Monday, October 30, 2017

It’s November Once More

Remember last November? You know what I mean. You promised yourself you’d join NaNoWriMo and write a novel in a month. 50,000 words in 30 days, about 1,700 a day. Piece of cake, right? Then you missed a day so that meant 3,400 words a day then yes u missed a second day.
While I’d never recommend a serious author stop what they are working on to participate, this year I’m actually finishing something up in these last few days of October so November is free for a new project or completing an existing one which is what may actually happen. The hard part for me is to keep moving forward. To write without going back to edit earlier work. It leads to a cleaner first draft but delays the completion of that first draft.
So is anyone on board? Anyone inspired to make November a month of writing?

Friday, October 27, 2017

Mixed Messages: a Halloween Mystery

            I’m using my monthly Novel Spaces post today to highlight the work of another author, Patricia Gligor. Patricia and I belong to a group called Mystery Authors International and each month the members of the group feature one member, that month’s Author of the Month, on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms.

            Because I’ve had Pat on my blog a few times, I thought it would be nice to feature her work on another blog so I can introduce her to some different readers.

            Today I’m focusing on Pat’s debut book, Mixed Messages. I’ve read it and I can highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys mystery and psychological suspense (in other words, someone who likes a little bit of family drama mixed in with their serial killers).

            Mixed Messages tells the story of a Cincinnati woman who’s got some big problems on her hands:

It’s estimated that there are at least twenty to thirty active serial killers in the United States at any given time. There’s one on the loose on the west side of Cincinnati.

It’s the week of Halloween and Ann Kern struggles with several issues. Her primary concern is her marriage which, like her west side neighborhood, is in jeopardy. Her husband is drinking heavily and his behavior toward her is erratic. One minute, he’s the kind, loving man she married and, the next minute, he’s cold and cruel.

Ann dismisses a psychic’s warning that she is in danger. But, when she receives a series of ominous biblical quotes, she grows nervous and suspicious of everyone, including her own husband.

As the bizarre and frightening events unfold, Ann discovers a handmade tombstone marked with her name, pushing her close to the edge. Will she be the Westwood Strangler’s next victim?

Exciting, huh?

Here’s what Pat has to say about the origin of her story:

One day, shortly after I’d moved into a new apartment on the west side of Cincinnati, I went for a walk in the neighborhood and spotted an old Victorian. I remember standing there, gazing up at the house, captivated. I’ve always loved old houses; they have so much character. Every old house has a history; people have lived there and, in many cases, died there. As I looked up at the Victorian, I found myself wondering what those walls would say if they could talk.

Intrigued, I wanted to find out more about the house and the area so I went to the Cincinnati Historical Society and immersed myself in research. Little by little, I began to come up with plot ideas and possible scenarios. The people who would live in the house and in the neighborhood, the characters for my book, came to me gradually. I drew upon my own life experiences and I took bits and pieces of the lives of people I knew or had read or heard about. A physical characteristic here, a personality trait there. I jotted down those ideas on scraps of paper and it wasn’t long before I had a huge pile, which eventually became a chapter-by-chapter outline.

I fictionalized the house in my mind and on paper to fit the story I wanted to tell, which had slowly evolved. I constantly asked myself questions. What if, in the midst of my main character’s personal struggles, a serial killer is on the loose? What if she has reason to believe he’s after her?

Want to hear more? Here’s a short excerpt:

“Ann tried to shut the door in his face but he pushed hard against it and sent her tumbling backwards. She regained her balance and ran toward her apartment door. The man pounced at her and grabbed her wrist, twisting it. “Stop it!” she yelled. “You’re hurting me!”

He shoved her into her apartment and slammed the door behind them.

She stifled a scream. Please God, she prayed, don’t let the kids wake up. Please help me. Is this him? Is he the Westwood Strangler? Am I his next victim? What can I do? I don’t want to die!”

Want even more? Pat has made a great trailer for the book. I think you’ll like it, especially since Halloween is just a few days away. You can find it here:

I encourage you to get yourself a copy of Mixed Messages. And the best news of all? There are several more books in the series! The first three books in her Malone mystery series, Mixed Messages, Unfinished Business, and Desperate Deeds take place on the west side of Cincinnati. In Mistaken Identity, the fourth book, her characters are vacationing on Fripp Island in South Carolina. Marnie Malone, the fifth book in her series, is set in Mt. Pleasant and Charleston, South Carolina.

You can connect with Pat at the following places:

            Happy reading and Happy Halloween!



Sunday, October 22, 2017

Write What You Know. Except When You Don’t

Write what you know. Really? What if I want to write about what I don’t know? Does Anne Perry know what it’s like to be Thomas Pitt, a police inspector in Victorian London? Does Jacqueline Winspear have firsthand knowledge of the world of Maisie Dobbs, a psychologist/investigator based in England in the early decades of the twentieth century? No. These authors and many like them do research to create their characters and stories. Lots of research.

Even in contemporary times, a sleuth may need to venture into an unfamiliar environment in order to hunt down a killer.

That’s where research comes in.

In Murder at the Moonshine Inn, Hazel Rose agrees to investigate the murder of Roxanne Howard, a high-powered executive who died in a pool of blood outside the Moonshine Inn, one of Richmond, Virginia’s most notorious redneck bars. Hazel immediately has two questions: who killed Roxanne? And why had the woman spent her leisure time sitting on a barstool at the watering hole, having loud fights on her phone with her husband?

To answer these questions, Hazel needs to go to the bar—undercover. Now, Hazel has never set foot in a redneck bar.  How does she act? How does she dress? How does she speak? What does the bar look like?

No question about it, I needed to visit a redneck bar that would become the model for the fictitious Moonshine Inn (not undercover, though.).

My friend Marie served as my consultant. She assured me that she was an expert on redneck culture. She advised me on dress, dialog, and any number of details. She sent me links to databases of redneck baby names. There is a wealth of online sources for redneckiana (not a real word, but perhaps it should be).

Vince, Hazel’s husband and undercover partner, admires his wife’s disguise:
“Wow!” His appreciative look said he liked the redneck me.

“It’s just for tonight. This is way too much work.”

“It’s the top I like. Hair’s for the birds. Literally.”

Vince referred to my Harley Davidson two-sizes-too-small tank top that revealed an impressive display of cleavage. I had a Victoria’s Secret contraption that I employed for the thankfully few occasions when I wanted to play up my assets. The jeans that I’d slashed in strategic places molded my bottom half, and Eileen’s boots fit well with the help of thick, albeit unsexy, socks. As for the hair, I may have gone overboard with teasing and spraying my chestnut waves into something like an exploded mushroom—or a birds nest. But, as long as I fit in, that was the main thing: frosted blue eye shadow and plenty of it streaked across my eyelids, and my nails sparkled with scarlet polish.

Back to me and my research. My own husband and I visited three bars and I combined the three in to one for my story. I tried to capture the essence and Marie helped. Between these visits, Marie, online sources, and my vivid imagination, I put together a passable chapter.

When Hazel arrives at the Moonshine Inn with Vince, she gives an Oscar-worthy performance as a redneck queen, she meets some very interesting people, and picks up information that may prove valuable in nailing Roxanne Howard’s killer.
Description of the Moonshine Inn:

Black-and-white tiles covered the floor, and dark leather booths lined the perimeter of the space. Grime streaked the windows. The ceiling came up short on its allotment of tiles. Apparently the Moonshine Inn had a special dispensation to allow smoking, as a thick fog made the TVs positioned throughout the bar hard to see. I saw a Florida room, all white with ceiling fans and clean windows, attached to the front of the building. A prominent sign proclaimed it a non-smoking section. I looked at it longingly but, as not a soul populated the space, I figured I’d best sit elsewhere so I could get information.

The patrons caught up on the news via ESPN and Fox News amid much yelling and derogatory jokes about Obamacare. For those disinclined to watch the news, one TV offered T.J. Hooker reruns. But we weren’t there to catch up on the news or ‘80s-era cop shows.

So, with a little research, an adventurous spirit, and a vivid imagination, you as an author are not limited to writing what you know. But beware: you may risk leaving your comfort zone!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Dressed to Tell

This month I wanted to share my ideas on using pictures to add sparkle to my words.
When I’m reading a book, I want to get to know the characters. If it’s well written, with a good story line to keep me hooked, they will get inside my head. One way I “see” them and begin to understand them, is from the way they dress. I won’t have much thought for a sophisticated business woman who isn’t wearing a suit. I’ll have more respect for her if it’s one by Ralph Lauren, for example.
And that’s the way I work in my writing. My characters are defined by their actions and words, but I also like to dress them appropriately. I will often scour magazines, photo websites, even high street advertising boards to find images that fit my characters.
Let me give you some of examples.
In Guiltless the hero is a photographer who doesn’t earn very much. This is quite an important factor in his make-up. Byron wears jeans and T shirts, drives an old Nissan truck and lives in a rundown farmhouse. This is one of my favourite images I have for him:

There is a scene in the book where Byron appears in “a black suit, grey waistcoat and stark white shirt with a narrow black tie.” This attire is totally out of character with the man Lauren, the heroine, has come to know. There is a reason he has to dress like this so I go into detail about his clothes, underlying their significance.
I have great fun “dressing” Lauren, the CEO of her own fashion house, who also wants to model their next range of lingerie herself. Here’s a selection of some the things she would wear:

The high heels are important – Lauren is only five feet four inches and she wants to be taller. She is very comfortable wearing four-inch heels.
The images help me to use words so the reader can visualise the characters. Of course, if someone was ever to make a film of my book, my idea may not quite work. Anyone who has read Jack Reacher and watched one of his films will know what I’m talking about.
I also use visuals on social media. It’s a great way to connect with an audience and try to promote your book without splashing the cover everywhere all of the time. When you’re character is well developed and has been “living” inside you for a long time, it’s hard to pick out photos that make a good match. One way I avoid this is to use silhouettes, but I don’t want to over-use them. In some instances I take a photograph and cut the head off. It’s not as drastic as it sounds – the photo of Byron above is a good example.
I was lucky with the protagonist of my third book, Keeping You, which will be published end 2017, early 2018. When the reader meets this guy, Lawrence, he is quite the opposite of Byron. Lawrence Bane only wears designer labels. The reason for that lies in a damaged past when he never had control of his life. I drop names such as Hugo Boss, Calvin Klein and Karl Lagerfeld into my descriptions as often as he drops his pants! But there comes a time when Lawrence has to revert to bargain clothes. I have great fun contrasting descriptions, and again imagery helps me.
For example: Suit man

and Hoody man

My aim is to describe clothing to help both explain and determine the scene. In this example, one scene is about a proud man, protective of his privacy and his past. The other is a man filled with shame as he is forced, once more, to become the man he used to be.
In this article I stick to clothing, but my laptop is full of images of buildings, furniture, bouquets, cars… I could go on. Let me know what helps you to “tell” your story.

Come over and visit my website at where you'll find more imagery and narrative.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Patreon- What is it and do I want one?

Some of you out there may have heard of Patreon but never bothered with it. Maybe you assumed it was for artists and musicians only. Maybe you heard the word in passing at a convention or while chatting with other authors, but never followed up. I have a Patreon myself, although it is art related and not writing related. You can see the it here 

Patreon itself can be found here 

The site doesn't look like much unless you know who or what you're looking for. And if you DO start digging you get the idea that Patreon is just for musicians and artists. BUT there are a number of authors on Patreon (I will be using SFF authors for this article because they are the ones I'm most familiar with.)

So: Let's begin. Below is Mary Robinette Kowal. 

Kowal is a fantasy author and has a considerable backlist of successful books. One of the key ingredients if you ARE thinking of starting an author Patreon, is being published. The authors making the most money on Patreon are those with name recognition. But if you have a fan following, and/or a mailing list you can tap, then Patreon could be a good income boost.

Now, Let's break the page down.

240 is the number of people who give Kowal money on a monthly basis. Below you can see her stated goal of $2,000 a month.

Now, one of the things that Patreon does is let you set TIERS for patron rewards. Reward tiers start at $1. That's the least that a patron can pay per month. 

What do your patrons receive for their financial support? A good friend of mine told me that the patrons are supporting YOU. You should ask for more money than you think you should. Otherwise, they can just buy a book. That's not the point. Patrons are there for the unique things you can offer them!

As an author you have a lot to offer! 

First off, let's look at some of Kowal's reward tiers. 

You can see what the $1.00 patrons receive. And of course you want to give ever better rewards for higher tiers. 

The highest tier is $25 and for that you get a Live-stream writing class with the author. You can offer all sort of rewards! 

You update your Patreon by creating blog posts. You can upload files which your patrons can download. OR just make the post readable. You also determine which tier levels can see which posts. 

Above, you can see that Kowal is offering chapters of books and works in progress. Readers and fans will be able to see your works in progress before anyone else and get a special peek into your creative process. You can conduct polls, host giveaways, and you can even require a mailing address at certain tiers if you want to mail items to your patrons. 

Patrons also have a chance to interact with you and can make comments on your posts. You can track how well your posts are performing. Here is a sample from my own Patreon page. 

Don't let my stats scare you! But this is the sort of thing that only the user gets to see :) Other people DO get comments and things. 

But now you have a good overview of Patreon! Check out the site and see if you too want to try it out! Just remember: as much as Patreon likes to tout the people actually making a living off the site, those people are FEW and far between. Anything better than zero is a win! 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Hacking Away at Your Word Count

by Linda Thorne

If you’re an author who has ever entered a writing contest, you’ve been subjected to maximum word count requirements. I found this to be the norm in contests asking for part or all of a work-in-progress novel and in every short story contest I ever entered.

It’s amazing how you can reduce those words. I’ve managed to take a 3500 word short story and reduce it to 1000. I’m not saying the story was the better for it, but it can still be done without sacrificing the story.

My first book, Just Another Termination, started off at 120,000 words. It was awful. So much needed cut. I cut a couple of non-essential characters and their roles, but there was more fat to trim. I had too much detail on how some events came about. I described how my character and her husband moved from LA to the Mississippi Gulf Coast and gave information about her husband moving there first, where he stayed until he found a house to buy, and then my protagonist joining. Yuck! Those three pages of information dump turned into a two sentence summary blurb. That’s all that was necessary. When my book finally got published it was closer to 80,000 words.

I’ve heard that the current preferred length for mystery, thrillers, and romance is 70,000 to 90,000 words; although I personally consider 90,000 high. My debut novel is close to 80,000 and I would have liked to have reduced it to about 75,000 words, but I gave up on that.

Things I’ve done to reduce word count:
  • Drop one of the subplots. I had too many in the first draft of my first book. I’m currently working on my second in the series and hoping I don’t have to drop any subplots. I won’t know until I’m finished.
  • Get rid of a few characters. I had to eliminate a couple of characters in Just Another Termination and hated it. I may have one too many in my current work-in-progress, A Promotion to Die For. I don’t know yet.
  • I know you are supposed to take out back story in the beginning and trickle it throughout. I’m not sure I can do that in A Promotion to Die For, as so much back story is needed for a murder 29 years in the past that’s brought to the present. Critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Susan Isaacs wrote a book called, Lily White, where each chapter was either in the present time or in the past. The past chapters were in italics and the present ones in regular font until both stories met in time at the end. I enjoyed this. In A Promotion to Die For I only have a few chapters that are written in back story. The people and occurrences in that history from 29 years earlier surface soon in the present and the old cold case murder from back then is solved toward the end of the book in its current timeline.
  • Eliminate repeats. I can’t tell you how many times I can say the same thing in writing over and over. The reader gets it the first time. I’m not sure about other authors, but I find myself telling it to them again in a different way. This has to end and I usually get rid of it during the revision process.
  • No rambling over things you want to get in because of your beliefs. This is not about the author, but about giving the reader something interesting to read.

I’m interested in your experiences as authors and/or readers in words working without being too wordy.

Monday, October 2, 2017

The 3 Books That Scared Me Most

It's October and people are dusting off those old horror movies and preparing to scare themselves silly. This got me thinking about the books that had frightened me most. While the ones I chose don't strictly belong in the horror genre—one is a literary short story, another is a dystopian SF novel and the third is dark fantasy—they scared me far more than anything I've read by that master of horror, Stephen King. Why did they make the top slots? Because the horror factor stayed with me long after I turned the last page and sat in a stupor, eyes glazed and tee-shirt sweaty, my mind reeling from the hellish possibilities conjured by these authors.

Now, what scares me might not scare everyone. I know that some are scared by evil spirits and things that go bump in the night. Storms. Sharks, spiders. No Internet service. I'm not scared of those things. It's reality that makes my teeth chatter, or the logical projection of current reality into a nightmare reality that is all too believable, even inevitable. This brings me to my top contender, the book that scared me more than any other in my 50+ years on the planet....

1. The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
(Spoilers!) Here is the earth, America to be precise, after some ass started a nuclear war. Nothing grows because sunlight can't get through the thick cover of smoke and dust. Everything is covered with ash. Everything is dead, including the ocean. Shorelines are strewn with the bones of all the dead fish. Some people survive, and what they become in the desperate quest for food and water is something that cannot be called human. This book contains the single most horrifying scene I've ever read—even more horrifying than a scene in a short story I read decades ago where a child is slowly disemboweled by a Mephistophelean character. Yes, it tops that.

2. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury.
This novel should not even be on this list because I never finished it. I was a child when I blithely picked it off a bookshelf at home, and I didn't get very far. All I remember is a fairground where nothing is as it seems, and the more I read, the creepier everyone and everything became. To my child's eyes, this perversion of things that should be innocent and harmless, like carousels and merry-go-rounds, was so terrifying that I closed the book, slipped it back on the shelf—and shivered every time I saw its grey, faded cover over the next couple of decades. Still can't bring myself to finish it.

3. A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor.
(Spoilers!) This is a short story I read just a few years ago, so I vividly remember how this tale hung over me like a seething, dripping, noxious cloud for several weeks. O'Connor takes an ordinary, flawed family, Granny and all, and puts them on a road trip from Georgia to Florida where they make a wrong turn and fall into the hands of some men who embody the worst qualities mankind has to offer. The family—mom, dad, gram and kids—do not survive the encounter, and it was the utter banality of the savagery that did me in. It was a long time before I could push that horrific tale of murder, madness and mayhem out of my head.

There we have it—three stories that scared the pants off me. What are the stories that terrified you the most? Tell me in the comments!