Monday, April 30, 2012

Risky Business


The second in my Hunter Files series, featuring retired detective Charlie Hunter will be released by Carina Press on 25th June. Wish I could share the cover with you but I haven’t seen it myself yet.
Once again Charlie is persuaded by a beautiful woman to look into an old case but this time it isn’t unsolved. Someone’s in jail, doing life for the murder of a bookie. Except that man’s daughter tries to convince Charlie that he didn’t do it. Cleo freely admits that her dad was a bit of a bad boy, but murder wasn’t his style, especially since the victim was his best friend.
Charlie always had doubts about the validity of the conviction, suspecting that the ambitious female inspector in charge of the case manipulated the facts to make them fit her only suspect.

This is how Charlie tracks down an old friend of the victim’s and elicits his help.

Reg was just where I expected to find him, holding up one end of the bar, the remains of a pint of bitter in front of him. I slipped onto the stool next to him and attracted the attention of the brassy-looking barmaid. Gil gave Reg’s trousers a thorough sniffing and, finding nothing too objectionable adhering to them, flopped onto the greasy floor between us with a heavy sigh.
“Evening, Reg,” I said cheerfully. “Refill?”
“Don’t mind if I do, Mr. Hunter. Just so long as it won’t cost me nothing.”
“There’s no such thing as a free lunch, Reg, or a free pint, come to that.” I ordered a pint for myself and another of whatever Reg was having.
“I heard you’d got out,” Reg said morosely. “So what do you want with me? Can’t somehow imagine that you hit upon this fine establishment by accident.”
“Nope, it was you I came to see.”
Reg sniffed, took his time rolling a paper-thin cigarette, tapped it several times on the bar and fired it up with a plastic lighter. “Oh yeah, what about then?” he asked warily.
This was where it got tricky. If he was still involved with the people behind Spelling’s murder then they’d get to hear of my interest before I even made it back to the boat. Even so, I had to take that chance.
“Your name cropped up in conversation the other day,” I said, taking a long pull on my pint. I wasn’t surprised to discover that it was excellent. Shabby décor meant nothing to the clientele of such establishments, but a poorly tapped barrel would likely cause a riot.
“Yeah, what about?” Reg’s attitude changed from guarded to hostile. “Don’t you lot ever let a body alone and mind your own bloody business?”
“Ah now, Reg, where’re your manners? It was a woman who spoke to me about you. Said you were tight with her dad.”
He scowled at me. “Why do I get the feeling that there’s more to this than a social call?”
“What, there’s somewhere else you need to be?” I feigned surprise. “What were you and Mike Kendall up to before he went down for Spelling’s murder?”
Reg slopped beer over his hand and dissolved into a bout of coughing.
“Ought to give up those cancer sticks, Reg.” I nodded toward his half-smoked fag. “They’ll kill you in the end.”
“Gotta die of something.”
“True enough but that won’t be a pleasant way to go.” I paused for a sup of beer. “Come on then, tell me about Kendall.”
“And I’d do that because—”
“Because I’m asking you nicely,” I said, steel in my voice. “Because you know me well enough not to want to make an enemy of me. Oh, and because I’ll make it worth your while.”
The offer of financial gain secured his attention but he wasn’t about to give anything up easily. “It was a long time ago,” he said.
“And you’ve got the memory of an elephant.”
He ground his cigarette out on the floor and sighed. “Look, it was a scam, all right?”
“What sort of scam?”
“Dog fixing. I was just a gofer and never knew who was behind it all.” That had to be a lie but I let it pass. “Mike Kendall was higher up the food chain but still a small cog.”
I nodded. “Go on.”
“It was money for old rope, weren’t it. Thousands of letters were sent out to known gamblers telling them that the person sending it had a score to settle with a particular bookie and was going to break him by betting big time on a specific race.” Reg paused to scratch vigorously at his scalp. I moved out of range to avoid the ensuing shower of flakes. “Dead simple it was, but then the best dodges usually are.”
“Don’t tell me. The recipient of the letter had to ring the number quoted and was given the name of the winning dog for free.”
“Got it in one, Mr. H.” Reg sniffed his contempt. “Course, three dogs were picked, with three different numbers to ring and one of them was almost sure to win the race. Well, put it this way, one of them always did win the race but don’t ask me how that could possibly have been arranged, dog racing being the upstanding, whiter-than-white sport what it’s always been. Anyway, out of the thousands of chancers who rang the numbers, a lot of ’em hit on the winner. Greed almost guaranteed that they’d phone again and this time pay for another tip.”
I nodded, having heard of such schemes before. “Simple and undetectable.”
“Yeah, pretty much, until that wanker Spelling went and got himself offed and spoiled it all.”
“He was the bookie who coordinated it?”
“Yeah, he supplied the names of the punters who were targeted but as far as I know, once he was killed and Mike went down for it, the scam was wound up.” He shrugged. “My services became surplus to requirements anyway and I never heard of it starting up again at another track.”
“Who’s Peter Garnet then and what was his part in it all?” I asked, hoping to catch him off guard with the abrupt change of subject.
“Dunno.” But he was lying. I could see it in his ferret-like eyes when he focused them everywhere except on my face.
“Don’t lie to me, Reg. Not when you were doing so well.”
“Look, I don’t know the man and what’s more I don’t want to.” But Reg was terrified. I could tell by his defensive body language and shuttered expression. “I’ve heard stories though and he ain’t the sort you’d want to cross.”
“So it’s coincidence that you happen to share the same brief as someone in Garnet’s league.”
This time his eyes did focus on me. “What do you mean?”
“You went to see Jason Miller, who charges three figures for a ten-minute consultation, a day or two before he was murdered. What am I supposed to think about that?”
Alarm flashed through his eyes. “Here, that was nothing to do with me…

Risky Business by W. Soliman available 25th June from Carina Press.

Wendy

Friday, April 27, 2012

Where did they go?

Manners, that is.

When I left the house yesterday, I was in a pretty good frame of mind. I'd driven less than 500 yards when I had to brake hard because a man and two children were strolling across the road in front of me. While I sat there muttering things like "Don't rush - take your time", he turned to look at me with a completely vacant expression.

I eventually drove on and tried to join the main road. I couldn't because northbound traffic on that was at a standstill and some moron had stopped right across the junction so that none of us could get out and join the free flowing southbound lane. The driver/moron was sitting there quite unconcerned about the queue building up. He was too busy talking on his phone!

I walked into a shop and held the door open for the woman following me. She walked on without so much as a glance at me. I put on my frightfully posh voice and said, "You're welcome. Please, don't mention it." I didn't receive so much as a flicker of interest.

When I reached the checkout, the girl behind the till talked non-stop to a colleague while she slowly put my items through the scanner. Still talking, she held out her hand for my payment. I handed over my card, she dealt with it and handed it back. She didn't utter so much as a 'good morning', a 'please' or a 'thank you'. I would have fired her on the spot.

I followed a middle-aged man out of the store. He opened the door, walked through and let the door slam behind him. Right in my face. Grrr.

That brief excursion took around half an hour and I returned home in a really bad mood. I've decided to have a good look at the WIP and check to make sure it's bang up to date and a true reflection of everyday life. If I have a character holding a door open for someone, or uttering old-fashioned words like 'please' or 'thank you', I'm going to hit the Delete key.

Is it me? Have manners become a thing of the past? Are people still polite in your part or the world?

Thank you for listening. I feel much better for that rant. :)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

WHY ROMANTIC SUSPENSE - by Kathy Ivan

Somebody asked me the other day why I write romantic suspense. I thought about it for a few seconds, realizing there are really several reasons why I write it. Since it's a genre near and dear to my heart, I thought I'd share a few of them with you today. 1. I WRITE WHAT I LOVE TO READ. I've always been a sucker for a good mystery/suspense story. I was weaned on Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, trying to figure out the culprit/bad guy or girl always set my heart pounding, my pulse racing and my brain whirling with the possibilities. There was nothing better than spending a Saturday afternoon curled up with these friends I'd made, living the adventure with them and knowing that good would always triumph in the end. 2. FIGURING OUT WHO DID IT. I'll admit it, I love a good puzzle. Figuring out the real clues from the red herrings that have been dropped along the way by an author, coming up with the usual suspects and the not so usual suspects while delving into the mystery is a big turn on for me. I love being able to follow along with the hero and heroine of a story, live out the adventure with them, and know who the villain is. 3. I GET TO GO ALONG WITH THE CHARACTERS ON THE ADVENTURE. How many of us in real life get to diffuse a bomb? Or land a plane where the pilot and copilot have been incapacitated? Find a missing child? Save the world from evil domination? Within the pages of suspense/mysteries I get to do all of these things and more. I can live vicariously, seeing through the eyes of the player on stage in the book and experience the kinds of things I'd never get to do in reality. 4. ESCAPISM. This ties in with #3 above. I get to go to places I'd never ever be able to afford when I get lost in the pages of a story. I can travel to Antarctica as easily as a tropical island. Wrangle cattle in Wyoming or tread the boards in New York City. Jaunt to Monte Carlo on the arm of a tuxedoed handsome stranger. All without leaving the comfort of my easy chair. Does life get much better than that? 5. ROMANCE AND HAPPILY EVER AFTER. In a romantic suspense/mystery in addition to solving the crime, thwarting the villain, and possibly saving the free world, we have romance. Unexpected yet inevitable. Your hero and heroine dance their forbidden dance of passion, fighting the inevitable attraction while chaos burns around them. Yet in the end, all the threads are tied up, all the questions answered. Everything is right with the world, and love always wins in the end. Could anything be better than that? Ask yourself the same question. Why do you like to read (or write) romantic suspense/mysteries? I'm sure you're reasons may differ from the ones I've listed. Tell me all about yours. I'd love to hear them.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Time and Other Problems

by Janis Patterson


Okay, I messed up. Big time. Again.


Just a few minutes ago I got an email asking me if this were not my day to blog. Well, first I panicked, then I check the spreadsheet where I keep all my blog commitments. It wasn’t there, but as it is my responsibility to put it there I am still probably the one who goofed up. Ooops.


Obviously, the world will not end, my career will not implode, tornadoes will not strike simply because I missed a blog date. I am sorry to let down those who depended on me, but let’s get a grip on priorities.


On the other hand, this is a perfect object lesson. I, like just about every other writer on the planet, have a life, a career, perhaps health issues and a dozen other things going on. Some of us have day jobs. Some of us have families. Some of us have other obligations that pull at us, usually in half a dozen different directions.


On top of that, we are expected to edit, to revise, to play in the fields of social media, to blog, to maintain our websites and keep them current, arrange and go to booksignings, chat up booksellers, do every kind of promotion to keep our name out there that we can think of. to self-publish and do audio books and… – oh, I almost forgot – to write. And write well. And write prolifically. Every year it seems that more of the responsibility of getting the book out there falls on the poor author’s shoulders.


Hold it! Where is this going to stop? There are things we can’t give up – family, job, etc – and things we have to do – like write good books. We all want to do what we can to get fans and sales. But where does it end? There are just a set number of hours in the day and only so much can be crammed into them.


I don’t have an answer. I wish I did – maybe then I wouldn’t find that I have left off a blogging date and appear a careless fool for having done so. Those of you who have mastered the art of doing everything, I wish you’d tell me how you did it. Until then, I’m just going to keep stumbling on, and somehow I know I won’t be alone.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Spring Cleaning



It’s that time again: Spring! And you know what that means…an insane, irrational impulse to clean! I, too, have been known to succumb to the madness at this time of year. But this year is different. I have deadlines to meet, words to produce (and edit), and no desire to bury myself in housework when I could be outside in the sunshine (or immersed in a story inside my head).

But spring cleaning can apply to anything, right? (Hint: The only answer I’ll accept here is an affirmative one.)

By channeling extra springtime energy toward my writing, I’ve been clearing the cobwebs of my story that have gathered into little dust bunnies in my mind. Besides, spring is an excellent reminder that a quarter of the year has gone by. (Actually—and I don’t mean to panic you here—a third of 2012 is already gone! Gasp.)

Spring is also an excellent time to re-evaluate goals set at the beginning of the year, when we were buried in snow (and maybe a few extra pounds from the holidays), to find renewed energy to pursue such goals, and to celebrate the ones we’ve accomplished (or at least made great strides toward).

Who’s up for a little self-evaluation? I’ll go first…

1.) Health: My health goal was to lose 15 pounds and work out more regularly.

How far have I come? I’ve managed to lose five pounds and keep them off. (Yay, me!) I work out 2-4 times a week.

How can I improve? I have another 10 pounds to lose, but given that a third of the year has gone by, I’m right on track. Lately, the workouts have increased in frequency, and that can only be a good thing.

2.) Career/Writing: Finish my latest manuscript. (Actually, I’d love to get two manuscripts out this year.)

How far have I come? I was 50,000 words into a new project (thanks, NaNo!) at the start of the year. I am now at 85,000 words, but the plot is a hot mess (I believe I mentioned the dust bunnies above...). I also have 50,000 words of a different project (thanks to the previous year’s NaNo!).

How can I improve? I’ve set a new deadline with the goal of trading off my manuscript with a fellow writer. Having a concrete deadline will hopefully lead to massive productivity in the next couple weeks. I WILL have a complete and readable draft by May 1st!

3.) Family: Treasure every moment.

How far have I come? One of my goals this year was to live more in the moment. After spending most of 2011 watching a loved one struggle with cancer, I’ve vowed to no longer take things for granted. I think I’m doing a good job of taking more time for myself and my family. One thing I’ve started doing is taking stock of the day at the end of each day and listing the things I accomplished as well as the things for which I’m grateful.

How can I improve? While I feel I’m on course for this goal, I think I need to keep working on appreciating what I HAVE achieved each day instead of focusing on the things I haven’t.

How about you? How will you channel your springtime energy? What goals did you set months ago, and have you taken stock lately? How far have you come and what could you do differently to ensure you get to the finish line?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

TECHNOLOGY….

is really making it difficult for me. I write about military or government type heroes and heroines and these people have to be pretty tech savvy. A hero and heroine can’t simply go missing these days unless they have carefully planned to go completely off the grid. And I do mean completely off.

With all this modern-day technology how can my hero or heroine get lost and need help? GPS devices are everywhere, watches, phones, and people who are regularly put in danger are carrying little GPS tracking devices. Tires have GPS chips in them. Supposedly it's to determine the wear and tear on the tire so they can make a better product. When tires are traded those chips, so I'm told, can accurately tell everyplace the tires went. And if push comes to shove along with a court order, they could possibly be used to locate a vehicle.

Satellites can take pictures of license plates. Silent remote-controlled drones and helicopters can buzz only feet away and take pictures. And you won't know they were there. Most establishments have cameras. Inside and out. Facial recognition programs are used at transportation hubs and police departments around the world. All the software needs is a current photo of you and the computer scans all the faces for a match. The US Department of Justice operates one of the largest systems in the world with over 75 million photographs that are actively used. Even Disney uses them. Really?!?

From space, heat signature devices can tell how many people are in a building. Phones can pinpoint an owners location. Planes have locator transponders. Credit card use can be relayed to the authorities minutes after they've been used. If you post on Facebook it knows where you are and can tell everybody.

The high-tech security locks on new vehicles can be short-circuited with a laptop and a $50 software program. All one of these needs is the vehicle VIN number. Easily seen from outside the car BTW. The thief codes the Vin number into a laptop, hits a couple of keys and by gosh by golly the locks pop and the ignition starts. If someone steals your iPad, smart phone, or laptop there are apps that can track it. So, if you can track it if it's been stolen somebody can sure as heck track you as the owner.

You can’t even put your hero and heroine at the bottom of the ocean because Bob Ballard or James Cameron will be sure to find them. And get this. At the South Pole there is this new building, two stories high. It's off the ground on pillars or stilts or something and those stilts can raise the building up even higher off the ground should the snow get that bad. It was built with a slope to help it withstand the 60 mile an hour winds that Antarctica has during the winter. It houses several different types of scientific labs and a greenhouse where fresh vegetables are grown. Head smack. You can't even make your characters uncomfortable at the South Pole.

A while back I watched one of my favorite movies Rear Window with Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly. That movie couldn't be made today. Absolutely all of the tension was built on the fact that Grace Kelly went across the courtyard to the murderer’s apartment and had no contact with Jimmy. No communication. The tension was built when Stewart could see the bad guy coming and he had no way to tell Kelly. That wouldn't happen today.

With all the technology we have today I have no idea how any criminal can get away with anything. I swear I'm ready to start setting my stories in the 60s and 70s. Phones had cords and busy signals. Computer processors took up the whole room and you didn't need to experience a cavity search to get on a plane. Cars didn’t parallel park for you and tell you where to go.

And it's little off-topic here but… If all this is true about those Secret Service agents in Cartagena, what were they thinking? Can anyone say phone cameras and YouTube?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Reporting from RT 2012!

Reporting from the scene at the Romantic Times Conference, held at the Chicago Hyatt Regency OHare.


Steam Punk was the fashion statement to make this year. Carina Press Editor Mallory Braus cut a dashing figure in her bronze tiered skirt and beribboned bustier. Brilliant accessorizing!

Scientific eyewear was all the rage. And the fascination for the fascinator has not faded, especially with females who prefer fuchia.

I hope you brought your rolling suitcases, ladies! I haven’t seen a line like that since I ran out of fast-pass at Disney. With hundreds of authors on the scene and thousands of books for sale, bibliophile’s from across the country indulged with abandon.

Anyone who bought a book at Saturday’s sale, could have it autographed by the author. (I noticed several Kindle and iPad owners packing sharpies and asking favorite authors to sign their readers!)

Big name authors, like Ann Rice and Susan Elizabeth Phillips and JR Ward, stopped by for a visit.

Gossip on the line: “JR Ward has a curse jar. Every time she swears, she puts a dollar in it.”

"Does she swear a lot?”

“Well, she went through $70 bucks in singles. Had to borrow extra from her mom.”

The afternoon workshops were both educational and refreshing. Your Humble Reporter learned that Lord Byron was a Greek National Hero and the Duke of Wellington lived at Number One London. Wellington was born in Ireland. Being somewhat ambivalent about his Irish past led the Duke to remark: “Being born in a stable doesn’t make you a horse.”

To which an Irishman supposedly replied, “Nor does it mean, you are not an ass.”

According to a workshop on Drinks with Jane Austen, at the time of the Regency, children were allowed to drink.

“They might have been onto something,” author Karen Dornabos said with a wink. “If I could give my kids a drink or two, every so often, we all might be better off.”

Dornabos mixed up a batch of claret cup for all the guests to sample, along with four of her fellow Regency authors who thoughtfully brought along the Rum Punch, Orgeat, Ratafia, Sherry and Port for the gentlemen. What? No gentlemen here? Guess the ladies will have to make sure that tasty tipple doesn’t go to waste.

Next, onto a character wedding with Jade Lee. Champagne, wedding cake and cheese cake, actual and metaphorical.

The men were beautiful. The women were funny. And the vows were priceless:

“Do you promise to rub her feet whenever she is tired and pleasure her even to the denial of your own desires?”

“Do you promise to put him in his place whenever he is arrogant and satisfy his lust even though he seems insatiable?”

We do!

The event ended with a contest to win a beautiful embroidered Peruvian wedding blanket.

The woman who won told the audience, “Ten years ago, I received a Jade Lee book as a gag gift from my husband. I read it and decided…I liked it. I really liked it. I’m a writer today because I read that book.”

Read on, Gentle Readers!


I-Spy: Writing the Gay Mystery (Characterization)


Join the authors and friends of Not Your Usual Suspects for an occasional series of posts about their world of reading, writing and publishing.

Short and sweet, hopefully both informative and entertaining - join us at I-Spy to find out the how's and why's of what we do.

Today’s Post: I-Spy Writing the Gay Mystery…with Josh Lanyon


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First, I want to apologize for missing last month’s column. I unexpectedly came down with the flu, and that was pretty much that for the next two weeks! Yeesh.

So we’re going to be running one month behind schedule, which means that instead of discussing Setting, we’ll be talking about Characterization today.

There are two types of stories: the plot-driven story and the character-driven story. In the plot-driven story, the characters are shaped and ultimately revealed by the turns and twists of plot. In the character-driven story, the characters themselves -- their choices, their decisions --determine the course of the story.


Either way, if there’s a single most important element in modern storytelling, it is characterization. For most readers, the difference between liking and loving a story very often comes down to how they feel about the characters.

It’s not enough to create believable characters; you have to create interesting and engaging characters. Ideally, characters the reader comes to love.

Then again, just creating believable characters can be a challenge for many new writers, so maybe we ought to start there. You’ll find plenty of information and advice on the web regarding creating characters. I’ve seen recommendations for everything from buying expensive software to thumbing through a thesaurus in order to match verbs with personality types. If you like writing exercises you can develop bios, cast astrology charts, cut photos out of magazines, spin the color wheel… If you like reading and talking about writing versus writing, try this article on for size. Or this one. Here’s another one.

This is the thing... I’ve never met a writer who could admit he or she has trouble creating characters. Occasionally a writer will confess difficulty writing opposite sex POV, but generally I’ve found most writers believe -- whether true or not -- that characterization is one of their strengths.

We writers are predisposed to love our own creations. This leads to two common mistakes. The first is to create characters in the author’s own image. The second is to create nauseatingly perfect characters that embody all that the author wishes he or she could be. So the first rule is to preserve a proper distance between ourselves and our creations. It’s too hard to put our characters through the necessary hell they need to evolve and grow if we get too attached to them or identify with them too closely.

You have to remember that we writers aren’t…well, we’re writers. So we have to look beyond ourselves and our experiences and our reactions when we’re creating “normal” people to populate our stories. The ideal character is someone the reader can relate to. A good refresher is to read non-fiction -- in particular biography and autobiography --relating to both law enforcement and crime.

One of the first things you notice when you read any biography is that every human has strengths and weaknesses. This needs to be true of your characters too. Now strengths are rarely a problem since the tendency is to make our characters too perfect. Coming up with recognizable weaknesses is harder. Usually what we see in fiction are “weaknesses” like…the character’s blindness to how gorgeous/talented/adorable he really is. Or the character is too successful or too brilliant or too whatever for his own good.

However, characters in mysteries do often suffer from a genuine weakness known as TSTL (Too Stupid To Live). But this is generally not deliberate on the part of the writer -- which means it’s something we have to watch for when our characters are making the life and death decisions that frequently crop up in a mystery novel. Granted, some leeway must be given characters in crime and mystery fiction because if our characters behaved sensibly, they’d never get involved in crime or mysteries.

When you think about crafting any character, you should focus on the things that define us all: who we are in our work, who we are at play, who we are at home. If you know who your characters are when they are at work, at play, and at home, you know all you need to know about them.

As you’re sketching out your characters -- and I do recommend keeping biographical notes because it makes life SO much easier if you don’t have scan earlier chapters to verify whether Protagonist A has green eyes or hazel or Protagonist B’s grandfather graduated from Yale or Harvard -- think about the character traits that would make someone likely to get involved in a crime or a mystery -- and survive the experience.

Think also about how their work or hobbies mesh with developing the skills and personality traits that will allow your protagonists to believably survive their involvement in this particular and unique crime or mystery.

Note: Romantic relationships with cops or other law enforcement is a staple in mystery and crime fiction, but try and give your protagonist some useful skills and abilities in his own right.

Remember that if your protagonist will need some special knowledge or talent to solve the crime or save himself, you need to establish that talent or background early on. For example, if your character needs to speak Russian to decipher a mysterious message, at the very least hang a print by Karl Bryullov on the wall of his apartment.

The trickiest part of good characterization is remembering that you can’t tell the reader that your character is well-educated or inquisitive or free-spirited. Nor can you have other characters comment in clunky fashion, “You’re so well-educated/inquisitive/free-spirited, Jonah!” You have to show this to the reader, you have to prove it, you have to make your case for characterization based on the way your character speaks, the car he drives, the clothes he wears, the newspaper he reads, etc.  

Characterization is not about reciting a list of facts about your character, it’s about showing who and what that character is in every glimpse the reader has of him. You establish characterization in every single scene. Every choice your character makes carries symbolic weight and reinforces who he is. And who he turns out to be will determine whether your reader thinks of him as a character in a book or someone she can’t wait to spend more time with.

This month's recommended reading features gay historical mystery:
My Dearest Holmes by Rohase Piercy
Gaywyck by Vincent Virga
Willing Flesh by JS Cook
Lessons in Love: A Cambridge Fellows Mystery by Charlie Cochrane


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A distinct voice in gay fiction, multi-award-winning author JOSH LANYON has been writing gay mystery, adventure and romance for over a decade. In addition to numerous short stories, novellas, and novels, Josh is the author of the critically acclaimed Adrien English series, including The Hell You Say, winner of the 2006 USABookNews awards for GLBT Fiction. Josh is an Eppie Award winner and a three-time Lambda Literary Award finalist


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FUTURE POSTS will cover:
Kindlegraph / the art of research / writing male/male romance / rejection and writer's block / building suspense / writing love scenes / anti-piracy strategies / audio books / interviews with editors and agents / using Calibre.
We welcome everyone's constructive comments and suggestions!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Purple Prose: It's Really Bad!

Since it's Friday and I think we can all use a bit of a laugh at the end of a long week, I thought it might be fun to review the meaning and use of what is popularly known as "purple prose." For those of you who may not be familiar with the phrase, it is typically described as a passage written in a figurative language that is unusually and overly descriptive. The term is most often applied derogatorily and indicates that the author has surpassed her/himself in the overuse or convolution of metaphors. Let me give you some specific examples of purple prose taken from several not-to-be-identified novels.

“His throbbing weapon pierced her sugared treasure-trove.”

“From between his steely thighs rose a marble pillar.”

“She was drowning in a sea of chest hair.”

“He dived into her pool of love.”

“Desire rose in her like a call of nature.”

“His eyes were hacked from the walls of hell.”

“She flashed her optical orbs of disbelief.”

Done laughing yet? The obvious problem of purple prose is that most readers are rudely jolted from the story by such over-writing, not enchanted by the author’s incredibly imaginative use of a metaphor. Writers have to beware that they are not carried away by the moment (especially a passionate one) and allow themselves to gleefully toss their common sense out the window.

We, as writers, know that writing love scenes can be difficult. No one wants to be accused of woodenly explaining how Tab A fits into Slot B. On the other hand, using “his throbbing man-root” and the “quivering, wintry flesh of her rounded globes” is NOT the way to go either. How realistic is it to expect the reader to relate to a phrase like, “She eagerly eyed his purple helmeted soldier of love?" Jeez! How can anyone read that and keep a straight face?

Writers can avoid purple prose by simply applying a little common sense. You can be sensual and sexy without being absurd. If you re-read a passage and it makes you laugh (and you’re not writing comedy), then you’d be better off to change it. As silly as purple prose may seem, it can truly be fatal to your story. Avoid it like the plague! Ha!

Monday, April 9, 2012

How fast is too fast?

I don’t write fast. Being a pantser rather than a plotter means that I often write myself into corners and must then delete, delete, delete until I find where I went wrong and start over again.

Take my latest novel, Backli’s Ford. It started as a novella way back in August 2009. After I finished writing it, I realized that the darned thing was really meant to be a novel. Not only that, but it would be the first in a series. So I started over. By my calculations, that’s over two and a half years for one novel. That’s long, even for me.

In my defense, during that two and a half years, I sold two novels to Carina Press, wrote a sequel to The Shoeless Kid (The Tuexedoed Man), a short story in the Mendenhall Mysteries world, Night Shift (still available for free but not for much longer) and self-published a number of short stories and novels (under my own name and a pen name, Emma Faraday).

Now, I know people who can write 10,000 words a day and not die. That’s not me. I’ll never produce five or six novels a year, and that’s fine. However, I’ve learned that I can produce stories a lot faster than I ever thought I could. How?

Persistence. In other words, applying seat of pants to seat of chair, day in and day out.

This is the way I look at it. I have a full-time job, so my writing time is in the evening and during the weekend. So, say I write 500 words a day, every day. That’s 500 words x 7 days = 3500 words a week. At that rate, I could have a first draft of a 70,000-word novel in 20 weeks, or five months.

And 500 words a day, well that’s nothing really, but let’s leave it at that for weekdays, and double it during the weekend. So that’s 4500 words a week, or one 70,000-word novel in under four months.

That’s three novels a year, with some down time built in, just by being persistent.

It seems simplistic, but it does work. For me, at least. At least partly. I may not produce three novels a year, but I do get a lot of words down (again, for me) in the form of short story, novella and novel.

Now I have a question — do you think less of a writer who produces work quickly? I’ve heard some people say that you can’t possibly produce quality work if you write quickly. Is that generally accepted, or is it bunk?

Inquiring minds want to know.
Marcelle

Friday, April 6, 2012

Determination

My cat, Tinker is a quirky puss. The thing I love most about her is her determination. Whether it's chasing a lizard until she catches it (although I try to get it away from her and give the poor thing its freedom), or doggedly (yes, pun intended) getting on some forbidden piece of furniture. If she wants it, she will keep going after it, no matter what.

She has this red collar that she seems to like better than any other collar she's had. Problem is, about once a week the thing pops open and falls off. She doesn't let that stop her. She carries it to me, lays it at my feet and howls until I put it back on. I don't dare replace it!

That got me thinking about determination and how it's one of the qualities I want my heroes and heroines to possess. Doesn't matter what the obstacles, the hero will relentlessly pursue the heroine. The heroine will fight tooth and nail for what she believes in or to catch the villain who wronged her or someone she loves.

Determination is essential for me to like a character. If he's willing to just lie down and take whatever is dealt to him, I want no part of that character.

What about you? Is there a character trait you refuse to compromise on?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

AIRING YOUR PRODUCT

Being on the radio recently with three different, affable talk show hosts gave me a wonderful opportunity to speak about e-publishing and my recent e-book release, Designed for Death. I was lucky. They asked the right questions—ones I could answer without stumbling or fumbling for words.


My first host asked why more and more people are turning to electronic books, which was a perfect launching pad for me to say, “Instant gratification.” I went on to say with a digital reader, a device no larger than a slice of bread, you have a library at your fingertips. It boggles the mind, thousands of books only a click away. And with no heavy weight to carry. Oh I had my ducks in a row that day.


“But some people like the experience of holding a paper book,” he said.. Uh-oh. Smooth as silk, honest, I segued into, “True, with a Nook or a Kindle or an iPad, you don’t have pages to turn, just a pad to touch. But—voila!—touch that pad and the next page of Designed for Death (I had to squeeze that in on the air) pops up effortlessly.”


Then I went on to tell about an e-book fan who said she could read her digital book and rock her baby to sleep at the same time. Try doing that with a hard cover copy of War and Peace.” He laughed. What a relief.


Oh, I had all kinds of good stuff to say about e-books in those interviews. Not the least of which was that e-books, by and large, are priced lower than printed versions, because production costs for the publisher are lower, and they have no returns to worry about, no trucks on the road, no postage to pay.


Overall that first interview went swimmingly, and I offer it to you as an example of one way to go—relax and be yourself. Just as in there are two schools of thought about how to write a book—as a plotter or a panster--there are also differing schools of thought about how to be a radio talk show guest—plan your interview out carefully, or throw caution to the airwaves and innovate as you go along. I recommend a little of both.


The problem with having a written set of answers to a series of prearranged questions is that your interview may strike the listening audience as wooden. You risk losing spontaneity. On the other hand, it’s good to know ahead of time what the host expects. To start the conversational juices flowing in the direction you want them to, ask if you can submit the opening question ahead of show time. This will give you some control as to the direction of your talk and help reduce unwanted surprises. Though should you be asked a question you can’t answer, simply say so. The host wants the interview to go well. He wants your chat to be a success and will quickly move on to another question.


An “I don’t know” honestly stated is fine. What is deadly is a guest who gives one or two word answers. Chat it up. Be lively. Be informative. If you have a gift for humor, now is the time to display it.


Detractors will tell you they’ve gone on radio shows and saw no spike in book sales. Maybe we shouldn’t expect miracles. But add a radio show to your social networking, talks around town, book reviews. Add a second radio show. Maybe an interview on TV, a contest on your website. A blog. Appear on another radio show. On every one, be sure to mention your web site. Now people begin to recognize your name. And writer’s name is his brand. So of course you want it to be recognized. Though you might walk around with a leather patch on your butt that says Levi, chances are good it doesn’t say Jean Harrington, Marcelle Dube or Toni Anderson.
So my advice is talk, baby, talk!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Disturbing Reads

I discovered something in the past week. I’m not a fan of disturbing reads. I pretty much already knew that – especially since I write romance – but I’ve always said life is too short to be sad or upset so I like to put out happily ever afters to keep things on the bright side. I just finished reading The Hunger Games series and I’m very conflicted about the whole thing. Yes, I know it was a good series because it’s stayed with me. That is absolutely the sign of a good book. Certainly there were some amazing lessons on loyalty and morality not to mention some great quotes. But, let’s face it, it’s a disturbing topic and the deeper into the series I got the more disturbing it became. The one thing it did do was to confirm my decision to write romance. My characters in Dangerous Race and Danger Zone certainly go through some disturbing incidents, but all ends up working out in the end. I need that happily ever after so I can smile and sigh at the end of a journey (or even cry happy tears).


What about you? Do you need to mix up your reading or do you usually stick with one genre? Do you lean toward the same things or do you go outside your comfort zone? And for you writers out there, do you read more of what you write or find that mixing up your reads helps your writing in any way?