Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve Tale

The following is a short, short story or flash fiction. Flash fiction can be fun to write and there is  market for it. For more examples of this writing, go to http://www.flashfictiononline.com/index.html.

In the silence of the dark living room, in the boughs of the Christmas tree, a strange conversation evolves.

"Okay, it's safe to talk."

"Is that you Snowy?"

"You betcha, Olga. Mr. Snowman, himself. How's our pretty little ice skating queen?"

"I'm still here."

Another female speaks, "Me, too."

A new macho voice. "Is that Tina, our tiny ballerina? Still twirling?"

"So far, Brady."

"Okay," Snowy said. "Tina and Mr. Football are still here."

"Yeah, Snowy.," says Brady. "I'm ready for the big game."

"Okay. What about Santa?"

"Ho, Ho, Ho, Snowy."


Snowy keeps up the roll call. "Angel?"

A sweet voice drifts down from the top of the tree. "I'm here Snowy, but I don't hear Chirpy singing."

Snowy calls out, "Chirpy?" Nothing. He tries again. "Chirpy, are you here?"

Chirpy was missing, and he wasn't the first. Last night they'd lost the Snowboarder, and before that, Rudolph and Teddy Bear had disappeared.

A frightened little voice cries, "Where is everyone?"

"Easy, Tina," Snowy says.

"Who's doing this?" Angel asks.

Olga answers. "I heard the mother say there were too many ornaments on the tree."

"I think it's the little boy," says Nutcracker. "Snowboarder said the boy wanted to play with him."

"That's right," Brady says. "And Rudolph said the boy pinched his nose. Now they're both gone. I hope he doesn't hurt them."

"I wish we could see each other,"says the ballerina. "I'm afraid, twirling up here by myself."

"I can see your head, Tina," says Angel.

A squeaky voice pipes up. "I can't see anybody."

"Who's that?" Snowy says.

"Gingerbread Man. What are we going to do?"

"I'm afraid," Tina says. "Who'll be next?"

"Don't worry, Tina. I'll protect you." The deep voice belongs to Mr. Nutcracker.

"Thank you Mr. Nutcracker, but you couldn't protect all the others."

Tina's words resound throughout the tree, and the living room gets very quiet. The ornaments know how easy it is for someone to steal them. 

As each ornament worries about his fate, the branches on the tree begin to move. Tiny voices cry out, "What's that? Who's there? What's going on?"

Then they hear a scream. "Help! Help! He's got me."

"Who is that? I can't see. What's going on?" Snowy yells.

"It's Gingerbread Man. Save me."


"What can we do?" Nutcracker says.

As Ginger's scream fade off into the distance, Angel asks, "Who took him? Did anyone see?"

No one saw anything. Finally, it becomes quiet again. None of the ornaments speak. It's Christmas Eve and they don't know if they'll be here to see Christmas morning.

In another room, a tiny voice calls out, "Mommy? Mommy?"

A sleepy voice answers. "What is it honey?"

"Mittens got ahold of something. I heard it scream."

"I'll take care of it in the morning."

"Mommy, it's in my room. I think it's crying."

"Oh, for heaven's sake. I'm coming."

Mommy comes in, turns on the light, and laughs. 
"Mittens! He's been stealing ornaments off the tree. Naughty kitty. Shoo."


She picks up Ginger, Snowboarder, Rudolph, Teddy Bear, and Chirpy and puts them all back on the tree. Chirpy's feathers are a little chewed, but he can still sing.

The little boy follows Mommy into the living room. "But, Mommy, I heard a scream."

"It was probably Mittens playing. Go to sleep. Santa will be coming soon."

After all the humans go back to sleep and everyone has been welcomed back to the tree, Snowy whispers, "I forgot that humans can hear us on Christmas Eve. If that wicked kitten comes back, we'll all yell and make a great big ruckus.

Just then, they hear sleigh bells outside, and a sigh sweeps the tree.

"We'll be all right now," Angel says.

###
Merry Christmas!
And, keep writing.









Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Find Your Writing Niche

While I was getting a short horror story ready for a contest this week, Black Petals, an online ezine, accepted one of my other horror stories.

I am so excited, it's difficult to conduct my regular life. I found myself giggling at work this morning, all the angst of writing forgotten for a brief celebratory moment. However, sanity is returning. With validation for my work, I'm doubly determined to edit and send out my manuscripts. 2015 will be my year.

One thing I've learned through the process of sending out my babies, is to pay strict attention to the type of writing that agencies accept. In my initial foray into magazines, I thought all horror was the same. Oh, pity this foolish woman. 

The contest I just entered gave the following categories of horror: gothic, dark fantasy, erotic, noir, psychological, quiet/soft, and suspense. Wow! I had no idea in which group my story fell. 
 

The choice of an online magazine that might consider my work was difficult. When I read through representative stories looking at the writing style, obvious sub-genre differences leaped out at me. I crossed those off my list.

Similarly, when choosing a place to submit my books, I've been told to look for books like mine and see who published them. If a publisher is making money from a certain type of book, they'll be looking for more of the same.

I've also gotten good ideas about places to submit my work from my online writing groups, SinC, Guppies, RWA, FF&P. It pays to become part of a writing community whose members have succeeded. Most authors are generous and enjoy helping out the newbies. 

My biggest asset has been my in-person writing group. We meet weekly, discuss our work, pass on writing tips, and cheer each other on. The ezine who accepted my story came from one of their tips. 

It's all about finding your niche, finishing your manuscript, and sending out.

Have a wonderful holiday.


And always -- Keep writing!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Horror Short Story Contest

Just a brief note to tell you what I'm up to.

My friend and writing bud, Lisa, sent me a list of contests from Writers Relief. She is such a sweetheart. Her blog, Enchanted Notebook, is listed on the right under favorite Sites.

I found a contest for Horror short stories, due in ten days. Picture me in determination mode. Two nights ago I began setting up a story. It took me ten tries to find the bones of a plot I liked. Then I played the "what if" game. So, then I needed  a good reason why my protagonist would act the way he does. You know, this isn't easy.

It came to me. What would hurt him the most? I found it. Then I posited that he would be hit with that scenario. Oh no! Poor thing.

Now I could see him acting in a way ordinarily foreign to him. Let the horror begin!

I'm presently in the process of fleshing out my characters, setting a believable scene, and wondering how best to end it, because I know what is going to happen.

This is exciting. I don't usually take the time to have all my information set up before I write. I like to rely on my muse. Unfortunately, my muse isn't a fairy godmother. She needs to know a little bit about the story before she can do her work.

Due Damn Diligence! 

Okay, I'm doing that. I'll get back to you on this after I submit my story.

Remember, keep writing.

  

Friday, December 5, 2014

Short Story Conundrum

I have two manuscripts in the editing mode, one Paranormal and one Urban Fantasy. I've won three Flash Fiction contests. Why, then, do I have so much trouble writing Short Stories?

I have actually written two short stories, both rejected, one of them multiple times. I agonized over both stories. What am I doing wrong?

In my longer work, I'm able to pull together a plot and then fill it in. I'm a pantser, so any kind of an outline is out of the question. When I try to use the same tactic with a short story, it doesn't work.

Right now, I'm in the process of constructing a short story, a paranormal mystery, but it isn't coming together.

One problem I've discovered with my shorts is that I haven't fleshed out my characters very much. So, without knowing who they are, it's difficult to know how they'll act. Why is the villain a villain? What makes the protagonist worth befriending or saving? Does the hero have anything more going for him than his good looks?

I know. I know. Of course I should have all that information in hand before attempting to flesh out the story. How else can I make the reader care? But, if I'm able to get all of that information into a story, how long will it be?

I actually have a good back story and motivation for my protagonist. One of her supporting characters is her aunt. (not fleshed out) I'd like to introduce another supporting character in the form of a peer/friend. Okay, how many words will this use? I still haven't taken into account the hero, villain, or red herring characters. And, then there's the plot. How heavy can I make it and still keep it short? I don't know. That's my problem.

Maxi
Mini
Also, what about length? What is a good length for short stories? I know that they can go from flash to novella, but what do readers prefer? Length matters. 

There are any number of websites where I can find information on short stories. 5 Short Story TipsShort Story - longer explanationSome Rules and Tools to name a few. These websites contain excellent advice. But, I still need more help.

So, I've begun an online Short Story workshop. I'm hoping for some guidance, any guidance at all. Maybe if I'm able to ask the instructor specific questions, I'll understand where I can improve. Or, maybe, I just don't have a good short story in me.

I have lots of ideas. That isn't the problem. Transferring the ideas to viable stories in a few thousand words is the what cause me heartburn. 

Maybe I'll try to write flash fiction and then add depth to that. I actually have one flash fiction story that I'd like to flesh out. I might give that a try. 

Both of my previous stories have been horror. I'd like to write something in a mystery or thriller.  I've wondered if the genre change could be what's tripping me up. I'd like to think, but my horror stories haven't gone anywhere. 

The more I think about it, the more confused I feel. In any case, I intend to keep trying. More research, more practice, and some plain old stick-to-itiveness will bring about success. I hope!

In the meantime, I'll take my own advice. Keep Writing!


Monday, November 10, 2014

New England Crime Bake 2014

This past weekend at Crime Bake was the best so far! Every November for the past five years, I've driven with my friend Dianne to Dedham, MA for the Crime Bake weekend, but we both agreed that this conference outdid the others. The guest author was Craig Johnson.

For all you fans familiar with the Longmire series, its author Craig Johnson does the cowboy persona proud. From the top of his hat to the tip of his boots, Craig is a good looking and gracious gentleman from Wyoming with a dynamite sense of humor. 

In keeping with the western theme, the workshops had titles like: Desperadoes Waiting for a Train: Why Do We Write Crime Fiction?, I Shot the Sheriff: Lawmen & PIs Getting It Right, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys: Ordinary People in Extraordinary Situations, Home on the Range: When Setting Becomes Character, and Don't Fence Me In: Big Press, Little Press, ePress, Oh!

Four excellent Master Classes, agent pitches, and an actual crime scene set up by State Police officers added to a productive weekend. At the end of the conference, we learned whether we had guessed correctly about the clues in the crime scene and how the actual crime was solved.

Saturday evening we put on our cowboy hats and boots and headed to the Wordslinger's Ball and Barbecue. Yummy food, good company, and an introduction to country line dancing filled out our evening. I got up and kicked my boots with the rest of the crowd. I've never been that great at following instructions, but I kept at it, laughing most of the time.

Sunday morning, as we finished breakfast, the winners of the 2014 Flashwords Contest were announced. My story, Don't Go in the House, was one of the winners!!!! I stood up in front of all my peers to read it. 

My 150-word entry, using ten words from Craig Johnson's book titles: 

Don't Go In the House

“No way!”
“Come on, Joey. It’s Halloween.”
“It’s haunted by evil spirits.”
Chad coaxed Joey past “No Trespassing” signs and around the junkyard mess, but had to shove him through the door into the dark, empty house.
Minutes later, screams. The boys came barreling out, startling a huge crow.
Mrs. Bedloe saw them.
“What’s the matter?
Joey choked. “It’s awful.”
“Oh dear. Come in boys.
She gave them hot cocoa and a dish of cookies.
“We saw something bad.”
“Yeah,” Chad said, “A pile of bones.”
“Lord. You must have been scared to death. Drink up boys.”
Two heads nodded as they finished their cocoa.
Chad rubbed his eyes. “I’m getting tired.”
Joey gave a huge yawn, mumbling, “Someone was murdered.”
“Yes dear, I know.”
“You know?” But his eyes closed. He missed her next words.
“Indeed yes. That pesky old man. How did his bones get uncovered? Dogs, perhaps?

What a wonderful weekend. I spent most of the time with a happy grin on my face. I did lose it for a few hours before I gave my pitch, but got it back in a hurry when the agent, Paula Munier, asked for 50 pages of my manuscript. 

Next year, same time, same place, I'm there. And, the guest of honor for Crime Bake 2015 will be none other than Elizabeth George whose novels were adapted for British television in the Inspector Lynley Mysteries.

Remember, keep writing!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

NaNoWriMo Time Again

 
It’s that time of year once more. NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month is a few weeks away.
 
One of the members of my writing group, Dianne Herlihy, is planning on doing NaNo this year. She’s working on an exciting mystery series and hopes to get at least 50,000 words written of Book two or maybe it’s Book three.
 
 
NaNoWriMo is an online self-challenge to write 50,000 words during the month of November. Most participants form a group and use the mounting word count of the others as an impetus to do better. When I took the NaNo challenge, I tried to keep up with whoever was in the lead, but I also noticed that participant’s counts flagged during busy times in their lives.

By that time, I’d had days when I couldn’t meet my projected goal. Seeing others stall for a few days and then pick up again took away any guilt I had. For me, I needed to see that other people had slow days. That knowledge acted like a head slap, reminding me that I’m human and that unforeseen difficulties do crop up. It kept me from shaming myself into quitting. The most satisfying day of my life was when I reached the NaNo goal. During that month I completed the basis of my paranormal mystery.
 
Was it easy? Hell, no. I wanted to give up many times, but, as I said, I had others who would see that I quit. Sure, there were a few late nights and some exhausting days, but it was worth it. Right now I’m in the middle of one book and editing another, so I don’t have time to do it this year. But I want to wish Dianne the best and let her know I’m here to cheer her on. If you’re interested in this exciting challenge, go to their website http://nanowrimo.org/NaNoWriMo.
 
You'll see how they support their entrants with pep talks, support and introductions to fellow writers. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Freebie!

Musa Publishing is giving away the whole first year of their eMagazine, Penumbra which publishes speculative short fiction. I haven't downloaded it yet, but plan to.

Check it out for yourselves at Musa Publishing.  :)

A Short Synopsis? Are You Kidding?

The dictionary defines synopsis as "a condensation or brief review of a subject: summary." 
Okay, I get it. You need to boil down the essence of your book so that you provide only the important information. Agents and editors don't have a lot of time to find out how much they need your masterpiece, so make it short. 

At PitchFest, agents asked me to send them my book along with a "short" summary. 
"Oh," I said, "like four pages?"
That evoked a head tilt with a wry smile. "No. Two pages. Double spaced."
"Oh." Gulp. "Fine." I forced a big smile. "No problem."

No Problem! I had four and a half single pages that had been whittled down (with extreme angst) from ten. How could I possibly hone down all that important information to two double-spaced pages. I threw my head down against my arms on my desk. Impossible!

Thankfully, I have cheerleaders--my writer's group. With their support, I worked and reworked the synopsis until I had it tamed to a reasonable length.

How did I do it? It wasn't easy. Good thing my kitties don't understand English. 

I checked out online resources with information about the short synopsis. (Because there is also a long synopsis.) See the links at the end. I tried to keep my thinking within the main plot, ignoring subplots, no matter how amazing they happened to be. I then wrote a super short outline that hit on the suspense, character interaction, and a hint of romance. From that outline, I tried to find those parts that were pertinent to the genre, Urban Fantasy/Paranormal. 

Finally, I had the basics, the information that showcased the story points. Next I tried to cut out the extra description. Whew! A lot of that. Then I needed to cut out superfluous words. That forced me to make the sentences more active. A good thing.

Of course, I still had too many words and so I had to delete more of my beautiful babies. Ouch! But I persisted, dried my tears, and prepared the finishing touches--writing the synopsis in the present tense, third person using my voice. 

I wanted the reader to view the synopsis through my protagonist's eyes so they could get the flavor of the book. When I finished, I had two double-spaced pages plus two lines. 

At present, I'm in waiting mode for the results of those submissions. But now that I have a nice short synopsis, and a query letter (that is another whole story), I'm all set. Right? Oh, no. One of the publishers asked for a back cover blurb and a one-sentence blurb (an elevator pitch). Eek! More work.

And, then, since I'm half-way through the second book in the series. . . .  You see where I'm going with this. 

For today, though, I'm simply going to concentrate on writing--one word at a time.

Synopsis examples

Synopsis tips for Literary Agents

Recipe for a Successful Synopsis
  

Sunday, July 13, 2014

PitchFest 2014

This past week, I attended a terrifying and exhilarating event called PitchFest. It is part of the ThrillerFest conference held in New York City. 

PitchFest is a two and a half hour event similar to speed dating, except your date is a person who can help you sell your masterpiece. Optimistic authors stand in lines to speak to one of over fifty agents and editors hoping to excite interest in their work.

Prior to the event, the mere mention of the word pitch would make my stomach queasy. Pitching has always strained my nerves, and I had a recurring image of me passing out in the middle of the room while determined authors stepped over my prone body. 

Standing in line waiting for the dash to begin, I made special note of the closest Rest Rooms. 

I have to tell you, each member of the crew running
PitchFest was awesome and the setup worked beautifully. They had three conference rooms with the names of each agent and editor posted outside. The lines were not bad. If you found one too long, you could move on to another. There was no pushing or shoving. 

The conference literature had every agent and editor listed with their preferences and what they didn't want. So, before you pitched, you could make sure that the person would be interested in your genre. It was perfect.

Standing in line, I did what I love. I schmoozed with the other authors. By the time I'd learned what everyone around me had written, it was time to speak to the agent. After the first jolt of fear, I found the agents to whom I pitched to be helpful and caring. Even after they had been in those rooms for hours, they were encouraging and kind. 

And, guess what! Five agents asked for pages, two wanted the whole thing. I left there wanting to hug everyone I met.

My friend Jane had the same wonderful experience. She'll be sending out pages and two fulls also.  

Is PitchFest worth it? Oh, yes. If you think you might be interested, look for it next July. But beware, the conference and rooms fill up fast. Register early.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Bianca Speaks

Meet Bianca, an interesting character from the Watcher Clan. I didn't know how interesting, until she decided to speak up. Hear what she has to say at MostlyMystery. My post on 6/20/14 is titled "My Characters Speak". Check it out.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Creativity Killers? Dump Them!

Part one of a twelve-part series on "the Artist's Way":

Instinctual creativity lurks within us all. It's just a matter of unlocking it. Each of us has an inner artist that many of us deny. We think our love of writing, painting, singing, cooking, gardening, collecting, or any other wonderful act of creativity is something to be ignored, a childish fantasy better left to the young.

A friend of mine suggested I buy "the Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron, a course in discovering and recovering your creative self. I did. For the next few weeks, at the suggestion of Ms. Cameron, I intend to share what I'm learning about my own creativity.

Before beginning the journey, it's suggested we dig out all the negative feedback that we always give ourselves when we talk about our art. My mind tells me things like "I'm not good enough. I can't write a book." or "Don't try to compare yourself with (name of favorite author). You're not in the same league." Another good one is "That's all right for a hobby, but you'll never get published."

Now that I've discovered some of 
my creativity killers, I have to go back into my past and find where those denigrating words originated. I remember some of my family and as well as the nuns telling me I was nothing but a daydreamer. I grew up believing daydreaming was bad. I've since learned differently. Daydreaming, for me, has always been about beauty and possibilities. It's part of my instinctual creativity. 

Once I've pinpointed the negative thoughts, I begin to combat them with positive alternatives. "You don't know how to write" becomes "I can learn how to write." Positive affirmations using a higher power i.e., the Universe, God, or H.P. (Higher Power) also help. "My dreams come from H.P. and H.P. has the power to accomplish them." 

In this book, Ms. Cameron asks that her students begin each day with Morning Pages, three written pages or writing that lasts one half hour. This "stream of consciousness" writing about anything or nothing at all, helps students to see and clear out the negative censor. According to Ms. Cameron, this writing not only helps to clear away the negativity, but it also kick-starts the creativity.

I bought the book three days ago and I have already seen a huge difference in my thought processes. This morning, I had an exciting idea about promoting my book and those of my writing group. I was able to come up with a long list of steps to accomplish this dream.

Each chapter ends with tasks to perform. One I love is to take yourself out on an artist date. Each week go someplace, all by yourself, that will give you pleasure. It doesn't have to be anything big. I'm thinking about going on a trolley ride.

What about you? Where would you like to take your creative self?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Writer's Revenge

How many times have you enjoyed reading a story where Karma catches up to the bad guy? You smile and say to yourself, "I wish (add your own nemesis here) would get what's coming to him/her."

Wish no longer, give them what they deserve. Write them into your book. It's the perfect writer's revenge. You can enjoy the long-awaited payback, cause embarrassment, pain, and even death, in the privacy of your home with no repercussions. Whether you use a short story or a novel, I guarantee the satisfaction will be awesome. I've taken care of a few people that way and they never knew what hit them. You needn't make the identity of the person obvious, if you're concerned about that. The fact that you know their identity is all that's necessary.

On the other hand, you might want the connection to be fairly clear. I'm pretty sure one of my targets of retribution will never read my book, but if they do, I know they'll recognize themselves immediately. That thought makes me want to purr.

Maybe you think I'm being unduly cruel. Too bad. I'm the writer. It's my book. And, payback is a bitch!

If you want to read more about my revenge tactics, check out my post on www.mostlymystery.com called "This Writer's Revenge".

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Writing Conference Tale

Morning Coffee
The fireplace flickers as I tuck myself into a comfortable chair. I open my laptop and get ready. The 2014 New England Chapter of Romance Writers of America conference has begun.

Excited flutters tickle my spine as I watch each conference patron arrive in the lobby. I turn to my friend Dianne, sitting beside me, with a giggle. She responds with a huge smile.

This is my third RWA conference, Dianne's second. This year, two others from our writing group will join us, Lisa and Rachel. As the noise level increases, I give up on typing and play the game of trying to recognize acquaintances from former years.

This conference is shorter than most but packs an awesome punch. The registration includes an eight-minute session with an agent or an editor who has read a blurb about your book and five pages of your work. I have high hopes.

Lisa and Rachel arrive and my excitement ramps up a notch. Knowing the workshops will begin shortly, we sit down and hash over which ones we want to take. Buoyed by excited anticipation, I start the conference journey.


Lisa, Me, Dianne, Rachel

At the end of each class I meet with my cronies and we discuss the valuable information we've received. One of the things I love about these events, is the easy camaraderie with other writers. 

During dinner, I introduce myself to others at the table and exchange business cards. I listen to the speaker, Bella Andrade, who's left a book on each of our seats. A wildly successful author, she gives us inspiration and motivation.

It's the end of the first day. I head off with my friends to a quiet corner to discuss our experiences. We share valuable nuggets gleaned from the workshops, and pass along funny people stories.  I love how our group bands together to help each single person. 

Later, my roommate and I discuss our pitch strategies in our p.j.s. As we talk our stories out, my fear lessens. I can't believe it when I see 11:30 on the clock. I'll never get up at 6:00 a.m. 

Surprise! Nervous energy wakes me up before the alarm. My editor session isn't until 10:40 this morning, but I'm already breathing too fast. Breakfast seems noisier than the previous dinner. Anxiety hovers over each table. We all want to sell our work.

I volunteer to help out at the Editor and Agent appointments, an effort that quiets my nerves. I'm too busy to worry. A little wave of sheer terror does envelop me, though, as I sit in front of the editor, and, by the time I finish giving her the gist of my story, my throat needs water.

I hold my breath, waiting. She smiles and asks me for a synopsis and three chapters. YIPPEE!

My friend Dianne walks out looking shell-shocked. She has a request for a synopsis, her WHOLE book, and an overview of her series. WOW!

The news is so enervating that I'm ready to use it as an introduction to the story I'd like to write, "How I Sold My First Book". What the heck. I'm in a positive mood.

Is there a moral to this story? I've got two. "Never Give Up" and "Writing Conferences Work!"


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Humorous Paranormal?

Hmmmm. I just found out that Mystery and Horror, LLC is hosting two short story contests. Unfortunately, the deadline is May 1st and I don't have anything ready to contribute.

One contest is looking for Historical Mystery short stories for that anthology. The other contest, will publish winners in their Humorous Paranormal anthology.

Humorous Paranormal? Sounds like fun. Although, I've always concentrated on the horror side of paranormal, I love to add add humor to my characters' lives. I'd like to try a little comedic twist to the paranormal, but the deadline is only ten days away. Too little time since I'm preparing a manuscript for the NECRWA  conference on the 3rd of May.

But, you might have time. Check it out: ShortStorySubmissions.
Good Luck!



Saturday, April 19, 2014

Speak Up!

This week, I wrote a blog about dialogue at MostlyMysteryBlog. I've always enjoyed writing dialogue, but I never knew what an important tool it can be.

Have you ever wanted to ramp up your character's emotions but you run out of adjectives? This can happen when you're writing in the third person. Or, if you're like me, you might have to watch out for the old telling vs. showing.

One easy solution to the problem is dialogue. If you have John slam his hand down on the counter and say, "Damn!" That certainly shows anger. And, if you have him think, It isn't fair. Dave always gets the girl. The reader understands that John is ticked at Dave for winning the prize once more.

What if you had John telling Dave how he feels?

"Since when is it okay to steal someone's date?"
"What are you talking about? You just met her an hour ago. Did you ask her out?"
"I would have if you hadn't butted in."
"You introduced me to her, for crying out loud."
"What was I supposed to do? You barged in and sat down."
"You were sitting at the bar."
"I saw her first."
"Yeah, and she gave me her number."
"Damn! it isn't fair. You always get the girl."

Now, you can see what really happened. John is jealous of Dave because the girls prefer him. Perhaps the person on the other end of his anger shouldn't be Dave but himself. Depending on the dialogue, you can make John look like the injured party, a good sport, or even pathetic. Dave can be a pal, clueless, or a self-serving jerk. And, by the way, you've added a lot more words to your manuscript.

Dialogue paints a more in-depth picture of a scene and its characters. I love it because I learn more about my characters through their verbal interaction. In one of my scenes, I had two characters meet for the first time. I wanted it to be a cordial meeting of neighbors, but it quickly disintegrated into a threatening situation. I hadn't realized that one of the people was so nasty and petty until I heard her in conversation with the other.

In another instance, I found one of my characters, a very nice person, had a devious bent to her personality. It came out as she was saying one thing but thinking something very different.

With specific speech used in a conversation, the length or brevity words and sentences can increase tension and  evoke emotions. If you're having trouble with dialogue, look back at books you've read where the dialogue moves the story along. See how that author did it.

I always speak out loud to hear how my conversations sound. There are also good books on the subject, or try the great online resources .

And, then there's always the old "tried and true". To understand how dialogue works, listen to it!

Keep on writing!









Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Hybrid Publishing

A few of the authors at the SinC workshop talked about hybrid publishing, going with both traditional and e-publishing. For successful authors, this seems to be more the norm than an outlier. These authors have established a name and collected a readership. Why do they need the traditional  houses? There's a great article about this trend at The Passive Voice, PassiveVoiceBlog.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Publishing Pitfalls

Last Saturday I attended an all-day workshop on publishing put on by Sisters in Crime (SinC). The panels discussed Small Press (Indie), Traditional (Legacy), and Self-Publishing. Authors explained the benefits and down-sides of each. 

Indie publishers have the advantage of a quicker turn-around time and most don't require agents. However, the author has to take care of tasks like promotion and cover art.

Legacy publishers take care of publicity, editing, cover art, and bookstore distribution. Their downside includes the necessity of an agent, early deadlines, lack of flexibility, and the amount of time it takes to produce the book. 

That leaves self-publishing. Many authors claim to have made a lot of money with self-publishing. If you look at the claims, you'll find that most come from previously established authors who already have a following. 

For those of us who are unknown, the story will be quite different. Before any author takes the risky step of self-publishing his book, he has to establish a platform. A platform is an online identity, created by Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.) and a blog. 

People will buy something written by a familiar name, once. If they like it, you're in luck. This brings me to an important part of self-publishing, the editing. Before you send anything out onto the web with your name attached to it, hire a competent editor to go through it. Don't cry about the cost. Do it! Reader's are not used to literature that has spelling or grammatical errors. One or two in 75,000 words can be overlooked, but no more. 

We new authors are still learning, and we need someone to point out problems before the public sees them. Editors do that. Once your name is associated with sub-par work, you've blown it. You won't get another chance. There are too many books out there.

Be prepared to take care of all those little details normally handled by the publisher. Things like cover art, promotion, technical aspects of formatting for different platforms, ISBN numbers, etc. Learn about quotas, royalties and keeping tabs on your sales. You're now in the business of publishing.

You can hire people to take care of any or all of the publishing responsibilities, but it will be costly. 

The bottom line? Look at the publishing choices and make an informed decision, one for which you are willing to do the work and then enjoy your new published state. 

For more information on the workshop, see my blog this Friday, 4/4, at MostlyMysteryBlog.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Ready to Query?

I've been asking myself that question for months. Am I ready to query? Well, if I want to be published, I figure I’m probably going to have to do something other than pray.




The answer to the query question isn't easy. Although my book is great (you’ll love it), I’m still doing some in-depth editing. But, what difference does that make?  I could still send out query letters. Right?

I could. But, what if by some miracle, I get a reply asking me for the whole thing? What do I do? Do I send my baby out before it’s ready? Do I take a chance that the editor or agent will gloss over any mistakes or inconsistencies because my writing is so incredible?

Wait a minute. If someone wanted my work, I could always throw myself into an insane editing marathon and hope that everything would somehow end up being perfect. Right?

Yeah, right. My life would be a mess, not to mention what a manuscript, edited by a bleary-eyed lunatic, would look like. No, no editing marathon.  Much better to work on my masterpiece until it’s ready for the firing squad. Also, this way, I’d have less chance of cultivating an ulcer.

Although my work isn't quite ready for querying, it is close. And, I know that writing a query letter is extremely difficult. The process has been known to demoralize even the most confident writer. Therefore, I wouldn't attempt it alone. Especially since my confidence can be iffy. I tend to moan while waiting in line to pitch my book.

There are many sites where you can find excellent instruction about how to query. Here are three I like:

Since I've read a lot of these articles, I've learned how to query. Right?

I'm sure you guessed the answer. No. I’m still in novice land. What I need, what a lot of writers need, is feedback, someone to read my pitiful query attempts and point out the problems. Where do you find someone like that?

One venue is a writing group. A good writing group will have members who’ll give you an honest critique. If they've had any experience writing query letters, their help can be invaluable. Often, however, group members’ experience with query letters is spotty. And, what if you don’t have a writing group? If you're not part of a writing group, my advice is to search for one. I have an online critique group through the Sisters in Crime Guppies subgroup and a physical writing group near my home.

Another really good option to solve your query concerns is to find an online workshop where you can get feedback on your letter. You’ll find them advertised through writing forums from time to time. I’m considering taking one next week from Savvy Authors. Savvy'sQueryWorkshop
It’s inexpensive, looks to be thorough, and, best of all, it provides feedback on your efforts. 

Once I have my query letter tucked in my back pocket, I can get back to editing. By the time I’m ready to rock some agent or editor’s world, my query letter will be ready. 

Bestseller lists, here I come!