Archive for December, 2011
December 15, 2011
Christmas 2011 Word Pictures by Beth Anderson
A small boy sits on the edge of his bed, making a last minute Christmas wish that he’s going to leave on the plate with the cookies and milk. Making sure he gets all the block printed letters right, he asks for just one thing. A puppy.
A small puppy lies awake in the corner of his shelter cell, hoping he’ll get his one Christmas wish–a forever home with a little boy.
A little girl closes her eyes on Christmas Eve, wondering if Santa will really bring her a new doll.
Downstairs, hidden on the top of a shelf in a closet, sits a beautiful baby doll, wondering how long she’ll have to stay in this closet before she meets her new mommie.
An old woman sits alone, looking down at her family photo albums, starting with her own childrens’ first Christmas photos many years ago.
A young American soldier in Afghanistan stares at his computer screen, his tingertips itching to touch his newborn daughter, born just fifteen minutes ago on Christmas Eve back home in the USA.
A small green spruce tree in a Christmas Tree farm crosses its branches, praying it’ll be chosen to go home with the small family two rows over who are looking at a bigger tree.
A kitten, left at home while her family is out shopping for their Christmas tree, crouches in the corner, hoping for the biggest tree at the Tree Farm so she can climb up into its branches and pretend to be a decoration just like she did last year.
Twin girls separated at their birth seventeen Christmases ago have a very hard time getting to sleep on Christmas Eve because they will meet for the first time tomorrow.
Two cops on duty this Christmas Eve sit slumped over their desks, resting for a bit and wondering how many more arrests they’ll have to make before they can go home to their families and try to shed the day’s carnage as they join in on what’s left of the Christmas Eve family fun.
A Special Needs child stares at the empty floor beneath the Christmas tree in her living room, wondering if there will ever be anything under it.
A Special Needs teacher makes one last trip to the store, gets her gift wrapped before she leaves the store, and heads for the home of one of her students who she knows will not receive much, if anything, this Christmas. She checks to make sure she’s got enough gas left to get home and discovers she does not, and furthermore, she’s spent every cent she had with her on her student. She smiles anyhow. If she has to, she’ll walk the rest of the way home. It’s Christmas and at least one more Special Needs child will have a happy one.
Folks, I want to wish all of you a Very Merry Christmas. It’s been a heck of a year for me, there’s plenty to be grateful for and I hope we all will focus on the good and let the bad stay outside while we have ourselves a Merry Little Christmas. Have a good one. Love each other. Don’t worry about anything but being happy and healthy with your friends and family. The world will eventually settle itself down, times will get better again, but meantime, enjoy your time and remember the reason for the season. Doing that kind of helps keep it all in perspective, doesn’t it, and makes all the hectic shopping trips and all the preparation sort of fade into the past while we enjoy the time we have with people we love.
XOXO, Beth Anderson and Hotclue both wish you the very best of everything this whole season.
December 9, 2011
Now It’s Time to Say Goodbye to All The Company…
Well, this has been a busy couple of weeks, if I do say so myself. The Mystery We Write Blog Tour, Winter 2011 is over as of yesterday, and what a hectic ride it’s been! We all have held drawings and are announcing the winners on our various blogsites:
Ron Benrey http://blog.benrey.com
Pat Browning http://pbrowning.blogspot.com/
John M. Daniel http://johnmdaniel.blogspot.com
Alice Duncan http://aliceduncanblog.blogspot.com/
Wendy Gager www.wsgager.blogspot.com
M. M. Gornell http://mmgornell.wordpress.com/
Timothy Hallinan http://www.timothyhallinan.com/blog/
Jackie King http://bnbmysteries.blogspot.com
Jean Henry Mead http://theviewfrommymountaintop.blogspot.com/
Marilyn Meredith http://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com
Mike Orenduff http://thepotthief.blogspot.com
Jinx Schwartz http://www.jinxschwartz.blogspot.com/
Earl Staggs http://earlwstaggs.wordpress.com/
Anne K. Albert http://anne-k-albert.blogspot.com
I held my drawing yesterday and my three winners have responded with their addresses and preferences. They are: Brenda Williamson, Jacqueline Seewald, and Sandy Giden.
Congratulations to all of you, and thank you again for visiting my blogs. Your books will be on their way to you sometime next week, if not sooner.
All of the blogs are on this page and several prior pages, easy to find if you missed someone and you want to see what they had to say on my blogsite, or you can click the links to their blogsites above. I can tell you, if you haven’t visited the various blogsites AND you’re a writer, particularly if you’re a fairly new writer, then you should visit every one of them and stay a while and look around, because there are tons of writing tips you won’t find anyplace else. We each have our own journeys in this wild, wild writing world, and we’ve each pretty come to the same conclusions, only each in our own way. We did this blog tour primarily for new writers, to help shorten their journey to publication, fame and…uh…fortune? Well, two out of three isn’t bad, right? Anyhow, this is our way of saying thanks to our readers, and also trying to help newbies along the way.
In closing today, I want to tell you that you can click on the covers of all the books to the right of this blog and go to pages where you’ll find great reviews as well as several chapters of each book for you to read and see if you like my style. 😉 If you do, there are also buy links on those pages, or you can find all of my last four books in both print and ebook on Amazon.com or Barnes&Noble.com by typing in my name. Right now, RAVEN TALKS BACK is on Christmas sale in its ebook incarnation for only $.99 cents at both places. This book has hit the bestseller lists on Amazon numerous times now. I’ve actually lost count, but people are buying it and apparently loving it. (Your mileage may vary, but I hope not 😉 Anyhow, the deal is there so you might give it a try.
Come back next week, when I put my new Christmas Page up here on my blog. It’s going to have not only YES! Christmas decorations! but also a slew of brand new Word Pictures, Christmas 2011. Last time I did this (several years ago) it was a smash hit and I hope I can reach the same level with these new ones. I’m sure going to try.
Thanks again to my fabulous co-authors on this blog tour. All pros, all have great experince to share with you on our blogs and some of us, including me, have other pages easily accessible from our blogsites that will help you make your own journey. Look around while you visit all these blogs. If you need help, you’ll find it on our blogs and websites.
Until next week, XOXO to all of you, and have a happy, safe holiday. I’ll fill you in on mine later on, it’s bound to be fun and interesting because up here on this mountainside we have a slew of family coming in for the holidays and you ALL know how that usually goes. 😉
But first, remember, next week: Word Pictures, Christmas 2011. You don’t want to miss it.
Warm Holiday Hugs, Beth Anderson aka Hotclue Herself
December 8, 2011
Mystery We Write Winter 2011 Blog Tour Presents Ron Benrey
The Magic Paragraph
By Ron Benrey
For starters, let me say that I was a prolific non-fiction writer (books, magazine articles, speeches, marketing literature). But when I started to write fiction back in 1990, I was puzzled to find that my first efforts at fiction were “dead.” That’s how I described my writing.
Two years later, I figured out that my “fiction” lacked an essential ingredient. My words didn’t create a “fictional dream” in the mind of a reader. The late, John Gardner — novelist, teacher, and author of “The Art of Fiction” — coined that apt term to describe the “being somewhere else” experience a reader enjoys when reading a novel.
Doing this is actually a fairly simple “craft” skill that many novelists do instinctively, but which I had to learn “the hard way,” through lots of trial and error.
I call the technique I discovered the “Magic Paragraph”—a paragraph designed to invite the reader to dream. Look at any novel you enjoy reading. The first (possibly first two) paragraphs in each scene… and the first paragraph after a block of dialog… and lots of others scattered through the scene will probably follow the following pattern:
1. Signal whose head to enter.
2. “Activate” one of the character’s five senses or a thought process.
3. Give the character’s initial reaction to what s/he sensed or thought.
4. Start the character thinking.
Here’s an example from “Dead as a Scone,” the first novel in our “Royal Tunbridge Wells Mysteries” series. The following two paragraphs start Chapter 2:
Felicity Katherine Adams—Flick to her friends—yanked three more tissues from the box on her desk, blew her nose for what seemed the umpteenth time, and wondered when it would finally stop dripping.
Blast them all—their closed minds and calloused hearts.
She crumpled the tissues into a tight ball and decided that if ever there was a proper occasion for unabated sniveling, this was it. How could she not cry after losing a wonderful friend and smashing into a stone wall of obstinate stupidity? No one else in the boardroom recognized the
obvious facts. Not one of them would pay attention to simple truth that Dame Elspeth was murdered.
Now, here are the same paragraphs “parsed” into the four elements I listed above.
Felicity Katherine Adams—Flick to her friends… (Signal whose head to enter)
…yanked three more tissues from the box on her desk, blew her nose for what seemed the umpteenth time… (“Activate” a sense)
…and wondered when it would finally stop dripping. (Give her initial reaction)
Blast them all—their closed minds and calloused hearts. (Start her thinking.)
She [Flick]… (Signal whose head to enter) …crumpled the tissues into a tight ball… (“Activate” a sense)
…and decided that if ever there was a proper occasion for unabated sniveling, this was it. (Give her initial reaction)
How could she not cry after losing a wonderful friend and smashing into a stone wall of obstinate stupidity? No one else in the boardroom recognized the obvious facts. Not one of them would pay attention to simple truth that Dame Elspeth was murdered. (Start her thinking.)
Repeated use of the Magic Paragraph will establish and maintain a strong fictional dream. I consider it the single most important “craft secret” I learned about writing fiction.
Here’s a synopsis of Dead as a Scone:
Murder is afoot in the sedate English town of Royal Tunbridge Wells … and the crime may be brewing in a tea pot!
Nigel Owen is having a rotten year. Downsized from a cushy management job at an insurance company in London, he is forced to accept a temporary post as managing director of the Tunbridge Wells Tunbridge Wells Tea Museum. Alas, he regrets living in a small town in Kent, he prefers drinking coffee (with a vengeance), and he roundly dislikes Flick Adams, PhD, an
American scientist recently named the museum’s curator.
But then, the wildly unexpected happens. Dame Elspeth Hawker, the museum’s chief benefactor, keels over a board meeting—the apparent victim of a fatal heart attack. With the Dame’s demise, the museum’s world-famous collection is up for grabs, her cats, dog, and parrot are living at with Flick and Nigel—and the two prima donnas find themselves facing professional ruin.
But Flick—who knows a thing or two about forensic science—is convinced that Dame Elspeth did not die a natural death. As Flick and Nigel follow the clues—including a cryptic Biblical citation—they discover that a crime perpetrated more than a century ago sowed the seeds for a contemporary murder.
Ron Benrey writes cozy mysteries with his wife Janet. Ron has been a writer forever—initially on magazines (his first real job was Electronics Editor at Popular Science Magazine), then in corporations (he wrote speeches for senior executives), and then as a novelist. Over the years, Ron has also authored ten non-fiction books, including the recently published “Know Your Rights — a Survival Guide for Non-Lawyers” (published by Sterling). Ron holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a master’s degree in management from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and a juris doctor from the Duquesne University School of Law. He is a member of the Bar of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Ron, that’s an interesting point you make, and it’s well worth following up on in my own work. To my blog readers, please comment here if you’d like a chance to win a copy of Ron’s book.
Cheers, All, Beth, who invites you to come back tomorrow for a recap of the whole author tour, and one last chance to have your name drawn for a free book, in my case a copy of Raven Talks Back in either print or Kindle. And thanks so much for stopping by!
December 7, 2011
Mystery We Write Winter 2011 Blog Tour Presents Pat Browning
Pat Browning was born and raised in Oklahoma. A longtime resident of California’s San Joaquin
Valley before moving back to Oklahoma in 2005, her professional writing credits go back to the 1960s, when she was a stringer for The Fresno Bee while working full time in aHanford law office.
Her globetrotting in the 1970s led her into the travel business, first as a travel agent, then as a correspondent for TravelAge West, a trade journal published in San Francisco. In the 1990s, she signed on fulltime as a newspaper reporter and columnist, first at The Selma Enterprise and
then at The Hanford Sentinel.
Her first mystery, FULL CIRCLE, was set in a fictional version of Hanford, and published
through iUniverse in 2001. It was revised and reissued as ABSINTHE 0F MALICE by Krill Press in 2008. An extensive excerpt can be read at Google Books http://tinyurl.com/23pojdm.
The second book in the series, METAPHOR FOR MURDER, is a work in progress. ABSINTHE takes place on a Labor Day weekend. METAPHOR picks up the story the week before Christmas. Log line: Small town reporter Penny Mackenzie tracks an offbeat Christmas story and finds herself in the middle of a murder and the mysterious desecration of an old Chinese cemetery.
Pat’s articles on the writing life have appeared in The SouthWest Sage, the monthly journal of SouthWest Writers, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her web site at http://patbrowning.weebly.com is under construction.
ABSINTHE OF MALICE can be ordered through any bookstore or online from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.
Barnes and Noble, print and Nook http://tinyurl.com/43lgk5u
Amazon, print and Kindle http://tinyurl.com/3ry9gya
A Writer’s Book Shelf
There are many ways to write a book, and many writers who want to tell you how it’s done. I have a very short shelf of how-to books that I wouldn’t be without. Herewith, in no particular order:
HOW TO WRITE KILLER FICTION by Carolyn Wheat (Perseverance Press 2003). Among other things, she explains the difference between mystery and suspense, and takes you through the Four-Arc system for organizing your novel. Wheat is a no-nonsense teacher. In her Preface, she writes: “If anything in this book works for you, I’m glad. If it doesn’t, toss it away and write from
your gut, always keeping in mind the one immutable fact about fiction: You’re the one creating the reader’s experience.”
FICTION WRITING DEMYSTIFIED by Thomas B. Sawyer (Ashleywilde, Inc. 2003).
Sawyer was show runner and writer for the TV series “Murder She Wrote” so he knows how to move a story along. He writes from a screenwriter’s experience, but it easily translates to the novel. Chapter Six on writing dialogue cured me of using tiresome dialogue tags. Sawyer wrote his first thriller, THE SIXTEENTH MAN, without a single dialogue tag, letting action and internal monologue take the place of “he said” and other tags. Sawyer calls it “high-energy writing.” Reading his novel is like being there, watching the whole thing take place. Try it. In fact, my cure for being stuck in a difficult scene or chapter is to draft the whole thing in dialogue. Works every time.
DEADLY DOSES: A Writer’s Guide to Poisons, by Serita Deborah Stevens with Anne Klarner (Writer’s Digest Books 1990). This detailed and highly readable book is responsible for the murder weapons used in my mystery ABSINTHE OF MALICE. As one character says: “Every pretty thing that grows will kill you or cure you, depending on how you use it.”
An updated version of this book is HOWDUNIT – THE BOOK OF POISONS by Serita Stevens and Anne Bannon (Writer’s Digest Books 2007). The new book is also on Kindle. It’s pricey, but I think I will have to buy it.
FORENSICS FOR DUMMIES by D.P. Lyle, M.D. (Wiley Publishing 2004). Chapter 15, “What’s The Deal With DNA?” caused me to re-write an entire chapter because I didn’t fully understand
DNA when I wrote FULL CIRCLE. When Krill Press republished FULL CIRCLE as ABSINTHE OF MALICE, I had the perfect opportunity for revising.
Dr. Lyle’s Chapter 10 subsection “Dem Bones, Dem Bones: Working With Skeletons” gave me important information for my second book (still in progress) after a local physician gave me faulty advice. Fortunately I know a brush-off when I get one. I kept looking for answers until I found FORENSICS FOR DUMMIES. Dr. Lyle takes crime writers seriously. His subjects in “Working With Skeletons” include determining whether bones are human, determining age, estimating stature, determining sex (with good illustrations), determining race, and determining cause and manner of death.
A quick mention of two other books on my shelf:
EYE LANGUAGE: UNDERSTANDING THE ELOQUENT EYE by Evan Marshall (New Trend 1983). (An updated version was published in 2003 as THE EYES HAVE IT: REVEALING THEIR POWER, MESSAGES AND SECRETS.)
THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF HUMAN BONES by Simon Mays (Routledge 1998). A big manual with everything you ever wanted to know about bones, and great illustrations.
Beth, thank you for hosting me today. It was a pleasure to
You’re welcome, Pat. Folks, be sure and leave a comment for Pat. Might want to get into the habit of doing so, you never know when you’ll win a book!
Cheers and XOXO, Beth
December 6, 2011
Mystery We Write Winter 2011 Blog Tour Presents John M. DanielJohn has worked as a bookseller, a free-lance writer, an editor, an entertainer, a model, an innkeeper, and a teacher. He and his wife, Susan, live in Humboldt County, California, where they are small-press book publishers. Susan enjoys gardening, John enjoys writing, and they both enjoy living with their wondercat, Warren.
email@example.com Behind the Redwood Door is sold by Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It can be ordered by your local independent bookseller, or bought directly from the publisher at http://www.oaktreebooks.com/. For an autographed copy, call John at 1-800-662-8351.
KEEPING TIME WHILE WE WRITE
Beth’s challenge to write about difficulties with the writing process gave me pause. I always preach the joy of writing: yes it’s work, but it’s a high, a pleasure, its own reward, the thing
we writers must do, because it sorts our universe and gives wings to our souls.
Well, writing is all that. If it weren’t a thing of joy, I wouldn’t do it. But it’s hard work, and sometimes it’s difficult and thorny. (I imagine the same could be said of other people’s hobbies, like golf or gardening.)
Once I got over the foolish notion that I wasn’t a good writer, things got easier. What did it matter if I was “good,” so long as I was having fun? Besides I was getting published, so there. I was mainly a short story writer back then, and stories are relatively easy to keep track of, even if they’re not always easy to write.
But novels, as fun as they are, have some built-in traps, and I fell right in a couple of times. I was writing a novel I thought would be my gateway to fame, a musical sex comedy called Hot Springs Eternal, set in a clothing-optional hot springs resort in 1980. The novel was told from about
fifteen different points of view, male and female, young and old, and it braided a dozen plot lines that kept intersecting and intertwining. I’m still proud of my first draft, but the first draft is as far as I got with the novel.
The problem was the dates. I read and reread that draft and discovered to my chagrin that events that were the consequence of certain changes and choices actually occurred before the changes and choices happened; and some of the characters were born too long ago in back story to still be the ages they were in the front story; and characters kept getting surprised by things they already knew. Sometimes months had two or more full moons. And so on.
Fix it? Oh sure, just fix it.
That would mean unbraiding the whole thing, losing all the continuity and chapter arcs. It would mean starting over. Sadly, I put that novel, for which I’d gladly gotten up at 4:30 a.m. every morning for eight months, on the closet shelf. I still hear my wonderful characters crying out to me in the middle of the night: “Let us out of here! Revise! Revise!”
I never did revise that novel. I tried a couple of times to untie the Gordian Knot, and was left with shreds that I converted into a few short stories. A couple of them got published in tiny magazines.
But I learned a lesson: Whether you like to outline or like to wing it, it’s important to keep good notes and to make yourself a timeline. In chronological order, list birth dates of characters, dates of weddings and murders, dates of important full moons, and any other timely facts that might get you in trouble if you slip up.
Believe me, this timeline devise paid off when it came to writing my newest, Behind the Redwood Door. It was especially important to keep track of such details, because my novel is about a feud that was built in the past.
So the novel slips back into history three times: long interludes that take place in the late nineteenth century and in the early 1980s. I think the historical segments are the most entertaining parts of the book, perhaps because I let my writing get playful and took chances with plot that paid off.
But without the timelines, those historical segments might have been hysterical instead.
So return with us now to the daring days of yesteryear…and learn why the Connollys and the Websters still hate each other in 1999. Why brothers battle to the death. Why Pete Thayer got
stabbed in the throat on Friday the Thirteenth behind the Redwood Door saloon. These are mysteries buried in the past, waiting for you to unearth them. You’ll find they’re all properly dated.
I learned that one too, with my first big book, John. Fortunately, I learned it first but it still took me a long time to write the book. Thanks for reminding us that your timeline can be crucial.
People, come back tomorrow and check out another great author. Cheers and hugs to all of you,
Beth, who also reminds you to leave a comment so we can all draw names when this tour is over and maybe you’ll win one of 60 or so books!