Help! I Need Fish

Question marksWhen is a Clue Not a Clue? When it’s a Red Herring.

I’ve just unearthed a cozy that I started and abandoned a few years ago after an idea for a paranormal seized my imagination. The desertion was made easier by the fact that my mystery was floundering.

All my life I’ve devoured mystery stories. My trips through the library stacks began and ended in the section where all the spines had yellow Sherlock stickers. Since whodunnits and gothics topped my reading wish lists, it seemed like a no-brainer to choose the mystery… Continue reading

Ten Rules I Remember About Naming Characters

character-names-268x300As a former teacher, I’m well aware of the old joke about the pregnant teacher who can’t think of a good name for the upcoming baby because each name she thinks of has some darker association with a former student. “I can’t name him ‘Ben’ because of that teenager I had in class named Ben who was always whispering obscene things under his breath to the girls who sat around him.” This problem doesn’t matter when naming characters rather than children.

When I’m writing mysteries, I keep a notebook full… Continue reading

Book Review

I just finished a mystery/thriller by a New York Times bestselling author,nyt courtesy victorfarmington library.org someone whom I’ve read sporadically over the years, usually quite happily. This particular book is set in the 1980s but was published not long ago, so it’s not one of the author’s early works. Yet reading it was a slog when her technique and years of writing experience should have made it a slam-dunk.

We all know the phenomenon that happens when a book is truly good — time is suspended as we enter… Continue reading

On the Right Side of the Law

I’ve always liked stories about lawyers and the law,atticus “To Kill a Mockingbird,” starting me off in a big way in childhood. Being from the South, the book has always had a special resonance with me, and, really, who doesn’t love Atticus Finch — or Gregory Peck?

Now that I’m writing my own novels, I’ve learned to appreciate lawyerly books – and movies and TV —  even more, not just as pure entertainment but also as little instruction manuals on how to tell rich and satisfying tales, no matter the… Continue reading

Likeable Villains??

I just attended a great workshop taught by Carol Bugge entitled Villains, Heroes, and villainSidekicks–Crafting Characters that thrill readers (and SELL books). The workshop was put on by Sisters in Crime, New England.

I needed to learn more about villains and give them their proper place in my work. Not only do I leave their development until later, but, sometimes, I don’t figure out who they are until it’s absolutely necessary. I have one cozy set aside because I can’t decide who did it. But, I’m learning.

In order… Continue reading

The Fat Lady Sings (Again) – to Beat Sheets

CORRECTION: The wonderful Jami Gold has made a correction to this post. Although a number of “Beat Sheets” below are attributed to different authors, they were actually created by Jami herself. She’s drawn from the teachings of Larry Brooks, Michael Hauge, etc. to assemble them, hence their names. The Blake Snyder Beat Sheet was created by Elizabeth Davis. Confused yet?  Don’t worry. All will become clear as you read further.
Two other suggestions from Jami: first, she recommends this link for her Scrivener Beat Sheet: jamigold.com/2013/12/can-we-use-beat-sheets-with-scrivener . And second, she provides a “clearinghouse” link for all Beat Sheets

Writing Humor – With Lane Stone

Today we are fortunate to have author Lane Stone join us to talk a bit about the inspiration for her novels, her process and how she uses humor in her mysteries.  Lane is the author of Current Affairs:  A Tiara Investigations Mystery, Domestic Affairs and Maltipoos Are Murder.Lane photo

Thanks for being here today.  How did you come up with the ideas for your book – i.e., main character?

I had the idea of a Southern beauty queen – in her later years – solving crimes, but I also… Continue reading

Characterization – A Different Way of Thinking

I’ve taken some characterization classes and used the checklists from these to better develop my characters. I love the checklists.  The classes have been great.   They helped me better define and deepen my characters.  So I wasn’t sure what I would get out of a webinar on characterization that was something different.  Turns out it was a lot in terms of thinking slightly differently.checklist

A few highlights from the talk by author Jade Lee to think about:

  1. Using the Elements – air, water, fire, metal and earth.  Think about which

Internet Resources, Take 2

Last month, I wrote about some of the more interesting places I’ve recently visited for research purposes. Well, I’ve been at it again, this time starting with “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself into Print” by Renni Browne and Dave King. This gem of a book was hiding in full sight among the1200 or so volumes currently eating my Kindle alive. (Note to Self: Serious Housecleaning Needed ASAP.)

self-editing book coverOnce I started the Browne/King book, I literally couldn’t put it down. The advice is so well… Continue reading

Time to Edit — Tips from the Web

Across one of my bookshelves, there’s a line of fat white notebooks, each one bearing a zippy, call-to-action name: “How to Write Compelling Dialogue. “Building Blocks of Great Fiction.” “How to Create a Page Turner.” ”The Secrets of Deep POV.” Many readers will recognize these titles as courses offered by some of the best in the wordsmithing business — Pat Kaye, Virginia Kantra, Steve Alcorn, and Mary Buckham, among others. When I decided to transition from jack-of-all-trades writer to mystery author, I sopped up every drop of information these folks could give me. Now, as I’m headed for… Continue reading