Friday, May 30, 2014


Take a look at these fantastic titles--Just in time for summer reading!

Never Alone
C.J. Carpenter
A Megan McGinn Novel #1
"NYPD detective Megan McGinn plays fast and loose with the rules in this fascinating debut" —RT BOOK REVIEWS

Resurrection Bay
By: Wayne McDaniel, Steven Womack
From Edgar Award-winning author Steven Womack and Wayne McDaniel comes a force of evil on par with Hannibal Lector in a heart-pounding page-turner you can't put down.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Writer Group Groupie

By Deborah Sharp 
Author of the Mace Bauer Mysteries

On my long and winding road to becoming a novelist, I test-drove a lot of writing groups. Some were too fast; some were too slow. Some chug-chugged along until they -- or I -- ran out of gas. I spent less time choosing a husband than I did trying to find the perfect group of fellow writers.

Was it just me, or do all writers have a hard time finding a critique group that fits? The formula should be fairly straight-forward. Get together a handful of folks with similar sensibilities and comparable writing skills. Mix well; share what you write; and hope for mutual improvement.

I did finally find a great group. But I landed in plenty of ditches before I arrived there. I remember one night early on, trying to concentrate as a fellow aspiring writer read aloud the chapter she'd labored over. In a heavy Russian accent, she droned on and on about life in the former Soviet Union. There wasn't much food. There was a lot of snow. A LOT of snow. The more she mentioned the white stuff, the more I focused on frigid air blowing on my neck from the AC ceiling vent.

 I huddled lower in my seat. My God, it's freezing in here! It's gotta be 65 degrees.

I stared at my hands. My fingers are turning blue! No, wait. I think that's an ink stain. 

I looked across the room. There's an empty chair by the window. I wonder if that side is any warmer? 

My obsession with the thermostat didn't bode well for the reader, or for my participation in the group. I tried several others. Like Goldilocks, I found one group too hard; another too soft. Some were too big; others too small. One was stalled at the talking-about-writing stage. It was less a critique group and more a support group for wannabes.

Me: Hi, my name is Deborah. I'm addicted to the notion I'm going to be a great writer, even though I haven't written anything to read today. 

Group: Hi, Deborah!

The group I finally clicked with was led by a talented and insightful author,who guided the rest of us toward helpful critiquing and better writing. (Thanks, Joyce Sweeney!) We wrote in many genres -- mystery to young adult, poetry to humor -- but we had several things in common. Most of us already grasped the basics, so we didn't get bogged down on sentence structure, grammar, and the like. We all were eager to write, happy to read, and thoughtful when it came time to critique. Nobody pulled punches, but nobody played gotcha either.

Have you ever belonged to a critique group? What do you think makes a good one?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

By: Maegan Beaumont
We all have them: brilliant story ideas.
Sometimes, they come to us fully formed. You see every facet clearly—who your protagonist is, the trouble he or she faces. What they will do to dig themselves out of it… the trouble they meet along the way. Sometimes, it’s just a flash. Something you see or hear triggers a thought. That thought leads to another… and another… until the idea takes shape and you're left with no choice but to write it out. 
And other times that something you see or hear burrows into your brain. It niggles and nags. It refused to be pushed aside—demands to be written.
So, if these ideas take all the time and trouble to bring themselves to our attention, to demand that we listen, why is it that sometimes they have the audacity to be unable to support the story we so desperately want to write? Why is it that they fall apart half way through the novel? 
I hate to say it, but… it’s not the idea you should be blaming. It’s you. You’re probably the reason things aren't working out the way you’d planned them to. The idea didn’t fall apart. You probably broke it.
Writers generally fall into two categories when it comes to starting a novel:
You have the Nervous Nelly. The writer who circles the pool a few dozen times. Dips their toe in to check the temperature of the water. Makes sure their hair is tucked securely into their swim cap… you know, they think about it for weeks and months before they even write a word. They over think every aspect of the idea until they convince themselves that it’s not a good one.
Then you have the Kamikaze. The writer that sees the pool from a distance, climbs up onto the roof and takes a flying leap, legs tucked into a cannonball, eyes screwed shut… without checking to see if there’s even water in the pool. They have this idea and that it’s—they’re at their computer, frantically typing away without knowing where they’re going or how they’re going to get there.
To the Nervous Nelly, I say:
 Loosen up for God’s sake. It a novel, not the Magna Carta. Yes, writing is hard work. It’s grueling and often lonely business… but if you’re truly a writer, then at the heart of it all, is love. It’s what you love to do. The one thing in your life that you can’t imagine not doing… so do it. Stop beating the poor thing to death and get on with it. Write a synopsis. Write a character sketch for your protagonist. Research your setting… it doesn’t matter what you do, really, as long as you do it. 

To the Kamikaze, I say:
Novel writing is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes stamina. It takes focus. Neither of which you have when your banging away on your keyboard like a cracked-out monkey. Take a deep breath… now take another one. Let the story take form, it’s really not something you can force. And that’s what you’re doing. You’re forcing it. Stop doing that. It’s like handing your keys to a seven year-old and telling them to move your car and then getting mad when they put your Toyota through the neighbor’s living room. I suggest you do the same thing as Nervous Nelly up there—write your synopsis. Flesh out your characters. Research your setting… because that’s what it all comes down to. That’s the secret… 
There is no such thing as a poor story idea—just poor execution.
Ideas, after all, are just that—ideas. A fully-formed novel is something else entirely. You’re the architect that plans it out and the the carpenter that builds it—it’s your responsibility to make sure it has all its parts and that those parts are in working order. Plot. Characters. Setting. These are the components that make a novel work. One can be, and is usually stronger than the other (Plot driven vs. Character driven novels… another topic for another time) but if all three are weak—forget about it.

If the plot leaks like a spaghetti strainer, your reader will grow very angry, very quickly. Readers are an intelligent lot. If your plot isn’t tightly laced, they’ll know it and they’ll hate you for it. Not because you wrote a bad book, but because they’ll feel like you tried to get one over on them—and no one like to be made a fool of.
If your characters are flimsy, your reader will feel cheated. Most people read, because they’re looking for a new experience and they want to live that experience through someone they feel emotionally connected to. Someone as flawed as they are. Someone they wish they could be. Someone that has the guts to do the things they don’t. Say the things they never could. If your characters are one dimensional creatures, no one will find them interesting, and if no one finds them interesting, then no one will care what happens to them. 
Setting lends a bit of realism to the whole thing, which allows your reader to connect even deeper to your story. Remember, it’s all about experience. That’s what the reader needs—it’s what they’re looking for. A woman who’s never left her small town can read a book set a Paris, and if the writer is good, and pays attention to detail, can feel as if she’s walked along the Seine or seen the Eiffel tower. She feels worldly. Connected. The experience she has is rich and fully formed. Without setting, it’s flat and dull. The reader is left feeling like something is missing.
All of these components must work in concert with each other: 
Story idea. Plot. Character. Setting.
They build upon each other. Lend support. One leans against the other. If a story isn’t working, they’re a reason. One or more of these pieces is either lacking in structure or missing all together. Before you give up and move on to the next story idea, give this one the time and attention it deserves. Find it’s weak spots and shore them up… maybe you’ll have to tear it down and start from scratch, but don’t give up on it. There’s a very good chance it’s worth your time and attention. After all, there’s a reason the idea grabbed you in the first place. 

Maegan Beaumont is the author of CARVED IN DARKNESS and SACRIFICIAL MUSE, books one and two in the Sabrina Vaughn thriller series.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Trusting the Process

by Shannon Baker

There are as many ways to write as there are writers. More, in fact, because what works for one writer for one book might not work for the next book. For now, I’ve discovered a method that seems to work for me.

I charge through the first draft without pausing to look back. I set a challenging daily word count and begin at page one and write through until the last chapter. I start off with a fairly clear idea of the plot. I try to use the four part method and have reversals and twists at the appropriate spots. But even with all the planning, the whole boat inevitably sails off the edge of the world. It takes longer to set up scenes than I anticipated or I get a better idea along the way. Sometimes, my initial plot only has a place marker that says something like, she must be betrayed by him and end up at the ranch.

I used to get bent when I didn’t know all the details at the outset. Or if I had a better idea, I’d feel as if I needed to fix the previous pages before I moved on. But I’m teaching myself to trust the process and to forge ahead without any more editing than making notes about what needs to be included or changed. I know that those changes might change again and again before the end of the book so working on them now only slows the process.

What this means is that I can gallop very quickly through a first draft. But when it’s done, I’ve got a terrible mess. It’s the kind of disaster that pops me wide awake at 2 A.M. wondering how it will ever come together. But I soothe myself with the knowledge that it usually does gel at some point and nothing is done that can’t be undone.

Yesterday I finished my draft and today I’m staring at a pile of pages that I know are mostly crap. To be honest, I can’t remember some of the scenes or the clues I placed. I’m terrified to read the drivel I slapped down. Many of those words were grudgingly written with one eye to the word count, bargaining with myself that as soon as I finished the daily goal I could ride my bike or have a cookie. I am not above bribery. Also, I’m not entirely adult.

Hopefully I’ll find something salvageable in the dross. I know the pacing is off because I didn’t hit my stride until about half way through. So I will need to move chunks of exposition from the beginning, punching up the pace, adding clues.

But this first draft is the frame. What I’ll begin with on this second go is adding the rooms and giving it the structure. From there, I’ll put up the drywall by making sure it flows in a cohesive whole. Finally, there will be painting and bringing in the furniture and artwork that will finish it off.

I’ve got a long way to go before this puppy is housebroken. (How many metaphors can I come up with for one manuscript?) But I’ve got one stage down and am feeling hopeful.

What is your process and have you learned to trust it?

Friday, May 9, 2014

Return from Malice Domestic

I attended Malice Domestic last week.  In case you're not familiar with Malice, it's an annual conference for people who love traditional--cozy--mysteries.  Attendees include both writers and fans, and it's a great conference for all of us!

One of the best things for me was to see so many Midnight Ink authors there.  I won't attempt to name them because I'm sure to miss some, but the turnout was great.  I got to meet some MI writers I'd never met before as well as connect with others whom I'd met previously, both in person and online.  I ate dinner with some, had drinks with others, and just generally schmoozed and shared ideas and had a great time with them.

Plus, our wonderful editor Terri Bischoff was there.  I'd met Terri last year at Malice and got to spend more time with her this year.

A lot of authors participate at Malice by talking on panels.  This year my panel involved using social issues in our mysteries.  My current mystery series with Berkley Prime Crime is the Pet Rescue Mysteries, which, of course, involves the social issue of caring for and rescuing animals.  My intent isn't to hit readers over the head with it, but to encourage everyone to care for, or at least not endanger, pets.  And, of course, a murder's involved in each story since they're cozy mysteries.

I've been on Malice panels in the past that have included "Going to the Dogs" and "Lights, Camera, Murder: Mysteries Involving TV & Movies."  They fit  what I've been writing and I enjoyed them, too.

My first MI series, the Superstition Mysteries, debuts in October this year with LOST UNDER A LADDER.  And, yes, it has dogs in it, as all my mysteries do.  My protagonist Rory Chasen winds up not only researching the validity of superstitions but also running the Lucky Dog Boutique in the fictional town of Destiny, California.  Plus, I'm working on another series for MI--more info to come sometime soon. 

It'll be fun to see what panel I'm attached to at Malice next year! 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

INK SPOT NEWS ~ Midnight Ink May Releases

Here are Midnight Ink's May releases... check out these great books!

Chip Off the Ice Block Murder
By: Jessie Chandler 
A Shay O'Hanlon Caper #4

The Gray Whale Inn
Mystery #6
“MacInerney’s charming sixth offers beautiful scenery, an 
assortment of appended recipes, and one of her strongest mysteries to date.”
Kirkus Reviews

Jailhouse Glock
By: Lizbeth Lipperman 
A Dead Sister Talking Mystery #2

"Lipperman’s blend of a girls-club feel and small town 
sleuthing makes for an attractive, lighthearted package."
Publishers Weekly

"A river cruise down the Seine with a group of octogenarians could be magical for Emily's tour group.  Or it could mean murder for one of the passengers.  Don't miss the ninth trip (after Bonnie of Evidence) in this always entertaining series." - Library Journal 

The Day She Died
A Novel
By: Catriona McPherson 

Starred Review"McPherson’s second stand-alone is a tour de force, a creepy 
psychological thriller that will leave you breathless."
Kikus Reviews (starred review)