Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Leave the computer behind.

By R.J. Harlick

What’s your best research story?

As a crime writer, I’ve goggled some rather nefarious websites, all in the interests of research of course. You know, sites for exotic poisons that kill instantaneously, getting rid of bodies without leaving a trace, the ins and outs of bondage sex and the like. I figure I have lit up a number of police alert systems and wouldn’t be the least surprised if some day I get the knock on the door. But hey, it’s all in writing the realistic crime novel, eh?

But as intriguing as these sites can be, I’ve had more fun and learned more by leaving my computer behind and getting out into the world I want to write about. Since I don’t write a police procedural I’ve never done a ride along with the police. The closest I’ve come was during a research trip to Baffin Island when I found myself with an RCMP constable who had to check prisoners in at a courthouse pending their court appearance. But none were up for murder and most were for drunk and disorderly with one accused of break and enter. Hardly the hardened criminals many of us write about. In fact I found them a rather sad lot.

Perhaps one of my more memorable research experiences is one that had nothing to do with crime or criminals. It happened while I was waiting for a flight in the Iqaluit airport on Baffin Island. In the far north the fuselage of small passenger planes are often divided to transport both passengers and cargo. I was watching them load the cargo into the plane I would be flying in, when a forklift drove up with an unusually large and long rectangular box.

Up until then, the boxes had been your standard square carton in which most goods are shipped, so I was curious to see how they would load this one onto the conveyor belt. But they managed with little fuss likely because they’d done it many times before. I got on the plane and didn’t give it another thought until we landed in Pangnirtung.

I wended my way through a surprisingly large throng of people waiting in the tiny airport. All of a sudden they began keening. It sent chills up my spine. The minute I heard this heartrending sound, I knew what the long rectangular box was all about. It was a coffin.

Though very tragic for those intimately involved, as an observer and writer, I didn’t hesitate to include a similar coffin scene in the book that eventually became Arctic Blue Death. I also learned the value of getting away from my computer and going into the field to do my research, because you never know when you might come upon something that will inspire your story.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A few of my favorite things about writing

The SinC Blog hop continues on 7 Criminal Minds! Instead of answering our question of the week, I'm going to answer a Sisters in Crime blog hop question.

What's the best part of the writing process for you? What's the most challenging?

If you were to ask anyone who is not a writer what they think is our favorite part of the writing process they would probably say "getting published." Although getting published is nice, if is definitely not my favorite part. In fact, if that was my favorite part I would probably have given up a long time ago (like at age 15). Getting published usually happens when I have already shifted my attention to my next book, and so my book in published form seems a little unfamiliar--like something I've read before but don't really feel very close to anymore.

The best part of the writing process is usually the one that I am not doing at this very moment. When I'm in first draft mode, I think, "I can't wait to edit this book! That will be so much easier." When I'm in editing mode, I think, "if only I were in first draft mode! I could write whatever I wanted instead of dealing with this huge first draft mess..."

Really the best part of writing is the times when I'm in "the zone." I have a million ideas for how to make my book better or I know exactly what is going to happen next and I can't type it fast enough. At those moments, I feel talented, creative and productive. I know that being a writer is what I was meant to do.

If you're looking for inspiration for the writing journey, look no further than the new Sisters in Crime anthology WRITES OF PASSAGE! Edited by Hank Phillipi Ryan, contributors include Laurie King, Margaret Maron, Nancy Martin--and from our very own Criminal Minds Catriona McPherson, Clare O'Donohue and me!

And I tag Art Taylor to continue the SinC Blog hop!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Fiction is the Lie

Was there a point before you were published when you thought of giving up? If so, how did you get over it and keep going?

By Paul D. Marks

I still think of giving up, but I don’t do it.

Part of the reason we’re writers is ‘cause we’re persistent. Lots of people want to be writers, give up to easily or just don’t’ find time to do it. It’s a passion – it’s not like a hobby that you give up when you don’t have the time. And it’s a passion that you have to do every day like eating.

You write because you have to. Yes, it’s nice to get published. And even paid. But if that’s why one writes you’re in the wrong biz.

It’s kind of like “Ol’ Man River,” tired of livin’, but scared of dyin’. But the river keeps rolling along. As do we. Because there’s nothing else we can possibly do. Sure we might have families, other jobs, other obligations, but we find the time to write because it’s in our blood and in our bones.

We write because we have something to say, some interpretation of life that we want to share. Or maybe we just want to entertain. In “Sullivan’s Travels,” the classic Preston Sturges film, Joel McCrea plays a movie director who makes silly trifles like “Ants in Your Plants of 1939”. But he wants to make a serious film about people struggling, “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou”. Not knowing anything about the downtrodden he has the studio
costume department outfit him like a hobo and he takes off, entourage not far behind. To cut to the chase, so to speak, and through a series of misadventures he finds himself on a real chain gang. And there, watching the prisoners laugh at a Mickey Mouse cartoon he realizes that people just want to laugh and be entertained. And I think that’s what we want to do, entertain. It can be serious entertainment or light entertainment. But ultimately that is the bottom line – we are entertainers.

And how do I get over those doubts about continuing, I wake up the next day, sit at the typewriter (in the “early” days) and type. And if it really is in your blood you just get over it. Just like you do after you break up with the “love of your life.” Sure, h/she’s the one that got away. And you still think about her on occasion. But it’s yesterday. Today is working on that new chapter or character or funny bit or whatever. You just do it.

All of this because ultimately, as Camus said, “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.”


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Doomed and happy to be so.

by Catriona

"Was there ever a time before you were published when you thought of calling it quits?"

Clare's answer yesterday was spot-on. Writing the first book, pre-agent, pre-deal, pre-anyone actually believing you've got a prayer isn't quitting time. It's the good old days. No deadline, no publicity, no helpful frenemies forwarding bad reviews. Before a writer is published everything in bathed in a golden glow.

Is it pessimistic to think of The Future as the end of hope and every achievement as another door slammed shut?  Possibly. Accurate, though. On a yearly scale, each book is perfect before you write it and then you make it worse and worse until it's finished and the only reason you carry on is to be done with it and get to the next perfect book-to-be. On a career-sized scale, each milestone takes you further away from the fork where you might have chosen the path that swerved the headache du jour.

How I wish I was completely kidding. (How I hope that at least one person reading this is going to know what I mean. (How I fear that some friends might stage an intervention.))

But I sort of mean it. Not for nothing is my favourite bit from Radio Days that bit when Julie Kavner says to little Seth Green: "Our lives are ruined already. You have a chance to grow up and be someone."

RADIO DAYS, Julie Kavner, Seth Green, Michael Tucker, 1987

By the way, if anyone wants to start an argument about whether the argument about whether the Atlantic or the Pacific is a better ocean is a better bit, go for it.

Anyway, if it's so terrible to combine writing book X with dodging reviews of book Y, promoting book Z, and not counting how little time there is left in the year to write book What Comes After Z, perhaps the question should be: "Was there ever a time after you were published that you thought of calling it quits?"

And in this case the answer is  . . . still no. It took me such a long time to work out that writing was for me and the other jobs I did were so unspeakable (except the one where I worked in a local history library, which was really just research for writing) I've never doubted for a minute that I'm doing the work I was meant to do.

Do I wish I'd worked it out a bit quicker? Nah. I think the only way to get to wherever you are is the way you came, on this wrong path, starting at the fork of regret. That's a sort of sunny side, right?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I QUIT.... or maybe not

by Clare O'Donohue

Q: Was there a point before you were published when you thought of giving up? If so, how did you get over it and keep going?

I laughed when I saw the word "before" in this question. Before I was published I never thought about giving up. Not once.
I wrote my first book because I wanted to know if I could write a book. That was my main goal. I wanted to publish it too, of course. I got discouraged by each rejection, and slightly excited by each offer from an agent to read the first 50 pages. I tried not to care too much, and I also tried to take it seriously. I didn't want to be one of those people who called her book, "my baby". I wanted writing novels to be my job. I wanted to be professional.  
My friends & family fell into two groups - those who thought I was silly, indulgent, or naïve. And those who kept telling me "You'll be rich and famous." Actually, neither group was all that helpful and sometimes I wished I hadn't said a word about writing a book.
I didn't have a long hard road to publishing, so maybe that's why I didn't get to the "give up" stage. At least not before my first novel came out.
Since I've been published, on the other hand, I have often thought of quitting. A full time job that requires a lot of travel plus writing (and marketing) my books has been exhausting. There's a lot of weird passive-aggressiveness in publishing, and the pay rate is somewhere in the pennies per hour.
I don't know what I thought being a published author would look like, since I really didn't think about it at all. But whatever it was supposed to be, it often isn't. If I had gotten into this to be rich, or famous, I'd be long gone by now. Being a writer is hard, published or not. And not writing would definitely free up my evenings and weekends.
But I don't quit. And here's why.
1) I like being in the middle of a book, figuring out what will happen next. With each novel I get a teeny bit better at it. I will never be a master, but I am curious how far my talents, discipline, and efforts will take me.
2) New characters keep popping in my head. Characters that sit and wait for their turn to become words on a page. They may be imaginary, but they have rights. If they want to be in books, then they should be in books.  
3) The writers and readers that have become my friends in the six years since my first book came out. To stay in the club I must keep writing. And I very much want to stay in this club.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Blog Hop Invasion

A Sisters in Crime blog hop has invaded 7 Criminal Minds. Catriona McPherson brought the virus in, RJ Harlick caught it, then passed it to me. Now it's my turn hijack our weekly question. To participate, I have to:

(a) ignore our regularly scheduled weekly question
(b) choose a question from the list below & answer it here today
(b) tag another Criminal Mind to take the next turn

The Question Choices:

1. Which authors have inspired you?
2. Which male authors write great women characters?
3. If someone said, "Nothing against women writers, but all of my favorite crime fiction authors happen to be men," how would you respond?
4. What's the best part of the writing process for you? What's the most challenging?
5. Do you listen to music while writing? What's on your playlist?
6. What books are on your nightstand right now?
7. If you were to mentor a new writer, what would you tell her about the writing business? 

Catriona tackled 3 and cracked me up, RJ took on 4 and gave me lots of food for thought. I choose 6. What books are on your nightstand right now?

While it was tempting to go grab a bunch of friends' books and strategically place them, I opted for random honesty on this one. I have started some but finished none of the books on my bedside table. They're here because they're the books I'm most excited to read right now.

From top to bottom, I have:
Heinrich Boll's Group Portrait With Ladyloaned to me by a family friend who thinks that if I read this, it could improve my writing to make it more to his liking

An instructional DVD called “Yamuna Foot Fitness” about how to use foot wakers effectively

5000 Dead Ducks, by CD Evans and LM Shyba – loaned to me by a friend after she read Dead Politician Society and said it reminded her of this satire she'd read about “lust and revolution in the Alberta oil sands.”

So Long, Mariannea biography of Marianne Ihlen, the muse behind the Leonard Cohen song. I bought this book for two terrible reasons: I love the song and I love the cover. I'm really looking forward to reading it.

Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson – I've heard it's great and want to read it.

Open Secret by Deryn Collier – I got about halfway through this gripping mystery before I got called away to read books to blurb with deadlines. I'm very excited to get back into this book when I can.

The Blondes by Emily Schultz – A thriller about evil blondes in New York City. And maybe they take over the world; I'm not sure. I already love Emily's writing so I know I'm going to love this when its READ NOW turn comes up.

Murder One by Robert Dugoni – Friends keep recommending Robert Dugoni. Eventually I'll give him a try.

Who's next in this blog hop?

Now I tag Meredith Cole  the coolest person I've never met in real life, and one more writer whose work intrigues me and I have yet to read it  to take this ball and run with it.

Friday, September 5, 2014

We Interrupt This Program....

By Art Taylor

Choice? Calling? This week's question has given me lots to reflect on in terms of my own writing life—taking me initially back to those elementary school writing contests and how excited I felt about them at the time, staying up late with one of my dad's yellow legal pads to write what I thought of as an epic poem. "If I Were an Ace" jumped through several imaginative adventures, each stanza more daring and dangerous than the last, and the whole thing pumped me up so much that I could barely write it fast enough: scribbling furiously, marking out words and replacing them with others in the margin, finally going to bed satisfied with what I'd written only to find my mind racing and retracing, and then there I was jumping back up with a new phrase or two and an extra twist and—

OK, despite my best efforts to stay on track with this week's question, I have to stop and share yesterday's big news: The good folks at Henery Press, an organization I've long admired and respected, have recently sealed the deal to publish my first book, On the Road with Del and Louise: A Novel in Stories, due out in September 2015! I can't express how thrilled I am with the project here—not just the publishing news itself but also the chance to spend more time with a couple of characters I dearly love. Del and Louise first appeared in my story "Rearview Mirror," published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine back in 2010, and the story went on to win a Derringer Award for Best Novelette the following year. I was flattered by the award then; I continue to be touched whenever folks (including Janet Hutchings, my editor at EQMM) tell me that this story remains their favorite of mine; and I'm excited about the prospect that these characters and their adventures will have a longer life ahead in book form. Just hope that others will enjoy it as well!

I promise to hold up on the BSPs for a while as well, but did want to take the news here as an opportunity to reflect back on the question at hand—especially with a deadline now to to finish the last of the stories for Del and Louise. On its best days, writing seems a calling: The imagination conjures up stories, images, characters, situations, details, words, phrases, and it's a rush twice over—first to catch up with all of whatever's spinning out in your head and second to write it down on the page before it gets away. That's the way I felt as a kid, writing just because it felt good and fun. But some days, obviously, stuff doesn't go like that—and it's those days, when the page is blank and the imagination seems to be running dry, when writing becomes a choice: the choice to sit down and push ahead despite everything seemingly working in just the opposite direction against you.

I may have shared this anecdote before, but it's a good one. At a writing conference down in NC many years ago, a woman in the audience stood up and asked Angela Davis-Gardner something along the lines of "What do you do when the muse just doesn't strike?" I was certain that Angela was going to smack her down somehow—writing is hard! it's not about the muse! etc. etc.—but she didn't, and the answer she gave has always stuck with me.

"Sometimes the muse just doesn't come," she said, shrugging. "We all have days like that. But every day I sit down at my desk to work, so the muse will know just where to find me."

And with that in mind, I'm logging out here, and getting back to work. :-)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Hello? Anybody There?

by Alan

Do you feel like being a writer is a career choice or a calling?

I’ve been and done many things before becoming a writer. Engineer, product planner, marketing manager, entrepreneur. In fact, writing fiction never even crossed my mind until relatively recently (ten years ago).

I disliked writing in high school (Although I loved to read, I didn’t love reading all those boring, assigned books written by dead guys for class. I stuck to my science fiction, much to the consternation of my father, the former English teacher.)

I disliked writing in college. I studied engineering, so I didn’t really have to write much. And certainly nothing creative, unless you consider the analysis of a system’s vibration profile creative (truth: writing a grocery list is more creative).

I disliked writing in grad school. Although I more writing was required there, I managed to fill my papers with technical jargon and buzzwords. We even had a roommate competition where we came up with a list of buzzwords we had to use in each assignment. Which kept us amused, if not the professors.

So if being a writer is a calling for me, the phone rang pretty late.

Actually, in my case, writing was an absolute choice. More evidence: Some writers say they HAVE to write. That if they miss a day of writing, they feel bad. Not me. I can go whole weeks, nay months, without writing, and I wouldn’t feel any different. (Now, if I were to go a whole week without eating, then I would feel bad. Maybe my true calling is eating.)

This question brings up something I struggle with from time to time: my identity. When people ask me what I “do,” I (still) have a hard time saying writer. Yes, I’ve published six books (three traditionally,  three self-pubbed. Note the library “shelfie” with fellow Criminal Mind Clare’s books). Yes, I’m involved with writing organizations and attend writing conferences. Yes, I teach writing workshops (some start this month, sign up HERE). But I still hesitate before I claim to be a writer.

Maybe I’ll just tell people I’m an eater and ask for directions to the nearest buffet.



My book, RIDE-ALONG, is now available as a trade paperback. Enter the Goodreads Giveaway HERE for a chance to win your very own signed copy!


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Getting the Call

by Tracy Kiely

For an Irish Catholic like me, “A Calling” or “The Call” is when you realize that your vocation is to join the Church. If God’s plan was for you to become a nun or a priest, then God told you. The nuns who taught us this were never clear exactly how God would relay this information, but they were adamant that He would do it personally and we would know. In my head, I imagined it as getting a phone call, but while standing in the middle of a forest. However, despite Sally Field’s charming portrayal of cloistered life, I did not want to become a nun.  I liked boys – Sean Cassidy in particular – and I liked my bubble gum flavored lip-gloss. These were two things that I knew probably wouldn’t fly at a convent (unlike the aforementioned Sally Field). 
Holy and Aerodynamic
I worried about what I would do if I got The Call. I knew if I ignored it, I’d be miserable because according to the nuns I would have rejected God’s plan for me, but I also suspected that I’d be miserable anyway if I had to give up boys and lip gloss.
To play it safe, I decided to stay out of forests for a while. 
Deciding that I wanted to be a writer was a lot simpler. The hard part was deciding to do it as a career.
Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy writing (except for the times when my Muse takes off to wherever the hell it is that she goes. Then it’s annoyingly frustrating.) As a career choice, however, writing is a risky venture. Very few writers make enough money to support themselves let alone a family. Many writers I know hold down another full-time job. Writing is not a career for the faint-of-heart, the thin-skinned, or the insecure.  (And yet, our ranks are filled with these types. We tend to be gluttons for punishment.)
I wrote my first book while I worked at a medical association. (It went nowhere.) After our second child turned one, I decided to work part-time as a consultant from home. When our third child came along, I gave up trying to do anything remotely “professional.” It was a good day if I managed to empty the dishwasher and take a shower.
During this time writing still called to me but it was a faint whisper. It wasn’t until the older kids were in school and the youngest could be relied on to take a decent nap that I started writing again for real. I’d write whenever I could find a free moment (FYI: SpongeBob Square Pants is an excellent tool for creating free moments).
As the kids got older, it got easier to dedicate time to writing.  We just dropped my oldest off to college last week, so the house was a little quieter.  But in moment of weakness, we acquired a new puppy four days later. Yes, for those of you keeping score at home, I dropped off one baby and got another. So, now I’m back to writing during nap times and trying to find a TV show that he likes.
I’m not sure if this constitutes A Calling or A Career Choice. I suspect it just constitutes really bad judgment.
Finbar under my feet

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The joy of making a world come alive

By R.J. Harlick

Today I diverge from the usual question. Last week fellow CM blogger and acclaimed mystery writer Catriona McPherson tagged me in a kick off to the Sisters In Crime September Blog Tour and gave me the choice of answering one or more of the following questions.

 1. Which authors have inspired you?
 2. Which male authors write great women characters?
 3. If someone said, "Nothing against women writers, but all of my favorite crime fiction authors happen to be men," how would you respond?
4. What's the best part of the writing process for you? What's the most challenging?
5. Do you listen to music while writing? What's on your playlist?
6. What books are on your nightstand right now?
7. If you were to mentor a new writer, what would you tell her about the writing business? 

I thought I would give no. 4 a go, since I am well into the writing process and almost finished the first draft of the next and 7th Meg Harris mystery.

What's the best part of the writing process for you? What's the most challenging?

For me the best part is the first time I put the words on the page and make the story, the characters and the setting come alive. From the germ of an idea, I like evolving the story and following it along its journey, uncertain where it is taking me, or how it is going to end. I throw balls into the air without knowing where in the story they will land or if they even will land. And then celebrate when they land where they were meant too, though I didn’t know until I got there.

With each outing I like watching Meg and Eric, her significant other, continuing on with their lives. I like giving Meg challenges and seeing how she overcomes them. Equally exciting is grasping a new character as if out of air and watching him or her emerge and take on a life of their own.

And I cannot forget setting. I love conjuring up a world with all the sights, sounds and smells that will transport my readers to another place.

But as much as I enjoy writing the first draft, I also find it the most challenging, for it doesn’t come without aches and pains and brick walls. Words don’t exactly flow from my fingers onto the page. Sometimes they do, like at the beginning or the end, but mostly they come with much head scratching and long walks with the dogs, all the while asking myself what in the world does Meg do next.

To continue this blog tour I am tagging another CM blogger and fellow Canadian author, Robin Spano. I am providing website links to both Catriona and Robin. If you haven’t already sampled their books, why not give one a go. You might discover a new favourite author.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day: I'm still writing

Do you feel like being a writer is a career choice or a calling?

by Meredith Cole

Most writers I know tell a story about being that child who obsessively fills up notebooks with writing and sneaks away to read while other kids are playing sports. I am definitely no different. I have a row of journals going back to when I was seven, and many memories of spending hours alone with a book. I felt like I always wanted to be a writer and I always have been. So for me it was a calling. But it took years for it to become my career.

My career has been interesting and erratic. Time spent working in film and television stretched out to years and years. If someone asked me what I did in my twenties, I would say "director" or "writer/producer." I started novels but did not finish them. I finished screenplays but did not make them into movies. I felt strangely dissatisfied. I gave myself deadlines so I would finish projects. And then finally I joined a mystery writing critique group that helped me keep going and finish my book. But I didn't see it as a career. It was something I did between all my other obligations and it certainly didn't pay very well.

It really wasn't until I had a printed book that I gave myself permission to call myself a novelist. And say it was my career. I still do other things to pay the mortgage. I work in marketing. I teach. But because I continue to sneak my writing into the cracks of my day, because the pages pile up and I continue to reach readers, because I am occasionally paid for my labors -- and because on this Labor Day I am writing and revising a novel -- I am a writer.

So is writing a career choice or a calling? I say both.

Happy Labor Day everyone!

Friday, August 29, 2014

In the Mood

Do you do anything to get in the mood to write? Do you need anything special beside you?

by Paul D. Marks

Well, if I was Hemingway, I’d drink heavily.

If I was William S. Burroughs, I’d shoot up.

If I was J.K. Rowling, I’d run to the nearest café for a caffeine fix and a dose of writing.

But since I’m me, I don’t do any of those things.

I don’t have any set routines that I go through before writing each day, but I do tend to goof off, uh, procrastinate, on the internet or Facebook. No, make that I do research on the internet.

And research is always fun.  It helps get me in the mood and I can pretend I’m working.

 Sometimes I’ll walk the dog. Or weed, not do weed, but weed the yard. Don’t ask me how that helps get me in the mood.  But it has to be done. Besides, killing weeds gets me in the mood to kill the badguys in my stories.

In the good old days, I might skydive or SCUBA dive.  Anything with ‘dive’ in its name including the Maldives – though I know it’s pronounced Maldeevz. Or take a trip to Paris, Perris, California, or Parris Island, but not that one with the Eiffel Tower. I just can’t swim that far. (Insert SCUBA photo here. Amy wanted me to put a diving pic here.  Unfortunately, those are buried away in one of many boxes somewhere – unlabeled, of course.  And shoved in corners everywhere.  But someday they’ll be gotten out and scanned.  Unless Amy wants to spend four months going through them right now J.  And if you saw our garage and closets you’d know that four months is underestimating.)  So, this is as close as I could come for now:

And depending on what I’m working on, I might listen to music.  That’s probably the most serious answer here and what I really do more than anything. The music often has the same tone and mood as the story. So if I’m working on a dark story I might listen to the Doors or Leonard Cohen. If I’m working on something set around the time of World War II, in the 30s and 40s, I’ll listen to swing music. Sometimes I just listen to baroque, my sort of all-purpose go-to music—which seems to fit any mood, at least for me.  So here’s something to get you in the mood.  I could have gone with the Andrews Sisters, but couldn’t find a live version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUaceJDGRHQ

And do I need anything else beside me, besides of course computer, phones, pictures of wife, pictures of Beatles, pictures of Dylan, Stones, Doors and Siouxsie Sioux and lobby cards from various movies? A can of cherry Pepsi. Gat. Cat. Dog. And pic of Dennis Hopper flipping the bird from Easy Rider. No, that about covers it.

Now that I think about it though, who is Hopper flipping the bird to?—I’m the only one here.
*          *          *
And now for a little BSP: My contributor’s copies of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine’s November issue just arrived. My story “Howling at the Moon” appears in the Black Mask section. This is my first story in Ellery Queen, so I’m pretty amped about it.  Also happy to be in the Black Mask section, carrying on the tradition of other Black Mask writers such Chandler and Hammett, though I am no way putting myself in the same category as them.  Also glad to be in the same issue as fellow 7 Criminal Minds blogger Art Taylor, and Facebook friend Bill Crider’s column.  Will post again when the issue actually hits newsstands.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

September Blog-hop!

I know it's August!

But this is by way of an introduction.  Throughout the month of September, the 3000-strong gang of Sisters and Misters known as Sisters in Crime are having a blog-hop.

I know this is Criminal Minds!

But I'm hijacking it.

Here's how the great SinC Up September bloghop works. Anyone who blogs is invited to answer any or all of the following questions and then tag another blogger to chip in with their tuppenceworth. (We Sisters don't go crazy with the rules.)

 All the details and lots of information about Sisters in Crime is available at the SinC website:  click here.

The questions are:

  1. Which authors have inspired you?
  2. Which male authors write great women characters? Which female authors write great male characters?
  3. If someone said "Nothing against women writers, but all of my favorite crime fiction authors happen to be men," how would you respond?
  4. What's the best part of the writing process for you? What's the most challenging?
  5. Do you listen to music while writing? What's on your playlist?
  6. What books are on your nightstand right now?
  7. If you were to mentor a new writer, what would you tell her about the writing business? 
And to kick off, I've chosen question three. If someone said "Nothing against women writers, but all of my favourite crime fiction authors happen to be men", how would I respond?

The only bit of this that raises my hackles is "nothing against women authors". Doesn't that sound a wee bit too much like "with all due respect", which, as we all know, means "You are a moron."?

Apart from that, my answer is: "Good for you. Isn't it lovely to live in a free country?" (NB, take out "my favourite" and replace it with "the best" and I will spit on my hands and pound you to a splat. Verbally, of course.)

However, I happened to read this question out loud in my husband's hearing and his response was different. His response was "Yeah, right!"

This from one who, when we met, owned a single book written by a woman - Maxine Hong Kingston's THE WOMAN WARRIOR - adrift in a sea of Tolkien, Vonnegut, Heller, Shute and Malamud. And it had been a present from an ex-girlfriend.

Hah! She was an amateur. Within months, I had him on Jane Austen, George Eliot, Joyce Carol Oates and the writers he called "the green stripy lesbians". (Others know them as the authors published by Virago and The Women's Press.)

So anyway, I also asked him this morning who his favourite authors were now. The answer came back - in this order - Jane Austen, Tim Binding, Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates and a tough choice between Nevil Shute and "Old Line and Length" aka Anne Tyler, so called because Nick Hornby gave her a blurb that said she was "the best line and length novelist writing today". Her publicist must have wept. Can you imagine less helpful praise for an American literary author than  a cricketing metaphor?

(N.B. I was interested to note that no Scottish crime novelists were mentioned . . .)

And now I tag RJ Harlick to pick one or more of these questions for her next Criminal Minds blog.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Ready, Set, Write....

by Clare O'Donohue

Q: Do you need something to get you in the mood to write?

Deadlines help. But if none is looming, then.... well, actually no. If I, or anyone, waited until we wanted to write, I'd have about 30 pages of m first novel and little else.

I think of writing like exercise. The hardest part is getting started. But once you do, it (hopefully) gets easier and maybe even fun.

However, if I'm looking to make a ritual out of it. I go for these three things:

1) A quiet place where I'm alone. It isn't necessary for me to be alone to write, but I prefer it. I make faces and talk the dialog out sometimes. I don't listen to music or have the TV on. I prefer just the sounds of the characters in my head.

2) Tea and a snack, preferably chocolate. Rewards are good.

3) A pad of paper and pen. I write on my laptop but sometimes I want to scribble a note to remind myself that I've just written something I'll need to explain later. I could open another document on my computer for that but I prefer writing it down. Opening more documents would interrupt my flow.

That's it.