Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Monday, April 27, 2009

Last Week of April


Good News (If Any)

I'm initiating queries for a new series of mysteries set in the fictional town of Peyton, NC, situated on the glorious Crystal Coast, an area Blackbeard used to romp around. I've got the first one, Whacked!, written with plans for a linked set of three under development.

My paranormal manuscript has been submitted to my current publisher, The Wild Rose Press. If they like that one, I already have the rough draft of a third one written, with plans for a third under development.

I'm still waiting to hear back from the publisher on a historical mystery I submitted a few months ago, as well as a couple of other submissions.

So, no "good news" per se—and I may be getting a lot of bad news in the way of rejections over the next few months, but hey, it's all in a day's work for a writer. It's comforting to think that even great writers suffer the same humiliation, although I doubt that many of their rejection letters start with "Dear Author".

What I'm Reading Now

The Mercedes Coffin by Faye Kellerman.

Maybe I'm just not in the mood for this or something, but I'm finding the book a little slow going. I mean, when Decker goes to interview a suspect for the third or fourth time and there's still no one home…my interest sort of sags. But I have a couple of brand new books awaiting me, so if I can struggle through to the end, I've got others to look forward to.

What I'm Writing Now

I'm trying to decide about writing a historical Christmas novella. Or working on another mystery—either contemporary or historical. Just not sure. That's the problem with having a lot of submissions running around. Once I hear from any of them, I'll know which direction to take.

So maybe I should just write the novella. Although I may also try a short story aimed at the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine—just for the fun of it.

What—If Any—Thoughts I have

I've been thinking about suspense versus mystery and my own enjoyment of mysteries. Generally, folks indicate that one of the biggest differences between suspense and mystery is the knowledge of who the villain is. Although if you use that definition, Columbo would be suspense instead of mystery, because you always knew who the murderer was—it was just whether Columbo could catch him (or her) or not.

But I think there's another important factor in mystery, and that is motive. These days, suspense frequently features a serial killer as the villain, and the motive is dismissed as something as trivial as: he's a sociopath; he doesn't like women with blonde hair; he had a bad childhood; or…just because he's bad. Sigh. Maybe that's why I'm not that into suspense. The motive isn't all that important.

With a mystery, even if I know who the villain turns out to be, I still want to know why and how. The motive and method are almost—or more—important than the who. In fact, the why is what is keeping me reading The Mercedes Coffin. I just want to know the motive.

And it's motive that fascinates me enough to write mysteries. Because I'm always trying to work out: what would force a person into a position where he (or she) thinks murder is the only answer? Why doesn't the person just walk away? (Which is, frankly, what I would do—I can't imagine what would make me kill someone—unless he was actually attacking me. I'm more of a walk-away-&-never-to-speak-to-you-again person.)



Thursday, April 09, 2009

Glorious April

We are having absolutely gorgeous weather! All the azaleas and dogwoods are blooming and the hummingbirds are starting to return. Which reminds me that I need to get a few more feeders.

Good News (If Any)

My historical short story, Outrageous Behavior, has been released and is doing much better than I anticipated. And in fact, The Wild Rose Press has a big sale on short stories this month, so it's only 99 cents! A spectacular bargain and a great way to see if you like an author enough to buy longer and more expensive pieces. Outrageous Behavior has been in my publisher's Top Ten Bestsellers list all week (the list is dynamic, based upon sales) and even hit the number #1 slot earlier in the week. So I'm pretty jazzed about it. Besides, I really like the story. If you've ever struggled to be kind and polite while watching those who are bigger, badder and bolder walk off with the prize, then this story is for you.

When etiquette fails, Outrageous Behavior prevails!

What I'm Reading Now

In The Woods by Tana French. I'm only about 150 pages into this mystery set in Ireland, but I'm really enjoying this book. For some reason, the British writing style appeals to me strongly. Maybe it is the wry, understated wording and the vivid descriptions that really bring you into the story and into the characters' heads—but whatever it is, this is an excellent example. The prose is smooth and the characters very likeable, and yet not perfect. The mystery is sad and compelling. I, for one, hope the rest of the book lives up to the beginning. We shall see.

What I'm Writing Now

I'm editing a paranormal manuscript, based upon a rejection/revision letter I got from my publisher. I'm pretty excited about it because revision letters are good and almost always help you produce a better manuscript. And the cool thing—I've already finished a rough draft of another paranormal that features one of the characters from this first one. So if I can work through the revisions (and not mess it up too badly) and see the first one, I can whip out the second one pretty quickly—at least quickly for me. Since I take about two years to produce a decent manuscript, this may cut me down to one year between books in this line, which would be sweet.

And I still have a contemporary mystery that I want to fix up for submission to an agent.

What—If Any—Thoughts I have

Don't write in first person unless you mean it. J That's part of what happened to that paranormal manuscript. I wrote it in first person. I still sort of like that version best, but in the paranormal romance genre, they really prefer 3rd person. So I rewrote it in 3rd and I've got to tell you, that was a nightmare. I will never do that again.

Personally, I love first person. And I don't especially want to head hop or know what is going on in the minds of the other characters. If the narrator is doing his/her job, then she's interpreting what the other characters are thinking. Whether that character's interpretations are right or wrong—well, that's the story, isn't it? It shows something about the POV character's astuteness and ability to understand others. Sometimes it reveals a fatal flaw in that character, because of her (or his) inability to interpret the actions and emotions of others at all. And I'm really, really good with that. In fact, I don't really like head hopping or jumping around from one character's viewpoint to another if I'm supposed to be identifying strong with both. It pretty well keeps me from settling down deeply into any one character. Which probably explains why I like first person so well, and why I read so many books told in 1st person.

Of course, I also like books told by an omniscient narrator and such books may include POV shifts to inanimate objects or animals. But hey, those things don't have deep thoughts to sink into, so I'm good with that. And it's usually done for humorous effect, anyway. Strangely enough, it also seems to be an almost exclusively British thing, too. I read a brilliant book where even the wind had a personality and POV, ever so briefly. Somehow, the British seem to have more fun with their writing, although I've found a few American authors who are also willing to have a little fun, too.

Anyway, I'm rambling. Not to mention, I'm supposed to be cooking dinner.

Have a great weekend!