September Song by Rosemary Lord

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Rosemary wrote her first book when she was ten years old – for her little brother. She also illustrated it herself. It was later rejected by Random House!

She has been writing ever since.

The author of Best Sellers Hollywood Then and Now and Los Angeles Then and Now, English born Rosemary Lord has lived in Hollywood for over 25 years. An actress, a former journalist (interviewing Cary Grant, James Stewart, Tony Hopkins, John Huston amongst others) and a Senior Publicist at Columbia Pictures, she lectures on Hollywood history. Rosemary is currently writing the second in a series of murder mysteries set in the 1920s Jazz Age Hollywood featuring Lottie Topaz, an extra in silent movies.

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“…The days dwindle down to a precious few…” Sound familiar?  These are the lyrics to Kurt Weill’s 1938 heart-wrenching, “September Song.”

“- and the days grow short when you reach September,” Frank Sinatra sang. And then –

“- One hasn’t got time for the waiting game…”

In Hollywood, the days have at last cooled down after sweltering heat, where the nights were filled with the cacophony of neighboring air-conditioners at full tilt.  And it reminds me that another summer has passed and – in Kurt Weill’s poignant words –  I really don’t have time for the waiting game, any more.

I think of all the unexpected things that happened this summer, the new friends I made, things I learned, expectations I met and sometimes exceeded. And yet all the things I did not get around to, come to mind: Painting my bedroom chest-of-drawers blue, selling that big travel-trunk, attending those Booty-Barre classes, visiting friends in Arizona.

I failed to make it down to the beach this summer. I did, however, go on a watermelon-diet (easier to do during those hot, dry days) and lost a few pounds: the pounds I had gained when devouring English comfort-food such as buttered toast, treacle-pudding with hot custard, roast-potatoes, crumpets. I could go on…

In the summer of 2017, I did not find that perfect literary agent for my mystery novel about Lottie Topaz. Neither did I finish the next Lottie Topaz novel, Seven For A Secret… The days were just not long enough.

But I did finish the updated version of Los Angeles Then and Now and I wrote a 1,200-word article on the Woman’s Club of Hollywood, for the upcoming issue of Discover Hollywood. All was not lost. I was also putting in long, long hours, 6-7 days a week helping to revive and restore the Woman’s Club of Hollywood.

And this summer was not too bad in my cozy apartment. Surrounded by fans (the whirring kind, not the screaming ones), I battled my temperamental old lap-top, wishing I had the time to learn how to use a MAC, in the belief that would solve all my computer problems – like the cursor that jumps all over the place and deletes lines and paragraphs, so I have to keep re-typing, or my Windows Live email program that eats emails and only sends out select emails, seemingly on a whim.

But now that early mornings feel fresher, almost brisk at times and, as Kurt Weil wrote, “When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame…”  and cooler days beckon, I no longer have to spend evenings in front of the open fridge seeking an icy-blast or two. My heat-dulled brain unable to write even the simplest sentence.

As we say goodbye to another summer and Fall approaches, I find my focus improves and once again my mind is tripping over itself to write all those books and articles emerging from my memory and imagination.

‘This time it will be different’ is my mantra, as I make fresh To Do lists of writing projects to be finished and new ones to start.. These “precious days” from September to December I will spend doing…. what, I wonder?

“…These precious days I’ll spend – ”  doing all the things I intended to do during the summer.

And how did you spend your summer of 2017?

The Art Of The Sequel – Part 2 by Miko Johnston

 

Previously, we looked at some of the challenges of writing a multi-part series. Now a few tips on how to incorporate them.

 

1 – Study the masters

By that I mean writers whose series you read and love. Movies and TV series fall into this category, but since authors can’t rely on visuals, book series are particularly helpful in demonstrating how to update readers in each new volume. How does the author handle the reintroduction of characters, for example? Carry over events from the previous book? Deal with the passage of time? Regardless of the genre, you can learn a lot by analyzing other writers’ works, not to copy their ideas, but to emulate their techniques. I can’t overemphasize this.

 

2 – Review your synopsis

Do you write a synopsis for every book? You should, even if you don’t follow it exactly. It can even be written after you’ve finished the novel and kept as a summary of the story.

A good synopsis will feature the protagonist and the primary characters. It should cover the key plot points and steer readers toward the climax. Use this as a guide for what information should be updated or repeated in your next book. Also consider what will transpire in the newest novel. Anything relevant to the plot should be included. You can plant the seeds for a plot line that will develop in a future volume as well.

 

3 – Create a folder for organizational charts/files

Creating a place to store character bios, floor plans, timelines, synopses and other details is helpful when writing a book, but it’s essential when working on a sequel. Lots of interrelationships between characters? Chart it. Need to know what the town you invented looks like? Map it. Your character’s office? Diagram it.

You don’t want to describe morning sun streaming through the bedroom window in book one and watching the sunset from that same window in book three. You also need to remember how old your protagonist is, whether Joan is his first or fourth ex-wife, and if Harry is his uncle or his barber.  You can create an electronic folder, or file hard copies instead.

 

4 – Build on what you already have

If you get stuck when writing a sequel, reread your earlier book(s) to see if something there can be used to launch a new plot point. A scene in my first book inspired a mystery subplot that I introduce in book three and will complete in its sequel. I realized what happened could be interpreted in more than one way and was amazed by how well that scene pointed to the culprit. The unexpected turn surprised my beta readers – they didn’t see it until the final reveal, but it made sense to them because I’d laid the groundwork.

If you’ve ever had a reader come up with a fascinating interpretation of something you’d written, something that you never saw that way, then you understand how this could happen. For that matter, some writers have gotten inspiration from readers who’ve had questions about a plot point in an earlier book. If one of your readers asks or suggests something useful, run with it and see where it leads.

 

5 – Move the story forward

You don’t want to rehash the same old business in each new installment. Characters have to develop – marry, divorce, give birth or lose loved ones. They’ll have personal and professional triumphs and setbacks. People will enter and leave their lives. These elements can be integrated as backstory or put up-front and center, but they must be there.

Those organizational files/charts that I mentioned earlier will become invaluable in keeping your overall journey on point, intact and moving along. If you don’t have a good idea of where the saga will eventually end, then you should sit down and think about it. You don’t have to have a precise path for the character’s journey, but you ought to have a destination. Then, with every installment, check to see how far along that path your protagonist has traveled.

 

 

Writing a good series is challenging, but rewarding for readers who love them. I know I do. Part of the pleasure of reading each sequel is following the characters’ lives along with them in each new book. It’s like a reunion with old friends, for that’s what they’ve become.

 

What challenges have you found in writing sequels? Do you have any tips to share?

THE ART OF THE SEQUEL by Miko Johnston

As you are reading this, the third novel in my A Petal In The Wind series is about to be published and I’m starting to write book four. I’m in good company. Since the founding of The Writers In Residence, I’m proud to say that seven of our eight members have published at least one book. Therefore, it’s no surprise that many of us have written or are working on sequels.

 

And why not? As Jackie Vick confirmed with her post last week, sequels are a great way to win readers. Like the best movie or TV series, book series attract audiences with interesting characters we get to know over time. Series offer engaging stories as well, that make us laugh, or cry, or worry, or all of the above.

 

You may think it’s easier to write a sequel than a completely new novel. After all, you have your characters developed, your tone set, and your readers hungry for more. Maybe, but if you’ve ever remodeled a house, you know that sometimes it’s easier to start from scratch. Like remodels, sequels have their own set of challenges. Here are some to think about:

 

1   How much of the story bears repeating?

All books, whether sequels or not, should read as a stand-alone – anyone who hasn’t read the previous book or books in the series should be able to figure out what’s going on. Characters and situations have to be reintroduced. However, you don’t want to bog down a sequel with too much repetition from the earlier books. Finding the balance between too little and too much is tricky. A good rule of thumb: include only what relates to the sequel’s plot and avoid frontloading your first chapter with backstory. Throughout the early chapters, recap with a paragraph or a few sentences to reintroduce, or update, the reader to the characters – who they are, what they look like, and what they’re doing.

An excellent example of this technique is Daniel Silva’s description of one of his recurring characters, Eli Lavon. A tracker, a.k.a. street surveillance artist, Silva reminds us that Lavon “could disappear while shaking your hand”.

 

2   How will your characters grow throughout the series?

Comic strip characters rarely change or age over decades, but most writers of successful series account for how much time, if any, has elapsed between books. Each sequel will show characters aging and all that it entails – coupling and break-ups, promotions and job changes, births and deaths. In the Miss Marple series, Agatha Christie describes one minor character as a teenager in her first book. In her eighth, the same character is mentioned as being grown up and in a successful career.

 

3   Are you staying in the same realm?

Whatever you write, you should maintain a consistent genre throughout the series. Readers will be thrown if in later installments your cozy mystery suddenly turns gritty, your political thriller morphs into satire, or spacemen appear in your Regency romance. If you want to write something significantly different from your previous novel, make it a stand-alone.

It’s fine to tweak sub-genres; sometimes you must. For example, my historical fiction series, A Petal In The Wind, begins with my protagonist as a child. In the second book she’s twenty-two, so I added a romance element. However, every book in the series is a love story, only it’s not romantic love in book one.

 

4   Is there more to the story?

Some stories can be told in under 400 pages. Others require more time to develop. Series abound in genres like thriller, mystery, and sci-fi, where the characters continue to save the world from evil, solve another murder, or explore a new planet. Historical fiction series follow a group of characters through an era or period of history, while characters in contemporary fiction series deal with the challenges of our modern age. Romance often appears as a sub-genre in sequels, like Faye Kellerman’s Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus series.

Often publishers will not accept manuscripts that exceed a set word count, citing higher printing costs. Many readers and book clubs won’t touch a book that’s too long. If your manuscript is over 100,000 words, consider splitting it into two books. If it’s well over 100,000 words, you’ve got the beginning of a saga.

 

5   How do you connect the books?

If you plan to serialize your novels, is it going to be a limited series, such as a trilogy, or open-ended? Limited series are appropriate when you’re tracing characters over a period of time, such as a family saga, a finite era like a war or political reign, or, like Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone alphabet mysteries, you have a pre-set number of books in mind. Action/adventure, mysteries, covert ops, and political thrillers can be open ended, for there’s always another bad guy (or gal) to catch, or another adventure to be had.

Aside from the continuing characters, sequels should leave some story threads untied, to be picked up in a later installment. Other characters may disappear for a while, only to reappear a book or two later.  Or a clue in book two may not come to roost until book four. Little nuggets like that give pleasure to the faithful reader.

 

 

Once you know what to do, the next step is figuring out how to do it successfully. We’ll look at that in the next installment, which will post next Monday.

Catching Up on Mystery Reads

headshotJacqueline 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.

 

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It is so important for a writer to read. Not only will she keep abreast of what’s out there and (hopefully) enjoy the process, but she can discover new writing styles, get ideas for her books, and even learn new vocabulary words.

When my computer crashed a few weeks ago, I had the time to dig out a few selections from my very large pile of books waiting to be read. It was refreshing, like forgetting to drink water for a while and then experiencing the benefits when you finally do. I was delighted by some of the mysteries I discovered as well as by new novels by authors I’d previously enjoyed. Here’s a sample. Check them out. I think you’ll like them.

Quirky Quiz ShowSally Carpenter put out a post about her new book The Quirky Quiz Show Caper. I saw it on Facebook. (Hint: Don’t be afraid to promote your books, gently, on social media.)  I immediately downloaded a copy, realized I hadn’t read the previous book, and downloaded that one, too. (See? Promotion pays off!)

The thing I love about the Sandy Fairfax mysteries is their light-hearted approach. Sandy is a former teen idol trying to get his lifeCunning Cruise Ship Caper back together at 38 after drying out.  The choices available to him at this point in his career are pretty cheesy, but as grandma used to say, beggars can’t be choosers.

The characters and the dialogue and the situations play out like an old sitcom. That’s the genius of these books. With Carpenter’s knowledge of theater and television, the sets come to life.  Simply put, they are fun, and I can’t wait for the next one.

I have to admit I’ve fallen woefully behind on Diane Vallere’s Samantha Kidd mysteries, so I grabbed a copy of Pearls Gone Wild and dove in, which is kind of like eating dessert before dinner, since I had missed a few books between this, her sixth, and the first book in the series, Designer Dirty Laundry.

Pearls Gone WildI’m glad I did, because I wouldn’t have wanted to miss the excitement. Samantha and Nick Taylor just may move their relationship to a new level, but will the handsome photographer Dante get in the way? And what’s Dante doing hanging around Samantha at Christmas anyway? He’s lending brotherly support to his sister Cat whose husband has just been murdered. Did I mention Cat is eight months pregnant? If you think it sounds like a soap opera, you’re right. Twists and surprises galore but without the annoying “scene hold” before commercial break.

Then, as I was dropping off my batteries at the library for recycling, I thought I would slip inside for a quick peek. Staring at me, front forward on the shelf, was Louis Penny’s How the Light Get’s In.  I grabbed that and two Donna Leon books and, yes, made my reading pile larger, with deadlines.

Cajun Christmas KillingI’ll have to wait until October for the next Ellen Byron novel, A Cajun Christmas Killing, and I’ve been to several bookstores looking for Ashley Weaver’s The Essence of Malice. Ooh! Did I just see an Amory Ames Kindle Single? Another for the pile!the essence of malice

In case you’re worried that I might be crushed by my growing stack of books, I did make headway on the reading pile with a few novels that I had previously downloaded to “give the author a try,” Unfortunately, I was disappointed. I won’t mention them by name because it’s just my opinion and everybody has to start somewhere. I’d hate to have my first book, written before I had gained experience, trashed online.  The point is that authors shouldn’t limit themselves to favorites. When I recognize something I don’t like, it’s a good reminder to keep it out of my own books.

Are there mysteries that you’ve discovered that you love, love, love? Share them in the comments section.

 

 

 

 

 

Stealing and more…

Remembering way-back-when at my first few book eventsoften asked questions were, “Where do you get your ideas?” and “How do you know all that stuff?”[i] Then there were blog-tourswhich several generous and kind authors asked me to participate inand often talked about was, “where do ideas come from.” And of course, our thoughts on inspiration and ideas, have all been shared here on Writers in Residence from several directions.

But then recently at the Vons grocery store, a lovely lady traveling on Route 66 from Illinois to Santa Monica came up to me, and said “I know you!” I had on a Route 66 T-shirt, and as it turned out, it was mistaken identity–she thought I was a “Roadie” she’d met elsewhere in another state.[ii] But after I gave her a bookmark and mentioned about my Route 66 connected writing and my books, she asked, “Where do you get your ideas from?” She seemed genuinely interested. Hence, this post was inspired.

Her question is not one I’ve thought about in detail for a long time, so not having a good answer, I flippantly said, “I steal ‘em.” And though a smart-alecky response, driving home, I realized there was a lot of truth in that statement. For example, in Rhodes The Movie-Maker,[iii]:

  • I stole film crew as an idea from Marilyn Meredith’s Tempe Crabtree River Spirits book,
  • Stole Cap Coleman tattoo from Hap Meredith’s very real tattoo,
  • Stole the real “ghost child” experience from Robert Haig – retired firefighter and author of Fire Horses,
  • Stole the castle-in-the-desert scenario from Scotty’s Castle in Death Valley,
  • Stole photographic flyovers from Aerial America,
  • and on a more generalized writing style level, stole a love for multitudinous characters with unique back stories from Ngaio Marsh, and Agatha Christie. And the love of and use of multitudinous (and far more than I should) compound sentences from P.D. James.

And to use a gentler word, incorporatingthere are the personal experiences, like with helicopters flying across the Mojave causing my ancient windows to rattle and my dogs to hide behind the couch, glorious sunrises and sunsets that I’ve lately come to appreciate, black-birds flying en masse and lining up on electrical wires going down our road, people who live where I live who willingly share orally, or like “Mojave Desert tales,”[iv] in the written word, and from seeing Route 66 films, articles, and museum visits. And even if the stealing connection isn’t direct, I’m pretty sure my subconscious snatches, grabs, kidnaps—whatever you want to call what it does—then lets my conscious mind use whenever and wherever needed. Just like with dogs that I talked about in an earlier post.

So part of this post is an “into-the-cosmos thank you” to so many, but also to verbally acknowledge a deep gratefulness to those who have come before me—laying a path for others(including me!) to follow. Especially my rock stars, P.D., Agatha, and Ngaio. And odd as it may sound, I want to thank computers and word processors.[v] They have been my enablers, wouldn’t be a writer without them. Indeed, how my writing-heroes wrote/edited on olden typewriters with their deep and hard to push keys, or with pen and pencil–will always amaze me. I once heard/read (possibly not true but sounds good), Eudora Welty would cut out her paragraphs and move around in her editing process. Early “cut and paste!”

And my ramblings connection for my fellow writers?—absorb, absorb, absorb. It may sound like I’m encouraging criminality, but I’m not. It’s more like, let it all in. Something I don’t do enough of. I tend to think what’s important is what I think is important at the time—what I’m doing research on. But all the other stuff needs to get it, be mushed(technical term) together, intertwined, concatenated; a lot will get used some time, somewhere.

And “on the other-side of the coin,” one of Louise Penny’s most wonderful novels is The Beautiful Mystery. I love her writing, and this novel in particular. After reading, I so wanted to write a book about a seminarian or monk detective. But it didn’t and won’t ever happen. Don’t know enough to get inside such a protagonist head, and can’t make it up (even though I know and have known several seminarians and priests)—and never will know enough. Sadly, sometimes stealing, incorporating, experiencing, and just plain winging it, just don’t get you there.

Happy writing trails!



[i] Like how things work, and types of items mentioned, or procedures or pottery stuff, and recently desert stuff…etc. — Real answer is research, flippant answer is “I make it up.”

[ii] Alas, I’ve never been approached by anyone recognizing me as an author. And after I mentioned my name to the lady in Vons, she still didn’t have a clue. Sigh, so much for fame and notoriety.

[iii] https://smile.amazon.com/M.-M.-Gornell/e/B002BM4L78/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

 

 

 

[iv] By Bill Smith

[v] Even with their crashes, malfunctioning software-hair-pulling incidents, and just general aggravation…

A Boost Up!

By Jackie Houchin

Boost up2“A boost up”….when someone holds their clasped hands together next to a horse, and you put your foot in like a stirrup, and they propel you upward into the saddle.

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Sometimes a beginner (or lazy) writer needs a boost up into the writing saddle.  That’s where The Write Practice came into the picture for me. (I’m one of those lazy ones!)

The Write Practice

”If you want to become a better writer, you need to practice,” says Joe Bunting, creator of The Write Practice organization and blog. What’s involved? Fifteen minutes a day, five days a week, practicing with fresh writing prompts, unique lessons on technique, and getting feedback from a supportive community.

There are over 1000 practice exercises and lessons on the blog in such categories as; better writing, genre & format, characterization, grammar, journalism, plot & story, writers block, inspirational writing, publishing, and blogging. And it’s free.  http://thewritepractice.com/about/

I’ve attempted two lessons so far in the Short Story category. The first lesson was to read at least six short stories from the many magazine links supplied. The second lesson was to free-write for at least 15 minutes, post what you wrote in the comments section, read three of what other people wrote, and give them brief feedback.  Simple as that; practice writing and give feedback. It’s really the basis for everything Bunting does.

I wrote a short ditty on ‘Pig, Porcupine & Pineapple.’  It was totally fun!  Now to see with my fellow writers say about it

The Becoming Writer Community & Challenge

 If you are ready to go to the next level and start writing finished pieces (and get published), then the Becoming Writer community is the next step. Bunting compares this with what the “Inklings were for Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, the expats in Paris were for Hemingway, and the Bloomsbury group was for Woolf.”

I discovered Becoming Writer because membership in it (yes, it does cost a little) was a requirement to submit to The Write Practice’s quarterly short story writing contest. But what you get with membership is a lot more than the contest.

Like the free practice lessons above, you share your writing with a community of writers to get and give feedback.  Actually giving feedback on another’s work helps you when it comes time to edit your own piece.

The Challenge is to write ONE piece EACH WEEK, submitted on Fridays.  It can be a short story, blog post, poem, essay, or a chapter in a book.  This is what us “lazy” writers call accountability.

And finally, besides actually finishing your pieces (Yay!), you get opportunities to submit to magazines like Short Fiction Break, Wordhaus and others.

The feedback on my first piece, an essay I wrote about Africa, brought a suggestion for submission to a specific online magazine. I submitted it and am waiting to hear.  http://thewritepractice.com/members/join

The Fall Contest

This is what caught my attention at first, a writing contest that promised cash prizes, free books, and publication. The theme was “Let’s Fall in Love.” Stories had to contain the two elements FALL and LOVE and be no longer than 1,500 words.  I told myself, “I can do that.”

The name “Autumn Gold” sprang to my mind and I quizzed my writer friends on Facebook as to how a girl with that name might look. The first answer – a stripper – caused me to cringe because that’s not what I had in mind. But when another person confirmed what he said, it left no doubt.

The story I eventually wrote keeps the title “Autumn Gold,” but the girl’s name is Audrey Gould.  I wrote an outline of sorts, showed it to a friend for her opinion, and then pounded out a story about LOVE that takes place in AUTUMN. It was 1,948 words. Lots of cuts and edits later, I submitted it to the Becoming Writer Contest community.

For the contest (548 entrants) the community is divided into ten groups, A–J, with about 40-50 writers in each. I landed in Group D. There are 46 of us, and we’ve become a close-knit group.

I’ve gotten about nine feedbacks on “Autumn Gold,” and I’ve given at least many more on other stories.  Some are VERY good! Others will need some work.  Reading my story’s feedback and the feedback on the other stories has opened my eyes to what works and what doesn’t, and what readers “get” from what you write, even if it’s not what you intended.

Invaluable!

I’m considering rewriting the ending and running it past them one more time. The final deadline to submit the story to the judges is September 4.

Other Programs

The Write Practice offers other programs for writers and authors on building a platform, publishing & marketing, Twitter, and the 100 Day Book challenge.  http://thewritepractice.com/products

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Now I’m up in the saddle. I’m trotting around and loving it. I can’t wait to press my calves against my steed’s sides and rise into a canter.  I needed that boost up.  Do you?  Perhaps you should consider a writing community.

I suggest The Writing Practice. Take advantage of the discipline and the getting and giving of feedback.  Pick the lessons you are interested in and go for it. They are free! You might also consider Becoming Writer.

Or join a critique group and begin giving your work over to new eyes and opinions.

Get up there and get galloping!

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Currently the Becoming Writer and the 100 Day Book programs are closed until next semester.  Future contests in Becoming Writer will be on Flash Fiction, Essay writing, Novels, and Poetry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Long and Short of the Short Story

by Gayle Bartos-Pool

 

typewriterAfter writing my first three published short stories, something happened: Readers responded favorably to one of my characters. They liked this guy’s personality.

 

Of course a writer is supposed to craft memorable characters, but those are usually found in a novel. A writer has more room to flesh out characters in a 300-page novel, not a 25-50 page short story. But something was happening with my “Johnny Casino” character. His personality was too big to stay within 28 pages.

 

That’s when I realized I had more Johnny Casino stories in me. In fact, by the time I was finished, I had nine stories and 388 pages. That’s called a book. I had turned a one-shot story into what is basically a series.

 

But the journey was also a learning experience.

 

I wrote a batch of these stories and showed them to my agent. She liked them, but…she wanted more information about Johnny. She thought the stories needed a love interest, but I didn’t want the short stories bogged down with schmaltz. That wasn’t what I envisioned for my character. But I hadn’t written any reason why Johnny didn’t have a woman in his life, so I wrote a backstory. That’s when I learned a lot of new things about him. It was so detailed; it turned into the second story in the first collection, The Johnny Casino Casebook 1 – Past Imperfect.past-imperfect-cover-12

The backstory also gave me a different view of Johnny. He had his dark side as well as his sarcastic side. He was becoming a three-dimensional person. I started learning so much about him, more stories popped up. One was so compelling; it became the focal point of the second collection, The Johnny Casino Casebook 2 – Looking for Johnny Nobody.

bookcoverpreviewcropped

Since I had created a past for Johnny, I could write stories about him when he worked for the mob back in New Jersey when he was younger; after all, I had discovered that his father was a high ranking guy in the D’Abruzzo crime family. I could also do a story explaining how he became a private detective after he fled to California.

 

 

And here’s a heads up for all you multi-tasking short story/novel writers. The character I created who taught Johnny how to be a first class P.I. is the heroine in another mystery series I have been writing. I figured, if people like Johnny, they just might like the novel featuring Gin Caulfield. She is now in three novels, not short stories in this case.

 

The last thing I learned on this journey is that there is a different kind of short story out there. In classes I teach about The Anatomy of a Short Story I mention a short story is like an hors d’oeuvre. It consists of a few really good things served up in a small bite. Whether it’s a handful of cool characters in a terrific location involved in a catchy plot, the short story gets you to one location in the fastest way possible.

 

In contrast, a novel can take you far and wide with a cast of thousands with sub-plots and bits of interesting background stuff just for the fun of it, and the writer can use 300 to 400 pages to accomplish the task. But the short story writer has to chop out unnecessary characters, places, plot twists and trim down the description to its bare bones and do it in 10 to 25 pages, give or take. Or does he?

 

I think there is a new home for the short story. The Short Story Novel. The length of each individual story can be anywhere from 25 to 70 pages, but the main thing is to have a single set of characters, or in my case, one main character, in every story. Several characters make repeat appearances, and I mention one sub-plot in several of the earlier stories in any given collection that is resolved in a story of its own. Each story reveals more and more about my main character and the final story in Book One ends with a haunting question that will be answered in Book Two.

 

If this sounds like a television series, you betcha. I called it a “series” earlier in this blog and that is exactly how I visualize The Johnny Casino Casebook, whether it stays in book form or hits the TV screen. His stories might be in the “short story” format, but his entire life is a novel.

 

And for those of you who prefer to create something completely stand-alone in each short story you write, those individual tales can always be put into your own collection and published. I did just that in From Light TO DARK.

The Play’s the Thing – Plot is Everything - Some thoughts by Gayle Bartos-Pool

Second Chance Book CoverAnd to add one more thing to this blog, Johnny Casino isn’t the only short story character to be in a book of his own. Chance McCoy arrived this year. His first book is called Second Chance. There are more stories to come. And there is a second short story anthology called Only in Hollywood coming out next year. The book consists of various stand-alone stories, but one features a guy named Charles Miro, a former TV actor turned private eye. He works for a younger woman who owns the detective firm. There are several stories about these two coming up. You see, even a short story can magically turn itself into a book if you try.

Write on.

Only in Hollywood cover 2