Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Location, Location, Location

by Shannon Baker

The writer’s dream is to quit the day job and write full time. In my case, my day job quit me. Sometimes risks pay off big time and sometimes… In the windshield/bug battle, this time, I was the bug.

Last June, I moved from Flagstaff to Boulder to join a medical device start-up. It didn’t exactly start up so in April, I found myself out of a job. Although I spent the summer doing all the great things I love to do in Boulder, riding my bike, hiking, spending time on Boulder Creek and enjoying all the wonderful high altitude sun. I spent a lot of time looking for jobs, applying, interviewing and then washing and repeating.
                                                Backpack trip in the Rockies this summer.

It’s hard to admit this in public because it makes me sound like a big, fat loser. I’d like to think I’m smart enough and that I don’t smell bad or have an unusually annoying personality. (A little annoying is natural. It is.) The truth is, I’m a woman of a certain age. I read the statistics and have listened to enough NPR to know finding that senior level job is tough.

So, instead of being the person sitting in the FEMA trailer five years after the hurricane saying, “Why won’t someone help me?” Or the tearful woman on NPR saying she’s run through all her savings, I’m taking drastic measures.

We penciled it out, plotted our course and have gone past the point of no return. If we sell out in Boulder and move to Nebraska, the difference in our income versus expenses will make it possible for me to not go after a day job. The guy with the steady job retires in 623 days (less by the time this blog is published) and we’ve got a house in Tucson waiting. In the meantime, I’ve got a plan to supplement our income that involves a pen name and epubbing, and I have a new mystery series I’m super excited about.

                                                         Long, lonely road in Nebraska

I’m not sure I believe in the universe having a plan for individuals but here’s what happened: I listed our house on Monday. On Wednesday we signed a contract with the buyers for cash to close in 3 weeks. On Friday I drove to Nebraska to look at houses. On Saturday we signed a contract to close in two weeks.

 Now I’ve got to make a dash to Tucson to haul half our belongings down because the new place is very small. It’s really a micro house no one is allowed to visit. Load up a hot tub we have in Flagstaff because if we’re going to move to Nebraska we need some perks. And be back up here to hit all the closings and finish the move.

When this post hits, all of these things should be done and we’ll be in the British Virgin Islands on a 47 foot catamaran. It’s a trip we’ve planned for months and we leave the day after we sign off on the Boulder house.

Come November 1 I’ll be a stay at home writer. I have to leave my favorite place on earth to do it but a little sacrifice is good for the character. 

And… Full Time Writer!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Interviewing Characters to Get to Know Them

by Beth Groundwater

We're only about two and a half weeks away from the November 8th release of the third book in my Claire Hanover gift basket designer series, A Basket of Trouble. In anticipation of this critically acclaimed book, which was well-reviewed in 3 out of the 4 big review publications (Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly), I thought I'd give readers an insight into one of the tools I used to create the characters in the book.

To portray my gift basket designer sleuth, Claire Hanover, and my other characters realistically, I need to get into their heads and hearts and discover what they’re thinking and feeling. Only then can they become three-dimensional people that readers can love or hate. Sometimes this is easy, such as in Claire’s case, because she is much like me, a middle-aged woman with a husband and two grown children who lives in Colorado Springs and vacations in Breckenridge (I used to live in Colorado Springs and now live in Breckenridge). Other times it’s tough because the character has a very different personality from me. This was true for Claire's husband, Roger, and for Claire's brother, Charley, partly because they are men and partly because of their life experiences.

One tool I successfully used to understand Roger’s and Charley's psyches was the first-person character interview. In a first-person interview, the author pretends to be a trusted person in the character’s life (I was their psychologist), and asks probing, thoughtful questions. The critical element is to record the answers in first-person. The first person voice helps you really get inside a character’s head.

Some of the questions should address the book’s central theme or conflict and some should address the reason(s) why this character is so hard to define. Examples include:

What's the worst thing that ever happened to you or could happen to you?
What is your biggest accomplishment?
What do you wish you could do or stop doing?
How would you describe yourself and how would others describe you?
What's your biggest secret?
Why do you want what you want and how would you feel if you never got it?

The result of the interview should be that the character feels as real to the author as a member of her family. When she's writing a scene including the character, he should actually speak the dialogue in her head and she should be able to picture his gestures and facial expressions. How does an author know when she has succeeded? One clue is if her character balks when she tries to force him to do something for the plot that is out of his character.

Here’s an excerpt from the interview with Roger that I did for the first book in the Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series, A Real Basket Case.

How did you meet your wife?

"My wife. Love of my life." Roger’s expression grows soft. "I can still remember the first day I saw her on the campus of UC Boulder. I was a junior and she was a freshman. She was laughing with a girlfriend, tossing her long blond hair over her shoulder, and her eyes—so blue they could break your heart. Still can, you know." He stares out the window, his fist balled against his mouth as if fighting for control. "She's breaking mine right now."

It was through this interview that I realized the anger Roger was showing over his wife’s perceived infidelity and over being falsely accused of murder was really masking a deep fear that he would lose the love of his life. This helped me write a very emotional scene late in the book where Claire and Roger discuss whether their marriage can survive.

Claire's brother Charley is a new character in the series that is introduced in A Basket of Trouble. In addition to his trail riding business being threatened by the discovery of a murdered wrangler in his stable, Charley has quite a few emotional issues to deal with in the book. These include vestiges of sibling rivalry with Claire, their mother sinking further into dementia, a wife who props up her own self-esteem by cutting down his, and a trusted friend with immigration problems. To help me understand the churning emotions all these issues brought up in Charley, I interviewed him. Here's the answer to one question.

Which would be a harder blow, losing your mother or your business?

Charley let out a long, slow whistle. "Man, that's a toughie. I know Mom's illness is going to kill her eventually, and I've been trying to steel myself for the inevitable. But, it's still going to be damn hard when it happens. I'll definitely miss her, even though she hardly knows who I am now. Losing the business, though, I have to say would have a much bigger impact. That's Julia's and my livelihood. We'd lose everything--our income, our house, our friends. The people who work for me could lose everything, too, if they couldn't find other work." He sighed. "And I'd lose my sense of identity, my purpose in life. I'm a stable manager. I've never done anything else. I'm not sure I could do anything else."

The answer to this question showed me that even with all his other issues, the threat to Charley's business was still the largest one, in his mind, that he had to deal with. For a reader to understand and sympathize with a character, the author must first understand and sympathize with the character. And I use whatever tricks and tools I can to do that, including the first person interview.

Please visit my website to learn more about me and my books, including A Basket of Trouble, which will be released this month.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Dying is overrated… Writing in the first person while you are dead.

By Tj O’Connor, author of Dying to Know

Detective Oliver Tucker—Tuck to his friends and murderers—is a relatively unusual hero for a murder mystery. Tuck is the lead detective in the most important murder case of his life, and, well, he’s the victim, too. You see, I undertook an unusual approach to my first murder mystery. I killed my hero in the opening chapter. Yes, killed him. Bang he’s dead. Ta-da, he’s back. Silly? Bizarre? No, but it was difficult at best—trust me.

But there was method to my madness.

You see, years ago I was a government agent working in anti-terrorism around the world. Shortly after a rather unnerving adventure, I began having a recurring nightmare that I was killed during an operation and came back to help my wife find my murderers. That nightmare plagued me for twenty years. A short time ago, after getting serious about trying to sell one of my three thrillers I’d written, Dying to Know was born. I told my adult daughters about the nightmare one evening watching a science channel show about hauntings when they seized on the storyline. My eldest daughter—a fan of supernatural movies and books—commanded I write my nightmare as the story—a dead detective solving his own case. She cited vampire detectives, teenage wizards, dozens of reality T.V. shows, and two of my favorite old-time movies—Topper and The Thin Man. (For those of you who are scratching your head, think Patrick Swayze in Ghost meets Richard Castle of T.V. fame.) She convinced me.

The next day, I began Dying to Know.

A dead-detective story was not the story I thought I’d ever write nor ever sell. And at the time Dying to Know began to take shape, I was still unrepresented and unpublished. But, I had nothing to lose but three months of my mornings, evenings, and weekends, right?

Oliver “Tuck” Tucker was born at three in the morning after another episode of my nightmare. He came to life after tripping down my stairs to my den to write the opening chapter…

“…Darkness and the grandfather clock greeted me—it chimed two.

The downstairs was quiet and I checked the front door. It was still locked and there were no signs of splintered wood, broken glass, or other forced entry. The only sound I heard was my own breathing. The only curious sighting was the half-dressed, frumpy guy in the hall mirror who looked tired and irritated…

…I started with the kitchen and worked my way around the first floor, searching room by room—all five of them—ending in my den. Nothing. The most dangerous thing I found was Hercule’s squeaky frog that scared the crap out of me when I stepped on it. I felt foolish and decided to head back to bed. It hit me when I reached to turn off my desk lamp...

Floorboards groaned above me. A door opened in the darkness beyond the landing. Movement—a shadow.

Somewhere above, Angel called, “Tuck!”

            There was a flash at the top of the stairs...
             a shot.

I lunged for the third stair. A figure stepped out of the darkness twelve feet above me.

Another flash.


And so Tuck began. Without intention—without even thinking about it—I began writing Tuck in the first person. I realized pretty fast I had a big problem by the end of the first chapter. Tuck was dead.

“The next morning, I realized how much in common I had with my heroes. They were, of course, some of the greatest detectives in history. I’m speaking of Doyle’s Holmes, Christie’s Poirot, and Bigger’s Charlie Chan. I could add Scooby and Shaggy, but they’re cartoons and don’t count. The others are fictional characters, too, but they’re legends nonetheless. I’m not saying I’m a legend. I’m saying they’re all dead.

            So am I.”

The solution unfolded as the plot did. I simply followed Tuck’s lead. Tuck became a dead detective, back from somewhere I never quite discuss to find his killer. I avoided the pitfalls of such a topic—no religion, beliefs, deity-involvement, or other touchy topics. Instead, Tuck faced a basic conflict—being back among the living but not one of them. First, he had to learn to be dead. Easy? Not so much—where’s the research of this? I had to address life for Tuck—or the lack of it—without any personal experience (thank God) and no real foundation to go on. The upside was that it would be hard to be proven wrong. The downside was being too unbelievable or too cheesy. It had to be a balance of fun and possibility that would keep a reader going. So, as Tuck learned the dead-ropes, he also had to learn to be among his family and friends but out of their sight and hearing—to learn to communicate, move, and, most importantly, to face the real possibility that his beautiful wife, Angel, or his blustering partner, Bear, may have killed him. His only comforts are Hercule, his four-year-old black lab, and a crusty old surgeon named Doc. (I’ll save you the details for your read.)

But this is not a ghost story, it’s a murder mystery.

But, ghost stories are a different genre than murder mysteries and a totally different readership. So, my first hurdle was to use Tuck’s demise to drive this story as a murder mystery without letting it turn into a ghost story. I wanted to create Tuck’s character flaw as a vehicle to tell the story and solve his murder without letting it become the story itself. A balance of the paranormal in such a way that lets the reader often forget he’s dead, to see him as the protagonist with a little handicap here and there. Once again, Tuck showed me the way.

Using his unique spirit skills—moving from place-to-place without cars, trains, or automobiles; eavesdropping on conversations without anyone knowing it; and having an unusual, sixth-sense insight into character’s pasts—Tuck begins solving his crime. But Tuck has limits, too. He is not able to conjure up his killer or use any hocus pocus to read minds or find clues. His detective skills are a must. His character stays a hero with limits, weaknesses, and luck. Tuck’s unusual skills are a conduit for the story—a means to learn other character’s backstories and motivations. They are not the story itself.

Writing Tuck in the first person was difficult and at times, unnerving. I tried to stay true to my nightmare—a man driven by sadness and anxiety and, at the same time, staying a driven-detective who refuses to take things too seriously—not even death. It was often difficult to put myself in Tuck’s point of view to face his challenges. Like facing his grieving wife for the first time and trying to make contact—conflicted by her outward grief and guilt-laden nuances. Or like seeing his partner acting more like a suspect than a life-long friend—hiding evidence, lurking around his home, and perhaps trying to steal his wife.

“There were several “somethings” that were not right with Bear. There was the hidden file, my house key, and a secret gargantuan informant. Now, he was stuffing evidence in his pockets. Since my death, Bear’s secrets unnerved me and sent a chilling question through me. Were his secrets because of my murder or the reasons for it?”

Writing Tuck in the first person was not simply viewing the story from my own emotions in a given situation either. I had to account for his principle flaw—he was dead. What would his lack of fear mean—it’s not like someone could kill him, right? If Tuck didn’t fear death any longer, how would he act in a crisis? Always brave and heroic? No—other emotions would drive him. How would he feel facing his wife and best friend wondering if one killed him? How would he react to the frustration of being unable to communicate, to being so close to his wife but unable to touch or be touched? And, above all, how could he maintain his easy-going yet sarcastic point of view while his entire world turns upside down? Keep the story mysterious and interesting without letting it become too dark and ghostly?

In the end, Tuck showed me. Dying To Know hooked me my incredible agent, Kimberley Cameron, and my publisher, Midnight Ink. It is the first of a series with Tuck solving crimes—all of which with a historical subplot—and proving that it’s the living, not the dead, that are most terrifying.

Since penning Dying to Know, I’ve finished three new mysteries. The third is Dying for the Past, Tuck’s first of two planned sequels. The series will continue to delve into Tuck’s world of being among the living but not one of them. Each will also explore Tuck’s heritage and other historical plot twists that will beg the question, “Is being dead hereditary?”

Tj O’Connor lives in Virginia with his wife and three Labs. Dying to Know is the fourth of his seven novels. He works as an international security consultant specializing in investigations and anti-terrorism. Learn about his world at and Facebook at











Wednesday, October 16, 2013


by Lois Winston

As authors, along with writing the next book, we have to promote our current books, but promotion often feels like we’re shouting into a tsunami. Does anyone really hear us? How many people who see our social media postings will run out and buy our books? How many people show up at book signings and talks we give, let alone purchase a copy of our latest baby? How many people run out to buy a copy of our latest release as soon as it comes out? Sadly, very few. Whether an author is traditionally published, indie published, or both, competition for consumer dollars is stiff. And if your name isn’t King, Patterson, Rowling, or Roberts, it’s even stiffer. So we’re always on the lookout for new ways to get readers to learn about us and our books—and hopefully entice them to pull out their wallets and take a chance on us.

One of the newest promotional tools many authors are taking advantage of is the boxed set. Publishers have been producing boxed sets of a single author’s work for many years, especially if the books are part of a series. However, they’ve never done so with multiple authors. Recently some enterprising authors have begun to think outside the traditional promotional box. They’ve banded together to produce themed boxed sets rather than single author boxed sets. The price is set low enough to make the set an incredible bargain, which hopefully will entice readers to take a chance on authors they may not already know. If they like what they read, they might then buy more books by those authors.

Because this has proven to be such an effective marketing tool, I recently joined with nine other authors for a boxed set. Along with writing mysteries, I also write romance and romantic suspense. Because the other authors invited to participate are all romance and romantic suspense authors, I contributed Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception, one of my previously traditionally published romance suspense novels that had gone out of print. I had received the rights back to the book and several months ago published it myself as an ebook.

Our boxed set is titled Romance Super Bundle and is a collection of 10 full-length contemporary romance, historical romance, and romantic suspense novels. Along on the ride with me are authors Dale Mayer, Donna Marie Rogers, Edie Ramer, Amy Gamet, Linda McLaughlin, Kate Kelly, Pamela Fryer, Barbara Phinney, and Wendy Ely. Many of these authors are award-winners and bestsellers.

We priced the Romance Super Bundle at $5.99. That’s less than .60 cents per novel. However for a limited time the collection is on sale for only .99 cents. That’s mere pennies per book! Hopefully, it will entice readers to take a chance on us. Time will tell.

Buy Links:

Award-winning author Lois Winston writes the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series featuring magazine crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack. Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Kirkus Reviews dubbed it, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” Other books in the series includes Death By Killer Mop Doll, Revenge of the Crafty Corpse and the ebook only mini-mysteries Crewel Intentions and Mosaic Mayhem. Lois is also published in women’s fiction, romance, romantic suspense, and non-fiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Visit Lois at, visit Emma at, and visit Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, Follow everyone on Twitter @anasleuth.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Lost on the Way to Fantasyland

by Jennifer Harlow

Reality bites. We all know it. We all spend thousands of dollars a year in booze, movies, books etc. in an attempt to escape it. But what if we can't? And worse, what if its your job to inhabit its antithesis, Fantasyland yet that bitch reality won't allow you to escape her clutches? Well, then you get the boogeyman of all us authors: Writer's Block.

I've been lucky in that I haven't suffered from it too badly through the years. There may have been a week or two where I couldn't figure out where a scene should go or how to fix a plot hole but mostly the words tend to flow. But these past few months, especially with the move to Georgia, I seem to have lost my passport to Fantasyland. I'm struggling even with this post, occasionally checking some website for what I need to get a Driver's Licence in GA or different types of health insurance. One thing leads to three others that I have to do. I'm being pulled in a thousand directions, most in uncharted waters with real consequences if the deadlines aren't met, so a frivolity like sitting in front of a computer and playing with my imaginary characters isn't a real priority. My life these past few months is like triage, the most crucial first.

I haven't written more than a page in over a month.

Yesterday, I had a few hours between work men and decided it was time to step back into Fantasyland. I have a book due January 1st, the third Midnight Magic, and have only about a chapter left. I should have been done in August but then the move popped up. Almost two months swallowed up. Fine. Things are settling down a tad--three whole hours to myself!--so I did what I tell every aspiring author to do: sat my butt in the chair and began to write. Ten minutes later, with thoughts of emissions tests and driver's licence requirements dancing through my head, I hadn't put a word down. Three hours later, when the locksmith returned as the lock he put in broke already, I had one page. One page. And it was completely unusable. I am creatively constipated.

I know things will get better. I do. They always do. I will finish this book. I will get the second Galilee Falls book up by December. I will put my butt in the chair every spare second I can find and just write. The words will flow. I will find my way out of reality's clutches and skip back into Fantasyland. Just after I get a new driver's licence which requires changing banks, locating my passport and birth certificate in my boxes, getting new auto insurance...ugh.

Reality bites.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Passwords? We don't need no steenking password. Actually, we do.

by Ray Daniel

The best thing about being a mystery writer with a hacker protagonist is that it has completely changed my attitude about cyber crime. While most people are horrified to learn that password hacking has become so easy that children literally do it for fun, I tend to think “Excellent I can use…”
Oh wait. You didn’t know that password hacking has become so easy that children can literally do it for fun? Um…Well…Sadly it’s easy.

You just go to the web, download a stolen password database (I just found one in two minutes with Google) and then download some password cracking software ( oclHashcat-plus will do) and bingo…you’re a hacker.

Password Hacking 101

Hacking passwords is a relatively simply process. You start with a file full of encrypted passwords that look like this: 5f4dcc3b5aa765d61d8327deb882cf99. Then you encrypt test words such as password and compare the encrypted test word to the password you’re trying to crack. If the encrypted test word matches the password, then you’ve cracked that key.

Once you’ve got that process in place you just need to pick good test words. Short passwords of six characters or fewer are easy. With today’s computers you can literally try all possible passwords: aaaaaa, aaaaab//////. There’s no way to make a strong short password since all short passwords are equally weak.

For longer passwords you try, or your software tries, other tricks. For example you try password then passw0rd then pa55w0rd. Then you start mixing and matching other words and other letters.

Once you’re done playing around, you start trying passwords from a dictionary. While people imagine hackers using the Oxford English Dictionary, that approach has become passe. Today’s hackers use dictionaries of already hacked passwords. It turns out that we users are not all that creative.

Protecting Yourself

Given the fact that password files get stolen every day, and that good hackers can break of 90% of the passwords in many of these files, how can you be secure online?

The first thing to do is to find out whether your favorite sites support two-step verification. Google and Facebook both provide this sort of system.

With two-step verification, you type your password into the site and then the site texts an additional password to your phone. This way the password is useless without the phone.

Another thing you can do is to buy a password tracking system such as 1Password or These systems remember your passwords for you and can generate virtually unhackable random passwords. The beauty of this approach is that a password hacked from one site cannot be used on another.

The last thing you can do is just create passwords that are not based on words. Use phrases instead. For example, consider “With great power comes great responsibility.” You can munge this into “wgr8pcgr8r.” where the gr8 spells “great”. No dictionary will be able to guess that password. The period at the end is a nice touch that makes the password longer.

My final piece of advice on keeping your password safe: never send all your password information to that nice disgraced prince who emailed you from Africa. It turns out that he doesn’t actually send you millions of dollars.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Zone

I attended a signing by William Kent Krueger, Ellen Hart, and Libby Fischer Hellman last week at the fabulous new indie bookstore in Madison, WI.

It's always fun to attend events featuring other mystery authors. One of the things I enjoy is hearing questions from people in the audience.  It's helpful to learn what mystery readers want to know.

One man noted that athletes sometimes described being "in the zone," when everything disappears except the play. He wondered if authors every experienced something similar.

Responses ranged from "hardly ever" to "all the time, and it's wonderful." I won't attribute comments to specific authors because I'm paraphrasing from memory, but it was clear that people had very different experiences.

I spent years in the living history world as both an interpreter at an historic site and a reenactor at a variety of parks and battlefields. Reenactors sometimes speak of "the bubble," a moment when everything seems so real that they forget the present. Such bubbles are rare, and only last for seconds, but they are powerful. They are one of the reasons some reenactors go to extensive lengths to recreate a period environment as closely as possible.

Cavalry reenactors at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.
I've had a few such moments over the years. When I worked as an historical interpreter, I spent my days in period clothing, going about the everyday tasks and chores of a 19th-century farm woman. While I loved sharing stories with visitors, I must admit that my favorite times were cold or rainy days when few guests ventured onto the site.

That's me, working at Old World Wisconsin, 1982.
These days I venture into the bubble most often in my imagination. Like most writers, I have days when I never lose awareness that I'm sitting in front of a computer, trying to figure out what to say next. Deadlines are always looming, so I don't have the luxury of waiting for inspiration to carry me away.

More often, though, I do enter what has been called a flow state. Wikipedia defines it this way:

Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.

For me, Flow means disappearing into the scene I'm imagining. Although I often write in coffeeshops, I don't hear what's going on around me, or see who is coming or going at the next table. When I go on writing retreats, and hole up somewhere quiet, it's even better. Hours can pass before I emerge.

When I get going, even my cat knows to settle down.
My first four Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites mysteries were set in places I knew very well, which made it easier to disappear into my imagination. I'm celebrating the release of Heritage of Darkness this month. It's set in Decorah, Iowa---a place I love---and I hope that readers will be able to disappear into the pages in much the same way.

I'm also working hard on the fifth book. I chose to set this book in places I don't know as well, and at the beginning I wondered if I'd be able to find a good rhythm. Happily, once I got going, the writing began to flow.

As I thought about the gentleman's question, I realized that for me, pushing myself to write even when the words aren't flowing well actually leads me back to that place where they do flow. It's a paradox of sorts, but my advice is this:  don't stop because you're not in The Zone.  Keep working, keep going, and The Zone will find you.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Your Books Are So Fibrous!

By Deborah Sharp

At first, the comment from a guy in the first row at a book signing made me beam:

''I love the fact your chapters are so short.''

I'm so glad to hear that, I gushed. I really think short chapters help with pacing. They heighten the narrative tension ... I was warming up for a literary tangent when he interrupted.

''Yeah, yeah ... all that might be true. But that's not why I like your short chapters.''

Go on, I said.

''You see, my doctor has me on a high-fiber diet.'' He rubbed his stomach. "I'd been having some problems in the bathroom . . .''

Don't go on! Don't go on. I was hoping he'd hear me, pleading telepathically. He didn't.

''Anyway, I think your short chapters are great because I take the book with me into the can. I read a chapter. I do my business. I get on with my day.''

How wonderful, I said. Thanks for sharing that.

Has it ever struck you funny, the kind of things people will say to authors? Maybe it's because reading can be such an intimate experience, often pursued in a comfy spot in the privacy of one's home. Maybe while lying in bed. Or, yes, even while using the john.

I was taken aback at first by his comment. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I'm grateful that anyone enjoys my books, however that may be. Maybe in this guy's case, I don't want to give too much thought to wherever that may be. Even so, Mr. Digestive Issues beats the heck out of those who have something snarky to share about my humorous Mace Bauer Mysteries.  Like the man who raised a hand at another signing:

''Well, you can obviously write.'' He sneered, as if he were one of those reality show meanies measuring out a dollop of approval. "Why don't you write something more meaningful?''

Uhhhh, next question?

Authors, what strange thing has a reader shared with you? Readers, is there something you've always wanted to tell an author, but didn't have the nerve?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

INKSPOT NEWS - October 5, 2013

 Here are the new releases from Midnight Ink for October, 2013. They're all excellent reads!

Devil With a Gun by M. C. Grant

The riveting sequel to Angel With a Bullet, “a fast-paced combination of violence and sex” (Kirkus Reviews), Devil With a Gun leads Dixie Flynn to an incendiary confrontation with the most ruthless killers in San Francisco.

Heritage of Darkness by Kathleen Ernst

"Chloe’s fourth...provides a little mystery, a little romance and a little more information about Norwegian folk art and tales."—Kirkus Reviews

Plague Ship by Leonard Goldberg

"[An] all-too-plausible medical scenario that will send chills up the spine."—Kirkus Reviews

Also, on Tuesday, October 8th, from noon - 1:30 PM, Beth Groundwater will appear at the Colorado Mountain College, Coronado Cafe Room 701, 901 South Highway 24, Leadville, CO 80461. As part of their Local Author Series, she will talk about her path to publication, answer questions, and sign copies of her mystery novels.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Fade to Black

By Maegan Beaumont

My annual client conference held by my agent is coming up soon and it's made me think about something that happened while I was there last year.

 It was my first time attending, having only been picked up officially that August, so I was a bit out of my depth. I was in a strange city full of complete strangers. I had absolutely no idea where I was going or who I was going with. If you know me at all then, you know that these are things that usually send me into a tailspin… but I maintained.

I was very proud.

While we were waiting for the train to take us into the city for dinner, I listened to people talk—“Hi, I’m blah, blah. Blah, blah has been my agent for 2 years.”
“Oh, I know you. My name is blah, blah. I’m with blah, blah.”
“So, what's your name and who are you with?”
It took me a few seconds before I realized someone was talking to me.
“Ah… My name is Maegan Beaumont and I’ve been with Chip for a few months.”
I sounded like I was introducing myself at an plumbers' convention, but I managed to get the words out without any nervous stuttering. Suddenly, the young woman standing in front of me whirled around and after a few seconds of scrutiny, said, “You’re Maegan Beaumont?”

Oh. God. What did I do? The juvenile delinquent in me was screaming—No. No you are not. Deny, deny, DENY!!


She smiled. “I joined the agency the same week Chip received your manuscript. It was the first thing he gave me to read. I couldn’t get past the first five pages. I still think about it,” she said. “I’m pretty sure it scarred me for life.”
I didn’t know what to say. What did that mean? Was it really that bad? Before I could say anything, she saved me from imploding.
“Oh, no. It was really, really good… but it was too intense for me,” she said. “Most writers have this fade to black moment where they choose to leave the rest of a graphic scene to the reader’s imagination. I kept reading your work, waiting for the fade to black… but it kept going. I kept reading, waiting for it. Fade to black… I kept thinking, when is it going to fade to black? Fade to black. Dear God—FADE TO BLACK!!” She mimed flipping through pages, her eyes as wide dinner plates.

She stopped and smiled at me. “I took it back to Chip and said, “It’s really, really good and really, really disturbing. Here you go—you should read it. And now you’re here.”
I had no idea what to say—again. I felt like an apology was in order but I swore to myself a long time ago that I’d never apologize for anything that I’d written. Maybe I should offer to pay for her therapy…

Her name was Erin and she turned out to be the one person I really connected with in Chicago. We split a pizza and she admitted that I was nothing like what she expected. I took it as a compliment. We really didn’t talk about my work again (although, she did ask me if my husband was afraid to fall  asleep around me...) but her reaction has stuck with me. nearly a year later and I’m still thinking about it.

Fade to Black.

I’ve tried writing that way but it felt… almost like a lie. What I’d "put on paper" was not what I really wanted to say—the problem was, what I really wanted to say was pretty freakin’ disturbing. I was worried what my family would think. I was worried how, if it was ever read by the general public, I’d be regarded (remember, nice girls don’t write about torture…). Would the parents of my children's' friends think I’m a depraved lunatic and keep their kids away from mine?
I was afraid of offending someone. I was afraid of disappointing everyone. I was afraid of what people would think.

I was afraid.

But you can’t write with fear—not if you want write with honesty and passion and all the things that make a book worth reading. Good writing isn’t always pretty or pleasant. It isn’t about what people want to hear. It’s about what you have to say. As soon as I realized and accepted that, I was able to let go of all that worry and doubt and just write. Instead of fading to black, I kept the lights on. I threw open the doors and windows and wrote.
And what I wrote scared me. Not the actual content… okay, maybe a little... but  what really scared me was that the words came from me so easily.  That I was able to go there without any real effort at all. As I sat back and read what I had written, I felt  the strong and sudden urge to delete it off the page before anyone else saw it. I didn’t. I considered cutting it from the book. I didn’t do that either. I’ve come to recognize that feeling this way is a sign that I’ve written something that will affect people. And if we’re not affecting people with our words, then what’s the point?

Truth is, there’ll always be people who will be offended. There will be some who are disappointed or disturbed by the things I write. Who will see me differently. Who will build pre-conceived notions about what I’m really like. And as much as I wish it weren’t so, I can’t let any of that dictate what I write. I’ll go crazy if I do…

So write what you want. Say what you need to say, in the most honest way possible. Don't let fear or doubt decide what you put on paper. You deserve better than that, and so does your reader.

Fade to black. Or not...

It's totally up to you.

Maegan Beaumont is the author of CARVED IN DARKNESS, the first book in the Sabrina Vaughn thriller series (Available through Midnight Ink, spring 2013). 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.

"Prepare to be overwhelmed by the tension and moodiness that permeates this edgy thriller. Beaumont’s ability to keep the twists coming even when the answer seems obvious is quite potent."
--Library Journal