NOT YOUR USUAL SUSPECTS

A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

We find our genre delightfully, dangerously, and deliciously exciting - join us here, if you do too!


Julie Moffet . Clare London . Cathy Perkins . Jean Harrington . Daryl Anderson . Nico Rosso . Maureen A. Miller . Sandy Parks . Lisa Q Mathews . Sharon Calvin . Lynne Connolly . Janis Patterson

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Secret Formula to Success


Last week I started a running class. To distract myself from my heavy breathing (imagine a beached wheel gasping desperately for breath)and pounding heart (think war drums being beaten at a frenzied pace) I eavesdropped on the conversations of my fellow classmates.

I was amused by the way one woman was grilling the instructor. She asked him a dozen questions about how he'd become a runner and lost a significant amount of weight. How long had it taken him...how many miles did he run each week...what were his diet secrets...etc. etc.

What she really wanted to know was, "What's the secret formula to success?"



I think most of us would like to know the secret forumula for succeeding at something in our lives, whether it's writing a novel, losing weight, being a better spouse/parent/child/friend, entertaining effortlessly, moving up the corporate ladder, wrapping gifts, keeping house, helping the environment, achieving inner peace, etc.

Personally, I feel like I fail a lot more than I succed. I don't have a secret formula for anything, except "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." (But don't try the same thing again and again, because as they say, "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results"".)

I'm taking this running class because I've tried (and failed numerous times) to learn to become a runner on my own. I've completed two half marathons as a solitary walker, but I'd like to improve my time, so I'm hoping this class will be my "secret formula".

In January, my next novel, CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN will be released by Avon Impulse. The secret formula I used for writing this book was a combination of 1) writing the book I wanted to write, not the one my former agent approved of 2) breaking the novel down to a four act structure instead of three 3) Using WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL by Donald Maass BEFORE starting the manuscript.


What do YOU wish you had the secret formula for? Even if you don't have the formula, what tricks/tips have you found through trial and error that work for you?


My tips are:

-- I was not born with the housekeeping gene, but I've found FlyLady to be very helpful as a system to keep my home running smoothly.

-- I find that using Jennifer Louden's THE LIFE ORGANIZER helps me to get back on track when I feel as though I've gone off the rails.



Monday, November 28, 2011

How much is enough?


They say write about what you know, and I’m all for that. Anything to save time on research. Besides, if you know your subject well then you’re unlikely to make mistakes that turn readers off. That’s why I made Charlie Hunter, my retired detective, live aboard his boat. I know a lot about boats. Not content with that, I plonked his boat in Brighton marina in southern England, where we used to keep our old tub. That was some years ago so I popped back when in England, just to make sure it hadn’t changed too much. I even checked, (er, make that re-checked), the Wetherspoon’s pub, all in the name of research, naturally. Cheers!

Charlie usually goes to Cowes in his boat at some point during each book in the series, simply because it’s close to Brighton and because it’s my home town. No research necessary. I even had him and his dog walking through a park next to a school. It was my school, back in the day. I wish I could have found a reason for him to go into the school and run, (sharp intake of breath), yes run, down the corridors. I can still hear an imperious teacher’s voice to this day,

“No running in the corridors, Wendy Wood. Report for detention!”

“Oh no, not again, sir.”

Sorry, some memories kind of haunt you forever, don't you find?


Here’s a picture of Cowes High Street. Quaint, isn’t it, and it’s changed little over the years I’ve known it. No, you’re not supposed to ask how many years that is. Anyway, I’m not telling! Local businesses have had to make way for Indian restaurants, estate agents and gastro pubs, and locals have been priced out of the housing market. That’s progress for you.

Still, there comes a point in every book when I can no longer rely on personal knowledge. Thank goodness for the internet! Even so, how much information is enough? Personally, if someone’s being threatened by a gun, I don’t really care what sort of gun it is, how loud the bang will be, how many bullets it holds, whether it’s silenced, how long the bullet will take to reach its target, (unless those points are important to the particular situation). It’s a gun. Okay, I get that. Now, will the person being threatened find a clever way to escape, or should the unfortunate victim prepare for the next life? That’s all that matters. Don’t burden me with too much detail, my poor brain cell is on overload as it is.

What about you? Do you like to know all the technical nitty-gritty, or are you more concerned with the story moving on? My second book in the Charlie Hunter series, Risky Business, due to be published by Carina next summer, finds Charlie in the middle of a race fixing scam, and up to his neck in a drugs ring. And before you ask, I didn’t get those facts from my personal memory banks. It’s amazing what you can find out through a little diligent googling, though.

Have a great festive season, everyone!
Wendy

Friday, November 25, 2011

What do you want from a book?

Last week, I was chatting to a friend about a particular book she'd read. I wanted her opinion because I thought it would make the ideal Christmas present for a cousin. My friend pulled a face and said, "I wouldn't recommend it. The writing wasn't anything special and the characters didn't really do it for me."

Darn it. Another precious Christmas gift idea gone.

"You read it very quickly," I said.

"Oh yes, I couldn't put it down."

Um ... I was speechless on several counts and I should point out here that said friend works in a library and reads a lot of books.

As a writer, I aim to give my readers a fast-paced tale full of twists, turns and memorable characters. I want to give her a book she can't put down. She has to read just one more chapter before going to bed, and then just one more. If someone says they couldn't put my book down, I consider it a success.

As a reader, I want a book that I can't wait to get back to. I want to feel deprived if I don't have time to read it.

What about the statement "the characters didn't really do it for me" in the same breath as "I couldn't put it down"? How can that be? If I'm loving a book and racing through it, it means I care what happens to the characters. I want to see the good guys win the day and the baddies get their just desserts. I care about the characters and I'm totally wrapped up in their world.

Is it me? Is it possible to have a plot so original and exciting that the characters don't matter? Have you ever read a book where, although the characters "didn't do it for you" and the "writing wasn't anything special", you had to race to the last page?

And talking of Christmas gift ideas ... the thought of doing battle in the stores at this time of year fills me with dread but, if it's your thing, Happy Black Friday!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

SHE CAN RUN by Melinda Leigh

My debut book, SHE CAN RUN, releases next week!  I'm so excited I'm going to give you a sneak peak at the book. But first let me tell you a little about this book's long trek to publishing.

This book was completely rewritten 5 times. Why, you ask? Because I had absolutely no idea what I was doing when I started it.  I just sat down at the computer one day and started typing.  "How hard can this be?" I thought.  BTW, I don't recommend this approach.  Joining RWA, going to conferences, and taking workshops helped me realize that I had a lot to learn about writing.  I advise aspiring authors to do this right away, before they spend 2 years slaving over a manuscript.  Anyway, each class and article brought SHE CAN RUN closer to being publishable.  I learned how to write a book with this manuscript, and it's a part of me.

Without any further ado, here's a short excerpt. Find out more about me and SHE CAN RUN at my website, melindaleighauthor.com.  Find me on Facebook and Twitter.


Beth’s hand trembled. Her knuckles hovered an inch from the recessed oak panel. The office door was closed, which meant Richard didn’t want to be disturbed. She glanced at the box in her hand, delivered by messenger just moments before. It must be important. Would Richard be angry if she interrupted him? Or angrier if she didn’t? Her stomach clenched. He’d be angry no matter what she did.

With a hitched breath, she rapped lightly. The latch hadn’t caught properly and the door swung open. Beth froze, paralyzed by the scene before her.

Confusion shifted into comprehension, and fear turned her insides to ice water.

Could she slip out before he noticed her? She eased backward, but Richard sensed her presence. He turned and stared. Their gazes locked for a few seconds, his feral, hers panicked. The lion and the gazelle.

Then he grabbed the crystal letter opener on his desk and lunged.
Beth ran.

She couldn’t leave the house. Her children were upstairs. She needed a weapon. Her eyes locked on the kitchen doorway ten feet away.

His Italian loafers scraped the wood floor of the hall behind her as he fought for traction. The rubber soles of her sneakers fared better. She almost outran him. Almost.

At the threshold, he caught her in a flying tackle. She flung her hands out. Pain shot through her wrists and palms as she braced her fall before her face slammed into the tile.

After all this time wondering if he’d eventually kill her, there was now no more doubt. If she didn’t get away, she was dead.

Panting, on all fours, he pulled on her legs. She donkey-kicked backwards, catching him on the side of the face. He grunted. His grip loosened, and she belly-crawled forward a few inches before his hand closed around her calf.

She raised her chin and eyed the knife drawer, an impossible ten feet away on the other side of the room. In a frantic visual sweep, her peripheral vision caught the cordless flashlight plugged into the outlet on her left.
She kicked at his fingers. They jerked open. Pulling a knee under her body, she pushed forward and yanked the flashlight from the wall. Richard crawled closer and slashed at her middle. Her skin registered a flash of agony, then went numb.

Without losing momentum, she turned over and swung the flashlight in an arc toward his head. Metal clanged against bone.

His eyes widened in shock before his body went limp.

Shaking, Beth scrambled out from under his torso. Blood seeped through her silk blouse.

Lungs heaving, she rooted through the odds-and-ends drawer and pulled out a roll of duct tape. She rolled him to his side, forced his wrists behind his back, and taped them together. As an extra precaution, she secured his hands to a heavy table leg, then bound his ankles. She slapped a final piece of tape across his mouth. Richard wasn’t going anywhere until the cook arrived in the morning.

Adrenaline and nausea coursed through Beth as she glanced at the clock. She had exactly ten hours to vanish.

SHE CAN RUN releases on November 28 from Montlake Romance.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Word Clouds and a New Release

Cameran Young's word cloud
Daniel Fox's word cloud.

I was looking at my old files and found these word clouds that I’d devised when developing my characters in EDGE OF SURVIVAL (*cough* out today in ebook and audio. I hate promo, but I’m not stupidJ). I couldn’t believe how useful and accurate they were. Even the color schemes reflect the nature of the characters: Daniel Fox, dark, bold, sharp-edged, Cameran Young, softer, kinder, but no pushover.


I AM A GENIUS :) Well, I would be if I was taller ;)


I can’t believe I haven’t used them for my books recently, especially as I use visual cues with lots of images for every book I write. So guess what I’m doing right now? Yup. Word clouds and collages for the stories I’m writing. And although some might think it’s procrastination (never!), it saves me time in the long run, especially if I have to switch between projects at a moment’s notice.  Same with a soundtrack, it plunges me right into the story. In case you’re wondering, EDGE OF SURVIVAL, was written to the dulcet tones of James Blunt (High), Coldplay (Clocks, Green eyes), Wilco (How to fight loneliness), Thin Lizzy (Jailbreak), U2 (Love rescue me, Beautiful day). 

What's your cue for getting yourself into a story?

EDGE OF SURVIVAL (November 21st, 2011)
Foreword by Brenda Novak

Dr. Cameran Young knew her assignment wouldn't be easy. As lead biologist on the Environment Impact Assessment team, her findings would determine the future of a large mining project in the northern Canadian bush. She expected rough conditions and hostile miners—but she didn't expect to find a dead body her first day on the job.

Former SAS Sergeant Daniel Fox forged a career as a helicopter pilot, working as far from the rest of the human race as possible. The thrill of flying makes his civilian life bearable, and he lives by his mantra: don't get involved. But when he's charged with transporting the biologist to her research vessel, he can't help but get involved in the murder investigation—and with Cameran, who awakens emotions he's desperate to suppress.

In the harsh and rugged wilderness, Daniel and Cameran must battle their intense and growing attraction while keeping ahead of a killer who will stop at nothing to silence her…

I'm donating 15% of my royalties to diabetes research.

Available from Carina Press, Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Barnes & Noble

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Release Day and Other Adventures

by Janis Patterson

Unless you’ve been living on another planet, you probably know that my cozy historical mystery THE HOLLOW HOUSE was released on Monday. At least, I did my best to make sure that you and every other human being in the country did, and then told everyone again when two days later RT gave it 4.5 stars and Top Pick rating.

While writing is largely a self-satisfying exercise, something done to fulfill a need deep within ourselves, most of us have at least a small vested interest in making money from our work, which means the book has to be released.

Release days are wonderful things, full of potential and congratulations and nifty conversations with people you’d normally never get to talk to. Release days are horrible things, full of texting and tweeting and emailing and self-promotion. Both of these statements are true.

As the veteran of more release days than I care to remember, I decided this one was going to be different. This one would be done in a businesslike fashion, and as much as I hate self-promotion I would do a professional job of it. I would rise and dress as I usually do and in general treat this as another day at work. I would have my release announcement done ahead of time, each in its own little email to be sent to all my various groups, so all I would have to do would be to send them on their way. Of course, in the interims I would be tweeting and making various and sundry other comments.

Yeah. Right.

First of all, my grand plan was handicapped by physical pain. The Husband, trying to have some fun after a couple of long overseas deployments, had booked us into a BMW performance driving class and a tour of a dinosaur dig. Later we realized they were for the same day, the day before Release Day.

The driving thing was fun. As a couple of generations ago I possessed both a BMW and an SCCA license, this was old home week for me. Don’t know when I’ve had so much fun – floorboarding on straightaways, standing on the brake on dogleg turns, whipping through the kinks of a slalom… Can’t say everyone in the car enjoyed it as much as I did, though.

The dinosaur dig was also fun, but a lot more challenging, mainly in just getting there. The dig itself was in a huge depression and about a quarter mile away from the road, but that was okay. The hard thing was getting down to it. First of all you had to shinny over this 6 foot near-vertical earth berm, then go down this 40 foot high cliff. The Husband says it was not a cliff, just a steep rise. I say when something is so steep I have to go down it on my buns, it’s a cliff! In the interest of public sensitivities I will not describe the trip back up.

For the driving thing I had worn lightweight sneakers for mobility and I hadn’t thought to bring anything sturdier for the dig. My bad. After almost an hour of tramping all over the site, slogging through water standing in ruts from recent rains and balancing over a single 2x4 ‘bridge’ over deeper parts, crawling over and stepping on rocks, my muscles were revolting and my feet starting to feel like hamburger. Then, as a great concession (the director of the dig could tell a couple of suckers when he saw them) we were handed trowels and told we could dig if we wanted to. Oh, joy.

I did find out that there was a way to drive in, for the formal diggers, at least. I considered offering one of them money to take me back to the road, but my purse and my money were up in the truck, and I didn’t think The Husband would hand over cash, as he saw nothing untoward about the situation. Navy-fit, he doesn’t understand how overwhelming this all was to someone whose only regular exercise is pushing her luck and jumping to conclusions!

So we dug. Not far down from me a man found a chunk of scapula from a protohadros (along with giant crocs the main inhabitants of our little boneyard.) When I said it looked just like a rock he gave me a 10 minute lecture on how to tell fossil bones from rocks. I actually understood what he said, and went back to digging, intent on finding a bone of my own. I found… mud. Wet, black, sticky Cretaceous mud. Not even a rock. Just mud. Lots of it.

Of course, The Husband saw to it that we are now registered as authorized volunteers for next season’s dig.

When Release Day dawned, my mind and heart were elated. THE HOLLOW HOUSE is a very special book to me, and I was delighted that it was finally going out to the reading public. The rest of me, however, was aching. Throbbing. Plain old hurting. The bottoms of my feet were actually bruised and there was no feeling in my toes. I hurt in places I didn’t know I had and just getting out of bed was a challenge. But I was at the computer before The Husband went to work, sitting in my nightgown and intent on getting an early start sending out announcements. I was still sitting at my computer, still in my nightgown, at 4 that afternoon.

Again I was split. As it was a wonderful, special, magical day, my mind was enjoying itself immensely. My body… well, being a lady I can’t use that kind of language. Before my elbows and knees fused into a permanent 90 degree angle, I forced myself to get up, shower and dress, then staggered back to the computer. When The Husband came home he took one look, then went back out to get Chinese takeaway for dinner, knowing it was either that or frozen pizza.

All in all it was a memorable Release Day. I can’t wait for the next one. Minus dinosaurs, of course.

(In case you’re one of the very few who missed my pr, here’s the teaser for THE HOLLOW HOUSE : When a murder is committed in her employer’s home, Geraldine Brunton knows she must solve the crime to hide the fact that she herself is a killer.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What's this about KINDLEGRAPH?


Kindlegraph
lets authors send personalized inscriptions and signatures ("kindlegraphs") directly to the electronic reading devices of their fans.

Readers - contact your favourite authors and collect e-autographs!

Authors - reach your readers in an even more personalised way!

There's a very useful mini-video on how it works on the site, but here is a brief, additional run-down.

I'm an Author, what do I do? 
* Sign up for Twitter, if you haven't already. You DON'T have to use Twitter after that, although you may learn to love it :). Either way, you only need a Twitter ID at the moment for Kindlegraph.
* Go to Kindlegraph and use your Twitter ID to register you as an author. You'll be asked to add a contact email address. Now readers can find you there!
* Add your book(s). All you need is the Amazon ASIN reference, it's listed on the Amazon book page. Copy or type that in, then the book will appear on your Author page with a "Request Kindlegraph" button underneath for a reader to use.



* When a reader requests a Kindlegraph, you'll get an email letting you know. You sign into Kindlegraph, find "Requests" at the top right of your screen, follow that link to the request and write something to them. Kindlegraph offers an automated signature for your message, but you can add your own. Press "Send Kindlegraph" and off it goes!

I'm a reader, what do I do?
You don't need to own or buy the book in order to receive a Kindlegraph, nor do you need to own a Kindle. The Kindlegraph is not inserted into the e-book. It arrives as a separate document. This allows a reader to create a "collection" on their reading device and keep all of their Kindlegraphs together.
* Sign on to Twitter as above.
* Go to Kindlegraph, search for your favourite author(s), click on any of their books and send a request. You can add a personal message to them if you want.
* When they've completed a Kindlegraph back to you, you'll get an email notification. You can then access it on your Kindle, on your iBooks, or directly from the Kindlegraph site. Log in, look for "My Collection" at the top right of the screen, and your Kindlegraphs are accessible as PDFs, attached to a copy of the cover art.

Authors, want to check how it works?
Request a Kindlegraph for yourself, from your own book! Or buddy up with another author and request from each other. Then you can follow through the process and see what it looks like.


To request a personalized signature go to http://kindlegraph.com/books or click on the authors link:

Participating Carina Press Suspense and Not Your Usual Suspects authors:
Toni Anderson             http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/toniannanderson
Wynter Daniels             http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/WynterDaniels
Marcelle DubĂ©              http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/MarcelleDube
Rita Henuber                http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/ritahenuber
Kathy Ivan                   http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/KathyIvan
Clare London               http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/clare_london
Maureen Miller             http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/MaureenAMiller
Julie Moffett                 http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/JMoffettAuthor
Wendy Soliman            http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/wendyswriter
Carol Stephenson         http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/CStephensonFL
Shirley Wells                http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/Shirley_Wells
Julie Wachowski          http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/JulieWachowski
Josh Lanyon                 http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/JoshLanyon
Sharon Cullen               http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/SharonCullen
Shelley Munro              http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/ShelleyMunro
Angela Henry               http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/MystNoir

Come and support these great authors. It's a chance to say "HI", and enjoy a personalised souvenir for books you've enjoyed - or are looking forward to!

Friday, November 11, 2011

President Wilson's Ravioli



Did you know that ravioli is the meal associated with Veterans Day?  No?  Well, I’ll come back to that bit of trivia.

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 saw the official end of World War I.  In the aftermath grateful countries around the world proclaimed ‘memorial’ days that became known as ‘Remembrance Day’, ‘Armistice Day’, or ‘Poppy Day’.  King George V specifically dedicated the day on November 7, 1919; President Woodrow Wilson followed suit on November 11, 1919.

On May 13, 1938 ‘Armistice Day’ became a legal holiday in United States. Following a campaign by a Kansas shoe store owner, President Eisenhower signed into law an act to celebrate all veterans and ‘Armistice Day’ became ‘Veterans Day’.

Why are red poppies associated with this very special holiday?   They became the emblem due to the poem “In Flanders Fields’.  These poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I; their brilliant red color symbolized the blood spilled in war.

As we pay homage to our veterans today, I thought it would be appropriate to salute those authors who are veterans as well as people’s favorite books featuring military heroes/heroines.  The following roll call is just a start and I hope folks will share their list so we can all add to our TBR pile.

Moreover, today my fellow NYUS author Rita Henuber is blogging Veterans Day comments over at www.rubyslipperedsisterhood.com.

Oh, what about the ravioli, you ask? For the first ‘Armistice’ celebration, President Wilson invited 2000 soldiers to the White House and helped the staff chefs cook the soldiers ravioli, which had just become a mainstay in the American kitchens due to the rise of commercial canning.  Wilson predicted ravioli would soon be a popular meal. [At least it’s a popular hurricane supply].

So on this Veterans Day, I give thanks to all our veterans and those currently in the military and lift a plate of ravioli in salute to their service and sacrifice.

Carol Stephenson
Her Dark Protector, a Justice Hunter book
coming March 26, 2012 from Carina Press
Follow Carol at:
Website
Facebook
Twitter
***********************************************************************

Military Authors
David Bridger [Carina Press, Royal Navy for 10 years]
PC Cast
Cindy Dees
JoAnn Ferguson
Susan Grant
Merline Lovelace
Lindsay McKenna
Tia Nevitt [Carina Press, Air Force, 1984-1988]
Patricia Wood

Books  with Military heroes/heroines
Rita Henuber, Under Fire, featuring a female Coast Guard pilot
Nearly any book by Suzanne Brockman [Tall, Dark & Handsome series; Troubleshooters series]

Catherine Mann’s Wingham Warrior series

Jill Monroe’s SEAL series
Linda Howard’s “MacKenzie” series















 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

It’s Not Too Late. Another completely OT post.

Okay, you still have time. Stand up. Revolt. Take the holidays back from media hoards who tell you what you should be eating, drinking, and wearing. Who you should invite to your home and what a loser you are if you don’t do what they (the media hoards) say. Examine Thanksgiving. A time to be grateful for the blessings of the past year and to enjoy each other. NOT worry about whose home you will go to or how much you need to cook. Take those hours you would spend cooking and have some real quality time with you family. Go to a park and have a picnic or spread out a blanket on the living room floor in front of a fire. If you must have turkey, roast turkey franks. Or, get take out from a squat and gobble. Instead of pumpkin pie chuck pumpkins. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, or the animal shelter. Let you inner child lose and do what you want to do. Which Thanksgiving memory do you think the kids will remember? The one where they sit at the table snarffing down the food in forty-five minutes that it took you ten hours to cook or the time mom went crazy and served turkey dogs?
Christmas? Instead of decorating the day after Thanksgiving because everyone in the neighborhood does, wait to the week before Christmas. Try celebrating the way another country does. At the very least have the kids research how other children celebrate. Put a cap on spending. It isn’t about thirty minutes of ripping and tearing, at least it isn’t for me. It’s about being together and having fun. Here’s a good one. For you folks in the colder climes. Have a down-under or Hawaiian Christmas. Turn the thermostat up high as it will go. Relax, it’s only for a few hours. Everyone wears shorts and Hawaiian shirts. Turn a fan on for a cool breeze. Instead of eggnog it’s Mai Tais. Or eggnog with little umbrellas.
What I’m saying is keep the holiday stress free for YOU.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Bon Voyage, my lovely!


My Internal Editor is twenty feet tall, has a head of steel teeth and a voice that cuts glass. She routinely shrieks at me: wrong! Wrong! Wrong! We’ve been together a long time, so I know she has my best interests at heart. But she can be, um, challenging. If you know what I mean.

This is why I found her a great deal on a month long cruise to… anywhere but here.

You see, the fun has gone out of writing. I used to write and listen to myself giggle. Lately, all I hear are sighs. Just between you and me, I think Ms. I.E. may have something to do with that. The harder I work, the more she shakes her head, clucks her tongue and smacks that ruler against the desk.

Yikes, that sound scares me.

When I looked up at my calendar and noticed that National Novel Writing Month was fast approaching, I gently but firmly encouraged her to take a little vacation.

NaNoWritMo is an event that started many years ago with a bunch of story-loving, Silicon Valley, smarty-pants types. It’s fun. It’s ridiculous. It produces the best marketing/informational/encouragement letters I’ve ever read. To join the fun, you pledge to write 50 thousand words in one month. That’s roughly the length of Tom Sawyer or The Great Gatsby.

During the month, you get regular messages where people encourage you to meet your goal, play along, try again, don’t give up, and just plain enjoy writing. (Last year, my favorite letter of encouragement came from Lemony Snicket. He began by saying: quit immediately and ended with a passionate defense of the healing power of story.)

How do you write 50 thousand words in a moth? Well, I’ll tell you right now, you can’t stop and craft every damn sentence, that’s for sure. You have blast out the words. Speed write. Type.

In the words of one of my favorite pop-culture mages: don’t think, do.

There is a scientific basis to this kind of exercise. When you use intuition, (or quick judgment,) to make a decision (or create) within your “area of expertise,” it turns out that intuition is a fairly accurate guide for making effective decisions. Good work.

Makes sense, really. If you’ve amassed hours of study and practice at something, your auto-pilot for that activity is going to be fairly skillful. You won’t necessarily need the kind of careful double-checking that you did when you first began.

Today is the 7th day of NaNo. I have over 7 thousand words under my belt. It’s been a shaky start, but I’m getting the feel for letting my intuition run.

Ms. Internal-Editor has tried to call in a few times. I let the machine pick up.

I bet she’s having a great time advising her fellow cruise members all about Dining Room Rules and organizing safety drills. I can’t wait to hear about her adventures when she gets back at the end of the month. Or possible later.

Cruise ships give their biggest discounts during hurricane season, you know.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Writing Sequels and Series




When I wrote my first book way back in 1992, I didn’t see myself as an author who wrote sequels or series. Back then I was a one-book kind of girl, no afterlife necessary for my characters. I focused on one book at a time and enjoyed myself, hoping my readers did too.

But one day, something unexpected happened. After publishing my third book, A Double-Edged Blade, (a time-travel romance set in Ireland), I received a slew of fan mail asking for a continuation of the story. At first I couldn’t imagine doing a sequel. I hadn’t planned it. I didn't have any extended character arcs planned. What kind of plot would I have? Could the characters live on? How? What would they do? How would they do it?

Shortly thereafter, I figured it all out and penned my first sequel, Across a Moonswept Moor. A few years later, I wrote my first series in conjunction with my sister -- a historical trilogy about three sisters who are descendants from the Salem witches. I wrote the first and third books; she wrote the second one.

There is no question that writing a sequel or a series is a challenge. A series requires a lot of foresight, planning and long-term character arcs. For me, plots have to be at least lightly sketched out for a few books in advance. If you have an exact number of books planned for your series, then it's easier. Either way, you need to have a firm idea of where you want to go with your characters and how you want them to change. Personally, I love to revisit my characters in novel after novel. In many ways they have become like family. It's fun to plot and watch their growth as people, lovers and friends.

Now I'm writing a humorous mystery series for Carina Press (www.CarinaPress.com) and having a blast. The first book, NO ONE LIVES TWICE, introduces geek extraordinaire, Lexi Carmichael, and her quirky friends. The second book, NO ONE TO TRUST, expands on those characters and their adventures.

So, how about you? Do you like series or books with sequels and prequels? Why or why not?

Just in case you are new to the series, here’s an short excerpt of NO ONE TO TRUST:

When I was seven my older brother Rock gave me a camera for Christmas. The science of photography fascinated me—the angles, depth and lighting. But I was more interested in how the camera worked than in what I was pointing it at. Fast-forward a few years and here I am, a twenty-five-year-old, single, white, geek girl who can’t take a decent picture of anything.

I’m also a semi-reformed computer hacker, a numbers whiz and a girl with a photographic memory. The whole photographic memory thing is totally overrated, though. Every human has the physiological capability. Most people just don’t have the film.

Lucky for me, I’ve got the film, but I’m also stuck with a geeky reputation. Counter to the stereotypical image, I don’t wear thick glasses held together by duct tape and I no longer own a pair of high-water pants. On the other hand, I’m no Miss America—just your basic tall, skinny girl with no curves and long brown hair. I double-majored in mathematics and computer science and have zero social skills.

You can follow Julie at:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Julie-Moffett-Author/123804877633091

Twitter: JMoffettAuthor

Website: www.juliemoffett.com

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