Good Mysteries

A Place to Find Great Mystery Books

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Writers write...

Posted by goodmysteries on September 27, 2012 at 1:55 PM Comments comments (0)

If I had a dollar for every time an aspiring writer said to me "I'm taking a class to learn how to be a writer," I'd be rich. Then they look at me all doe-eyed and hopeful, like they think that's the secret to a successful writing career. I've know several people who have taken class after class, always chasing that writing dream, yet never really sitting their posteriors in the chair and writing something they intend to market.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not against education. I'm not against writers honing their skills. It is a necessary part of evolving as a writer. Taking classes may  teach you how to construct a perfect sentence or paragraph. Classes may teach you about plot development, outlining a story as well as all the other technical aspects. However, there comes a point where you stop going to classes about writing and actually start wriing something you can then submit for publication.

I've always had two opinions about writing. First, writers write. They don't continually go to school to learn how to write. Second, writers (especially fiction writers) are born not made. It is a fire that burns inside your soul from an early age, this overwhelming desire to put stories on paper. They don't teach that in a classroom.

I held a day job for many years and wrote in the evenings and on weekends. I pretty much gave up a social life during those times. Did I mind that? No. Writing was and is what gives my life more meaning. Was it a good balance? Probably not. But I wouldn't change a minute of it. Now that I'm retired, I have lots of time to write, but I often think back to those times when I worked all day then wrote into the night. I look back on the "lost weekends" when I barely left my apartment because I was working on a novel. And when I do recall those times I'm very glad I didn't spend the majority of those hours sitting in some classroom "learning how to be a writer."

 

 

 

 

?Well, Exc-u-u-u-u-se Me-e-e-e!?

Posted by goodmysteries on April 3, 2012 at 7:45 AM Comments comments (1)

Tim Smith, my guest blogger today,  is an award-winning, best selling author whose books range from romantic mystery/thrillers to contemporary erotic romance. He is also a freelance photographer. When he isn’t indulging in those two passions he can often be found in the Florida Keys, doing research in between parasailing and seeking out the perfect Mojito.

I read a blog post on a reviewer’s website that made me rethink online courtesy. This woman went on a rant about authors who aren’t considerate enough to say “thank you” when she reviews their books, often at their request. She held the opinion that after she spent “hours reading and reviewing” a book, the least the author could do was “take a few minutes” to send a follow-up e-mail, especially if it was a good write-up.

Wow – I thought we were all on the same page! I know a lot of authors who don’t communicate with reviewers because they don’t want it to look like they’re sucking up. I always take the time to write to someone who’s given me some free exposure, especially people who have featured me on their site as a guest blogger or interview subject. Oftentimes it results in a return invitation, and it’s common courtesy. I was raised by a generation that believed in sending “thank you” notes, so it’s a habit. The one and only time I received a terrible review I actually wrote to the reviewer to thank them for their honest opinion. I didn’t like what they said about me or my book, but I chose to take the high road and show them that I wasn’t bothered by their negative comments.

I review for a romance site and I don’t expect flowers when I review someone’s book. That isn’t why I do it and I can count on one hand the times an author wrote to thank me or question my parentage. If they do drop a line I appreciate it, but it isn’t what I live for. Often I’ll hold contests and offer a book as a prize. When I send it to the winner I always ask them to let me know what they thought of it. I don’t ask them to post a review on Amazon or Fictionwise, but just give their opinion so I’ll know if I’m reaching my audience. This is something else I don’t count on because people say they will, but usually don’t. It’s all part of the game and no, I don’t take it personally.

The remarks I mentioned earlier gave me cause for pause. The person referenced “hours spent reading and reviewing” books, but I wonder if she has any idea how much time and effort an author invests in getting that book ready for her to read. We agonize over every word, detail, revision and rewrite. We worry that the cover might not convey what the story is about. We sweat out a release date then become sleep deprived from promotional activity once it is released. We anxiously await feedback and when we get it…we’re chastised because we didn’t say “thank you?”

As I said, it’s all part of the game and there is no right or wrong approach. Some people express themselves beautifully through the mouths of their characters but fumble when it comes to speaking from the heart. I fall into that trap myself at times. I suppose that’s why we choose to write, to express ourselves through words, and that’s a great thing.

For what it’s worth I don’t expect a “thank you” note for this post, either. Just buy one of my books.

Tim"s Website: www.timsmithauthor.com.

The Best Advice I Ever Got As A Writer

Posted by goodmysteries on February 21, 2012 at 8:45 AM Comments comments (0)

I’ve written one non fiction book in my career. It’s called A Picture Perfect Kid. The only reason I wrote it is because I knew the people involved. I suppose there aren’t all that many people who know the story behind my writing this book, so I’ll briefly tell it now.

In 1998 I went to work at Columbus Community Hospital in Columbus, Ohio as the office manager for their home health department. My boss was a woman by the name of Carol Jean Lindley. I won’t say she and I became best friends, but we did develop a friendship of sorts and a close working relationship. We confided in one another and found we had a lot in common. She and I both were helping to raise a grandchild. We were the same age. We’d both been in the health care field for years. I liked Carol a lot and considered her to be a good person, who loved her job and her family.

Carol’s sixteen-year-old grandson, Joshua, lived with her and her husband Bill. He had since he was eight years old. He was a troubled boy who’d been abused in the past. His mother also came to live with Carol, Bill and Joshua eventually.

In 2000 Carol moved to Cape Girardeau, Missouri to take what she described as her “dream job.” Bill was to follow later, when he retired in about a year and a half. She took her grandson, Joshua, with her. A few days after they arrived at their new home in Cape Girardeau, Joshua shot Carol to death one Saturday afternoon as she sat in their family room. He hid the body over the weekend and on Monday tried to burn down the house to hide the crime. He was soon arrested and eventually convicted. He’s now serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

The shock and horror I felt upon learning about Carol’s murder cannot be described so won’t try. I thought long and hard about whether to write a book about the case. I finally decided that Carol’s story deserved to be told but I wouldn’t even start the project unless I had the cooperation of the family, including Joshua. I made them all one promise: I would not slant the story either way. It would be simply a true and accurate account of events as they happened, nothing more. I have to say I was a little surprised to receive complete cooperation, especially from Joshua who I began corresponding with in prison.

Writing A Picture Perfect Kid was rough, I’ll admit that. When I was about halfway finished with it, I began putting out feelers to various publishers, especially those who published true crime books. I got one nibble and they wanted to see all I’d written so far. I sent it. The reply wasn’t exactly what I’d expected. The editor told me it was too cut and dried. His exact words were: “Even though it is non fiction, people still want to be entertained.” He suggested I rewrite the book more like a novel.

I rejected the idea out of hand. After all, I was halfway finished with the book, how could I rewrite it completely now? Disgusted, I put the project away for a week; didn’t even look at it. But I couldn’t get that advice out of my head. It nagged at me like an itch I couldn’t scratch. I guess that was my inner self telling me he was right. So what did I do? You got it. I started over. I approached the book as though it were a novel. The end result is now available from Zumaya Publications. It is also a 2004 EPPIE Award finalist. Even though the editor who gave me the advice did not end up accepting the book for publication, I did write him a thank you note for steering me down the right path.

As an author, I hope I never stop learning, never stop growing. And I hope I never stop taking good advice!

Where Did That Idea Come From?

Posted by goodmysteries on January 24, 2012 at 11:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Readers often ask me where I get my story ideas. I usually tell them that I see stories everywhere, which is true. I can be riding the bus and see an unusual looking person sitting across the aisle. I think to myself, he looks like an artist. But he has a troubled expression on his face. He’s got problems. Maybe he’s seen something that bothers him. Hey, that man sitting right behind him looks sort of sinister. And I think he’s watching my artist. Is he following him? Maybe my artist just saw him commit some sort of crime and the other guy’s waiting for a chance to.... Well, you can see what I mean, right?

When I was still living in Ohio, I got up in the middle of the night, not knowing what awoke me. I went to one of my bedroom windows and looked out into the darkness which was broken only by a dim street light nearby. I thought to myself, what if I looked out there and saw a neighbor loading something into the trunk of his car that looked like a body? Worse yet, what if he, sensing someone was watching, suddenly turned and looked my way. Of course, I’d jump back from the window. It’s dark; he couldn’t possibly see me, right? Or could he? I could almost sense the anxiety, feel the sweat on my palms. Another plot in the making? Maybe.

A friend of mine once handed me a photo of a weed infested area beneath a highway overpass. She said, “I was driving along and saw that and thought it would be the perfect place to dump a body.” I love it when my friends support my endeavors. I still have the photo. Never know when it might come in handy...for a plot idea, of course.

I was hiking one day with a friend at a state park. We rounded a bend in the trail and I saw this tunnel-like opening underneath a tangle of overgrown bushes. My first thought? You’ve got it: what a perfect place for the hero or heroine in one of my books to find a body while on a hike with a friend....

So, as you can see, story ideas can spring to mind anytime, anyplace. It’s a blessing and a curse.

When asked where I got the idea for my Spirit Lake series, the answer was an easy one: I dreamt it. The recurring dream was always the same. I was sitting on a fog shrouded dock. It was getting dark. The mist swirled around me, I could hear the water slapping against the pilings. In my mind I knew I was in Pennsylvania. Suddenly a baritone voice said, “Do you know why they call it Spirit Lake?” I turned to see who was there....then woke up. I had no idea if there even was a Spirit Lake, so I went online and found out there was one in Iowa, the other in Idaho. I couldn’t find any reference to a Spirit Lake in Pennsylvania. The dream plagued me for weeks, off and on. During that time, the idea of a story about a haunted inn on a lake began to take shape. I chose Pennsylvania as the site partly because of the dreams and partly because my ancestors settled there when they came over here from Germany in the 1700s. Once I started writing the book, the dreams stopped.

With my shape shifter series, I had no prophetic dreams, just the desire to write something different and fun. I love wolves. They’ve always fascinated me. Adding the paranormal element to a mystery story made it exciting to write and I hope to read.

I also keep a file of story ideas. If I see something in the newspaper that I think is unusual or eerie or mysterious, I cut it out and stick it in the file for future reference. I recently used one of those articles (it describes unexplained blood dripping from the walls of an old house), in a new novel I wrote, one that hasn’t been published yet.

As for how I get the names for my characters, that isn’t quite as spooky. I envision the character in my mind: color of hair, height, eye color, build, etc. Then I try to match the name to the description I have in mind. I have a list of first names that is quite lengthy. I skim through it and usually the choice pops out at me for some reason. As for the last names, I also have a huge list of those. It is called a phone book.

I make a profile sheet for each character, listing their physical descriptions and backgrounds. It makes things much easier for me in the long run. I’m what is known as an organized writer. I don’t like flying by the seat of my pants. My greatest fear is that I will forget something and leave the reader hanging out there wondering why there was no resolution to a certain part of the story.

I tend to be very descriptive when it comes to my characters. I like to tell the reader what they’re wearing in most scenes. I describe rooms in detail, including color schemes. Some readers may like this, some might not. At a seminar once I had a reader tell me that she only liked books where things were described in detail because she had no imagination at all. In other words, just reading that a character had an “interesting face” or that a room was done in earth tones wasn’t sufficient. This woman wanted all the details. I thought about that for a long time and decided that erring on the side of caution was my best bet. I’d describe things in detail. The ones like the woman at the seminar would love it; the ones who liked to use their imaginations would forgive me if the story was gripping enough. So far I haven’t heard anyone complain. Knock on wood.

In closing let me say that I don’t think there is any right or wrong in the creative process. Every author has his or her own methods and that is a good thing. As an author all I want, at the end of the day, is to know that someone, somewhere read my work and enjoyed it.

Chomp, Chomp, Chomp.....

Posted by goodmysteries on January 15, 2012 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)

In case you are wondering that is the sound of me eating my words. About what? E-books, what else

First of all let me make an admission. When e books first emerged the idea filled me with angst. I was nervous, even a little resentful. I was very vocal concerning this new medium. I didn’t want it to replace print books. I am a great advocate of the “printed word” in print. I love going into bookstores and perusing the shelves. I visit the library often and check out books. In my opinion, books were meant to be in printed form. Anything that threatened that was the enemy. On the other hand, I want to save trees and this is certainly a way to do that.

As an author I had to accept this new venue since many publishers, mine included, were embracing it like the second coming. Kindle, from Amazon, burst upon the scene and soon became all the rage, followed closely by Barnes and Noble’s Nook. What about me? I had even more anxiety when I discovered that many publishers were excluding print books from their offerings in favor of the new electronic downloads. Some of my readers were complaining to me that they could no longer get my books in print. I felt helpless. My resentment of e books again surfaced.

Then I got an e mail from an author friend that changed everything. He told me he’d received a message from a woman who had recently purchased one of his e books. She wanted to let him know how much she enjoyed it. No big deal, you say? Well, the reader lives in Nairobi, Kenya. The importance of this was very clear: this new medium has made books available to people all over the world with just the click of a mouse. That’s HUGE. Readers everywhere can order and receive the book of their choice in moments on their Kindle, Nook or other devices. Not days or weeks. Moments!

Don’t get me wrong. I still think readers who prefer print books should be able to order them in that format. But I now see e books as a way for authors to market their work in a new and exciting way. This can only help the publishing industry.

Carol A. Guy


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