Archive for April, 2007
April 26, 2007
This time, as I promised (since Hotclue is now in Cannes but promises to return next week) I’m interviewing author Scarlett Dean, whom I’ve known for some time and who is one of the rising stars in the mystery field. But let’s let her tell you all about herself.
BA: Morning, Scarlett! Glad to have you aboard Hotclue Live. How about first telling us all about your new book. When is it out, what’s the title, where does it take place, what’s it about, who’s your publisher, where can we buy it?
SD: My new book with Five Star Publishing, INVISIBLE SHIELD will be available to order through bookstores and amazon.com on April 30. It’s a paranormal mystery involving a female homicide detective in N.W. Indiana who has to solve her own murder.
BA: I hope a lot of people buy it! How did you get your idea for this particular book? It certainly is unique and I was wowed when I read it. Talk about an original concept, and the execution was terrific!
SD: I’m not sure what triggered it, but I remember thinking, “What if a homicide detective had to solve her own murder?” Shortly afterward, the main character, Lindsay Frost, came to me and I knew I had to write her story.
BA: Good thing you did or she would have haunted you forever. Was it a struggle to write your first actual mystery, or did you just kick back and have fun with it?
SD: Although my books are primarily paranormal or horror, they all have a mystery of some sort. So it wasn’t a difficult switch to move to a book that is primarily a mystery with paranormal elements.
BA: I can believe that. I felt, when I read it, that you had definitely come into your own as well as invented your own genre. What was the hardest part of writing it?
SD: I don’t recall any part of the book as difficult to write. The characters were so clear in my mind that it felt like the story wrote itself. I had so much fun it really wasn’t work at all.
BA: It does read as though you were having loads of fun writing it. That was the first thing I noticed when I read it and I loved that. How about giving us a couple of excerpts from your favorite pre-publication reviews?
SD: “A provocative series kickoff that may inaugurate a new subgenre, the paranormal police procedural…Kirkus Reviews.” And “An exhilarating mystery with a paranormal twist. Dean has created a fascinating afterlife, and Lindsay’s journey through it kept me turning the pages…Kelly Armstrong, author of Women of the Otherworld Series.”
BA: Great reviews, especially the Kirkus one, since they do seem to love slicing and dicing at times. Are you going to continue with horror, or stick with mystery for a while?
SD: I’ve already written the follow up to INVISIBLE SHIELD and I have an idea for a standalone horror novel.
BA: I’ve read the follow up too, folks, and it’s every bit as good and as much fun to read as the first in this series. You’re really on a heckuva roll, Scarlett. What other books have you had published?
SD: My first three books were with Amber Quill Press :
UNFINISHED BUSINESS (Paranormal) A used furniture salesman discovers it’s not the house that’s haunted, but the furnishings inside.
DESTINY’S CALL (Dark Romantic Fantasy) DNA researcher, Dr. Arianne Brasov must find a way to reverse her vampire curse through DNA manipulation or be forced to join her family’s dark reign forever.
THE ACADEMY (Horror) When a demon takes up residence at the Knollwood Academy for boys, the students learn the ultimate lesson in fear.
BA: Tell us about your background and what started you writing.
SD: I’ve always loved reading and eventually wrote short stories as a teen. I started writing seriously about sixteen years ago and find I’m happiest when I’m in the middle of a book.
BA: Ha! You left out that you published a magazine for a while. (With a mind like she has, who knows what all she’s left out, folks.) 😉 How does your family feel about your new career, Scarlett?
SD: I’m fortunate in that they’ve all been incredibly supportive.
BA: That you definitely are! What was your low point during all this ‘getting published’ thing?
SD: When I realized I had enough rejection slips to wallpaper my kitchen. Then Amber Quill Press took a chance on me with UNFINISHED BUSINESS.
BA: Your rejection wallpapering days are over forever, we hope. So what was your high point?
SD: When a cancer patient told me she read my book when she was up at night unable to sleep, and it took her mind off of her discomfort.
BA: That IS wonderful to hear. Makes it all worthwhile, in my humble opinion. (Although when was I ever humble?) Do you have hobbies that keep you sane while you’re writing?
SD: Not really. Writing is what keeps me sane. I do work out regularly to keep the circulation going, taking advantage of the time to troubleshoot plot kinks.
BA: (I’m glad she thinks she’s sane, heh heh heh.) Please describe your writing room, or where you write most of the time, and how you write–are you a plotter or a pantser?
SD: For years I wrote in my home office, but no matter how many Johnny Depp posters I put up, it was still the same four walls. So over the past year I’ve been able to write in different areas of the house, (except my teenage son’s room–I’m not that brave), using a laptop. My muse is much happier. As for how I write, I’d say I’m a vague plotter. Every story starts out with “What if?”, and then I start seeing a vague, or simplified plot come to life. After that, the characters lead the way. I know there are certain things that have to happen in the story, but how I get there isn’t generally planned.
BA: Do you have any time-honored or weird traditions that you feel you MUST do while you’re writing? (Like, mine is, I can’t write with my shoes on.)
SD: I don’t know about things I MUST do when I’m writing, but I’ve learned what I SHOULDN’T do–cook. I always burn the green beans when I put them on to simmer and go write. It’s happened so often it’s a standing joke in my house. But in my opinion, burned beans are a sign that I’m in the zone.
BA: We all hope you visit that zone often and don’t forget about the green beans, or else try the microwave, that might work out a little better for your family. 😉 What are your plans for the future?
SD: I’d like to travel, in part for pleasure, and also for research for future books.
BA: Last question in my endless quest to probe the minds of writers and other oddities: Do you have any hints for upcoming writers? What do you think is the most important thing for them to do or learn as they’re trying to break in?
SD: Be a reader first. It will help develop your writer’s voice. Also, don’t take rejection personally. Learn from it, if possible.
BA: Good advice and I couldn’t agree more. Thank you, Scarlett! Be seeing you on the Bestseller lists!
Folks, if you’d like to learn more about Scarlett, her website is at Scarlett Dean.com .
Come back again next week, please. Hotclue SWEARS she’ll be back to liven up your life a little and I’m not letting her get away again for a while. That is, unless she really wants to. Y’all know how she is, the little twerp. We love you all, you KNOW we do!
Beth and Hotclue and Sarge, who will soon be dispensing her brand new Fur Ball of the Week. Stay tuned!
April 23, 2007
A Couple of Things
Most all authors in the mystery field have, by this time, learned that one of our own fairly young authors, Elaine Viets, suffered a stroke almost on the eve of publication of her new book, Murder with Reservations: A Dead-End Job Mystery. You’ve probably heard of her. Her website is here: http://www.elaineviets.com and I urge you to visit it.
Elaine is at home in south Florida, recuperating, and one of her main concerns right now is that she won’t be able to tour, as she usually does, to meet and greet fans new and old. Elaine has had at least a dozen books in her two mystery series and is wildly popular with her fans. Because she’s ours, in a sense, we’d like to help her.
Since authors tend to respond when one of us develops major troubles, a lot of us are either going to add her books when we tour, or at signings, or what I’m doing here today, asking you to support her by buying Murder With Reservations either at your local bookstore or it can always be ordered through online bookstores.
I’d like to add my request to this, and invite all my fans who like fun, fascinating mysteries with characters you’d love to have in your own lives (except for the killers, of course) to consider buying her book. I’d appreciate that and it would really help her as she recuperates.
To aid and abet you, here’s a short blurb on Murder With Reservations:
The young couple looked like inept burglars sneaking through the lobby of Sybil’s Full Moon Hotel in Fort Lauderdale. They were both dressed in black, which made them stand out against the white marble. At their wedding two days ago, they’d been slim, golden and graceful, trailing ribbons and rose petals through the hotel.
Now they moved with the awkward stiffness of amateur actors trying to look natural. The bride’s black crop top exposed a midsection sliding from sexy to sloppy fat. The groom’s black T-shirt and Bermudas failed the test for cool. They were boxy rather than baggy. He looked like a Grand Rapids priest on vacation.
The honeymooners avoided the brown plastic grocery bag swinging between them, carefully ignoring it as it bumped and scraped their legs. That screamed, “Look at me.” They stashed the bag behind a potted palm while they waited for the elevator.
“Red alert,” Sondra at the front desk said into her walkie-talkie. She was calling Denise, the head housekeeper. “The honeymoon couple just passed with a suspicious grocery bag. They’re getting out on the third floor.”
Sounds like a lot of fun, doesn’t it! It will be, I promise you. I do hope you’ll help Elaine out with her sorta kinda virtual tour and buy a copy.
Thank you, all of you!
Just to catch you up, Hotclue is still vacationing. Last I heard she was in St. Moritz, either skiing or not. I know on those skiing trips she seems particularly fond of the sushi bars, or just plain bars, actually, so I don’t know if you’ll find her truly skiing or not but I’m sure she’ll tell us about it when she returns sometime next week.
Meantime, my daughter did get married on April 7th. To show you just how thick blood is, her wedding invitations said, in part, 4/7 at 4:07 in the afternoon. Only a kid of mine would do that, but at exactly 4:07 that afternoon, with all of us standing out on their balcony in thirty degree weather (yes, she actually did the deed outside), overlooking a beautiful lake, the bride walked down the aisle, which was actually one of their stone walkways, and there she legally and publicy and, I might add, ecstatically, gave her heart and soul to the most adorable man I’ve met in a long time, and he gave his to her.
It was a beautiful, emotion-packed wedding, not a dry eye in the house – er – balcony, after which we had a gorgeous reception (inside, thank God) full of gourmet food – are you ready for this – Made By The Groom! that even Emeril couldn’t outdo, champagne punch, and much, much wine. Then we ran them out of the house so the family could take over every bedroom in the place. 😉
At that point I’m sure they were glad to get away from us. I sure would have been. In all honesty I did tried to talk them into taking me along, but for some reason they declined.
That’s it for the moment, folks. This coming weekend I’m going to post an interview with a young author I’ve known a long time, Scarlett Dean, who does her best to live up to the name.
Scarlett started out writing horror, but just broke out of those ranks and into mystery with her new book, which you DON’T EVEN want to miss.
See you again in a few days. Love y’all, you know I do, and so does my alter ego, Hotclue, who had better get back home soon. I miss her and I know y’all do too.
April 5, 2007
DUKIN’ IT OUT / HEY, WHERE’S THE CONFLICT?
I think we need to have a little talk about conflict, what it is and what it’s not, in fiction, so here goes.
First, there are two different kinds of conflict, as editors speak of it. There’s outer conflict, the things people other than your protags do, and events that happen that cause problems FOR your protags. Things like in-laws, kids, snowstorms, hurricanes, tornados, sinking ships, biting dogs, money. The list goes on and on. All of these conflicts are caused by someone else or conditions beyond the control of your protags, but which affect them just the same.
It’s often confusing for new writers when an editor says their book lacks conflict, because most often the editors are talking about inner conflict, the thing deep inside your protags, both of them, that drive the way they think, the way they feel, the things they do. These are things deep inside their own psyches with the roots in their childhoods that become firmly embedded in their minds without either of them realizing it, causing more often than not irrational responses to something the other protag has done. THAT is the conflict book editors are looking for.
The reason editors are looking for internal conflict is because internal conflict is what keeps people wanting to read, to see what happens. Put another way, to see if your protags will win whatever it is they’re looking for. Without internal conflict, it’s just another blah story.
The reason people who are reading your book want conflict is because they want something to take them out of their lives and into the protag’s lives, and nice-nice doesn’t cut it. People don’t want conflict in their own lives, but they do want it in the books they read because without it, the book is boring. As I said in one of my workshops, they want these things to happen to your protags because it’s not them, it’s people in a book. Readers don’t want to have to solve major problems in their own lives, but they love to read about them in others’ lives. They. Want. Conflict.
Take the Anna Nicole Smith debacle, for instance. Try to imagine a life (and death) more conflicted than that one. There’s the lawyer. There’s the boyfriend. There’s all the other boyfriends. There’s her mother. There’s the baby. There’s the court. There’s the money, big money. ALL conflicts.
But guess what. They’re all external conflicts. Each one of those people could be anybody else and it wouldn’t matter one little bit in the grand scheme of things, therefore they’re not that important, are they? Aggravating, yes, but vitally important?
Guess what else again. Anna Nicole’s conflicts, the real ones that drove her life and ultimately her death, were all internal conflicts. What made her the way she was? What caused all the bad choices in her life? What made her so desparate for approval, anybody’s approval, that she’d outdo herself every time in her bid for attention? Why did she need that attention so badly? Why, eventually, did she think she needed so many drugs?
Not one of those things depended on any of those other people I mentioned earlier. The people were all, every one of them, props in her life, but whatever drove her actions every time came from deep inside of Anna Nicole’s mind, and nobody else’s.
Think about it.
Let’s take another example. A man and a woman are planning a wedding. (I have weddings on my mind right now because my daughter is getting married this weekend and yes, I DID find a beautiful outfit, thank you for asking.) (But please note, this is an imaginary bride and groom we’re going to talk about now.)
The bride has been looking for the perfect gown for months and can’t settle on one. The groom is getting frustrated with the whole gown thing and out of the goodness of his heart, goes out shopping himself. Since he knows she’s a perfect size eight, he finds a beautiful one, buys it and brings it home to her.
It really is a beautiful dress. Anybody would love it. Victorian in style, elegant in cut, just the right amount of pearls on the off-white satin. The perfect style for her because she’s small, elegant, and a bit old-fashioned. She wears many vintage outfits, which match her own style perfectly. He’s very proud of himself, spent a lot of money on it, opens the box and…
She freaks out, starts crying, cancels the wedding and heads for Jamaica, alone. Very alone.
The gown had a bit of lace on the bosom, beautiful off-white lace, the perfect lace for that dress. It’s also the same lace that was on the dress on her grandmother at her own funeral.
Sounds silly, doesn’t it. Well, maybe it sounds silly, BUT she loved her grandmother very much, spent summers with her all through her childhood and still has nightmares about the funeral and still sees that lace, that cursed lace, which she has never told her groom-to-be.
Now to add to the conflict, THIS lace is why the groom bought THIS dress because it reminds him of his mother’s wedding gown. He loves his mother, which is fine, he should, and he really wants his wife-to-be to wear THAT dress with THAT EXACT lace. (He probably shouldn’t have told the bride that’s why he bought it, but he did because he loves his mother and wants to honor her.)
See what I’m getting at?
This may sound like a silly conflict, but it’s deep, deep internal conflict just the same and it has directly affected their wedding and their entire future, and will continue to do so until they resolve it. (And probably buy another dress sans lace.) But they can’t do that until they face their own inner conflicts and realize how deeply such a small thing has affected both of them.
It’s often (but not always) the little things that make up inner conflicts, and we usually don’t even realize they’re inside us until something happens to crack that thin protective shell and then Whammo!, there you go, instant panic and explosion.
I’ve read, and I believe, that there should be some kind of conflict on every page, or at least some indication of it. Conflict keeps the reader reading. That doesn’t mean they have to be fighting all the time, but each protag should very much want something they’re having a hard time getting at all times, in every scene.
That’s internal conflict.
It can be personal, it can be sexual, it can be almost anything but it has to be there or your reader will get bored and stop reading.
Make SURE your book is full of conflict.
That’s it for this week, folks, Hots and I are heading downstate day after tomorrow for The Wedding, and very happy to be doing so because we adore our son-in-law-to-be and we adore the bride, who chose her own wedding outfit herself and it sounds gorgeous. We’ll tell you all about it next week.
Meantime, we love you all, you KNOW we do, and we thank you so much for coming. Please come back soon. We’ll leave the light on for you.
Beth and Hotclue, who did, as a matter of fact, fight over the outfit we bought and I won because Hotclue wanted the leopard print one. (No, I’m not kidding, there was thirty minutes of indecision over the two outfits.) I almost, but didn’t, give in. Hotclue is just a little miffed because now she has to settle for cream and just a touch of black. Perfect for me, not at all what she wanted to wear, but sometimes, ya know, ya just gotta crack down. 😉