Thursday, December 30, 2010

An Uncommonly Delicious Book

Every once in a while, I run across a book that's uncommonly delicious, and I want to tell you about it.

I began reading Least Wanted by Debbi Mack yesterday afternoon. I would have finished it last night but my eyes got tired. I finished it this morning.

This is Mack's second novel featuring attorney Sam McRae, and I liked it. A lot. She took risks with this one. Any time an author tries to reproduce dialect, there's a challenge. Mack does it well in this book. Least Wanted takes on some topics most writers would steer clear of, but she handles them with just the right amount of reality and compassion, without dwelling in judgement.

It's an e-book, and for a grand total of 99 cents, you have hours of solid entertainment. There is no better deal.

If you haven't discovered it already, not all e-books are created equal. The technology to format and keep the editing solid is still getting the kinks worked out. (And between you and me, I'm pretty sure there's a slew of e-books out there that haven't met an editor who knew what she was doing.)

Mack delivers it all. A great story, developing characters, excellent writing and an e-book experience that sets the bar.

For those of you who received a Kindle for Christmas, treat yourself to a Mack for the New Year.

CR: Secrets to Die For by L.J. Sellers

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Post-Holiday Fog

I'm having a bit of trouble getting refocused. From November through the first week in January, we go from one celebration to the next. All of them important. All of them filled with love. All of them mentally staggering in their consumption of available attention.

Half of me loves to be carefree and willing to take off on the spur of the moment. The other part of me needs structure. Routine, and a good schedule, go a long way in helping me stay disciplined and focused. Disciplined and focused helps me feel good about what I've accomplished at the end of the day.

So. Part of my post-holiday plan (and I'm including everything post-Christmas) has to be making a schedule to get back on track.

What about you? Do you have trouble refocusing? What tricks do you use to get back where you want to be?

CR: The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Colorado Christmas, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band!

There are parts of Colorado where people are wearing shorts and playing golf, I'm sad to report. Here's my wish, on so many levels:

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

E-Book Reading

This quote was posted on the Sisters-in-Crime loop recently and I loved it:

"Technology is not a barrier to depth, to engagement, to the cultural discussion, and that perhaps we want the same thing from our reading as we always have, regardless of the form it takes.... The issue is not what we read on, just as the issue is not what we read. The issue is that we read, that we continue to interact with long-form writing; by altering the conditions of the conversation, e-books and e-readers have already served an essential purpose.... This, I think, is what e-books have to offer: the promise of immersion, enhanced or otherwise, just as their analog counterparts have always done."
--David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times book critic, in an essay that will appear in Sunday's print edition of the paper

If you're debating whether or not to get an e-reader, maybe you should wait. It doesn't matter . . . as long as you read.

Some amazing new books, as well as a large number of out of print books, are only available electronically. A Kindle is my best entry into their pages. The application is available free for dozens of venues, but I vastly prefer reading on my Kindle to reading on my computer.

For me? I love my Kindle 3. I gifted my Kindle 2 to my husband, who has yet to finish off his pile of DTBs (Dead Tree Books) to familiarize himself with the wonders and benefits of electronic immersion into words. I'm not worried. He will. And I will continue to read DTBs. Because I love them as well.

It's the words that are important. Yesterday, today and tomorrow. It's the stories. The worlds. The magic.

CR: Skin Deep by Timothy Hallinan on my Kindle

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Writing with Vulnerability

I like my stories intense. To me, intensity builds to extremes when the stories aren't just about plot. They're about character. The people are touchable and real and maybe someone I know. They might even be me.

Not only is this video not related to suspense, it's also not related to fiction. But the emotions and memories and leap of faith to another place and circumstance are definitely tools, as suspense novelists—or any novelists, for that matter—we need to employ.

When I write scenes requiring honesty, self-reflection, and vulnerability I always need to take a moment first. To say a prayer, or more often the case, groan one. Then I can sink a little deeper into myself and come up with something worthwhile. Something with impact that has that magic goo every single one of us shares. The stuff we don't talk about but all know about.

You know. That stuff.

Koren Zailckas looks like she's about seventeen, yet in this short interview, we get a sense she's lived however many years she's been on this planet with great depth.

CR: Skin Deep by Timothy Hallinan on my Kindle.

It's all better with friends.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Criminal Profiling

I confess. I occasionally watch Criminal Minds. In fact, one of my all-time favorite episodes of any television program ever is a Criminal Minds show. If you can get your eyes on one called Riding the Lightning, don't hesitate. Just make sure you have some tissues nearby. I will watch that one I-don't-care how many times. And I don't care how accurate it is. It gets to me.

But as a series, CM has never felt quite right. Too many leaps. Too many things that seem to be pulled out of a hat, magician-style.

At Lee Lofland's Writers' Police Academy I attended a class on profiling serial offenders by Rick Helms. In addition to being a retired forensic psychologist, Helms is an award winning author of ten published novels.

This presentation covered inductive verses deductive criminal profiling, and for the sake of brevity, I'll boil it down to a seriously low level.

Inductive profiling (the kind we see most often on television) is focused primarily on a broad criminal base. Time after time, in actual cases, this line of reasoning has proven fallible, and is often referred to as 'cookbook forensics.' It uses demographic characteristics, primarily of those criminals who are behind bars—not necessarily the smartest examples of criminal behavior.

A strong cornerstone of inductive profiling is the Macdonald Triad: animal cruelty, obsession with fire setting and bedwetting.

Deductive profiling (which to many professionals is the preferred method) drills down to the individual criminal with a heavy emphasis on victimology. It also calls for strong analysis of the crime scene, forensics and motivation.

The motivation analysis for deductive profiling suggests that:

-no offender acts without motivation
-no two cases are alike
-motivations are unique to the offender
-behavior develops uniquely
-most recent offense may not resembe the first offense
-an offender is capable of multiple motives
-those motives can change

So, when you're writing your law enforcement response to a killer, you might want to check out the difference between what used to be used with regularity (and is the staple of most television programs) and what professionals are relying on today.

CR: Skin Deep by Timothy Hallinan.

It's all better with friends.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Spelling Matters

The first thing I notice is that this guy can talk fast. He obviously doesn't live in my house.

The second thing I notice is that the word "researcher" doesn't quite fit the explanation. But who cares?

It's all in fun.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

From Agatha Christie to Johnny Mathis to WIDOW'S ROW

Please join me in an enthusiastic welcome to my sister, Lala Corriere, whose debut novel, Widow's Row is currently available through Amazon. You can order it by clicking here.

It's a terrific read, with wonderful characters and a spitfire of a story. For $4.99 you will get huge entertainment value.

Now, here's Lala.

Peg writes suspense. I write suspense. Perhaps this is a learned behavior. Our mother always enjoyed afternoon time curled up with an Agatha Christie or, later, a Mary Higgins Clark.

Nancy Drew was every little girl’s favorite read, me included, but I admit I’d often venture over to see what the Hardy Boys were doing.

Then came Dark Shadows. OMG. I couldn’t get enough of Barnabas Collins. I devoured every word of every book.

I’ve been writing full-time since 2001. What a journey! My first manuscript largely reflected my life, or what I dreamed of for my life. It is widely known that budding novelists’ first works are all about ‘me’. I tried to deny that little annoying fact.

Contemplating my first finished manuscript * I soon realized that my favorite scenes to both read and write delved into the dark and the nefarious.

Shrink Analysis I:
I don’t know why I like to be scared. It’s my mommy’s fault.

I prefer writing suspense over the mystery. Maybe I’m bad with clues. I like to have a pretty good idea who the bad guy is and I want to scream, “Breecie. It’s him! Watch out!”

Vampires and wizards are big money. So says the market. I’m more afraid of the dark side of man. The neighbor next door or the man sleeping next to me. Sorry, Barnabus Collins, but I’ve moved on.

Shrink Analysis II:
There’s probably something else you should know, since you’re charging me by the minute. My father’s influence is inescapable. He is a deeply spiritual man who finds the true meaning of life with every breath he takes. As a suspense writer, that makes me a walking and writing dichotomy. It’s my daddy’s fault.

So yes, my first novel was about me. With Widow’s Row, you’ll get the dueling sum of me. You’ll say, “Breecie Lemay, look out for him!”, but you’ll never know for sure until the end. As one reader wrote, ‘There’s more twist and turns than Space Mountain’.

You’ll finish Widow’s Row and walk away with something good. It will be a lesson of acceptance for some. A reminder, for others. My readers can expect a ride on the dark side of humanity while absorbing the light of goodness. Kindness. And all without pontification. Sorry, Mr. Grisham, but your latest release, whether we agree with you or not, was delivered from a disappointing pulpit.

Shrink Analysis III:
I was all of fifteen years old when one line from one song from one artist, Johnny Mathis, captured my heart. While I never forgot the lyrics, I also never dreamed what those words would mean to me.
‘What a writer has to feel like, when suddenly, he discovers he’s been read’. Arianne/ Johnny Mathis.

So yes. I’m nervous. I’m exposed. I’m feeling vulnerable. What are we going to do about it? Okay. It’s Lala’s fault.

* Did you know that only less than one percent of all persons sitting down to write their first manuscript actually FINISH it?
If you’re in this elite group, I applaud you! Happy reading and writing!

A writer's life @
See the trailer!
Widow's Row Available NOW!

Thanks, Lala. Below is a photograph of Lala's writing space. Doesn't that desk look like it was made for a writer?

CR: I'm about finished with House Rules by Jodi Picoult. Looking at a Hallinan next—on my Kindle.

It's all better with friends.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Behind the Scenes at a Museum

I had the opportunity to go behind the scenes at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, thanks to my membership in Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. From dung beetles to crazy spiders, oily polar bear remains to advances in preservation and flesh eating beetles, the time we spent was amazing, and only a fraction of what there was to see. Our tour guide was very gracious, gave us some extra time, and barely flinched when we questioned him about how he would dispose of human remains.

Did you know that only .2 percent of what the museum has catalogued is on public display? POINT 2. Sheeshkabobalino.

What struck me even more was the passion and energy and pure academia these guys employ. Excitement over a trip to the Congo (and I'm sort of making this part up, but only a little) was equal to the excitement over the research being done regarding two types of insects on chipmunks. The enormous level of character and dedication made me want to begin writing another story using these wonderful academicians and researchers as models. Totally not boring.

Here's a lesson for writers: When you have the opportunity to get out from behind your desk and actually stretch into another world, do it.

My husband is a lifelong learner. There is little more intriguing to him than exposure to something that creates depth to our humanity. A new factoid. A new realm. A new layer reflecting the amazing endeavors of mankind. As writers, we should always be ready to seek out these elements. They will only add depth to our stories.

Have you ventured out in the name of research or writing?

CR: House Rules by Jodi Picoult.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dogs and Those Who Love Them

Man, I fit that title. My heart has already fallen in love with a puppy who is yet to come into our home. Who may not even have yet been born. I could tell you all about him, but since he's only in my heart, and not in the plans, it would be cheating both of us.

Dogs are half love for humans and half exuberance for life. That doesn't leave much room for grace. Or ego. Or subterfuge. If they have a moment of grace, trust me, it's almost certanly accidental, and quickly replaced by reality.

I admit to some ego. I confess to subterfuge from time to time (in my past, of course). But that lack of grace thing? That is so me. Probably why I love every clumsy attempt they make at being graceful. Dignified. Pulled together. I can so identify.

My WIP (Work In Progress) has some secondary characters who happen to be dogs. They are a trio. McKenzie (named after my white shadow who we lost almost eight years ago) is a therapy dog. Small and loving, he's never a threat to anyone, but a hope to everyone. Socrates (Socks, for short) is a Search and Rescue dog. He lives for finding survivors. Then, there's the star of this story, Gretchen. Gretchen helps her handler find bodies so there can be closure. Her forte is death. Her purpose is to help those that death leaves behind.

I hope you find a smile somewhere in this:

CR: House Rules by Jodi Picoult.

It's all better with friends.