Thursday, March 5, 2015

Character vs Real Life

Sparkle Abbey is hosting guest blogger, Shannon Baker

Today we're joined by our good friend, Shannon Baker. She's graciously offered to give away a copy of her latest novel Tattered Legacy. Just leave a comment to be entered to win. (U.S only.) Take it away Shannon!

I never start off a novel to work out my life issues. I don’t create characters as some form of self-therapy. (Although I used to have fantasies of torturing a barrel racer and leaving her unable to speak. But I’m much better now.) Writers come to their books differently, but for me, I generally find WHAT I want to write about and then populate it with the most interesting WHO I can make up.

Recently, I got to thinking about my protagonists, which to this point have all been women. I hate to reveal too much about my personality, but when I match up what people say about those characters and what was going on in my life at the time, I can’t help but see how my sneaky subconscious was working overtime.

A reviewer for my first published book, Ashes of the Red Heifer (gratefully out of print now) commented, “…unnecessarily stubborn and foul mouthed…” and an  “…overbearing, stronger willed woman than I've ever met.” (Yes, I know, most writers use pull-lines that say nice things about the book. I have those, too, but I’m trying to make a point here.) At a book club one woman, trying to be as gentle as possible, described her as, “prickly and bossy and not very nice.”

Despite my trying to soften Annie up in revisions, she always kept that hard shell. So, here’s what was happening in my life: My husband of 15 years was having an affair (remember that barrel racer I mentioned earlier?) and I had two daughters in school, in this tiny town, and I was holding every emotion so tight no one would see me crack. That probably translated to the page, making Annie tough and hard as granite.

I wrote the next book after my family life had substantially improved. My kids were on their own and I’d found the love of my life. Personally, I felt secure and happy. But professionally, I was teetering. We’d just moved to Flagstaff and it took me over a year to find a job. When I did, instead of being in charge, as I was previously, I had no clout. While I loved the people I worked with, I felt undervalued by the management.

In Tainted Mountain, the first in the Nora Abbott mystery series, Nora is all kinds of conflicted. She gives the world the face of a competent business woman and she’s smart and hard working. Inside, she’s riddled with insecurities. She waffles back and forth between “hear me roar” and squeaking in the corner.

In Broken Trust, book two, while I’d taken a risky job at a start-up, Nora is struggling to take command of her life. By book three, Tattered Legacy, written after I’d survived menopause, Nora is full of confidence and action.

I’m not Annie or Nora or any of the other protagonists that came before them. But I can see where some of my real life transfers to their characters.

There are far less subtle ways my real life infiltrates my books. For instance, how often I kill a philandering husband. And just how many of protagonists wrestle with mother relationships. Dogs, cats, and even horses find their way onto my pages. Any aspect of my real life can seep onto the page. But not the sex scenes. Those are totally made up or derived by watching movies.

When you read a novel, do you wonder how much of the story or characters come straight from the author’s life? 

Remember, Shannon is giving away a copy of Tattered Legacy. For a chance to win, just leave a comment below. Make sure you include your email address.

Shannon Baker is the author of the Nora Abbott mystery series from 
Midnight Ink. A fast-paced mix of Hopi Indian mysticism, environmental issues, and murder. Shannon is an itinerant writer, which is a nice way of saying she’s confused. She never knows what time zone she’s in, Timbuck-Three, Nebraska, or  Denver, or Tucson. Nora Abbott has picked up that location schizophrenia and travels from Flagstaff in Tainted Mountain, to Boulder in Broken Trust and then to Moab in Tattered Legacy.  Shannon is proud to have been chosen Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ 2014 Writer of the Year. Visit Shannon at www.Shannon-Baker.comWhile Tattered Legacy is available from your favorite online or bookstore, if you’d like to support indie bookstores, you’re welcome to contact Who Else Books at Ron and Nina are the best! And they might have a signed copy to send.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Past, Present, Future-and Free Download of My Austin Starr Short Story by Kay Kendall

Past, Present, Future—and Free Download of My Austin Starr Short Story
By Kay Kendall

Once upon a time I believed my dreams would all come true when I wrote a book. With that accomplished, of course I wanted to have it published. And then when I held it in my hands, I knew I would be ecstatic.

Those dreams did indeed come true. With lots of hard work, more than I ever imagined would be necessary, my debut mystery was published two years ago this spring. Now I have its sequel coming out this summer.

The goal posts keep moving, however. I am now striving to juggle more than one writing project at a time.  Today I will share with you how I’m doing in that regard.

CURRENT PROJECT – Free download! 

Last month I published a short story that bridges DESOLATION ROW with its sequel RAINY DAY WOMEN. The story is “Strangers on a Plane,” and through March 6, you can download it FREE on Amazon. You don’t need a Kindle to read it either. You can read “Strangers on a Plane” on other devices—your PC, Mac, cell phone, or other type of tablet. If you’ve been curious about my fiction, now is a great time to read, absolutely free.

FUTURE PROJECTS—Mysteries #2 and #3

Mystery #2, RAINY DAY WOMEN, is in its final stages before publication. I’ve done edits based on my editor’s suggestions and await her verdict on the changes I made. With my first mystery, DESOLATION ROW, I enjoyed the revision stage. I like the back-and-forth process with a professional who helps me make my book as strong as it can be. Meantime the cover, blurbs from other mystery authors, and promotional copy are in process. All of this is exciting. Almost every part of publishing thrills me—except for the torture of first drafts.

But here’s a surprise. I am shocked to confide that I am already planning mystery #3. I don’t have its name yet, although several song titles by Bob Dylan are in contention. The theme of the mystery is haunting me, and possible plot points pop into my mind now at the oddest times. I hesitate to say this, but I think, I hope, I believe—sort of—that I just may be a writer.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

My Upcoming Author Appearances, by Marilyn Meredith

No longer do I head off to far-away places that need to be reached by air. (I may ignore that decision if something intriguing enough should arise, but that's how I'm feeling now.) Most of the in-person appearances I'll be making in the next few months are driveable.

Last Saturday was the first one of this year, a local authors' day at a lovely library several cities away. A fun time and I connected with a friend and fan who recetly moved to this city and  met many other delightful readers.

On March 14th, from 2-4, I'm participating in a peanl about how mysteries have changed sine the days of the Maltese Falcon at a wonderful used bookstore--the Book Barn in Clovis. The reason for the Matlese Falcon is that is the book for the Fresno Library's annual Read-a-thon.

Because I'm a board member of the Public Safety Writers Association, I'm headed to Ventura for their annual board meeting the following weekend. Not a book selling event, but important for the organization--with a bit of fun thrown in. Plus, I have a daughter who lives nearby and we'll squeeze in some time with her and her family.

The last weekend of the month, we're off to Santa Maria, where we're staying in the Santa Maria Hotel--this is where all the movie stars stayed on their way up the coast in the good-old days. The lobby, dining room and bar area are full of nostalgia (there's even a bank of private telephone booths), We like to stay in the older part of the hotel--the rooms are smaller, but each one is unique and they are the actual rooms the stars stayed in--some even with name plates on the doors.

On Saturday, the March 28th, I'm speaking to the Central Coast Sisters in Crime, 10 a.m. at the Nipomo Library. My topic: How to Create and Sustain a Mystery Series. I belong to this chapter but don't get to go over there often enough. I'm looking forward to sharing and seeing everyone.

On April 2nd, I'm participating in a Mystery Authors' Symposium at 6:30 p.m. in the Fig Garden Library in Fresno.

My official book launch for Violetn Departures is on April 16th at 6 p.m. in the Porterville Library--and there's going to be cupcakes!

And that's about it until July 16-19 when we'll be in Las Vegas for the Public Safety Writers Association's Annual Conference. Love this conference where mystery writers can share and learn from all sorts of law enforcement officers, firemen, and other public safety personnel. I've become friends with so many of this group who are willing to share their expertise.

As time goes by, I"m sure I'll be booking other dates for appearances--but that's it for now.

For all you readers out there, do attend author events in your local area, it means a lot to those of us who do these.

Looking forward to meeting and introducing both my series to new readers.

Marilyn Meredith aka F. M. Meredith

The Rocky Bluff P.D. Mystery Series

The Deputy Tempe Crabtree Mystery Series

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Idea Store by Lynn Cahoon

Last summer, before my life turned upside down, I committed to joining Toastmasters at my workplace. Since August, I've given one speech.

This month, I'll be giving two, one in a competition. Crazy, right?

The good news is I've been speaking in public since my first job where I was the radio girl who listed off the new, hot job opportunities available at your local unemployment office.  Then I spent over ten years training the regional staff at Idaho's Health and Welfare department. Want to know how to deal with computer issues, or what assets count against Medicaid? I'm your girl.

But the speeches I'm giving this month are more personal. And I'm hoping I can keep my emotions in check while I'm talking. The first speech talks about where the ideas come from for my books. My mother asked me the same question. "How do you come up with all these ideas?"

The answer I gave her was kind of broad, but I'll tell you the true writer secret. We're magpies. We take bits and pieces of everything we've ever did, seen, or heard for our stories.  We're taught to write what we know, so my first published book was The Bull Rider's Brother.

No, I'm not a bull rider expert. But I love cowboys. Especially those in tight fitting jeans and a pearl snap western shirt? Add in a hat and boots, and I'm gone. The book's first line tells you a lot about my main character Lizzie, but also, a lot about the author - me.

Cowboys aren't easy to love, but they sure are easy on the eyes.

Then I mixed three or four of my favorites sites in the Idaho mountains and imagined the new town of Shawnee Idaho. I added in two brothers, the older being way too protective of the younger, to the point it affected his own happiness, threw in a too cute kid and a main character who's been burned by love, one too many times.

All things I know about.

There's a saying that authors pass around that says use your life history to season your writing. If  the people you know wanted to be painted in a positive light, they should have been nicer to you on the way.

I love this.

So where is your idea store?
If you're interested in starting the Tourist Trap series before Dressed to Kill launches in June and Killer Run, in August, eKensington has Guidebook to Murder on sale for the month of March - digital $1.99. Check out the story that started it all....