Civility Trumps Murder

4ed53-collectionofpictures063Jacqueline Vick is the author of over twenty published short stories, novelettes and mystery novels. Her April 2010 article for Fido Friendly Magazine, “Calling Canine Clairvoyants”, led to the first Frankie Chandler Pet Psychic mystery, Barking Mad About Murder. To find out more, visit her website at http://www.jacquelinevick.com.

 

 

What’s the proper etiquette for murder? When Edward Harlow,  the offica817a-civility2brules2bebook2bcover2b252812529ial representative
of Aunt Civility and her etiquette books, discovers a dead body at Inglenook Resort, that’s the question he must struggle with, and it ain’t easy.

Edward is really a short-tempered man who thinks most human beings aren’t worthy of a polite hello. In his usual environment–lecturing like-minded people–the proper responses come without effort. But when he’s surrounded by liars, curiosity seekers, and an unrepentant murderer? Not so much.

My favoritedeath by sheer torturee mysteries throw an average person into a mix of lunatics. It’s that duck-out-of-water aspect that makes for big laughs. Take Death by Sheer Torture by Robert Barnard. A perfectly respectable police detective must return to his family home (which he’s avoided for almost 20 years) where he’s surrounded by the suspects–his family members. These include a slob cousin who married the daughter of Italian mafia and their brood of Squealies (the children), a cheerful aunt who collects and admires Nazi memorabilia, and his very real memories of the corpse, his own father, who died in embarrassing circumstances. What more could you want?

To read more about Edward’s adventure, Civility Rules is available on Kindle and at other ebook stores. Even better, anyone who comments on this post will be put into a drawing for a free ebook copy of Civility Rules to be drawn this weekend and announced on Monday.

Have you ever found yourself surrounded by nuts?  We’d love to hear about it!

Listening, and a Look Inside

e179d-authorphoto2mmgornellMadeline (M.M.) Gornell is the author of six award-winning mystery novels. Her current literary focus is Route 66 as it traverses California’s Mojave Desert. Madeline is a lifetime lover of mysteries, and besides reading and writing, is also a potter. She lives with her husband and assorted canines in the High Desert. For more information, visit her at website or Amazon Author Page.

I love writing. But writing isn’t always easy.

These days I do feel very lucky though because my fellow Writers in Residence overflow with inspiration, encouragement, and expertise. And I also try to keep my eyes open for nuggets I can grab, steal, use, incorporate from fellow knowledgeable and sharing authors. So here’s the thought-crumb trail that led me to this post. Gayle Bartos-Pooles recent post here http://tinyurl.com/glnyqrh, Patricia Gligor’s recent blog http://pat-writersforum.blogspot.com/2016_05_22_archive.html, Paul Alan Fahey’s latest collection http://tinyurl.com/h96kjbh , and John Daniel’s Joy of Story blog http://johnmdaniel.blogspot.com/ . I don’t write short fiction, actually write long winded prose—can’t help it—but I take inspiration wherever I can get it. Listening, then incorporating into my writing what I hear that makes sense. And to write short fiction, in my mind, you have to take all the things that make a well-told story, then pare them down to their essence. And it’s a look inside of my trying to do just that in this post.

Which next brings me to Gayle’s post on openings. She said it all so excellently! And one of the points she makes is setting the tone in the opening. Boy do I agree with that! The Preface and Opening I want to be my invitation to the reader, “Come on in and go on my journey.” Ha! Not there yet, but that’s the goal. So, “Come on in,” and see how I’m trying to get there.

My current work in process has to do with making a film in the desert. (Yes, I stole the film aspect from friend and mystery writer Marilyn Meredith’s book River Spirits(I loved it)- in her Tempe Crabtree series) http://tinyurl.com/zxglxdv . The making of the film in my WIP is a central theme for several of the characters, and in my mind what they think, see, and feel are very important to the whole book. So, I have spent significant time rewriting the opening scene—wanting a reader to see, feel, touch what I was seeing. (1)

Here’s what I first wrote:

It was still early morning. They’d actually taken off in what Pete considered darkness. What he now saw was the new light of the developing day. The sun was an almost purewhite globe with broadening bands of saturated yellow emanating—more like glowingnorth and south from the globe. Bright without being blinding, colored without being saturated, and sparkling without being confusing. He could even feel it on his skin, then laughed at his hyperbolic silliness. Then he saw the chimney.

Georgeous. And Pete found it hard to get that stone-chimney out of his mind’s-eye. He almost sighed aloud.

Next was:

It was still early morning, they’d actually taken off in what Pete considered darkness. What he now saw was a world gently kissed with the new light of the day. The sun was an almost pure white globe, with broadening bands of saturated yellow emanating—more like glowing—from the north and south along the horizon. He blinked, as if what he was experiencing wasn’t real. Indeed, how the sunrise could be bright without being blinding, colored without being saturated or intense, and sparkling without being confusing. Pete even thought he felt a sun type warmth on his skin, then couldn’t help but laugh at his hyperbolic silliness.

Georgeous. He found it hard to get that stone-chimney out of his mind’s-eye—looking at it as he was from the West, and it silhouetted against the sunrise. He almost sighed aloud.

You get the idea how that went for a few times. Every time I open the WIP to write more words, I first rewrite the opening. Peculiar possibly, but true. Next, I realized from my short-fiction friends, who cares about all that sunset stuff—where’s the people? Where’s the character POV? Why does a reader want to care? Or go along for the ride.

So here’s what I had a couple days ago:

“Did you see that stone-chimney?” Pete Lily was becoming more comfortable talking into his headset microphone, no longer shouting like when they started out. “Down there to the West. Just standing there by itself.” He wanted to include the pilot’s name in his observation—which he thought was Jack—though wasn’t sure, and didn’t want to risk calling him by the wrong name.

“Yep,” he heard his pilot answer. Pete waited for more Pilot comment. But after a long moment passed, he figured that was all he was going to receive by way of reply. Conversation probably not included in the price.

Even though it was a preliminary flyover, Pete had asked for the “door-removed option,” just like it would be during shooting. He was aware others in the business thought him the best scene-framer on the West Coast. He knew he wasn’t; especially when it came to aerial photography. I am darned good when it comes to a still-cut. But this, looking down, looking out, seeing it all from an omniscient-like view. That’s something else………

Where I started description-wise, is now on page three! But never fear, EVERY time I add to this book, edit, revise, whatever, I will refine this beginning. And I don’t yet know how it will end up. Why? Because at this point in my writing journey, I so agree with what Gayle said about opening tone, voice, and taking the reader (not only to the place) but into the action.

Writing isn’t always easy. But as Patricia Gligor points out in her timely for me post, “Enjoy the Journey.” Hopefully there’s also a writing nugget here for some of my fellow travelers.

Happy (Writing) Trails!


[i] Also grabbing at my brain is a TV series entitled Aerial America.

Free WRITING For Free

WinR profile picJackie Houchin is a Christian writer, book reviewer, and retired photojournalist. She writes articles and reviews on a variety of topics, and occasionally edits manuscripts. She also dabbles in short fiction. “I’m a wife (52 years in Feb/2016), a mom, and a grandma (of adults, sigh!). I enjoy creating Bible craft projects for kids; growing fruits, flowers, and veggies; and traveling to other countries. I also adore cats and kittens and mysteries.”    Follow Jackie on Morning Meditations and Here’s How it Happened

What comes to your mind when you think of free writing?

Do you think of finding a word, idea, scene or photo, and putting your pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and… writing whatever comes to mind? (I did that once about salt from a photo of a vintage restaurant saltshaker, giving the condiment a personality. It turned out pretty cool, I thought!)

Or does free writing mean penning something “on spec” which is a fancy way of saying that no money is involved. Or, if you are a newbie writer, maybe you volunteer your services for articles, blog posts, interviews, fillers, etc., for experience and to accumulate “clips.”

Freeing Willie

“Free Writing” – that mind-over-matter, staring-into-space writing that begins with a prompt – is often used by writers and novelists who experience writer’s block, as a way to prime the pump. However it happens, once you get your creative juices or muses moving, your other WIP seems to suddenly take on new life. (And no, my muse’s name is not Willie!)

FREE writing3This kind of free writing invigorates your thought process, sparks ideas that catch fire and burn down forests of paper!! (Sorry, I got a little carried away.)

You don’t have to be “stuck” to make use of free writing. Some writers write from a prompt daily in a journal designated for that purpose. Not only does it kick start their writing, but they archive a huge number of ideas in the process to use later. (See a list of websites at the end that feature prompts for writers.)

Don’t write right

Another method of free writing (I love this one and have recommended it often, but no one ever tries it… or at least has told me they’ve tried it) is to use a left/right brain strategy.  (You have to use a pen or pencil for this one.)

Choose a photo, or even an advertisement from a magazine with at least two people in it, and some background. With your dominant hand, write a brief account of what is happening in the scene (other than the obvious ad line). Include background, clothes, colors, expressions, relationship possibilities, etc.

NEXT, switch hands and write about the same scene with your non-dominant hand.  I was told that your brain will notice different details and story possibilities from the “other” hand’s POV. I didn’t believe it, but I tried it. I was amazed! I did it again using a painting of a village scene this time and the same thing happened!

Try it.  Do.  Then email me (or comment below) the results.

Money Ain’t Everything

FREE writing5The other type of free writing that most wordsmiths don’t like to consider, is writing FOR FREE; not charging a fee, gratis, a lot of work for no pay. Some do it for the experience and to get a name and byline which they can later barter. They think of it as a rite of passage, paying their dues, a necessary evil. (Hey, I love clichés.)

But I bet you’ve done free writing and didn’t even realize it. How about that guest blog? (Okay, you pumped your book.) What about being so wowed by a book you just read, you ran to Amazon or Goodreads and posted a glorious review?

Unless your own blog has a commercial aspect, every post there is virtually free.

FREE editing1How about volunteering to critique or edit a friend’s manuscript? (I edit papers by seminary students in Africa and it is very gratifying.) Or mentoring a newbie writer? (I’m doing that for a friend who’s attempting her first memoir.) How about writing a note of encouragement to an author who’s just lost her editor or publisher, or gotten a stinky review?

These kind of projects are definitely in the “feel good” category but they are still writing. They are lucrative in a non-monetary way, and sometimes the payoff is astounding.

The Bottom Line

Writers write… however and whenever, for whomever, and for whatever pay. They write. WE write.

So WRITE FREE and see what happens.

 

Websites with writing prompts: scene setups, situations, words, and photos:

http://www.writersdigest.com/prompts – scenes

http://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/ – brief suggestions

https://dailypost.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/365-days-of-writing-prompts-1387477491.pdf – each day

http://www.writingforward.com/writing-prompts/creative-writing-prompts/25-creative-writing-prompts –  brief ideas

http://writeshop.com/creative-writing-photo-prompts-imagination/  – photos

http://writingexercises.co.uk/random-image-generator.php – very cool! a new photo prompt with each click of your mouse.

 

How to Write a Killer Opening

 

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A former private detective and reporter for a small weekly newspaper, G.B.Pool writes the Johnny Casino Casebook Series and the Gin Caulfield P.I. Mysteries. She teaches writing classes: “Anatomy of a Short Story,” “How To Write Convincing Dialogue” and “Writing a Killer Opening Line.” For more information about Gayle and her books, visit her website.

 

 

Whether you are writing a novel, short story, or screenplay, you want to open your story with a BANG!

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 The Most Important Lesson:

If you want to give yourself a better chance to have your short story, novel or screenplay picked up by an agent, a publisher, or a producer, you have to get their attention FAST. If you are lucky, an agent/publisher will read your first chapter. Usually they will just read the first few pages or maybe only the first paragraph. This holds true for a short story that you might submit to a contest. Agents get 50 manuscripts a day and they are looking for any excuse to toss your work into the round file. You want to make your opening a GRABBER.

Make sure the opening scene has some relevance to the rest of the story, whether it actually figures into the plot or echoes the theme. Opening in a beautiful flower garden better reveal a dead body in the posies. Or hearing about a long ago train wreck better foretell another “train wreck.”

What exactly does an Opening Line/Paragraph/Scene in a Short Story, Novel or Screenplay do?

  1. Sets the TONE of the story
  2. Establishes the GENRE
  3. States the PROBLEM
  4. It might hint at the SOLUTION
  5. Gets you into the action FAST

The Opening should do 2, 3 or all of these things.

 When the OPENING Sets the Tone (funny/mysterious/adventure/children’s lit/chick lit/geezer lit). Don’t start out funny and turn it into a slasher film.

EXAMPLE: I couldn’t believe they found Brad’s body. I thought I buried him deeper.                  “A Role to Die For” by G.B.Pool

             This opening has dark humor; absolutely no remorse (Tone); it’s probably a mystery (Genre); it starts right in the middle of the beginning (Fast); and the reader will want to know if the killer gets caught (Problem).

 

EXAMPLE: When TONE is established by VOICE

Archie Wright’s the name. Dishing dirt’s the game. My sandbox: Hollywood. The most glamorous and glitzy, vicious, and venomous playground in the world. If you come for a visit, bring your sunscreen and your shark repellent. If you come to stay, let me warn you, Tinsel Town eats up and spits out a hundred just like you every day. Sometimes it isn’t pretty, but it’s my job to chronicle the ebb and flow of the hopeful, the helpless, and the hapless. My best stories come from the dark side of Glitzville.   “Glitzville” by G.B. Pool

      This opening is written in first person which is very one-on-one (Tone); the glib Hollywood-eze sets the Genre; there is a little dark humor, too. (Tone).

  

  1. When the OPENING Establishes the Genre – Mystery, Romance, Children’s Lit, Chic Lit, Geezer Lit, Women’s Fiction, Adventure.

EXAMPLE:

East Berlin – 24 December 1964 – 4:00 p.m.

Why does it always rain when I’m in Berlin? Ralph Barton thought, feeling the oppressive dampness close in around him.            The Odd Man by G.B. Pool

       This opening classifies itself as historical, Cold War story (Genre); the very nature makes it a taught, spy drama (Tone).

 

EXAMPLE:

Frank Madison rode the Monorail to work.

The used Cadillac Eldorado he bought six years earlier came with a stack of options, most of which didn’t work. The gas tank was currently empty, and so was his wallet, so the mint green boat sat at the curb near his place and he took public transportation.

The Santa Claus Singer” by G.B. Pool

But in this example, the opening doesn’t set the genre. It does set the TONE. We have a down-on-his-luck guy riding the Monorail (Mono means: one/lonely). It does state a PROBLEM: the guy doesn’t have much money.

Here is another way to set the Genre for this story: Write a GRABBER book blurb

 

EXAMPLE:

An out-of-work lounge singer ends up playing Santa Claus at the mall and makes a very sick young girl a promise that could cost him everything, but sometimes the best gift you can give is yourself.

The BLURB classifies this as a holiday story (Genre); How is this guy gonna overcome his situation? (Problem).

      Another way to set the Genre so the reading public knows what type of book you have written: Have the book’s COVER fit the story you are telling.

      If you have a publisher who wants to design the cover without your help, write a killer book blurb to capture the essence of your story and/or make sure your OPENING reflects the type of book you are writing. These might be the only times you have input.

      You can always submit a few cover ideas yourself. Just make sure you know what your story is about.

82239-singer

 

 The Opening can State the Problem.

  1. When the blurb tells us it’s a mystery… (Genre)

            EXAMPLE: When a body turns up at a local dam, P.I. Gin Caulfield has to get to the bottom of it, but the bottom can be very deep.

 

  1. The Opening gets us into the story Fast/Sets up Problem:

EXAMPLE:

“How long has he been in the water?” I asked, knowing by the bloated, blue body it was too long. What was left of the corpse’s clothes had shredded, exposing large masses of distended flesh.

“More than a week,” said the sheriff’s deputy. “It got itself tangled in the bramble caught against the rocks down there. If you hadn’t noticed it bobbing up, it could have been there a lot longer. Good call, lady.”

I turned away.

            No, my friend, it was a lousy call. I hate finding dead bodies. No matter what they show on TV, private detectives don’t like corpses. We like the hunt… the chase… the capture. If everybody is still breathing at the end, great. If somebody’s dead, we hope it’s the other guy… or gal. I have seen my share of bad women. We’re not all Betty Crocker.                        Damning Evidence by G.B. Pool

In this opening we have a female detective (Genre); she’s probably been around the block a few times (Tone); she has a conscience and a cynical sense of humor. (Tone); the dead body (is the Problem).

 

  1. The Opening alludes to the Ending or the Solution/Payoff, so you come full circle when you get to the end.

 

EXAMPLE of an OPENING: “I already told you. I met the guy in a bar. We got to talking. Somehow he knew I’d been in trouble with the law before.”

****

EXAMPLE of the ENDING: “Perhaps you would like to speak to a lawyer now, Mr. Harrison?” said the cop.                                                 “The Big Payoff” by G.B. Pool

 

The OPENING shows a guy used to being in trouble. The ENDING sees that he has been talking to a cop about a crime all along, though I never mentioned the other guy was a cop until the last word in the story.

HINT: HOOK the READER with a compelling reason to continue reading; have an “out-of-whack” event; something that changes the protagonist’s world view profoundly and the reader just has to know what happens next.

Example:

John Smith didn’t know he was an amnesiac. He discovered that and the fact he was married to two women when one of them turned up dead.

  1. The opening gives us 4 things that change John’s world-view: he’s an amnesiac, he was married, to two women, one is dead.
  2. the dead wife drops this into the mystery Genre and sets up the Problem.

 

     The best way to make sure you are opening your story with a BANG is to go over the 5 Elements to any story – Plot, Character, Dialogue, Setting, and the Point of the Story – The Point is the most important. No Point – Why write it?

     The POINT should be reflected in your OPENING!

     Are you writing about Man against Man, Man against Nature, Man against Himself. Good vs. Evil?

  1. Use that OUTLINE that lists all the major plot points & characters.
  2. Ask yourself: Am I covering all the bases?
  3. Reread the story and ask yourself: Does this make sense?
  4. Does the Opening grab the reader and make him want to read more?
  5. Does the Ending fit the Opening?
  6. Does the Title fit the major theme of the story?
  7. Does the Cover fit the story?

 

Take another look at your story and see if these questions have been answered. If it does, you will have a Killer Opening to your story.

 The AAnatomy  Book Covernatomy of a Short Story Workbook will be out this summer on Amazon. It’s a great way to analyze your story whether it’s a novel, screenplay or short story. It will help with your Opening and your Ending and everything in between.

 

Reading and Writing – The Basics by Kate Thornton

Kate Thornton is a retired US Army officer who enjoys writing both mysteries and science fiction. With over 100 short stories in print, she teaches a short story class and is currently working on a series of romantic suspense novels. She divides her time between Southern California and Tucson, Arizona

Reading and writing. I have been doing both.

It has always been a firm belief of mine that you can’t write – or write well, anyway – if you don’t read. And I’m not talking about magazines – c’mon, people, we all read magazines, if only while waiting at the checkout counter (although 2 of my regular supermarkets now have TV for the attention-impaired, 5 second snippets of shows and commercials.) I do not discount this type of reading; I publish in magazines and do not bite the hand that at least pats me on the head. But magazines are very thin picture books, meant to give your mind a jumpstart or a tweak, not to give you hours of transportation to a completely other world.

The difference between books and magazines (or newspapers or blogs or the Huffington Post) is not exactly the same as the difference between People Magazine and actual people, but it is nonetheless great.

So when I say I have been reading, I mean books. It sort of goes without saying that I read magazines, online posts, news, cereal boxes, tee shirts, bumper stickers, the mail, and just about anything with printed words.

I have my favorite genre fiction – it runs from James Lee Burke, Dean Koontz, and Louise Penney on one side to Earl Derr Biggers, Arthur Upfield and Ngaio Marsh on another and Sue Ann Jaffarian, Jeff Sharrat and Taffy Cannon on yet another – it’s a multi-sided construct. But I love classic fiction as well. I learn from it, the easy way, while being entertained, enthralled, whisked away, and fed on rich things.

I have a dear friend who just discovered the joys of a Kindle and is reading Willa Cather. Now that’s reading. This same friend just finished Faulkner (the hard, difficult, rip your eyes out Faulkner of Light in August) in hardcover, so she’s no stranger to the type of reading that sometimes takes you to places you would never allow yourself to be taken otherwise. But she enjoys going to the good, kind places, too.

Which brings me to writing. If you don’t take the trips to places through reading, I don’t see where you can buy your ticket to take others to places through your writing. It is one of only two ways I know to learn how to write, and they are both connected. The other half of it is actually writing, the BIC (Butt In Chair) method.

This week I have been reading both fiction and non-fiction – and writing.

I have completed that same novel I started writing in late 2007. I confess I let it sit for several years due to plot holes, but I have since learned how to knit up the raveled sleeve of a couple of good ideas strung together with engaging characters, an endearing puppy dog and a couple of gruesome murders. What’s not to love? And working on it this time around was a pleasure, not a chore.

I also discovered – by reading through it and looking ahead to the satisfying conclusion that it is not the mystery I thought it would be, but is an animal I have not before tamed, namely Romantic Suspense.

So I have begun to read in that genre. And it’s fun. I am enjoying and learning and reading it all with a delight I before had reserved only for mystery, science fiction and certain favorite classics.

So my question is:

Which romantic suspense authors do you like? Recommend a few books to me as I reach the end of my own.