Wednesday, February 22, 2017

VOICE AND STYLE by Susan Tuttle

Thank you, Marilyn, for hosting me today. It’s a pleasure to be here and I hope your readers will enjoy my thoughts, and feel free to comment and ask questions.

As writers we dream of developing a unique Voice, a Style that is easily identifiable by readers everywhere. One that is unmistakably our own, inimitable in its essence. Think of Shakespeare, Dickens, Agatha Christie, Rosamund Pilcher, Stephen King... A reader could open any of those writers’ books and, not even looking at the author’s name, know who wrote it simply by the way the story unfolds. By the words and phrases, the sentence structure, the characterizations, the themes and insights.

But Voice and Style are difficult to define, because they are not just the skills that create them. If they were we could simply take a class to learn them. But Voice and Style are greater than the sum of the elements that go into them. There is an amorphous quality, an indefinable element, that comes only through experience, self-knowledge, and work. Through trusting our own nature and instincts. Only one part of Voice and Style can be learned. The most important part comes from within us, from our very essence.

Voice and Style are made up of a lot of concrete elements that work together to create a separate entity. They’re composed of the words we choose, the way those words are put together and the way sentences are structured, the way paragraphs grow, and how scenes develop and connect. Our education and life experiences also go into the make-up of or own Voice and Style.

And there’s more. The books we read and the authors we try to emulate play an important role. So does rhythm and pacing, a sense of detail, empathy and sympathy for the human condition, a sense of the absurd, a sense of humor, and a sense of both the profound and the profane. The anecdotes of our lives, our joys and sorrows, and our ability to improvise, to access our own emotional black holes, and our willingness to trust that we have important things to say and meaningful themes to explore all become a part of our unique Voice and Style.

Voice and Style, in essence then, are us; who we are as human beings, exposed to the world in the words we write, the stories we tell, the emotions we show to the world—and those we choose to hide—the fears and hopes and dreams we tell no one but the characters on the pages of our stories. Voice and Style can be exhilarating, but they can also be terrifying.

One of the nicest compliments I ever received came from a writer friend who was in the middle of reading my paranormal suspense novel, Proof of Identity. He told me that he could almost hear my voice as he read, telling him the story of Danae Holloway. He could hear me on the page.

And though it’s completely different in Style—one reader has likened it to reading Jane Austen—my latest release, A Matter of Identity, a literary historical suspense tale, still resonates with my own unique Voice.

Me. My voice. My Voice. Telling a story as only I can tell it. A story that is the compilation of who I am and what I have done and learned in my life. What more could any writer ask for, than to have a Voice that is uniquely theirs?

Thanks, again, Marilyn. I had a great time here on your blog!

Bio: Susan Tuttle, a writing instructor and freelance editor, is the award-winning, “slightly twisted” author of three suspense novels (Tangled Webs, Piece By Piece, Sins of the Past), one paranormal suspense novel (Proof of Identity) and one literary historical suspense novel (A Matter of Identity). In addition, she has one short story collection (Death in the Valley) and appears in 4 anthologies. Her critically acclaimed series 6-volume series Write It Right, explores the 12 essential skills fiction and creative nonfiction writers need to master. Active in both SLO NightWriters and the Central Coast Chapter of Sisters in Crime (SinC), Susan lives on the central coast with her invisible cat in a house filled with her (mostly unfinished) quilts and (mostly finished) hand-knit scarves.

Facebook: susanwriter
Twitter: @STuttleWriter
LinkedIn and Goodreads

Book blurb: A Matter of Identity: American Marina Weston, just turned 20, is left orphaned and penniless in London, England. Saddled with her father’s debt and tainted by the stigma of his  suicide, Marina has only three options open to her in 1866: hire out for service; become a prostitute, or starve. With the help of caring friends, Marina is offered a unique opportunity and begins to build a productive life. But fate intervenes when she runs afoul of some very powerful and unscrupulous men. Marina finds herself at their mercy, thrust unknowingly into a diabolical plot that will put her sanity, and her very life, at risk. She must find the strength to overcome the evil conspiracy, but when one’s very identity has been undermined, what is left to hold onto? Will Marina emerge with her sanity—and her identity—intact, or will she end as a pawn in someone else’s game?

(I am so glad to host Susan today. She is a fellow Central Coast Sisters in Crime member and that's where we met. Unfortunately we haven't had nearly enough time together mainly because she actually lives on the central coast and I live in the foothills of the Sierra. One of these days, we're going to sit down and really visit over a cup of coffee or tea. Looking forward to it. Marilyn)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Wee Snippets from A WEE HOMICIDE by Fran Stewart

Sometimes it takes only a moment to set a scene, a few words to evoke a mood, a mere sentence or two to describe a relationship. One of the things I enjoy most about writing is being able to conjure up a mental picture for you, so you’ll see what I’m seeing in my head, smell what I’m smelling, understand how I feel about the characters as you turn the pages (or advance the screens) of the book (or e-reader) you’re holding in your hand.
I’d like to share a couple of passages to demonstrate what I’m talking about. In A WEE HOMICIDE IN THE HOTEL, the small police force of the town of Hamelin is not only dealing with the yearly influx of tourists who descend for the annual Highland Games, but someone suspected of wanting to assassinate the president has been spotted at the Burlington airport, and may have made it to Hamelin before the Secret Service advance team. Marti Fairing was a very minor character in the first two ScotShop mysteries, but in WEE HOMICIDE, she blossoms:

Sergeant Marti Fairing’s mouth watered as the smell of grilled sausage wafted past her nose. She felt vulnerable without her duty belt, but the chief didn’t want the man targeted by this operation to be scared off by a blue uniform. Even without her uniform, she found herself occasionally holding her arms akimbo, the way she’d learned to hold them to avoid bruising the inside of her arm on the butt of her weapon or brushing into any one of the half-dozen items she carried around her waist on a daily basis.
Today her pistol was in an ankle holster under her wide-legged pants, but with that as her only resource, she felt . . . undressed. She watched, hoping she looked like an idle bystander, as dozens of tourists poured into the meadow through the flower-bedecked arches at the end of the path from town. The mug shot hadn’t been that clear. How was she supposed to spot one person in all this horde? It would only get worse, too, once the scheduled events started. Of course, by then there’d be dozens of agents milling through the crowds.
She smiled to think that the agents hadn’t caught the guy. They’d had to ask the Hamelin cops for help. She bet that stuck in somebody’s gullet.
Can you tell I like Marti Fairing? Can you tell how feisty she can be? Can you foresee that she’ll play an important part in the plot from here on?
Then there are Peggy and Dirk, an unlikely coupling indeed. A modern-day shop owner and a 14th-century Scottish ghost. When busy sales at the ScotShop deplete Peggy’s stock of one’s and five’s, she runs home to replenish her supply of low-denomination bills. Dirk, of course, accompanies her:
I opened the bottom drawer of my desk and pulled out a small metal cash box. I usually bundled the bills into fifty-dollar stacks so I wouldn’t have to count them out each time I needed some.
Dirk made a disapproving sound. “Ye think such a wee box is a good hiding place? A wean could find it.”
“I don’t have many weans running around my house,” I said. This was an old argument between us, and he hadn’t convinced me yet. “I lock the doors whenever I leave. You know that.”
“Ye didna used to.”
“That was before.” Before the disturbing events of last summer. But I didn’t want to think about that. I wrapped the money in a legal-size sheet of paper and tucked it into the cloth bag suspended from my heavy black belt. Much more convenient than a purse. “See? Perfectly safe.”
“Unless a cutpurse comes upon ye.”
I shortened the string so the bag wouldn’t bang against my knees and draped the plaid folds of my arisaidh over it. “Is that better? Does it meet with your approval?”
He nodded grudging agreement and we left the house. He paused outside the front door, blocking my way.
“What’s wrong? Why did you stop?”
“Ye didna lock the door.”
Oh. “Sorry.”
He opened his mouth, but apparently decided not to berate me.
I turned around and locked up.

Such a short conversation, but can you see how it shows the easy connection between Dirk’s ghostly pragmatism and Peggy’s rather slapdash approach to life? The two of them had problems in book #2, A WEE DOSE OF DEATH, as Peggy got more and more irritated with Dirk’s insistence that his ancient times were in many ways better than this one. Now, however, with this one scene, you can see that they’ve healed a lot of their past differences and Peggy has come to appreciate her ghost for his commonsense practicality.
And finally, there is Dunedin’s Drusilla, better known as “Scilla,” the Scottish terrier who is introduced in WEE HOMICIDE. I love presenting her point of view, since she’s such an integral part of the plot:
Silla was delighted with such a long walk. Especially when that other person turned around and went back the way they had come. Then it was just Silla and her person. And squirrels. And bushes to sniff. And deep leaf mold. And the fragrant footprints of raccoons and even a skunk.
Her person’s footsteps got slower and slower. When he finally stopped walking altogether, Silla went back and leaned against his leg. Her nose, so full of exciting smells, caught the whiff of sadness. And of pain. And of anger. Silla stood, stretched her legs wide apart, and growled, even though she was not sure what she was growling at.
Her person laughed and reached down to stroke her back. Silla liked that. She liked the fresh happy smell. She liked being able to change her person’s unhappy to gladness.
“As long as I have you, Silla,” her person said. “As long as I have you, all that other stuff doesn’t matter.”
Silla could have told him that. If he had asked her.
I think you’ll be cheering for Silla throughout WEE HOMICIDE, for she truly does save the day, as I’m sure you’ve already figured out just by reading her thoughts.
These few snippets will, I hope, whet your appetite to experience more of Peggy and Dirk and the cast of supporting people (and dogs) who make up the town of Hamelin, Vermont.
And thank you, Meredith, for letting me share some of my writing with your readers.

Author Bio:
Fran Stewart lives her life with enthusiasm, excitement, and expectancy, and is never disappointed, for she has found that everything she spends, whether time, money, or emotion, can be viewed as either reducing her assets or enriching them. She chooses enrichment every time.
Author of fourteen books, including the Biscuit McKee mystery series and the ScotShop mysteries, as well as A SLAYING SONG TONIGHT and FROM THE TIP OF MY PEN: a workbook for writers, Fran lives and writes quietly beside a creek on the other side of Hog Mountain, Georgia, after having moved repeatedly from her birth through her fourth decade. The small fictional towns she writes about embody the hometown she always wanted—except for the murders.
Learn more about Fran at

Book Blurb:

The annual Highland Festival in Hamelin, Vermont, means caber tossing, sword dancing, and just a spot of murder...
Hamelin is overflowing with tourists enjoying the Scottish-themed games—and most of them are donning tartans from Peggy Winn’s ScotShop. And her fourteenth-century ghostly companion, Dirk, has been indispensable, keeping an eye out for shoplifters and matching customer’s family names to their clan plaid.
Adding to the chaos is Big Willie, a longtime champion of the games, but not everyone is happy to have him in town. So when he misses the first event of the weekend, Peggy senses something is awry. After Willie is discovered dead in his hotel room, the victim of a bagpipe-related crime, Peggy decides it’s up to her and Dirk to suss out a murderer—because another death would really blow...


Fran Stewart

Saturday, February 18, 2017

A Writer Finds Her Deepest Theme--Kay Kendall

According to most literary criticism I have read, an author usually has one underlying theme that she or he grapples with in fiction, returning to it time after time. In the first book or two, the theme may not be obvious. In fact, the author herself may not be conscious of it. Over the course of more books, however, an underlying thread can often be found.

What makes this concept intriguing to me is simple. I only recently discovered my own underlying theme. Moreover, it is not what I had thought it might be. Here it is—put most simply. The importance of friendship with—and support from—other women is key to a woman’s happiness. Or, to paraphrase the words the inimitable Ringo Starr sang way back in 1967, “She gets by with a little help from her friends.”

I am a relatively new author. My first mystery came out in 2013 and my second two years later. Now my third is nearing completion. I had thought I knew the themes in my murder mysteries, but I realize I was wrong. After three outings, I see something deeper is at work. Oh sure, the substance of my stories hasn’t changed. Yet, a deeper theme emerged and crept into all three manuscripts. Close and sustaining friendships among women appeared in each book, and none of these had been part of my plan. A quick tour through my books will show you what I mean. (Lots of delicious plot points are omitted. No spoilers.)

In DESOLATION ROW, a young Texas bride named Austin Starr follows her husband to a foreign country only to find herself alone and in peril when he is jailed for murder. Certain of his innocence, alone with no friends or relatives close by, Austin cannot even call home to talk to relatives for support. The time is 1968, and long distance calls are exorbitant. Then, in the nick of time, another young woman—Larissa, the daughter of Austin’s professor—befriends her, and together they hunt down the real murderer.

My second book, RAINY DAY WOMEN, begins one year later. Austin is a new mother, and Larissa travels across the country to take a summer job. One day Larissa phones Austin in the middle of the afternoon. This shocking act tells Austin immediately that her friend is in big trouble. As luck would have it, Larissa herself now stands accused of murdering a coworker at her temporary workplace. Because their ties are now strong, Austin with infant in tow flies across the country to support her dear friend—with Larissa’s dad footing the bill.

In both these books, there are also older women who provide sage advice and comfort to Austin. In DESOLATION ROW a middle-aged church secretary takes Austin under her wing and is so kind that her sympathy brings tears to Austin’s eyes. In RAINY DAY WOMEN Larissa’s aunt is so dauntless and dogged in her pursuit of justice for her niece that she threatens to run away with the plot.  

Of course there are male characters too—both good ones and evil—but what became clear to me as I set about writing my next mystery is how the females keep insinuating themselves into my stories. In my third mystery—a prequel about Austin’s grandmother set in small town Texas during the Roaring Twenties—there is another strong-minded aunt—and even flappers and floozies who make a surprisingly good impression on my heroine. My female protagonists are in their early twenties, still figuring out what they want to do with their lives and who they want to be. Because of that shared characteristic, I had thought my overarching theme was how women find their way in life. But over and over again, I find myself writing about how my protagonists are steadied and supported and protected by other women. While some of these female friends are the same age, others are older and somewhat world weary. The older ones share what they have experienced in their longer lives.

Taken together, the secondary female characters are the ones who make my heroines’ stories possible. They ensure the heroines’ success—whether it is in finding the bad people and serving justice, or living a fuller, more fulfilling life.   Getting by with a little help from female friends is the theme to watch for in my mysteries. And, gosh, I hope I haven’t spoiled any surprises by giving too much away.
Rainy Day Women—An Austin Starr Mystery (2015, Stairway Press)+Best mystery & Best book, Killer Nashville 2016

Desolation Row—An Austin Starr Mystery (2013, Stairway Press) / / @kaylee_kendall

Thursday, February 16, 2017

And the Struggle Continues

According to my calendar this week was pretty free and I thought I could concentrate on writing my next Tempe Crabtree mystery.


Someone I did a program plan for called hysterically--her admission agreement had problems. (I don't do that part but told her I'd see what I could do.)

Another person let me know that as yet I hadn't sent their Part B for licensing. Thought I had, but I didn't have it marked, so I had to do that. Not hard--just takes time.

I thought I'd finished my taxes--used Turbo Tax, sent them in and they were accepted--but then I received another 1099. This one for money I haven't received. Eeeek! Meant calling a bank in New York was told that the IRS requires the 1099 once the bond is due--(ancient thing I did in 1988)--and I'm sure they thought I'd be dead by now. So I had to do an amended form, Not sure I did it right, but when you amend the form you have to print and mail. It's going out today.

I received an email and then a phone call from someone who wants me to do a program design for a Supported Living Program. Since I make money doing these, of course I will. I hope to get to it, by tomorrow.

My writing has to go on the back burner for now. I'm also getting ready to go on a trip to Ventura. The purpose is the board meeting for PSWA. It will be good to see my fellow board members--and my eldest daughter and her hubby are coming to Ventura and will be staying with our youngest daughter so will get to spend a little time with them too. Looking forward to it.

Though I will take a notebook in case I have some ideas about the book to jot down, I don't think much time will be spend on that.

And so it goes--the up and down life of this author.

If you haven't read it yet, Seldom Traveled is the latest in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series. It's available in all the usual places and directly from the publisher: 


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

My Valentine

Of course my Valentine is my husband--the one I've had for nearly 66 years.

We met on a blind date--can't say I was smitten immediately though I definitely was impressed by his good looks. 

He had the most beautiful blue eyes and looked a bit like a young Frank Sinatra. He could really play the piano. I don't think he was so impressed with me at first, but he loved being around my family.

Later I knew that his childhood and upbringing had been much different than mine. I grew up with a mom and dad and sister in a loving family. His mother died when he was 5, and because she was sick from the time he was 3, he lived with his grandmother and two aunts. He grew up in teeny town in Maryland, and I grew up in Los Angeles. Lots of big differences.

Did we have an easy time in the early part of our marriage? No. And there were many rough and rocky places along the way. When asked what is the secret of our long marriage? This is the simple answer, "We never gave up."

Most of the time, he's been my best friend--someone I could tell anything to and know it wouldn't go any farther. I think he feels the same way.

Now that we're old, things have changed a bit. 

Back in the day, with one glance he could get a bully to back away. Now, he'd probably hit one with his cane. We both move much slower than in earlier times, and getting up out of some chairs takes a bit of effort. 

Neither of us can hear as well as we used to, and sometimes the results of what we though we heard are funny.

We can watch movies we've seen before because we can't remember enough to spoil the endings.

Best outcome of this long marriage is our offspring. Five children (one has gone to be with the Lord), eighteen grandchildren, and eighteen great-grands, an one great-great with another on the way. What wonderful blessings! 

Would I do it all over? Sure.

Happy Valentine's Day to my honey. 

Our wedding photo

On our 50th

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Yes, I'm Writing

So far, I've finished Chapter 1.

With this one, Tempe will be in Bear Creek, but once again, way up in the mountains, even higher than in the last book. It's winter and too much snow is a big factor. Because of the snow, it will be a "locked room" mystery. In other words, no one can get out, so everyone is a suspect. 

The main setting is the lodge of a camp for girls. I've based it on a lodge for a church summer camp that our family went to a lot. 

I know who all the characters are, and I've introduced them. I know what they look like and their backgrounds and their relationships with one another.

At this point, I think I know who will be murdered--though that could change and I have some ideas about the murder weapon and the murderer.

Unlike some other authors, I don't outline, at this point I'm feeling my way along. If it works like every other book I've written the ideas will pop into my head as I move along. Sometimes the ideas are way ahead, and in that case, I'll jot down notes about them so I don't forget.

This my sound crazy to you, but this is the way I've always written. 

Anyone else do it this way? 

How about sharing your process?


Friday, February 10, 2017

Writing About Events that Happen in the Future

It has happened before. I wrote about a bear invasion in Bear Creek that Deputy Tempe Crabtree had to deal with and a couple of years later, we had bear marauding in Springville (where I live and Bear Creek bears a big resemblance to the area.) 

After about a five year drought, we've had some great rain storms which have swelled our usually calm Tule River to the point where boulders are moving and crashing into each other, and trees and some people's possessions are floating on down toward the dam.(Lake Success.)

At times they've blocked off the entrances to the bridges that cross the river. They do this because the river is flowing over the bridges and they take down the sides to prevent debris from piling up and damaging the bridge. 

There are some great similarities Raging Water as far as the flooding is concerned. The two murders are actually based on two deaths that occurred in our town, not treated as murders, though I, and others certainly thought they were suspicious and should have had more investigation done. I took care of it in this tale. 

Raging Water Blurb: Deputy Tempe Crabtree’s investigation of the murder of two close friends is complicated when relentless rain turns Bear Creek into a raging river. Homes are inundated and a mud slide blocks the only road out of Bear Creek stranding many—including the murderer.

One of Raging Water Reviews:

5 Stars

The Tempe Crabtree Mystery Series has been one of my favorites since I began reading it. I never miss a book.

In this installment, Tempe is battling many issues. There's a burglar on the loose, which leads to her being yanked out of bed at an ungodly hour. The murder of two best friends is puzzling, and a raging storm leaves everyone on edge. So, in addition to trying to fight crime, Tempe is put in the undesirable position of having to notify people to evacuate to shelters, break up disagreements, and keep herself out of danger. There is so much going on in this book, you'll be flying through it and be eager to read it over again once you're done.

Meredith has spent a good deal of time with Tempe, her family, and the residents of Bear Creek. It shows. Her characters are well-developed. There's enough back story so newcomers to the series aren't lost, but enough new characters and crime solving to keep long time fans satisfied. I like how each
book stands alone, but also helps move the characters along in their lives in the process.

Superb! Thrilling! A real page-turner that will keep you guessing until the very end. –Review by Cheryl Malandrinos.

And what the river look like now: