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.


The Writing World | 19 Comments  

November 30, 2011

Mystery We Write Winter 2011 Blog Tour Presents Jean Henry Mead


Making the Transition from Journalism to Fiction

By Jean Henry Mead

Writing fiction has always been my goal. I wrote my first novel when I was nine, a chapter a day to entertain classmates, but my first published novel didn’t appear until many years later, in 1999.

There were no fiction writing classes available so I wrote for my high school newspaper. Later, as a divorced mother of four young daughters, I served as editor in chief of my college newspaper while working 35 hours a week for the local daily as a “cub” reporter. Driving 50 miles round trip to school in another town, often in pea soup fog, made me realize that I could do anything, if I lived through it. It also made me even more determined to write fiction.

When I wrote my first novel, after two years of sitting behind a microfilm machine to research a centennial history, I had so many typewritten notes that I couldn’t allow them go to waste. They served as research for an historical novel titled Escape on the Wind, which later resold as Escape, a Wyoming Historical Novel, now in its fourth edition. I had already written four nonfiction books and the focus, of course, is entirely different. Nonfiction is objective while fiction is subjective, although all fiction is rooted in fact.

For me, the transition was a struggle. Fortunately, during the 1980s, well established writers were still taking fledglings under their wings. My mentor was Fred Grove, who had won five prestigious Spur Awards from Western Writers of America. Fred had also begun his writing career in journalism so he understood that switching to fiction could be difficult. He encouraged me to snail mail him chapters as I wrote them. He then told me what I was doing wrong, as well
as right. He didn’t edit or rewrite my work but his encouragement made all the difference.

When historical western novels lost their popularity, I was encouraged by my pen pal, Loren
Estleman, to follow his keystrokes by writing mysteries, which I’ve always enjoyed reading. My two boomer amateur sleuths were given birth when I thought about the relationship between myself and a good friend while I was struggling through my college courses. The humor that’s sprinkled throughout my books originated with my friend, Marge, who could always make me laugh. (She missed her calling as a standup comic.)

After three Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense novels, I decided to also try my hand at writing children’s novels, so the Hamilton Kid’s mystery series took root this year. Mystery of Spider
and Ghost of Crimson Dawn were published after I took a children’s writing course with Louise Munro Foley as my mentor. I chose her because she also writes with humor.

I’m still writing nonfiction, mainly recycling blog articles into ebooks, but my favorite writing will always remain fiction.

Bio:  Jean Henry Mead is the author of 15 books, half of them novels. Her Logan and Cafferty mystery/suspense series is comprised of three novels: A Village Shattered, Diary of Murder and Murder on the Interstate. She’s also an award-winning photojournalist with articles published nationally as well as abroad. The southern California native now lives in Wyoming with her husband and Australian Shepherd.

Her website:

She’s also on Facebook and Twitter.

Jean’s latest Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense novel, Murder on the Interstate, is available at: (print and Kindle) and

Barnes and Noble: (Nook)

She’s giving away one of her mystery e-books at the end of each of her 14 blog appearances as well as three print novels at the conclusion of the tour. Be sure to leave a comment and email address to be eligible for the drawings. Her blog tour schedule is listed at:

The Writing World | 23 Comments  

November 29, 2011

Mystery We Write Winter 2011 Blog tour Presents Marilyn Meredith



Understanding what Point-of-View means when it comes to writing a novel was no doubt the most difficult thing for me to learn. As I read other authors’ books—especially those who were published with a small press or self-published—I know that the concept is not readily grasped by many writers.

So what is POV as most authors refer to this? When I was told, years ago, by my critique group that my POV was all over the place I had no idea what they meant. I knew what having a point-of-view meant, but not what they meant by POV.

Recently, I was on a panel about POV with other authors and it didn’t take long to realize we all didn’t have the same idea what it meant when it came to writing our books.

Of course there’s the Omniscient POV which is coming from someone who knows all. (Simplistic explanation, but this is the way many if not all of the old classics were written.)

First person POV is probably the easiest to write as the whole story is told by the “I” person who is experiencing everything. This person only knows what he or she sees, hears, experiences, feels, tastes, etc.  (Nowadays, some authors are using more than one first person POV. Tricky and not recommended unless you really know what you are doing.)

Third person close is what I like to write. This is almost the same as first person except that it’s coming from the “he” or “she” character. In my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries, I write strictly from Tempe’s POV. The story is told as she experiences it. This means I don’t jump into anyone else’s POV—the reader will only know what she knows.

If I did decide to tell something from another person’s POV, I would start a different chapter and immediately write something that would alert the reader that the next part was from another person’s POV. I could do the same thing with a scene break (a space) but I don’t choose to do that in this particular series. A for instance, in Invisible Path the first chapter is from another character’s POV which gives the reader a little insight into what happens later.

In my Rocky Bluff P.D. series I used multiple viewpoints but always with a scene break to let the reader know what is going on. When doing this, it is important that you always let the reader know whose head the story is coming from.

Why I don’t like head-hopping (jumping from one character’s POV to another)  is I think it makes the story choppy. What a writer needs to remember is that whoever the POV character
is, he or she can’t know what another character is thinking. Of course she can tell is someone is getting angry by if she sees the other person’s face has turned bring red, he’s clenching his fists, etc.

Having said all that, recently I read two extremely exciting books where the POV jumped all over the place. As a writer, it drove me crazy—however, I kept right on reading because the stories were so clever and kept me turning the pages.

To help me, when I’m writing, I climb right inside my POV character and see what’s going on through her (or his) eyes. Everything that happens has to be something she’s experiencing—and the narrative is what she’s thinking.

Marilyn Meredithis the author of over thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Bears With Us from Mundania Press. Writing as F. M. Meredith, her latest Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel is Angel Lost, the third from Oak Tree Press. She was an instructor for Writers Digest School for 10 years and has been an instructor for numerous writing conferences including the Maui Writers Retreat. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, four chapters of Sisters in Crime, including the Central Coast chapter, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at and her blog at

Bears With Us Description:  Deputy Tempe Crabtree has her hands full when bears turn up  in and around Bear Creek, a young teen commits suicide and his parents’ actions are suspicious, a prominent woman files a complaint against Tempe and her preacher husband Hutch, a love  affair from long ago comes to light, and a woman suffering from dementia disappears.

Thank you, Marilyn.  Folks, stop by tomorrow for another great blog by another wonderful author.  And don’t forget to comment to enter the contest to win one of Marilyn’s books.

Cheers, Beth


The Writing World | 14 Comments  

November 28, 2011

Mystery We Write 2011 Winter Blog Tour Presents Mike Orenduff



Buy Link for the latest book:

The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras, The Pot Thief Who Studied Ptolemy, The Pot Thief Who Studied Einstein, and The Pot Thief Who Studied Escoffier are published by Oak Tress Press and are available as paperbacks in many Barnes & Nobles, Hastings, and Independent bookstores and as ebooks on Kindle and Nook readers.

“Hubert Shuze, pot thief extraordinaire, operates an ancient pottery resale shop, not entirely legally, in the middle of Albuquerque’s town square. His activities, both in the selling and creating of ancient pots and their knock-offs, tend to get him mixed up in an assortment of marginally ethical activities, murder generally being the most profound. Shuze operates by a complex set of ethics that allows him to sell questionably legal pots, burglarize, and launder money — but never to lie, cheat or steal. Along the way, Shuze, a perpetual student of life, educates us on his philosopher du jour. His previous novels featured the philosophies of Pythagoras, Ptolemy and Einstein.  “The Pot Thief Who Studied Escoffier” is a quirky repast of piñon-infused chimeneas, New Mexican sunsets, and a delightful band of foodie misfits.  It is best enjoyed in the fading glow of a Southwestern sunset, a fire crackling beside you, a faithful dog at your feet.” The El Paso Times

Mike Orenduff grew up in a house so close to the Rio Grande that he could Frisbee a tortilla into Mexico. He came by his love of pueblo pottery during weekends, buying small pots from the pueblos his family visited and – in one case – acquiring one when his sister traded chocolate chip cookies for it. His love of pottery expanded to a general interest in archaeology which he studied as an undergraduate.

While in graduate school at the University of New Mexico, Mike worked during the summer as a volunteer teacher at one of the nearby pueblos. He went on to serve as President of New Mexico State University and as a visiting faculty member at West Point and President of Bermuda College. After retiring from higher education, he rekindled his love of the Southwest by writing his award-winning Pot Thief murder mysteries which combine archaeology and philosophy with humor and mystery.  Among his many awards are the New Mexico Book of the Year, the “Lefty” national award for best humorous mystery and two “Eppies” for the best eBook mysteries.

His first book, The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras, was described by The Baltimore Sun as, “funny at a very high intellectual level and deliciously delightful,” and his latest, The Pot Thief Who Studied Escoffier, was called “the perfect fusion of murder, mayhem and margaritas” by The El Paso Times.

The hardest thing I had to learn about putting a publishable manuscript together was actually something I had to unlearn. I had written scores of articles for scholarly journals over the
course of my career as a professor. When I tried to write fiction, my background as an academic got in the way.

Another academic who wrote murder mysteries was Robert Parker. He had a Pd.D. in English, but he learned how to write in such a way that it didn’t show. His first book, The Private Eye in Hammett and Chandler, was his doctoral dissertation, pruned – in his words – “of the more egregious academic excesses.” He goes on to say of the work that, “it stands before you still a
bit unseemly in its scholarly circumlocution, with excessive demonstration, and insufficient insight.”

I know exactly what he means. Despite my efforts to overcome my academic background, my first drafts still contain the odd circumlocution here and there.

Only 200 copies of The Private Eye in Hammett and Chandler were printed, and I’m lucky to be the owner of a signed copy. Parker’s Spencer series sold a lot better than his re-written dissertation. And a lot better than my Pot Thief series, alas. However, I’ve published more scholarly articles than he did. Can you see the jealousy dripping from my words?

Here is an example of a circumlocution from one of my articles on the English ethicist, G. E. Moore: “Instead, the quoted passage is Moore’s explanation of what has been called ‘imaginative
isolation’, the process whereby we can presumably determine whether something, X, is identical with goodness by considering what is actually before our minds when we focus first on X and then on goodness.”

Try working that into a murder mystery!

And, to demonstrate that I have, on occasion, overcome this handicap, I will end with a passage from my latest book, The Pot Thief Who Studied Escoffier:

“It’s the restaurant syndrome, Hubie.”

“Restaurant syndrome? I’ve never heard of it.”

“Maybe you know it by its original name, le syndrome de restaurant.”

I groaned. “Please, no more French words and phrases.”

“But that’s it. That’s the syndrome. You start working in a restaurant, and you have to learn all those French terms. It begins to affect your thinking, like the twins thing.”

“The twins thing?”

“Yeah. You know, like how twins have this special language that makes it easy for them to communicate with each other, but it messes them up when they try to deal with normal people.
Restaurant workers are like that. We may start out normal, but after you begin using words like prix fixe, hors-d’œuvres, à la carte, escargots, and raison d’être, you get a little crazy.”

Raison d’être?

“I think it’s a raisin soufflé.”

“No. I think the phrase for a raisin soufflé is au courant,” I said.

“Anyway,” she continued, “it affects your judgment, and pretty soon you’re doing crazy things like actually eating snails because you think of them as escargots and don’t realize they’re just slimy snails.”

Folks, thank you for stopping by, please don’t forget to comment so you can win one of Mike’s books!  Come back tomorrow for another great author!

Cheers, Beth

The Writing World | 15 Comments  







Copyright © 2006-2018 Beth Anderson. All Rights Reserved.
Web Design and Hosting by Swank Web Design | Powered by Wordpress | Log in