The End (Not Really)

What’s a Mystery Writer To Do?

I mean, when she can’t fig­ure out who the killer is? Now, you real­ly can’t have a mys­tery with­out a killer, that’s for sure. But when I wrote Death of a Hot Chick, I went through a mil­lion drafts (seemed like any­way) with­out find­ing my killer.

I’d worked on my mys­tery for months, seemed like years. Well, yes, it did run over twelve months for sure. But—I’d hit a brick wall. Who killed the vic­tim in chap­ter one? Who would be revealed as the nasty guy in the last chap­ter? She was dead—no doubt about it. But who dun it? What to do?

Write anoth­er draft. Sure­ly the killer would be revealed. I start­ed all over, honed the sen­tences, refined the clues, brought out new sub-plots, added and sub­tract­ed scenes. Even got a chap­ter or two fur­ther along toward the fin­ish line. But… no killer stepped up.

Okay, try again. Piece of cake. Answer will burst forth. Umm, no. Sev­en drafts lat­er and the brick wall was ever high­er. There were clues, red her­rings, false accu­sa­tions, but no killer stepped for­ward.

I had three guys well posi­tioned, each with a rea­son to off the hot chick of my mys­tery. Her father, her fiancé, and the guy whose boat she’d end­ed up with due to a bit of finan­cial hockus-pokus. (Okay, although some of my char­ac­ters believed the vic­tim was a sweet young thing, she had issues.) But, I just couldn’t pin-point the killer. What to do?

Des­per­a­tion lurked. I stared at my three guys, and final­ly said, “I give up. Tell me.” I hand­ed them the vir­tu­al pen and let them have a go at explain­ing their actions on the day in ques­tion. They went at it. A short while lat­er, one of them, at the end of his half page, said, “And then I killed her.”

Whew. Problem solved. And, added benefit, reviewers have said they absolutely could not figure out before hand who did it. (Although, I can’t recommend this seven-draft system, it did work for me that time.)

When I’m read­ing, I espe­cial­ly like a book, espe­cial­ly a mys­tery, where I can’t pre­dict the end­ing. I do like to guess what will hap­pen, and some­times I’m cor­rect. Some­times I change my mind with every chap­ter. That’s a great read! I don’t mind at all being fooled—as long as the solu­tion makes sense. (One can always go back and find those hid­den clues and red her­rings. So much fun!)

How about you? Do you like to be puz­zled, or do you pre­fer to solve the mys­tery along with the sleuth?

(Okay I’ll add the uni­ver­sal link for all e-book read­ers here.)

Kindle Scout book coming-Forgotten Body

Forgotten_ebook final coverNovem­ber 14, 2015, is the big day! I just got word this morn­ing (the 12th). My next mys­tery, For­got­ten Body, will be on Kin­dle Scout.

Okay, you want to know exact­ly what Kin­dle Scout is? It’s part­ly a choose-your-own-read, in that any­one can nom­i­nate books they would like to read. After giv­ing the read­ing pub­lic thir­ty days to choose a book, Ama­zon decides which ones they will pub­lish in e-book form. (Part of their deci­sion is based on the book’s pop­u­lar­i­ty.) The best part for the read­er: You receive a free e-book copy of each of the books you nom­i­nat­ed. Okay, that’s only true if they decide to pub­lish the book. (If not, they tell you where it is avail­able.) As a read­er, I’ve nom­i­nat­ed many books I’d like to read. (They allow three nom­i­na­tions at a time.) Sev­er­al have been pub­lished by Kin­dle Scout, so I’ve received free e-books. They were all great reads. They earned four or five stars when I placed my reviews on Ama­zon and Goodreads. (Since I know those reviews help the author and the read­er, I try to review every book I read.)

Of course, there’s good news for the author too. The Kin­dle Scout pro­gram offers a favor­able con­tract with advance and roy­al­ties, as well as pub­lic­i­ty.

The Kin­dle Scout site for For­got­ten Body will include the one sen­tence teas­er, the blurb, and almost all of the first two chap­ters. It will even tell you some­thing about me and ask me ques­tions. (I answer, of course.) Mean­while, I’ll tell you For­got­ten Body is a sequel to Yesterday’s Body. Jo Durbin, my ama­teur detec­tive will do her thing (along with that elu­sive, imag­i­nary cat) at a reen­act­ment of the War of 1812. On Sat­ur­day the 12th, the whole thing will go live here. So vis­it, and if you like what you see, nom­i­nate. If you have any ques­tions, ask here.

Do You NaNoWriMo?

nano_logo

I should, I real­ly should. NaNoW­riMo, I mean. I’m between books, I have a pret­ty good sized ker­nel of an idea, and…it is the sea­son. But, I prob­a­bly won’t.

Make that, I should, I real­ly should. I can do it, I real­ly can. Fifty thou­sand words toward a new man­u­script. How appeal­ing is that? A big boost on cre­ativ­i­ty. And…it is the sea­son.

But, I’m in the midst of work­ing toward get­ting the com­plet­ed one pub­lished. I’ve just com­mit­ted to a reju­ve­nat­ing cri­tique group. I’m final­iz­ing a cou­ple of short sto­ries. Thanks­giv­ing is com­ing. Novem­ber is a short month as it is (by one day, but who’s count­ing).

Maybe I can get all that done next week and start NaNo late. (You know, do the Scar­let option and think about it tomor­row.)

The first time I NaNoed I piled up just over the fifty thou­sand words.

Yeah, but the sec­ond time I real­ly tanked.

But, but, that idea didn’t real­ly pan out. And I suc­cess­ful­ly com­plet­ed a mini-NaNo last July. Doesn’t that count?

At this stage, I must admit, I start all over at the top with the same argu­ments.

I think I’ll stay in Scar­let-land for a while. After all, it is a whole two more days until Novem­ber.

How about you? Will you NaNoW­riMo this year?

Letters to the Editor

Years ago a local woman reg­u­lar­ly con­tributed to our newspaper’s11-15 writing let­ters page. Her pieces were well writ­ten and thought out. She wasn’t polit­i­cal or addict­ed to any orga­ni­za­tion or move­ment. She looked around, lis­tened, made deci­sions and shared her view­point. If she missed a week, oth­er writ­ers won­dered what hap­pened to her. Def­i­nite­ly an insti­tu­tion, and the read­er­ship mourned her death. Some­times a new scribe turned up, but it isn’t the same. For one, now the paper won’t pub­lish any one per­son more than once a month. There must be oth­er rea­sons. Per­haps they have oth­er avenues of expres­sion. Per­haps some are now blog­gers with fol­low­ers.

Some­times I write to my news­pa­per. Once it was about a way out-dat­ed front-page piece on med­ical pro­ce­dures. (Some­thing about it made me look up the orig­i­nal report cit­ed. I learned it was com­piled sev­en years before from queries com­piled in the pre­vi­ous ten years and includ­ed the com­ment that it was deemed unre­li­able.) Some years ago it was more apt to involve absent cov­er­age of our local school dis­trict activ­i­ties (where my chil­dren were involved, nat­u­ral­ly).

Not often, but occa­sion­al­ly, I’ll com­ment on some­thing polit­i­cal. If I do, I’ll sign my name dif­fer­ent­ly than I sign any­thing to do with my writ­ing. That’s because, with the inter­net pick­ing up every­thing, I once dis­cov­ered my com­ment over a local issue right there, with my name, for every­one with a com­put­er to see.

Okay, that’s good, right? Get your name out, can’t be bad. Except, the way I see it, our coun­try is almost even­ly divid­ed, and very par­ti­san. In fact, I see the same divi­sion with­in my friends and fam­i­ly. We all know which is which. We might even dis­cuss our dif­fer­ences ami­ca­bly. But that nev­er hap­pens in print. Don’t know why. Maybe it’s the news­pa­per with their unfun­ny car­toons lam­poon­ing both sides. It dri­ves a wedge through a coun­try that calls itself Unit­ed. And, view­ing all that angst, peo­ple take sides. They could eas­i­ly say, “If she thinks that, I’m cer­tain­ly not going to buy her books.” And who wants to alien­ate half of their pos­si­ble read­er­ship?

So, do you write let­ters to the edi­tor? Actu­al­ly, I still do. Not often, I have oth­er writ­ing that calls me.

Twittering Memes

I’m twit­ter­ing memes, even though I’m not sure memes is the word I want.  Accord­ing to the dic­tio­nary a meme (meem) is “an idea, behav­ior, or style that spreads from per­son to per­son with­in a cul­ture”. So, I can only hope my memes will fit that descrip­tion.

And why do I hope that? Because I’m using them to adver­tise on Twit­ter. I’m hop­ing the count­down project I’m run­ning for one of my books this week will catch some atten­tion, and some pur­chasers. What do you think? Some of them are below. (Suc­cess­ful pro­mo­tion for the self-pub­lished is just anoth­er writ­ing skill. Hope I’m accom­plish

And, by the way, you may have not­ed this Mon­day post is not my usu­al review of a five star book. (Tune in next week when I’ll be back on sched­ule.)

Cherish countdown meme 1

Cherish countdown meme 2 Cherish countdown meme 4

A Good Writing Day

Break­through! This morning’s writ­ing gave me the end­ing for my short sto­ry. Needs fine-tun­ing, of course. It is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent than I usu­al­ly write—historic, long short, if that makes sense. You see, For­got­ten Body, the sequel to Yesterday’s Body, takes place at a reen­act­ment of the War of 1812 on Chesa­peake Bay. The ama­teur sleuth in the sto­ry, Jo, won­ders what her life would have been like in the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry. She’s in her late fifties, an unmar­ried sur­vivor of two bad mar­riages. Would wife and moth­er have been her only options? Of course not, but what else would she do?

Orig­i­nal­ly, I start­ed putting lit­tle snip­pets of an his­toric sto­ry in the larg­er mys­tery. But, they real­ly didn’t fit. So, you might say, what I was work­ing on today is an out-take of the book, rather like the out-takes they often show from movies or TV shows. And, for a while there, the sto­ry didn’t seem to have a future. Today was the break­through that I need­ed. I now have an his­toric romance (not mys­tery) of around 20 pages. A bit long for the usu­al short sto­ry, but I have plans for this one and anoth­er long-short I’ve completed—a pre­quel to Yesterday’s Body that is a mys­tery.

So, short sto­ry-long, it’s a good day in my world.

I’m on the Hen House Blog

The years my hus­band and I spent sail­ing on Chesa­peake Bay and beyond con­tributed to my mys­tery writ­ing. For one, I found a cou­ple of boats I want­ed to include in my sto­ries. One, a small lob­ster boat con­vert­ed to a live-aboard cruis­er, is front and cen­ter of my sec­ond pub­lished mys­tery. Here’s the pic­ture, and here’s the result­ing cov­er.

Snapdragon1

HotChickSmallerFrontCoverThat’s just one of my sto­ries. As one of the con­trib­u­tors to the Sis­ters in Crime Writes of Pas­sage, I vis­it­ed the  Hen­ery Press Blog (no longer active). I told them why I place my mys­ter­ies on Chesa­peake Bay.

 

Name That Character

No, it’s not a game show, but it is a game all writ­ers play. And, it does remind me of a game show—What’s My Line from the 1950s and 1960s. In fact, that’s anoth­er game writ­ers play—giving their char­ac­ters a job. But, back to the names. How does that work?

Bit player—needs an ordi­nary name. John Smith. Nope, too ordi­nary. Mary Mar­tin. Nope, a big star already owns that name.

Play­er that must be over­looked until the dénouement—needs a dis­tinc­tive name, I’d say, with his infor­ma­tion seem­ing to be slight. Fane Olivet­ti. Nope. A bit too dis­tinc­tive, and prob­a­bly comes from two dif­fer­ent parts of the world.

You get the idea. And that goes dou­ble for main char­ac­ters. I once wrote a young adult sto­ry with a hero named Jasper. Nev­er heard of it, except for the name of a city. For­got the sto­ry for years. Took it out to rewrite, and dis­cov­ered that Jasper was a main char­ac­ter of a new, wild­ly pop­u­lar YA book. Okay, he need­ed a new name. Would you believe Fred? In fact, Fred’s name was real­ly Friedrich due to his Ger­man her­itage. How­ev­er, short­ly after WW II, the war with Ger­many the ene­my, that name con­tributed to someone’s para­noia, and added a whole miss­ing ele­ment to the plot. (Yes, serendip­i­ty exists.)

So, how do writ­ers come up with names? Some keep lists. I do. I have three alpha­bet­i­cal lists that I add to con­stant­ly: male, female, and sur­names. I may add nota­tions: top ten in 2002, His­pan­ic, Japan­ese. But often, I choose names not on that list. Or, don’t choose them.

There’s a name I haven’t used, but I remem­ber it. When I was a child a neigh­bor­ing fam­i­ly had immi­grat­ed from some­where. The preg­nant wife decid­ed to name her child after the ship’s cap­tain. But since the child was a girl, she was named after the ship. Yes, her name was Ula­dia. Haven’t used that name yet.

I always search the name I use on the inter­net. (That alerts me to names of real peo­ple I don’t want to use, but there are always real peo­ple by the name. I just pick one with­out some­one famous or noto­ri­ous.)

Oth­er peo­ple search names as well—their own names. One sur­prise was when one woman with the same name as one of my main char­ac­ters found my book—and bought it! Wow! And, it wasn’t a com­mon name at all. In fact, she e-mailed me to say she knew of no one with that sur­name but her imme­di­ate fam­i­ly. Hmm. Maybe I should use those more com­mon names. (Just kid­ding.)

Ques­tion for read­ers: How do the names affect your immage of a book’s char­ac­ters? (Writ­ers want to know.)

Ques­tion for writ­ers: Do you have a spe­cial way you choose writer names? (This writer wants to know.) Okay, I should put a hap­py face here, or one of those, um, what­ev­er they are called.

Covers

All of my cov­ers have been designed by one of my daugh­ters while she was gross­ly under­em­ployed. For­tu­nate­ly for her, that is no longer the case. Unfor­tu­nate­ly for me, I have to rethink cov­ers. I want to go GREAT. I want to go PROFESSIONAL. I want to go with a cov­er that says, “BUY ME!” So, of course, I’ve asked a pro whose cov­ers are strik­ing and ver­setile to design the cov­er of my upcom­ing mys­tery.

In the mean­time, I’ve been writ­ing  a cou­ple of short sto­ries that I intend to offer for free—to fur­ther encour­age read­ers to buy my new mys­tery. So I’ve been did­dling with canva.com. I have used it to make a small design to put on Twit­ter, pro­mot­ing one of my books. (Don’t know if it actu­al­ly works, but…it looks good.) I’ve tried a lot of dif­fer­ent designs using a vari­ety of free and per­son­al pho­tos. This is what I’ve come up with so far.

HIDDEN BODY cover B

Deserter cover 2Tell me, what do you think? Good enough? Or not.

Art In The Attic

A son visits his father.

A son vis­its his father.

The draw­ings on the wall of a third floor stor­age room have been there for over one hun­dred years. As the house passed through dif­fer­ent own­ers, one promise was made—leave the pic­tures alone. They are pen­cil draw­ings, made by two boys who lived with their moth­er in the rent­ed house. Some of them depict their old­er broth­er, Leo Hauck, who was a cham­pi­on box­er.

How did this all get on the front page of my local news­pa­per? The cur­rent home­own­er was curi­ous. She asked ques­tions and dis­cov­ered a few amaz­ing con­nec­tions. Three of Leo’s chil­dren sur­vive and live local­ly. Peg­gy, age 100, and Eddie, age 94, didn’t walk up the stairs to see their father as a young box­er. Joe, age 80, lives less than a mile away. He and his daugh­ter vis­it­ed the third-floor draw­ings and were amazed.

As a writer, I always think, what if? What if any one of the own­ers of the house had paint­ed over those pic­tures? What if, the house was remod­eled and win­dows replaced a wall? What if the area had been zoned for renew­al and the place torn down and became a park­ing lot? What if none of those hap­pened, but the con­nec­tion was nev­er made?

Joe Hauck was thir­teen when his father died. He knew he’d been a fight­er. He’d known those uncles who drew the pic­tures as chil­dren. He knew his father start­ed box­ing as a fly­weight at age four­teen. He knew he was known as the “Lan­cast­er Thun­der­bolt,” and often as Leo Houck due to a mis­spelled pro­mo­tion­al piece. Joe’s father, who suc­cess­ful­ly boxed in every weight up to heavy­weight (as he grew) is named in the Inter­na­tion­al Box­ing Hall of Fame. Now Joe knows a bit more.

To see more pic­tures and the com­plete arti­cle, check out this link in LNP News­pa­pers.