Archive for June, 2011
June 26, 2011
Mystery We Write Blog Tour 2011 Presents Jean Henry Mead
Jean Henry Mead is a mystery/suspense and western historical novelist. She’s also an award-winning photojournalist. One of her fortes is interviewing writers, actors, politicians, artists and ordinary people who have accomplished extraordinary things. She began her writing career as a California news reporter/editor/photographer, first in Central California and later in San Diego. Mead transferred to Casper, Wyoming, to serve as a staff writer for the statewide newspaper. While there she served as editor of In Wyoming Magazine and two small presses. She also freelanced for other publications, both domestic and abroad, among them the Denver Post’s Empire Magazine. Her first book was published in 1982.
Visit her sites:
Mysterious Writers: http://mysteriouspeople.blogspot.com/
Writers of the West: http://writersofthewest.blogspot.com/
Murderous Musings: http://murderousmusings.blogspot.com/
Make Mine Mystery: http://makeminemystery.blogspot.com/
I would like to add something here. Jean Henry Mead has a secret known only to a select few, so just between you and me, if you promise not to tell, I’ll let you in on her secret.
Jean Henry Mead is quintuplets. Without a doubt, she is. She has to be, to do all of the things she does, and do them simultaneously, it appears. Just look at all of her sites above! That’s enough to boggle my mind! I can’t imagine taking care of so many various sites AND write AND prepare blogs for a blog tour. I’ve heard it said she even has blogs within her blogs, or attached to them, and I believe it although plodder that I am, I can’t even find enough time to search them all out but I bet they’re out there. I knew she was quintuplets when I saw that in addition to all of that, she was moving right in the middle of it! And in addition to all THAT, she also travels a lot, which is how her new book came about:
And here’s a sample of Jean’s general writing knowledge, but I guarantee you, just a sample:
Mistakes Aspiring Writers Make
by Jean Henry Mead
It’s often difficult for novices to break the writing habits they’ve learned in school. Perfect grammar, especially when writing dialogue, is one of the worst mistakes a writer can make. I was once a member of an online critique group comprised mainly of unpublished writers. I’ll never forget a critique that said, “You need to clean up your characters’ grammar.” The characters were uneducated farmers.
Author William Noble said, “The grammar rules we learned in eighth grade should never be followed absolutely. At best they are one choice among several, and at worst, they will dampen our creative instincts.”
The use of clichés is another fledgling blunder. The rule of thumb is: if it sounds familiar, don’t use it. If you can’t come up with something original and your muse is tugging you on, type in a row of Xs and write it later during the second draft. But if you must use a cliché, add the word proverbial as in “as profitable as the proverbial golden goose.”
Of course there are rules that must be followed, such as adding commas for clarity and periods at the end of sentences. Some writers have felt that innovative sentence structure signals creativity, but the practice is only acceptable now in poetry. In Ulysses, for example, James Joyce’s last chapter begins with:
“Yes, because he never did a thing like that before as ask to get his breakfast in bed with a couple of eggs since the City Arms hotel when he used to be pretending to be laid up with a sick voice doing his highness to make himself interesting to that old faggot Mrs. Riordan that he thought he had a great leg of and she never left us a farthing all for the masses for herself and her soul greatest miser ever. . .”
Joyce’s stream of conscience continues for forty pages without a single period. I wonder how many people actually read it to the end. Creative and innovative? In my opinion, anything that slows the reader for even a few words may cause him to abandon the book.
On the opposite end of the sentence spectrum, Hemingway taught novices to write declarative sentences: “The day had been hot.” “The rifle was long and cold and strange.” “She wore black shoes, a red cape and a white tunic. . .” However, short, choppy sentences must be interspersed with longer ones to make them read well. A good practice for beginning writers is to read one’s work aloud to avoid clumsy phrasing. If words don’t flow well together and your reader stumbles over them, you’ve lost her.
Reading the classics doesn’t really prepare aspiring authors to write for today’s market. I’ve judged writing contest entries that contain the most formal language I’ve seen since reading War and Peace. Some fledglings avoid contractions entirely, even when writing dialogue. The result is stilted language.
Studying the bestsellers for style, content, description and characterization helps the beginner gain a handhold in the current market. Some writing teachers advise copying your favorite author’s work, as artists have done with the masters—as long as it’s only practice and doesn’t result in plagiarism.
I learned to write fiction by studying the work of Dean Koontz. Whose writing have you studied and did it teach you the language of fiction?
That’s a great writeup, Jean, and a really thought-provoking question. I hope our readers this week will have some great answers and I bet they will, now that we’ve let them in on your little secret!
This week I’ll be appearing, on the same blog tour, at Marilyn Meredith’s blog site – http://www.marilynmeredith.blogspot.com
Other than that, I don’t have a lot earthshaking to report except that reviews on RAVEN TALKS BACK are beginning to come in at Amazon.com and they’re all…well, I’ll let you find out for yourself in you really want to know. After all, I can’t reveal EVERYTHING here, can I?
See y’all next week? I hope so, ’cause I love you all, you KNOW I do! I’ll leave the porch light on for you,
Beth, Denali, Sarge and BooBoo…and in a couple weeks, guess who’s coming to dinner? Yes! Hotclue will be here to discuss any number of things. I’ll let you know exactly when soon.
June 20, 2011
Mystery We Write Blog Tour 2011 Presents Marja McGraw
This week on the Mystery We Write Blog Tour 2011 we’re featuring Marja McGraw.
Marja McGraw was born and raised in Southern California. While filling the role of a single parent, she worked in both civil and criminal law for 15 years, state transportation for another 17 years, and most recently for a city building department. She has lived and worked in California, Nevada, Oregon, Alaska and Arizona.
McGraw also wrote a weekly column for a small town newspaper in Northern Nevada, and conducted a Writers’ Support Group in Northern Arizona. A member of Sisters in Crime (SinC), she was also the Editor for the SinC Internet Newsletter for a year and a half.
She has appeared on KOLO-TV in Reno, Nevada, and KLBC in Laughlin, Nevada, and various radio talk shows.
Marja says that each of her mysteries contains a little humor, a little romance and A Little Murder! Books include A Well-Kept Family Secret, Bubba’s Ghost, Prudy’s Back! and The Bogey Man, all part of the Sandi Webster series. Bogey Nights was released in March, 2011, and this is the first in a new series, The Bogey Man Mysteries.
She and her husband now live in Arizona, where life is good.
And your favorite bookstore
That’s a pretty impressive bio, Marja! You have a great tagline for your book, BOGEY NIGHTS, I hear. Let’s see it!
“You know your day has taken a turn for the worse when you buy a vintage house to convert into a restaurant, and your two yellow Labrador retrievers find a vintage body buried in the basement.
Chris Cross, who bears a striking resemblance to Humphrey Bogart, and his wife, Pamela, are about to learn that a seven-year-old son, two Labrador retrievers and seniors are all forces to be reckoned with in the course of this case.”
Good one, and it sounds wonderful! Folks, Marja has come up with an interview between some of her characters so you can get to know them a little better. Here we go!
Marja: There’s a character named Sharon Stone who crosses over into two series, the Sandi Webster Mysteries and the Bogey Man Mysteries. Sharon is a young reporter who’s stuck doing fluff pieces for a newspaper, and she hopes that by following the careers of Sandi Webster, Peter Goldberg, Chris Cross and his wife, Pamela, she’ll be able to climb the ladder of success. This young woman has been annoying and intrusive in their lives. Sharon has called Sandi, Pete, and Chris and Pamela Cross together for a “group interview”. I hope you enjoy their conversation.
Sharon: I’ve invited you all to lunch today so I can ask some questions. I know I can be annoying, but I really need your help. I’m going to do an article for a private investigator’s magazine.
Sandi: I’m not exactly sure why we should help you. You’ve been the thorn in all of our sides for a long time now.
Sharon: Don’t forget, Sandi, I saved your life once. And I’m trying to change my image.
Sandi: Yeah, how could I ever forget that? (Sandi turns to the others and nods, encouraging them to cooperate with Sharon.)
Sharon: How did each of you become involved in investigating?
Sandi: To be honest, I’ve always wanted to be an investigator, even if that desire was for all the wrong reasons. I grew up watching old detective movies on television. I lost myself in the heroes, the hard-nosed private eyes who always got their man, and tried to figure out “who done it” with them. Sam Spade and Nick and Nora Charles made being a P.I. seem almost romantic. I enjoyed the humorous mysteries, too, like the Red Skelton Whispering… movies, and even a couple of the Abbott and Costello flicks. I watched the comedic and klutzy gumshoes trip their way to conclusions and I decided a person doesn’t have to be macho to be a private eye. All it would take was intelligence, common sense and good deductive reasoning. Pete, I see you rolling your eyes. Quit that!
Pete: I can’t help it, Sandi. You may be a good detective, but you really did get into this business for all the wrong reasons. Now, take me. I was a cop, and a good one. Unfortunately, I received an eye injury in the line of duty, and I had to leave L.A.P.D. and find other work. And then along came Sandi, looking for a partner. There ya go. That’s the short version. Yeah, yeah. I heard that sigh, Sandi.
Chris: I’m with Sandi. I have such a strong resemblance to Humphrey Bogart that I began to emulate him once in a while. I was a postman, and I was bored, so I decided the life of a gumshoe sounded aces to me. Sandi taught me, in her own cockamamie way, that I was a cream puff when it came to eyeballin’ bad guys. Unfortunately, a real stiff turned up at a party and my reputation made people start flappin’ their lips. Now people are coming out of the woodwork, asking me to work on all kinds of cases. A few good things came out of it though; I met my wife, Pamela, I gained a stepson named Mikey – I call him Ace – and we have two yellow Labrador retrievers named Sherlock and Watson who seem to have noses for trouble.
Pamela: (Points at Chris) I’m with him, kind of along for the ride. By the way, Watson is a girl.
Sandi: Well, as long as you mentioned your Labs, Chris, I have to mention Bubba. You remember Bubba, Sharon, my half wolf/half golden retriever?
Sharon: (She shivers) How could I forget that monster dog. He’s always baring his teeth at me.
Sandi: Nah, that’s his smile. I probably shouldn’t tell you that though, because I don’t want you feeling too comfortable around us.
Sharon: What kinds of cases have you worked on?
Sandi: Well, thanks to my mother –
Sharon: Oh, how’s she doing with her – ?
Sandi: As long as she takes her hormone pills, we don’t have to hide. Anyway, thanks to her my first big case was a hundred-year-old murder. Bubba came into my life after that one, and for some reason he thought there was a ghost in the attic. While I was trying to convince him there wasn’t, I also handled a bum who was harassing a young widowed mother. Interesting case.
Pete: Don’t forget Prudy Lewis. She was an elderly woman who’d been a P.I. back in the 1940s. She asked us to solve the case she couldn’t resolve. I think if she hadn’t been so involved with the people in the case, she probably would have figured it out. (Pete chuckles) I still remember the first time I saw her put on her shedding fur coat and cowgirl boots, and she had that ridiculous long black cigarette holder. (He shakes his head)
Chris: Don’t forget how you met me, Sandi. I had this lame-brained idea that if I started dogging Sandi’s steps, I’d learn the P.I. racket. I think she thought I was a ghost at first. Anyway, when I crashed a costume party, a Dragon Lady was iced and Sandi and I finally met face-to-face. I was wet behind the ears and she let me know what a dope I was.
(He turns to Pete) You really didn’t trust me at first, but I can understand why.
Pete: (Pete leans back and folds his arms across his chest) I thought you were a nut case.
Pamela: I met Chris during that case. Thanks to him my whole life has changed. I was a waitress at the time, and now Chris and I own a classy forties-themed restaurant, which leads me to our first case. The Labs found a dead body in our basement, and we had quite a time after that. Right now we’re working on something for the Church Ladies, some women from my church. It’s not church-related though. They want us to find someone. And there are some odd things going on. Which reminds me, we’ve got to get moving, Bogey Man.
Chris: (Chris smiles at his wife’s use of his nickname) We’re supposed to meet the Church Ladies in half an hour.
Sandi: Yeah, we’ve got to get moving, too. Pete and I are leaving on a well-deserved vacation to Arizona. Who knows what could happen there?
Sharon: But–I have more questions. (Her voice is whiny)
Chris: Save them for another time. Thanks for the lunch, Doll.
Chairs shuffle and everyone leaves. Sharon sits at the table with her notes and sighs.
Marja: Beth, thank you so much for letting my characters speak up a little today. It’s been fun.
Marja’s website: http://www.marjamcgraw.com/
Marja’s Blog: http://blog.marjamcgraw.com/
It was fun for me too, Marja! I’m definitely looking forward to reading BOGEY NIGHTS. I always loved Humphrey Bogaty, so I’m sure I’ll enjoy it.
That’s it for this week folks. I’d love to stick around and chat with you but we have storms coming in here in Chicagoland so I’m going to get this up on the Internet and then shut off my computer. Yay! A good day for reading!
Come back next week, I’ll have another author, Jean Henry Mead, for you to read about. I love y’all, you KNOW I do, and I’ll leave the porch light on for you! But for now, zzzzip!
Beth, DenaliDawg (who is bugging me to let him write his own blog) and Sarge and BooBoo, both of whom could care less, but you know how cats are…
June 12, 2011
Mystery We Write Blog Tour: Mary Martinez
Web site: http://www.marymartinez.com/
June 5, 2011
Mystery We Write Blog Tour: Jackie King
Jackie King loves books, words, and writing tall tales. She especially enjoys murdering the people she dislikes on paper. King is a full time writer who sometimes teaches writing at Tulsa Community College. Her latest novel, THE INCONVENIENT CORPSE is a traditional mystery. King has also written five novellas as co-author of the Foxy Hens Series. Warm Love on Cold Streets is her latest novella and is included in the anthology THE FOXY HENS MEET A ROMANTIC ADVENTURER. Her only nonfiction book is DEVOTED TO COOKING. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, Oklahoma Writers Federation, and Tulsa Night Writers.
Writing through the Muck
by Jackie King
Thanks, Beth for inviting me to share some thoughts on your blog. Today I’d like to discuss the importance of discipline in building and maintaining a writing career.
Many people have talent, but fewer folks have the determination needed to keep working on days when writing isn’t fun. The sad truth is: writing is hard work, and sometimes a person just doesn’t want to swim against the tide.
I’m that person. Even though I claim to LOVE writing, this morning I didn’t even want to look at my computer. I wanted to read, or to take a walk, or even to scrub the toilet—anything but write. This happens a lot to me, and because of that, I knew what to do. I made myself sit at my computer, read the last few pages I’d written yesterday, and began putting words on the blank screen. Everything I keyed seemed stilted, but I kept writing, focusing on my characters and doing the best I could.
In my mind this resolve to work, regardless of how I was feeling, makes me a professional writer. Tomorrow I’ll trudge on without judging what I wrote today. I wouldn’t dare edit it so soon; else I’d probably delete every word. When I write a first draft, I don’t worry about the quality of my writing; I follow my instincts and record the gist of the thing. You can’t be creative and critical at the same time. It’s impossible. After the draft is completed, I’ll begin what I call word-smithing. That’s when I fine-tune each word and perfect plot points. And for me that’s the fun part.
I’m finishing a rough draft of my second Grace Cassidy Mystery, SKELETON IN THE CLOSET. The writing isn’t going smoothly, it’s hard. My plot keeps self-destructing and my characters won’t cooperate. To understand what I mean, picture walking through almost-set concrete up to your neck. That describes writing days when ‘the muse’ deserts me and I’m left wondering what on earth made me think I could write. (Once I saw a cartoon in a writer’s magazine. A man sits frozen behind the steering wheel of his car and he’s saying to himself, “What on earth made me think that I could drive?”)
Life can also interfere with your schedule, and often does. Last Tuesday started smoothly. I had written about 400 words when the phone rang. It was my manicurist wanting to know if I could come for my appointment right then. She’s helped me out before by switching things around for my convenience, so I said, “Sure, let me save my work and I’ll be right there.”
I felt sure that I could come back and pick up the same thread immediately, the scene was so clear in my mind. But of course I couldn’t. However, I did work. I forced myself to write and finish my quota for the day. That gave me the satisfaction of knowing that I had done my part as a writer. I wrote—even when it wasn’t fun, even when it was hard, and even when what I wrote seemed banal and wooden.
Tomorrow I’ll write again. The curious thing is, after I finish the entire draft and read it through, I know that I won’t be able to tell which pages were written when I felt inspired and which I wrote when every word was a struggle. I know this, because it’s happened before, over and over.
This is a mystery to me: work that seemed like tripe at the time of the writing (mostly because I wasn’t in the mood) somehow morphs into words that can’t be distinguished from those easily written when the “Muse” favored me.
That’s one reason I LOVE writing. It’s magic.
Blog: Cozy Mysteries and Other Madness can be found at:
I’d love to have readers ‘friend’ me on Facebook. I’m listed as Jacqueline King
Jackie, your words really resonate with me. I wrote like that, every day and many hours over weekends because I was working full time, when I first started writing. Then, a few years ago, life interfered bigtime and I allowed myself to slack off more and more, partly out of neccesity but partly because–and listen to this, newbies–once you stop writing to a set schedule it is very, very hard to get back into that habit. Over time, it can become impossible.
Authors who become successful keep at it day after day after day, year after year and they are are the ones who win. The ones who have to start all over developing the same writing habits are the ones who have put off winning. You can never regain that same momentum until you start doing the same things you did before you lost the momentum.
So Jackie, thank you for reminding everyone who reads this blog that the real key to sucess is not always just having phenomenal talent. It’s the person who keeps at it who will find the key.
Folks, this week on the Mystery We Write Blog Tour, I’ll be featured at Jennifer DeCamillo’s blog: http://jenndicamillo.wordpress.com/. I hope you’ll come see me there because all of my blogs on this 12 week tour are very different, and as a reminder, whoever has posted the most comments on all the blogs on this tour will win a free print copy of RAVEN TALKS BACK.
I’m doing two things right now. Having my website blog updated to include my new book, and sending out review materials to various places AND trying to figure out the KindleBoard lists. I’m also having some of my grandkids here this week for a few days, that’s always fun and I can’t wait to see them!
I’ll tell you one thing right now though. I’ve been putting off starting the next book in the Raven Morressey series, but Jackie’s words have jolted me back to the reality of the real path to successfully writing books. I know she’s right.
A lot of starting a new book isn’t just sitting down and starting to write it. There’s a lot of preliminary work to be done. For at least four hours of every day, I’ll be sitting right here at my desk doing that preliminary work. You have to start your next book sometime, and sometime is now.
It is hard, though, starting a new book AND promoting the one that just came out. It’s incredible how much work an author has to do to get people to want to read her brand new book, and I want people to read RAVEN TALKS BACK because, as one reviewer has already noted, it’s my best book to date. And now I want to top it, because my competition is always myself and my last book. So far I’ve managed to do that.
So, with that said, I’ll send y’all a big, big hug, and I’ll see you here next week. I’ll leave the porch light on for you, and there will be goodies galore because I’m fairly certain I’ve bought more than the grandkiddies can possibly eat. Pop Tart, anyone? How about a Corn Dog? No? Well, how about a ham and cheese Hot Pocket? (We won’t even talk about how loaded my freezer is right now.)
Love you all, you KNOW I do!
XOXOXO, Beth, DenaliDawg aka Mr. Personality (who will be IN my next Raven book), Sarge and BooBoo.