Mystery Mondays: Debra Purdy Kong on Starting and Sustaining a Series

This week on Mystery Mondays we welcome Debra Purdy Kong. I first came across Debra’s writing when I read Opposite of Dark. I loved the book and reached out to Debra on LinkedIn and was very excited to hear back from her. She’s an author who is generous with her time and her advice, which you’ll get some of below.

As you can imagine, I’m happy to host Debra on Mystery Mondays again.

Starting and Sustaining a Mystery Series by Debra Purdy Kong

Have you started to write a mystery series? With six published books in two series and more in the works, I’ve faced a number of challenges. Hopefully, these five tips will help you start and keep your series on track.

  • Create your protagonist carefully. If you intend to write a lengthy series, do you want to start with a younger character and have her (or him) age a little more with every book, or do you want her to stay static like Agatha Christie’s Miss Marpole? Will your protagonist be complex enough to explore hidden and complex personality traits with each installment? The books in my Casey Holland series cover Casey’s life from ages thirty to forty, which becomes a unique and tumultuous time for her. Based on the feedback I’ve received, readers enjoy following the ups and downs in a protagonist’s personal life.
  • Settings change. I write about Metro Vancouver, where the landscape changes every year. Sure, landmarks like Vancouver’s Stanley Park will always be there, but with infrastructure development (in my case, a new light rapid transit line close to my home in Port Moody), things can look quite different over time. The Port Moody I wrote about in Fatal Encryption eight years ago wasn’t as busy and complex as it is today. If real settings are a crucial part of your story, changes could have an impact on future plots.
  • Pace yourself, and I mean this in two ways. From the get-go, decide how much time will pass between stories. If some of the key characters in your series are children, they’ll grow and change a fair bit from the first to the last book in your series, unless you intend to keep everything static. If you intend to show a passage of time, do you want your main characters to age a few weeks or months between books, or longer?

Secondly, consider pacing yourself as a writer. It’s a good strategy to focus on the first three novels in your series. Once you’re ready to submit your work to publishers, they’ll be happy if you have a long-term plan. Start thinking about the end game early in the process. How would you like to see the series end? How many books might it take to get there? Do you have the discipline and tenacity required to commit to a project that could take years to complete? Now that I’ve started the seventh book and have been working on this series for well over a decade, it’s something I struggle with.

  • To avoid confusion, forgetfulness, and contradictions, keep detailed and accurate records about your series. I use an Excel spread sheet to provide an overview of the entire series. Column one lists the first installment, The Opposite of Dark. Beneath the title, I type the date and time of year the book takes place, Casey’s age, and that of her young ward, Summer. I briefly state the book’s plot and theme. I also note details about the murder. Trust me, it’s far too easy to forget these things over time.

Because my plots blend Casey’s workplace (Mainland Public Transit) with her personal life, I keep a record of every MPT employee mentioned in each book on a second Excel sheet. I like to bring back secondary characters now and then, so it’s important to track when employees appear in the series.

For each book, I maintain a Word document that contains detailed profiles of all main characters, plus those who are only featured in a specific book. The document is copied into every folder I create for each book. New characters are added, along with fresh aspects about ongoing characters. Experiment with recordkeeping ways that work for you.

  • If you’re growing weary of the series, let it go, at least for a while. An author’s best work comes from caring about their characters and plots, and staying solely with the same characters year after year can be tiring. Unless you have deadlines to meet, it’s okay to take a break. I’ve found that launching new writing projects helps stimulate ideas for my Casey series. So, go ahead and stretch your creative wings when you need to. You’ll be surprised at all the good things that can happen.

WHO IS DEBRA?

Promo Photos 009Author of six full-length mysteries, a novella, and over fifty short stories, Debra has won numerous awards for her short fiction. Drawing on her work experiences in security, she’s created transit security cop, Casey Holland in The Opposite of Dark, and campus security cop, Evan Dunstan in her first novella Dead Man Floating When she’s not writing, she’s employed part time at Simon Fraser University and is a facilitator for the Creative Writing program with Port Moody Parks & Recreation. More information about Debra can be found at www.debrapurdykong.com

 

 

Just in case you’re as excited to read Debra’s books as I was, here are the links:

oppositeTHE OPPOSITE OF DARK: myBook.to/TheOppositeofDark

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-ca/ebook/the-opposite-of-dark-2

 

 

fatalencryption

FATAL ENCRYPTION: myBook.to/FatalEncryption

Kobo: http://tinyurl.com/z5sagyl

 

 

 

screen-shot-2016-10-15-at-3-07-25-pmDEAD MAN FLOATING: myBook.to/DEADMANFLOATING

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-CA/ebook/dead-man-floating

 

 

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Farley’s Friday: A Dog Goes To Work

Farley here,

Did you know when humans go to work, they are very distracted? I went to my human’s office, and he stared at a screen, talked to people and did some other things I didn’t understand.

I have a bed, a water bowl and random strangers pet my head and gave me dog treats. That part was great.

I was good all day, really I was, but by four o’clock it was time to go outside. I don’t think my human can tell time, or he’d know it was time.

Farley at Work

I put my head on his knee and with my eyes, I said to him, “Can you not see the sun shining? Let’s go for a walk. I’ll show you the park next door.”

And guess what, he took me outside. What a guy.

Woof Woof

Farley’s Friday: Dog Adoption Day

Farley here,

I spent the first 8 weeks of my life I’ve on a farm. There were kids, horses and other dogs. I thought life was grand until…

Darkness hovered. Rain soaked us. Thunder boomed. That should have been an indication life was about to change.

“What’s happening?” Piper barked.

“I don’t know,” I barked back. “Where do you think we’re going?”

Farley and  Piper Discuss Options
Farley and Piper Discuss Options

Before we had a chance to answer our questions, we were scooped up and put in a car. After an hours drive, we sheltered in a bus stop and waited.

In the midst of howling wind and rain drops, my first human passed me to another human and abandoned me. I quivered and whined.

We’re loaded into a different car. The stress of the event had taken its toll. Even though Piper was the smallest dog I’d ever seen, we took comfort in each other. I put my leg around her and whispered, “Everything will be okay.”

Farley and Piper
Farley and Piper

Two hours later, we arrived at our destination. There were more people and one huge dog. My duty was to protect Piper, but look at the size of Murphy.

Piper Hiding Behing Farley
Piper Hiding Behind Farley

We held our ground. Murphy sniffed and pranced until we understood he was the boss – and seven years later, he still is.

But life was not all terrifying that day. Look how happy Kristina was to hold me for the first time.

Farley and Kristina Day 1
Farley and Kristina Day 1

Woof Woof

MYSTERY MONDAYS: Are you interested in Guest Blogging

What is Mystery Mondays about?

Mystery Mondays began in July 2015 and every week a different author posts about their favourite writing or publishing topic. It’s a chance to showcase your latest novel, engage with new readers and share your knowledge.

Mystery Monday Authors

Are you interested in guest blogging?

January spots are already full, but I’m taking requests from February 8th onward.

If you’d like to participate, here’s what you need to qualify:

  • your novels contain a hint of mystery (I’m very lose on what mystery means),
  • you are a published author – traditional or Indie or any other way that I don’t know about,
  • you are about to publish and have a launch date within a week of blog post,
  • you want to promote other authors and spread success,
  • you write novels with a hint of mystery,
  • you are willing to engage in the comments section when readers comment on your post.

All I ask from you is that you follow my blog, comment on author’s posts and help share via Twitter and Facebook.  If you’re interested send me a message via my contact page.

The guidelines:

You’ll have to send me your bio, back text of your novel, author photo and book cover. I’d like you to write something about yourself, your novel, your research, a writing tip or a publishing tip. Please keep in mind I am a family friendly blog. I do reserve the right to edit anything I think might be inappropriate for my audience, which I will discuss with you first. I think anything under 700 words is great, but it’s your book so up to you.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you and sharing your novel with the Internet world.

Thanks for reading…

TOP TIPS FOR A BOOK READING EVENT

In the modern world of publishing, whether you choose the traditional route or self-publishing, much is expected from an author. Writing a great novel is only the beginning of the journey if you want your work to have a public audience.

BLAZE will be released on Sunday, October 25th, but that doesn’t mean I’m ignoring DESCENT. It’s just as exciting to talk about DESCENT as it is BLAZE, and to be asked to do a reading is an honor I appreciate.

DESCENT is on sale ($0.99 USD) until the end of today, and then it’s back to regular price. You can find it on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

Last week I did a reading at a senior residence in Vancouver, Canada.

Vancouver Event (2)

Farley came with me and did his bit to warm up the audience. The big brown eyes and wagging tail did a lot to make people smile. He was pretty happy about the number of cookies he ate.

Vancouver Event (1)

Now to the tips for delivering a great reading:

The advice is split into  4 sections.

Practice before the event:

  • Don’t leave practicing to the last-minute. Practice every day even for short periods of time. If you can, read to an audience.
  • Practice pausing for commas, periods, paragraph breaks, and starting new scenes.
  • Practice until you can take your eyes away from the words and make eye contact with the audience. This will engage them in your reading. Reading to a mirror will allow you to see if you’re looking up.

Technical preparation:

  • Don’t staple the pages. Stapled pages are noisy when turned and are awkward to hold in place.
  • Number your free pages in case you drop them.
  • Ask how many minutes you have to read. Then prepare for a few minutes less, the exact amount of time and a few minutes more. If other readers don’t show up, you  might be given more time. If the proceedings are running long, you might be given less time, Be ready so you can end with a cliff hanger or a dramatic spot that will leave people wanting more.
  • If you’re reading from printed pages, print in a font large enough to read. Remember the lighting could be dark or there could be glare from other lights. If the font in your printed books is small, you can always print the pages you want to read and place your book in front of you while you’re reading.
  • Ask what the setup will be. Is there a podium where you can set your pages? Will you be holding a mic? Will you be standing or sitting?

At the event, before you read:

  • If you’re not first, watch the other readers for what works and doesn’t work. Standing with the mic too close to the sound system can cause feedback, having the mic too far or too close to you mic can make understanding your words difficult.
  • Have your material ready. Don’t start looking for the section you want to read after you’re at the podium. This distracts the audience.

During your reading:

  • Once you are on stage, thank the hosts of the event. This will make you look professional and give you time to let your voice and your nerves settle before you start reading your story.
  • Breathe. This sounds obvious, but breathing will make your speech clear. During the reading, I was so nervous at first, I couldn’t bring air into my lungs. At the end of the first page, when I had to flip to the next page, I moved the mic away from my mouth and took a deep breath. This helped me calm down.
  • Don’t explain your work in the middle of reading. Let your words speak for themselves.
  • Only brief the audience about the story if you’re not starting at the beginning.
  • Speak slowly.

Remember: the audience came to hear you and they want you to succeed, so smile and have fun.

If you have any tips on reading aloud, please share 🙂 I’m always looking for ways to improve.

Thanks for reading . . .

DESCENT on SALE for $0.99 USD

To celebrate the release of BLAZE one week from today, Imajin Books has put DESCENT on sale for $0.99 US.

This offer is available  on Amazon in the US at DESCENT and in the UK  by clicking here.

The sale will only be up for three days, and then it’s back to the regular price.

Feel free to share this with your friends. I’d love to spread the work while the deal is valid.
Thank you Imajin Books!

Kristina