Friday, August 17, 2018

Running and Writing

       By guest author, Jennifer Klepper

     I love the name of this group of writers: The Stiletto Gang. It’s sexy and fierce, and while the Stiletto Gang probably doesn’t actually wear stilettos while they’re writing their books (do they?), I can easily imagine them traipsing about in their spiked heels and drinking martinis after they’ve put their keyboards away for the day.
Seeing the sparkly stiletto on the page made me think of my own newest pair of shoes--purple and orange (yikes!) Brooks trail running shoes. They have a grabby sole for traversing unfriendly ground cover, they’re sturdy to help keep the ankles from twisting, and they are frightfully clunky-looking. Pretty much the opposite of stilettos.
The reason I even have these trail shoes is my writing. Next week, my debut novel, Unbroken Threads, officially releases. So of course I signed up to run my very first trail race and my very first 10k three days prior to launch. Why in the world would I do that? (I’ve asked myself this numerous times, including the day I sprained my ankle on an errant broken branch.) 
As any writer can attest, you have to sit on your duff to write. Not just that, but you have to sit on your duff an awful lot for an awful long time to write, revise, and edit a novel. Let’s just say my muscle tone hasn’t kept up with my word count.
Scheduling a virgin run right ahead of my launch was tactical. I knew my summer would be nerve-wracking, with the prospect of my book baby being thrown to the wolves--I mean, world--in August. Having a goal, one totally and completely different from writing and publishing a book, seemed a mentally healthy diversion. Plus there was that muscle tone thing.
What I’ve learned in the ensuing weeks is that...running and writing? Not necessarily totally and completely different. Runners on the whole might look better in yoga pants, and writers might be better at Words with Friends, but the process and the experience of each have at least a few important things in common. 
1.     Writing and running are both solitary endeavors. Both activities require you to be in your own head, pursuing your own goal. Neither is typically a team sport. No one can run your hills for you and no one can cut 10,000 words from your draft for you. 
2.     And yet, writing and running both benefit from their supportive communities. Ah, the writing community! I love it so much and have gained friends and knowledge and good vibes. I’m starting to see the same in the running community. Established runners have been enthusiastic in their support and patient in their advice, whether it’s recommending I use bag balm on my feet (since I have to run through a river, of all things) or assuring me it’s perfectly acceptable to walk part of the race (I will).
3.     There’s always a “better." Running and writing start small--first mile, first chapter, but no matter the achievement, there’s always another shiny goal glinting in the distance. Did you finish a marathon? Well, how about winning your age group? How about running fast enough to qualify for Boston? Did you write a complete manuscript? How about getting a multi-book deal with a Big 5 publisher? How about making the NY Times bestseller list? The pursuit can be exhausting and never-ending--the shiny horizon will always stay out of reach.
4.     And yet, just doing the thing--finishing the race, writing The End on a first draft--is a tremendous achievement. I will not forget that. Ever. None of us should. No matter how far you get (qualify for the Boston Marathon or get a multi-book deal with St. Martin’s Press), that first achievement of finishing a race or finishing a draft is what got you there in the first place, and it’s much farther than most people to begin with.
5.     Finally, each activity needs another activity for balance. Any activity that taxes the body or mind needs a complementary activity to keep us fresh. Just as strained muscles and tendons need a break, so do word-wrestling brains. Allowing ourselves to focus on a different aspect of ourselves, to exercise a different aspect of ourselves, permits recovery as well as growth.

            So, within a week (if all things proceed as planned), I will have finished my first 10K and published my first book. And then I will continue working on my second book. Maybe I’ll train for a 15K, who knows? No matter what, though (and I know I won’t be able to run for as many years as I’ll be able to write), I’ll maintain some balance and try to ensure that I always have good shoes while I’m doing it.


Thursday, August 16, 2018

Making Hay

By Cathy Perkins

[Cathy is traveling with internet problems, so we're featuring a past post of hers today.]

It's hay making season in our mountain valley. The process is interesting, even if it does play havoc with my husband's allergies. One of the things that surprised me, though, was the parallels I saw between making hay and writing. 

Stay with me. 

Let's look at the hay process first. There are three basic requirements for growing hay: land, water and sun. Lots of each one. Once the grass reaches the right stage—tall, but not gone to seed—the ranchers start watching the weather even closer than they usually do. Hoping the forecast holds, they cut the grass in wide swathes and let it dry. 

Over the next few days, the ranchers fluff—okay, the technical term is swath—the hay so it dries evenly. Once the hay is dry, they can bail it into bricks that litter the field at regular intervals. 


This year's first cutting looked terrific and the initial bids from Japan were $300/ton. The earliest cutters started bailing and there was happiness in the valley. 

Then the unexpected happened. A storm boiled over the Cascades and drenched the valley. All the grass still on the ground went from being prime hay to cattle feed—not even dairy cow feed—at a price that will barely cover the expense of bailing it. 

As soon as the sun reappeared and dried things out, the ranchers fluffed what was there and prepared to get it out of the field and make way for the next crop. 


There are other ways things can go wrong. Balers break and things get stuck. Weeds invade from untended land. But the men and women who ranch for a living keep going, raising hay for their horses and other people's cows. 

So how is any of that like writing? 

Well, you start with three basic ingredients to create a story: writer, imagination and paper—lots of each one. The author nurtures the story to The End and fluffs and cuts and edits, hoping for that premium bid for the manuscript. But things outside the author's control can ruin that venture. A decision somewhere else that Steampunk/Chick Lit/Romantic Suspense/Whatever is “dead” means that particular manuscript isn't going anywhere except a closest or thumb drive. (Hmm... considering indie-pubbing yet?) 

Like a bale in the baler, words can get stuck. It's much harder to find a repair person for a broken or missing muse than a clogged machine. 

Like the rancher, the writer keeps putting words on the page, creating stories, because that's what writers do. 

 Can you think of any other parallels?

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.
Her latest release is In It For The Money, book 4 in the Holly Price mystery series. 
To celebrate, So About the Money, book 1 in the series is currently on sale for 99 cents! 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Want to Write a Book? 6 Things I’ve Learned

    By Kay Kendall

By now I’ve written fiction long enough to trust my own habits. Once, when I was a real newbie, I believed I must do just as the experts advise. But now I know on some points the experts differ.
1.   If your process works for you, trust it. For example, while most experts advise to rip through your first draft quickly, without editing as you go, I just can’t. I used to feel guilty—since I was doing things WRONG. Finally, lo and behold, I learned about other authors, bestselling authors, who also begin their writing days by editing what they wrote the day before. Whew. What a relief.
Here are some other habits I’ve also learned to trust:
2.     2. Keep reading. If you’re writing your own book, don’t stop reading other ones. I’ve read more, not less, since I began to write fiction. I submerged myself in the mystery/suspense genre for almost two years before I started Desolation Row—An Austin Starr Mystery. Picking up the tricks of the trade by osmosis works better for me than gulping ten dry how-to tomes. 
3.     Keep a notebook beside your bed. “Brilliant” thoughts are fleeting. Pin them down before they get away. I learned the hard way that wonderful ideas at 3:00 a.m. disappear by the time I awake in the morning. 
4.     Keep exercising. Health gurus are adamant that sitting all day is a terrible habit that can lead to early death and/or dementia. Besides, when I’m on my exercise bike, I zone out and then ideas for my writing zone in. The mind-body connection is worth protecting with sufficient exercise. However, it’s time for a true confession. I have trouble with this one, especially when I’m on deadline. 
5.     Keep up with your pals. Writing can be a lonely pursuit, and trying to get published these days is a killer. I needed all the support I could get, and my friends stepped up and stayed there right beside me on my journey. They kept me going through the darkest days and have been my staunchest supporters and shared my joy upon publication. I’ve also made new friends as I’ve joined writers’ critique groups and associations. I’m a staunch believer in the truth of what Barbra Streisand sang back in the sixties. “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”
6.     Keep the faith. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” When I saw that on a coffee mug for sale 15 years ago, I was too scared to pick it up. How dare I think I could write a novel? But I forced myself to buy that mug, and after using it for two years and writing my first manuscript, I began timidly to call myself a writer. Hold fast to your dream. Keep it alive by doing it.
I have faith I will complete new books because two of my mysteries have been published and the third will come out soon. I’ve pushed through the dark times, “getting by with a little help from my friends.” (Footnote to the Beatles) Moreover, if I’ve done this, then you can too. As we used to say back in the day, just keep on truckin’. And find what works best for you. Your mileage may differ from mine, but just do it.
==============
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, August 13, 2018

Power Trip


If someone were to ask me what the Country Club Murders are about, I’d tell them, “Women finding their power—and murder. Lots of murder.”
Ellison Russell has spent most of her life being safe and protected. Now a single mother, she has the opportunity to take risks, to stand on her own, to own her life.
The problem is that almost everyone in her life would like her to stay safe. Even her mother. Especially her mother.
“Ellison, we want you safe. Just like you want to keep Grace safe.”
            I wanted Grace to be safe but I didn’t want her to be packed in cotton until she found a man to take care of her. I wanted her to have a life. I wanted a life. On my own terms. “I appreciate the sentiment. I do. But I’m not going to apologize or consign myself to marriage just so I can have a man take care of me.”
            The theme, which was valid in the seventies, is still valid today.
            For Ellison, power is the freedom to make choices.
            For Ellison, power is owning the consequences of her choices.
            For Ellison, power is the ability to protect herself from predators, from gossip, and from well-meaning family members who would map the course of her life.
            Writing Ellison’s journey, watching her find her power and realize she doesn’t have to do it all alone, has been a joy. And a learning experience.
            Thanks for joining Ellison and me on the journey.



Julie Mulhern is the USA Today bestselling author of The Country Club Murders and the Poppy Fields Adventures. 

She is a Kansas City native who grew up on a steady diet of Agatha Christie. She spends her spare time whipping up gourmet meals for her family, working out at the gym and finding new ways to keep her house spotlessly clean--and she's got an active imagination. Truth is--she's an expert at calling for take-out, she grumbles about walking the dog and the dust bunnies under the bed have grown into dust lions.

Ellison's next book, Back Stabbers, releases October 23.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Magic Moments for Readers and Writers


Magic Moments for Readers and Writers by Debra H. Goldstein
Sometimes a good thing only gets better. Last weekend, I was part of one of those perfect magic moments as a participant at Mystery in the Midlands

Let me tell you about how it came together.
A year ago, Jeffrey Deaver, as president of Mystery Writers of American (MWA) offered to cover his own expenses and put on workshops throughout the country. On behalf of SEMWA (the Southeast region), he came to Columbia, South Carolina. His program was such a success, that involved members of SEMWA and the Palmetto Chapter of Sisters of Crime hoped they could partner for another dynamic program. But how?
Perhaps it was divine providence, but they discovered Sisters in Crime had started a national speakers
bureau program that permitted a chapter to apply for one of a finite number of grants which would sponsor designated speakers to come to the chapter for whatever type of program the chapter wanted. The SinC educational initiative, which was just starting, was designed to enable all SinC chapters access to writers and programs they would never be able to fund.
Fingers crossed, Palmetto’s leadership applied for a SinC grant and was awarded the opportunity to
have Elaine Viets come to Columbia. Rather than simply inviting local people to hear Elaine speak, Paula Gail Benson and Riley Miller put their heads together and decided to forge a partnership between the Palmetto Chapter of SinC and SEMWA to offer a mystery workshop for readers and writers headlined by Elaine, but which would also showcase other authors as panelists and master class teachers.
Because of Paula and Riley’s vision, what could have been a local affair, became Mystery in the Midlands, an event attended by eighty plus people from five different states. Besides Elaine, eighteen other authors were showcased amidst book sales, signings, and networking. Not only did the conference run smoothly, but a silent auction of books donated by the participating authors generated scholarship funds for three children to participate in My First Books SC, a statewide partnership affiliated with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. It provides books for registered children from birth to age five.
Mystery in the Midlands was held in Columbia’s beautiful St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. The church’s main fellowship hall was used for registration, refreshments, and the panel discussions, but the three master classes were held in the boardroom, choir room, and sanctuary. And yes, it was Jewish me, who was assigned to teach my master class on conflict under the stained windows depicting the Good Shepherd and other scenes from the Bible. Apparently, things went okay because I had a good audience and none of us was struck by lightning or any other disasters.
Participants left the day looking forward to next year’s Mystery in the Midlands. Amazing what magic a simple idea, good leaders, partnerships and enthusiasm can create. Will I see you there or 


perhaps in Decatur, Georgia on October 6, when SEMWA and the Atlanta Chapter of SinC co-sponsor an all-day workshop on the Psychology of Writing featuring Toni L.P. Kelner – Leigh Perry, Dr. Stephen M. Kelner, and fifteen other authors?





Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Case of the Curious, Crazy Chicana in Catholic City written by Juliana Aragon Fatula photographs from friends, poets, writers, performers, healers, singers, artists, hunters.



 This piece is a work of fiction. 
The names were changed, but what the hell? 
I’m a writer I make shit up.

 
I love this sentence. It's a survivors prayer. 
I love this photo because my husband, Pussy Kat, is in the group shot. He's the vato in the green shirt. He accompanies me to the award ceremonies and most community events, if he’s not scouting or camping or hunting or chasing his dreams in the high country. I’m such a witch, huh. 
What follows are some of my late-night ramblings when I have been busy living my life and not sitting at the computer writing and blogging and shit. So, excuse me if I feel too good to care. Medical Marijuana makes my mania less manic. Just kidding. Seriously, my arthritis and depression are livable because of an ancient Native American herb for healing called Cannabis.
The Case of the Curious Chicana from Catholic City, a preview.
I’m furious. 
At myself.
I’m on a rant about writing.

Help me Lord. 
My husband never writes or reads.

I’m a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Hey ya hey ya hey ya ya

Nervous breakdown hey ya.

I’ve tried to explain 
my artistic process to him 
but alas it would be similar to him 
describing to me 
how to track and hunt 
moose, deer, elk, antelope. 
I just don’t care about hunting. 
He talks hunting, scouting, camping, wildlife, non-stop.

I talk non-stop about my passion, writing. 
But he has no concept of what it takes to read a book let alone write a book. 
Yes, I said it.
He reads the newspaper every day and hunting magazines but not books. 
He’s not a reader. 
You must be a reader to be a writer, 
so no wonder he fails to understand 
what I need to be a successful writer.

I finished the m.s. rough draft. 
I made the mistake of telling him I had finished the book.

He had no clue what that meant.

He thought we were off to the publisher and wala a book.

He sees me revising and asks, “What ya doin’?”

I tell him, “I’m polishing. Cutting words, adding scenes, checking my research, looking for time continuity, checking the weather, rainfall, and phase of the moon in Atlanta in 1992 on July 4th.”

“Why? I thought you were done. You said, ‘I finished my book’ unquote.”

He doesn’t actually speak like that. He says, “You know what I mean, man.? You know? Man.” But he has a slight PA accent where they say things like you-ins. So he says, “Ya know what I mean, man?”

“I finished the rough draft. Pendejo. I print it on my printer at home in my kitchen. I read it for pleasure. I read it for typos. I read it for…”

“Wait. Man, I thought ya were done, done and we could go camping. Ya said ya was done.”

“I also said, I had to send it to readers and have them give me feedback, remember?”

“No.”

“Well, I can’t proofread the novel on the computer screen. 
I print it on paper and punch three-hole notebook and get out my highlighters and post its. 
I read it to check for continuity, to make sure it’s whole and not missing any important details.”

“And he says, “I’m hungry.”

This is my shero in the seventies. Janis Joplin hippy chic, mujer muy mujer.

So today, I lost my temper and screamed at him, “That’s it, pendejo. I’m never speaking to you about my writing, ever, ever again. Pinche cabrón. You leave me for an hour to work on my deadline due tonight at 3am and I’ll forgive you, but don’t frickin’ speak one word to me now. I’m pissed. You just don’t get it. What I do. 
I’m a frickin’ writer, cabrón.

I read, and I write.

That’s what I do.

You.

You are an outdoorsman.

You scout, camp, hunt, harvest your game, tan the hide, mount the antlers in the hallway, you photograph every kill.

I’ve seen my limit of dead animal photos on your phone. You love that shit.

I love writing.

That’s the shit that makes me get out of bed in the morning.

I live to write.

And you have pushed me to my frickin’ limit with your inability to respect my work and my process.

I’m not your cook, maid, chef, laundress, gardener…
I’m your frickin’ wife. 
I deserve respect.

If you say one more negative word about my spending too much time reading and writing and blogging and texting and going to writing workshops…I’m writing a murder mystery and someone might end up dead or missing in the sequel. The story goes… about a woman who writes mysteries. Her husband resents her writing and so he torments her, nags her, preaches, yells, screams, cusses, has hissy fits. So one day she goes into the knife drawer…dun dun dun. 
The Colorado Sisters 2017ish

I’m sorry if I’m too twisted for you, but I warned you, readers, that I’m the Crazy Chicana in Catholic City and I am irreverent.

So, if not for my laziness, my love of cooking, gardening, even doing laundry relaxes me; I would have finished my book and would be submitting for publication.

So, like the dog that I am, I blame it on my puss, that’s what I call him.

Pussy pie. Puss puss. Pussy cat…

He’s a great guy and an extraordinary successful hunter and provides the meat on the table. But I long for an imaginary man that loves dancing, cooking, and reading. A man that loves to read. I made the mistake of asking Mother Earth for a miracle. I wasn’t specific and so she sent my husband to me. 
We are very different, but also very much the same. He’s my best friend and I shouldn’t kick his ass in print like this, but hey, I warned him, “I’m the Crazy Chicana in Catholic City. BTW, we’ve been married since 1992. Most of them happily. 
I hope if you enjoyed this post, you will leave me a note in the comments. I’ll be back in two weeks on August 23rd 2018. I promise you’ll enjoy the next post.