Saturday, May 31, 2008

Printers Row in Chicago by Margot Justes

The first time I went to Printers Row was last year.

I was helping Echelon, since my book was not yet out, I had nothing to sell. But I also went to see what all the fuss was about and of course to learn what needed to be done to sell books.

It was exciting - exciting that is - if books excite you as they do me…there were books everywhere, all types of books, rare, used, new, somewhat used-you get the drift. Books were everywhere.

I was delighted to see so many people show up in the heat, look and handle the books, look at the jacket, cover, glance at the first page, and many actually bought books. That is after all why we are there.

Printers Row is this coming weekend, June 7th & 8th 10:00 am to 6:00 pm –Dearborn and Polk Streets in Chicago. I will be there both days, please stop by and say hello.

Echelon will be near the Starbucks-how neat is that-tailor made for me.

Till next Saturday,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
The Heat of the Moment
Available on amazon.com
www.mjustes.com
Echelon Press LLC

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Searching in Boxes! by DL Larson

When unexpected company arrives at my door, I always have the urge to apologize for the boxes and various piles of papers sitting around my house. Some are in my office where they belong, but others are sprawled across my dining room table, the island counter in my kitchen, and yes, even the couch on my sun porch. I don't mean to leave such a trail, and I usually have the stacks anchored with something so papers don't fly willy nilly. But I have this affliction to tidy. Simply put, I don't do neat very well. Although most people don't know that about me. We entertain a lot, so I'm forced to pick up, restack, and stuff boxes into places they don't necessarily fit. And then all looks normal.

The problem lately is ... my boxes keep moving! I'm sharing a home with five other people. One manuscript looks just like another to them. I'm like the executive whose messy desk is a mystery to everyone but her. Every manuscript in every box in my home looks different to me, I know by a mere glance what is what. Or, I used to. Now, I feel as if I'm on a revolving rotation with no system.

Yes, a simple answer to this problem would be to work at the computer. But, let's face it, I don't do that all so grand either. I'm a paper person. I type, I copy out what I've typed and then I work from there until it's time to type again. Archaic I know, but it's a system and it works for me. Except for the abundance of paper. Did I mention we buy 20 weight not by the ream, but by the case? Funny thing is, my paper shredder is usually over-flowing too, but that is a story for another day.

It has been interesting what I actually find in my boxes. A lost sweatshirt was a good surprise. A pair of socks, thank goodness they were clean! Another one held old notes regarding a card party and a commitment for church, useless now, the events being long past. One day I discovered a rubber spider, not so cute, but my granddaughters thought it hilarious to pull a fast one on Grammie. And then a few days later, a teddy bear beanie baby in compensation brought a smile to my face. The topper was a note, not on a stack of papers, or even in one of my boxes, but a note in kindergarten print on an orange sticky note. "I love you Gramy!" I found it on my computer desk, next to my keyboard.

Even my granddaughter realizes where I should be, not all over the house, but at my computer desk. She's one smart cookie. So, I'm aiming to try this concept called organized. Tidy sounds just too unbearable to attempt right now, so I'll work toward organization. I'll stay in the confines of my office. Already my shoulders are stiffening and the chair is uncomfortable. The kids are at school, the adults off to work. I glance around at the boxes I have brought into my office to embark on this new endeavor. No one is home, my fingers are tapping the keys as I think on this. I wonder if there might be a ten step lesson to being free of this paper fetish. But my manuscripts in their boxes are NOT clutter. They are intriguing words strung together across sheets of clean white paper. I love paper. I really do. My keyboard doesn't do it for me like a stack of paper.

No one will care if I take my work out into the dining room. It's only one little box, well, regular size. It's such a big table; we only use it occasionally. All right, we only use it once a day. I'll have everything back in my office by five o'clock. Right.

And, and, acceptance to a problem is half the battle, right? If I admit I have a paper problem, it becomes the first step in solving it. Sounds good. I feel better already. I, DL Larson, am a paper-holic. Dozens of forests may well be saved now that I've confessed to changing my ways.

Except paper makes me happy. I feel so productive, creative even. I can't wait to grab my manuscript and get to work. The feel of each sheet, the slippery weight of it, is familiar to my fingers as I read what I wrote. It helps me think.

Ahhh! The real reason finally revealed. Well, that changes everything. Thank God!
It's okay, I've found the perfect excuse, er rather, belief why I can never give up paper. I need it to do my work.

Good grief. I really am addicted. Still, I'm convinced clutching my manuscript box is perfectly normal. Really!


Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

June Is Here

Well, at least, I’m here! Hopefully the summer weather will soon follow.

Morgan asked me to fill in again for her, which I am very grateful, so here I am. So much is going on in the world of YA, at least for me. I’m working on my second book and it’s coming along at a snails pace but that could be because…Meg Cabot, one of my favorite authors, new book Airhead was released this month. Now I can’t give the plot away, but let’s just say this is not your typical Meg Cabot. I always enjoy her writing, she has the teen angst down perfectly, but I think this is a book that more or less is better after you read it. I say that because while I was reading it I was totally like “No way. Oh I don’t believe it.” But when I was done reading it, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and that’s what makes it a good book.

Well, back to my own book that I hope someday someone will read and not be able to stop thinking about, but if not, that's ok too.

Until next time….have a great summer and I hope you find your own great read.

Thanks,
June

author of Ordinary Me
a young adult book
www.junesproat.com

JUNE IS ALMOST HERE - JUNE SPROAT, THAT IS

June Sproat will be doing the blog later today while I enjoy another vacation day in Wisconsin.
Morgan Mandel
www.morganmandel.com

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Burning of the Head

Since it's Memorial Day, I'm going to take the day off and shake the dust off an old article I wrote a couple years ago.... mostly because it was a bright and sunny three day weekend and ... well, read this and you'll figure out what happened.

Here goes...

Late each spring, an annual event occurs to mark the arrival of summer. Around our house, we like to call it, "The Burning of the Head."

Not everybody can celebrate this event, as a certain amount of scalp has to be made available to the rays of the sun for a duration that will assure a certain doneness of cooking. This may best be ascertained when the epidermis reaches a level three (of five) on the redness scale.

Alas, those whose who sport a full head of hair, or who are chemically altered by Rogaine, will not know the pleasures of this celebration. In fact, in my case, there seems to be more and more to celebrate each year, as my bald spot morphs into more of a bald area.

Still, though, I'm better off than those with bald zones. Or those pool-cue guys, nicknamed Curly (going back to an event somewhere in the distant past), who have even (gasp!) given up the comb-over defense, after concluding that their hairless areas, like a virulent strain of weed, have taken over the garden.

Yeah. You're probably reading this, twirling your fingers in your hair, smirking at us hair-challenged people. But we are people like you. Do we not breathe like you, eat like you, burp and fart like you? We are as human as you. So stop calling us 'Chrome-dome and 'Baldy' and names like that. Because someday the secret will come out, and humanity will realize something that we already know....

(I almost hesitate to tell you)

(it's a closely guarded secret)

We ....are ....superior ....!!!

Yep, make fun of us if you want. But do you know why we are bald? Huh? Do you?

Thought not.

It's because our male hormone levels are too high. Yeah, take that! We are the most macho of the macho, with hormone levels jacking our manliness into the stratosphere. Boo-yah!

You think those hairy, punk, sissies, pumping all that iron, are the macho, manly, man-studs? Hah! They're worms, barely worthy of rubbing our craniums.

Yeah!

And our Forefathers knew all of this. That's why they picked the mightiest of the birds as our national bird. They even made fun of bald-challenged people by making up the Whig party, then wearing wigs to mock people with hair.

And for you deserters. Yeah, you! Do you how Rogaine really works? Forget about what you read, especially on the container. Not that I'd have any reason for reading the container, mind you. Anyway, it's a lie. I did a careful study (consisting of getting on the Internet and checking out the baseball scores), and concluded that Rogaine simply reduces the level of male hormone, by adding woman hormone!

Nothing else makes sense, so no further studies were necessary.

I feel sorry for you guys with hair.

Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

Wimps.

God loves some heads, the rest He covers with hair.

(reprinted from the Best of Cynic Magazine)

Gotta go and put some cream or something on my head.

Norm
www.normcowie.com
The Adventures of Guy ... written by a guy (probably)
The Next Adventures of Guy ... more wackiness
The Heat of the Moment

Sunday, May 25, 2008

FRUSTRATED

Ever have a good idea and you just can't make it work? I'm in the throes of such a dilemma as we speak. Really, it's wonderful idea. Funny, cute, creative...but it is not working out. I'm at my wit's end. I've tried using technology (the computer), I've tried doing it the old fashioned way (copier), and I've even tried taking a break (taking a sledge hammer to some old furniture) before coming back to it.

Nothing is helping.

I've wasted a good portion of this beautiful day inside my house trying to take this idea from inspiration to fruition.

I hate to give up on it. But I'm stuck. I need to wrap my head around it in a new way. Or die trying at this point. I can't let it go.

But enough about me.

As we celebrate Memorial Day this weekend, remember that it's more than a chance to have a day off work. Be sure to pause for a moment of silence to honor those who have fought and died in past battles and say a prayer for those still fighting. We live in a land of many freedoms, but so often those freedoms come at a high price. Don't forget those who have served, and those that continue to do so, giving their time, duty, honor, and sometimes their very lives for our country. Even if you don't support war, support those who fight it.

Debra

THIS TIME FOR ALWAYS
electronic release July 30, 2008
print release August 29, 2008

www.debrastjohnromance.com

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Going to the Movies by Margot Justes

I went to the movies this weekend. I really cannot remember last time I went.

I am however a fan of Indiana Jones; and just had to see it. Mr. Lucas, Mr. Spielberg and Mr. Ford-what took you so long?

Harrison Ford picked up the character traits so easily-as if there had been no break in production. It was heartwarming, funny, thrilling and thoroughly enjoyable. I got my money’s worth.

Did I mention- I have not gone to the movies in a really long time…I had a $25.00 gift certificate with which I bought 2 tickets (early show-lower rates) 1 large popcorn and I have $2.75 left.

Now I know why it’s been so long since I’ve gone…


Till next Saturday,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
The Heat of the Moment
Available on amazon.com
www.mjustes.com
Echelon Press LLC

Friday, May 23, 2008

Monologue to Dialogue by Robert W. Walker

Two things can turn me off on page one, sometimes paragraph one. They both have to do with the narrative voice. One are piled on passive sentences riddled with the word was which is like saying "take my word for it, it was cold, it was damp, it was blue, it was deep, etc." And the second one is a piling on of qualifying words and phrases as in "it seems, it may be, possibly, perhaps, about to be, getting there, I think." These two aberrations destroy any sense of dramatic moment and forward moving story or character building.

An old book I can’t recall the author was entitled How to be Brief. I read it when I was in Junior High. I can’t say that I am always brief, especially when discussing something close to my heart or ranting on an injustice—my thing. However, when editing a piece of writing you can’t be too brief. Script writers know this well. The economy of words in a scene in scripts amazes me. Some scripts have fewer words than a lot of poems. Paul Newman won an Academy Award on a handful of lines he spoke in The Road to Perdition, and the entire movie has so little dialogue but the words are powerfully right on. Economy of words in dialogue is something I still work at today.

Off top of my head let me paint a paragraph that needs for the author to come back to it and “dialogue it” because as is, even written in an “active voice” style lacks the drama that dialogue could bring to the scene. First in “rough draft” it is:

Thomas thought he saw something out of the corner of his eye slip beneath the sofa. Alexis saw the expression on his face and winced. She wondered what they were doing here in the house where Laurel Cooke was murdered the night before. She grabbed Thomas by the arm and asked him exactly that, but he shook loose, going deeper into the interior. He mumbled something about their maybe finding something the cops had missed. “I think we’re breaking the law, here, Thomas. This is a crime scene. Maybe we oughta go.” He ignored her, going deeper, in search of the blood spatters. “I wanna see where Laurel died.” He said it as if he had no choice.

On a rewrite consider what I call “dialoguing it” –that is asking far more of the characters. Asking them to walk, talk, move on stage, and to put their five senses to work. The scene above is converted to the one below in far more “Showing” fashion, in far more dramatic fashion as in a stage play or film or TV script:

“Did you see that?” Thomas jumped as he spoke, pointing to the creaky floor boards between sofa and boarded up window. “Thought I saw something slip under there.”
“Something? What kinda something?” Alexis inched closer to Thomas and his flashlight.
“Probably just a mouse.”
“What’re we doing here, Thomas?”
“What’s it look like? We’re poking around.”
“In the place where they found Alexis’s body we’re poking around!”
“She wasn’t murdered here, just dumped here by her killer.”
“How do you know that?”
“Overheard those cops talking last night after she was discovered.”
“Whole town was looking for her.”
“Yeah, maybe her killer, too.”
“Whataya mean?”
“Killers often join in the hunt.”
“For their own victims?”
“Sure, yeah. It’s how they keep up on what the cops know and don’t know.”
“You mean like you did--eavesdropping?”
Thomas frowned and shook his head. “Yeah, like I did, but I’m no killer.”
“What else do you know about Laurel’s killer?”
“Well I’m no FBI profiler but—” he hesitated. His beam found a far back room, door slightly ajar. “I think that’s where they found her, in there.”
“But what? You’re not an FBI profiler but what?” She didn’t want to focus on the other room or the circle of light on the door ahead.
“But I do know that killers often like to come back to the scene of the crime. It’s true.”
“Then we could be in danger just being here.”
“Doubt it. He’ll at least wait until the crime scene tape is down.”
“You trying to think like this guy, this monster?”
“Kind of a hobby of mine. I read true crime books and I write mysteries—do a lot of research. Now come on.” With his beam ahead of them, Thomas led Alexis deeper into the interior.
“I don’t think this is such a good idea, Thomas. I mean how many laws’re we breaking here? Like you said, the crime scene tape is still up.”
“I just want to understand why I—he—chose this place to dump the body.”
Alexis looked him in the eye. “Thomas, you’re still taking your medications right? Didn’t miss your ah . . . whataya call that stuff?”
“Not everyone on lithium is a danger to himself and others, Alexis.” He grabbed her and pushed her through the door. “But I am.”
“That’s what I thought,” she replied, holding up her cell phone camera to his mad eyes. “Cops’re coming through the doors, windows, and crawl spaces now, Thomas.”
The unmistakable shouts of Alexis’s backup police entourage poured into the room.
“Laurel was my best friend, Thomas—The Canyon Killer—and she married me the day you abducted and killed her, and I knew I was next on your list.”


Okay, this is how dialogue moves story and reveals character and often a surprise or two as well. Dialogue provides action, equals movement, equals active voice, equals dramatic and engaging, and yet it is done for only two reasons – either to reveal character or to push the storyline along—and when it does both at once, that’s great too.

Next time you’re re-reading, re-writing your story or novel seek out and destroy “Telling Paragraphs” that read like a first draft and beg for you to “dialogue it.”


Robert W. Walker, author of PSI Blue, Psychic Sensory Investigation (Echelon Press), City for Ransom, Shadows in White City, and City of the Absent (HarperCollins).
Contact Rob for editorial services for your opus!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Kittens in the Flower Pot! by DL Larson

All winter our outside cat, Bob, decided the igloo doghouse was not for her. Yes, Bob is a female cat called Bob. Bob took up residence in the flower pot that sets in the corner of our front porch. She moved in when my daughter and her family moved in while their home is being built. The flower pot, most of the time, has been protected from the cold elements of midwest weather.

Bob likes my family in small doses. She likes to be fed, but not petted. She prefers to hang out in the big green dumpster in the barnyard rather than nap in the sun. She has a bad leg too, her gait is hop, walk, hop, walk, rather ungangly, but she gets where she's going. She could be a beautiful cat, calico, if she wasn't so persnickity. Hissing is her favorite pasttime.

One morning, about ten days ago, our dog, rather, my daughter's dog, Lei-loo, the white lab, was especially eager to greet us when we came outside. In dog actions it was obvious what she was telling us. Bob had something new in the flowerpots. Lei-loo danced the dozen feet to and fro, stuck her nose in the flower pot only to have Bob hiss. Lei-loo, not upset in the least, trotted back to my granddaughters and me standing on the porch waiting for the big yellow schoolbus to come barreling down the road.

If you've ever been around little girls discovering new kittens, you'll understand the high pitched squeals that broke the morning birds twittering. Kitties in the flower pot! Five kittens to be exact. All different colors. Life on the farm doesn't get much better than new kittens.

Bob did not appreciate our oohing over her babies. Her hissing produced a set of very sharp canines and eyes saying, "back off - now!" So, we admired our new tenants from a distance for several days. Of course the weather turned nasty and we all worried the kitties and mama Bob were cold. So Daddy solved the problem. He dragged a long board from the construction site (their new house) propped it against the brick wall of the porch and covered it with a heavy packing quilt. Blue, with dark blue trim. It now looks as if we have miniture Indians visiting or having a pow-wow on our front porch. It's not attractive, but it is affective. We're pretty sure Bob likes the new addition to her nursery because she hasn't moved her babies.

Every morning I peek under the heavy blanket to retreave her food dish. Bob hisses a greeting, but by the time I come back with food and water, she's down pacing with her unusual step, wondering, I'm sure, what has taken me so long. Her sneering is almost friendly. She tolerates both girls peeking in to say hello, but not much else. Good thing the bus arrives so our visits are cut short.

The kittens are fat and fluffy, but still not venturing from the flower pot. Lei-loo has become an adoptive parent. When Bob wanders to wherever semi-wild cats roam, Lei-loo stands guard. My house cat, Corbin, is not welcome into this friendship, but so far doesn't seem to care overly much. But then he's a cat and he generally doesn't care about anything but his own indulgences.

The girls have decided to wait before naming our new babies. They want to be able to pick them up and get a good look at them before they make such big decisions. It will be awhile before Bob lets her little ones beyond the flower pot.

We've never had kittens live on the porch before, but I like the idea. I am a little worried about this summer when I'll undoubtedly find them hanging from the screen door. But we'll worry about that later. For now, we're all enjoying the unexpected surprise of kittens in the flower pot!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Word Weavers - MWMWA Library List By Morgan Mandel

Last vacation after the ice melted my husband was able to fish from the shore line and was very successful.This time the pier is in and he'll be going out in his fishing boat. I may be joining him a few times, although my idea of action is at the casino, not in a boat.That'll happen too.

If I seem all over the place today, I am. I've got stuff everywhere as I get ready to blastoff for another Wisconsin vacation. Actually, it's not too bad this time since we left a lot of things over at the cottage from the last trip.

Anyway, I've got stuff going on around the web as well. If you get a chance, please hop on over to www.myspace.com/weaversofwords and scroll down the righthand column for the Morgan Mandel feature this week.

Also, if you have even more time, get on over to my main website at www.morganmandel.com

On the main page, you'll find the link for the brand new Spring MWMWA Librarian Bulletin, which features the mystery writers from the Midwest Chapter of Mystery Writers of America with information on their current books.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Know Thyself

If you read my stuff, you know that I like to do different kinds of blogs - the 'rant' blog (one of my favorites) ... the 'informational' blog (where I actually prove there's a brain here) ... the 'just amusing myself' blog (no, not that way!)

So here's a new one ... the 'know thyself' blog ... one I don't use all that often, mostly because I'm a guy, and as you know, we guys aren't too self aware (shaddup, we know when our underwear is on fire ... most of the time).

Anyway, like most guys, I tend to identify myself with certain characteristics, and to my absolute shock, these characteristics have been crumbling faster than a sand castle at high tide.

For example: my hairline. Back when I was a critter, I was very happy with my hair. Blond curly hair that turned dern near white in the summer. So how tragic was that day where after being on the beach for a day, I took a shower and something stung on the top of my head.

You know the place. Towards the back of the head, out of sight, out of mind ... if you're a guy. That is, until the horrible day that you first learn that you have a new place that you need to slather suntan lotion on.

That was the first shock. But as the mind numbs (thanks to ESPN and golf), I got over the whole thinning hair thing, as long as I stay far away from multiple mirrors .

So now there was another self awareness that had to be discovered. That of my height.

I played a lot of volleyball, and always thought of myself as being above average height. I even dated a 6'4" girl briefly in college. And if someone asked me how tall I was, I'd hold out a finger and thumb and say, "this much over six feet."

Well, don't say this kind of thing too many times in front of the wife, that's all I can say. Because one day, my wife heard it for the nth time too many, and she grabbed me by the ... none of your business ... and dragged me to the 'measuring door.'

You know the measuring door, don't you? That one door that looks like a hyped up ruler smacked into it in a steroid frenzy. All kinds of measurements, showing how much the kids have grown over the years.

So my wife figured it was time to add my height to the rapidly escalating ones of my critters ... who have since topped out and are growing in 'other' ways mostly.

But I had no fear ... for I knew the measure of the tape.

So with a smug feeling of 'you'll see,' I confidently backed up to the 'measuring wall' and felt the ruler on my hairless head. She scribbled the mark and I stood back, a smirk on my face. She measured ... and you probably can guess the rest.

I SHRUNK!!!!

Yep, now I'm 'this much' under six feet.

And there's another self awareness thing getting batted around my house. One day, my youngest critter stared into my eyes and said, 'they're blue.'

"Huh?"

(yeah, one of my sharper days).

"Your eyes. They're blue."

"No way! They're green."

"Blue."

"Green."

Well, it went on like this until she finally snorted and stalked off to her bedroom.

You know what that means? Yeah, I won.

They're green.


Norm

www.normcowie.com
The Adventures of Guy ... written by a guy
The Next Adventures of Guy ... more wackiness (voted winner Preditors and Editors Readers Poll)
The Heat of the Moment

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The BIG Day!

Well, I can finally say it! This is something I've dreamed about saying for as long as I can remember. So everyone grab a pen and mark your calendars...the very first Debra St. John romance novel will be released on July 30, 2008 in electronic form, followed closely by the release of the print version on August 29, 2008. I am so thrilled. Apart from the "we want to offer you a contract" e-mail I received from my editor a few months ago, seeing the words "release date" in the subject line of an e-mail was one of the most exciting experiences of my life. Now I can get on with the business of scheduling release parties and submitting a new manuscript to my publisher.

"This Time for Always" will be published through The Wild Rose Press. Wild Rose is a relatively new publisher in the business, in fact we just celebrated our two year anniversary. I am here to say Wild Rose is wonderful! This is my first fiction publishing experience, and I couldn't have asked for a better one. My editor has been a joy to work with, and everything has been done in the most timely of ways. From submission to publication, less than a year will have passed. In the writing business, that is truly amazing. At The Wild Rose Press, they focus only on publishng romance, and they know their stuff and are good at what they do. The creative team that has been assembled, from editors to publicity coordinators to cover artists and beyond, is a group of some of the best in the business. I am truly blessed to be a part of the garden at Wild Rose and hope to have a long and successful relationship with those there. As I've discovered, making the transition from "I want to be a published author" to "I am a published author" isn't as simple as it sounds. But The Wild Rose Press has helped to make the transition a much easier, and highly enjoyable, experience. And I thank them with all my heart.

Whether you are a reader or a writer of romance, I encourage you to check out The Wild Rose Press. Visit them at www.thewildrosepress.com

Until next time,

Debra

"This Time for Always"
coming July 30, 2008 in electronic form
coming August 29, 2008 in print

www.debrastjohnromance.com

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Plotting the End by Margot Justes

I had a great couple of days, took a vacation day on Friday and actually plotted out the end for A Hotel in Bath (I am more than half way done) and I have decided the location for book three – are you ready –Venice, Italy. This one will deal with glass-Murano-of course.

I do love glass, so the location is perfect. I even called to check on a price for a hotel –I set my sites high-very, very high-the Cipriani Hotel-and the e-mail told me to call the 800 number for a really great price.

I called them expecting a great price; I didn’t realize just how great that price was going to be. The rate was 957 Euro’s per night. I thanked the woman profusely. Needless to say I’m looking for another hotel.

Today, I was a guest speaker at the Palatine Library for their Mystery on Loan Club. The other speaker was best selling author Shane Gericke, author of Blown Away and Cut to the Bone.

It was a small, intimate gathering, absolutely delightful, with lively discussions. Marlene Leonardi, Librarian extraordinaire, does a wonderful job with her Mystery on Loan Programs. I was privileged to have been asked to participate. I even sold three books and had a marvelous time.


Till next Saturday,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
The Heat of the Moment
Available on amazon.com
www.mjustes.com
Echelon Press LLC

Thursday, May 15, 2008

CATCH CHRISTINE VERSTRAETE'S INTERVIEW TODAY BY ROBERT W. WALKER



Christine Verstraete, author of Searching For A Starry Night, is the guest of Robert W. Walker and ACME Authors Link this week, and Rob herein puts the questions to Chris, who has graciously accepted to be scrutinized:

Rob: Chris, you’ve written a number of nonfiction projects, including interviewing mystery authors, as well as writing for magazines and newspapers, and now you’ve created a fictional miniature art mystery series with Petey the Dachshund on the cover.
You’re a miniature art collector and are passionate about miniature art. This becomes clear in your YA mystery novel entitled Searching for a Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery, (Quake/Echelon Press, May ’08). Can you briefly tell us how you came to the plot for your novel, and how your passion for miniatures figured in?

Chris: I’ve been collecting miniatures for quite a few years, so it seemed natural for me to include this in the plot for my first ya novel. I find the miniature art intriguing because of the detail and its size, so I figured kids would be just as fascinated by things in a smaller scale. It seemed to be the perfect attention-getter and something that I could illustrate in real life with an actual sample. What better way to get their attention and hopefully draw them into the book?


Rob: How often do you write or how much time on a typical day do you spend writing?

Chris: From years of newspaper work and as a freelance writer, I’ve been in the habit of writing every day. I always have a story or something to work on.

Rob: Where do you do most of your writing? Any special nooks?

Chris: I have a small office set up at home. It’s big enough for a desk, a couple bookcases and some filing cabinets. But when it gets nice out, I don't hesitate to take the laptop out on the deck. Sometimes it’s nice to have a different view.

Rob: What drew you into writing in the first place? When did you start and why?

Chris: I say that I was born into it! I have a baby picture of myself that was kind of prophetic, showing me with a newspaper and a pencil behind my ear. But I knew in high school that I wanted to write so I figured that studying journalism was the next logical step. It was good discipline and provided good writing training.

Rob: Is the writing bug a blessing or a curse in your opinion?

Chris: I can’t “not” write, so I guess it can be a curse that way. My brain is always buzzing with ideas. But it’s a blessing, too, as it allows me to help others, share information and express myself. Better than keeping it inside.

Rob: Who were your biggest influences? Who do you enjoy reading?

Chris: I’ve always been a bookworm. I devoured books as a kid. My favorites, of course, were all the horse books, Misty of Chincoteague, Black Beauty, etc. Then the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. As an adult, I’ve always enjoyed Stephen King, Dean Koontz and spooky TV or movies. I like fun, touching stories, too, and works by Debbie Macomber, Mary Higgins Clark, Elaine Viets, and more. I read in various genres and also like books set in the 1500 to 1700s or unusual topics.

Rob: What was your first story or book, and how old were you when you penned it?

Chris: One thing I remember writing is a paper on the Tudors and Elizabethan times in high school. I love Queen Elizabeth’s magnificent beaded costume and even drew pictures of it for the report. I probably wrote other things at a younger age, but I don’t remember them. But I bet they involved horses or dogs.

Rob: You seem to be drawn to writing young adult mystery. Are you planning to stick with YA alone, or do you have plans to branch out into other categories?

Chris: I actually started writing an adult mystery, but the first book is your learning process, I guess. I am working on a second adult mystery and also completed a set of short mystery stories featuring Sam and her friends from Searching For A Starry Night.

Rob: Having read Searching For A Starry Night, I feel your characters are genuine and interesting. Do you plan to use these characters in a series of books?

Chris: Thanks, Rob. Guess I jumped the gun in the previous question. Besides the short stories, I do hope to do another mystery or other book with Sam or Lita once I come up with the right setting and idea.

Rob: What do you have in the “hopper” or in store for the next book?

Chris: As a departure, I have been thinking of a fantasy-mystery. I have parts of it figured out. It keeps popping up in my mind.

Rob: How has your experience working with your publisher been like?

Chris: As this is my first print book, I do like the personal atmosphere and thankful that Karen, the publisher, is patient. I tend to change my mind a lot (and keep re-editing. Ha!)

Rob: Is there anything you’d like to add, or a question I failed to ask?

Chris: Since my book involves miniatures, perhaps you’d like to see my collection? I have photos on my website at http://cverstraete.com under miniatures gallery. Braver souls can click the photos link to see photos of my haunted house. Caution: not for the weak. I also feature other miniaturists’ work and various topics at my blog, http://candidcanine.blogspot.com And finally, thanks, Rob and the folks at ACME, for hosting me. This was fun!

Rob: Thanks Chris for adding yet another dimension to ACME and for being so forthcoming. Your book has just hit the shelves, and we encourage anyone who loves a good read (YA is great for adults too!) to look for Searching for a Starry Night.

Looking for Surprises! by DL Larson

Whenever I'm struggling with a concept in my writing, I turn to the old favorite classics for inspiration. This time I pawed through my bookcases, looking for the book that would settle my mind and boost my creativity at the same time. Choosing the right novel takes some doing and nothing on my shelves felt quite right. So I traveled to the juvenile fiction room at my library to find the book I needed.

The Cuthberts of Green Gables had decided to adopt an orphan - a nice sturdy boy to help Matthew with the farm chores ... Anne of Green Gables was exactly what I needed. Anne (with an e is so much more exciting - or so says Anne early in the book) is not a shy, quiet girl. She is full of surprises. And I realized that was what I had been looking for - surprises. Or rather, I needed to read how L.M. Montgomery wrote her surprises. The unexpected livens up a story like nothing else. Anne Shirley lied to Marilla once; perhaps you remember the scene I'm thinking of ~ Anne had never been to a picnice and was looking forward to going to her first, except Marilla's brooch had been moved. Lost, perhaps stolen, or so Marilla feared. The first time I read that part of the book I was so surprised that Anne would steal from her beloved mother-figure. But she confessed. She confessed to stealing it, then loosing it in the pond, the Lake of shining waters. I was flabergasted.

Then, then the real surprise came. Anne lied in hopes that a punishment could be handed out in time for her to attend the picnic. Marilla was further shocked to discover the deception when she found her brooch stuck in her shawl.

Great writing does that, it leads the reader into one surprise that follows another then another, until the reader is enthralled with such real life characters.

I've been reading another book of fun adventure and surprises, Girl of My Dreams, by our very own Morgan Mandel. Jillian wanted to help her boss, her heart throb by filling the vacant spot on the line-up for the reality show about to go on the air. She certainly didn't intend to stir up trouble. But the biggest surprise is her! Intrigue and daring escapades make this a fast read. You'll enjoy every twist and surprise! And like Anne Shirley, Jillian is more than she seems!

Whether I'm reading for relaxation or searching for inspiration, surprises on the page delight me. It's what keeps me stretching to improve my own writing skills. Taking time to abosorb another author's words fills an emptiness I didn't know needed filling.

Thinking about all of this, I might have to read another of L.M. Montgomery's novels. I'm not ready for Anne to slip back into the archives of my mind just yet. I'm hungry for another of her unforseen episodes! It doesn't matter that I've read it before, it still reads fresh and exciting. Isn't that surprising? Or is that just good writing?

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Monday, May 12, 2008

Animal Crackers


Who makes up jokes?

Especially those really sick, really funny jokes that happen after any event, whether good or bad.

Jeffery Dahmer had barely digested before the pundits had created an armada of sick jokes, the only thing sicker being my inability to remember even one to chronicle here.

(Of course, I’m kidding; What do you find in Jeffery Dahmer’s freezer? ….. Ben and Jerry!)

And once, when a plane was tragically downed in the Florida Everglades, I received a phone call the same morning from a friend, who wrapped up the conversation by asking, “What did the one Everglades alligator say to the other?”

Half afraid of the answer, I asked. “I don’t know, what?”

And he gleefully blurts, “See, airline food isn’t all that bad. Huhyuukk!!”

The only thing faster than the speed this gross joke was created was the speed in which it traveled. Later that same morning, this joke was repeated to me by at least three people, none of whom knew the other.

I’m kind of weird… not exactly a shocker, huh?…anyway, I’m kind of weird in that I cannot put a bad joke out of my mind until I repeat it to someone else. So I sauntered out into the office to repeat this joke to someone else, just so I can wipe it out you understand, and spied some dude in the office.

“Hey, dude in the office” I said (I call them all this), “What did the one Everglades alligator…” He interrupted, saying “… See, airline food isn’t all that bad. I heard the joke three times already/”

Then he says, “Here’s one. Three women are walking down the street wearing potato sacks. How can you tell which is the hooker?”

Ha, my turn. Happily I chirped, “The one whose sack says ‘Idaho’! I heard that joke four times yesterday!”

Speaking of potatoes, everyone I know has some once favorite food that he can’t choke down anymore because it was the last thing that went down before the stomach flu, food poisoning or a Michael Bolton concert.

Mine is hotdogs.

About twelve years ago, I loaded up a hotdog with mustard and a ton of chopped onions, and in three bites glomped the whole thing. It was so good I slorked another, then another. Little did I realize that my unnatural hunger was just my body loading up all the energy it could to sustain itself through the stomach flu it was busily incubating.

Well, you know what happened next. I ate those three hotdogs again, only in reverse. In fact, I think I upchucked four hotdogs! Years later, and I still gag every time I get near a hotdog. I couldn’t even watch Adam Sandler without provoking a gag reflex.

Idea to bored scientists, next time a plane crashes in the Everglades, see if you can somehow make all the alligators catch the flu. Then they’ll never want to have Purina People food again.

Norm

www.normcowie.com

The Adventures of Guy … written by a guy (probably)

The Next Adventures of Guy … more wackiness

The Heat of the Moment

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Book Trailers by Margot Justes

When I first started writing, I thought the idea was to finish a good manuscript. Make it exciting, have a good solid mystery, an amateur sleuth, tie it up neatly at the finish. Voila, a completed manuscript. A book.

Not so easy…tougher than it looks. My characters veered off course, I had to learn to write romance and combine the mystery. OK, I did that. Rather well too, I think.

I even managed to sell it. I now can hold an actual copy of my book in my hand. It took me over a month to actually have the guts and look at the content. Not just stare at the cover. Or hug the book and say it’s here, I did it-see, my name is on the cover. I have an actual book with words and everything…

But the job of selling that book is another matter.

I had to have a website. I have it.

The newest trend is book trailers. Same concept as movie trailers-get people to see it and hopefully get intrigued enough to actually go out and buy the book.

I had to have a trailer. I have it.

And it is awesome. It is mysterious, artistic and positively enchanting. My web gal did a tremendous job. Yes, I am leading up to something. Please go to my website (listed below) take a quick peek, it is short, I promise. Let me know what you think and whether it would entice you to buy the book.

Book trailers are relatively new to authors-so any feedback will be greatly appreciated.

Till next Saturday,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
The Heat of the Moment
Available on amazon.com
www.mjustes.com
Echelon Press LLC

Friday, May 9, 2008

VOICE is the KEY By Robert W. Walker

VOICE is the KEYto All Publishable Writing – 4th Roundtable from
Robert W. Walker and his 4 Pen Names


Continuing with my other selves at the roundabout table, the subject of VOICE, the controlling element in every good story or novel, and in nonfiction came up as we ended our talk on plot vs. character last time.

Rob: Character is very important and must need developing; you gotta live wid em. Plot is equally important, and frankly, I insist my students write a mystery so as to SEE plot in action. Fastest way to learn plotting is to plot a mystery. Besides, every story ought to have an element of mystery about it.

Stephen: And every mystery should have an element of romance about it.

Rob: Touche! I think that moves us to the next concern—Do you write to a formula, and if so how does it help or hinder the overall effect of the story?

Geoff: We don’t wanna talk about formulaic writing. When have any of us depended on a formula?

Rob: Come on, Geoff—you write horror, vampires, werewolves, zombies. By definition isn’t a horror novel following a formula? Doesn’t every “genre” have its formula like boy meets girl?

Evan: I have to say that while certain things are expected in a genre novel, that Geoff and I push the envelope. We know the ‘rules’ of the genre, but we skirt and often beat back those expectations. Besides, it’s the VOICE and not the formula that entices a reader and holds him to the book from beginning to end. Voice is everything in any book. Voice is the bedrock.

Rob: You guys keep switching things on me; I could get paranoid here. All right, what about voice? How important is it in the writer’s toolkit and repertoire?

Glenn: It’s the MOST important bell the writer rings. Think of it. You begin reading a story and it sounds like a night on the town with Nancy Drew, but it purports to be horror or terror or suspense, but for forty some odd pages, the first several scenes nothing is happening and the voice is tepid, unsure, faltering, halting and passive. You toss the book.
Stephen: Toss the book before you toss your cookies, you mean. No matter if you get the formula down pat – say six fight scenes, three chase scenes, two love scenes, without a commanding, authorial voice coming through loud and clear and like a guide, you lose.

Geoff: I like that—voice is like a guide. It takes the reader by storm and by hand, and it never loses touch with the reader, and it never “breaks faith” with the reader. Example: using the word phrase “copse of trees” in a kid’s book wherein up till then the author’s language was readable with a dash of ease. If there’s a connection between voice and formula, it is that you SET OUT to “sound” like the expert on this character and his or her story—the know it all, the wise one, the cop who was on hand throughout the investigation, or the protagonist who knows all or lived through the story.

Glenn: You’re writing a gritty police procedural and suddenly your cop is growing orchids as a hobby then you’d better have established a damn strong authorial voice to pull that one off.

Stephen: Yeah my cop stories – The Decoy Series and The Handyman rely so heavily on the sound of the voice of the storyteller, the narrative voice. These tales are cop stories about a decoy unit in Chicago but they verge on horror what with the human monsters that Lanark has to face. His narrator can’t sound like The Hardy Boys’ narrator.

Rob: Voice is about remaining consistent and aware that your characters’ voices—the way they talk, dialogue, and perhaps the way they act and are perceived is one thing, while your narrator’s voice is separate and often above the sounds made by your characters. Characters use clich├ęs and familiarity with one another, and they use a lot of contractions and made up words like wanna and gotta and gonna. Unless you establish that this is the language of your narrator, you can’t have the narrative voice go there. Your characters may have nicknames for one another, whereas your narrator is more formal with their names, for instance.

Evan: It’s about setting tone, controlling the timber of the voice or narrative; it is essential that one’s expression have a consistency about it as Rob says.

Geoff: When I was writing Curse of the Vampire (now Vampire Dreams – bloodstreams at www.FictionWise.com -- voice was uppermost in my mind at all times. I had reread Bram Stoker’s master work, and I wanted an element of that here. Abraham Stroud (AS as in Abraham Stoker) pretty much set the tone, so in this case voice grew out of this fully-realized character I had lived with for some time. The books read like Stroud’s chronicles although I did not set them up as a diary or record.

Stephen: Yes, same with my Lanark character—a driven obsessive passion to hunt and destroy those who’ve destroyed his life is marked by a clear police detective’s voice that is telling the story. The voice is in a sense another character and certainly must be a concern at all times. Being consistent in the Decoy books and The Handyman –now on www.Fictionwise.com --I felt first I had to really know Ryne Lanark and what he was capable of doing.

Rob: Wow—sounds like character and plot are ingredients in finding a particular VOICE for a particular novel. When I began City for Ransom, I really lived a long time with Ransom in my head, and I did a great deal of research about his era, and in doing the work a voice began to coalesce in my head—the voice of the narrator for three Ransom books. The voice was so strong that I knew it could carry the weight of a trilogy if not more books. Much of the Voice came out of the time and energy spent on research which meshed with imagination.

Glenn: By the same token, each character in the story ought to have his or her own voice—inflections, gestures, voice. Every character should walk differently, dress differently, maybe eat differently but for certain have differing speech patterns. The narrative voice has her own patterns as well.

Rob: Couldn’t agree with you more. Lately, I have learned that most people do not speak like Native American Indians in the black and white movies, enunciating every word. But one character might while another emaciates every word. One character might begin every statement with a stutter or a question or a qualifying word like maybe, I think maybe, perhaps, in my opinion, etc. or it was seeming to become dark in the desert – but such qualifying by a narrator KILLS anyone’s interest in reading on. A narrator’s voice must be active, strong, muscular and not seen as scaffolding but the stone wall of the story—the voice you can count on.

Evan: You mean it can’t sound wishy-washy, iffy, or like a politician trying to answer a serious question? Rhetorical question that. Yes, a narrator hasn’t the luxury of maybes and phrases like I think. The narrator has to use absolutes—the opposite phrases and words of qualifiers such as: seems to be. Imagine reading a narrative that began with the following:

I think that in the East of Spain that perhaps the people have little in common with a tourist such as myself, but then who can tell, and in all honesty, I couldn’t say for certain either way except that murder is always a possibility anywhere you go, right?

Geoff: Let me fix that line so it is absolute and in tune:

In the East of Spain, people have nothing in common with a tourist like me, but then murder is in season everywhere these days.

Rob: Now that is perhaps maybe a terrific demonstration of weak voice vs. strong voice. Strong is direct and to the point and it can’t be going in twelve different directions because the author is related to George Bush.

Evan: Can we keep politics out of this?

Rob: Listen to anyone on a TV interview; they will begin every word with a pause and a “I think so…” or an “In my opinion…” or “It’s just my opinon, but.” We are political – polite animals. Qualifiers like “With all due respect” for instance—a totally useless phrase. Again while characters may be characterized by such as these, your narrator cannot unless you are making the point I am making here that your narrator is an idiot. While you’re at it let your narrator “Shrug his characters shoulders as in “David shrugged his shoulders” or have him say “She winked her eye at David.” What other body part winks with her clothes on, and what other body part shrugs with his clothes on? So a conscious narrator will simply say “She winked…and He shrugged.

Stephen: Whoa, Rob. Take it easy. You’ll burst a blood vessel.”

Rob: I am just saying that voice is the sum total of your having made the choice of vocabulary and tone and style of your narrator. All the “elements of style” that E.B. White talks about in his book sculpt your narrative voice. So when you make a bad or wrong or foolish choice of a phrase or word—and we’re all of us guilty of doing so—then your narrative voice falls flat or breaks faith with the reader who has come to expect better of your narrative drive.

Glenn: Wow, we all think so much alike that I got nuttin’ to add. When’s lunch, and who’s buyin’?

Rob: Yeah, time to break gentlemen. For the best discussion I ever heard on voice and narrative, I send people to Jerome Stern’s Making Shapely Fiction – great explanation on this subject we’ve talked about today.

I want to thank my guests, my four other selves. Two weeks from now, we will take up the problem of Writer’s Block! However, next week we have a guest blogger coming on, Echelon author of YA mysteries! So the boys will have a rest now. However, should you wish to read any of their works you can find them on FictionWise as we’ve said and/or Amazon.com.

In the meantime, should you wish to read more from moi on Voice—in particular how to do voice of YOUR gender opposite—contact me direct for an article on same at inkwalk at SBCglobal dot net.

Happy Writing
Rob Walker
City for Ransom, Shadows in the White City, City of the Absent, PSI Blue.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Clean Drawers! by DL Larson

No, not those kind of drawers, the drawers in my old dresser. In fact that old, old piece of furniture has been moved to the basement and in my bedroom stands a new bureau for my husband and a many-drawered dresser for me. I now have more drawers than I've ever had before. Wait, let me re-phrase that!

And how does clean drawers relate to writing, you ask? Many ways, actually. As I take from the old drawer, I pick and chose what is worthy to go into the new one. Just as many of us do, I made three piles: keep, throw-away, and hmmm, don't know what to do with this. I find myself deleting wonderful sentences in my manuscripts simply because they aren't right for that particular paragraph. Others I circle, wondering what has caught my attention. Is it out of place? Simply needs rewording? Or is it necessary at all? And as I go through a chapter the circles add up and I have to make a decision. Does the reader need this information? Does it move the story in the right direction? Is it a red herring? Or do I just like the way it's worded? Big decisions with only one answer. Do I keep it or delete it?

Now we've all tried stuffing a piece of clothing into a place it doesn't belong. We do the same with our pretty sentences. We love certain wording and don't want to let it go. Squeezing a wonderful phrase into another place may work on occasion, but don't get in the habit of doing that. Later, when you go back and reread it, sometimes it fits beautifully and we're so glad we made the decision to keep it, display it in a worthy place. Then, then, comes those other times when it sticks out, waving like a drooping hem of a skirt. Not quite so pretty now. But dog gone it, we like that phrase, those beautifully put together words. We want to keep them.

Sacrifices have to be made. Just like my don't know what to do with this pile on the floor before my new dresser, some things have to go to the great graveyard of pretty words. A clean cut is the best for everyone. Don't leave it dangling, thinking you'll fix it later. Think of your story line and what is best for it. Keep it concise, no unnecessary words. Don't crowd your story with excess descriptions. Everything needs to fit easily, just as the clothes in my new dresser fit without being over-crowded. I can see what I have.

So as I place my excess clothing into a bag for Good Will, I've de-cluttered one part of my life. It makes me want to de-clutter some more. Hmmm, where should I start? I'm pretty tired of the drawer thing, guess I'll get a red pen and dig through my manuscript for excessive words. It's like losing weight without running and sweating. But it is work, good, intense concentration on what to keep and what to throw away.

And just like a good work out, or having cleaned drawers, it feels good when it's done.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

FIRSTS By JUNE SPROAT


Firsts

Hello all and thank you so much for inviting me to be a fill in blogger for Acme Authors.

When Morgan asked me if I would be interested I answered “YES” before I gave it much thought. That’s how I’ve been doing a lot of things this year. Jumping in with both feet and really not looking where I would end up. For the most part I’ve landed pretty well, lets hope the trend keeps up.

My first book came out in March. It’s a young adult book titled “Ordinary Me”. The main character, Kate, is a sophomore in high school who inadvertently foils an escaped convict’s getaway during her drivers ed class. Needlessly to say, Kate is thrust into the spotlight, and she thinks her life is over, and it is, well her life as an ordinary anyway. Overnight she is plucked from the ordinaries and plopped into the “in crowd”. At first Kate is in denial of her status change, but then she likes it, that is until she’s labeled a snob, her locker gets trashed and one other minor thing – she’s being stalked.

So basically, it’s teen angst 101 with a little mystery to keep things rolling along. I had a great time writing this book and it seems like it is being received well. At least that’s what I believe from the excellent reviews I’ve received, one which said reading my book reminder her of reading Judy Blume. Another first that turned out really well. I can die happy now.

Thanks for having me!

June

www.junesproat.com

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Miss me?

Just dropping by to say that I'll be back next week. One of my critters is in the hospital and I'm a bit distracted right now.

See you then.

Norm

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A Writer's Life

Hi All!

Sorry to have missed you last week, but I was out of town.

Things are moving along quite nicely at the moment in the life of Debra St. John. I received my galley from my editor while I was gone. Unfortunately we found a couple of minor corrections, so it's back to the powers that be to make a few changes. I'll get it back soon, and then once I okay it, on to production it goes. From there I'll get my release date! (I can't wait to change the 'coming soon' tag on my signtaure to a solid date.)

In the meantime, I've been busy setting up my new laptop so once the warm weather hits I'll be able to do some writing outside. (No more "it's too nice out to sit inside at the computer all day" excuses.) I've been gathering some blurbs to use when the book is released. (A huge THANK YOU to Morgan who wrote a wonderful one!) And I've been researching what types of promotional items I'd like to use when the time comes. (There's a plethora of them out there to consider.)

I am also getting a new submission ready to send off to my editor, and I'm working on the beginning stages (outlines, character development, story line, GMC, etc) for a new book.

All in all, a writer's life is a busy one. But I am having the time of my life!

Until next time,

Debra


THIS TIME FOR ALWAYS
coming soon from The Wild Rose Press

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Spring Fling by Margot Justes

I did not blog last week, instead I attended the Chicago North RWA (Romance Writers of America) Spring Fling, our bi-annual conference, held right here in neighboring Deerfield, IL.

And what a conference it was-our key note speakers were Debbie Macomber and Eloisa James, two best selling and very gracious authors. The panels were informative and very well attended; as was the open to the public book signing.

The pitches were flowing, since some very well known editors and agents were there to hear them.

The conferences, regional or national are very important tools for authors, whether for networking, learning or participating on panels, it is a way for us to get our names out there.

It is not enough to write and get published, we must sell the product, and we are the product that we must sell.


Till next Saturday,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
The Heat of the Moment
Available on amazon.com
www.mjustes.com
Echelon Press LLC

Chicken or Egg, Plot or Character-Which Comes First by Robert Walker

Chicken or Egg, Plot or Character – Which Comes First?
by Robert W. Walker w/help from 4 Pen Names


Once again ACME welcomes the 4 Aliases to a roundtable discussion with moderator Rob Walker. These are Stephen Robertson, author the Decoy Series (www.Fictionwise.com), Geoffrey Caine, author the Abe Stroud archeological horror series (www.Fictionwise.com), Glenn Hale, author of Dr. O, a serial killer romp, and Evan Kingsbury, author of Fire & Flesh and FleshWar – tales of spontaneous human combustion and the creature behind it all.

Rob: So today’s topic, gents, is what comes first for you – the plot or the character? How do you begin with the blank page?

Geoff: Abe Stroud had to be for me a fully realized character in my head before I could proceed, so with Curse of the Vampire (re-titled Vampire Dreams for FicionWise), I truly began with character. I knew that Abe had to carry the weight of at least three books on his shoulders, so he had to be fully internalized. I had to own him to begin this series.

Glenn: Dr. O was pure plotting from the get-go. The idea was to have the evil-doer, Dr. O himself survive and be the continuing thread to sustain a series, but I’m afraid it ended abruptly due to circumstances beyond my or Dr. O’s control. I placed heavy emphasis on plot twists and turns, and as to the main characters, well they were there to support the plot points. So Geoff and I went in opposite mode it would seem.

Evan: So much of what Rob did in his early career taught me to focus on both, that plot and character must go hand in hand, glove in hand so to speak. That THIS particular hero or heroine, as in his Dr. Jessica Coran is the perfect fit for this particular story. So in Fire & Flesh I tried to strike a balance between the two, never questioning which was more important, as they were equally important. I carried this idea on in the sequel now up at Amazon.com/shorts – FleshWar which we decided to place under Rob’s name and dispense with mine; however, to be sure, I wrote the thing.

Stephen: I agree with what all my bro’s here have said, but like Geoff, with the Decoy Series and The Handyman—which all utilized the same main character, I had to truly be at one with Ryne Lanark and to understand the depth of his anger, frustration, and vengeance to make it work. Each book saw one more on his list of to-do’s done, and his to-do list was an unofficial hit-list against those who’d murdered his family, which he must avenge while doing Decoy work for the Chicago PD. I modeled him on a real life actor who had gone through the same horror in the real world but who had gone back to Hollywood and his life as an actor. In the Decoy books, he leaves acting to pursue a career as a Decoy detective in his quest to find and execute those who’d murdered his parents and sister closing time one night at their family bar. So I really had to get into Lanark’s head for this plot to work.

Geoff: What about you, Rob? What’s your MO when you’re not writing from some pen name like me?

Evan: Yeah, Rob! Give it up! Inquiring minds wanna know what YOU do now that you’ve pretty much dispensed with us?

Rob: Hey, guys—never say never. Who knows, one day I may need you.

Stephen: He’s evading the question.

Glenn: Does that a lot. Come on, Rob, out with it. The chicken or the egg? What comes first when you reach into your repertoire of tricks?

Rob: The moderator is s’pose to remain gagged, guys. But I can see from your stern faces and Glenn’s cocked gun that I’d best say something. Here goes: When I was young, foolish, impetuous the story came first—the plot was all and everything and the characters were often forced to play their parts within the context of a story that unfolded in twists and turns and plot points. Along the way, I discovered some truths and I matured as a writer; I discovered for instance that setting can be made to be as important a character in the story as any other character, whether it be Chicago today or Chicago of 1893, Hawaii, New Orleans, London, Salem Village 1692, etc. . .
I also learned that like setting, the MOST important element of the novel is dialogue, as it is pacing, as it is all elements of storytelling as in CHARACTER.

Glenn: Told you he’s evasive.

Rob: No, no! I am telling you that the longer you write, the truer this becomes that you must juggling and balance all of the myriad elements of storytelling—action and pause, point and counterpoint, humor and pathos, and so it makes sense to think that character and plot must be as balanced as well the engineering of a bridge to span a gorge. Like Evan so eloquently put it, character is married to the plot like hand in glove, and plot is married to character. No one but Inspector Alastair Ransom, who did not pop full-blown from my head without long, serious work, research, trial and error, could have pulled off City for Ransom as he did. Hell he is in the title which is balanced with the setting.

Evan: You taught me the term fully-realized character as you did plot dynamic, and that even in a horror story that characters must be “up to the challenge” of the ordeal we put them through. That shallow or cardboard cut outs won’t do in any novel in any category.

Glenn: Look at ’im. He’s blushin’ yous guys.

Rob: Just put the gun down, Glenn . . . Glenn?

Stephen: I get that too, that the fully-realized character is one the author has lived with for a long time, and perhaps for the best results a new author, eager to write out that plot should take a step back and spend more time with the hero or heroine, or even the villain in that regard.

Evan: To create the perfect villain for that particular plot is as important to the story as crafting the hero, exactly. So in essence, you gotta spend time with the monster in his lair as well.

Rob: I’ve always preached this, but have not always practiced it. When I started out, getting the entire story down on paper and out of my head made sense—from page one to end, boom, boom, boom. The more I wrote, however, the more I slowed that process down so as to include far more setting and dialogue and characterization, far more of “what a character says, does, and thinks equaling to WHO he or she is.”

Geoff: I have it on good authority, Rob, that you don’t write in a straight line anymore but more in the fashion of a parobabla—two chapters, three forward, go back, rewrite, forward to four, five six, go back, rewrite to that point, forward, back, forward, back etc.
Rob: This is true. If experience has taught me anything it is multiple rewriting is writing, and this way each time I look at a scene, I get more of the five senses triangulated into that scene.

Evan: And more character development as a result, so that the fully-realized good guy or bad girl (worst female serial killer of all time—Lauralie in Final Edge!) is revisited not just in your head but on paper, so the READER can fully-realize him or her as well.

Glenn: Me . . . I never cared for all that psychological layering on of characters. (lowering gun) Didn’t care and look where it got me?

Rob: Frankly, yous guys, I have never written a novel I haven’t learned from, so believe me when I say that all of you—including you, Glenn—have taught me my craft—along with a cadre of authors over the years! We learn from reading the masters, and reading as a writer reads, and we learn from doing—putting characters on stage in their element and giving them the opportunity to walk, talk, and muddle over life, the setting they find themselves in, the circle of acquaintances they interact with—the all important minor characters who also must be fully-realized.

This concludes our discussion on what comes first, plot or character, the age-old rub. All five of us sincerely hope that we’ve shed some light on the matter for YOUs GUYs.

Hoppy, Hoppy Writing –
Rob Walker and the boys
PSI – echelonpress.com
For sneak peek previews of my noir suspense novel DEAD ON contact me through Glenn at the club – inkwalk at SBCglobal dot net
For sneak peek at next historical suspense work in progress BLOODROOT contact is the same, bada bing!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Destination, Unknown! by DL Larson

SpringFling, the Chicago North Writers Conference has been put to bed for another year, yet the excitement still sizzles through my veins. Nothing of great consequence happened to me, so I can't say I'm reeling from a wonderful pitch or even being asked for a partial. It's more the comraderie I felt with my fellow conference attendees. Special bonds developed in the halls between workshops, at lunch and dinner, even when standing in line for the ladies room. It's a feeling I'm reluctant to let go. I like being connected with other writers.

The "Big Name" speakers were wonderful, but they were not the ones who lifted me up. I felt privileged to be in their presence, yes, but the local gals, the authors I already knew and the ones I had heard of, the very ones who held workshops were by far the most inspirational for me. Their stories reached me on an intimate level as they shared aspects of their journey as a writer. They talked about the hard times, the dry times, the epiphanies as well as their fears. And I learned a very important lesson.

It's a lesson I hadn't given much thought, but know I've been naive not to have ever pondered it before. In the writing world, authors discuss their journey as a writer. We begin, we travel the bumpy roads through good reviews and bad turns or events. We learn, we adjust, we wonder what it all means. But do we ever reach our destination?

What is my destination as a writer? Even Debbie Macomber, the fabulous author and a guest speaker at SpringFling, admitted she is only as good as her next novel. As a writer I understand that concept, fear it even. But that doesn't answer the question of what is my destination as a writer.

My goal is to write the very best novel I am capable of, but that says nothing of my destination. I'm on this road to recognition, picking up tidbits to assist me as a writer, help me in pursuit of my dream to become an accomplished novelist. But what is my destination?

After deep thinking and some oh, "dah!" type of recollecting, I've discovered my destination is not important. The journey, the now part of my life is what matters. What I do today affects my view of tomorrow. My today's journey is the most important. I can rev my engines and zoom through my day without a care, or I can plop down and contemplate my strategies, planning out plots, or more pitches and queries. What I do today matters a great deal. The steps I take as a writer are important. I can intentionally plan to enjoy each moment, decide to control my enthusiasm or let it fly. It's all up to me. How I survive my journey is the only control I have as a writer.

So it doesn't really matter where or what my destination is. I'm on a journey, not really knowing where the road may lead, but I lay out my path, one that doesn't seem to be very well traveled, and that's okay. I like adventures. The unknown holds a certain amount of intrigue I find fascinating. And so I tip-toe onward, careful, but not too cautious. Afterall, writers love surprises. It is, what stories are made of. My destination is unknown, but my gut tells me it will be fun getting there. Challenging too.

I'm excited already. Today is a great day to continue on my way.

Til next time ~

DL Larson