Monday, November 11, 2013

Crime Bake 2013

Another year schmoozing with writers, learning new tricks of the trade, and having fun! Crime Bake, New England's mystery-writing conference is over, but the memories linger on. Excellent classes, seminars and panels were coupled with a long list of prominent writers in crime-based genres. Our conference guest of honor this year was Meg Gardiner, whose thrillers, beginning with her Edgar-winning novel, China Lake, have delighted readers for years.

The classes I enjoyed over the weekend included: Creating & Sustaining the Series Character, Practice Your Manuscript Pitch, How to Create a Career That Lasts, and High School Murder: Writing the Young Adult Mystery. Generous with their experience and knowledge, and knowing how important it is to encourage writers to keep working, the authors made the time during the conference to speak to anyone who needed help.

Another important facet of any writing conference is the interaction with your peers. Published or unpublished, it is important to talk to someone who has your same aspirations and dreams, your same insecurities and fears. For me, this connection with other writers supersedes the rest. 

Yes, I love the education and who doesn't enjoy a good party? Limbo lower, now! (I'm guessing some knees were not too happy Sunday morning.) 

More important, however, is the knowledge that I'm not alone out there. Spending so much time by myself in front of my computer, I sometimes get discouraged. Belonging to a group like Sisters in Crime and attending writing conferences reminds me that I'm part of a huge group of writers who are either striving to make it or who have already made it. That realization gives me the positive reinforcement I need to keep on trying.

Yesterday morning, I received an award for my 150-word crime story. For the second time in as many years, I'm a FLASHWORDS winner! 

I'm getting there! Look for my picture in the coming week. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

To Pitch Or Not To Pitch

This weekend, I’ll be joining hundreds of mystery writers and readers at the annual New England Crime Bake conference held in MA. This will be my fourth Crime Bake.

Although Mystery isn't my main genre, it’s a large part of what I write. Both of my books, the Paranormal, A Trace of Evil, and the Fantasy, The Watcher Clan, keep the reader guessing until the end. I haven't found genre to be a problem because most Crime Bake workshops are specifically geared to the writing process.

This year, I’m looking forward, albeit with a little trepidation, to one of the most helpful aspects of the conference, the Pitch session. Here is where the writer has a chance to pitch his book to agents and editors. Although the idea is wonderful, the reality is terrifying. In five minutes, the writer has to pitch an evocative summary of his book and be ready to answer questions about the whole thing.

During my first pitch session, the agent listened to my summary and then asked about the plot points throughout the book, including the ending. I tried to tell the whole story in what was left of the five minutes but kept forgetting parts I thought she needed to know. I felt sick.

But, here’s the good news. Agents/editors are not looking for the writer to fail. They want us to succeed because they’re looking for new writers. When I finished my pitch, the agent gave me a great deal of positive reinforcement and excellent suggestions. She then asked me to send in a chapter of the book.

To be successful, all I have to do is prepare. I've been trying to list out the high points in the story that will give the best overview. The whole exercise has my nerves singing. This will be the fourth time I’m pitching and it feels as scary as the first. When I signed up for this a few months ago, it seemed like such a good idea. Now, a few days away from the reality, I’m having second thoughts.

Despite my previous brave words, I’m beginning to feel the angst. I guess the process of pitching my baby to someone will never be easy. I’ll just have to rely on the fact that I've done it before and lived to talk about it.

How about you? How do you feel about pitching?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Advice from an Editor

As an unpublished writer, I'm always looking for tips to inspire me. I found a couple of quick and easy suggestions from Kendel Flaum that I'd like to share. I hope you like them:

Writers Who Kill: Three Thoughts from an Editor: Today on Salad Bowl Saturday we welcome Kendel Flaum (Kendel Lynn) who I had the pleasure of meeting at Malice Domestic this year. Ther...

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Reaching My Goal!

One month after the NaNoWriMo challenge, I have 50,193 words of my next book. Incredible! The journey was filled with bumps, jagged rocks and raging rivers. Many times I sat in front of my computer in despair. Penning 50,000 little groups of letters in thirty-one days is unbelievably difficult. The non-stop intervention of family, work and life in general strains the creative muscle to its fullest. But, with the help of my ever-present and positive writer's group, I made it.

The grand prize is a ready-to-be finished draft about a family with incredible psychic gifts born with the responsibility to watch over a place inhabited by an ancient evil. Having immersed myself in the tale this past month, I know my characters and I know how the story will end.

My promise to myself is  to write every day,  keep in tune with the story, and complete it. I've learned that small goals are the only path to reaching that elusive grand goal. Each day's accumulation of words, no matter how little, leads to the end of a scene, a chapter, and, eventually, a book!

Happy Writing!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Create Your Own NaNoWriMo

Some of us write by the “seat of our pants”, having no real idea where our characters will go. Others write from a well-planned outline and steer their characters into the established plot. Everyone else falls somewhere in between. No matter which type of writer you are, you may find yourself stuck at the onset of your work, unable to get the story going, the dreaded “writer’s block”.

For me, the usual cure includes picking up a broom, cleaning out a closet, rearranging furniture or shopping for something I don’t need. I try to keep myself far away from the computer because my fingers are weary from playing Solitaire, Mahjong, or, even worse, Angry Birds! 

I’ve been told, "Schedule a time for writing." But discipline isn’t my strong suit, especially if I have no one to answer to but myself. I need public humiliation.

My current novel was born during NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month’s challenge to write 50,000 words during the month of November. Joining a group of other writers participating in this challenge, I visited the web site every night, entered my word count, and compared it with what others had written. Seeing the sometimes unsteady rise of word totals on the site gave me the impetus I needed to keep going until I reached the magic number.  By becoming responsible to a group of people accepting the same heavy challenge I had, my excuses evaporated and I wrote. 

So, why bring this up now? November is nine months away. Not a problem. You can choose any month you wish to take up the challenge. All you need is a group of eager writers, a pledge, and an online site for all participants to do a nightly check-in with their totals. My writing group has deemed March THE MONTH. We have a Yahoo Group, a lot of excitement and ideas for new writing.

Chris Baty, who began the challenge in 1999, has written a guide book for potential challengers, “No Plot? No Problem”. He stresses that any month will work and gives some great tips to get started. Talk to your writing friends. Check out online writing groups for potential members.
Take the plunge. You’re a writer!

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Next Big Thing TNBT

TNBT is an enjoyable exercise to help promote authors and their work in the form of a chain letter. One author tags another author or authors and so on. Each person answers a questionnaire about their current work, places the results on a blog or web page and adds their name to the bottom of the list. Next they mention it on Facebook, Twitter or some other social media vehicle. I'd like to thank Britt Vasarhelyi, who just published her exciting new thriller, Escape To Panama, for tagging me. My tag goes to a stimulating new author, Rafael Pizarro,, whose memoir is currently titled, Letters to Dangerous Women. Rafael's writing, based on life experiences, is sometimes funny, sometimes sad but always gripping. His characters are often painfully real.
Keira Knightley
 My Q & A:
What is the working title of your book (or current project?)
                A Trace of Evil
Where did the idea come from for the book?
                It’s sort of a modern Gothic, ghost and all.
What genre does your book fall under?
                Paranormal mystery
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
                Keira Knightley and Chace Crawford
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Chace Crawford
                 Dani Trent, fearing for her safety, escapes the clutches of a controlling boyfriend, only to find she’s sharing her new home in Salem with a controlling 18th century ghost.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
                Unless I have to beat the agencies away from my door, I will probably be self-pubbed.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
                I wrote a 53,000 word first draft during National Novel Writing Month. That was three years ago.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
                Vamps and shape shifters are more popular now than ghosts but Heather Graham has some good ghostly mysteries. I particularly liked “The Séance.”
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My best friend, Reba, who died too young, always pushed me to write. However, the intervention of my muse, who added a supernatural element to every story I tried to write, inspired the birth of my macabre tales. And, so, I gave up on the cozy in progress and penned a paranormal.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
                A little humor and romance to offset the chills, a trip through Salem, MA in the 18th Century and a more entertaining glimpse into Salem, today. 

The current branch of this chain:

Libby Fischer Hellman
Naomi Hirahara
Holly West
Travis Richardson
Sarah Chen at
Michael Harris
Kathy Kingston
Madeline St. John
Britt Vasarhelyi
Margo Carey

Friday, February 1, 2013

Exciting Writing Challenge

This year, at the Crime Bake conference, my writing bud Dianne and I embraced, what was for me, a new challenge. We entered the Flashwords competition. The challenge was to write a compelling crime story in 150 words or less, using at least ten of twenty title words from stories and novels by our Guest of Honor, Joseph Finder. 

Out of 29 entries, Dianne and I both wound up in the top three.

 Dianne Herlihy, Ruth McCarty, Margo Carey

If you think this sounds easy, I urge you to try it yourself. The words given to us were: buried, club, company, copper, crimes, extraordinary, high, hour, instinct killer, man, Moscow, neighbors, paranoia, plan, play, power, secrets, vanished, zero. It’s fun. Send me your story and I’ll publish it here.

 Here's mine:
Billy's Fifth Birthday

     At the party, neighbors showed no surprise that Billy had an imaginary friend. Since he'd moved here three months ago, they'd seen him talking to himself and then tilting his head as if to listen.
     Today, Billy's mother was relieved as she watched him play with the other childresn, showing them the secret place he called his magic forest. Minutes later, however, her maternal instinct kicked in as a little boy came running over to his mother, crying. 
     "Mommy, Billy said his friend, Neddie, is dead and buried in the forest."
     Gasps followed this announcement. a young boy named Neddie had vanished from here twenty years ago.
     Teary eyes looked up to an old man who had grabbed his chest. "Grandpa, Neddie says you hit him with a golf club. you're not a killer, are you?"
     The extraordinary thing was that Grandpa still had the golf club.