Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Jeffery Deaver's Writing Process

I've been trying for days, literally, to get this downloaded video on my blog. For someone who is kind of a Gadget Girl, I can be very technically challenged.

Anyway . . . I hope you enjoy it.


I'm moaning over what I thought was going to be a final read-through turning into an edit. But Jeffery Deaver's process has made me want to suck my moaning right back down my throat.

Granted, my little manuscript is a simple one, but still . . . this is amazing. Perspective, ya know?

CR: Under the Dome by Stephen King. Expect to see this one here for a while. Slow reader + thick book = epic read. Another thick one that has remained on my all time favorites list is not a mystery or a suspense. Tom Wolfe's A Man in Full is around 300 pages less then King's. I'm afraid to read it again because I'd hate not to still love it.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Elizabeth Gilbert's Creativity Partner

Is it all up to you, or do you have a little help when you put those words on the screen, or the notepad, or peck them out on your IBM Selectric or Royal typewriter?

For people who have a strong faith, there's little doubt that when they achieve success—it wasn't all their own doing. Life's a little easier, except maybe the failure parts.

For people who are convinced they make their own success or failure there's an enormous amount of pressure.

Elizabeth Gilbert speaks here about how she's approaching her work following the amazing success of Eat, Pray, Love. I was impressed with her ability to speak in an almost casual manner, without notes, to the audience. She reminded me, in some ways, of my friend Kelly Irvin, who has been around this blog now for a while.

I love the idea of just showing up to do my job. The rest either comes or it doesn't. But at least I'm doing my part.

The video is almost 20 minutes, so you might want to save this for a later look. But do come back. Watch it, and let me know what you think.

CR: Under the Dome by Stephen King. The word was that this book was in the same amazing style as The Stand, which is one of my all-time favorites. The word was right. I just wish I would've bought this on Kindle. Leaving for a trip in about a week and this thing weighs a ton.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Former Journalist Writes a Traditional, Cozy, Hard-boiled, Thriller

Today, please welcome Gerrie Ferris Finger. Gerrie is a former reporter who is full of all things southern.

This is one of my very favorite tidbits from her website (aside from the fact that she obviously loves dogs):

I covered crime for the newspaper. Real crime is sordid, with no romance or redeeming features. Justice often doesn't prevail. Real people go back to miserable lives. In writing fictional crime, I can make the good guys winners and give the bad guys what they deserve.

Gerrie has a new release of an award winning novel coming up, and I invited her to tell us about it here.

By the way, Gerrie—love the cover!

Thanks, Peg, for letting me drop by.

My novel, The End Game, won the Malice Domestic/St. Martin's Press First Traditional Mystery competition last year. The hard cover will be released on April 27, 2010 in time for the writer/reader convention Malice Domestic in Washington, D. C.

Here is a quote from the publisher: "The End Game features a strong new heroine in a vivid Southern setting. Gerrie Ferris Finger puts a new spin on the classic mystery novel."

Traditional and classic, but what is the spin? That gets into a discussion of genres. Readers who prefer certain genres ask me, "What is yours?"

Genres are broad classifications like the traditional mystery, the hard-boiled crime story, the thriller. Throw in subgenres – the medical thriller, the noir, the English manor cozy, the police procedural – it's enough to confound the purist. So into what genre does The End Game fall?

Robin Agnew reviewed The End Game a couple of weeks ago. Here is her take:

"… it’s hardly a cozy, though it gives a nod to the traditional mystery through the use of an actual locked room murder and some tricky stuff involving train whistles… (It's) fairly hard boiled, and so is the topic she’s chosen to write about: missing children. Her spare prose and unsentimental writing style get you through some of the hard stuff in the story. Her main character, Moriah Dru, runs an agency called Child Trace, Inc. She’s retired from the police force and often works with her ex-partner, Rick Lake, as she does in this book. … Like a runaway freight train, this novel is all about narrative drive."

Did you detect a thriller element in Robin's last sentence? That's because my traditional novel with noir and cozy elements turns into a thriller.

My prose is spare like noir. My heroine, who tells the story, experiences the crime through unsentimental eyes, though at times she wishes she were tougher. What makes spare prose? Using fewer adjectives and adverbs. I learned that from reporting stories for the Atlanta newspaper. If I had a twenty-inch "hole" to fit three days worth of research, I had to make every word count.

Robin again: "The investigation seems like an explication of the neighborhood – the relationships and resentments of those who have lived in it for a long time – but really the author is taking you by the hand and letting you think over each resident as a possible suspect."

Here The End Game is a traditional, rather cozy mystery. We have a woman who resembles Christie's Miss Marple, a dressmaker who drinks tea and knows everything that goes on in the neighborhood. We know she's withholding information, but not why.

So that's The End Game, spun into a traditional, cozy, hard-boiled thriller.


Thank you for teasing us a little, Gerrie. It was fun.

My wishes for continued success with both this novel, and those that will come next.

You can read an excerpt of The End Game at Gerrie's website.

CR: Just about finished with Robin Burcell's The Bone Chamber. It's a completely riveting book. If you read The De Vinci Code, and the premise intrigued you, you are gonna love Robin's book.

It's all better with friends.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Female Suspense Authors . . . Add Two

I'm bustin' my buttons with excitement. It's kind of like when you learn a new word and suddenly notice that word everywhere you look.

(Okay, yeah. The picture has nothing to do with buttons. But I promise you, if you go to Morgue File and put in "buttons" this little fella is in the pile of pics to choose from. And I couldn't say no.)

A few weeks ago, I shared a conversation my friend Leslie and I had regarding top-notch female suspense writers and the apparent lack thereof. Like magic, I've found two to add to a list I hope to see growing as the year goes by.

These women should be household names. Seriously.

I recently completed Angel's Tip by Alafair Burke. It was terrific. A strong—but still vulnerable—female protag in a solidly written suspense involving a serial killer . . . what more could one hope for? In fact, based on that read, I've preordered her new one, 212.

Today at lunch I opened the cover of The Bone Chamber by Robin Burcell. I only had time to read one chapter, but I know this is going to be a fabulous story filled with high energy, suspense, and authoritative juice. In only a few short pages, I'm wowed.

The connective tissue, aside from fantastic writing, is the flavor they each lay down in their stories. Authenticity. It doesn't come from detailed, textbook data strewn across the page, but rather from subtle imagery and assumption that the reader is neither a dummy or a frustrated student of minutia. They don't have to show me how much they know, because by achieving a brilliant balance I trust them both implicitly. They don't allow facts to get in the way of the story.

I'm hooked.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Writerly Wisdom

Do you have a favorite writing quote?

I've got gobs, but here are a few of my favorites:

"A writer must have all the confidence in the world when writing the first draft and none whatsoever when editing subsequent drafts." T. Davis Bunn

"Writing is easy. You just stare at the paper until blood drips from your forehead." Gene Fowler

"The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." Sylvia Plath (This one is currently stuck in the frame that holds my 2010 goals.)

"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." Jack London

"I write when I'm inspired, and I see to it that I'm inspired at nine o'clock every morning." Peter De Vries

"When you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip." Elmore Leonard

Oh! One more . . .

"Success is going from one failure to the next without losing enthusiasm." Winston Churchill

CR: Blood Game by Iris Johansen.

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Age Angst

An agent on Twitter was having a hard time with what I assume was a submission.

The female character in this submission had her head on straight. Strong, educated, good looking. The male character had his head on straight. Strong, educated, good looking.

The agent's issue was that the female was twenty-five and the male, forty-two. Their relationship wasn't being billed as a woman looking for a father-figure, or a man trying to hold onto his youth and be seen with nice looking eye-candy. The conflict in the story was centered elsewhere.

But the age difference of this couple bugged the agent.

A different example of age angst: I've heard arguments (excuses?) over and over about what publishing houses are looking for and what they're rejecting based on the ages represented by the protags. But hey, I read Harry Potter and loved them. I also loved Emily Pollifax and Miss Marple. The story ruled, and the skill with which the characters were drawn made me care about them regardless of their age.

Do you think there is something to this, or is it just an excuse to reject a story?

CR: Angel's Tip by Alafair Burke.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, March 5, 2010

OT - For B

I clicked open an email this morning from someone who has become a dear friend. She told me she was on her way to see her child. In the hospital.

My planned post will wait for another day. This one is for "B."

You and I, we’ve never met. And today you almost made sure we never would.

Darkness and Despair can become the controlling forces in our lives. They can make us see only them. Feel only them. Hear and taste, only them.

Part of us wants it to end. Another part of us wants to make a statement. Let someone know how we feel. Maybe by making this one big, final statement, everyone will understand.

You and I, we’ve never met. But I know you’re beautiful. I know you’re smart and compassionate and have fabulous things to offer the world. I know you’re strong. Stronger even than you think.

The woman who ran to you? The woman whose eyes can express her soul and are now red-rimmed and fearful?

You are everything to her.

If she could take away your pain, she would add it to hers and be happy to find herself doubled-over with the weight.

You and I, we’ve never met. But I’m looking forward to the day when we do.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Boiling POVs

The book I'm reading is an enthralling story.

There is one thing I wish I would've figured out sooner, though. And that one thing points out a reading flaw I have.

If you've followed this blog at all, you know I read prologues, epilogues, acknowledgements, even the page that has the ISBN number on it.

I know, from memories lodged in my brain, that I have in fact read the little beginnings of chapters that show different locales, or character names to indicate POV. (I also remember that chapter titles can bug me if there isn't an immediate or strong tie-in, but that's another topic.)

What I wasn't following very well with The Seige by Stephen White was the little chapter beginnings that said Friday morning, Saturday mid-afternoon, Saturday late afternoon. Until they started bouncing around a bit, I just assumed we were going in chronological order. Imagine my consternation until I figured it out. A bolder, in-your-face font might have gotten my attention. Maybe. Just something to think about should I use this technique down the road.

But that's not the main thing to learn from this book.

Have you read it?

The main thing—the most striking thing—is White's use of first-person, third-person past and third-person present. And a couple of quick POV shifts for a sentence or two mid-scene. And most of it works. Even though I'm aware of it happening. Normally, I would be kicking up with a bit of a tantrum. A Cranky-Writer-Rule-Speak pout. But in general, White pulls it off. (Except maybe not the very short omniscient bits. Sheesh.)

The reason I think that it works (aside from his skill) is that he assigns first-person to the primary character. First-person present also belongs just to one character. Everyone else is third-person past. The reader gets used to the "tone" at the beginning of each chapter.

I've decided its effectiveness lies in the fact that it's like a boiling pot of water. All of that heat and action and bubbling.

If you want to get a look at how this author is doing this, get hold of this book. Plus, it's an incredibly interesting story. I'd love to see more of Sam Purdy.

You know what I'm reading.

It's all better with friends.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Another Great Review for A DEADLY WILDERNESS

Join me in congratulating Kelly Irvin for her outstanding success with her debut novel.

by Kelly Irvin

RT Rating: * * * *
Publisher: FIVE STAR
Published: January 2010
Type: Romantic Suspense

Irvin imparts important lessons about putting your faith in God, and she has a subtle way of teaching them without being preachy. In the process Irvin never neglects the story, which combines a good mystery with strong interpersonal relationships.
Summary: Police officer Ray Johnson is enjoying a much-needed break from investigating murders when he stumbles onto a dead body while hiking. Unfortunately, he's with his girlfriend's 8-year-old son, and Susana is furious with him for endangering Marco's life.

Ray is caught between a job he finds rewarding and Susana, who wants him in a safer line of work. As Ray becomes immersed in trying to solve multiple murders, he prays that Susana will accept his job and give their relationship another chance. (FIVE STAR, Jan., 354 pp., $25.95)

—Barb Anderson

CR: The Siege by Stephen White

It's all better with friends.