Showing posts from March, 2014

Life of a Series Character by M.K. Graff

Writing a series is a bit like forecasting the weather: you don’t really know if what is forecast is going to happen. When I set out to write the Nora Tierney Mysteries, I created a vague story arc for my protagonist’s life over six books to track her growth and changes. In another life I swear I lived in the UK and wanted to set my series there after my travels always made me feel like I was coming home. But I knew I had to allow myself to deviate from this outline to keep Nora fresh and alive.
First I created a “bible” for my recurring protagonist. Nora is an American living in the UK because I thought it would be interesting to see how she adjusted to a place with different traditions and slang from what she was used to, things that would go beyond learning to drive on the other side of the car and road. I gave her a background I was familiar with, and a reason to be there—a transfer from the US wing of the magazine she works for to its UK branch. When the series opens, Nora has wo…

The First Eleven Days of My Blog Tour

On the last day of March my month long Blog Tour for Murder in the Worst Degree Begins:

Here are the first eleven days:

March 31
A Day in the Life of Officer Stacey Milligan

April 1
Cop Culture Researched

April 2
Gordon Butler
April 3
Old Guys at McDonald’s
April 4
My Life as an Author
April 5
Mother Nature and Her Influence of my Writing
April 6
Short Excerpt and Review
April 7
April 8
Why My Characters Won’t Let Go
April 9
April 10
My Critique Group and What it Does for Me
Remember, the person who leaves a comment on the most blogs will have their name used for a character in my next book.
Murder in the Worst Degree, #10 in the Roc…

My Left Coast Crime Report

I had a super great time at Left Coast Crime in Monterey, CA.

This was my second LCC there, and I'd also gone to Bouchercon at the same venue.

Madeline Gornell met me in Porterville and we headed off to Monterey, yakking all the way. Our hotel room was great except for the shower--the drain was stopped up and the faucet dripped when showering. A plumber came and fixed the drain, but the drip continued on.

Of course we ran into many, many authors that we knew and we attended two panels: The Life Of Pi about real life investigators who pen mysteries--fun.

Then we went to Sue Grafton's interview--also delightful. I'd seen her in the elevator and asked if she'd remember being at the Soquel mystery conference held in a rustic camp many, many years ago. She said she did.

Madeline and I had dinner in the hotel dining room with Ellen Kirschman. Good food and conversation.

Friday, after the Sisters in Crime breakfast, I want to the panel with Jan Burke, Sue Grafton and Marcia M…

Your Fictional World Needs a Setting or Location

Characters and plot are essentials in creating a fictional world. But that world also needs a setting or location.

Location is as important in fiction as in real estate. Our characters don’t exist in a vacuum. They need a place, so to speak, to hang their hats. And readers expect a certain amount of reality in that setting.
The Sticks Hetrick series is set in Swatara Creek, Pennsylvania, a fictional town of my creation near Harrisburg, the state capitol. There is a Swatara Creek and even a township bearing the name, but the town is my invention. It’s representative of many of the older Susquehanna River towns which have become bedroom communities for the more metropolitan areas of the commonwealth.
The town, which sits on a promontory in a bend of the stream for which it’s named, owes its existence to one Jacob Koontz who acquired the site circa 1754 after immigrating from Germany. Koontz opened a tavern in a large limestone building which stands yet today on the square, though it n…

The Genesis of the Sherlock Holmes Detective Club by Gloria Alden

I came to teaching rather late in my life. After the death of my oldest son to cancer when he was eighteen, I decided to do something with my life that made a difference so I enrolled in college for the first time when I was forty-two years old. I chose elementary education because working with kids was something I’d always done; four children of my own in less than five years, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, CCD at my church and even a short stint as a Head Start teacher. Even though I was encouraged by some professors to change my goals towards teaching at the college level or at least high school, I ignored them. I knew what age I wanted to teach.
After graduating I got a third grade position in a small elementary school in the college town of Hiram, Ohio. I loved teaching this age and taught third grade for twenty years before retiring to spend more time writing and gardening, and with other things I enjoyed doing. Actually, I wanted to retire because the district we were in consolidated…


Hi Marilyn, it’s so nice to be back, it’s been ages since we’ve visited on “Marilyn’s Musings.”  I love having a chance to reconnect with your readers and let them know about my latest releaseA Jane Austen Encounter.
I need to explain first that, although the title might sound like it, A Jane Austen Encounter, is neither a Regency period Austen spin-off nor a time travel adventure— as much fun as either of those might be. A Jane Austen Encounter is a contemporary mystery in my Elizabeth & Richard literary suspense series. English professors Elizabeth and Richard are celebrating twenty years of marriage with their dream vacation— visiting all of Jane Austen’s homes in England. But not even the overpowering personality of their Oxford guide  nor the careful attentions of the new friends they make can keep their tour free from lurking alarms. When a box of old documents is donated to the Jane Austen Centre in Bath Richard volunteers to help sort through it. Only hours later he finds…

Origins of Touching the Moon by Lisa M. Airey

Hello Everyone!
It is a pleasure to be here and I thank Marilyn for hosting me!
I’m a native Marylander, but set my novel “Touching the Moon” in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The book has a strong Native American component and readers are always curious as to why I chose to incorporate that theme in my novel.
Back in the 1800s, my great-great grandmother and her husband walked from the Black Hills of South Dakota to Maryland. She was Sioux. I set my story there to honor her, and I do my best to be as authentic as I can when portraying Sioux rite and ritual in my novel.
Finding authentic material is tough. The sacred rites are sacred and not shared with outsiders. Information is passed on verbally, but only to the Sioux community itself. Little is written down. Marilyn mentions this very real issue in her first Tempe Crabtree novel “Deadly Omen”.
In my story, I incorporate a Sioux "Making Relatives" ceremony. It is both complicated and multi-faceted and I researched thi…

The Craft of Writing by Holli Castillo

Promoting seems to be the topic of the day. And why not? Every writer wants to sell more books.Sometimes, though, it seems as if promotion is taking precedence over writing.
So you’ve finished writing the book.  Or maybe you’ve finished writing your tenth book.  You find a publisher or you self-publish.  Either way, your book is out there, waiting to make the New York Times Bestseller’s list.  So you promote, promote, promote, trying to spike up sales and get your name known by more readers.  And while you’re promoting this book, you start writing the next.  And the process starts all over again.
Somewhere in there, it seems as if we start to lose the focus on the craft and improving our writing.
Showing our works to critique groups, family members, editors, etc., can help us find typos, errors, plot holes, and other mechanical problems with our work, which definitely can improve the finished product but doesn’t necessarily improve our writing.
I spoke to a fourth grade class this year ab…

Working on My Next Deputy Tempe Crabtree Mystery

This will be Number 14 in this series.

I've had a harder time working on this one because of so much that's been happening in my life.

We've had a young family member come down with a serious illness, and another even younger one who had an accident during gymnastics and ended up going to the emergency room. (He's doing fine now.)

I've had a couple of jobs to do in hurry-up time, these are writing jobs that actually pay pretty good, but are fairly difficult and take a lot of time.

Even though I keep a list of characters--the new ones to the series--at times I slip and use the wrong names. The older I get the harder it is to remember these--but I've always kept a list along with physical descriptions. I don't seem to have any problem remembering the characters' personalities though. Which is good because it means I know how the characters will react to what's going on.

But what is the hardest is just setting myself down, opening up Word to the file …

Triss Stein's Writing Journey

My second mystery from Poisoned Pen will be out in March and I am working on the third. Now that reads like an ordinary enough sentence, but I can hardly believe I am writing it.  My writing career has been so uncareer-like, this all seems like "let's pretend."
I wrote a couple of mysteries that were published by a small publisher in the 1990's.  It was, I thought, the small beginning of a career. Then the publisher dropped the mystery line without warning just after I turned in the third book, the one into which I had poured heart and soul.  The year then brought turmoil in my day-job life and health life, plus the usual issues of growing-up children. When I was on the other side of all that, I had lost energy, desire and focus for writing. Though I had already started a new book, new character, new series idea, when I forced myself back to it, everything I wrote was awful. Even I was bored with it.
So I stopped. I was retired from writing. It took awhile to admit …

Identifying with your Characters

When I'm reading a book, if the writer has done a good job, I soon find myself identifying with the main character(s). When the character is in peril, my heart beats faster and I feel anxious. So shouldn't it be the same when you are the author and writing from you character's point-of-view?

I think so. How can you make this happen?

For me, it's the same way I make sure to remain in the POV character's mind and body. I climb inside that character and look at his or her world through his or her eyes. I see what this person sees. I feel what the main character feels. I address a challenge in the manner that character would. I can smell what the person smells. And I only know what that person knows--which means I have no idea what anyone else is thinking, I can only guess.

When the character is in peril, I have the same emotions that he or she is experiencing. And the same goes if that emotion is revulsion or love.

So what that all means, is that I must then put into…

Learning More About World War II

Recently we saw the movie The Monuments Men and loved it. It didn't get rave reviews but everyone I know who saw it, thought it was great. It's the story of the men who were sent to the War Zone to find and rescue the great art that the Nazis had stolen and stockpiled.

I was a kid during World War II and believe me, we saw all the newsreels about the war, the atrocities, etc. No, it wasn't like today when the news is on TV constantly, but if you went to the movies, you saw horrendous images of what was happening overseas via the newsreels. I don't remember seeing anything about the men who went through basic training, had very little skills when it came to soldiering but had a goal to save the great art that was headed for the F├╝hrer's Museum. 

The movie was excellent and the story needed to be told.

We're also been watching old episodes of the British series about the German invasion and occupation of the Channel Islands between France and Germany.

Island at …