Thursday, March 16, 2023

Guest Post, by Liz Milliron

Catriona writes: It's lovely to welcome back a good friend of the blog, Liz Milliron, who is celebrating the launch of her fourth Homefornt mystery - THE TRUTH WE TELL. I'm a huge fan of this beguiling series about blue-collar hero Betty Ahern in 1940s Buffalo. By day Betty does her bit for the war effort in an aircraft engineering works, by night she sleuths; hence the "Sam Spade meets Rosie the Riveter" log line! 

Just like Betty, Liz is pitching right in today, answering the question of the week, about the best and (for bonus points) worst writing advice.


And now, Liz Milliron

Thanks, Catriona, for having me back on Criminal Minds.

Advice. There’s a saying or a song lyric out there about free advice. Something about it being worth what you paid for it. Unfortunately – fortunately? – there’s a smorgasbord of advice to choose from when you are an author. No matter what point in your career you’re at, someone has an opinion.

My grandfather had a saying about those, too, but this is a G-rated blog.

The best advice I ever received wasn’t actually directed at me, personally. It came from author Jonathan Maberry. He of the Joe Ledger series, some comics, an epic fantasy Kagen the Damned, and a bunch of other things. Yeah, not my genre, right? I met him a couple of times at the Pennwriters conference. Pennwriters is another writing organization I belong to, a multi-genre one for Pennsylvania writers. They have an annual conference which is one of the best for your buck if you are trying to make a career out of this writing gig.

But I digress (slightly).

Jonathan was the keynote speaker several years ago at that conference. In his speech, he said, “Writers do best with their own species.”

Now, if you aren’t a writer, you might think he’s saying we writers aren’t quite human. And since he writes both sci-fi and fantasy, hey, that’s a valid thought. But that isn’t what he meant.

His point is that writers need other writers. In other words, “find your tribe.” If you’re a writer, that means your tribe is, well, other writers (duh). You may have many tribes, but one of them ought to be writers. Otherwise, well, it’s a lonely, lonely world out there as you battle rejections, smaller-than-expected royalty checks, tiny turnouts at events…you get the picture.

But if you have a tribe, there are other people to commiserate with, give pep talks, buy you another drink, whatever you need. Maybe it’s a genre-specific tribe (this is where I give a special shout out to Sisters in Crime, but there are others for crime fiction authors). If you write sci-fi/fantasy, there’s an organization for you. Ditto romance. Same for children’s authors.

Again, you get the picture.

Or maybe it’s a multi-genre group, such as Pennwriters. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter.

Just get together with your own species.

Bonus points: Worst advice

I’m sorry, Stephen King. I really am. I know he’s adored by legions and his book, On Writing, is a must-have for writers. But I’m going to take umbrage with “Never use adverbs.” Actually, I will expand that to any advice that includes the words never or always.

I’m just not a fan of absolutes because it rarely applies to everyone. Adverbs are a fine piece of language. Just use them wisely, okay? And not everyone has the luxury of writing every day. I have one of those pesky “day jobs” and sometimes I’m too spent. (Although it does a fine job of paying those other pesky things called “bills,” so I won’t complain too much.)

So, I’d have to say the worst advice I ever got is anything that includes an absolute.

Except when it comes to personal hygiene. Always wash your hands after using the bathroom.

Liz Milliron is the author of The Laurel Highlands Mysteries, set in the scenic Laurel highalnds and The Homefront Mysteries, set in Buffalo NY during the early years of World War II. She is a member of Pennwriters, Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers and The Historical Novel Society. She is the current vice-president of the Pittsburgh chapter of Sisters in Crime and is on the National Board as the Education Liaison.  Liz splits her time between Pittsburgh and the Laurel Highlands, where she lives with her husband and a very spoiled retired-racer greyhound.

May 1943. Betty Ahern is studying for her private investigator’s license when a new client—Edward Kettle—hires her to clear his name after he was dismissed from his job at the American Shipbuilding Company. When Edward is brutally murdered, the dead man’s sister hires Betty to finish the original job and find the killer. The job hurls Betty back into the world of wartime espionage, but with a twist ... Betty must unravel the mystery, uncovering truths that others would prefer to keep hidden despite threats to her morals her beliefs, and her life.


Liz Milliron said...

Thanks for hosting me, Catriona!

Josh Stallings said...

YES! Never ever give me absolutes or I am sure try to prove them wrong,. Just my contrary nature I guess. Thanks for great answers.

Liz Milliron said...

Josh, you sound like me. "Don't tell me what to do or not do." LOL

Susan C Shea said...

Welcome, Liz, and I agree with the "never say never" advice!

Annette said...

Excellent advice, Liz!

Catriona McPherson said...

Sorry for the slacking on hosting. I am at Left Coast with a long day of "work". Currently in the best debut panel. Liz, we need to up our game because these baby writers are scary good!

Liz Milliron said...

Susan & Annette, thanks.

Catriona, always a new challenge, right?