of individuals whose correspondence brings them together. The uniqueness of each letter writer, and the way they carry the story forward so smoothly is something I aspire to get right some day.

Tim Hallinan’s series about a man named Poke Rafferty who lives in Thailand and has created a family of people I love almost as much as the protagonist does appeals to me as a writer. The affection he writes into his portrayals of the young characters is only one of the reasons Tim is considered a writer’s writer. (His Bangkok is hot and steamy, corrupt and exotic.) Poke is a rounded character, softened by his love for the vulnerable people he’s drawn to protect. I hope to create some of that warmth in my own work.

There are others, authors and books that do something so well that I want to hang onto the experience and try to do it my way in my stories. But I don’t deliberately dig out a book when I’m writing as if it were a primer. I’m not trying to copy or mimic them so much as incorporate what I got from reading them into my own voice. I read all the time, even when I’m in the midst of a manuscript, but so broadly that it’s hard to say there’s a direct influence. When I’m deeply tangled in plot issues, I read non-fiction, though, because I can only keep so many balls in the air – or my brain – at one time.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Kid, you’ll move mountains!

by Dietrich

Who is the first person who encouraged you to be a writer?

I realized the magic of words as soon as I learned to read. It was Dr. Seuss and the Grimms and when I got a bit older I read every Hardy Boys’ story cover to cover. And I guess I wanted to write like Franklin W. Dixon. Books transported me to other places and times: Last of the Mohicans, Call of the Wild, Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island and lots more. Then later it became Steinbeck, Keroauc, Salinger and Kesey; and once I got a taste for crime novels it became Leonard, Higgins and McBain. 

I took a few stabs at writing some fiction over the years; the first time when I was in my teens. I wrote a draft of a novel in longhand, but there were the usual youthful distractions, and I eventually gave up on it. But, I knew then it was something that I wanted to do – someday. And a dozen years later, I got around to writing a few short stories and even drafted another novel, but I balled up most of the pages and tossed them in the bin as soon after I wrote them. Still, I kept thinking that someday I’d write. And here and there I’d try my hand at a short story. I submitted a couple of the early ones and when one was accepted that encouraged me to keep writing more. It wasn’t necessarily crime fiction back then, that just kind of happened over time. One thing I didn’t realize then was that I was slowly finding my voice as I kept cranking out words and tossing pages in the bin, but the desire was there, and so I stuck to it.

So back to the question, who was the first person to encourage me to be a write? Occasionally I’d get a nice note from an editor at the various publications that I submitted my short stories to, and once I got some suggestions from a lit agent who liked a couple sample chapters I submitted. All of that and the desire to write kept me going, but it was really my wife who made the biggest difference. She convinced me to really get into it, something I had been talking about for a very long time by this point. So, I dove in and started writing full time, every day, morning till night. And after a while, I thought one of the short stories I cranked out was pretty good. And when I reread it the next day, I didn’t ball it up and toss it in the bin. I submitted it and it was accepted, and I got another nice note from an editor. It didn’t hit me then, but I had stumbled on my voice, and that same short story also sparked the idea for my first novel; so, I started writing a few scenes of what would become Ride the Lightning. When I had a polished draft, I submitted it to the same New York agent who had sent those words of encouragement, and I also sent the manuscript to a publisher in Toronto who had a couple of mystery authors whose work I really liked, and I hoped my stuff might be a good fit. I never heard back from the agent, but a few weeks later I got a letter of acceptance from Jack David, the publisher at ECW Press. After doing a spit-take, I reread his note a couple times, then I called to my wife in the other room … 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Changing Projects in Midstream

Craft: Have you ever stopped abruptly and taken up a different project and never gone back to the old one?

by Paul D. Marks

Before I get to this week’s question, a little BSP. I’m thrilled to announce that my short story, “Ghosts of Bunker Hill,” was voted #1 in the 2016 Ellery Queen Readers Poll. In fact, I’m blown away. I want to thank everyone who voted for it! And I’m tempted to give Sally Field a run for her money and say, “You like me, you really like me,” or at least my story 😉. If you’d like to read it (and maybe consider it for other awards) you can read it free on my website: 

And now to the question at hand:

Yes. The battlefield of writerdom or is that writer-dumb is littered with the debris of the war of words. Ideas are so much easier to come by than a finished property. So sometimes you think an idea is worth pursuing and begin working on it only to find that it doesn’t build up a full head of steam, at least not enough of one to get it to the finish point. Or sometimes you’re in the middle of a spec project and another idea comes along that you spark to even more. And sometimes a paid gig comes along and that takes precedence over anything. There are a million reasons why one might abandon a project before it’s done. But mostly I never consider it abandoned forever. Pretty much everything is there to be gone back to at some time…if you live long enough.

Maybe it’s easier for “outliners” than “pantsters” to know if they’ll make the slog through to the end of a project. After all, if they do a fairly complete outline they’ll know how the story is going to go and pretty much whether or not it will work and has the legs to make it to the finish line. But us pansters don’t know the whole story ahead of time. We work it as we go so we might sometimes find that it doesn’t work as well as we thought when we came up with the idea.

So, the answer to the question is yes, I’ve dropped projects in the middle for a variety of reasons. Sometimes I’ve just lost the inspiration. Sometimes something wasn’t working. Or another idea came along that I was more hot to trot about. Or a paying gig.

One early novel that’s been abandoned for ages had actually been picked up by a major publisher. Then that publishing house did a clean sweep of its editorial department and my novel was swept out with them. I might have taken it to another publisher after that, except it was a satire and a lot of the humor in it was dated and I just never got around to tweaking it because so many other things came up in the meantime. But I still think about it and it’s in my head to go back to it someday, so it isn’t really dead…I hope. Sometimes things were abandoned because of the “great minds think alike” theory or at least steal alike. I had a couple of screenplays that were making the rounds and eventually similar stories were produced. Now it may be that great minds think alike, but in the two cases I’m particularly thinking of it seems to me that my scripts had been to the producers who eventually did the similar projects. Coincidence? Maybe. But someday I might pull them out of mothballs and see what I can do with them.

Another thing is I have some screenplays that were optioned over and over but ultimately didn’t make it to the silver screen. They’re sort of abandoned, but one of these days I might just turn them into novels. So maybe they’re not abandoned after all.

It’s hard to give up on a project. It’s like giving up on a child who’s an underachiever. Hopefully that child will ultimately achieve the things you hoped they’d achieve and ditto for the story that you abandoned. Maybe you’ll go back to it in time and make it work. On the other hand if your child turns out to be a serial killer you might just want to abandon him forever, same with a story that’s not behaving.

Going back to a story that you’ve left happens often. Even after a story is done and sent out. If it’s rejected it might sit for some time but eventually I might go back to it and try to give it some CPR.

Few stories are truly worth abandoning altogether. But that doesn’t mean my computer isn’t littered with stories started and not completed for the reasons stated above. It’s just that sometimes other things take precedence for those reasons and I just don’t have time to go back to an earlier story. And sometimes they just run out of steam, both on the page and in my head [no comments, please 😏 ].

So, while I might have moved on from a particular project here and there, ultimately there are really no abandoned projects, at least for me.

And now for the usual BSP:

Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea is available at and Down & Out Books.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

West Highland No Way

 “Have you ever stopped abruptly, taken up a different project and never gone back to the old one?” by Catriona

Oh yes. And I know exactly why too.

I had written Dandy Gilver novels set in Kirkcudbrightshire, Queensferry, Fife, Perthshire, Edinburgh, Dunfermline, Wigtownshire, Moffat. (See map and never wonder why I'm a writer, not a cartographer.)

Why does this look like a lost Simpsons character?

Then someone asked why Dandy had never been in the West Highlands - the bit above the dotted line. Good question and I had no answer. Why not do it then? They asked. Again, I had no answer. And at this point, it seemed like a great idea that had come to me as a free gift. So next time I was home in Scotland I went to the West Highlands - Applecross in Wester Ross, to be exact - and sat on a tussock in the drizzle for a few days trying to think up a story.

I scraped up a posh family, a big house, a secret and a crime and went home to California to write it.

Well. It was like shovelling concrete just a wee bit slower than it's setting. The people were dull, the house was a blank, the secret bored even me and the crime never happened.

About 30,000 words in I gave up. It was a scary moment. The book deadline was looming and I had no idea what else to write about. But I tried to forget the folly of thinking I could force a story to happen in a place because someone suggested it and just let the "process" that had never let me down before work its magic again.

I stared out the window. I flipped through memoirs and diaries from the thirties. I  flipped through Scottish Pictorial Annuals of 1932 (the year I was up to in the series). I went for walks. I thought about stuff. I watched Youtube videos. 

And the Youtube videos worked. Well, okay, the Youtube videos of X-files out-takes did nothing, but the Youtube videos of Strictly Come Dancing (UK DWTS) touched against the snippet of news from the Pictorials about the explosion of dance halls in Glasgow in the 1930s and FSST! There was a spark and DANDY GILVER AND THE DANSE RATHER MACABRE (w/t) was born. 

The working title didn't survive

That was 2014 and so far I haven't felt any desire to go back to Applecross and blow the dust of those characters. But I never say never. Except if I'm saying whether I'll ever let anyone suggest where I should set a book. In which case: NEVER!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Finisher-completer Cathy Ace

“Craft: Have you ever stopped abruptly and taken up a different project and never gone back to the old one?”

First of all, an apology and a warning…I’m sick and feeling sorry for myself; having nursed Husband through a nasty head cold, he thanked me profusely then had the temerity to infect me. I hate head colds – few things make me feel as incapable of thought as having to breathe through my mouth making a horrible wheezing sound with each ragged, heaving intake. UGH!

So, my short answer to this week’s question is no, I haven’t left an unfinished project behind; I’m a goal-oriented completer-finisher…the idea of leaving something half-done or unfinished fills me with dread. 
Everything traditionally published (to March 2017)

Sometimes that’s annoying, other times it helps when the going gets tough – like this week, when I really could have done with a total rest, but know I’m on the road so much between next week and the end of June that I have to get ahead or I’ll never catch up, so I’m sitting here working my way through a box of Kleenex and tapping away. It’s weird what we do when we’re sick, isn’t it? (I also have an insane craving for bread and butter with lashings of Marmite  – something my dulled taste buds will be able to detect…but that’s not your problem. Luckily I have a squeezable container of Marmite in the cupboard, so I can give myself closure on that count, PHEW!)

Soon to be re-written
A Post Script about returning to previously completed projects: later this year I’ll be rewriting my first two self-published books – MURDER: Month by Month (a collection of twelve short and not-so-short stories) and MURDER: Season by Season (a collection of four novella). They contain within them the “genesis” stories for both my Cait Morgan Mysteries and The WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries. I’m looking forward to looking back – they’ll need to be totally overhauled because I hope I’ve developed as a writer over the course of creating twelve novels (with eleven of them already published). It should be an interesting process, and I hope readers will be engaged by the idea of finding out how Cait first met Bud, and how the WISE women became just that. 

Now I need to get myself that Marmite-y snack, then lie down in a dark room and make gentle groaning sounds…I wish the dogs had opposable thumbs, then they could be much more useful when I’m poorly and it’s snowing and the snow shovel is calling my name. Hey – I warned you – these are the ramblings of a feverish crime writer…you’re lucky only Marmite and snow shovels wormed their way into this piece. 

Cathy Ace is the Bony Blithe Award-winning author of The Cait Morgan Mysteries (#8 The Corpse with the Ruby Lips was released on November 1st) and The WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries (#3, The Case of the Curious Cook, was released in hardcover in the UK on November 30th and in the USA & Canada on March 1st).  You can find out more about Cathy, her work and her characters at her website, where you can also sign up for her newsletter with news, updates and special offers: