Archive for December, 2011

December 5, 2011

Mystery We Write Winter 2011 Blog Tour Presents Alice Duncan

Award-winning author Alice Duncan lives with a herd of wild dachshunds (enriched from time to time with fosterees from New Mexico Dachshund Rescue) in Roswell, New Mexico. She’s not a
UFO enthusiast; she’s in Roswell because her mother’s family settled there fifty years before the aliens crashed. Alice no longer longs to return to California, although she still misses the food, not to mention her children, one of whom is there and the other of whom is in Nevada. Alice would love to hear from you at  And be sure to visit her
Web site at http//

The most difficult thing for me to do when I began writing actual, real live books, was to string a coherent story together that would fill 400 or so manuscript pages. Try it someday, if you don’t believe me. It’s hard! Maybe it’s easier for some folks than others, but I’m kind of a get-to-the-point kind of person, and it’s more in my nature to say something like, “William Kent was murdered on September 6, 1924, and Marilyn Phillips Kent did the dirty deed with a hatchet
in the library” than to go on for pages and pages. Heck, that doesn’t even fill up a paragraph.

Therefore, when I finally settled down to write books, after decades of rearing children and working horrible jobs (well, I was still working a horrible job, but at least my daughters were grown), it was difficult to put enough twists and turns into a plot to fill a book. I’m rather plot-challenged to begin with, so this deficiency on my part doesn’t help much.

In the first book I wrote from beginning to end, I found myself putting in chapters of history, which didn’t move the story forward one teeny bit. I’m not honestly sure what tipped the scales and allowed me to write a full-length novel, although I think writing synopses, laying out my entire plot ahead of time, helped. A lot.

Mind you, I veer from my synopses when I feel the need, but at least with a synopsis, I have the basis for a full-length story. Gotta have those plot points, you know? Recently, I added a second body for my heroine to stumble over, since I felt the book needed another murder, but I still had the basic plot written for me to follow. More or less. I mean, every now and then a character will take off on his/her own, you know? But I do try to keep them in hand. After all, it’s my name on the book. They’re my puppets, and they do what I tell them to do.

Don’t tell them I said that, okay?

I’ve had three books published this year, so I have three links to the books:

PECOS VALLEY REVIVAL (featuring Annabelle Blue and set in Roswell,
NM, in 1923):

FALLEN ANGELS (featuring Mercedes Louise Allcutt and
set in Los Angeles, CA, in 1926):

GENTEEL SPIRITS (featuring Daisy Gumm Majesty, and
set in Pasadena, CA, in 1922):

Thanks for stopping by, Alice!  Folks, come back tomorrow for another terrific author’s blog to check out and maybe win a book.  All the authors on this tour are picking people who comment on their blogs, so please comment!

Cheers, all, Beth




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December 4, 2011

Mystery We Write Winter 2011Blog Tour Presents Wendy Gager

I Hate Final Edits!

In writing a book I love the beginning, tolerate the middle and hate the end. I’m not talking about the plots of my Mitch Malone Mystery Series but am talking about the writing process. For me I could write first drafts non-stop. This is when I am most creative and try to get the story down in as few sittings as I can. I’ve referred to these as the “throwing up” of the story. It is in
horrible shape but that is where the best twists and turns come from, when my characters take their own path instead of the one I’ve planned. Next comes the rewriting. I know this is needed because when I am most creative I kill off my best villain halfway through the book and need to find another murderer. The new clues need to be layered in from the beginning and consistent throughout. I don’t mind doing this. What I hate is going through the book to fix all the typos, bad grammar, taking out unnecessary words and fixing passive voice.

These are usually the last readings I do and I am horrible at it. By this time I am really sick of the story, think it is terrible and want to chuck the whole thing. Do you ever feel like that?

To get beyond that, my publisher gave me a great idea of how to do these final edits. Start at the end of the book and read it backwards. Look only at one sentence at a time. Look at every word. If you take it out of the sequence, you can’t get sucked back into the story and whether it is any
good or not. It is easier to just look for grammar, word choices and making it the best and tightest sentence. The bonus is when you are concentrating on the sentence, alarm bells will sound if the details don’t match up like the color of a jacket or the location of an important place.

I’m still not very good at the final edits but I am getting better.


In A CASE OF HOMETOWN BLUES crime beat reporter Mitch Malone returns to the town where he was raised to teach a seminar at the local paper. He walks in on his class reunion
mortified to be facing his schoolmates but excited when the homecoming queen expresses interest in him. She is found dead the next morning and Mitch is the prime suspect. As he wades through trying to separate his childish reactions from the adult counterparts he finds surprising allies and murderers. Can he figure out who wants to plant him next to his dead parents in the sleepy town where nothing bad ever happens?

A Case of Hometown Blues” Synopsis

When Pulitzer-winning reporter Mitch Malone’s editor presses him for a favor, Malone breaks his vow to never return to his hometown. It seemed simple enough–lead a seminar for Flatville, MI’s newspaper, keep a low profile and get back to the city post haste. But memories of his parents’ death swarm him, and, to avoid solitude, he stops for a beer. In the crowded bar, Mitch is dismayed to see many of his former classmates–including the still-lovely Homecoming Queen, Trudy. Once the object of his teenage crush, Trudy joins Mitch. He quickly realizes she is
upset and inebriated. Always the gentleman, Mitch sees her safely home, and returns to his B&B, still trying to shake memories of his parents’ sad demise. The next day, he is stunned to learn Trudy was murdered and he is the prime suspect. The locals treat the murder charge as a slam dunk, and Mitch realizes he must track down the real killer to keep his butt out of jail. As he
investigates, facts he thought he knew about his family unravel, and danger ratchets up. Can Mitch discover the truth that will allow his parents to rest in peace, or will he be resting with them?

W.S. Gager has lived in Michigan for most of her life except when she was interviewing race car drivers or professional woman’s golfers. She enjoyed the fast-paced life of a newspaper reporter until deciding to settle down and realized babies didn’t adapt well to running down story details on deadline. Since then she honed her skills on other forms of writing before deciding to do what she always wanted with her life and that was to write mystery novels. Her main character is Mitch Malone who is an edgy crime-beat reporter always on the hunt for the next Pulitzer and won’t let anyone stop him, supposedly.

Wendy, thank you!  Come back tomorrow, folks, for another great author’s blog, and don’t forget to comment here for a chance to win one of Wendy’s books!

Cheers, All,  Beth



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December 3, 2011

Mystery We Write Winter Blog Tour 2011 Presents M M Gornell

Madeline (M.M.) Gornell has three published mystery novels—PSWA awarding winning Uncle Si’s Secret (2008), Death of a Perfect Man (2009), and her latest release, Reticence of Ravens (2010)her first Route 66 mystery. Reticence of Ravens is a 2011 Eric Hoffer Fiction finalist and Honorary Mention winner, the da Vinci Eye finalist, and a Montaigne Medalist finalist.

She continues to be inspired by historic Route 66, and has recently completed Lies of Convenience, which hopefully will have a 2011 winter release date. It is a tale that fictionally connects murder, truths untold, and Chicago’s Lake Michigan with California’s high desert on the opposite end of The Mother Road. Madeline is also a potter with a fondness for stoneware and reduction firing. She lives with her husband and assorted canines in the Mojave in a town on internationally revered Route 66.

Thank you, Beth, for hosting me on your blog! I’m pleased to be here.

I think the topic you’ve asked about is an important one, and interesting to think about. For me, putting my first publishable manuscript together was sort of like learning how to swim (way back when)—where you learn all the bits-and-pieces, arm strokes, kicks, breathing, etc.—then one day all those parts somehow become one fluid act.

There were so many individual bits-and-pieces that had to come together before I was publishable. But luckily, two definitive things came about that brought it all together. Even
though I thought I knew how to write, and already had short stories published, I decided to take an online writing class from Mike Foley, author/instructor.

He helped me in so many ways—storytelling mechanics and POV in particular. Those classes were the smartest thing I ever did! During the same time period, the “gods smiled,” and I became friends with a wonderful agent and editor, Kitty Kladstrup—who has taught me so much via editing. What I didn’t know about punctuation—and I certainly should have at this point in my writing career—was amazing. I still break rules, but usually it’s on purpose, and I know why I’m doing it.

Is there a lesson here? I’m not sure, because every author is different, every approach individual. I guess Listen is the key word, then decide if it’s something that will help you.

And most important, I keep learning with each book, with each edit, with each rewrite. Which as an aside, I now love to rewrite. It’s the part of the process where my ideas become a novel. Indeed, my author’s learning journey has become a wonderful thing!

Beth, it’s been fun posting on your Blog, thanks for the visit and your thoughtful questions!

Thank you, Madeline!  Folks, come back tomorrow to see another fantastic author, and don’t forget to leave a comment so you’ll be in the running to win a book!

Cheers, All, Betj

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December 2, 2011

Mystery We Write Winter 2011 Blog Tour Presents Tim Hallinan

Timothy Hallinan is the Edgar- and Macavity-nominated author of the traditionally-published Poke Rafferty series of Bangkok thrillers, the most recent of which is The Queen of Patpong, and the Junior Bender Los Angeles mysteries, which are e-book originals. The most recent Junior Bender adventure is Little Elvises. Earlier this year Hallinan conceived and edited an e-book of
original short stories by twenty top-ranked mystery writers, Shaken: Stories for Japan, which is available from Amazon for $3.99. He lives in Santa Monica and Southeast Asia and is lucky enough to be married to Munyin Choy.  His website is , and
the largest area of it is devoted to helping writers finish their first novel.


Not for Attribution by Tim Hallinan

When I started to write, my learning curve was almost vertical.

I made every beginner’s mistake. I began the books with long prologues, usually in italics, to make them even harder to read. I “enhanced” my verbs with adverbs, so that we’d know not only that Joanne gasped the line, “It was you,” but that she gasped it raggedly. I got fancy-schmancy with my prose, so that “It was the kind of hot that makes you doubt summer will ever end” became “The heat radiated from the road in liquid ripples, scoured the sky a pale and bleached blue, and gathered in the corners of the day, waiting to ambush the unwary.”

You get it.

But the big one was attribution. I couldn’t get comfortable with it. “He said” and “she said” felt like a ping-pong game. More active verbs to replace “said” seemed to call attention to themselves and actually pull the reader from the story.

“I’m not going,” Joanne snapped.

“Oh, yes, you are,” Dwight insisted. “This was your idea.”

“It was not,” Joanne demurred.

“You’re going,” Dwight commanded.

See? It’s awful. Those verbs speckle the page like someonesneezed on it.

Finally, reading something, I realized I’d just seen an attribution with no attributing verb at all. I don’t remember what it was, but it could have been something like, “Joanne turned her back on Dwight and looked out the window. “You’ve never understood.”

And then a paragraph break. Hooooooooooo. You could show a character doing something and then give him/her a line or even a whole speech, and everybody would know who was talking. This is especially useful for scenes in which there are three or more characters, so you’re not continually reciting names—and you’re advancing the scene at the same time.

I know, I know—this is as fundamental as breathing out after breathing in, but to me it was a revelation. No Joanne-Dwight-Howard rotating through the scene, no attribution verbs adding uselessly to the word count.  (When tightening, I always cut the useless words first, so why put them in?) It solved, if not everything, quite a lot.

And another thing: it forced me to visualize what my characters were doing. That, in turn, forced me to imagine them a little more deeply and ask myself how I might show them as individuals by something as simple as the way they played a hand of cards. I could get rid of all those verbs and clarify my characters at the same time.

Oh, and one more thing: I gradually junked all attributing verbs except “said.” My characters no longer gasp, whimper, aver, claim, or snivel. The exception is when a different word is actually needed. If I have two characters tied together on a conveyor belt being carried inexorably into
the ravening maw of a machine that’s presently tearing a Chevrolet to shreds, I might write the line, “’I love you,’ he shouted.”

But it would take something like that.

Thanks, folks, for stopping by.  Be sure and leave a comment and come back tomorrow for another of fourteen extremely talented writers and what they have to say about writing.

The Writing World | 17 Comments  

December 1, 2011

Mystery We Write Winter 2011 Blog Tour Presents Jackie King

Thanks Beth for hosting me on this 7th day of our fun blog tour.

Hello Readers, thanks for taking a break from your holiday preparations to join me. And remember to make comments on each of our 15-member mystery writer’s blogsites. We’re
giving away 44 books total, either during the tour or immediately afterwards. I’m giving a signed copy of my cozy mystery THE INCONVENIENT CORPSE and a signed copy of THE FOXY HENS AND MURDER MOST FOWL. Names will be chosen from those who leave a comment.

Beth chose WRITING NEMESIS’ as a discussion topic for our traveling group of writers. Here’s
my take on the subject:

Telling the
Truth Is Hard

Even When You’re
Making It Up As You Go

I’m a private person. A friend tells me it’s because I’m a Pisces; I think it’s because I was always in trouble as a kid for saying something that annoyed grownups. So I learned to hide my true thoughts. And that worked well for getting along with adults and later on, bosses and coworkers. But when I started writing, this acquired façade turned into my biggest Nemesis.

My first instinct as a beginning writer was to try and make the reader like my protagonist (hero or heroine), by making these characters ‘nice.’ This had worked well for me as a person, hadn’t it? But the result on paper produced cardboard people that even I didn’t like.

For some time I soldiered on, not quite knowing how to fix my problem. Then one day while
working at my computer (this is where most of my best ideas hit me) I realized that my aversion to showing flaws, wasn’t to protect my characters, it was to protect myself! (As if anyone really cared.) I felt such a fake! No wonder I had plastic people in my stories. So I made a decision that
improved my writing more than any other one thing: I decided to TELL THE TRUTH as I saw it. I learned to speak straight from my heart, no matter how it sounded. Suddenly my characters turned into flesh and blood. These people didn’t go blabbing their faults to other characters, that wouldn’t be realistic. Their flaws were spoken inside their heads, where readers could identify with their honesty.

Note to beginning writers: This is called inner dialogue, or a private conversation between the character and the reader. If skillfully done, there is no need for attributions. (Although it’s okay to use ‘he said’ or ‘she said’ as often as needed for clarity. These particular words seem invisible to most of our American readers.)

To develop this and other writing skills, spend as much time as possible writing. Also it’s essential to read continually. After you finish reading a mystery (or other book) that you love, go back and study how that author set you up for the ride.  Especially observe the character’s inner dialogue—especially those with no attributions.

I was astonished at how hard telling the truth was, especially at first. What would my church
friends think? What would my children or mom or dad think? But by that time I was at the point where writing had become more important to me than anyone’s opinion. I figured that if they really liked me, they’d forgive me. So I forged on.

Telling the truth on paper has been the most freeing thing I’ve ever done as a writer. If you haven’t already discovered the joy of being yourself in your writing, try it. Incidentally, this skill is also part of what’s called ‘voice.’ Dare to be outrageous, if that’s your true self. Or fearful, or timid, or cowardly. Your readers will love you for it.

Hugs, Jackie




Blogsite: Cozy Mysteries and Other Madness:

THE INCONVENENT CORPSE is on Amazon and Barnes & Noble as well as available through all bookstores.

Paper trade back: $15.95.  Kindle $2.99

Nook $2.99


Opening paragraph to THE INCONVENIENT

“Grace Cassidy stared at the stranger’s body. He was about sixty, pot-bellied, naked, and very dead. She knew he was dead because his skin was the color of concrete. Worst of all, he was lying smack dab in the middle of her bed.”

The story in a nutshell:

…No credit cards, no cash, no resources, no job skills. Fleeced and abandoned by her husband, Grace Cassidy learns she is the prime suspect in a bizarre murder.

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.


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