Friday, June 22, 2018

How Much is Too Much? The Art of Subtly --by T.K. Thorne



 

      Writer, humanist,
          dog-mom, horse servant and cat-slave,
       Lover of solitude
          and the company of good friends,
        New places, new ideas
           and old wisdom.




“Don’t give too much information” is one of the tenets of “good” fiction writing, i.e., writing that avoids the slush pile. A positive way to phrase this is—write subtly.




According to Noah Lakeman, author of The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile:

    An unsubtle MS will have an inflated feel—inflated with superfluous words, phrases, dialogue, and scenes that are far too long.
    Less is more; Leave some things unsaid; be a minimalist.
    If you underestimate your reader, you alienate him/her.
    Discipline yourself to withhold information.
    Embrace confusion; leave a little mystery.

But now we are back to the dilemma—how much is too much and how do you know when to stop? For some people, that skill comes naturally, but others struggle with it. Recently, I was reading over my latest novel manuscript and decided I wanted to drop some back story in the first chapter of book three of a trilogy. Backstory is always risky because too much can pull the reader out of the story world. They “hear” the author “filling them in.”

Setup: Rose, a police detective, responds to a homicide scene where a construction worker has fallen seven stories to his death. She looks at the body and hopes she isn’t going to get sick. 

I inserted: “The only time I’ve been sick at the sight of a dead body was the night I had my first vision, a glimpse of the future that made me fire two bullets into a man’s back.”

Works.  Why? 

1. It’s relevant and fits the context. It’s a natural thought proceeding from her hope that she won’t get sick.
2. It doesn’t give too much information. It leaves the reader with questions—Why did she shoot a man in the back? Why wasn’t she fired or convicted of murder?
3. It adds to plot or character. We now know that Rose had a traumatic incident in her past and that bodies don’t usually make her nauseous. Important stuff.

What if Rose looked at the body and thought instead: “This reminds me of the time when I had a few drinks with Harry and got sick all over the floor.”

It’s shorter, so “too much” is not about question of how many words you use. This version also flows from her thinking about getting sick, but it is too much information, because–who cares if she got sick drinking with Henry? It is not important to the story and adds nothing to the plot or character development. Unless it is an important part of her character that her mind wanders willy-nilly, it pulls the reader out of the story narrative.

Not every piece of narrative has to do all three of these things, but if you have a suspicious piece of writing, analyze it to make sure it is (1) relevant and in context, (2) leaves questions open, and/or (3) adds to the plot and character.

P.S.  HOUSE OF ROSE, a paranormal mystery/thriller and the first book in a trilogy is coming out in November.  Rose is a Birmingham police officer who discovers she's a witch of an ancient House, the prey of a powerful enemy and the pawn of another.  I've had such fun writing this!  Sign up for my newsletter to stay in the loop and receive two free short stories.




T.K. has written two award-winning historical novels, NOAH'S WIFE and ANGELS AT THE GATE, filling in the untold backstories of extraordinary unnamed women—the wives of Noah and Lot—in two of the world’s most famous sagas. The New York Post’s “Books You Should Be Reading” list featured her first non-fiction book, LAST CHANCE FOR JUSTICE, which details the investigators’ behind-the-scenes stories of the 1963 Birmingham church bombing case. Her next project is HOUSE OF ROSE, the first of a trilogy in the paranormal-crime genre. She loves traveling and speaking about her books and life lessons. T.K. writes at her mountaintop home near Birmingham, Alabama, often with two dogs and a cat vying for her lap. She blogs about “What Moves Me” on her website, TKThorne.com.  Join her private newsletter email list and receive a two free short stories at “TK’s Korner.”






Thursday, June 21, 2018

In It For The Money

By Cathy Perkins

In It For The Money releases next week. After several related-world novellas, it was fun to climb back into Holly's head--and heart.

This latest addition to the Holly Price Mystery Series definitely plays to my tag line--Mystery with a Financial Twist; Trust issues, Family Bonds. A CPA and amateur sleuth, Holly gets drawn into both her family's and clients' crises. In these stories, she usually has to figure out "why-dun-it" in addition to "who-dun-it?"

The books in the series combine mystery, a touch of humor, and a chunk of relationship issues that generate some interesting emails. (Note, JC is an imaginary character, but I love that you love him.)


Holly Price traded her professional goals for personal plans when she agreed to leave her high-flying position with the Seattle Mergers and Acquisitions team and take over the family accounting practice. Reunited with JC Dimitrak, her former fiancé, she’s already questioning whether she’s ready to flip her condo for marriage and a house in the ‘burbs.

When her cousin Tate needs investors for his innovative truck suspension, Holly works her business matchmaking skills and connects him with a client. The rockcrawler showcasing the new part crashes at its debut event, however, and the driver dies. Framed for the sabotage, Tate turns to Holly when the local cops—including JC—are ready to haul him to jail. Holly soon finds her cousin and client embroiled in multiple criminal schemes. She’s drawn into the investigation, a position that threatens her life, her family and her already shaky relationship with JC.

  Amazon      Nook     Kobo     iBooks


To celebrate the release of In It For the Money, book 1 of the series - So About the Money is on sale for only 99 cents!  Enjoy the romp across Washington state!


When Holly Price trips over a friend’s dead body while hiking, her life takes a nosedive into a world of intrigue and danger. The verdict is murder—and Holly is the prime suspect. Of course, the fact that the sexy—and very pissed off—cop threatening to arrest her is JC Dimitrak, Holly’s jilted ex-fiancé, doesn’t help matters.

To protect her future, her business...and her heart...the intrepid forensic accountant must use all her considerable investigative skills to follow the money through an intricate web of shadow companies, while staying one step ahead of her ex-fiancé. She better solve the case before the real killer decides CPA stands for Certified Pain in the Ass...and the next dead body found beside the river is Holly’s.

Amazon 


An award-winning author of financial mysteries, Cathy Perkins writes twisting dark suspense and light amateur sleuth stories.  When not writing, she battles with the beavers over the pond height or heads out on another travel adventure. She lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd.

Visit her at http://cperkinswrites.com or on Facebook 

Sign up for her new release announcement newsletter in either place.

She's hard at work on the next book in the Holly Price series.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

May the Force Be with Me!

by Kay Kendall


Right now I need all the help I can get. So today I called down The Force to help amp up my super powers. In my case, The Force is Bob Dylan.

 Let me explain.

My second mystery published almost three years ago. Like the first one, it took its name from a Bob Dylan song title. I use Dylan to evoke the late 1960s when the stories take place. In 2013 came my first mystery in the Austin Starr series, DESOLATION ROW (see concert shirt at right). In 2015 came RAINY DAY WOMEN. And then came a lengthy hiatus.

 Now, at long, long last my marvelous editor and I are getting my third mystery ready for publication. Maybe you think I’ve been lazing around the house and doing nothing. Nope. Not exactly. Chez Kendall got hit by three major illnesses in a row. First my husband fought cancer. Then I did, and then I developed a rare bone disease from a botched dental procedure.

My third book got written along the way, but it took a super long time. As I contemplate the work still to be done, my supply of oomph feels drained. The revision I face on this continuation of the Austin Starr mystery saga seems taxing. That's why I call on Mr. Dylan to lend me some of his special sauce—just a pinch of his enormous creativity, pretty please—to prepare me for the arduous journey ahead.

Heck, I may need to wear this Dylan tee shirt every day for the next month. Well, if so, it will be worth it. I look forward to bringing my third mystery, AFTER YOU'VE GONE, to its publication date, later this year.

This third mystery is a prequel featuring Austin Starr's Texas grandmother. And wouldn't you know it, she too loves to solve puzzles. In 1923, inspired by her emersion in the Sherlock Holmes stories of her era, she chases down the murderer of a relative when everyone else believes a peculiarly awful death was merely an accident. She runs into rumrunners, bootleggers, gangsters, and genuine flappers—even floozies. Headquarters for this activity in Texas during Prohibition was the wild city of Galveston on the gulf coast. Al Capone even sent his goons down from Chicago to try to muscle in on the action. Suffice it to say, Austin’s grandmother has many eye-opening experiences.

Of course, Dylan wasn't writing songs 100 years ago so I use another song title instead, one that stands the test of time. Popular in the Roaring Twenties when this prequel is set, the song "After You've Gone" has been covered by many famous singers every decade since. I especially recommend the versions by Ella Fitzgerald and Fiona Apple. Find them on YouTube.   

And then, some months from now when Stairway Press publishes my new mystery, I hope you will read it—and then conclude that some things are worth waiting for. Just please do wish me luck in the meantime.

==============

Meet the author

Kay Kendall is a long-time fan of historical novels and now writes mysteries that capture the spirit and turbulence of the sixties. A reformed PR executive who won international awards for her projects, Kay lives in Texas with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Terribly allergic to her bunnies, she loves them anyway! Her book titles show she's a Bob Dylan buff. In 2015 Rainy Day Women won two Silver Falchion Awards at Killer Nashville. Visit Kay at her website < http://www.austinstarr.com/>
or on Facebook < https://www.facebook.com/KayKendallAuthor>





Monday, June 18, 2018

Checking Out Some Great “How To” Writing Guidelines


by Paula Gail Benson

 

Lately, I’ve been coming across a number of online articles that express succinctly how certain forms of genre fiction should be written. Here are a few I’ve discovered:

 

Dennis Palumbo wrote “Taking the Mystery Out of How to Write a Mystery” (https://www.writersstore.com/taking-the-mystery-out-of-writing-mysteries/). He lists three important elements: : “1) establishing the unique character of the protagonist, 2) making narrative use of the world in which the story takes place, and 3) planting clues (remember, only a few) that derive from the particular aspects of that world.” Palumbo recommends that writers consider what makes them unique and their own backgrounds in developing their protagonists and settings.

 

Chuck Wendig provides “25 Things Writers Should Know About Creating Mystery” (http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/05/08/25-things-writers-should-know-about-creating-mystery/). He describes a mystery as an incomplete equation. Even though readers know the answer will be revealed by the end, “[a] good story traps us in the moment and compels us by its incompleteness.” Readers want to be part of the process. “[S]ometimes creating mystery is not an act of asking a question but the deed of providing a clearly incorrect answer. Let the audience seek the truth by showing them a lie.” And, it’s important for plot and character to be intricately intertwined. “Plot, after all, is like Soylent Green — it’s made of people.”

 

Ginny Wiehardt gives us the ten “Top Rules for Mystery Writing” (https://www.thebalancecareers.com/top-rules-for-mystery-writing-1277089). Her article is written about mystery novels, but the suggestions are easily adapted to short stories. She points out that people read mysteries for a “particular experience.” They want the opportunity to solve the crime and they expect all to turn out well in the end. Reading many mysteries to see how “the rules” have been applied in those stories will be helpful to a writer, and understanding “the rules” in order to better meet reader expectations will help a writer craft a better mystery story. Among her recommendations are to introduce the detective, culprit, and crime early and wait until the last possible moment to reveal the culprit.

 

Peter Derk explains the “The 8 Keys to a Good Heist Story” (https://litreactor.com/columns/the-8-keys-to-a-good-heist-story). “A good heist has a planning stage, execution stage, and an escape. They can be in different proportions, but if your story is missing one of the three, it won’t pass muster.” Derk says there must be complications and a reason to root for success. Also, he suggests taking care in putting the team together and having a reason behind the operation that is greater than monetary gain.

 

Dr. David Lewis Anderson gives a good description of “Time Travel in Science Fiction” (http://andersoninstitute.com/time-travel-in-science-fiction.html). He offers a historical analysis of science fiction stories that have used time travel, but he also explores the elements writers have developed through those stories.

 

In his “6 Secrets to Creating and Sustaining Suspense,” (http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/6-secrets-to-creating-and-sustaining-suspense) Steven James evaluates how to add suspense in mystery, thriller, and literary stories. He suggests the key is to give readers something to worry about, then explains how to do that.

 

Finally, Jan Ellison offers “9 Practical Tricks for Writing Your First Novel” (http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/9-practical-tricks-for-writing-your-first-novel). Two of her recommendations that I found interesting were to set writing goals that are completely within your control and keep working on a poem while writing your novel. The poem allows you freedom of expression and provides a way to get started with your writing.

 
Have you read any writing “how to” articles lately?