Are You RESOLUTE? Or not…

Yeah, yeah, I know. Nobody makes resolutions at New Year’s anymore.  A least not ones they can keep beyond the 31st of January. (Surveys report that 47% of resolution makers can’t keep them until February 1st.)

WHY?

I have some suggestions, tips, and encouragements if you really want to change something in your life/writing in 2022.

From the Hints From Heloise column, I found these believable suggestions.

  1. Be specific.
  •  Don’t vow to “Lose weight” but, to Lose 20 pounds by May 1st.
  •  Don’t vow to “Exercise more” but, to Walk 2 miles a day for 4 days a week.
  •  Don’t vow to “Write more in 2022” but, to Write 2 chapters, or 2,000 words, or a complete short story or article each week.

2. Then add your answer to the question, “why?”

  •  Because I’m too young to be heavy and it makes me look matronly.
  •  Because walking is healthy for me, and the kids (dogs, Hubby) can go with me.
  •  Because I’m a writer and I want to finish my book and/or publish my work.
  1. Put these (your) resolutions on 3×5 cards and tape them to your bathroom mirror. Read them aloud to yourself every morning.
  2. Keep track of your progress.
  3. Reward yourself when you accomplish each one!

(If you try this, let me know how it works!)

Hey, have you heard this one? “I was going to quit all my bad habits for 2022. But then I remembered: Nobody likes a quitter!”

Here’s a unique take from The Victoria Magazine, letters, Jan/Feb.

        Says Wendy J. “Decades ago, a friend and I came up with the idea of “un-goals” instead of resolutions. This gave us permission to give up things we detested! I gave up zucchini. For years I had tried one recipe after another to use the piles of this vegetable that I received from neighbors’ gardens or the market. I finally decided that they all tasted the same because I truly dislike zucchini!”

Do you have something you really dislike and will renounce in 2022?

(Let me know, and I’ll rejoice with you!)

Do you have a (mental) list of what you want to do “someday?” Here are a few examples: (I love #2.)

  •  Finish the book I’m writing
  •  Spend a season living abroad
  •  Read that stack of books I’ve been accumulating
  •  Add weight training to my workouts
  •  Plan day trips with my family
  •  Schedule those _____________ lessons I promised myself I would take

Resolve to move these from the  “Someday” to the “In-progress” column.

(Maybe I’ll join you on those lessons!)

From Cathy Baker’s Creative Pauses Facebook group, Dec 31, 2021.  Choose a word or two as a theme for 2022. (Easier than a whole resolution.)

There are many websites that can suggest words to you, or give you ideas. Think of your goals/hopes for the New Year, and use these or other sites to help you choose.  Some even give you ideas on how to make the word stick for 365 days.

        https://elisabethmcknight.com/word-of-the-year-ideas/

(Scroll down to the 100-word list at the bottom, Abundance to Zest.)

        https://www.happinessishomemade.net/word-of-the-year-ideas-one-little-word/

(Schroll down to the 150-word, printable, non-alphabetized list.)

        OR… for heaven’s sake, we are writers & readers… pick your own. Haha!

(Let me know if you pick one and what it is, or maybe keep it secret.)

Here are some suggestions from the Orange County Register newspaper, on the personal side, with specific fill in the blanks.

  •   Mend a relationship with _______________.
  •    Be more kind to _________________.
  •    Call _______________ whom you haven’t spoken to in a long time.
  •    Adopt or foster a ___________ (animal) and take good care of it.

(Or sponsor a child.)

From an article in The Epoch Times:

  •         Get inspired by reading blogs you love (like The Writers in Residence).
  •         Begin with tiny stuff – make it a habit that is “too easy NOT to do.”
  •         Find a friend or family member for support.
  •         And lastly, don’t call them NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS, rename them as “January Objectives” or maybe even “Today’s List.”

(And check those buggers off! I’ll celebrate with you.)

For me, three for ’22:

  • Try new recipes from my “Eating Clean” cookbook at least twice a week.
  • Shorten my “screen time” by half (PC and phone). Use a timer if needed.
  • Cut out sugar (again) to help with inflammation issues.

(And YOU can check on ME at the end of the month/year. Really!)

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Our Faith Bible Church pastor gave us this verse for the year:

Romans 12:9b. “Detest evil; cling to what is good.”

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How to produce a Zoom/YouTube Series and make it work…correctly, part 2

by Will Zeilinger and Janet Elizabeth Lynn

We are a husband and wife team who write together as well as individually. When the Pandemic hit, we were as shocked and confused as everyone else. Not only by the world’s sad state of affairs, but we missed our friends.  It took a few months to realize that the Pandemic was going to take some time to resolve. So, we decided to launch a YouTube channel, “Chatting with Authors.” We produce casual interview programs via Zoom and air them on YouTube.

          This is the second of a two-part series that discusses the ins and outs of making it work and some pitfalls to avoid.

Once you have all of your technical details worked out and, most important, are comfortable using them, next comes the talent (people you want to interview).

INITIAL CONTACT- First, we sent an initial letter to inform authors of the program, what it was going to involve and asked if they were interested in being on the program. Surprisingly, we had little response to the idea. We set up three Zoom recordings of those who were interested. After editing them and scheduling them on YouTube, we were able to refer the authors to the three programs. That’s when the flood gates opened!  

FOLLOW UP- We scheduled two to three Zoom recording sessions per day. We found that any more, and we were getting too “punchy” toward the end. The best was two or three. Once the talent was scheduled for recording, we asked them to send a headshot, website address, short bio, and five questions they would like us to ask them on the show.  Once we received their information, we scheduled a phone interview a week before their Zoom session. This is where we discussed the procedure and went through the bio and questions (we usually had to edit the bios and questions to fit in the 30-minute recording session).

DURING ZOOM RECORDING- We discovered gremlins in the internet that can cause all sorts of problems, especially when interviewing people in different countries or the east coast (we are in California). So it is best to schedule an hour even though our show is 30 minutes. Once you get them online, check audio and visual. Remedy any problems, like echoes, before you begin recording.

Be sure to keep the talent on after the recording is finished to discuss any problems that may have occurred during the session, i.e., visual static, audio blank spots, lights falling (it happens!!), and decide if you need to redo the interview at another time. This happened only twice out of 64 shows.

AFTER THE SESSION- Immediately after the recording session, summarize the interview for your PR for the show. We have a specific logo we use and superimposed their headshot on it. When we schedule our airings on the various platforms, we use that summary and logo.

 A week before we air their program, we send them a notification of day and time, a copy of the logo, address, and summary we are using. 

IMPORTANT!  Always ask them to confirm that they received the information. Always!

DRESS-be sure what you wear will not disappear into the background. And council your talent to be careful if they are using a green screen or a background. We had a few people who were armless and faceless or bodiless until they changed their clothing.

THE STUDIO- We record from a corner of our office, early in the morning every Thursday.  So, each Wednesday evening, we set up the studio and take it down every Thursday afternoon. It may seem like a pain, but it does get easier as you do it.

Things to watch out for:

—If you are recording on your premises (home, garage, outside), be sure you know when the gardeners, carpenter, cement workers, trash pickup, etc., are coming anywhere in the neighborhood. It can get embarrassingly loud! 

—Be sure your lights are soundly taped down or strapped. One of our lights managed to stay put during the first two interviews of the day but came crashing down on the third one. We acknowledged it but kept the interview going. 

—During the phone interview prior to recording, you will get a feel for the nervous state of the talent. If they have never done this before, they can get pretty frazzled. So encourage them as you record their interview.  

With much planning and practice before your first recording, you will have a blast doing interviews with friends, meeting new people, and, most of all, making connections. We have written five books and recorded 64 shows together, and yes…we are still married!

 

Janet Elizabeth Lynn
Author of mysteries, checkout my website www.janetlynnauthor.com
Check out our latest Skylar Drake Mystery.
 

(For questions and/or information on how  YOU and your writing can be hosted on “Chatting With Authors” please contact them at: lynnslp@earthlink.net )

 

This blog was posted for Will Zeilinger and Janet Elizabeth Lynn by Jackie Houchin

 

How to create a Zoom/YouTube series and make it work…correctly, Part 1

By Will Zeilinger and Janet Elizabeth Lynn

We are a husband and wife writing team who write individually, as well as co-write several books. We were shocked and confused, like many of our fellow authors when the pandemic hit.

Because the nation was given the “stay at home” orders at the onset of the pandemic, all live meetings, in-person book signings and book launches, speaking engagements and appearances in panel discussions came to an abrupt halt.  As writers, our marketing and promotion plans were put on hold.

One day we saw a YouTube interview with a musician that was recorded via Zoom, the online video meeting app. The interviewer and guest were shown side by side on the screen. After we watched several different examples of these YouTube interview videos, we had a brainstorm… why not conduct our interviews via Zoom on our computer?  We learned that doing this was not complicated at all. The result was our YouTube channel, “Chatting with Authors.” We interview authors of all genres about their work and life outside writing.

This is part one of a two-part series that discusses the ins and outs of making it work and tips on how to avoid some of the pitfalls.

What was needed:

(1) YouTube account (free) Go to YouTube.com and sign on. 

(2) Zoom account (free) Go to Zoom.com and sign up. 

(3) Computer (laptop/notebook, desktop, or tablet) with a built-in camera and microphone.  

 

 

 

(Some people use their smartphones on a stand with a “ring light,”  but it can be very difficult to monitor what is happening when the screen is small and far away from you.)

 

If you do not have a built-in camera, you may be able to connect a DSLR (digital reflex camera) to your computer. Ask for help from a tech-savvy friend if this is getting too complicated

 

(4) Make sure you have good lighting. Use a couple of lights (position them on either side of your computer.) They don’t have to be fancy lights, even table lamps will work. (Try not to sit with a window behind you.)

 

(5) A pleasant, but not distracting, room for your background.  If you don’t have a suitable space, try a solid, blank wall. Zoom provides digital backgrounds or you can use your own. 

 

 If you don’t have one, purchase “greenscreen” fabric on-line.

 

 

(6) A good Internet connection.

(7) Decide how long your interview will be (30 minutes, 1 hour, or longer) then schedule a meeting with your guest and be sure to set record while you chat on Zoom. When you are finished, upload your program to YouTube and tell your audience about it. That’s all there is to it.

(8) An opening title graphic or photo. You can create one yourself, use a template (available online,) or have someone create one for you…as well as a sign off.

(9) Before you decide to “go live” with your YouTube program, do a few “test interviews” and upload them to YouTube. You may delete them after you’ve viewed them. When you are satisfied with the lighting, background, clothing, hair (and make-up), and running time, you are ready to do your first interview.

 

(Continued next week with Part 2)

 

(Posted for Will & Janet by Photojaq)

Writing Short Stuff

by Jackie Houchin

How short can you write a story?  If you are doing NaNoWriMo this month, your goal is 50,000 words, about a 175-page book.  How about only 10,000 words, or 5,000? 2,000?

In Writer’s Digest, the September/October issue, author Ran Walker wrote a very interesting article titled “10 Reasons to Write a 100-Word Story.”  Say, what? 100 words? Yes! In his article he describes the benefits of writing “the smallest stories.” I hope to borrow from his wonderful piece, and write a story…right here…right now…in only 100 words (including the title)!

Here, briefly, are the reasons Ran Walker gives for trying your hand at a 100-word story.

  1. “The initial drafts of your stories don’t take nearly as long to write.”

Okay, here goes:  It was a dark and stormy night… No, no, no! 

Okay, again:  Last night Wesley dreamed he saw a floating lantern coming towards his bed. It seemed to beckon him to follow. In pajamas, sans slippers or robe, he wafted clumsily out the open window pursuing the light. “How could this be?” he thought, “I’m not Peter Pan!”  Wesley looked at his dog far below, barking soundlessly, and threw her a biscuit from his pocket. (No, no no, on that last part. No doggie biscuit.) 

Again: …barking soundlessly. A white owl flew by and winked at Wesley. 

Good grief!  I’m at 64 words without a villain, climax, denouement, or the title!! This is harder than I thought. I’d better get to the suspense and the ending!

A note drifted from the beak of the owl and Wesley caught it. He bent forward to read it by the lantern light. ‘Don’t forget to feed the dog. I’m working tonight. Love, Mom.’ “Oh, no!” thought Wesley. “Poor Maddie!”  Suddenly the lantern disappeared and Wesley began falling, falling. Something caught his foot, but he landed with an “Ooof!” On his bedroom floor, foot tangled in a nappy blanket, Wesley felt the happy wet tongue of Maddie on his cheek. “Finally,” she woofed.

This can’t be!  It’s at 148 words!  And what should the title be?  Lantern Flight? Owl’s note? Falling?  Ooof?  I definitely need to do some editing, but that’s Ran Walker’s 7th point.

   2. You are not tied to the traditional “Hero’s Journey” or Freytag Plot Arc.

Hmm, I didn’t have series of obstacles or a narrative arc, but I did have “rising” action, climax, and “falling” action. And a little denouement lick.

   3. You can let your inner poet come out.

Not only pretty words and/or rhyme, I must make every. word. count.  I’ll consider that when I go back to edit out “my darlings’.

   4. You can experiment with different genres without worrying about how it will affect your brand.

Well, my Wesley story is a kids’ story, so that matches my “cough, cough” brand.  It’s a bit of a fantasy genre however.

   5. The focus on a specific word count forces you to think about your story differently.

Boy, is that ever right.  Let’s see if I can chuck a few words right now.  100 is a stern taskmaster.  “Sans slippers or robe” has to go.  “He saw” can go as well. And “it seemed to” also.  Hey, this is fun. That’s NINE WORDS excised.

   6. You can focus more on movement within a single scene.

I think I have movement – floating, wafted, pursuing, flew by, drifted, falling, falling…..   whoa, I’m getting dizzy!

   7. It’s an excellent way to learn how to edit.

Walker says, “If each word was a dollar word, would you be getting maximum value for your $100?  Why write ten words when five will do?” 

   8. It forces you to refocus your story and choose only what is important.

He adds, “And keeps you from going off in tangents.” 

   9. It allows you to really pay attention to grammar and punctuation.

   10. It’s something you can do for fun, even if your intention is to write longer works.

Walker says, “The added incentive is that if you like the ‘rush’ you get from finishing a story, you will receive that feeling much faster with a 100-word story. At a time when people are wrestling to carve out time to read and to write, it is nice to know there is a writing form that lends itself to being consumed in minutes (versus weeks) and to being written in a single setting. Why not try one today?”

Okay, here is my edited version: (I had to cut out 49 words, then rearrange and substitute what was left.)

“REMINDER”

Last night Wesley dreamed a lantern beckoned to him out his open window. Clad only in pajamas, he floated after it.

He saw his dog far below, barking soundlessly. An owl flew by and dropped a note from its beak. Wesley caught it and angled it toward the light.

“Don’t forget to feed the dog. I’m working late tonight. Love, Mom.”

 “Oh, poor Maddie!”

The lantern disappeared. Wesley began falling. Something caught at his foot and he landed softly. On his bedroom floor, tangled in a blanket, Wesley felt Maddie’s warm, wet tongue on his cheek. 

“Finally!” she woofed.

 

Well, what do you think? Does it work?  

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I also got a few tips from author, Maggie King (MaggieKing.com) about writing regular length short stories. Her “Cupcakes and Emeralds” is featured in the new mystery anthology DEATH BY CUPCAKE, published by Elm Books

She answered my questions, “There has to be a cupcake in the story, so first I come up with a story idea. I love revenge tales, but who is seeking revenge against whom, and why? Once I figure that out, I can decide on plot, characters, red herrings, and setting. I must decide if cupcakes will be part of the plot, or a mere prop. The “body” is found in a church – my unexpected aspect – but is the church another red herring?  At the end I like to circle back to the beginning. “

Thanks Maggie, if anyone wants to check out her story and the other seven in the anthology, the link on Amazon is Death by Cupcake. 

# # #

 

Ran Walker (RanWalker.com) is the award-winning author of 23 books. He teaches creative writing at Hampton University and lives in Virginia with his wife and daughter.

His latest book, KEEP IT 100, a collection of one hundred 100-word stories is now available everywhere.  The link on Amazon: KEEP IT 100

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Quote by crime novelist Jo Nesbo,

“When you write a novel, it’s like steering a supertanker. You have to plan; you have to have a route; you can’t just go left and right.

I started writing lyrics and the challenge was to write a story in three verses and a refrain. For me, a short story is like writing songs. You can sit down and write and you can quickly tell whether it’s working or not. And if it works, it may already be finished. That’s a real good feeling, to go to bed at night having written a story.

Also, you don’t have to explain a short story. When you write a novel, you have to think, “What is this really about?”  A short story can just have a feeling and that’s OK.”

Are YOU ready to write ONE HUNDRED words?

What I Learned from the Other Side…

This is a teaser post. The real article will be here tomorrow, Thursday October 20th.

Jackie Houchin (me) is switching slots with fellow blogger, Jill Amadio, who will be here tomorrow. (I’ll see you with my own post about writing ‘uber-short stories’ on November 3rd.)

Meanwhile, get your comments and questions ready for  Jill on Thursday, when she will tell you what it’s like to be on the “other side” of the Book Club table.

The Secret Books of Poison

by Alan Bradley

 

In my library are three slightly repellent books. One is the colour of poisoned custard, and the other two are a poisonous purple.

They look as if they’ve been through a lot. And they have.

These fat volumes, of about 500 pages each, were compiled in a time of disaster, and at the time, I didn’t know what I was doing or why. All I knew was that it needed to be done.

But first, a word of explanation. I am often asked, as are most writers, “Where did your main character come from? How did you go about creating him/her?” The simple answer is “I didn’t”, but the truth lies hidden in the thousand and more pages of these three uneasy books.

We had, at the time, a comfortable home on the edge of a forest – just like in the fairy tales. Until one night, lightning struck, and our forest was ablaze. Although we managed to get out safely with our pets, just ahead of the flames, more than 200 of our neighbours’ homes were reduced to ashes. When we were finally allowed to return, several weeks later, we found ourselves living in a blasted landscape: skeleton trees in a dead landscape of soot and ashes.

Time changed, and everything became different, including ourselves. What were we to do?

Sometime during those long hours and days and weeks that followed, I began compiling a compendium of poisons. The psychologists ought to have a field-day with that! Without knowing why, I had begun collecting and collating everything I could find on poisons and their history, all nicely filed alphabetically and indexed all the way from ‘A is for Arsenic’ to ‘Z is for Zarutin.’

The files grew from a folder, to many, and then to a book, then two, then three.

They contained detailed descriptions of the life and crimes of famous and not-so-famous poisoners, the history of specific poisoners from antiquity until just yesterday, the chemistry of poisons and their medical aspect. Ancient newspaper accounts told many a grim story, all so sadly the same: love gone wrong, ambition gone mad, and cleverness come a cropper.

There were heart-breaking tales of poor children who, in searching for something to eat, had – but enough! You get the idea.

Then, as the world around us restored itself, I put these books away, not knowing if I would ever look at them again. Whatever angel had caused me to compile this stuff had not bothered to leave an explanatory note. When the time came, I would know why.

Several years passed. Five, in fact. And there came a day when I decided that it was time to sit down and write that ‘Golden Age’ mystery novel I had been mulling since my younger days. It was a book that I much looked forward to, a tale that would draw on my years of experience in television broadcasting. Something fresh – something startling.

But it was not to be. I got no farther than the second chapter when, in a scene involving a visit to a crumbling country house in England, an eleven-year-old girl materialised suddenly on the page and would not, in spite of my every effort, be budged. She would not be written out and she would not be ignored. After a time, I realised that she had taken over my book completely. It was her book now, and my role was to sit down, shut up, and write what she told me to write.

And it came as no real surprise that her whole being revolved around a passion for poisons. Her knowledge of the subject was, you might say, voluminous.

Since then, she has more or less dictated ten novels, and has gathered readers around the globe in forty-some countries and forty-some languages. She has been on the New York Times bestseller list.

And that, dear reader, is the origin of Flavia de Luce, as best as I can manage to explain it.

And these three noxious volumes are the only proof I have that all of this is true.

See for yourself!

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My website is www.flaviadeluce.com  My facebook page is AlanBradleyauthor. My gmail is flaviadeluce@gmail.com
 
Happy to hear from readers.
 
Photo by Jeff Bassett
 
I grew up in a small town in Southern Ontario, and being always fascinated by the magic of light and colored glass, naturally went into television broadcasting, both private and public. After twenty-five years as Director of Television Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan, I took early retirement to write a mystery that never got written. I did manage to write other things, though.
 
Now that I’m retired from retirement, having lived for a while in Malta, my wife and I now live in the Isle of Man, in the shadow of an old castle, where we keep an eye on the sea at our door, which was once frequented by Saint Patrick and the Vikings.
 
 
 
Alan Bradley has written TEN Flavia deLuce books, plus a short story, The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse. His newest novel is The Golden Tresses of the Dead. All the books are available in audiobook form (which I love). 
He also wrote a wonderful ebook memoir, The Shoebox Bible. 
 
          
 
 
 

 

Space to Write

Guest Post by Hannah Dennison

Thank you so much for inviting me to Writers in Residence today. As it happened, just last week, I was a writer in residence … if you can call hunkering down in my friend’s converted coal shed in the wilds of Wensleydale, a “residence.” It’s a six-hour journey by train but worth it.

My friends have a small farm and I have an open invitation to stay whenever I’m on deadline. I have known this wonderful couple, since we were all just 21. They are fiercely private otherwise I would announce their names in big bold font.

The day starts with eggs from their own chickens for breakfast, followed by four hours of solid writing, a break for lunch, a nap, a walk on the Fell, tea with homemade cake. After another hour or two of writing, the sun is over the proverbial yard arm and it’s time for a gin and tonic.

From the original coal chute window, I have an uninterrupted view of red squirrels (it’s a red squirrel sanctuary), sheep, (this is the home of Wallace and Gromit after all), and, when I’m lucky, I can enjoy watching the hares who really do box.

But, if it sounds like I need peace and quiet to be able to write, that’s not strictly true. One of my favorite books is “Becoming a Writer” by the formidable Dorothy Brande. She urges all writers to train themselves to be able to write at a specific time and anywhere, even if it’s just for fifteen minutes. I can write in a departure lounge, a train station, definitely on a plane, in fact, more or less anywhere.

I was listening to a panel of authors discussing the pros and cons of listening to music when they write. I can’t but I can write to the sound of a coffee shop! I subscribe to an app called Freedom. Not only can you block distracting websites on your Internet for set periods of time—in my case it’s the dreaded Daily Mail—it also has a white noise “coffee shop” feature with the low hum of voices and the occasional hiss and burble from the espresso machine! You can also choose the location of your coffee shop such as Stockholm, Berlin, New York or San Francisco. Believe it or not, they all sound very different.  Another author admitted that she writes to the sound of a World War Two Flying Fortress just cruising along (no bombs dropping) from Mynoise.net.

Although it’s great to have the ability to write anywhere, I truly believe in having a dedicated space only for writing—even if it is the size of a cupboard. My space is the tiny guest bedroom. I pushed the narrow single bed against the wall and made it into a day bed. If I have visitors (which is rare), then I take sleep there with two huge dogs and give up my bedroom.

Speaking of dedicated spaces, just before the pandemic I taught a writing retreat on a small island called Tresco in the Isles of Scilly. Among the participants was a wonderful Methodist minister who shared how he always approached his writing with a ritual. He liked to put something on the back of his chair—usually a scarf. It was a way of indicating to the creative muse that he was entering his space with intention. I adopted that idea too and, unless I’m in the departure lounge where I’d most certainly be given “looks,” do this 99% of the time.

Since I mentioned Tresco, I wanted to share my latest release, Danger at the Cove (An Island Sisters Mystery), the second book in my new series. I mention it because I was inspired by the beautiful setting of this remote resort, twenty-eight miles off the southwest Cornish coast. I was also intrigued by the idea that there is no police presence, no cars, no streetlamps and no hospital. I have it on good authority that seasonal workers are usually running away from something or hiding from someone. I couldn’t think of a better location to set a mystery. The series is about two sisters who find themselves chatelaines of a crumbling Art Deco hotel on a fictional island in the Isles of Scilly and naturally, murder and mayhem ensure.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on writing to music or white noise and if you do have a dedicated writing space, what can you see from your window?

Thank you so much for hosting me today.

BIO

British born, Hannah originally moved to Los Angeles to pursue screenwriting. She has been an obituary reporter, antique dealer, private jet flight attendant and Hollywood story analyst. Hannah has served on numerous judging committees for Mystery Writers of America and teaches mystery writing workshops for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program now on Zoom. After twenty-five years living on the West Coast, Hannah returned to the UK where she shares her life with two high-spirited Hungarian Vizslas.

Hannah writes the Island Sisters Mysteries (Minotaur), the Honeychurch Hall Mysteries (Constable) and the Vicky Hill Mysteries (Constable)

Social Media Links

https://www.hannahdennison.com

https://twitter.com/HannahLDennison

http://instagram.com/hannahdennisonbooks

https://www.facebook.com/HannahDennisonBooks/

Not Quite Cozy

by Jackie Houchin

(I’m early this month with my post, because I switched with the “other” Jackie – Jackie Vick  – who will be posting on Self Publishing on August 18th.)

I’ve recently read two books which are billed as “cozies” but have none of the more modern sewing, crafting, cooking, library/bookstore, tea shoppe/coffee house, or pet themes that we’ve grown accustomed to. (There’s nothing wrong with these if they are what you like to read!)

No, these were the “old fashioned” style mysteries, that are super-plotted, character-strong mysteries like Agatha Christie wrote. Clean, as far as no on-the-page sex, vulgarity, profanity, or excessive violence. Just good, captivating, complicated mysteries, sometimes in unique settings. 

Here are reviews of the two  books I read.

BLACK JADE, a Daiyu Wu Mystery by Gloria Oliver

What a fascinating book! It’s very different from the usual historical cozy mysteries out today. It has a main character who is unique and amazing in her disability, living in a disguised house with her once royal parents and a pair of staff who love and protect on her.

Black Jade, A Daiyu Wu Mystery by Gloria Oliver, is set in Texas in the early 1900’s, when the race issue is prominent against Asians, specifically Chinese, who are considered to be the “Yellow Menace.” Even more of a bias however in this story, is the rich vs commoner distinction. So when the second son of a British Earl comes to America and falls for a ‘common’ girl who is a waitress in a speakeasy, his hoity-toity relatives across the Pond rush to the first ship heading west to try and stop him marrying her. The means they use is macabra and horrific, but only the blind, Chinese Miss Wu, working in her family’s laundry is able to discover it.

The rest of the book takes us on a detailed and fascinating investigation to find and identify, first the victim, then the villain. (My guesses hopped from one to another of the book’s characters: all in vain.) But Miss Wu, accompanied by Jacques, her handsome companion and chauffeur (who also narrates the story), along with her new friends, a female forensic doctor and a millionaire playboy, moves along as surely as a bloodhound following an invisible scent (burnt garlic?) to the killer. She meets obstacles at every turn, but this gal is persistant and clever, and inspires those around her to not give up no matter what. The climax scene is a nail biter!  FIVE STARS

PS: I totally loved Miss Wu’s little dog, who goes everywhere with her. He has a strange name – Prince Razor. When you read this book, you’ll find out why.

 

GHOST DAUGHTER, An Alice MacDonald Greer mystery by Helen Currie Foster 

This is an amazing, sometimes jaw-dropping, mystery-adventure in which the heroine, Texas lawyer Alice Greer, risks life and limb to fulfill the last wishes of her friend Ellie. In Ghost Daughter, the newly widowed Ellie has discovered her long-lost daughter, conceived at age 17 and given up for adoption decades earlier. She wants to include her somehow in her estate and asks Alice to be executor if/when she dies.

Sooner than either expected, Alice finds her friend’s bloodied body in her own ranch house, along with a rearing, kicking, squealing horse! Yes, IN her house. LOCKED in. Huh? Instantly my mind tried to come up with suitable scenarios, but failed. There was nothing to do, but keep turning the pages.

And that was just the beginning of this fast-paced story with multiple complications and misdirections.

And what was so special in Ellie’s Santa Fe vacation house that could elicit murder? Alice tries to find out, but meets with “baddies” at each attempt. There are car chases through the mountains, unexplained  assination attempts, theivery of extremely valuable art right under Alice’s nose. And, if that isn’t enough, Ellie’s warring sons threaten to drive her up the wall with their arguing about who gets what. And the police can’t find the murder weapon or any evidence at all pointing to a suspect. 

There are no giveaways in the plot. To the literal last pages I couldn’t guess how, why, and by whom the murder of Alice’s friend was done. Thankfully the author ties everything together in a grand scene at the end.  FIVE STARS

I enjoyed Ghost Daughter so much, that I purchased Ghost Cave, the first of Greer’s six  books in the series!

Oh, and by the way, there is nothing “paranormal” in her Ghost books.  

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I hope that in the future more of these new/old style cozy mystery books will be published. Books that challenge the reader to get out of her rocking chair and trudge the mean streets with the protagonist. 

PS: I just noticed that both of these books were set in Texas. 

 

 

How short can you write?

How to Write Flash Fiction Stories: 4 Approaches

In short, flash fiction has all the elements of longer stories, but with less “fluff.” So, the challenge of writing flash fiction lies in crafting a complete story in under 1,000 words. How should you approach the writing of flash fiction? Consider the following four approaches.

1. Ruthless Editing

Some writers might try starting their flash fiction story as a normal story, then cutting the words down. This is a common approach to writing flash fiction, especially if your story isn’t far away from the 1,000 word mark. If you think you can cut a story down after writing it, then kill your darlings—and have fun with it!

2. Plot-First

Flash fiction stories require bones before you can put meat on them, so start with the story’s plot. With a plot-first approach, you start by writing only the details of the story, without any description or figurative language. Then, once the plot is written, you fill it with details until you hit the 1,000 word mark. This “fill in the blanks” approach allows you to keep the story to its most important details while still being complete.

3. Start with Poetry

Writing fiction from poetry? It’s more likely than you think. Many literary critics consider flash fiction stories to border the lines between prose and poetry, since it uses many poetic devices to convey plot. If you’re a poet as well as a fiction writer, consider writing your story’s plot in verse, then expanding that verse into a prose-poem or prose.

4. End with a Bang

For a flash fiction story to feel “complete,” it needs to “end with a bang.” The final line(s) of the story must leave the reader thinking long after the story ends.

The end of a flash fiction story must surprise the reader in some way. Flash fiction often offers a resolution to the story that inverts themes, uncovers ironies, or offers unexpected dualities. 

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Could YOU write a flash fiction story in, say, an afternoon?  THIS afternoon? Why not try it?  Take a notebook and pencil. Go outside to some shady spot. Scratch your head, put you pencil to paper and….write.

 

From an article on WRITERS.COM  –  How to Write Flash Fiction Stories –  by 

 

Photo by me.

 

 

 

Creating “Spine” Stories

If you are like me, you’ve never heard of a Spine Story (or Poem) before.  I hadn’t until I read Erica’s wonderful children’s blog “What Do We Do All Day?” about a Summer Literacy BINGO game.

In the game, some of the squares were titled; learn a new song, finish a crossword puzzle, read a book outside, listen to an audiobook, and write a comic strip. As the the kids do each thing, they cross off the square. Five in a row means a BINGO win.

The square that caught my eye  was, create a spine poem.

I’d never heard of a spine poem before so I clicked on a link to her page that explained them. Of course, if you’ve viewed the photos in this post, you will already know what one is. I call them stories instead of poems. A real challenge would be to do a Haiku poem in Spines.

I’ve yet to create one myself, but by the end of this post, I promise to put one together to share. Meanwhile, here are a few in Erica’s post.

(In case you can’t read the above Spines, they say “How to Write Poetry” “Brainstorm” “Where do You Get Your Ideas?” “All the world.”)

At the end of her blog on Spine Poems, she added a link to 100 Scope Notes which had a slew more of these poems/stories, titled “2013 Book Spine Poem Gallery”. There are other years of galleries available too. Lots of laughs and some really good Aligned Spines.

Okay, here are a few I tried. (haha) It was actually more fun than I thought. Once I’d done two, I saw many more possibilities!

Now it’s your turn.

Gather some of the books on your shelves or TBR stacks and try to create a few stories or poems?  I’d love to see a photo, or just write the titles in your comment below. Hey, you are very talented storysmiths. Let’s see what story you can tell… from your bookcase? Create a cool, scary, funny, mysterious, clever, or romantic “aligned spines” story.

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Erica’s Literacy Bingo page: https://www.whatdowedoallday.com/reading-bingo-for-kids/

Erica’s Spine Poetry page:  https://www.whatdowedoallday.com/spine-poetry-activity-for-kids/

100 Scope Notes Book Spine Galleries:  https://100scopenotes.com/2013/04/02/2013-book-spine-poem-gallery/

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