Friday, October 29, 2010

OT: Bear Tagging

Rough day? A little gloomy for whatever reason?

Sometimes a bit of simplification is a good thing. Sometimes we need to take a break. And sometimes, it feels good just to feel good.

Bear tagging, you ask?

A friend sent me this video. I must say, it kind of made me want to be Canadian.

CR: The Burning Wire by Jeffery Deaver.

It's all better with friends.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

When the Words and the Reader Meet in the Middle

We're experiencing a couple of very busy days at the Brantley abode, culminating with an ER visit this afternoon with my MIL that began shortly after noon and is yet to end. My belief is that there is nothing imminently life-threatening (or I wouldn't be here now), but the focus has been elsewhere.

The thing is, when you get to a certain stage in your life, regardless sometimes of the strength and certitude of your faith, there's an element of fear that eeks into the thoughts of even the strongest among us. Such is the stuff that makes us human, interesting, and worth loving.

Please enjoy the message from this interview with Shawna Yang Ryan, and revel in the magnitude of living.

CR: The Burning Wire by Jeffery Deaver.

It's all better with friends. ALL of it.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Agent Update

It was one of those gem-encrusted fall mornings in Colorado. The trees were red and orange and yellow and gorgeous. The mountains were a darker blue than the sky and topped with some fresh snow that the sun lit on fire. If nothing else, the day was already perfect because of my drive to the mini-conference sponsored by Heart of Denver Romance Writers, a chapter of RWA.

Not very many years ago I regularly spoke to strangers. To large groups. To people up and down the social ladder. All with confidence and fully-formed thoughts. I've noticed lately that often I'm at a loss to communicate verbally in any meaningful way. Could be I spend more time than I should inside my isolated little writing bubble.

My time to pitch the agent attending the mini-conference was moved from before lunch to immediately after. Which of course is when I wanted to take a nap. I don't know why I got so nerved up, but I did. We finally settled on calling my manuscript a thriller because it isn't a mystery and doesn't have much romance. Fine. Call it whatever you want. She said my 80,000 word count was perfect. I handed her the written pitch because for the life of me I couldn't string three words together, let alone a cleverly crafted sentence or two. Then, because I was a little presumptuous and just wanted to show her that although I couldn't speak, I was prepared, I handed her the query letter.

She asked for a synopsis and a full. Which is nice, but I imagine she asked everyone for a synopsis and a full.

Just sayin'.

CR: The Burning Wire by Jeffery Deaver

It's all better with friends.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Publishing's Teasin' Season

Colorado is entering what I call the Teasin' Season. We have two of those. People—who don't live in Colorado—often refer to them as Spring and Fall. Right now we're getting teased from summer into winter. We're probably looking at our first freeze next week, but we've enjoyed many Thanksgivings in short sleeves. Looking for all four seasons in one day? Check out Colorado.

I love Teasin' Seasons. Change holds promise. An opportunity to start with a clean slate. I like Mondays for the same reason, call me crazy.

The changes in publishing are almost overwhelming. In a weird way, I've been kind of glad to not be personally involved. At least I'm not personally involved at this minute. I'll be happy to figure out the lay of the land when I'm actually walking on it, ya know? Why get all nuts over something I have no control over? I don't have a dog in the fight . . . today.

Is publishing teasing into another season? Probably. But no one knows for sure what that season is going to look like. I sort of think it's going to be fantastic. A mixture of traditional and alternative. Something for everyone.

And parity. More informed people than yours truly are the ones to look to for information on this part of the change, but that doesn't mean I can't feel it in the wings.

What we're going through now is the shake-out. The leaves falling to make way for new buds.

Some of those buds won't open. To me, those are the people who haven't learned the craft, who haven't paid their dues. People (I can't quite call them writers) who have shifted from vanity press to the electronic options. They'll figure out they need to invest more time, or they'll move on.

Is it an accident I'm using the analogy of budding trees to the e-book industry? I wish I could say not, I figured it out a split second before I asked the question. But I have been called a tree hugger once or twice.

This entire post actually came about because I had the opportunity to read what I'm calling the E-ARC for a book scheduled to be available in November. This author has not yet been published, but she's paid her dues and studied her craft . . . and made the decision to take control of her own destiny. I'll be talking about her a little more as we get near the release date, but make a note to be looking for Widow's Row by Lala Corriere online next month.

CR: The Burning Wire by Jeffery Deaver.

It's all better with friends.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Waiting for My Next "R"

Querying agents sucks. Makes me begin to doubt my critique partners who said I need to "get it out there." I'm waiting for one more rejection (snail mail) before I feel like I can get my legs underneath me and move on.

I have a new, thricely (or more) revised query letter. To be fair, I think this latest round (okay, a round can be three) of agents didn't have the advantage of the Top-Of-My-Game query. My newest incarnation starts out with a kick. Pretty sure no one would be able to resist asking for a partial at least. Because they didn't get the newest and blingiest, I can't entirely blame them for not seeing the possibility.

Ugh. Anyone want to buy the Brooklyn Bridge?

For some reason, I can handle rejection only in so many numbers. It's easier to say "Next!" when you aren't getting blown down the sewer by fifteen people who (some nice and some not), tell you you're not their cup of tea. My magic threshold seems to be something under six. Three, I can do.

My cheerleader/critique partner/freelance editor, Susan Lohrer, thinks the worst that will happen with my new query letter is that an agent will wonder what else I'm working on and I'll be able to tell him/her that I have this awesome new project . . . and my other cp, author Kelly Irvin, is as bad—or is it good? Sometimes the people who have faith in us become a (loving) thorn in our sides.

In the meantime, I'll keep working on my newest. It's both my anchor and my escape.

CR: The Burning Wire by Jeffery Deaver.

It's all better with friends.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Kelley Armstrong: What Keeps Them Coming Back

Some terrific advice concerning characterization and what you should do after your first book is published from Kelley Armstrong.

How do you keep your characters from being two dimensional?

CR: The Burning Wire by Jeffery Deaver.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Timothy Hallinan's Poke Rafferty Series

I finished Timothy Hallinan's The Queen of Patpong this morning. Well, twice this morning.

Forced to stop reading a little after 1 a.m. because my vision was going wonky (I'm usually lights-out by 11 at the latest) I got up this morning, pushed the button for my French Roast and continued until the end.

For those reading this series (and everyone should), here's my tip for Queen: Do not read chapter 19 thinking you'll go to sleep afterward. Ain't gonna happen.

But there's more from a writer's view. It is totally interfering with my own work at this point. Until I get it out of my system (thank goodness for blogs) it's in the way. I try to focus on the story I'm writing (which I totally adore, and has some potential in its own right) but this unseen element keeps punching me in the shoulder. So. In the interest of me getting back to my cadaver dogs and foolish humans, here's what I want to expound on.

The Poke Rafferty series in general: The second one is the weakest of the four, but still good. Don't skip it. They all hang together like some delicate lace. Read them in order. Read them all.

Hallinan's characterization:They are rich and complex. They live in a rich and complex society (Bangkok) and one bleeds into the other. They both will rip your heart out. Heroes abound in the most unlikely places. And no one, no one, has given me an eight or nine or ten-year old girl better than Timothy Hallinan.

Chapter Length: I haven't checked this, but my impression was that somehow they got longer in the last two books. There were scene breaks, but personally, I miss the shorter chapters. Could have been an editorial/publisher/cost thing. (So, in reference to my tip, Chapter 19 in Queen is long. And intense. Just sayin'.)

Third Person Present: This is awesome. I don't know how long it took him to find his voice there, but you have got to check it out. I don't know if it's operator error or truth, but on my Kindle edition of the first book in the series, A Nail Through the Heart, I did a search for the word "was". Guess what, it showed up a grand total of . . . . ZERO times.

Action scenes: We've been taught that short, bullet-type sentences help convey the speed and urgency of a situation. I get that. It's true. The problem I've seen with this technique in the past is that an action scene can come out sounding like a To-Do list. Hallinan conveys intensity using a zillion commas. Here's one sentence (if I can choose just one—okay, I picked three in succession) from page 256 of The Queen of Patpong :

She's emitting a high, earsplitting squeal, as even and unvarying as an electronic alarm. Her assailant brings up a hand and hits her with a heavy slap that rocks her head and loosens her grip, and she pitches forward onto her stomach. The man brings back a foot to kick her.

I just sat back and said, "Oh, wow."

CR: Think I'll begin a Jeffery Deaver tonight. One I bought at the Writer's Police Academy. Sorry, can't think of the name right now.

It's all better with friends.

Monday, October 11, 2010

E-Book Price Points

Well, whaddayaknow? I found out I actually have a Go Ahead & Buy price point.

Ready to download a sample for Lisa Gardner's Alone, I noticed it was priced at $2.39. Since Gardner is not a new author to me, there was little risk, and for $2.39, why bother with all the extra steps? Mark that one SOLD.

This came as kind of a surprise to me because I hadn't actually considered I had a price point for purchase without inspection. Would I have bought it at the more traditional $2.99? I don't know. But more than $2.99, I'm pretty sure I'd be sampling first.

For example, I love Dean Koontz, but rather than bankrupt myself, I have about five of his in my sample folder to test before I buy. Purchasing every book I WANT would probably lead to household angst, not to mention an empty refrigerator.

I don't think the variety of pricing will impact much of anything. I will buy what I want to read. Period. If that's Koontz for $5.99 or $24.99, or a 'new to me' author for $1.99, I'm likely to sample first. If I like the story, the writing, I'll purchase it. Rather then denigrating the value of an author, I'm simply tickled pink at what I paid for something. A bargain is fun. Those in publishing know where the paychecks are going, and why.

But it seems, at least for one moment, with one author and one book, my price point was $2.39.

Have you discovered yours? That magical price where you throw all caution to the wind and take a wild gamble?

CR: The Queen of Patpong by Timothy Hallinan (who has the grand plan to blog for 365 days straight).

It's all better with friends.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

POV Shifts and 100 Queries

POV Shifts. We're encouraged to avoid them like the plague. Head-hopping is one of those things (and I totally subscribe to this notion) that gives the general reader a sense of disquiet. They're not sure why, but they really don't like this particular book.

But there are transitions that, artfully implemented, can make the shift flawless.

I think the first instruction I've seen for this notion was from Vicki Hinze, and I couldn't tell you what she said. I just want to give her credit for pushing me to consider an alternative.

Tonight I read a downloaded sample of award-winning author Louise Penny's Bury Your Dead. It's received flattering comments on DorothyL and 4MA (two online groups of mystery lovers), and I decided to check it out.

Ms. Penny's POV shift threw me at first because of my training. When I went back to see what happened, I saw a master at work. I described it to my critique partners as taking her POV character and walking around a corner, where the next one takes over flawlessly. If you can download a sample of her book, I highly recommend it as a study piece.

How long does it take? I just read a guest post on agent Nathan Bransford's blog about two siblings having a contest as to who could get 100 rejections first. This from agents, not publishers. Can I just say . . . ugh?

I've re-begun the query process for a complete my critique partners tell me is worthy. I think I have about six rejections so far, and at some level, I've felt every one of them. The little girl in me who wants to please everyone is having a difficult time making room for the big girl in me who is determined to carve out a path in this jungle. There are poisonous plants all around, teeth-baring tigers, and vines so thick I have to hack my way through. But still. This is where my heart is.

CR: The Queen of Patpong by Timothy Hallinan in hardback.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Social Networking Marketing Etiquette


Do you sense a little desperation?

If someone I know recommends an author or a book, it means something. That person and I presumably have a little history. They know me, what I enjoy reading and whether or not I'm in a financial position to buy something. Well, maybe not that last bit, but then there are always libraries.

But when I've just met you? Via Twitter or Facebook? And you slam me with a double-edged marketing sword?

Thank you for following me/friending me. I love you already even though I don't know you. And guess what? You will simply love my book, even though it's self-published, don't worry because it was edited by my sister-in-law. Here's the link: buy buy buy.


I'm trying to become more active on Facebook. I adore the conciseness of Twitter, but occasionally there are bigger fish that need frying. Enter Facebook. Unfortunately, I've discovered where all the fish go no one has bought. It's like a reverse hook. Blick. And ouch. And P-U!

I know this takes time—and maybe you feel like you've run out—but let ME discover you. Let ME decide I want to find out a litte more. Let ME begin to hear what others are saying about you. After all, when it's my dollars, it really is all about ME.

Yeah. I know that in this day and age of instant gratification, of communication that is almost mind-reading, anything longer than two shakes is too long. But too bad. If you're on a social network, become my social friend first. Be interesting. Be supportive. Make me want to seek out more information about you.

I like the process of discovery. And I might even tell a person or two about it. And then, I could actually put out some money.

Just sayin'.

CR: Breathing Water by Timothy Hallinan on my Kindle. And who, btw, I have absolutely no hesitation in doling out my my hard-earned cash to read. Seriously. Getting ready to head to his backlist.

It's all better with friends.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Writer's Police Academy: Personal Highlight

If the photograph was of me alone, it would be destined for the delete key (one of the most amazing elements of digital photography in my estimation), but because Jeffery Deaver is in it, it's a keeper.

Jeffery Deaver was the keynote speaker at this year's WPA. Not only that, he attended the workshops! No kidding.

I was sitting in the workshop presented by Richard Helms examing the difference between inductive and deductive criminal profiling when Jeff Deaver walked in and took a seat. I thought Dr. Helms would either bust a gut or float off into never-never land when that happened. To his credit, the instructor recovered and probably not too many people noted his Fluster Moment.

For those of you who may have missed it, here's a post from the past regarding Jeffery Deaver's writing process.

CR: Breathing Water by Timothy Hallinan on my Kindle.

It's all better with friends.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Writer's Police Academy: Jail Search

As a volunteer (patsy) for the jail search portion, I was moving lickity split to uncover contraband with my partner, Pat Brown. (Doesn't it look like my hair is flowing? That's totally the talent of my cp/roommate/photog Kelly Irvin. Trust me. With the humidity of North Carolina, nothing much really 'flows'.)

If, during a search, a prisoner is found to have a stockpile of issued items (ie: toilet paper), he or she has opened a store. The question is, what is the currency?

And here's a visual for you:

Prisoner intake involves a visual strip search if the offense was violent, or if drugs were involved.

Visual strip search:

—all clothing is removed

—spread buttock's cheeks



I gather the intake personnel at the jail have been surprised more than once to see the items 'issued' from this type of search.

With the exception of a photograph tomorrow, this will end my Writer's Police Academy posts.

In addition to what I've covered here, I have notes on CSI, EMS, the reenactment of a campus shooter, a session on why people kill (that has some significant, lingering images), a ton of notes on Forensic Pathology, some significant information regarding inductive vs. deductive criminal profiling and a few bits about going undercover.

If you'd like some additional detail I may have, please feel free to email me.

CR: Breathing Water by Timothy Hallinan on my Kindle.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Writer's Police Academy: Underwater Recovery

This was fascinating to me. I suppose it might have something to do with all of the "Lake" movies I've watched over the years where bodies were stowed underwater.

The thing is, most of the Underwater Recovery Team's time is spent recovering evidence—weapons, stolen property and things along those lines. Not so much bodies.

But, if you are writing about a body in the depths, here are some interesting bits:

Prior to body recovery, photos are taken and as much area as possible is processed for evidence.

The bag (pictured) used to recover the body is easily 6+" long and about 4" wide. It is bright yellow with bright blue straps. It comes in five pieces.

There are at least two divers involved in a recovery. One is literally the mule who carries all of the equipment down. The other diver is responsible for making sure the body is kept as intact as possible, and knows exactly what needs to happen first, second, third, etc., in terms of securing it within the body bag.

A pony bottle (pictured in the foreground) holds about 19 cubic feet of air and is used to fill the bag with enough air to slowly float the body to the surface. The divers are with it as it rises.

This is just a sampling of what Underwater Recovery had to offer, so I would encourage any of you to dig a little deeper if you need to. Contact your local unit, or consider attending the next Writer's Police Academy.

CR: Breathing Water by Timothy Hallinan on my Kindle.

It's all better with friends.