Thursday, September 29, 2016

Eavesdropping as a Writing Research Skill By Karen McCullough


I frequently give talks and workshops on writing dialogue and among other tips for learning to do it well, I include a suggestion that you eavesdrop on various conversations to get a feel for how people really talk.

I know your mother taught you that eavesdropping was rude and even wrong—at least my mother did. But this is important writer research so go ahead and do it.  But, please, be discreet about it.

Restaurants are a great venue for eavesdropping, as are movie theaters, stores, almost any public place. Pretend to be reading or watching something else but listen to the way people talk. If you can do it discreetly, take notes and write down snatches of dialogue.

Yes, I’ve done this myself. A few things jump out at you.

A lot of conversation is pretty bland and fits into the category of social nicety. Most of that can be ignored in your writing unless there’s something unusual or compelling about it. 

Then there will be some that is completely incomprehensible. Can be useful in certain situations in a story where your character is in a particular situation, such as a job or mission that include specialized vocabulary and terminology.  But it has to be done carefully or it can lose the reader entirely when they don’t understand what’s going on.

In the rest of the talk, you should find your inspiration. Listen carefully to how different people talk, the rhythms of their speech and the actual words used. It can be fascinating. I like to sit in a booth and try to identify the ages of the people in the seats behind me just from their conversation. Sometimes it’s worth trying just to listen to the words and ignore the tones or rhythms, because word choices are so key in making dialogue ring true.  But those word and sentence sounds, rising and fall inflections, and emphases also play a part in making your dialogue soar.

Finally, read the dialogue aloud yourself and you’ll begin to hear if it works or not. Sometimes the very words will force you to read a sentence in a certain way. When that happens, you’ve nailed it.

And when readers are sure they’re listening to real people talk, you know you’ve done your job as an author.






Karen McCullough is the author of a dozen published novels and novellas in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres as well. She has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy, and has also been a four-time Eppie finalist, and a finalist in the Daphne, Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards contests. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the mystery, fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. She has three children, six grandchildren (plus one on the way) and lives in Greensboro, NC, with her husband of many years.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KarenMcCulloughAuthor



Blurb for Wired for Murder: Most of the time, Heather McNeil loves her job as assistant to the director of the Washington DC Market Show Center. Because she’s a good listener and even better at solving problems, her boss assigns her to handle a lot of the day to day issues that arise during the shows, exhibits, and conferences being held there.  When Heather becomes an unwilling audience to murder during the Business Technology Expo and later finds the body, she’s willing to let the police take care of it. But she soon learns more than she wanted to know about the victim and all the people who really didn’t like him very much.

Buy:

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01F81SNDQ
·         Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/649290

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

DESERT ICE-- In search of 1955 Las Vegas



When people found out we were taking a week long research trip to Las Vegas for our next book, Desert Ice, everyone insisted we visit the Mob Museum. So, we decided to take them up on the suggestion and made it our first stop.
Even before we went to our hotel, we interviewed the curator. She was very helpful and answered some of our questions regarding of the inner workings of the 1955 mob era.

The next day, after breakfast we toured the museum, housed in the old Post Office in the old part of town, 1940-50's music is played as you ascend the broad steps. With four floors of mob history and memorabilia, they suggest you plan two hours. We found it extremely enlightening with displays showing the very beginnings of the mob in the US and how the organization grew and spread.


Great technology, presentation and staff on each floor very knowledgeable about the history of the mob, particularly in the Las Vegas area.

We were very surprised to learn how normal the families of the mobs were during their heyday in the fifties. I had the opportunity to interview a the daughter of a mobster who lived in the area in 1955. In her younger years, she rode her bike to school, swam in the community pool and shopped at Sears, of all places.  

As a kid who grew up in New York in the 50's, our lives were very similar, except, of course for her access to big name stars such as Pearl Bailey, Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, etc. Quite often they were dinner guests in her home!

Since Las Vegas was an "Open City" there was no one gang or family calling the shots. Mobsters who were operating illegal businesses like gambling and prostitution in other states found a haven in Nevada and became “legitimate businessmen.” These were very savvy businessmen who know how to take the opportunity and make it work and grow for them. It was interesting to find people on both side of the law and their role in history.


There is nothing left of 1955 Vegas, so our research week in Las Vegas was full of interviews and research at libraries. We did squeeze a dinner at the Luxor though. We "just had" to schedule it. 



Bio:
Published authors Janet Elizabeth Lynn and Will Zeilinger had been writing individually until they got together and wrote the SKYLAR DRAKE MURDER MYSTERY Series. Their next novel Desert Ice to be released January 2017. These hard-boiled tales are based in old Hollywood of 1955.  Janet has published ten mystery novels and Will has three plus a couple of short stories. Their world travels have sparked several ideas for murder and crime stories. This creative couple is married and live in Southern California.

Janet Elizabeth Lynn http://www.janetlynnauthor.com/






Sunday, September 25, 2016

Stickler for Accuracy by Paty Jager

     
       

There are times I wish I didn’t have this need to make sure people learn something from my fiction books. But growing up, books were how I learned about the world. People and places that I didn’t hear about in school or see that much on television. I believe all books whether they are non-fiction of fiction should take the reader to a place they’ve never been or show them a place they’ve been in a different way. 

Because of that need to teach, I always try to bring something I didn’t know about into my books so I learn about it and then add it to the story.

My Shandra Higheagle Mystery is such a series. I had to learn about finding clay and making it “pure” so it could be used in making pottery. I’ve learned different pottery techniques from magazines and online. I’ve had to research Idaho county law enforcement and the state law enforcement. And most of all, I’ve had to learn about the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington state.

I made my main character in the series half Nez Perce. Her family ancestors fled with Chief Joseph to Canada when the army tried to put them on a reservation. Their punishment for outwitting the army for so long was to be shipped to Oklahoma for seven years and when they were finally allowed to come back to the Pacific Northwest, they weren’t allowed to go the Nez Perce reservation in Idaho where their people had lived for centuries. They were placed on the Colville reservation. And that is how Shandra Higheagle has relatives at that particular reservation. You can find out more about how I shaped this character here.

Lucky for me, after I’d decided to make this her family’s home, I met Carmen Peone, an author, who lives on the reservation. She’s not Native American but her husband is and she’s taught in the schools and is friends with nearly everyone on the reservation. She’s learned some of the language of the Arrow Lakes and her young adult books are about the culture.



For my latest release, Reservation Revenge, I had to call upon Carmen many times when I’d write something and then wanted to make sure it was correct and not something that would upset the people living on the reservation. When I’d started the series, she took me on a tour of the reservation. One of the places she took me was Buffalo Lake. I immediately tagged it as a place for a murder to happen.  She told me it was a place the young people liked to go to party.

When I needed photos for the cover, Carmen, came through with the background photo. She has been my lifesaver with this series and a true friend.

Through her knowledge, I was able to bring the reservation life to others and build a mystery that I hope gives people a moment of contemplation and takes them on a journey they would not have had before.

Reservation Revenge
Book six of the Shandra Higheagle Native American Mystery Series

Feuds…Jealousy…Murder

Upon learning a cousin is suspected of murder, potter Shandra Higheagle travels to the Colville Reservation to support her family in any way she can, including the insight she receives from her Nez Perce grandmother in dreams. When the tribal police and FBI refuse to look for additional clues or suspects, Shandra becomes even more determined to uncover the truth.

Detective Ryan Greer knows Shandra’s snooping could cause more harm than good. He joins her at the Reservation and in her pursuit for justice. However, he soon discovers his own hidden secrets could be as dangerous as century old feuds, jealousy, and the drug running that is connected to the murder.




Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 25+ novels and over a dozen novellas and short stories of murder mystery, western historical romance, and action adventure. She has a RomCon Reader’s Choice Award for her Action Adventure and received the EPPIE Award for Best Contemporary Romance. Her first mystery was a finalist in the Chanticleer Mayhem and Mystery Award and is a finalist in the RONE Award Mystery category.  This is what Mysteries Etc says about her Shandra Higheagle mystery series: “Mystery, romance, small town, and Native American heritage combine to make a compelling read.”

blog / websiteFacebook / Paty's Posse / Goodreads / Twitter / Pinterest


Friday, September 23, 2016

And the Winners of my Blog Tour Contest are:

Drum Roll Please!

The prize is the winner's choice of any of the earlier books in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series in paper, or e-book.

The winners are:

Linda Thorne
Lorna Collins
Terrell Byrd
Sky Caitlin

All they have to do is contact me either by e-mail or message me on Facebook.

How fun is this!

Hoping to hear from the winners soon!

Marilyn


And this is the latest in the series, and not one of the prizes.

Marilyn

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

SKIN OF TATTOOS by Christina Hoag


Since I’ve been a journalist (a newspaper reporter, which almost sounds quaint these days!), I get a lot of ideas from news events and people I’ve covered. That’s how “Skin of Tattoos” was born. I was sent to El Salvador back in 2000 to do a magazine story on gang members deported from Los Angeles to San Salvador, which most of them really didn’t know because their families had emigrated when they were infants or small children. It was a classic “fish out of water” story. They neither belonged in El Salvador or in the United States. Some barely spoke Spanish. It’s really a strange take on the immigrant experience. 

By the way, this was before the scourge of gangs became a pandemic in the northern countries of Central America. When I was there, the gangs had formed, spurred by these deported Angelenos, but they were nowhere near as strong as they are today.

The story of these young men I interviewed resonated with me. I could relate to them because I had moved around the world as a child, so I also feel I don’t really belong anywhere; I straddle numerous cultures. Although my novel is not about deported gang members; it’s the tale of rival homeboys in L.A., the book was inspired by those interviews in El Salvador, although I didn’t sit down and write an outline until maybe six years later and started writing it in 2008. It’s been a long haul!

But I confess I have a general interest in gangs as a subculture within our larger society. I first encountered gangs again as a journalist in New Jersey, where I was working as a reporter for The Times in Trenton. The editor assigned me to write a story about a notorious motorcycle gang delivering Christmas toys to a local hospital. I went to interview them in a small suburban house. It was all very normal-looking apart from the bunch of Harley choppers out front and its rather gloriously hirsute occupants, who insisted they belonged to a “club” not a gang. However, a couple years later, I saw one of them at a New Jersey prison where I’d gone to interview an inmate for another story. So much for the “club,” I thought.

I also covered gangs and related issues when I was a reporter for the Associated Press in Los Angeles and later co-wrote a nonfiction book on gang intervention called “Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence” (Turner Publishing, 2014) with a South Los Angeles gang interventionist. It’s now being used as a textbook in various courses at UCLA, USC and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, a fact which I’m very proud of.




BIO:
Christina Hoag is the author of Skin of Tattoos, a literary thriller set in L.A.’s gang underworld (Martin Brown Publishers, August 2016) and Girl on the Brink, a romantic thriller for young adults (Fire and Ice YA/Melange Books, August 2016). She is a former reporter for the Associated Press and Miami Herald and worked as a correspondent in Latin America writing for major media outlets including Time, Business Week, Financial Times, the Houston Chronicle and The New York Times. She is the co-author of Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence, a groundbreaking book on gang intervention (Turner Publishing, 2014). She lives in Los Angeles. For more information, see www.christinahoag.com.

BLURB:
Los Angeles homeboy Magdaleno is paroled from prison after serving time on a gun possession frame-up by a rival, Rico, who takes over as gang shot-caller in Mags’s absence. Mags promises himself and his Salvadoran immigrant family a fresh start, but he can’t find either the decent job or the respect he craves from his parents and his firefighter brother, who look at him as a disappointment. Moreover, Rico, under pressure to earn money to free the Cyco Lokos’ jailed top leader and eager to exert his authority over his rival-turned-underling, isn’t about to let Mags get out of his reach. Ultimately, Mags’s desire for revenge and respect pushes him to make a decision that ensnares him in a world seeded with deceit and betrayal, where the only escape from rules that carry a heavy price for transgression is sacrifice of everything – and everyone - he loves.

Available in ebook and paperback from Martin Brown Publishers on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2bSRjqP

Monday, September 19, 2016

And My Blog Tour Winds Down

On the blog tour for Seldom Traveled  I did a couple of different things.

This tour was shorter, only 20 stops, in the past I've done a full months worth.

Instead of offering to use someone's name in a book for a contest prize, I offered a choice of one of the older books in the series. Having one's name used is definitely a bigger draw--but I'm at the age where it's possible there might not be another book.

There were fewer glitches this time. Only one person didn't get the post up on the right day, but it appeared on the next day. One poor host had a virus attach her website and nothing could be done. I used that post for another blog I'm doing later in the year, with someone I didn't use for the tour.

Today's post and the last one in the tour is here:


Though I really enjoy doing the tours, it is a lot of work. Some bloggers have lots of followers, others not so many.

Do I think it worked--yes, Amazon showed some sales during that time period.

What's next up?

I'm offering one of my older Tempe mysteries as a freebie. More about that later.

Marilyn

Saturday, September 17, 2016

SHARES THE DARKNESS by J.R. Lindermuth

Like Marilyn Meredith, my host today, I write a contemporary crime series about small town police, their families and friends.


Shares The Darkness is the seventh in my Sticks Hetrick series. Sticks is the primary character, but readers seem to like that solving the crime is most often the result of a team effort (as it is in real police work) and that I devote equal time to making other members of the team fully detailed characters.

Chief among these other characters are Hetrick's proteges Officer Flora Vastine and her boyfriend Corporal Harry Minnich and Hetrick's friend and successor as police chief, Aaron Brubaker.
Marilyn's characters are usually guided by their religious convictions (and she uses those without sounding preachy). Some of my characters are religious as well, others not so much. But the major characters all have a genuine sense of morality. The crime novel is a continuation of the morality play of medieval times. Without morality (whether imposed by religious convictions or reason) we would live in a state of anarchy.

Police in recent days have come under fire because of the actions of some 'bad apples.' I say bad apples, but don't wish to judge these men and women. With all the stress the job and daily life imposes, who's to say what any of us might do under similar circumstances.

Here's the blurb for Shares The Darkness:

Jan Kepler and Swatara Creek Police Officer Flora Vastine were neighbors and schoolmates, but never close.

When Jan, a school teacher, avid birder and niece of a fellow officer, goes missing and is found dead in a nearby tract of woods Flora finds herself thrust into the middle of an examination of the other woman's life, as she searches for clues.

As usual, the police have more than one crime to deal with. There’s illegal timbering and a series of vehicle thefts taking up their time. And there are other issues to deal with. Flora is concerned there’s some shakiness in her relationship with Cpl. Harry Minnich who seems to be making a lot of secretive phone calls.

Still Flora maintains focus on the murder. Despite evidence implicating other suspects, the odd behavior of another former classmate rouses Flora’s suspicion. Flora’s probing opens personal wounds as she observes the cost of obsessive love and tracks down the killer.

Links:









Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jrlindermuth?trk=hp-identity-name


I'm a member of International Thriller Writers and the Short Mystery Fiction Society, where I've recently turned over the duties of vice president to fellow writer Larry Chavis.