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Showing posts from June, 2016

The Past is a Foreign Country, by Jeannette de Beauvoir

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The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” These famous opening words to an L.P. Hartley novel encapsulate the real problem with studying history. It’s not just a matter of dates; it’s a matter of a whole culture that needs to be understood. And so, because the job is immense, we tend not to do it.
Unless, of course, we’re novelists, who go boldly where (in many cases) we should probably have feared to tread.
I integrate some history, in some way, into nearly all of my books, even the mystery novels. Whether it’s personal history (a family secret, an obscure act from the past, a hidden relationship) or community history (an old murder, a reinvented personality, a buried treasure), there’s a lot there that can provide a perfect backdrop for a modern mystery to be solved by a modern sleuth… as long as the author gets it right.
Because, after all, the past is indeed a foreign country, and they do in fact do things differently there. It may feel romantic to write a no…

CAN A BROKEN CHARACTER STILL OFFER HUMOR? WHY NOT?

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by Diann Adamson

    From:    Suppose, Lillian Dove Series

                I forced my eyes open. My hands were tied behind my back, my legs restrained. The room whirled like a beat up, wobbly merry-go-round. I rolled onto my side and vomited. The tang and gag of alcohol and bile sickened me.             I was in a small barn. The air held a hint of manure. Sacks were piled against the wall across from me. A wheelbarrow. A rake. Pitchfork. Bucket. Where was I? I shut my eyes to steady my swirling. It was cold. I was freezing. No, I was drunk. Hung over. I knew the chill. I saw a slippery slope of failure in my future. I was drunk, ruined, but alive. Was there hope? An insight occurred to me. Of course, I was alive. Thompson couldn’t kill me. Cole told him not to until I told him where the memory card was, and I couldn’t have told him because I had no idea what Kenny had done with it. Or had I? Did I make something up to get him to stop? When had he stopped? No memory of that. Nor any memory …

Origins of THE PERFECT SUSPECT by Nancy Sweetland

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"The Perfect Suspect" came out of nowhere one weekend when I was visiting "Up North" Wisconsin, and thought what a great thing it would be to have a cabin of my own in the boonies to just write. Especially since I was having trouble coming up with a story for my next book.
The "what ifs" took over. What if I bought a cabin, sight-unseen, in the far north woods. What if, when I went there, I found a man, shot to death, in the bedroom? What if he turned out to be my first ex-husband—with a reconstructed face?  
And "The Perfect Suspect" took off from there.  It was an interesting ride, building the world of a very small town with a blustery sheriff, a hunky deputy, and possible trouble at the nearby Casino. The handsome deputy's returning ex-fiance put a crimp in the developing love story between the heroine and the deputy. An unsavory funeral director added to the mix, along with a second ex-husband's plea for a reunion with the heroine. Do…

Without a Doubt by Nancy Cole Silverman

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I’ve always believed the story picks the writer.   For me, an idea taps me on the shoulder and until I sit down and write it, the damn thing won’t leave me alone.  At times it can get to be almost pesky. Like a nuisance gnat. It interrupts my day and side tracks my thoughts to the point I forget where I’m going or what I’m doing. Until finally, I sit down and start playing with the idea. Usually this means sketching out a few scenes or maybe a little dialog. Thing is, once I do that, I’m done for.  Suddenly, I’m captive and whisked off into a new world, a hostage to my own imagination until I finish the project. 
Sound familiar?
I have to say, coming from twenty-five years in talk radio, where I wrote both news and commercial copy for a living, I know it’s possible to write a story or a message without that magical muse-like connection. However, most of my professional life was tied to a clock, tight deadlines and an even stricter word count that didn’t allow for the muse to linger on …

When I Knew I Wanted to be a Writer by Tekla Miller

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Authors are always asked when they knew that they wanted to be a writer. It never occurred to me that I would one-day be a published author. When I retired early my friends urged me to write about my twenty-year career with the Michigan Department of Corrections including as a warden of a men’s maximum security prison. But I brushed them off. After all the most exciting material I had written all those years were my monthly reports and annual budgets. Trust me, these don’t make best-seller material.

The transition from a challenging work world to retirement might have been easier if I had mapped out my future. The only plan I had made was when I could access my retirement money. Yet all that agonizing about what I would do with the rest of my life didn’t foretell the direction my future would take. That revelation came to me after one specific event.

Tired of staring at the walls in my home, I determined to do what so many of my predecessors had done. I became a consultant. Within a…

How I Came to Write MAGGIE DOVE by Susan Breen

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My first novel, The Fiction Class, was the story of a woman who teaches a fiction class. 
Coincidentally, I teach a fiction class! I teach for Gotham Writers in Manhattan, and so I felt a degree of comfort in the setting. I knew what the students would say and I knew what the teacher would say. The story unfolded in front of me like one of those carpets that unfurl in front of royalty. Nothing in life is easy, but it was a comparatively simple book to write.
So, when it came time to write the next book, I thought, I’ll do that again. Except this time, it will be a mystery writer teaching classes. I figured I would structure the novel in a similar fashion, with ten individual lessons, and mystery writing exercises to go with it.
All I needed was a protagonist.
So I thought about that for a while, and the character of Maggie Dove began to flicker in front of me. I knew she had to be a mystery writer. She wouldn’t be fantastically successful, but moderately so, and I thought she should…

Always Busy--Sometimes Too Busy!

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Me again, and I'm not really complaining. Like I often say, "I'm too  busy to be bored."

Who'd have thought at my age I'd still be so busy.

This afternoon I'm conducting a class at the Porterville Art Gallery, 151 N. Main St., in Porterville, from 1-4 about Creating Memorable Characters. Whether I'll have any students or not is questionable. I alerted the paper, but never saw anything about it. I made a poster for the gallery and promoted like crazy on Facebook and Twitter.

I write program plans for people wanting to start new facilities or other types of programs, and several folks have contacted me. I never begin until I get a down payment--learned from experience. My fear is that the money will all come at once. My policy is to do the job for the first one who pays me. So at the moment it's a waiting game.

I've also been busy judging a writing contest--but the entries were short so it was easy enough to do. I didn't get nearly as many e…

Why I Keep Writing by Marilyn Meredith

A guest was scheduled for today, but life, as it does sometimes, got in her way. So I'm filling her spot.

With all the bad stuff that's going on in the world today, I'm sure there are those who wonder why I keep on writing, and I have several reasons.

The number one reason is I can't really do much about all the world's troubles. Oh, our country is in my prayers every day--and I do think that's important. But even in the small patch of world that I live in everyday, I don't have much control. Again, my family is always in my prayers, but things happen that I can't fix.

The one and only place I do have some control is the fictional worlds that I've created. I must confess though, that oftentimes, the characters take off and do things I never expected. However, when I'm writing, I'm in a world where the horrible events that bombard us from the news and Facebook every day are not a part of the fiction I'm creating.

Another reason I keep on …

Please Welcome Shannon Muir

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As writers, we open ourselves up to a world of possibilities. Every scene laid out, every word chosen, every aspect of a character created, defines what we write – but until we choose each one, there are so many paths to take. I've found life is like that, too.
I started out wanting to write for television animation as a teenager. Unable to learn those specific skills, I came to discover that overall script structure skills would go a long way to helping me. So I went to college for radio and live-action television, expecting to find a writing component as part of it. It turned out they didn't really offer courses on that (my local university focused on production), but one of the instructors wrote professionally at a point in his past and did direct studies with me.
While the late David K. Terwische worked with me on writing, I made the most of my degree program l to appreciate what everyone else did to bring a script to life; I also tried my hand at radio, something that neve…

Formatting Problems in Books and Manuscripts

When did it become popular to format a work of fiction with no paragraph indent and double spacing between each paragraph? (I mean like this blog is formatted.)

For non-fiction this works, but not fiction.
I don't understand why a writer wouldn't look at a book published by a large publisher and see how they format the paragraphs and do what they do.
The biggest problem I've found with a manuscript formatted with the double space to denote a paragraph is it makes it difficult to realize when there is a change in the point of view. I realize that sometimes, along with the double space for paragraphs the writers doesn't really understand point of view--and that is a whole other problem.
When someone is sending a manuscript off to a publisher, one of the first things they should do is check the publisher's guidelines. Usually, the guidelines will spell out how they want the manuscript formatted. 
Even if the content of the book or manuscript is wonderful, the extra sp…

POLITICS AND PLOTS by Laurel S. Peterson

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Thanks for inviting me to write about what triggered the plot of Shadow Notes, Marilyn. I’m happy to be here today.
In my story, Clara Montague comes home after fifteen years away because she dreams that her mother is in danger. (Clara has a sixth sense.) A few days after she arrives home, her mother’s therapist is murdered. Did her mother do it? Since Constance won’t talk to her, Clara decides to research her mother’s past through volunteering on a local election campaign because the candidate is one her mother’s oldest enemies. Enemies know as much as friends, right?
Like many people I know, I don’t consider myself a political person. However, Adrienne Rich, the feminist poet, once famously said that the personal was political. She meant that who we were in color, shape, size, gender, national origin and so on determined for us a set of political values, a set of needs that could only be answered politically.
Living as I do in a wealthy area of the country, I see the disparities in …

Something Exciting has Happened

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It's the kind of thing that usually only happens in the movies or stories.

A grandson I haven't seen since he was three contacted me via email this past week. He's now 40, so it's been a long, long time. I never expected to hear from him again.
His mother and my son married when they were too young because she expected a baby. They split up when the baby was only months old. She left with him and moved far away. Then she asked if we would take care of him while she was in the Army boot camp. My son had returned home, so of course we said "yes." Jeffrey was 3. One day his mother called and said, "Bring Jeffrey and his things to the airport." It was a tiny municipal airport and I did what she asked, taking his clothes, and toys and even his BigWheel. She scooped him and his belongings up and that's the last we saw of him.
Of course I sent presents, things his mom said he wanted. She remarried and told my son that her husband wanted to adopt Jeff. …

A new sleuth finds home in the "Cape Cod of the Midwest" by Christine DeSmet

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A new sleuth finds home in the “Cape Cod of the Midwest”
by Christine DeSmet

            We’re all “armchair travelers.” The love of a new place, its history and geography and people makes cozy mysteries fun for us all.
I’m inspired by the heart and hardiness found in Door County, Wisconsin—the Cape Cod of the Midwest.
My Fudge Shop Mystery Series features Belgian American Ava Oosterling and Grandpa Gil, whom she lovingly calls “Gilpa.”
They co-own Oosterlings’ Live Bait, Bobbers & Belgian Fudge & Beer in Fishers’ Harbor, a fictional village in real Door County.


The county is a thumb of land in Lake Michigan surrounded by 300 miles of coastline and dotted with 11 lighthouses. Book 2 of my series, Hot Fudge Frame-Up, features the Eagle Bluff lighthouse, which provides summer tours.
Along with fudge recipes, humor and quaintness fill my mysteries. Because that’s Door County! Fast food chains are banned in the county’s upper half. Two-lane, winding roads take you past fields of fl…