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

 

 

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

Mystery Mondays: Barbara Fradkin on Writing A Crime Series

doordieIt is my honour to  host Barbara Fradkin on Mystery Mondays. I’ve been reading her work since DO OR DIE was published in 2000. The novel sits on my bookself as a reminder of what to strive for.

Barbara is a generous author. She read an ARC of DESCENT and provided a blurb that I proudly display on the front cover. I could hardly believe after being a fan for so long, Barbara liked my work. I never thought when I read DO OR DIE, she would read one of my novels one day. These are moments to treasure.

So enough about my happiness, and on to what Barbara has to say about writing a crime series.

By Barbara Fradkin

Series are all the rage in crime fiction. Readers love reconnecting with their favourite fictional companions and following the ongoing ups and downs of their personal lives quite apart from the drama of the particular mystery. There is nothing better than spending a few days in the company of an engaging, at time infuriating, but always interesting old friend. And wondering what he or she will get up to next. Writers of series often remark, somewhat wryly, that readers never comment on the mystery plot itself, no matter how surprising, clever, or poignant it is, but on whether the detective’s wife will divorce him (finally) or have another child, or whatever. I’ve received numerous emails from readers warning me, “Don’t you dare kill off the father!” This despite the fact that Green’s father is now tottering into his nineties.

Publishers love series because readers do, and because once a reader discovers a series, they often read every book in it while eagerly awaiting the next. As a result, in the crime fiction world, readership builds with each new book, and books that were published ten or fifteen years ago still have a life. The first book in my Inspector Green series, DO OR DIE, was published in 2000, but since it continues to sell, my publisher keeps it in print. In fact, all my books are still in print. In today’s publishing reality, fifteen years is a long life for a book.

The question for this blog, however, is not whether readers or publishers love series; it is whether writers do. I can answer that question for myself only, but I suspect other writers feel the same. We have mixed feelings. We love that readers become connected and wait eagerly for the next book. We love that our publishers say, “Yes, bring on the next one!” We also love that we can slip effortlessly into the circle of characters we have created, picking up at the point in their lives where we left them in the last book and continuing to explore and develop their stories. Embarking on a new Inspector Green novel was always like walking into a family reunion. I have spent more time with these characters than with my actual family; I have created and lived through every one of their crises, whether professional or personal. I have walked with them, argued with them, agonized over their choices and created their moments of triumph and catastrophic despair. I love all my characters. Not just Michael Green, but his rebellious daughter, his wise, long-suffering wife, his father struggling with old age and loneliness, his work colleagues Sullivan, Jules, Peters and Gibbs. I have put them through all the challenges that life throws at us. I care what happens to them.

And yet, for most serious writers, there comes a time to break free. To make new friends and explore the struggles of new people. Time to explore new story styles and structures, and new settings. No writer wants to feel they have written this story before. No writer wants to feel constrained and straitjacketed by the cast of characters and the setting just because the public and the publisher demands it.

Luckily for me, Orca Books came along with a proposal for a series of easy-read, short novels with adult themes but a fast-paced, engaging, bare-bones style aimed at readers who lack the time, the patience, or the English reading skills to commit to a three hundred-page book. This allowed me to explore a whole new style, setting, and cast of characters. I created Cedric O’Toole, a simple country handyman who loves to tinker with junk and who lives on the hard-scrabble farm he inherited from his mother. Solving crimes is the farthest thing from Cedric’s mind; yet he keeps stumbling upon trouble he can’t ignore. Cedric is the antithesis of the Green, who is a committed crime fighter and die-hard city boy. And the setting –poor, rural Eastern Ontario—is the opposite of Ottawa. It has been fun to leave one set of characters behind and immerse myself in the country world of Cedric O’Toole, and it has helped keep me sane. Over four years I have written three Cedric O’Toole books, the latest being THE NIGHT THIEF.

Meanwhile, however, I have written ten police procedurals set in Ottawa (with the occasional foray afield), all featuring the same Ottawa setting (with minor variations) and the same hero. Michael Green and his entourage have become old, much loved friends. In each book I have tried to push the boundaries of the story structure. I have sent Green to Montreal, to Halifax, and up to the wilds of the NorthWest Territories. I have thrown him back into a historical case that may have gone entirely wrong. Ten books feels like a milestone, both a reason to celebrate and a reason to wrap it up. Not forever. I want to develop new characters, experiment with a more adventure-thriller style, and explore all the varied beauty the Canadian landscape has to offer. I hope to come back to Green refreshed, delighted to reconnect with him, and with a new perspective on the classic story structure of the police procedural.

FireintheStarsSept16So far I have a contract for three books in a new Amanda Doucette series. This time, finally, I have a female hero, and I have a setting that, although classically Canadian, changes with each book. The series will be travelling across Canada, with the first book, FIRE IN THE STARS (September 2016), set in Newfoundland, and the second, THE TRICKSTER’S LULLABY, in Quebec’s world-famous Mont Tremblant. I imagine that eventually I will hit the Pacific (or Arctic) Ocean and the series will have run its course.

Green and I stumbled upon each other fifteen years ago, when I had no idea I was writing a series and no idea where I was going to take him. But the secret to his longevity is that I created a sleuth I enjoyed being with; yes, he was flawed and infuriating but always passionately on the side of right. I, and by extension the reader, could care about whether he succeeded, and cringe for him when he messed up. Life with Green was never dull. Furthermore, I had him grow and change over the series, as each new case brought new challenges to his life, and changes to his personal life as well. My motto in this was, never let him get comfortable. What new struggles can he face, and what new challenges can I throw at him?

A hero who has a real life outside work that we can all relate to; a hero who stumbles and yet, with our encouragement, overcomes; a hero whom the writer is happy to spend three hundred pages and fifteen years with—this is a successful series hero! Cedric, with his more modest aims but equally heroic challenges, is also a worthy keeper. I love to come back to him, leaving Green in the city and immersing myself in Cedric’s bumbling, quirky life.

Barbara Fradkin_1
Barbara Fradkin

I have learned a thing or two about what makes a sustainable character over the years—real life struggles, flaws, a passionate heart, a determination to overcome—but in the end, there is a little magic to it. I can only hope Amanda Doucette will have that spark of magic in her too.

Next week is Canadian Thanksgiving, so I’ll be eating Turkey with my family and Mystery Mondays will have to wait.

But then you are in for a treat. Phyllis Smallman, author of the Sherri Travis Mysteries and the Singer Brown Mystery Series, will be here to talk to you on October 19th.

Thanks for reading. And as always…

If you’re looking for something to read and you haven’t read DESCENT yet, now is your chance before BLAZE comes out. Find it at: myBook.to/Descent

And if you have read DESCENT, I’d be very excited if you pre-ordered BLAZE.

Facebook Launch Party: Practice Makes Perfect

To continue with tips on hosting a FaceBook Launch party, I thought I’d let you know about two parties that are happening this weekend.

Two authors will be hosting their first launch party, and this is a great opportunity not only to support other authors but to see a launch party in action. Both releases are published by Imajin Books.

To entice you to stop by, I’ll be giving away one eBook copy (kindle format) of DESCENT during each party. There are other authors donating books too, but you’ll have to check out the parties to find out who.

First up is author Debra Purdy Kong. Click on her banner below and you’ll be taken to the sign-up page for her event. It’s on Saturday September 12th from 5 to 7 PM EST.

Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 1.08.15 PM

DEAD MAN FLOATING  Description:

One wrong decision…

Security guard Evan Dunstan didn’t expect to find a body floating in a campus stream. An empty vodka bottle nearby suggests that the highly despised George Krenn, head of the plumbing department, had drunkenly fallen in. Refusing to let the death of a vile man ruin his romantic plans, Evan decides to leave the body for the next shift to find.

One friend in trouble…

When it’s discovered that Krenn was murdered, Evan has a lot of explaining to do. So does his friend Sully, Krenn’s least favourite student. Evan uses his hacking skills and campus knowledge to keep them both out of jail, but the investigation forces him to question Sully’s innocence.

One mystery to solve…

Uncovering the truth proves to be more than challenging. It may cost Evan his job, his friendship, and his woman. Will Evan find the killer, or will the killer find him first?

Second up is Kathleen Duhamal with DEEP BLUE. Click on the book cover below to be taken to the sign up page for her launch party. It’s on Sunday September 13th. 7 to 10 PM EST.

Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 1.16.12 PM

DEEP BLUE Description:

Love is the most addicting drug of all…

“Barely-not-starving” Denver artist and cancer survivor Claire Martin has almost given up finding an older man with a youthful spirit when she meets charismatic New York soul singer Robert Silver of the legendary band Deep Blue. She soon learns that hero worship can be dangerous, especially when the object of her desire comes with a disturbing past.

Robert is smart and sexy with a self-deprecating sense of humor, but he’s also a man who has suffered from panic attacks, drug abuse, a well-publicized stint in rehab and the death of his wife, screenwriter Elaine Jordan. When his demons resurface on tour, jeopardizing his voice and the band’s future, Claire must decide if she’s willing to take the biggest risk of her life—betting her future on a troubled man.

Thanks for reading..

If you’re interested, you can buy or download a sample of DESCENT at:  myBook.to/Descent

IDEAS: Where do they come from? How do you keep them?

Thank you, Melodie, for hosting me on your blog. And Melodie is…

buy link: Amazon
Buy On Amazon

The Toronto Sun called Melodie Campbell Canada’s “Queen of Comedy.”  Library Digest compared her to Janet Evanovich.  No surprise, then, that Melodie Campbell got her start writing comedy.

Melodie has won ten awards for fiction, including the Derringer and the Arthur Ellis.  In 1999, she opened the Canadian Humour Conference.  She has over 200 publications including 100 comedy credits, and 40 short stories.  Her tenth novel, a mob caper entitled The Goddaughter Caper (Orca Books) will be published in 2016.

Originally posted on Melodie Campbell (The home of Bad Girl Comedy)…

***

I’m very pleased to welcome friend and colleague Kristina Stanley here, a crime writer who has been nominated for prestigious crime awards before even having a book published.  Well, that is definitely a secret to getting a publisher, folks, and now come the books.  Over to you now, Kristina!

Late one night in Unteruhldingen, Germany I was reading MOONLIGHT BECOMES YOU by Mary Higgins Clark. The opening—a woman trapped in a grave. Darkness and silence surround her, and she doesn’t know where she is. I can still see her fingers clawing at the edges of the coffin.

… View Remaining Blog at: Melodie Campbell

Thanks for reading…

If you’re interested, you can buy or download a sample of DESCENT at:  myBook.to/Descent