Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Long and the Short of it….by Rosemary Lord



Sometimes I want to read in a hurry: quickly turning pages to find out what’s coming, racing through an exciting mystery. Other times I enjoy lingering in the luxury of words – savoring the colorful, evocative descriptions. Immersing myself in the mood of the piece.

I became aware of this as I began to read the English Best Seller, The Girl On The Train, by Paula Hawkins. I saw a smart format that moved the story along quickly. Written diary-style. Staccato. Divided with headings into morning and evening. Sentences very, very short, each session about a page. Although the diary entries increase in length heavily deeper into the book.

It starts off with brief descriptions of what the girl in the title saw on her daily train journeys back and forth to work. She makes up her own stories about the people she observes daily. We’ve all been there. I did that, fresh out of school, following similar train routes when I worked in London years ago. Train journeys are an excellent opportunity for writers imagination to run wild.

But it was the quick, short approach that caught my attention. Short descriptions, simple words written in the first person. No luxuriating in similes. Nothing sentimental. ‘Just the facts, Ma’am.’ It’s hip and sharp. And it works. This book was #1 on the L.A. Times Bestseller List.

But my problem is that I write about the past. A slower, gentler past. I get steeped in creating a mood of a by-gone era. Admittedly, I sometimes get carried away with my sometimes verbose descriptions and my writer friends on this blog will reign me back in. But a short, staccato, present tense would not work for what I want to say in my 1920s-set novels. Although I am getting better. 

For the past 5 years I have been working to save an historic Hollywood building from being turned into a condo-resort-with-swimming-pool. And as there were elderly ladies involved, it led to me to write the historical aspects, their stories and why the Woman’s Club of Hollywood should be saved. My first submissions were red-penciled by the legal teams. The Court, they pointed out, just wants the facts, no flowery descriptions, no emotions, and few – if any – adjectives. I learned to cut the information to the bone, with no sidetracks. It was explained to me that with thousands of legal pages to read, one needs the court to understand the story - without getting bored. Keep it simple. A twelve-step program phrase that is very useful.

I used the ‘keep it simple and short’ theme consistently when I was writing the updated version of Los Angeles Then and Now last year. Although I find it much easier to keep things simple when writing non-fiction. I did that as a journalist for years. Editors give you very little space in which to tell the entire story.

So, when I returned to working on my Lottie Topaz novels (Yeah!) that are set in the world of silent movies and Prohibition in Hollywood, it was with a renewed enthusiasm and fresh approach. While my novels and character’s voice are not really the place for that 2015 staccato tone, I have divested my writing of some of its frippery. And some of the descriptions that I just loved – well, they had to go.( Although my fellow blogger GB Pool uses an excellent, Chandleresque staccato tone in her Johnny Casino books. But that’s a subject for a whole other blog…. )

So, the long and the short of it is that there is room for both styles. It depends on the nature of your writing. I will leave you and return to my dusty, dry days of sweet-smelling orange groves, endless blue skies and the clang of trolley cars in the distance and the world of Hollywood in the 1920s. 


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Building a Better Villian by Miko Johnston

Miko Johnston is the author of Petals in the Wind.  
She first first contemplated a writing career as a poet at age six. That notion ended four years later when she found no 'help wanted' ads for poets in the Sunday NY Times classified section, but her desire to write persisted. After graduating from NY University, she headed west to pursue a career as a journalist before switching to fiction. Miko lives on Whidbey Island in Washington. You can find out more about her books and follow her for her latest releases at Amazon


BUILDING A BETTER VILLAIN

Call me TINO – tolerant in name only. I recently noticed many of my odious characters share a certain trait, which would be fine if that trait related to being dislikable. However, the similarity my antagonists share is physical – they’re gross in every sense of the word.
It made me wonder if I have a deep-seated bias against those who share this physical attribute. But wait, I’ve read many books with villains who ‘look’ like mine. Does that make me biased, or just lazy?
So that got me thinking – how do you build a better villain, one who is complex and human, who doesn’t fall into the easy prejudice category? It’s one thing to make your villain a classic enemy, like a terrorist or Nazi. They’re no challenge to make despicable; we recognize them as bad from their title. You can say murderers, a staple of mysteries, are easy villains, while action/adventure genres almost demand evil characters bent on destroying the world. But that isn’t enough to create a truly memorable bad guy.
The most fascinating villains are the ones we can relate to on a certain level, no matter how vile their behavior, unconscionable their deeds, or distasteful their appearance. For villains who are pure evil there must be something about them that intrigues us beyond their horrific actions. What draws us to Robert Benchley’s shark in Jaws, or Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter in Red Dragon, is not so much their conduct as their nature. Unlike the hero, it’s not about the villain’s vulnerability, but ours – to the likes of them.
As writers, we must build characters, not caricatures, which means we have to find some redeeming qualities in our villains. That’s not to say the nemesis has to be admirable, but like a protagonist who is purely good is boring, so is an antagonist who is one-dimensional. If we give our heroes some imperfections, we must also balance our villains with enough positive qualities to make them real without making them nice.
To build this kind of villain, think of how many real life villains are smart (Ted Kaczynski), charming and attractive (Ted Bundy), or charismatic (bin Laden). What makes them villains is the way they used those positive qualities in a negative way. This type of villain should present a genuine challenge for your hero by having the power or ability to exploit your protagonist’s weaknesses. Whether a mighty army against a ragtag bunch of freedom fighters or a devoted family man bent on annihilating one segment of society, the greater the task to defeat him the more invested we’ll be in the story.
Villains don’t have to be evil. It surprised me to learn that one synonym for ‘villain’ is ‘antihero’ – I’ve always thought of them as protagonists – flawed people you empathize with, even like, despite their badness. Whether Kurtz from Heart of Darkness, Count Dracula and Frankenstein, Moriarty from Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books, or Michael Corleone in The Godfather, these antiheroes fascinate us and we often root for them. Even when their actions horrify us. 
It reminds us that villains don’t have to be wicked moustache twirlers, rope in hand. Haven’t we all known good people who’ve had a momentary break and done bad things? Some, like BTK killer Dennis Rader or Susan Smith, go well beyond bad, but what shocked us most about them was their very ordinariness.
To build this kind of villain, write a character biography to create a backstory. Then seek a motivation for the deed, one that readers can relate to, with a believable trigger. That will provide a reason, which is different from an excuse. Bad can never be excused, but if we understand what provoked the bad – fear, shame, anger – we won’t view the character as a really evil person but as a real person who did evil.
It’s a subtle but important difference. It’s what makes them complex and human.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Human Mind (Yes this has something to do with writing!)



I like three word titles, but this time, The Human Mind was just too obtuse.

In one of my prior lives, I majored in Philosophy with a minor in Psychology. The academic choices of a naive twenty year old I don’t think are of interest, or relevant, except as background for why I thought this blog was a good idea.

Philosophy gave me a logical thinking grounding, and Psychology appealed to my interest in always wanting to know “why?” Nonetheless, I’ve ended up being more of a “pantster,” than a thinking ahead “outliner” and laying out kind of writer. And when it comes to “why,” I sure like leaving “what if” loose ends and unresolved questions in my stories. Especially about the future. Logic and "why"—apparently went out the window.

Which leads me into the heart of this post. The numerous articles on how to do this or that (especially if it’s something computer related!) are wonderful, and my saviors in our electronic age. However, the “ten things” you have to do, or the “ten no-nos” or the “ten rules” for writing, editing, etc. sometimes hit a sour note. And they shouldn’t, because people are always asking those questions, and we’re all eager for help and answers.

But in the background areas of my "human mind" runs the belief everyone is different, and contradictory. And picking and choosing what works for you is the only one answer I wholeheartedly believe in repeating. That being said, I’ve pontificated while on many a panel, in many a blog, and answered many a question about “should and shouldn’t” behavior. Even had numbered lists. Guilty as charged.

Madeline (M.M.) Gornell
Finally, here’s the conclusion and connections to these thoughts(which started as musings on my way home back to the high-desert from a lovely lunch in Arcadia with some wonderful author friends—you know who you are): Not only is every author unique in our approach to writing, but also contradictory in our thoughts, actions, personalities, and life philosophies—and these contradictions, whether we want them to or not, in many ways define our writing style, the characters we develop, and the tales we tell.

A good thing, I think.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Difficulties of the Back Cover Description

If I know an author well, I will simply pick up a copy of his or her book, confident that I'll enjoy the read. I've seldom been disappointed this way.  But what if I don't know the author? What will make me lay down my money and take the book home, or even download it at a cheaper price from Kindle? After all, this is the position I have to assume most readers will have toward me when they first discover my books.

The back cover description is the key.

It's ridiculous, if you think about it, that an author must condense the plot, the character's arcs, the entire novel into a paragraph or two that will entice the reader to want more. But something on that back cover has to convince me the book is worth my time. Here is the back cover from Elizabeth Peter's first Amelia Peabody mystery. (It's a bit of a cheat, as my mother recommended it to me.)

"Crocodile on the Sandbank"

Amelia Peabody, that indomitable product of the Victorian age, embarks on her debut Egyptian adventure armed with unshakable self-confidence, a journal to record her thoughts, and, of course, a sturdy umbrella. On her way to Cairo, Amelia rescues young Evelyn Barton-Forbes, who has been abandoned by her scoundrel lover. Together the two women sail up the Nile to an archaeological site run by the Emerson brothers - the irascible but dashing Radcliffe and the amiable Walter. Soon their little party is increased by one - one mummy, that is, and a singularly lively example of the species. Strange visitations, suspicious accidents, and a botched kidnapping convince Amelia that there is a plot afoot to harm Evelyn. Now Amelia finds herself up against an unknown enemy--and perilous forces that threaten to make her first Egyptian trip also her last...

The basic story is that a spinster goes to Egypt and runs into a lost young woman, two brothers, and a mummy, but notice the adverbs and adjectives:  irascible, suspicious, perilous, scoundrel. The verbs are strong as well: embarks, rescues, abandoned, threaten.

These word choices also work because the characters and situations are bigger than life, which I think comes through.

Radcliffe is described as "irascible but dashing", which gives the reader a hint of fireworks and romance.

Out of this description, I'll tell you what would have made me open the book.

"...a singularly lively example of the species."

I LOVE dry, understated, and usually British humor. What a hysterical way to describe a mummy! That alone would convince me to open the book, because it's my kind of writing style. I would also look inside to check out the writing style because there are only two authors who are good enough to make me suffer through present tense.

1. Condense the story into a few lines.
2. Choose strong adjectives, adverbs and verbs.
3. Make sure the description reflects the tone of the book.

 Sounds easy, right?

Take your latest tome and apply the rules. Can you improve your description?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Dialogue – The Workhorse of the Story By Gayle Bartos-Pool

Dialogue – The Workhorse of the Story
By Gayle Bartos-Pool

Dialogue is the workhorse of the novel, short story, and screenplay. Even Silent Movies had dialogue. Dialogue performs several functions. It provides: Character Development; Plot Advancement, and Action or Movement.

In other words: It brings the story to life.


Dialogue Enhances (Describes) the Character – How a character speaks and acts says a lot more about him or her than just the words. Dialogue tells the place of birth, type of education, her temperament, his soul. Speech patterns denote character just as costumes do for an actor whether it’s a stammer or a dialect.

“Honey, somethin’s happened to yer livin’ room. Did ya’ll get another dawg?”


Dialogue Advances the Plot – and Provides Pacing – Good dialogue always adds something to the plot, whether it builds tension, relieves tension, imparts needed information to the other characters (and the reader), animates the story, thus moving it along; or even slows down the pace when you need a breather.

“Why’d you get out of the fund?”
“Frankly, I was scared. They played too rough.”
“They?” That got my attention. “Who’s they? Does Racine have a partner?”


Dialogue provides real time action. You are in the room with the characters as they speak. You are eavesdropping or right in the middle of the conversation. Or the character might be speaking directly to you. And dueling dialogue between opposing characters brings the reader right into the action. But note: as the argument gets more heated, the length of the sentences gets shorter.

“I never loved my wife!”
“Did you kill her?”
“No!”

Dialogue gets you Up-Close and Personal – Provides Tone and Mood while it brings the reader into the story. – How the words are delivered sets the verbal stage on which the scene is set; a whisper denotes mood just like a rant.

I lowered my voice before asking her my next question. “Do you outrank him?”
“No, I sleep with him,” Trin whispered.

 Remember: A character blurting out information that advances the plot is far more interesting than a long narrative description. But note: Dialogue is the illusion of conversation.

In order to know how a character speaks or acts, or even the words he uses, you must get to know your characters…intimately.
First, make the characters seem real to you as well as to your readers. Let them speak to you and trust them. Most writers will tell you they actually “hear” their characters, and it is that particular “voice” that makes a character unique.

Archie Wright’s the name. Dishing dirt’s the game. My sandbox: Hollywood. The most glamorous and glitzy, vicious, and venomous playground in the world. If you come for a visit, bring your sunscreen and your shark repellant.

Make a character sound different from the other characters with him by adding: a dialect or a foreign accent or words to denote an education or lack thereof. Add rhythm to their speech to show how the person is thinking at the time: hesitation vs. rapid-fire.  Word choice might show a character’s education level, but keep it consistent; a drugged out biker probably won’t quote Shakespeare, but a  professor in prison might quote Hamlet.

Speech should:  Move the plot along by telling us something about the character; convey information about the plot; add to the mood; change the POV to get another character’s side; and add to the reality of the piece. Just make sure somebody (a character or the reader) learns something new during any conversation. But if something is conspicuously held back, make sure it is found in the next chapter or at least by the end of the story.
If there is no purpose to the dialogue, rewrite it or dump it.

“Larry and I didn’t have children. We had two ‘vipers’ instead, just to be different. And to tell you the truth, if they didn’t kill their father, they hired someone to do it. But their funds are limited now. They’ll have to do the deed themselves.”

Language & Body Language
Simple gestures describe the characters more fully than words alone. Instead of: “Go ahead. Date my ex-wife!” he shouted. Try: “Go ahead. Date my ex-wife,” he said while slamming his fist into the wall.

Body language or Stage Business Helps Dialogue.

            “I love you,” he said.
She blew smoke in his face. “How nice.”

Instead of a constant stream of he said/she said, use stage directions to show how someone is reacting while talking.

“I’m crazy about you, too,” she said, looking at her watch.

Internal monologue can shake things up.

I couldn’t believe they found Brad’s body. I thought I buried him deeper.

Things to Avoid:
Expository dialogue: “As you know, Fred…”
Pleasantries: “Hello. Nice weather we’re having.”
Long speeches - Unless you’re Shakespeare; less is always more in dialogue.
Adverbial action tags like: “I loathe you,” she said fiercely. – can be replaced with action: “I loathe you,” she said, grinding her cigarette into the back of his hand. “Have a nice day.   Instead of: he said gravely. Try: with his head bowed he said...  
Sometimes what the character doesn’t say is important: “I knew you wouldn’t care if I left you,” he said. She bit her lip.
Keep you, the writer, out of the piece. Don’t let your thoughts get tangled with those of your characters.

Write a biography of your main characters, whether it’s a paragraph or a page, describe who they are, where they came from, their background. Where a character was “born,” went to school, and his neighborhood will dictate his speech pattern, whether it’s a Southern drawl, a French accent, or a gangsta rapper from the ‘hood.’
If you are having difficulty, start with a “stock character” straight from central casting. If you want a villain, pick a character from some old movie, like Edward G. Robinson, and than mold him into your own creation. You can always find a picture in a magazine that fits the type of person you want in a particular role. Cut the picture out and devise a background for him or her.
If you know your characters, you can find their individual voice, even if the character isn’t human. Dogs, cats and birds have found their way into great stories.

After you have written your scene, read it aloud or have someone else read it to you, or use one of the many software programs that reads your work back to you. It will make a huge difference. You will hear things you didn’t know you wrote (both good and bad) and you will pick up the redundancies and misused words. And you just might find out how good you are at writing dialogue.



Let your dialogue work for you. It has a lot to say.   

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Tips from the 2015 California Crime Writers Conference, by Jackie Houchin

photo19
            AS A MEMBER of Sisters-in-Crime and Mystery Writers of America, I've attended all their combined conferences so far, and agree with everyone (even Anne Perry), this was the best one yet.  I love the camaraderie of fellow writers. I eagerly chat with them and sit in on their panel discussions. I commiserate with their anxieties and failures, celebrate their successes, and take note of the hard-earned tips they offer.
            The key note speakers – Southern belle, Charlaine Harris and British maven, Anne Perry – were the icing on the cake.
            I usually follow the "Craft" track because I'm a journalist with only an occasional dip into short stories. But the Industry, Forensics, and Marketing tracks were all well-attended, and for the first time this year CD recordings of each were made available for purchase.
            To order any of them, follow the links at http://vwtapes.com/sistersincrimewritersconference.aspx or contact Patrick Von Wiegnandt  at pvw@hawaii.rr.com.
NOTE: In order to be sure I did not misquote any of the authors from my scribbled notes, I listed their names on the panels, then used unattributed quotes. To hear just who said what (and more) check the CDs. 

photo1
"Addressing Fear and Other Plagues of the Writing Life" --- Tyler Dilts, DJ Adamson, Terry Shames, Terri Nolan, moderator: Dennis Palumbo
            About anxieties for beginning new projects: "I let my alter self rant for about 3 minutes (maybe journal) then say 'Shut up and get up.'" "Just get the words on the page. I do about 2,000 daily. When you have a draft the fear is gone."
            About procrastination: "I do writing activities (email, etc.) other than writing on my book." " My kids say I'm circling the computer." "I don't call it procrastination, but preparation."

photo2
"Thrills & Chills" ---- Laurie Stevens, D.P. Lyle, Craig Faustus Buck, Paul D. Marks, moderator: Diana Gould
            About creating the elements of suspense: "I make characters sympathetic, then put them in jeopardy." "Write thrillers only in 3rd person POV." "Tell readers things the protagonist doesn't know." "Cliff hangers on most chapters." " Pace is critical." "Short chapters." "However, NEVER end the book with a cliff hanger." "Don't end chapters with 'She had no idea what was coming'. It's author intrusion." " I punch up violence in 2nd drafts."
            About writing processes: "I do the 1st draft as a screenplay, an outline of sorts, I guess." "I write the crime first, then write the psychological parts." "When finished with the 1st draft, I do passes on what concerns me, like characters or pace." "Anyone who doesn't use Scrivener" is crazy!" http://bit.ly/1G5W0Q4

photo7
"Miss Marple's Rules, Traditional Mysteries Today" ---- Jill Amadio, Susan Shea, Gay Degani, Carole Sojka, moderator Susan Goldstein
            About labels and rules: "There's more bloodshed in a Divorce Practice than in traditional mysteries."  "Solving a puzzle. A whodunit." "No graphic sex or violence, an amateur or private detective, justice rules in the end." "Multiple suspects and a small town setting." "Victims are usually odious people." " No killing animals, no harm to children." Traditionals are more cerebral, more analytical of human behavior."
            About changes in traditional mysteries:  "Technology, cell phones, the internet." "The basics don't change (structure, clues, a puzzle, suspects)." "Authors today like to break some rules along the way." "Today's world – travel, social settings – can work its way into mysteries." "Less likely to stereotype (maids all the same, etc.)." "More humor." "Some authors today like to have a niche, a "craft" of some kind in their mysteries (quilting, cooking, bookstores, tea shops)." "You can usually tell a niche-type cozy by its cover."
            (A hot topic: Most in the audience said these types of popular mysteries were "cozies." However publishers and book stores do not distinguish them from the more traditional (Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot) "whodunit" mysteries.  They refer to ALL traditional mysteries (niche or soft-boiled) as COZIES. Women in the audience, as well as the authors, thought this was a bad rap, because men are less likely to try soft-boiled traditional puzzle/sleuth mysteries if they think they are reading "cozies.") 
            A question from a gentleman:  What is it about a woman liking to write mysteries?  "Women are more willing to listen to others." "They are more apt to ask a lot of questions." "Maybe they are more intuitive."

photo9
"Short and Deadly" ---- Bonnie Cardone, Andrew Jetarski, Gay Kinman, Donna May, moderator: Kate Thornton
            Why write short stories: "Immediate gratification." "I was trying to make a living and had no time to write a novel." "My first short story was the first chapter of my novel, slightly changed; the second one, the second chapter condensed. I wrote the third story on my own." "Writing short stories was a way to put off writing my novel."
            About the importance of Short Story anthologies:  "It's how I began." "I saw the announcement for submissions and thought 'I know I can do that.'" "I wouldn't be writing today without that opportunity. I like that when the theme is announced, everyone starts at the same time, no one has an advantage."
            About short story markets:  "Anthologies, they get you started." " Kings River Life always needs themed stories."  http://kingsriverlife.com/  "Duatrope.com has searchable databases for fiction and other genres." https://duotrope.com/  "Woman's World is another good place; very strict guidelines, but pay $500 for 500 words + a clue/question." "Alfred Hitchcock & Ellery Queen magazines." "Try joining the online group, Short Mystery Fiction Society, they even give Derringer Awards."  
            About free or paid submissions"  "If you submit to non-paying markets, try to do it in places that give awards." "I want them published before I put them into my own anthologies." "You can put short stories on Amazon Kindle for 99c." "Free to anthologies is good, it's for a good cause." "I introduce the characters in my novel in free short stories to see if people want to read about them" "Published (free) short stories can act as calling cards to other venues."
            About regrets:  "I sold all the rights to an online market, then later when a film company wanted it, I couldn't sell." "I didn't quite make the deadline on a story, then just let it go." "I have a great story, but I can't figure out the end!"

photo14
"Traveling Through Time, Historical Novels" ---- Jessica Ferriday, Anne Cleeland, Ona Russell, Bonnie MacBird, moderator: Rosemary Lord
            About what started you writing historicals:  "Scrapbooks. Clippings of my husband's grandfather who was a judge in the 1920s. When I researched him, I found a wonderful Jewish woman who worked in the courts, perfect as my protagonist." "I have Sherlock Holmes and the Victorian Era in my blood." "I love linguistics and languages. My stories are in 1890s London." "I love Regency novels. You're supposed to write what you read, so I write 1814 Jane Austin."
            About the language and style of historical speech: "I was trained as an actor, I learned to mimic. I listen to a CD every morning before writing." "I get British people to vet my writing for Americanisms."
            About research facts: "I  realized everything moved a lot slower (communications, travel, etc.)" "Hats! No one wears hats today." "They had more ways to entertain themselves with each other – singing, instruments, dancing, storytelling.)"

photo16
"Putting Your Blog to Work" ---- Sybil Johnson, Patty Smiley, S.W. Lauden, moderator Mar Preston
            About expectations of a blog:  "I'm a member of a multiple author blog (MAB), so there's no pressure to write a post every day or week." "When I hung up my shingle as a writer, I created a place for other to find what I'm doing – opinion , author interviews, short stories to music videos."
            About blogging to sell your books: "If I don't, people won't buy my books." "I create a voice and style, but a blog won't make you famous." "I've gained readers." "I announce my books on FaceBook and Twitter, but never talk about my books on the blog. I have conversations with people there."
            About writing that blog post:  "We write from 1,500 – 6,000  words." (WOW!) "I write 400-1,000 words." "Begin your blog as if beginning a thriller." "Offer content about YOU, your life, funny and entertaining stuff, not just about writing." "Ask, 'Would people care to read this?'" "Respond to comments." "Make blogs visually attractive. Use photos and graphics. I imbed videos and book covers, use pull quotes. Use fewer words: people see a wall of text and don't stay." "Pay attention to 'Keywords' for your posts. Choose them carefully."
            About all those blog hits from other countries:  "Creepy." "How? Why?"  (An answer from an audience member cleared this up. The International Institute of English encourages their students to find blogs by using keywords. They print them out and use them to study English and English/American idioms; reading and rewriting them.)
            About getting started and keeping going:  "Join a MAB, or guest post on one." "Write a dynamic essay." "Keep a list of things that are happening to you, choose the interesting ones."
Keynote speakers
photo3
            From Charlaine Harris: How long does it take to churn out a book?  As long as your editor says. Being a writer means completing the book. It's a business. If you don't sell, you'll be cut. No, I don't outline. Outlining makes me feel like painting by numbers. I write maybe 250 words about the book, then get to it.  My biggest challenge? Personal malice towards me!  Sweet me!
photo13
            From Anne Perry:  Do you ever wonder why crime writers are such nice people? If we really don't like you, there are other things we can do with you. The great thing about being a writer is that you are allowed (expected) to be eccentric. You can write your mysteries about anything you like, as long as there are the elements of crime and somebody to solve it. (Photo: with Rosemary Lord)


photo18
Keynotes discuss Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing, Moderator Craig Faustus Buck
Harris and Perry agreed with most of Leonard Elmore's famous "Ten Rules of Writing," with exceptions.  "It depends..." prefaced many of their answers, and then they often explained how they broke that rule! Or avoided breaking it by using other means. A perfect wind-down to the conference. 



photo6

Sisters In Crime Anthology "LAdies Night" authors & editors ---- Naomi Hirahara, Kate Thornton, Jeri Westerson (editors), Julie G. Beers, Julie Brayton, Sarah M. Chen, Arthur Coburn, L.H. Dillman, Bengte Evenson, Cyndra Gernet, Andrew jetarski, Micheal Kelly, Susan Kosar-Beery, Jude McGee, Gigi Pandian, Wendall Thomas

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Reading and Writing - The Basics by Kate Thornton

This week on Writers in Residence, author Kate Thornton shares her thought son the connection between reading and writing. You can find out more about Kate at her Amazon page.


Reading and Writing.


I have been doing both.

It has always been a firm belief of mine that you can't write – or write well, anyway – if you don't read. And I'm not talking about magazines – c'mon, people, we all read magazines, if only while waiting at the checkout counter (although 2 of my regular supermarkets now have TV for the attention-impaired, 5 second snippets of shows and commercials.) I do not discount this type of reading; I publish in magazines and do not bite the hand that at least pats me on the head. But magazines are very thin picture books, meant to give your mind a jumpstart or a tweak, not to give you hours of transportation to a completely other world.

The difference between books and magazines (or newspapers or blogs or the Huffington Post) is not exactly the same as the difference between People Magazine and actual people, but it is nonetheless great.

So when I say I have been reading, I mean books. It sort of goes without saying that I read magazines, online posts, news, cereal boxes, tee shirts, bumper stickers, the mail, and just about anything with printed words.

I have my favorite genre fiction – it runs from James Lee Burke, Dean Koontz, and Louise Penney on one side to Earl Derr Biggers, Arthur Upfield and Ngaio Marsh on another and Sue Ann Jaffarian, Jeff Sharrat and Taffy Cannon on yet another - it's a multi-sided construct. But I love classic fiction as well. I learn from it, the easy way, while being entertained, enthralled, whisked away, and fed on rich things.

I have a dear friend who just discovered the joys of a Kindle and is reading Willa Cather. Now that's reading. This same friend just finished Faulkner (the hard, difficult, rip your eyes out Faulkner of Light in August) in hardcover, so she's no stranger to the type of reading that sometimes takes you to places you would never allow yourself to be taken otherwise. But she enjoys going to the good, kind places, too.

Which brings me to writing. If you don't take the trips to places through reading, I don't see where you can buy your ticket to take others to places through your writing. It is one of only two ways I know to learn how to write, and they are both connected. The other half of it is actually writing, the BIC (Butt In Chair) method.

This week I have been reading both fiction and non-fiction – and writing.

I have completed that same novel I started writing in late 2007. I confess I let it sit for several years due to plot holes, but I have since learned how to knit up the raveled sleeve of a couple of good ideas strung together with engaging characters, an endearing puppy dog and a couple of gruesome murders. What's not to love? And working on it this time around was a pleasure, not a chore.

I also discovered – by reading through it and looking ahead to the satisfying conclusion that it is not the mystery I thought it would be, but is an animal I have not before tamed, namely Romantic Suspense.

So I have begun to read in that genre. And it's fun. I am enjoying and learning and reading it all with a delight I before had reserved only for mystery, science fiction and certain favorite classics.

So my question is:

Which romantic suspense authors do you like? Recommend a few books to me as I reach the end of my own.