Tuesday, March 11, 2014
When I'm reading a book, if the writer has done a good job, I soon find myself identifying with the main character(s). When the character is in peril, my heart beats faster and I feel anxious. So shouldn't it be the same when you are the author and writing from you character's point-of-view?
I think so. How can you make this happen?
For me, it's the same way I make sure to remain in the POV character's mind and body. I climb inside that character and look at his or her world through his or her eyes. I see what this person sees. I feel what the main character feels. I address a challenge in the manner that character would. I can smell what the person smells. And I only know what that person knows--which means I have no idea what anyone else is thinking, I can only guess.
When the character is in peril, I have the same emotions that he or she is experiencing. And the same goes if that emotion is revulsion or love.
So what that all means, is that I must then put into words that will convey all that to the reader. Not an easy task, but important.
Of course this is why an old great-grandmother like me can identify with someone like Deputy Tempe Crabtree and what she is experiencing and often having to figure out in order to solve a case. It's also how a male writer can identify and write from a female point of view and vice-versa.
As a reader, do you identify with the main character in a book? Or if you're a writer, how do you identify with your characters?
Sunday, March 9, 2014
Recently we saw the movie The Monuments Men and loved it. It didn't get rave reviews but everyone I know who saw it, thought it was great. It's the story of the men who were sent to the War Zone to find and rescue the great art that the Nazis had stolen and stockpiled.
I was a kid during World War II and believe me, we saw all the newsreels about the war, the atrocities, etc. No, it wasn't like today when the news is on TV constantly, but if you went to the movies, you saw horrendous images of what was happening overseas via the newsreels. I don't remember seeing anything about the men who went through basic training, had very little skills when it came to soldiering but had a goal to save the great art that was headed for the Führer's Museum.
The movie was excellent and the story needed to be told.
We're also been watching old episodes of the British series about the German invasion and occupation of the Channel Islands between France and Germany.
Island at War is a TV series we've been watching and it's about something else that happened during WWII that I had never heard about. The focus is on one of the Channel Islands between France and England that was invaded and occupied by the Germans. It does an excellent job of portraying what happened and how the citizens' lives were turned upside down.
To tell the truth, I'd never really heard much of anything about these islands.
The series is extremely well done and definitely an eye-opener.
Friday, March 7, 2014
Left Coast Crime is going to be in Monterey this year from March 20-23. The very first LCC I ever attended was in Monterey and it was wonderful. The same couple who organized that first one are in charge this year too, do I know it will be spectacular.
Of course Monterey is always a great place to visit, but going there for LCC is an added bonus.
What's so good about Left Coast Crime? It's a gathering of readers who love mysteries and mystery writers (who are also readers). I've been to enough of these mystery conventions that I've met many fans and writers and in some ways attending LCC will be a bit like going to a big family reunion.
My roommate to be is Madeline Gornell--a fellow mystery writer and a friend. We've roomed together before and the only downside is we tend to talk too late into the night.
I've gone over the list of registered attendees and recognized names of many of my favorite mystery writers as well as those I've met before and am looking forward to seeing again.
The panels are always fun and hard to choose which ones to go to because they all sound good. And I'm on a great panel: Native American Protagonists on Friday at 2:45. Of course there will be copies of Spirit Shapes in the book room.
If you are going to be at this LCC be sure and look for me--the pudgy great-grandmother with the dyed red hair. Tell me "hi" and lets visit.
Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith (I'm hoping I'll have some copies of Murder in the Worst Degree by then.)
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Have you ever visited a place that you instinctively didn’t want to leave? Can you remember how it sounded and smelled and buzzed in your system? That was me in 2007 when I discovered Chincoteague, Virginia. Until that year, I didn’t have any idea that Virginia had an island. None. And I’d lived on the East Coast my entire life. I’ve visited Virginia many times, but I was still shocked. There was an island? I had to see this place, so I went. My family packed up and headed to a place that has courted my soul ever since.
Chincoteague is a quintessential small coastal town. It’s surrounded by harbors and the Atlantic. An old fashioned drawbridge separates the island from the world. The drawbridge might as well be a cone of silence because mainland worries seem to splinter and stop before reaching the tiny community.
The town library is in a quaint little building across the street from a Misty of Chincoteague statue. The local ice cream parlor has a wall of faces who’ve finished the biggest sundae in town. The theatre is one of those small town, two show wonders. Life moves slower. People are kinder. The island measures 3x7 miles small. It bustles with fishermen, craftsmen and people who crave the sea. If that isn’t enough to get you packing your bags (or in my place firing up my laptop) did you know Chincoteague is attached to a sister island, Assateague? Assateague is even smaller than Chincoteague, united by a bridge over a marsh, and home to wildlife. Assateague is a national forest and shoreline. The beaches are pristine. The forest has wild ponies. Did you stop and reread that? Wild. Ponies. There are trails and nature centers and historical lighthouses. I mean. *jaw drop* Where has this place been my whole life? And why can’t I move immediately?
I visited Chincoteague four years before it ever occurred to me I could write anything longer than a grocery list, but the town burrowed into my heart and has since occupied my daydreams. When I started writing in 2011, the town played center stage in many of my stories. It still does.
When I set out to write a mystery with an amateur sleuth, I knew the island was a perfect setting. I wanted to tell readers about the unfathomably gorgeous sunrises over the harbor and the bleating tug boats already busy at work. I needed to tell other in-landers how hilarious and borderline dangerous it was to grill out because gulls lined the roof waiting for dinner to be served. My family loves to grill out, but it was a different experience on Chincoteague. We tag-teamed dinner. Husband opened the grill and ran for the house while I waved a broom overhead to keep the birds from swooping in and making off with our shrimp and scallops. That vacation was the experience of a lifetime. Oh, and I’m terrified of horses, so rounding a corner and coming nose to nose with a wandering pony was a real heart stopping concern for me because I walked everywhere. Who needs a car when nothing is more than a few blocks away? For me, the island was magical. Perfection.
Book one in my mystery series, Murder by the Seaside, flowed easily from vivid memories of that trip. I could literally envision every detail. But then I needed a sequel. I needed a new problem for my heroine. I love the island so much, it was tough to think of a problem and then I wondered, “What kind of things could cause a ruckus on such a peaceful island.” Guess what? I watched a movie that night with Steve Martin and Jack Black. Do you know it? The Big Year? It’s a movie about birders who travel the globe hoping to see the greatest number of different species of birds. You know what island has a ton of awesome birds? *nods* Yep. *steeples fingertips* If a few busloads of birders all rushed to the island to see the same rare bird, it could get kind of full out there. *taps chin* Birders seemed like a great addition to the problems my amateur sleuth already had on her plate, what with work, a new boyfriend, an ex who won’t go away (and he has a dimple). Life. Work. Family. Oh, and a murder. Birders were exactly what she needed to lose her tenuous cool. So, I sent them.
If you need a break from this long cold winter, I hope you’ll consider my new mystery series. Visit my favorite place on earth and smile for a while. Spend a few hours in the sun before heading back into the cold. You’ll be scheduling your Chincoteague vacation before you know it!
Murder Comes Ashore
Patience Price is just settling into her new life as resident counselor on Chincoteague Island when things take a sudden turn for the worse. A collection of body parts have washed up on shore and suddenly nothing feels safe on the quaint island.
Patience instinctively turns to current crush and FBI special agent Sebastian for help, but former flame Adrian is also on the case, hoping that solving the grisly crime will land him a win in the upcoming mayoral election.
When the body count rises and Patience's parents are brought in as suspects, Patience is spurred to begin her own investigation. It's not long before she starts receiving terrifying threats from the killer, and though she's determined to clear her family's name, it seems the closer Patience gets to finding answers, the closer she comes to being the killer's next victim.
Julie Anne Lindsey is a multi-genre author who writes the stories that keep her up at night. She’s a self-proclaimed nerd with a penchant for words and proclivity for fun. Julie lives in rural Ohio with her husband and three small children. Today, she hopes to make someone smile. One day she plans to change the world.
Murder Comes Ashore is a sequel in her new mystery series, Patience Price, Counselor at Large, from Carina Press.
Learn About Julie at:
Monday, March 3, 2014
I’m proud to say it: my new novel, Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery is off to a fine start. Sales have been healthy, I’ve had two successful book signings, and the book has been reviewed generously in the local press and in online media sites. Publishers Weekly gave Hooperman a starred review. The customer reviews on Amazon make me blush out loud.
The reviews that have meant the most to me have come from friends who have bought the book and have taken the time to write me directly (mostly via email), telling me they like the book, and why.
Two responders, though, told me they liked Hooperman but asked me why I decided to give my hero a stammer? Was that necessary? What was the point? I did not take offense at their objection, and I admit that a stammering protagonist tends to slow down what otherwise could be a pretty fast read. In fact, I’m grateful for the question, because it gives me a chance to talk about talking, and about communicating.
Hooperman takes place during the summer of 1972, the summer of the Watergate break-in. The war in Vietnam was raging, and on the home front the rage about the war was loud and passionate. Our country was divided between the Establishment and the Counter-Culture, and never the twain would listen to each other. The division was loud and unpleasant. To paraphrase a line from Cool Hand Luke, what we had here was a failure to communicate.
I wanted to write about this failure to communicate, and so I endowed some of my characters in Hooperman with speech impediments and listening disorders. Hoop stammers. Janie, his life-long love, is so shy she’s practically mute. Lucinda, Hoop’s new love, can’t control her back-sass. Jack and Frank are good friends, but one’s a socialist and the other’s an anarchist, so they make a point of disagreeing on everything. Martin, the returns clerk, has a neurological disorder similar to Tourettes Syndrome, which peppers his every sentence with barnyard scatological cusswords. And so forth.
It’s true that these characters don’t speak clearly. But it’s also true that generally people don’t do enough listening. If we really paid attention—really listened—the speech impediments would not impede communication.
End of lecture.
But there’s another reason I gave my hero, Francis “Hooperman” Johnson a stutter and a stammer. Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery is, after all, a mystery, even though nobody gets killed. A serious crime (major book theft) is going on, and Hoop is hired to find out who’s guilty and to bring that bibliokleptomaniac to justice. He’s an amateur sleuth, a bookstore cop, a private eye.
I’ve always admired crime novel protagonists who have a special problem to overcome. Michael Collins’s Dan Fortune has only one arm. James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux has an on-going battle with alcoholism. William Doonan’s senior sleuth, Henry Grave, has to deal with aging issues like nodding off and forgetting facts. Lionel Essrog, the protagonist of Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn has Tourettes, big-time. Nero Wolfe is obese. Not to mention the problems Virgil Tibbs has to face in the Jim Crow South, or that Jane Tennison has to overcome as the first female Detective Chief Inspector in London’s male-dominated Metropolitan Police Service.
Compared to the obstacles faced by some of these sleuths, Hoop Johnson’s stammer is a walk in the park. In any case, and in spite of his disability, he does manage to earn the respect of his fellow booksellers, and in so doing he solves the mystery.
To those of you who still object to the stammer, because it slows down your reading, I urge you to read slowly, and to listen. I think you’ll find that the stammer is (in the words Mark Twain used to describe Wagner’s music) “not as bad as it sounds.”
Hooperman Johnson is a tall, bushy-bearded man of few words. He works as a bookstore cop, catching shoplifters in the act. It’s a difficult job for a man with a stammer, but somebody’s got to do it, because Maxwell’s Books is getting ripped off big-time. And, more and more, it looks like the thief works for the store.
Who’s stealing the books? Martin West, the foul-mouthed nutcase in charge of shipping and receiving? Millie Larkin, who hates the boss because he’s a man? Could it be Lucinda Baylor, the black and sassy clerk that Hoop’s in love with? Jack Davis, the socialist, or Frank Blanchard, the anarchist? Or maybe even Elmer Maxwell himself, the world-famous pacifist bookseller?
Set in the summer of 1972, the summer of the Watergate break-in, Hooperman is a bookstore mystery without a murder, but full of plot, full of oddball characters, full of laughs, and full of love, some of it poignant, some of it steamy.
For more information about Hooperman, including ordering info, see: http://www.danielpublishing.com/jmd/hooperman.html
|Photo by Clark Lohr|
John M. Daniel is a lifelong bibliophile, having worked in eight bookstores. He’s also the author of fourteen published books, including the well-reviewed Guy Mallon Mystery Series. He lives among the redwoods in Humboldt County, California, with Susan Daniel, his wife and partner. They publish mystery fiction under the imprint Perseverance Press (Daniel & Daniel).
It's an honor to have you visiting me today, John!
Saturday, March 1, 2014
Writing fiction is a great way to live out your fantasies. For instance, I’ve always wanted to own a small restaurant, welcome guests to a Bed and Breakfast, or even run a cooking school. I may be a writer, but I’m also a cook of the amateur variety.
I scratched my itch to own a small restaurant by working in one and then writing about one in the Blue Plate Café Mysteries. The Blue Plate Café is modeled closely on a café in a small East Texas town near where my friends had their B and B ranch. It’s a down-home cooking kind of place, where you get great fried catfish on Saturday night, chicken fried steak and meatloaf almost any day. At the real restaurant, I once ordered a tuna sandwich and realized the tuna came straight from Sam’s. Kate would never do that.
Sometimes magazines feature couples who have either retired or dropped out of the business world to run a B and B. Usually, it’s in a big, old and charming house in a picturesque location, and the people are divinely happy with their lives and the people they meet. I’ve stayed in quite a few B and Bs, including some in Scotland, and I’ve found there’s a wide range—from comfortable and welcoming to stiff and formal, but generally the people who run them are friendly and hospitable—and interesting. The idea intrigues me—I love to cook and entertain, so why not a B and B?
Mostly because I know it’s a lot of work. Friends used to own a ranch B and B, with four cabins on the property—which meant linen to change, houses to clean, breakfast supplies to put in each cabin—usually coffee and a loaf of prune bread (secret recipe). In many B and Bs at a minimum breakfast is provided. I’ve had cold cereal out of a box, blood pudding, plain old eggs and bacon, and lavish breakfast casseroles. My favorite was a spinach soufflé in a wonderful old house in Wind River, Oregon. We ate on a large porch, with lovely place settings at a big table.
The B and B I created for Donna fulfilled my dream of what a B and B should look like—a big, two-story brick house with a wrap-around porch. Inside, hardwood floors gleam, chandeliers sparkle, and the furnishings are casual and cozy—comfortable chairs and couches. An American casual look, but not quite Early American. Of course, there’s a state-of-the-art kitchen that Donna makes no use of—though she likes the Keurig coffee maker. Donna’s solution to serving dinner is to send guests to the Blue Plate, though she does suggest that Kate could provide gourmet meals at the Tremont House.
Yet another of my fantasies appears in Murder at the Tremont House, the second Blue Plate Mystery—a cooking school. I don’t know enough about business or proper cooking techniques to own one, and I recognize that but I do enjoy cooking schools. So I let Donna convince Kate to run a cooking school at The Tremont House. Twelve ladies come weekly to have box lunches from the café, participate in cooking a gourmet meal, and take home dinner for two. Here’s one of their recipes:
4 boneless chicken breast halves
1 Tbsp. milk
4 Tbsp. butter
Juice of one lemon
½ cup chicken broth
Mix milk and egg in a shallow bowl; mix flour and cornmeal in a second bowl.
Pound chicken until it’s as flat as you can get it—¼ inch is the goal. Dip breasts in egg mixture and then in flour/cornmeal mixture.
Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Sauté chicken breasts quickly until browned on both sides, adding more butter if necessary. Remove to platter when browned and cooked through.
Reduce heat. Add lemon juice to skillet. Add broth. Stir to loosen browned bits from bottom of skillet. Return meat to skillet and cook five minutes until warmed through.
Serve with thin lemon slices and chopped parsley for garnish.
Of course, murder and mayhem lurk behind the café, the B and B, and the cooking school.
Murder at Tremont House is the second Blue Plate Mystery from award-winning novelist Judy Alter, following the successful Murder at the Blue Plate Café. Judy is also the author of four books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series: Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, Trouble in a Big Box, and Danger Comes Home. With the Blue Plate Murder series, she moves from inner city Fort Worth to small-town East Texas to create a new set of characters in a setting modeled after a restaurant that was for years one of her family’s favorites.
Follow Judy at http://www.judyalter.com or her two blogs at http://www.judys-stew.blogspot.com or http://potluckwithjudy.blogspot.com. Or look for on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Judy-Alter-Author/366948676705857?fref=ts or on Twitter where she is @judyalter.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
I know . . . the oft-missed stuff of everyday life gets magnified in the fresh mountain air and the still of the forest. My breath was taken away . . . literally, I trudged huffing and puffing up a steep incline. This is not a - stop and smell the roses - lecture that has my head spinning (part of it is the high altitudes) – because most of us relegate our reflective zones to vacations.
I’ve a bone to pick with the intrusion of (not the usefulness of) technology - because who could argue the magnificent medical advances and educational enhancements and such. But when did paying attention mean – as long as no one notices the handheld device on ones lap at a conference? It’s the elbow by the parent next to us to look up because our kid is up to bat, that kind of stuff.
It wasn’t the vistas or the golden Fall leaves on this outdoor adventure that had me reeling, I’ve been noodling over this subject for some time, a long time in fact. Ever since a poet at a writer conference lectured about his decision to be constantly mindful so as not to miss those inspiring opportunities. It’s a disquieting subject given the ramifications, specifically when it comes to that awful word - regret. Regret for the thing we didn’t do (with people), regret for the things we didn’t see (with people) or regret for the time we weren’t in tune when a person needed us most.
As a fiction author it’s a must to hunker deep into the quiet recesses of our imagination where the technology is silent and the distractions are zero. Yes nil! Because how else can you fully unleash the creative juices to develop characters and such. But it happens because we put it on the calendar and set aside anything that keeps us from the task at hand. Has anybody noticed we don’t do this for human beings anymore? Put them on the calendar and then do nothing else when we are with them?
Beyond the must have author cave, it’s the day-to-day grind, littered with moments and visuals that I am afraid we all have a tendency to let slip, because the cyber world had demanded constant attention. Because, you see, we want to see it all and do it all with technology. Not with people, with technology. Common sense as long as we can feel it with our fingertips.
It’s not a hoorah when some one is in need of a kind gesture or a loved one passes or calamity affects our human circle in the form of a terrible decease. But it’s life. Last I knew twitter can’t hug, it doesn’t love. Just the other day I read about the jabs to a football franchise owner who still owns a flip phone. Really, somebody was on him about a flip phone. He looked pretty happy. I wonder about those who stole a moment from a human being to make that post. Form over substance isn’t it?
I better not mention the version of my I-Phone – but I will admit I do own one and many other fine technological devices. So don’t confuse this with technology bashing but rather a moment to consider that it has become our pal. Remember that commercial – I haven’t seen it in a while – where a handsome 60-something guy is sitting in his beautiful living room . . . carrying on a conversation with his phone. There was nobody around but he was smiling ear to ear.
Really? Is that what we want for companionship? It can talk to us and run the vacuum for us and tell us how to get somewhere. It owns us instead of the other way around. Distracted, distracted, distracted. All around us drivers whiz down the road, on autopilot, enjoying their connection de jour. And let’s skip over the safety issues with these behaviors. I like all my Apple products and my texting capability but I also like it when my husband isn’t clicking away and then later say – “You never said that.”
Just the other day I overheard my son describe a current television program in such detail. He is supposed to be completely unplugged from TV and technology what with high school and work and baseball – you know, those things we do with other people - surely he hasn’t a way to keep up with the evening programs? Ok, that’s a stretch.
In spite of my contemplative leanings, I like everybody am caught by the mad dash and quest for perfection. News flash . . . it’ll never be in our technology. Because, gosh darn it, when I thought I needed my laptop to consider this topic, I actually needed a Gatorade and every ounce of my energy to move one foot after the other up the steep winding path, to gasp for my breathe in the thin air, to push through the burning thighs . . .
Down off my soapbox, gotta backlog of emails and tweets.
To be or not to be . . . present. I am just saying – put it down.
Mystery/thriller– Blue Suede Shoes
Meanwhile, Clare Paxton is a woman living the unfinished dream of leaving behind her sleepy hometown of Danfield, Wisconsin. When the girl goes missing, leaving only her tiny blue shoes behind in the dark northern forest, Clare can’t idly stand by as local police fumble the case. Handsome police chief Jared Grady seems far more interested in keeping watch on Clare’s meddling than searching for the girl, and no one in town seems to care that there could be a kidnapper in their midst—or worse. Why would the townspeople of Danfield allow little Mary’s case to go cold?
Secrecy, gossip, suspense, and betrayal weave a tangled web for the residents of Danfield. Clare’s curiosity isn’t so welcome, and soon she discovers more than she might have hoped about her small-town neighbors.
Deborah Reardon’s curiosity about life and passion for storytelling took root during her youth. Like many novelists, Deborah’s winding path through a banking career, exciting travels and family life enriched her understanding of the world around her and provided plenty of material for her stories.
Deborah credits her collaborations with the Wisconsin writing community as having a huge impact on her confidence as a writer. It was during her time living on the outskirts of Milwaukee, in particular, that she thrust herself into an influential confluence of critiques, writing conferences and focused workshops. Persistence and a beautiful landscape sparked the beginning of Blue Suede Shoes. Today, living in Texas, Deborah is working on a number of writing projects to include the sequel to Blue Suede Shoes.
Author – Blue Suede Shoes
Twitter: https://twitter.com/deborahs_inkLinked In: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/deborah-reardon/38/206/483
Thanks for visiting me today, Deborah!