Mystery Mondays: Kelley Kaye on Writing Idiosyncrasies

This week on Mystery Mondays we welcome Kelley Kaye (also known as Kelley Bowles), The exciting news…Her second novel Poison  by Punctuation (Chalkboard Outlines Book 2) is being released tomorrow!  If you’ve read Death By Diploma, you won’t want to miss Poison by Punctuation.

Little Idiosyncrasies

My ideas for Character Development.

by Kelley Kaye

I’ve been told my strengths as far as writing fly in voice and character. So I wanted to take a minute to kind of examine a couple of neat things I’ve been finding out about, and trying for myself, as far as character development. Do they work? I can only go back to comments I’ve heard about my strength as a writer being in voice and characterization… So here we go:

As far as character goes, I think small is big. While it’s great if you have a big idea for the trigger that shapes your character’s basic personality, like a traumatic event from his youth or a colorful uncle from her present, that’s important. But I think it’s in the idiosyncrasies—the little habits or the minuscule events, all combined in to one big personality that make the character most memorable.
Does your character press her left toe into her shoe all the time? Left toe only? Why does she do that? My character was stung by a bee on that toe when she was four, and there’s a little scar there. Maybe it tingles when the phone is going to ring, if you’re looking for a small paranormal bent, or maybe she has to take off her shoe to rub the scar as the only way she knows to calm herself down. If she takes off her shoe to rub the scar before her calculus test or before the goodnight kiss at date’s end, it’s a small thing. But either scene tells the reader something about the character.

Yesterday I was clearing out a bunch of old books and I found a book on palmistry. I haven’t looked at it since I was a very young adult, I think I bought it because I had some sort of idea for myself, about reading palms for fun at parties. That never went anywhere, but now I thought, wow! Character who reads palms at parties. or at the breakfast table, or at Starbucks? That’s cool and interesting and could go all sorts of different places as far as plotline. Just from looking at a book on palm reading.

For my upcoming murder mystery—Poison by Punctuation—I continued with a tiny character trait for Leslie, one of the two main characters, but it’s turning bigger by the day. Leslie is super stylish, graceful, a fashion plate who (almost) always has every hair in place. But she has a sort of magic trick to correspond with her perfection, which works to help the reader know what kind of a person she is underneath. Whatever people around her need, she is able to produce. From where, nobody knows, but if it’s a Kleenex or a protein bar or…a pair of ski boots, somehow Leslie has it. She’s a little snarky, a little irreverent, and has no idea how intimidating she can be, but her magic whatever-you-need ability shows the big heart hiding in the sarcasm. It’s a small thing with a big impact.

The coolest new character trait I’ve decided to experiment with is a big thanks to YA Indulgences blogger Amber Barnes, and it’s called a character playlist. Thanks Amber! Seems like the most basic of ideas, but I never thought about it in terms of characterization. What’s your character’s top 10 musical playlist? Why are these songs in his top 10? We all know music triggers the most intense memories, so how can you use the playlist to help expand and define your (and your reader’s) knowledge of the character?

For me, all my characters have elements of me, but the playlist was nice because I could play with it beyond my own personal memories associated with the song. Anything by Peter Cetera transports me immediately to a dance in the gym of my junior high school, but Emma Lovett, my main Chalkboard Outlines cozy character, is only 27 years old. If I want Peter Cetera on her playlist, what cool little story is behind the reason she loves him? It doesn’t have to be a life-changing story, just something small. A little idiosyncrasy that can turn into big character relating.

Thank you for joining me today on the eve of my new release of Poison by Punctuation! I’m leaving you with Harper, my YA character’s playlist as an example, because I haven’t made playlists for Emma and Leslie yet… 😊Maybe I’ll make a list for Edward the librarian and Nate the skateboard-riding-through-hallways principal too, who knows?

Character PLAYLISTS

  1. Belly of the Whale Burning Sensations ‘Belly of the Whale’   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZgtKt8K3hoThis is, of course, Harper’s theme song. She feels so isolated in her body – like most teenagers do – that it’s like she is down in the belly of a whale in the bottom of the ocean.

    2. Closer to Fine Indigo Girls Indigo Girls – Closer to Fine  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZgtKt8K3ho

    Harper‘s mom, Isabelle, introduced her to this song. Isabelle wrote a paper on this song when she was in college, and she’s loved it and the message ever since. Isabelle definitely feels this way—like the more you can go with the flow and roll with the punches, the better off you’ll be. Harper is trying.

    3. No Roots Alice Merton

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUdyuKaGQd4

This, again, reflects Harper’s life theme. Since she’s not even sure she’s in the right family, she certainly doesn’t feel like she has roots anywhere.

4. The Man The Killers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3xcybdis1k

This song is for Harper’s Uncle Pasta—the gay uncle who lives in the basement. He’s hilarious and awesome—totally The Man! 😜

5. Uptown Funk Bruno Mars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1F0lBnsnkE

  1. Every Little Thing She Does is Magic the Police The Police – Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aENX1Sf3fgQ

Since Harper can envision her glorious future with basketball star Larson McCready—even though she’s never even talked to him—she can imagine him singing this song to her.

7. Breathe Anna Nalick- Breathe (2am)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdRHSuPxgXo
The ability to say the right thing at the right time is an important and as yet unrealized skill for Harper. This song confirms how scary it is to put yourself out there for others to judge, but the song helps her know she’s not alone in feeling that way.

8. Blackbird The Beatles

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdRHSuPxgXo

Harper’s father, Michael, is this intense and driven man with very strong ideas and opinions. He’s the one who introduced her to the Beatles, but he was careful to explain that there are only a certain amount of Beatle songs that are genius, and some bubblegum poppy kinds that are lame. This, thankfully, he considers one of the genius ones because Harper thinks it’s beautiful, and feels like she is only waiting for HER moment to arrive…

9. Bohemian Rhapsody Queen

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJ9rUzIMcZQ

Harper and Uncle Pasta like to headbang to this song.

And, for 10., Harper chose Michael Jackson, because, well, any playlist is incomplete without Michael Jackson! Michael Jackson – Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yURRmWtbTbo

Poison By Punctuation

Screen Shot 2018-04-22 at 7.21.30 PMHigh school teacher Emma Lovett is finally recovering from her first year of teaching when she discovers another dead body. As if that wasn’t bad enough, this time, someone has killed a student, Kisten Hollis.

Emma and her best friend, Leslie, are desperate to solve this murder. But suspects abound. The perpetrator could be a teacher, an administrator, a member of Kisten’s zealous church community, or even another student.

Emma must juggle her teaching responsibilities, her new romance with handsome Hunter Wells, and interest from a hunky second suitor, all while searching for evidence to bring a killer to justice before someone else dies.

Who Kelly Kaye?

Kelley

Kelley Kaye is the pen name for the cozy mystery fiction of Kelley Bowles Gusich. Kelley taught high school English and Drama for twenty years in Colorado and California, but a 1994 MS diagnosis has (circuitously) brought her, finally, to the life of writer and mother, both occupations she adores, and both of which were dreamed of clear back at stories surrounding her Barbie and Ken. Her debut novel, cozy mystery Death by Diploma  was released by Red Adept Publishing February 2016, and is first in the Chalkboard Outlines®series. Book #2, Poison by Punctuationis coming out April 24! She’s also writing YA under Kelley Kay Bowles with her novel Down in the Belly of the Whalecoming May 5. Yay, books!

Kelley is active on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedinand GoodReads, with a combined over 3500 followers. Her website is www.kelleykaybowles.comwhere she’s valiantly attempting to blog once per week. She has two wonderful and funny sons, and an amazing husband who cooks for her. She lives in Southern California.

http://www.kelleykaybowles.com/

https://www.facebook.com/authorkelleykaye/

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/kelley-kaye

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Learn How To Self-Edit #AuthorToolboxBlogHop: Flashback Vs. Backstory

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2Thank you, Raimey Gallant for organizing the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop.

This is a monthly blog hop on the theme of resources/learning for authors: posts related to the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, blogging tips for authors, reviews of author-related products, anything that an author would find helpful.

To continue hopping through other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join, just hop on over to Ramey Gallant!

Flashback Versus Backstory

flashback takes the reader from the current time to a previous time. This usually happens quickly, and then they are returned to the present.

A flashback is told as an action scene.

Backstory is the story that happens before your novel begins. Sometimes during the story, you need to inform the reader of something that happened earlier in a character’s life. You may have files upon files of information you store elsewhere that you use to develop your characters, but what we’re concerned with here is what the reader needs to know.

Backstory is told as narrative.


Flashback

A reader lives a flashback is if it were a regular scene. Flashbacks can be a sentence, a paragraph, a scene, or an entire chapter.

The importance of a flashback should influence its length. So look at each flashback and ask yourself how important is it to the story. This is where the rewrite comes in. You may have a flashback in which a murder occurs, and the murder is the driving motive for your protagonist in this story. In that case, give the flashback time to develop on the page. Don’t shortchange your reader with only a few sentences.

Remember a flashback is a scene. It must be immediate. It must have conflict or tension. You’re taking the reader out of the story and into the past, so make it worthwhile.

When you’re revising your flashback, check how you got into and out of the scene. Did you give the reader a clue you were jumping back in time? How do you let them know you are back in the present.

You can use an object to do this. An object in the present can trigger a character to think about something in the past, and that’s your lead into the flashback.

A sound or loud noise can jar the character from the flashback and back into the present. Any of the senses will work for this.

Are the flashbacks clustered together or spread throughout the story. If too many flashbacks occur close together, maybe they could be repositioned or grouped into one flashback.


Flashback Checklist

  1. How important is the flashback?
  2. Is the flashback written as a scene?
  3. Did you give the reader a clue you were jumping back in time?
  4. How do you let readers know they are back in the present?
  5. Are there too many flashbacks clustered together.

Backstory

By keeping track of the backstory, you can decide if you’ve started your novel in the right place.

If you have more backstory than current story, you may want to start your novel earlier in the character’s life.

A good backstory is an event that hurts your characters before page one. The backstory can create motives or character flaws.

You may be writing a novel that is over half backstory. In this case, you’ll be using a technique where you bounce between the present and the future. Do you give a fair balance to past and present?

If you’re writing a novel with a small amount of backstory, then you don’t want too much backstory early on in the manuscript. Only dole out the information as the reader needs to learn it. You don’t want to give too much backstory at one time. This can cause the reader to lose interest in the story if they are jarred out of the immediate story.

Part of re-writing backstory may include moving some of the backstory to later in the manuscript. If you find you have a lot of backstory in the first scene or chapter, consider moving some of it to later in the novel.

Ask yourself, does the reader need the backstory information? If the answer is no, then cut it from your story. If the answer is yes, ask yourself does the reader need the information in the current scene or can you move it to later?

Your characters need to do something interesting before too much backstory is included.

One final thought on backstory. Curiosity is what drives the reader forward. If your character has a past that’s driving their motivation, then don’t tell the reader too soon.

Keep the reader curious.


Backstory Checklist:

  1. Do you have more backstory than current narrative?
  2. How early in your novel does backstory occur?
  3. Does the reader need to know what you’re sharing in the backstory?
  4. Does the backstory cause a character pain?
  5. Is the backstory important enough to be shown as a flashback

How Fictionary Can Help You

Below is the Story Map in Fictionary for Look The Other Way (by Kristina Stanley). In Fictionary, you can select only the key elements of fiction you want to evaluate

In the Story Map, I’ve selected the POV character for the scene, backstory and flashback

You’ll notice I don’t have a flashback in any of the first 6 scenes. I have one later in the novel for a key event in Shannon’s past.

For Backstory in each scene, I’ll show why the backstory is included.

Scene 1: Shannon quit previous job. This is important to the scene because Shannon is being fired. Now she’s regretting leaving her last job.

Scene 2: Debi’s boat history. The story takes place on a sailboat and this lets the reader know Debi is qualified to go sailing.

Scene 3: Previous fight. Shannon and Lance are engaged, but I let the reader know there is trouble in paradise.

Scene 4: Jake was a cop. Now the reader knows Jake’s purpose in the novel. He’ll be believable when tracking a killer.

Scene 5: Jake’s past hurts. Here, I’m letting the reader know Jake is carrying a past that was difficult and it will serve as the reason why he has trouble getting close to Shannon.

Scene 6: Boy’s bedtime ritual. This backstory shows a closeness the boy feels to his father, so when the father dies, the reader will understand his pain.

I hope the above illustrates who using select backstory can engage your readers.

The History of Fictionary

Fictionary is a new interactive web app for self-editing fiction that helps writers turn a first draft into a story readers love.

Creating Fictionary began when I (Kristina) finished the first draft of my first novel. By then I’d read over 50 how-to-write and how-to-self-edit books. I’d taken writing courses and workshops, and had 100s of writing and rewriting tips swirling about in my head.

I knew I had to begin the rewriting process and improve the quality of my draft before sharing my work but I didn’t know how to go about it. How was I supposed to remember the torrent of advice and apply it to each scene? To address this problem, we built Fictionary.


Post written by Kristina Stanley, author of Look The Other Way (Imajin Books, Aug 2017).

Image Source: Kristina Stanley

Kristina Stanley is the best-selling author of the Stone Mountain Mystery Series and Look The Other Way.

Kristina is the CEO of Fictionary, and all of her books were edited using Fictionary.


Why not check out Fictionary’s free 14-day trial and turn your draft into a story readers love?

Mystery Mondays: Partnering in Writing by Janet Elizabeth Lynn

Today on Mystery Mondays, we host a married couple who write books togethers. How cool is that? Check below for an excerpt of Slick Deal, their latest novel.

But first, her is Janet Elizabeth Lynn on

Partnering in writing

It can work

by

Janet Elizabeth Lynn

Early in my writing career I remember someone said gave me the following equation for completing a novel: Butt +Chair = Book.  It’s a simple formula, but it rings true every time.

My husband, Will Zeilinger and I co-write the Skylark Drake Murder Mystery series, a hardboiled series that takes the reader to 1950s Los Angeles and other areas of the west. Our new book, SLICK DEAL, begins at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, News Year’s Eve 1956. The first murder and clues lead to Avalon, on Catalina Island. This is the fourth of the series and people still wonder how we make it work.

Here are some things we have learned over the last four books:

  1. Character/Voice styles– Combining different styles when writing makes for more interesting character dialogue and personalities. So valuing the styleeach writing partner brings to the table is important
  2. DeadlinesSet deadlines and stick to them. Deadlines include: chapters, plot, character development, and public relations. Anything pertaining to the health and welfare of the manuscript should have a deadline.
  3. OrganizationEach meeting, regardless of what the meeting is for, needs to have a purpose. Agendas are great to keep the discussions on track. Be sure to keep copies of all meeting agendas and decisions for future reference. And not for finger pointing!
  4. SupportNothing beats having someone not only for “feel good” needs but someone to also pick up the slack when things come to a screeching halt, i.e. Writer’s block. We hit this at the same time once and it was scary. The only way I got through it was Will’s positive attitude that we could do it.
  5. And the most important thingWe agreed and practiced the above equation. Some people may call this dedication, we call it sweating.

Janet Elizabeth Lynn and Will Zeilinger

BW Janet Bill 01Published authors Will Zeilinger and Janet Lynn write  individually until they got together and created the Skylar Drake Mystery Series. These hard-boiled tales are based in old Hollywood of 1955. Janet has published seven mystery novels and Will has three plus a couple of short stories. Their world travels have sparked several ideas for murder and crime stories. This creative couple is married and live in Southern California.

 

The next Skylar Drake Mystery, fourth in the series, SLICK DEAL will be available April 16, 2018 and yes…we are still married!

 


SD web coverOn the eve of the New Year, 1956, oil tycoon, Oliver Wright dies suspiciously at a swanky Hollywood New Years Eve party. Some think it was suicide.

His death is soon followed by threats against the rest of his family.

Private Investigator Skylar Drake and his partner Casey Dolan are hired by an L.A. gangster to protect the family and solve Oliver’s mysterious death.

Clues lead them to Avalon, on Santa Catalina Island, a Hollywood movie star playground.

A high profile scandal, mysterious women, treason and more deaths complicate matters, putting Drake and his partner in danger.

Twenty-three miles may not seem far away but false identity and corruption on this island could squash their efforts to answer the question—How in the world can a dead man commit suicide?

SLICK DEAL will be available April 16, 2018…and yes we are still married!

        

Website: Janet  Elizabeth Lynn     http://www.janetlynnauthor.com

Website: Will Zeilinger                 www.willzeilingerauthor.com

 


SLICK DEAL

By Janet Elizabeth Lynn and Will Zeilinger

 CHAPTER ONE

Almost midnight. I was working security for the New Year’s Eve bash at the posh Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel with my partner Casey Dolan. The rented tuxedos we were wearing made us look like we belonged with the rich crowd down on the ballroom floor, but we were working. This was one of the most exclusive parties in the city. I’d been here before and I’ve never known any other hotel with the kind of history this place had. Our job tonight was to keep an eye out for trouble…and I suppose this was a much better way to greet the new year than sitting at home in front of the television with a bottle of whiskey. As a matter of principle, I didn’t take security work. But Dolan thought D&D Investigations would benefit from this job by keeping the lights on and paying our secretary. He was right.

I scanned the crowd and checked my watch—a minute before midnight. The noise level in the room escalated with anticipation. I spotted Dolan at his post under an archway on the other side of the room and smiled. He nodded. From my spot on the catwalk above the ballroom floor I watched as they counted down the last seconds—five, four, three, two… Just as the clock on stage struck midnight, the room exploded with shouts, horns, balloons, and a snowstorm of confetti. The band played “Auld Lang Syne” while a banner unfurled above the bandstand that proclaimed: HAPPY NEW YEAR 1956.

It seemed as though everyone in the world was dancing, hugging, and kissing. My mind disappeared into the past. I remembered my late wife,Claire, and how we celebrated every New Year together. Even when she was big with our daughter, Ellie, Claire was stunning. I pulled out my wallet and gazed at her photo. I miss you honey, so very much.

A man’s voice boomed over the P.A., “Is there a doctor in the house?” My dream with Claire evaporated. I looked down at the stage where a man had grabbed the microphone from the band leader’s hands and shouted, “We need help in the main lobby.”

I motioned for Dolan to stay put while I ducked behind the heavy drapes and crossed the hall to the lobby mezzanine. Fourteen steps would take me down to the lobby floor. I think I only used five. My hand automatically went to my holster, just in case. Pushing through the crowd, I found a portly man on his back in a pool of blood on the terracotta-tiled floor. A tuxedo-clad man loosened the tie of the victim but I knew he was gone. I’d seen that vacant look in his eyes a hundred times back when I worked LAPD homicide.

Somewhere in the crowd I heard “Make way please, we’re nurses.” A couple of women in evening gowns appeared. I held the curious crowd back while the women knelt on the bloody floor and checked for a pulse. One shook her head and placed a lacy handkerchief over the dead man’s face.

Screaming sirens outside announced the arrival of the police. Partygoers scrambled. More than a few were probably here with someone other than the one to whom they were legally and lawfully wed. I identified myself as hotel security to the first officers to come through the door.

“You were first on the scene?” one asked.

I nodded. “Me and about a hundred other people.”

“You see this happen?” I shook my head. Another officer shouted to the crowd, “Anybody here see this happen?”

More police swarmed the lobby with news reporters on their heels. I wasn’t surprised. This party attracted reporters like flies on a dead cat. All around camera flashbulbs popped, making the room as bright as day.

Someone grabbed my arm. I looked into the eyes of a dark-haired woman wearing a full-length fur coat. With all the commotion, I thought she was a tipsy guest who wanted to kiss me. Instead, she pulled in close and whispered in my ear, “Please help me get out of this place. I can’t be seen here.” She turned her back to the cameras. With one hand, she yanked the combs from her hair and let it cascade down to her shoulders. She had the aroma of flowers. Then she turned up the collar of her fur coat to cover part of her face. Tears rolled down her cheeks. I saw the desperation in her eyes.

“Please.” She squeezed my arm. “I don’t know this hotel.”

The elevators and outside doors were blocked by uniformed cops. I whisked her toward a side room.

A cop in a cheap brown suit noticed us walking away and yelled, “Hey, you two. Get back here.”  I used to be a cop and I knew one when I saw one. This guy was probably a plainclothes detective. “You’re interfering with a police investigation,” he yelled.

“Maybe we should go back.” She stopped. “I’d hate to get you into trouble.”

“Believe me. It wouldn’t be the first time. This way.”

I noticed her striking resemblance to Ava Gardner. I pulled her along and headed to an empty room.

The cop caught up with us as I pushed open the door and turned on the light. I pulled out my PI license. He grabbed it from my hand just as I moved my jacket to show him my gun.

“Oh hell. Skylar Drake. I should have known.” He tossed my license back. “Why do you have to mess around with this investigation?”

“You have your job and I have mine.” I nodded toward the raven-haired beauty standing behind me.

“You stay put, Drake, while we sort this out.” I held up three fingers in a Boy Scout salute. He frowned and backed out the door.

I reached into my tuxedo jacket pocket and handed her my business card. Her perfectly shaped eyebrows went up. “Skylar Drake, Private Investigator.”

I nodded. “Now I need to get back to work.”

“I can’t be seen here.” Her tearful emerald green eyes sparkled in the light. “May I count on you to be discreet?”

My mind raced with a hundred things she wanted me to be discreet about.

Another plainclothes detective from my old precinct stormed in. I remember him as a real blowhard. “Drake. What the hell are you doing here?”

“Working and I was just leaving.” I nodded to the woman. “Nice to have met you, miss.”

Before the detective could get out another word, I slipped out the door and walked back to the lobby.

I checked the time—two a.m. The police had finished with most of the guests and allowed them to leave. The party was over. My job was done.

 

Mystery Mondays: Bonnie McCune on Writing and Today’s Book World

Today on Mystery Mondays, I’m happy to host author Bonnie McCune. Bonnie’s novel, Never Retreat, was published by Imajin Books on March 15th! Congratulations Bonnie.

Writing and Today’s Books World

by Bonnie McCune

IF IT LOOKS LIKE A DUCK AND IT WADDLES LIKE A DUCK AND IT QUACKS LIKE A DUCK, WHAT IS IT? WRITING AND TODAY’S BOOK WORLD

Are you a cowboy? A spy? A sexy lover? A child at heart? Somewhat intellectual? If so, you probably read in a genre like children’s books, westerns, mystery, romance, or literary.

But what if your tastes aren’t so cut and dried? What if the book has characters like my new novel, Never Retreat? Two regular people, Raye Soto, a feisty single mom, and Des Emmett, an ex-military, macho corporate star, meet at a telecommunications firm where both work. Thirty-something Raye is concentrating on her career in a major telecommunications firm and funding college for her teenaged son. Enter Des—a fast talker and smooth operator, who possesses every negative quality for a guy Raye should avoid.

My books to date have been women’s fiction with strong dollops of romance. But each contains mystery because, after all, who’s heard of a relationship without mystery? A relationship real or fictional might contain out-and-out subterfuge, like one of my early boyfriends who claimed he ran secret missions for a presidential candidate. Or the novel might include mysterious issues whose answers unravel over the course of the plot, such as why is Des trying to win a huge bonus?

Then there’s the mystery of “what’s gonna happen?” Who will survive? Who get ahead? My two heroes, thrown together at a corporate retreat in the wilderness, struggle to complete management’s extreme mental and physical tests for a huge reward. But only one can win the prize. Then when a massive flood imperils their love and survival, that becomes the unavoidable mystery of their situation.

No longer are book genres simple and innocuous. Sub-genre succeeds sub-genre. I’m not sure I even know what some of these mean. For example, urban romance fantasy. Is this several dragons who live in a large city off-world and become enamored of one another, or an historical period piece in which Cleopatra and her lover Marie Antoinette battle the evils of Czar Peter the Great in St. Petersburg? Or both?

Publishing is defined by specialized categories of book, which also identify readers by age, gender, interest, locale. These seem to become more targeted by the week. The process helps greatly in marketing books to try to insure readership.

Which brings me to authors who defy categorization and leap-frog genres: Michael Chabon, Margaret Atwood, Doris Lessing, P.D. James, among others. I’m sure their publishers would prefer they didn’t. It makes marketing their work more difficult. But these are big names, and they can do as they please. Successfully.

A challenge for both writers and readers. If a book doesn’t fit into a 30-second elevator pitch, should a writer ignore her creative urge? Should a reader refuse to purchase the novel? Instead let’s think about good writing. Even if a book is a particular genre (i.e., waddles like a duck), I think good writing should be possible in any genre and across genres.

“Women’s fiction,” close to my approach, covers the journey of the main characters to succeed in meeting life’s challenges. Of course, this also describes a great many novels outside that classification. Being a writer and always ready to split hairs or argue until I’m blue in the face, I don’t like to assign labels at all. Just be aware this category can incorporate a great deal of mystery as well as passion, depending upon author, plot, and publisher.

My story hurries on to show the mismatched couples, Raye and Des, see-sawing between attraction and antagonism, to face their biggest challenge: learning the meaning of true partnership. In a cliffhanger finale, when the torrent sweeps down the rocky canyon and threatens their survival, they must put aside their differences to rescue their colleagues—and their own possible future.

So if you read about a stormy human relationship in my future writings, don’t assume it’s a romance. It might represent mystery, thrills, even a whodunnit. A multitude of possible adventures lie before every character.

Never Retreat

Never Retreat Create Space_240 - front cover webA feisty single mom clashes with an ex-military, macho corporate star at a business retreat in the wild Colorado mountains, where only one can win a huge prize. But when a massive flood imperils their love and survival, they learn the meaning of true partnership.

Years ago, Ramona (‘Raye”) Soto faced harsh reality when a roving con man knocked her up. Now at thirty-something she’s concentrating on her career in a major telecommunications firm and funding college for her teenaged son. Enter Desmond Emmett—a fast talker and smooth operator. New to the office, the ex-serviceman possesses every negative quality for a guy Raye should avoid. Thrown together at a corporate retreat in the wilderness, the reluctant duo struggles to complete management’s extreme mental and physical tests for a huge reward. But only one can win the prize, and Des needs the money to underwrite medical treatments for his adored younger sister.

See-sawing between attraction and antagonism, the mismatched couple, Raye and Des, face their biggest challenge: learning the meaning of true partnership. When a massive flash flood sweeps down the rocky canyon and threatens their love and survival, they must put aside their difference to rescue their colleagues—and their future as a couple.

 

WRITING: This is the new fiction for you: unafraid to debate contemporary concerns. . . pulls no punches. . .provides a fresh look at age-old issues. This is your kind of writing if you think. . .People are smarter than any phone. . .Feminism is just starting to come alive. . .You’ll always take a human over the most advanced app. . . .You can laugh at yourself. . . Women use four-letter words, including l-o-v-e.

Who is Bonnie McCune?

B 1 edited webBonnie McCune has been writing since age ten, when she submitted a poem about rain rushing down the gutter to the Saturday Evening Post (it was immediately rejected). This interest facilitated her career in nonprofits doing public and community relations and marketing. She’s worked for libraries, directed a small arts organization, and managed Denver’s beautification program.

Simultaneously, she’s been a freelance writer with publications in local, regional, and specialty publications for news and features. Her civic involvement includes grass-roots organizations, political campaigns, writers’ and arts’ groups, and children’s literacy. For years, she entered recipe contests and was a finalist once to the Pillsbury Bake Off. A special love is live theater. Had she been nine inches taller and thirty pounds lighter, she might have been an actress.

Her true passion is fiction, and her pieces have won several awards. Never Retreat is her third novel and her fifth book of fiction. For reasons unknown (an unacknowledged optimism?), she believes one person can make a difference in this world. Visit her at http://www.BonnieMcCune.com, Bonnie@BonnieMcCune.com, twitter.com/bonniemccune, facebook.com/authorBonnieMcCune, http://www.linkedin.com/in/BonnieMcCune.

PUBLICATION INFO: PUBLISHING MARCH 15, 2018, 978-1-77223-350-6 Kindle ebook, 978-1-77223-351-3 Trade paperback, 240 pages. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079SY632Z, http://getBook.at/NeverRetreat or. Imajin Books, http://www.imajinbooks.com. Ebook and paperback.

ADVANCE PRAISE: “A breathtaking page-turner that will leave you exhausted but wanting more!” —Corinne Joy Brown, award-winning author of Hidden Star; “Likable, relatable characters…a real treat!” —Cindi Myers, author of The View from Here; “Intriguing…engaging…A great vacation read for sure!” —Meg Benjamin, author of the Brewing Love Trilogy; “A compelling story about a hard-working single mom who faces adversity head-on, learns from her mistakes, and perseveres.” —Kim McMahill, author of Marked in Mexico; “Few novels operate on such different levels, moving their characters to challenge not just each other, but their own not just each other, but their own perceptions. . .McCune provides just the right blend of comic relief, interpersonal encounters, and outside environment changes to make her story a powerful blend.” –Midwest Book Review

Tension and Conflict. What’s the Difference?

Tension and conflict will keep your reader engaged in every scene. Knowing the difference and when to use each will drive your story forward.

Tension

Tension is the threat of something bad happening. This creates suspense.

Tension can be subtle or in-your-face.

Subtle Tension: Imagine one character is hiding a secret that could destroy his life and another character is about to accidentally spill the secret. The reader will feel the tension if you’ve set up the scene so that the reader knows the second character can’t keep a secret.

In-your-face Tension: A woman is thrown off a boat at sea. The tension comes if the reader cares about the character and wants her to survive. Or the tension could be she’s an evil woman who is about to destroy the world, and the reader doesn’t want her to survive.


Conflict

Conflict is the fight that is actually happening. A physical fight, an argument, a battle to win a race.

Conflict can also be subtle or in-your-face action.

Subtle Conflict: Imagine a couple having dinner with friends. The wife is describing an event that happened in the past. The husband says, “Honey, that’s not what really happened.” The wife grits her teeth and smiles. She re-tells the story the way her husband wanted it told. She’s angry but hides it from others at the table. There is a silent argument going on between the couple.

In-your-face Conflict: Imagine that same couple having dinner in a restaurant. The woman knows her husband is having an affair but hasn’t let on she knows. The husband’s mistress enters the restaurant, and he winks at her. The wife loses control, grabs her drink, runs at the mistress, and throws it in her face. She attacks the woman and knocks her to the ground. That is direct conflict.


Do You Have Tension or Conflict in Every Scene?

Use conflict and/or tension in every scene and keep your reader engaged. You don’t need both in every scene, but you should have one in each scene.

Your challenge is to ask yourself if every scene in your novel has tension or conflict.

How does your manuscript measure up? Are you using tension and conflict to your advantage?


How Fictionary Can Help You

Fictionary is a new interactive web app for self-editing fiction that helps writers turn a first draft into a story readers love.

Below is the opening scene from Look The Other Way (by Kristina Stanley).

The “Conflict” in the scene is between an employer (Veronica) and employee (Shannon). Veronica is getting fired and Shannon argues against it, trying to keep her job.

The “Tension” in the scene occurs when Shannon is in the middle of being fired and she worries about how to tell her fiancé. They are just about to buy a house and need her income. The tension also foreshadows there will be problems between Shannon and her fiancé. A double use of a key element will make your story stronger.

The question marks in Fictionary contain information about each Key Element of Fiction and how to use the elements to make your story better.


Post written by Kristina Stanley, author of Look The Other Way (Imajin Books, Aug 2017).

Kristina Stanley is the best-selling author of the Stone Mountain Mystery Series and Look The Other Way.

Crime Writers of Canada nominated DESCENT (Imajin Books, July 2015) for the Unhanged Arthur award. The Crime Writers’ Association nominated BLAZE (Imajin Books, Oct 2015) for the Debut Dagger. Imajin Books published her third novel in the series, AVALANCHE, in June 2016.

Luzifer-Verlag published Abwaerts (Descent) in Germany in the fall of 2017.

Her short stories have been published in the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and The Voices From the Valleys anthology. She is the author of THE AUTHOR’S GUIDE TO SELLING BOOKS TO NON-BOOKSTORES.

Her short story, WHEN A FRIENDSHIP FAILS, won the 2014 Audrey Jessup with Capital Crime Writers.

Kristina is the CEO of Fictionary, and all of her books were edited using Fictionary.


Why not check out Fictionary’s free 14-day trial and turn your draft into a story readers love?

Mystery Mondays: Elena Hartwell on Research and the Fiction Writer

Today on Mystery Mondays we host Elena Hartwell, three time mystery author. I met Elena through the ITW (International Thriller Writers), an organization run by Lee Child. Her latest book Three Strikes, You’re Dead came out yesterday. Congratulations, Elena!

Writing Advice: Research and the Fiction Writer

by Elena Hartwell

Discussing research with other mystery writers fascinates me. Responses to it range from “it’s my favorite part of the writing process” to “I hate research.”

The good news is there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for how much to research. It’s very much a personal choice.

For those of us who love to research, here are some common pitfalls for us to avoid.

First: it’s easy to get consumed in research and forget to actually write.

One thing about being a fiction writer is nothing you write is “true” in the sense of factual accuracy. No one gets hurt when fiction writers get it wrong (other than our pride when it gets pointed out publicly). At some point, your imagination and the best way to tell the story takes precedence. You can always check facts or talk to an expert as you polish your draft. And if you are writing about a topic where experts disagree, make the best decision based on your characters and storyline.

Second: it’s easy to love our material so much we want to share everything we learn with our readers.

Often termed “info dumps,” too much information bogs down the forward momentum. It can also shift the tone of a story from your character’s point of view to a preachy pulpit where the author shouts at the reader. Either one of these situations will likely stop your reader from turning the page, or buying your next book.

One way to deal with this issue is write all the facts you want into your early drafts. Then, as you begin the rewriting/editing process, locate the places where you have long paragraphs of “facts” or where the description shifts out of your characters’ voices and into your own. Beta readers are great at finding these moments.

Keep in mind, readers want to know what your characters are doing and thinking far more than they want to know facts about Victorian architecture or the history of cameras or the best way to chink a log cabin. Sprinkle in details through single lines and short moments. Details like this are fascinating in small doses and when they are motivated by the storytelling, through an observation or action of a character, a line of dialogue, or a short description.

Lastly, it’s easy to write a scene so accurate it loses dramatic tension. The storytelling is what matters most in fiction. In most instances, an author can write around something that wouldn’t happen in the real world by: finding an alternate solution, creating a unique situation that explains the unlikely outcome, or using a different scenario altogether. But, in those places where you need to shorten up a timespan, have a person do something they wouldn’t or couldn’t in the real world, or defy the laws of physics, if it’s the only way to keep the story tight – just do it. You are, after all, writing fiction.

For those of you who hate research, don’t despair. There are a couple ways to deal with that too.

First, create primary characters and situations that exist in your own realm of experience. Write a cozy about an amateur sleuth who has the same day job you do. There is no rule that says all mystery writers must write police procedurals or legal thrillers. For those writers who don’t love to do research, perhaps stay away from writing historical fiction or creating multiple scenarios that require characters with a lot of specific expertise. While most manuscripts require some research, there are ways to minimize it.

Second, foster experts. People love to talk about their areas of interest. I’ve never had anyone turn me down for an interview when I’m researching my novels. Talking to experts can be a lot of fun. Experts are often even willing to read a section of your draft to check your work.

Lastly, readers love characters and stories. If you fully understand your craft as a writer, imbue your characters with complex interior lives, strong intentions, dramatic conflict, and high stake situations, readers are going to respond positively.

My final advice, do as much research as you can, only include as many facts as you need, and above all, story first.

Three Strikes, You’re Dead

ThreeStrikesCoverPrivate investigator Eddie Shoes heads to a resort outside Leavenworth, Washington, for a mother-daughter getaway weekend. Eddie’s mother, Chava, wants to celebrate her new job at a casino by footing the bill for the two of them, and who is Eddie to say no?

On the first morning, Eddie goes on an easy solo hike, and a few hours later, stumbles over a makeshift campsite and a gravely injured man. A forest fire breaks out and she struggles to save him before the flames overcome them both. Before succumbing to his injuries, the man hands her a valuable rosary. He tells her his daughter is missing and begs for help. Is Eddie now working for a dead man?

Barely escaping the fire, Eddie wakes in the hospital to find both her parents have arrived on the scene. Will Eddie’s card-counting mother and mob-connected father help or hinder the investigation? The police search in vain for a body. How will Eddie find the missing girl with only her memory of the man’s face and a photo of his daughter to go on?

Who Is Elena Hartwell?

CREDIT MARK PERLSTEINElena Hartwell started out her storytelling career in the theater. She worked for several years as a playwright, director, designer, technician, and educator before becoming a novelist.

She lives in North Bend, Washington, with her husband, their two cats, and the greatest dog in the world. When she’s not writing, teaching writing or talking about writing, she can be found at a farm down the road where she and her husband keep their horses.

Elena also works as a writing coach and does one-on-one manuscript critiques.

For more information please visit www.elenahartwell.com. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.