Monday, April 7, 2014

Ideas and The Creative Process

by Linda O. Johnston

I enjoy blogging.  I also enjoy reading blogs with topics of interest to me.

That's one reason I'm having fun here at InkSpot. 

The author bloggers here have been hitting a lot on a subject that's dear to me: the creative process.  Those of us who write fiction find ideas everywhere.  Maybe too many ideas.  Maybe ideas that need to be fleshed out to turn into engaging stories.

I post at other blog spots, too, including weekly at Killer Hobbies.  I just happen to have focused last week on one of my favorite quotations.  If anyone knows where it originated, please let me know.  I'm only sorry that I didn't think of it first. 

What is it?  "Reality is only for those who lack imagination."

Oh, yes, we all live with reality.  We've got to deal with it daily.  Hourly.  Even minute by minute.  But we fiction writers can also find ways to use it in what we write.

Something fun?  By all means, find a way to work it into a story we're writing.

Something sad?  We can help ourselves deal with it by also working it into a story, but using it in a way that can help not only us get through it, but, hopefully, our readers in similar situations, too.

Something inspirational?  That's definitely something to try to include somewhere, in our fiction and even our blogs!

No matter what, those of us who write realize that our minds are always at work searching for, or fleshing out, ideas that expand our writing. 

Now, please excuse me.  Writing this gave me another idea that I need to jot down...!

 

 

 

 

 

Coming October 2014 - The first Superstition Mystery!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

INK SPOT NEWS- April 5, 2014


Here are the Midnight ink release for April, 2014... and they're all wonderful!






Deal Killer -
Vicki Doudera
A Darby Farr Mystery #5
"[W]ell-crafted ... the reader will feel compelled to keep turning the pages before reaching the final revelations." —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY








Deadliest of Sins -
 Sallie Bissell
A Mary Crow Novel #6
"[A] smart and well-paced mystery with a gutsy protagonist and a touch of romance."
KIRKUS REVIEWS







Critical Damage - Robert K. Lewis
A Mark Mallen
 Novel #2
"Not for the faint of heart, this chilling tale of sexual depravity is perfect for conspiracy aficionados."
BOOK VERDICT






 Colin Campbell
A Resurrection Man Novel #2
". . .wry maverick Grant never fails to entertain."
KIRKUS REVIEWS

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Final Train

By Deborah Sharp

The electronic information board inside the Washington, D.C., Metro station flashed a brief message:
Green Line trains delayed due to accident at Columbia Heights station.

No need for me to worry. Playing tourist for a few days in the nation's capital, I was on my way to the Smithsonian. I was riding the Orange Line.

The next morning, as I enjoyed the free breakfast at my hotel, I spotted a small-font headline, deep inside The Washington Post:
Person fatally struck by Metro train. 
It was the briefest of stories, buried in the local news digest on page C3. In five short sentences, the Post conveyed the critical details: It happened about 3 pm. Trains were delayed by 20 to 30 minutes. And, said the spokeswoman for the Metro, ''it is believed that the person was intentionally in front of the train.''

As a former journalist, I realized the Post was abiding by standard newsroom rules regarding suicides. Because no one wants to encourage copycats seeking notoriety, suicides generally don't merit banner headlines or breathless coverage. At least they don't unless the person is a famous public figure, the manner of death is spectacular, or the suicide itself presents a broad risk to public safety. A run-of-the-mill train jumper doesn't meet any of those criteria. I get that as a one-time reporter.

But as a fiction writer, I wanted to know so much more. What was going through that desperate soul's mind? As I was blithely consulting my subway map so I wouldn't overshoot my stop, some tortured individual was contemplating his -- or her -- final seconds of life. Was there a last-minute regret? Resignation? Acceptance? And what about the driver, who could see -- but not avoid -- what was about to happen? What of the other riders waiting on the platform? Did someone reach out, and just miss saving a life?

I checked the Post for the next two mornings. I couldn't find anything further on the fatality. No name. No age. Not even the gender of this person whose final act disrupted Metro service for ''20 to 30 minutes.''

When I teach seminars, I often use short newspaper stories -- sometimes just a headline --  as a creative writing prompt.
Ask yourself the question, What If? I always say to students.


What if I'd taken the Green Line that day instead of the Orange? What if I'd struck up a conversation on the platform with a person whose eyes seemed so sad? What if...

Monday, March 31, 2014

Kid in a Candy Store

By Maegan Beaumont


When a writer lands on a story idea, it usually happens one of two ways. It's either like being hit by lightening or like watching a seed germinate. Either way, once the story takes root, your head starts to swim in The Sea of Possibilities...



This is good--possibilities always are, but if you're not careful, you start to look like this:


or like this:



and then, eventually... like this:



Having a fiction writer's imagination can be both a blessing and a curse. We can spin straw into gold but sometimes, we get carried away. Every idea we have is a good one, every plot twist we come up with is absolutely vital to the outcome of the story (or so we fool ourselves into believing) so, we pile it on. We're gluttonous. Greedy. We have what I call Kid-in-a-candy-store-itis.

Before we know it, we're working plot points for a paranormal, dystopian, sci-fi,western about a half-vampire, half-werewolf who falls in love with a time-traveling mermaid... which, by the way, has absolutely nothing to do with our initial story idea.

Just remember to keep it simple. With roughly 1,100 years between us and the first printed page, an original plot is damn near impossible. Originality comes from our voice. Don't let it become cluttered and bogged down by an over active imagination or you'll end up like this guy:


And remember: friends don't let friends write paranormal, dystopian, sci-fi westerns about a half-vampire, half-werewolf who falls in love with a time-traveling mermaid.

Maegan Beaumont is the author of SACRIFICIAL MUSE, the second book in the Sabrina Vaughn series (Available through Midnight Ink, summer, 2014). A native Phoenician, Maegan’s stories are meant to make you wonder what the guy standing in front of you in the Starbucks line has locked in his basement, and feel a strong desire to sleep with the light on. When she isn’t busy fulfilling her duties as Domestic Goddess for her high school sweetheart turned husband, Joe, and their four children, she is locked in her office with her computer, her coffee pot and her Rhodesian Ridgeback, and one true love, Jade.
She also writes a blog dedicated to helping writers with plot woes and answering writing questions. Check her out – http://maeganbeaumont.blogspot.com/ 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Guest Post: Emily Kimmelman


Thanks to Inkspot for having me on her blog today to talk to you about a contest I’m running in order to find a narrator for my Sydney Rye series of audiobooks. When I was driving cross country last year I listened to a lot of audiobooks. What I learned quickly is that the story didn’t matter as much as the voice. As a writer I hate to admit it but the truth is that no matter how compelling a tale if the voice doesn’t work then neither does the audiobook.

This realization was at the forefront of my mind when I decided to turn my own series into audiobooks. So I’m asking for your help. After narrowing the finalist down to four voice artist I’m going around the web begging for you to tell me what you think.

If you Haven’t read Sydney Rye yet don’t worry. You can download the first book, UNLEASHED, for free on Amazon, iTunes, B&N, or Kobo and see how she sounds in your head then vote for the best narrator.

Since I’m asking for your help I figured I should give something back. Voting enters you to win all sorts of great prizes including Amazon gift cards, signed books, and the finished Audio book!
I hope you’ll take the time to help me out by letting me know what you think. Thanks!

Here are your choices for narrator:

https://soundcloud.com/emily-kimelman-gilvey/tracks

Emily Strong

Emily Strong is an actor, voiceover talent, and first time filmmaker.  As a native of Michigan, she is a nature-lover at heart but has the mind of a city girl and moved to Chicago nearly three years ago because she wasn't smart enough to go somewhere warmer.  She takes full advantage of what the city has to offer by training at legendary places like The Second City and eating lots and lots of ethnic food (will travel all the way across the city to Pilsen for the best tacos!).  Her love of reading was the catalyst for her adventurous spirit and the reason why she is always stoked to tell stories in their many different forms. You can visit her at www.emilystrong.net

Erin Jones

Erin has narrated over 500 audio books including "The Hunger Games" trilogy for The National Library Services/Library Of Congress,  "A State Of Wonder," The Garden Of The Beasts," "Anna Karenina," "Ferdinand The Bull, and "Madeline."

Sonja Field
 
Sonja has two loves: acting and reading. Narrating audiobooks is her absolute passion. She has logged over 600 hours recording textbooks with an organization called Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, and is currently in the process of recording a kids' action-fantasy-adventure novel, a steamy and mysterious paranormal romance, and a non-fiction about writing. She loves nothing more than bringing vivid worlds and unique characters to life. When she's not recording, Sonja can be found onstage, traipsing around Brooklyn, or entertaining children with a variety of dubious accents.


Erica Newhouse

Erica Newhouse is a film, televesion and theater actor living in New York City. She is a graduate of The Juilliard School.

Voting enters you to win all sorts of great prizes including Amazon gift cards, signed books, and the finished Audio book! Add to your chances of winning by joining Emily's email list, liking her Facebook page, or telling your friends about the contest.

Prize Details
Every vote, like, share, or sign up is an entry for the "grand prizes"
                        One person will win Signed copies of all 5 books
                        One person will win a $30 Amazon or B&N gift card
                        Four other winners will win paperback copies of UNLEASHED
                     
Anyone who votes +  signs up for Emily’s email list + likes Emily’s FaceBook page gets a copy of the audio book when it's completed!

Enter HERE for the Raffle Copter giveaway FIND THE VOICE OF SYDNEY RYE AUDIO BOOK CONTEST LINKS

Code:

<a id="rc-dc5f661" class="rafl" href="http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/dc5f661/" rel="nofollow">a Rafflecopter giveaway</a>
<script src="//d12vno17mo87cx.cloudfront.net/embed/rafl/cptr.js"></script>


More about UNLEASHED:

UNLEASHED is the first book in Emily Kimelman's best selling Sydney Rye series of mysteries.
When the series begins Sydney Rye is named Joy Humbolt. She does not like people telling her what to do, so it comes as no surprise that she was just fired from her last job. When she buys Charlene Miller's dog-walking business on Manhattan's exclusive upper east side, it seems like the perfect fit: Quiet environment, minimal contact with people.

But then one of her clients turns up dead, and Charlene disappears. Rumors say Charlene was having an affair with the victim--and of course, everyone assumes Joy must know where she is. Joy begins to look into the crime, first out of curiosity then out of anger when there is another murder and threats start to come her way.

When police detective Mulberry is assigned to the case, Joy finds a kindred spirit--cynical and none-too-fond of the human race. As they dig deep into the secrets of Manhattan's elite, they not only get closer to the killer but also to a point of no return. One last murder sends Joy Humbolt hurtling over the edge. Her only chance of survival is to become Sydney Rye.


The Rest of The Sydney Rye Series:

DEATH IN THE DARK (A Sydney Rye Novella, #2)
INSATIABLE (A Sydney Rye Novel, #3)
STRINGS OF GLASS (A Sydney Rye Novel, #4)
THE DEVIL’S BREATH (A Sydney Rye Novel, #5) Coming April 2014


Emily Kimelman Biography 
Emily Kimelman is the author of the best selling “Sydney Rye” series of mystery novels including UNLEASHED, DEATH IN THE DARK, INSATIABLE, STRINGS OF GLASS and the forthcoming THE DEVIL’S BREATH. Emily lives with her husband, Sean Gilvey, and their dog, Kinsey Millhone “Pup Detective”, on a trawler docked in the Hudson Valley during the summer. She spends her winters traveling to where ever the next Sydney Rye Novel takes place. Right now she is in Costa Rica working on Sydney Rye #6.

If you’ve read Emily’s work and liked it please contact her. She loves hearing from readers. You can reach Emily via email ejkimelman@gmail.com or on  twitter @ejkimelman. Follow her on Instagram to see pictures from Emily’s latest adventures. Visit www.emilykimelman.com to learn more about Emily and the Sydney Rye series.

Thanks for visiting, Emily.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

In Which Nora and Shannon Return Home

by Shannon Baker

One question writers often get is: How much of you is in your main character?

With me and Nora, I can answer, not much. Nora is an avid environmentalist. While I’m concerned about the environment and I recycle, watch my water usage, take care to save energy and drive a fuel efficient car, I’m hardly an activist. Inspiration for Nora came while I lived in Flagstaff and worked at an environmental non-profit, The Grand Canyon Trust.



One way Nora and I are very much alike is in our love for Boulder, Colorado. My first experience with Boulder was in 1971, when my family moved there. I was in sixth grade and fell in love with the Flatirons. Downtown Boulder was the hippy epicenter and though I was too young to participate in that scene, something about Boulder resonated with my soul. We only lived there a year and we moved on.

When I got to restart my life, I chose Boulder in 2003. This time around, I spent as much time as possible hiking and biking in the mountains and the foothills before life took me away. I landed in Flagstaff, AZ. Not a bad place and the inspiration for the Nora Abbott Mystery Series. At the end of Tainted Mountain, the first in the series, Nora feels like she needs a place to start over. And where else would she choose but my favorite place, Boulder.



I was thrilled to steep myself in setting, picture the quirky inhabitants, bask in the shadow of the Flatirons, revel in the majesty of the Rockies. And then, wonder of wonders, I got a call from a former colleague recruiting me to join a startup. Me, Nora, Flagstaff, Boulder. Art imitating life imitating art.

For a few months I didn’t have to imagine Nora’s surroundings. I biked the same roads, hiked the same trails, drank beer in the same outdoor cafes. Wait, I don’t have a scene where Nora drinks beer on the Pearl Street Mall. I probably should have.

Alas, my stay in Boulder ended too soon. As one friend put it, I’m an itinerate writer. But Nora’s Boulder story is just beginning. She’s due to hit the shelves March 8th. If you’ve ever wanted to hang out in the People’s Republic of Boulder for a bit, get your heart rate amped by murder and weapons of mass destruction, and find out how a non-profit really works, consider picking up Broken Trust.


As for me, I’m currently writing from the windswept prairie of southwestern Nebraska. I don’t envision Nora winding up here anytime soon. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Guest Post: Writer, Doctor, Inc.

Today, we are most pleased to welcome a guest post from the author of Wife of the GodsChildren of the Street, and the upcoming Murder at Cape Three Points.

By Kwei J. Quartey, M.D.

The other day, I was talking to someone about how I combine my writing and medical careers. “Being a doctor and a writer seems such a strange combination,” she commented. I’m not sure what she meant by “strange,” but the existence of physician-writers is hardly unprecedented. In fact, there is a long list of them, dating from antiquity through every century up to the present.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, prolific author and creator of Sherlock Holmes, arguably the most famous character in fiction, was only a couple years into his studies at medical school when he wrote the short story, The Mystery of Sasassa Valley. Evocative of the works of Edgar Allan Poe, it was accepted and published by an Edinburgh magazine. It was while he was struggling to get his medical practice off the ground in 1886 that Sir Arthur began the Sherlock Holmes novel that would catapult him to fame, A Study in Scarlet. In this story, Holmes utters a memorable declaration: "There's the scarlet thread of murder running through the colorless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it."

During the same period as Sir Arthur’s work, the great Russian writer Anton Chekov, was writing the short stories for which he is so recognized, but many do not know that he was also a full-time physician who continued to practice medicine throughout most of his literary career. He is quoted as having once said, “Medicine is my lawful wife, and literature is my mistress.”

Moving forward a couple centuries, we have many present-day examples of physician-writers: phenomenally successful Robin Cook, author of Coma, Shock and many other works; the late Michael Crichton (The Andromeda Strain, State of Fear, and of course, Jurassic Park); Khaled Hosseini, a contemporary of mine who once worked in the same medical group (The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns.)

Some doctor-authors write primarily about medical matters and do so in a way that engages the layperson. A good example is Oliver Sacks (Awakenings), whose explorations of patients’ experiences tell stories in the framework of what might be called “romantic science.” But it is the physician who writes fiction who interests us the most. What makes a doctor want to turn away from the often very tough realities of practicing medicine to creating stories for publication?

In fact, the two vocations are not as different as one might think. Much of medical practice is about stories. In medical school, I was taught that as much as 70 percent of the diagnosis comes from the patient’s history of present illness (HPI), the narrative that forms the reason for which the patient is seeking medical treatment. A substantial chunk of my medical training was spent in schooling us students in how to “take” a medical history, and how to “present” it. In the electronic age, some of this curricular emphasis may have been lost, but the importance of the HPI hasn’t gone away, even if people think it has.

At teaching hospitals all over the world, bedside rounds are the venue in which the HPI takes center stage. Nowadays, much of teaching rounds has been replaced by time spent consulting laptops and smartphones. This electronic shift notwithstanding, the responsibility of narrating the HPI still falls traditionally upon the intern, who “presents the case” to the senior physician along with a substantial and sometimes intimidating audience of other doctors. Invariably the history begins with, “This is an x-year-old man/woman/girl/boy who was well until yesterday when he/she began to experience abdominal/chest/pelvic pain…” and so on. That introductory form is so standard as to be almost sacred. After the body of the HPI, other elements are added: the past medical history and the family and the social histories. The most admired presenters are those who describe the case so well that the audience immediately gains a clear picture of what is going on. It is gratifying when a senior physician praises a junior one for “giving a good history.”

But think about it: all the presenting physician has done, really, is tell a story. Sometimes the tale is so interesting, it holds the audience in rapt attention. The best medical histories are like good thrillers or mysteries, and the best case-presenters tell them that way. So, although you have probably never thought of your doctor in this way, he or she is actually a trained storyteller. Perhaps out of some deep-seated need, the physician-writer adapts this training to the pages of a novel.

Another aspect of the physician’s experience that equips him or her to write is called the clinical gaze. It is the opportunity and privilege afforded a doctor to observe a wide variety of people on an intimate physical, psychological and emotional level, particularly in the setting of the most universal component of human suffering: pain. This interaction provides the physician-writer with a wellspring of characters from which he or she can draw in the writing of a novel. The incorporation of some of these characters in the physician’s novel is not always conscious. It may be a subconscious synthesis of several patients he or she has encountered in the practice.

Of course, direct medical knowledge and expertise come in handy as well: in my own works, there is always a prominent medical component, whether it’s a detailed autopsy report, or an account of the heart disease of one of my most favorite characters, seven-year-old Hosiah. It comes as second nature.

The genre that parallels medicine most is the murder mystery. Indeed, it was Joseph Bell, a mentor of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s and a physician with particularly brilliant powers of observation, who was the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes’s extraordinary deductive powers. By extension, it is quite evident how a medical case and a murder mystery are analogous to each other. The doctor is the detective who “solves” the illness; the patient is both the victim and the scene of the crime; and the culprit is the causative organism or pathological process. Doctors look for clues in the patient’s appearance, the history, the physical exam and the lab tests. There is no fundamental difference between a physician eliciting a history from a patient and a detective interviewing a witness or suspect.

There may be one more reason why some doctors are drawn to writing, and here, I mean fiction in particular. We physicians have a driving desire to combat and overcome the chaos of illness, and in many ways, redirect the course of life and death. Some of us never give up, and in the crushing defeat that must invariably befall us at some juncture, we may be thrown into the abyss of depression. It is true: we don’t like to make a mistake or miss a diagnosis. After all, a patient’s life may be at stake. Yet despite all our training and the wonders of modern medicine, we remain woefully mortal and vulnerable to defeat.

But in fiction, physician-writers can turn the tables on life and be in complete, godlike control. In the murder mystery especially, we create the setup—the heinous crime for which justice must be done—and set our intrepid detective on the perpetrator’s trail. Our detective does not rest until the murderer is identified in the delicious denouement, by which time we have also managed to tie up the loose ends in our character’s lives. What could be more gratifying?

But despite medicine informing the process of writing, there can still be an unsustainable tension between the two careers. Both take time, and sometimes there aren’t enough hours in a day to accommodate them both. Dr. Hosseini, for example, simply has no time to practice medicine anymore, what with forty-city book tours.
Is that tension affecting me as well, and if so, how much? Let me put it this way: in 2014, being a doctor will by necessity gradually cede to the burgeoning sovereignty of my writing, and in the very near future be forced to genuflect in submission.

BUY HIS BOOKS HERE


Wife of the Gods

Children of the Street
Murder At Cape Three Points
Out March 2014

About Dr. Quartey

kwei

Kwei Quartey is a crime fiction writer and physician living in Pasadena, California. Having practiced medicine for more than 20 years while simultaneously working as a writer, he has attained noteworthy achievements in both fields. Dr. Quartey balances the two professions by dedicating the early morning hours to writing before beginning a day in his clinic.

Kwei Quartey attended medical school at Howard University in Washington, D.C. In 1990, he began practicing medicine in California with HealthCare Partners. Dr. Quartey later founded the facility’s wound care center while working as an urgent care physician.

As a crime fiction writer, Kwei Quartey made the Los Angeles Times Bestseller List in 2009. The following year, the G.O.G. National Book Club awarded him the title of Best Male Author. Having published Wife of the Gods and Children of the Street, he is anticipating the release of a third novel in the series, Murder at Cape Three Points, in March 2014. Death at the Voyager Hotel, a mystery e-novella not belonging to the series, was published July 2013. Dr. Quartey is also a member of the Los Angeles chapter of Sisters in Crime, a fiction writers’ organization.



Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Isabel Allende Thinks We Suck

By Steve Hockensmith

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back in the Friendsozoic Era -- which is to say the 1990s -- my pal Mo Ryan edited a music 'zine (remember those?) called Steve Albini Thinks We Suck. I always loved that name. Steve Albini was, at the time, the go-to producer if you wanted to grunge up your rock'n'roll for the flannel-flaunting masses. He had what I recall as a surly, mouthy, bad-boy streak -- sort of like Liam Gallagher if he'd been born in the States and knew how to spell. So it was easy to imagine him thinking many, many, many things sucked, even the wonderful and talented Mo Ryan. (Mo told me the real reason her 'zine got its name around 1998 or 1999, which is why I can't remember it now.)

Being someone with all the street cred of your average Mel Torme fan -- which is to say none -- I found the prospect of earning Mr. Albini's disdain pretty amusing. Some people shouldn't wear black leather jackets. Some people shouldn't write bile-fueled manifestos. Some people shouldn't get tattoos or pierce whatever random flaps of flesh they might choose on a drunken whim. I am one of such people and I've always known it. I am not a Fonz. I am a Potsie. So a hipster like Albini is such an alien creature to me -- like a hard-rockin' Klingon, say, or a supermodel -- his contempt would almost feel like a compliment. It would only sting if I pined to be like him. 

I haven't thought about Steve Albini or the 'zine named in his honor in a long, long time. But they came to mind this week when I saw some of my colleagues in the mystery world reacting to a dis from Isabel Allende. Allende, as you might know, is a highly successful purveyor of the sort of middlebrow storytelling Barnes & Noble stocks under "Fiction" and some people call "literature." Perhaps having grown tired of being all literary or examining the endlessly fascinating subject which is herself (Allende's written at least four memoirs, which seems excessive for anyone who's not Winston Churchill), she recently made the puzzling decision to write a mystery. 

I call it puzzling because Allende's been promoting her mystery by talking about how much she doesn't like mysteries. To prepare to write the book, apparently, she read a few current bestsellers, which she didn't care for at all. Having thus learned everything there is to know about a genre that's more than a century old, she proceeded to turn it on its head (in her mind) by writing Ripper -- a book that sounds like a James Patterson plot as filtered through Nancy Drew.

Offense was taken. Umbrage, too. And I sympathize! But one element of the response makes me a little uncomfortable -- perhaps, admittedly, because it threatens that smug sense of detachment that allowed me to laugh at Steve Albini Thinks We Suck.

I've seen people writing about how much Allende underestimates mysteries. How the best the genre has to offer is just as insightful and uncompromising and artistic as "literary fiction." And I think: True...but screw that! Why are we trying to prove ourselves to people who hold us in contempt? We don't have to justify our love of mysteries to the likes of Isabel Allende. Just as I've never had to justify my love of "Night Fever" to Steve Albini. (And good thing, too.)

Are the works of Arthur Conan Doyle or Agatha Christie or Ed McBain or Elmore Leonard or Michael Connelly insightful or uncompromising or artistic in a way Allende would recognize or acknowledge? Probably not. And who cares?

Yes, Isabel Allende thinks we suck. But of course we're free to think the same of her.

Or, better yet, not to think of her at all.

Steve Hockensmith is the author, most recently, of Nick and Tesla's Robot Army Rampage, which this post was supposed to promote. Oops.