Sibel Hodge Discusses Her Writing Process

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INTERVIEW

 

 

Is your creative approach to writing each novel the same or does it vary?

I often get asked whether I plan out my plot in advance before I start writing. Urgh, the dreaded P word, I think! I hate plotting. Absolutely hate it!

There are some authors who won’t type a single letter until they’ve got every inch of their plot structure finely tuned in advance. Some authors know their characters intimately before they begin writing, down to what they just had for breakfast. And I wish I could be like that, I really do. I think it could make my job a whole lot easier. But I’m definitely a fly by the seat of my knickers kind of girl! If I get too hung up spending a lot of time plotting in advance, I tend to lose my creativity. I start thinking about it too much and get nowhere. I think I must suffer from some kind of plot dyslexia, because as soon as I pull out a pad and pen and start trying to come up with vast plot notes, the words swim in front of my face in a blur and my brain turns to mush. Is there such a thing as plot-o-phobia?

But unfortunately, plotting is a necessary evil if you want to write a novel. Without a plot, it’s just words on the paper. Your plot should encompass all sorts of things: goals of the characters, conflict, crises, turning points, climax, resolution. And everything you write should advance the plot, although I personally think when writing comedy, you can get away with a few extras in there!

When I wrote my debut romantic comedy, Fourteen Days Later, I didn’t have a clue about any kind of plot, or characters, or structure. All I knew was that my heroine had to do a fourteen-day life-changing challenge, where she completed a new task every day. I knew my ending, but I didn’t have a clue what happened anywhere else. Hmm…slight problem, I hear you say! Well, yes, but as soon as I started tapping out the words on the keyboard it all developed naturally. My characters invented their own plot as they went along.

So far, so good, but what about the next novel? Surely this must’ve been some bizarre fluke, and I’d have to actually think of a plot in advance for the next one. Well, yes and no. My second novel was a comedy mystery. Because of the mystery element, I did need to know a few things before I started. Otherwise how would I weave in all the clues? So this time I did actually write an eency weency plot before I started. It was about three lines for each chapter of things I needed to happen. That was it, though, and I still didn’t have hardly any of my “clues” in there. But again, it all seemed to come together as I wrote it. Creative or crazy? I’m not sure which.

With my third novel, I was getting really stressed trying to plot. I read about different techniques like the Snowflake method and using index cards or graphs, even plotting software, but the plot-dyslexia was kicking in big time! Robert McKee’s Story is an excellent book, by the way, for plotting. (It’s for screenplays but works just as well for novels). But none of it helped me in writing a plot in advance. I wrote a few lines for the first two chapters and after that, nada! So once again, I just started to write and my characters invented their own story. The voices in my head just tell me to do things.

My fourth novel was also a mystery, so again I thought I’d need to at least write some lines of plot to allow for my clues. And this time I did it! Hurrah, I wrote out my plot in advance, doing a storyboard of a paragraph per chapter of things I needed to include. In a lot of ways it was easier to write in this way, but that was the only time I’ve ever managed it.

In my world (which is sometimes scary!) my plot advances on its own, with one scene logically following on from the next. I’m very much character driven. And what works for one author won’t work for another. Even what works for one novel won’t always work for another. However you choose to write a novel or story is very personal. Who knows whether I’ll finally get to write an advanced detailed plot for another novel. Watch this space and I’ll let you know!

 

 

 

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What do you normally begin with?

I usually have a single line idea. For example, with The Disappeared it was that Nicole’s husband died in a plane crash in Africa, but ten months later she receives a letter that could only have come from him. So what happened to him out there? Sometimes I can think of an idea and start on it the next week. Sometimes it has to fester for a year or so to be mixed with another idea.

 

Name some things that has helped your craft as a writer.

Reading. For me, it’s the number one thing that’s helped me understand the craft, to see what I think works or doesn’t work, to understand a writer’s voice that I’m a fan of, and to hone my skills. Then you have to write, write, write! Even if it’s a project that’s never going to be published, it’s all about practice and learning, like anything in life. Also passion is important. If you believe in something so strongly, it will shine through in what you do and motivate you to carry on.

 

 

What are the most challenging aspects of writing?

Every single word! Because one word leads to another and another, which eventually becomes a story (hopefully!). Because I’m not a plotter I can’t relax with my work in progress until I have a first draft and I know for sure I’ve got a story to work with.

 

 

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How do you incorporate pacing in your books?

Chapter length, sentence and paragraph structure, and using multiple points of view are all methods I use to increase or decrease pacing.

 

 

How would you define a Psychological thriller?

A story that messes with your head or emphasises the psychological and emotional states of the character(s). I love psychological thrillers with unreliable narrators, where their motivations or emotions are questionable or you don’t know who to trust.

 

 

What motivated you to write about them?

With The Disappeared it was a documentary I watched, but, unfortunately, I can’t tell you the name now as it will give away the whole story in advance! But I do mention it in my author note at the end of the novel.

When I’m writing I see the scenes playing out in my head, exactly like watching a film. Often they’re accompanied by actors who I think my characters are like or would portray them perfectly. One movie that was also a backdrop in my mind as I was writing this novel was Blood Diamond. And, yes, Leonardo DiCaprio also featured in there, too, who I admire, not just because he’s a hugely talented actor, but because of his work with The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation that does amazing things for both wildlife and the environment.

Most of my thrillers are inspired by real life events, and research for The Disappearedincluded reading hundreds of online articles from NGOs, government organisations, humanitarian groups, and investigative journalists. I also read many books on the subjects covered in the novel. When I’m writing, I have notes everywhere—snippets of dialogue, character traits and names, statistics, one sentence reminders of things I need to include, and much more. This book was no different, and I had about a hundred pieces of A4 paper filled with the stuff that I had to, somehow, turn into something readable. Fingers crossed readers will experience something that’s both thrilling and exciting, but also authentic and sympathetic to the subject matter.

 

 

In the Disappeared, how did get to know your characters?

I don’t know much about my characters at the beginning of the novel (unless I’m using repeat characters from other books). They always evolve as I’m writing the story.

 

 

 

Disappeared image Sibel Hodge

 

 

 

Who is Nicole Palmer and what motivates her?

She’s an ordinary woman who’s become unexpectedly widowed. A primary school teacher who believes her husband died in a plane crash in Africa ten months before. But she’s also stronger than she thinks, independent, brave, with a fierce motivation to find out what really did happen to her husband when she realises not everything is as it seems. And she’s about to be tested to the limit.

 

 

Sibel Hodge

 

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Award Winning and International Bestselling Author

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Leave a comment below to enter for a chance to win a free e-book of The Disappeared by Sibel Hodge! 

 

 

 

 

Writing Crime Fiction with Gretta Mulrooney

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Interview with Gretta Mulrooney

 

*Why do you write crime fiction?

 

I write crime fiction because I’m fascinated by motive, secrets, guilt, revenge and betrayal. The genre allows me to cover all kinds of social and cultural issues.  Psychopaths and serial killers don’t interest me. I prefer domestic murders involving people driven to breaking point by rage and disappointment. After all, most people are killed by family members. I like the past breaking into the present and taking revenge – a dish much better eaten cold. A number of my novels have female protagonists and killers. I’m tired of reading about male crime towards women and the world is full enough of that in real life. I reckon that women can be more subtle and strategic in planning to kill and in playing the long game, so you’ll find that theme in some of my books. My crime novels to date have featured a male private detective because I like playing with that genre. I’m now writing a novel with a female police inspector. I love reader feedback and try to respond to everyone who gets in touch.

 

 

*What fascinates you about motive, secrets, guilt, revenge etc.?

I’ve studied psychology and I enjoy considering what propels emotions and actions when writing crime. Guilt and anger are often two sides of the same coin and I like dissecting how these combined emotions can lead to violence and murder. Also, I like to track how every action has a consequence, particularly when the past comes back to bite a character.

 

 

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*What’s your writing process like?

I’d call my writing process organic. I do very little planning. I have the kernel of a plot, create the characters and see where they lead. I often don’t decide on the perpetrator until I’m near the end. Sometimes I’ve changed my mind about who did it at the last minute.

 

 

*What can you tell us about what you’re currently working on?

I’m currently working on my seventh novel about private detective Tyrone Swift. I’m also working on an idea for a novel about a female police detective. I’m having fun with that because I’m creating a fictitious town.

 

 

 

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AUTHOR BIO

I was born and educated in London, of Irish parents. I studied for a degree in English Literature at the University of Ulster, Magee college in Derry. I have worked in education and social care.

I started writing in my thirties and I published four books for children and teenagers with Poolbeg Press, Dublin; A Can of Worms, A Nest of Vipers, A Den of Thieves and I Love You-Te Quiero. These books are available on Amazon.

I have published five literary fiction novels.

Araby and Marble Heart were published by Harper Collins to critical acclaim. They have been translated into Dutch and Spanish.  These books are available on Amazon. They are being reissued in May 2016 by Fourth Estate as Kindle and paperbacks.

Fire and Ice, Out of The Blue and The Apple of Her Eye were published by Robert Hale. These books are available on Amazon.

Out of The Blue was published by Joffe Books as an e book and paperback in February 2016 and is available on Amazon.

Lost Child was published by Joffe Books as an e book and paperback in March 2016 and is available on Amazon. (This was previously published as Fire and Ice by Robert Hale.)

Coming of Age was published by Joffe Books as a e book and paperback in April 2016 and is available on Amazon. (This was previously published as The Apple of Her Eye by Robert Hale.)

I have always been an avid reader of crime fiction and psychological thrillers. I have started a series of crime novels featuring charismatic private detective Tyrone Swift.

The Lady Vanished was published as an e book and paperback by Joffe Books in December 2015 and is available on Amazon.

Blood Secrets, the second novel featuring private detective Tyrone Swift, was published as e book and paperback in spring 2016 and is available on Amazon.

Two Lovers, Six Deaths, the third Tyrone Swift novel, was published as an e book and paperback in December 2016 by Joffe Books and is available on Amazon.

Watching You, the fourth Tyrone Swift novel, was published as an e book and paperback in June 2017 by Joffe Books and is available on Amazon.

Low Lake, the fifth Tyrone Swift novel, was published as an e book and paperback in March 2018 by Joffe Books and is available on Amazon.

Bound By Lies is a boxset trilogy of the first three  novels in the Tyrone Swift series. It was published as an e book and paperback in June 2017 by Joffe Books and is available on Amazon.

 

 

 

 

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Writing Historical Mystery with Rhys Bowen

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Interview with Rhys Bowen

 

I had the wonderful opportunity of interviewing historical mystery author Rhys Bowen regarding her writing, and more specifically, the 12th book of the Royal Spyness series – Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding.

 

 

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In the days leading up to her wedding to Darcy O’Mara, Lady Georgiana Rannoch takes on the responsibilities of a grand estate, but proving she can run a household just may be the death of her in the new Royal Spyness Mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service.

If only Darcy and I had eloped! What I thought would be a simple wedding has been transformed into a grand affair, thanks to the attendance of the queen, who has offered up the princesses as bridesmaids. Silly me! I thought that withdrawing from the royal line of succession would simplify my life. But before Darcy and I tie the knot in front of queen and country, we have to find a place to live as man and wife…

House hunting turns out to be a pretty grim affair. Just as we start to lose hope, my globetrotting godfather offers us his fully staffed country estate. Mistress of Eynsleigh I shall be! With Darcy off in parts unknown, I head to Eynsleigh alone, only to have my hopes dashed. The grounds are in disarray and the small staff is suspiciously incompetent. Not to mention the gas tap leak in my bedroom, which I can only imagine was an attempt on my life. Something rotten is afoot—and bringing the place up to snuff may put me six feet under before I even get a chance to walk down the aisle…

 

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AUDIOBOOK REVIEW

 

Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding is book #12 in the Royal Spyness series set in 1930’s London. An absolute blast to read and very entertaining on many levels. Told in the point of view of Lady Victoria Georgiana Rannoch, the story unravels seamlessly until the very end. I was very captivated by the humorous tone and style of writing by Rhys Bowen. I listened to the audiobook version and laughed out loud several times! The ability to capture each character within the time period was very impressive. Lady Georgiana, affectionately “Georgy” is so adorable as she plans for her wedding, prepares a new home, and attempts to solve a mysterious murder. This review is based on the audiobook version with exceptional new series narrator Jasmine Blackborow.

 

 

INTERVIEW

 

What do you love most about writing history?

Rhys: I love writing about the 1930’s in the Royal Spyness series because it was such a fascinating time, poised between two world wars. A time of great contrasts, haves and have-nots, Fascism and Communism fighting for control of Europe and of course my delicious Royal scandals. My big stand alone novels take place in WWI and II, times of heightened emotion, of good vs evil and the comforting knowledge that good prevailed.

And for historical mysteries all those lovely motives: I love Another but I am not free etc!

 

 

“History will be kind to me; for I intend to write it.” – Winston Churchill

 

 

Do you have a certain method for researching a story?

Rhys: it all starts with a sense of place. I do my background reading of the true historical framework then I have to go to the place and experience it myself

 

 

 

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How important is setting for historical fiction writers?

Rhys: for me setting drives many of my stories. NAUGHTY IN NICE. TIME OF FOG AND FIRE. Etc etc

And it’s important to get every detail right. I read biographies, accounts of battles, diaries, study old maps

 

 

What’s the historical context behind Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding?

Rhys:  it was high time that my protagonist got married. It is summer 1935 and as she goes to Ascot with Queen Mary and King George she realizes the king does not look well. He will, of course, die that winter. And I’m looking forward to stories when the Prince of Wales becomes king.

 

 

 

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Who is Lady Georgiana Rannoch’s godfather and what role does he play in the story?

He is Sir Hubert Anstruther, a mountaineer and explorer. Her mother was once married to him and she has fond memories of the childhood days at his house. He was fond of her and wanted to adopt her. She was one of three heirs but the other two came to bad ends in the first book of the series,

 

 

What did inheriting a country estate detail back then?

Rhys: she hasn’t inherited it as he is still alive. This is lucky as if Sir Hubert had died she’d have to pay a fortune in death duties ( estate taxes)

I imagine this is an informal arrangement between them with the understanding that the estate will be legally hers when he dies.

 

 

 

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Describe the emotional state of Lady Georgiana and Darcy O’Mara as they prepare for marriage.

Goodness, they are British! They don’t have emotional states. They just get on with things!  Actually Georgie in naturally excited. Darcy seems to be taking it in his stride. Georgie can’t believe that everything is going right for once… This is before the various roadblocks appear.

 

 

What were weddings like in that time period?

Much simpler than now. An afternoon ceremony, then cake, champagne, a few speeches and the couple drives off on their honeymoon.

 

 

 

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What’s next for you?

I have just published another stand-alone, THE VICTORY GARDEN.

 

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IN August another Georgie novel, this time set in Kenya. It’s called LOVE AND DEATH AMONG THE CHEETAHS. Pre-order now and available August 6, 2019. 

AND I’m just finishing a book about Queen Victoria.

Not idle!

 

 

 

Rhys in LA 2006

 

 

“I’m a New York Times bestselling mystery author, winner of both Agatha and Anthony awards for my Molly Murphy mysteries, set in 1902 New York City.

I have recently published two internationally bestselling WWII novels, one of them a #1 Kindle bestseller, the other selling almost half a million copies to date.

I also write the Agatha-winning Royal Spyness series, about the British royal family in the 1930s. It’s lighter, sexier, funnier, wicked satire. It was voted by readers as best mystery series one year.

I am also known for my Constable Evans books, set in North Wales, and for my award-winning short stories. “

I was born and raised in England but currently divide my time between California and Arizona where I go to escape from the harsh California winters

When I am not writing I love to travel, sing, hike, play my Celtic harp.

 

Website | Amazon | Goodreads | Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Storytelling with Steven James & Lynn Constantine

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Bestselling author Steven James hosts Lynn Constantine on the Story Blender Podcast

 

 

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This podcast originally appears on thestoryblender.com Feb. 19, 2019. Duration: 55 min.

 

Lynne Constantine is a coffee-drinking, Twitter-addicted fiction author always working on her next book. She is the international bestselling co-author of THE LAST MRS. PARRISH written under the pen name Liv Constantine. Her next book, THE LAST TIME I SAW YOU, comes out on May 7th.

 

 

 

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The internationally bestselling author of The Last Mrs. Parrishfollows that success with an addictive novel filled with shocking twists about the aftermath of a brutal high-society murder.

Dr. Kate English has it all. Not only is she the heiress to a large fortune; she has a gorgeous husband and daughter, a high-flying career, and a beautiful home anyone would envy.

But all that changes the night Kate’s mother, Lily, is found dead, brutally murdered in her own home. Heartbroken and distraught, Kate reaches out to her estranged best friend, Blaire Barrington, who rushes to her side for the funeral, where the years of distance between them are forgotten in a moment.

That evening, Kate’s grief turns to horror when she receives an anonymous text: You think you’re sad now, just wait. By the time I’m finished with you, you’ll wish you had been buried today. More than ever, Kate needs her old friend’s help.

Once Blaire decides to take the investigation into her own hands, it becomes clear that all is not as it seems in Baltimore high society. As infidelity, lies, and betrayals come to light, and tensions rise to a boiling point, she begins to alienate Kate’s friends and relatives with her relentless, accusatory questions, as she tries to find Lily’s killer. The murderer could be anyone—friend, neighbor, loved one. But whoever it is, it’s clear that Kate is next on their list. . .

In The Last Time I Saw You, Liv Constantine takes the lightning pace of The Last Mrs. Parrish and raises the stakes, creating an exquisitely tension-filled and absorbing tale of psychological suspense in which innocent lives—and one woman’s sanity—hang in the balance.

 

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Liv Constantine authors

 

Liv Constantine is the pen name of USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and international bestselling authors and sisters Lynne Constantine and Valerie Constantine, co-authors of the Reese Witherspoon book club pick, THE LAST MRS. PARRISH. Separated by three states, they spend hours plotting via FaceTime and burning up each other’s emails. They attribute their ability to concoct dark story lines to the hours they spent listening to tales handed down by their Greek grandmother. Their next book, THE LAST TIME I SAW YOU, will be released on May 7, 2019.

 

 

livconstantine.com

 

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thestoryblender.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Interview with Scott Bell Author of the Abel Yeager Thrillers

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Abel Yeager has settled into a life of domestic bliss with his lovely wife, Charlotte. He’s left the violence and bloodshed behind to concentrate on being a good father and husband. For their long-delayed honeymoon, Abel and Charlie take a Hawaiian cruise. They’re looking forward to hiking volcanoes and sightseeing, once they meet up with Victor “Por Que” Ruiz and his new love, Dr. Alexandra Lopez.

Their idyllic vacation explodes in violence when a group of Hawaiian separatists, incited by a foreign power, rip through the islands, leaving blood and destruction in their wake. When Charlie is caught up with a group of hostages held by the terrorists as human shields, Abel is forced back into warrior mode.

The Hawaiians are supported by a few dozen foreign special forces soldiers, modern gear, and plenty of munitions. Abel has the help of three septuagenarian Vietnam veteran Marines and his pal Victor. Outnumbered and outgunned, Abel will stop at nothing to rescue his wife.

 

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*How do you introduce your story to readers in the first chapter?

The beginning of a novel involves three aspects: A character, in a setting, with a problem. (Credit to Monalisa Foster, who came up with the easy definition.) A character means someone with whom the reader can identify. (It doesn’t mean an entire backstory infodump.) A setting is an identifiable place, usually created with minimal brushstrokes, though sometimes more. A problem can be anything from a ticking bomb to a hangnail, and it is rarely the main story problem, though it can be.  I never want to drop an unknown actor into a blank screen and hope the reader will engage–even when starting with an action scene, that’s a recipe for a weak opener.

 

 

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*What comes first before you write a book? An idea, character, specific crime?

Characters are always first. They may not be fully fleshed out, and I may not have everyone’s foibles identified, but I have a general idea of who’s who in the zoo. Next comes the “what if”. What if a truck driving Marine veteran unknowingly picks up a load of cartel cash, which is diverted for delivery to a bookstore? And what if the bookstore is run by a spunky woman who carries a big pistol for protection? What might happen to these two folks if they were jammed together?

 

 

*How do you navigate writing a story without an outline?

Rewrites. Lots of rewrites. Diving into any store without an outline sometimes means I write myself into a corner, but I can’t write to outline. A story is too organic for me to follow a cookbook. Things change. Ideas occur. Characters may go sideways on me. Writing to an outline would be more efficient, but I would get bored and quit.

 

 

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*How do you create your characters?

I look for stereotypes, then I try to twist them up a little. Or I take real life people and exaggerate something in their nature I like, or dislike. The Male Main Character in my Sam Cable mystery series is a big guy with a Boy Scout complex, not always the brightest guy in the room, but a stalwart, straightforward, action-oriented kind of guy, and I juxtapose him with my FMC who’s a small woman with a high IQ and a smartass view of the world. I like to take these different dynamics and throw them in the blender and see what happens.

 

*What’s your experience like writing in first person?

It’s limiting in a lot of ways.  Everyone starts out with 1st person, as it seems natural to tell a story from the “I” perspective, then you quickly realize you’re limited to only the things your POV can sense. I switch POVs from first to third in some novels, which I find helps me jump out of the track and tell a broader, richer story. “They” say don’t do this, but hey. Sue me.

 

 

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*Who is Abel Yeager?

At the DNA-level, Abel is modeled on my paternal grandfather, an uneducated man who was brilliant with mechanical devices and worked with his hands. He was also rumored to have the “hardest fists in the county.” Abel is a sheepdog among the sheep. A protector and a warrior who is fiercely protective of his friends, and bad news to his enemies.

 

 

*Do your books have any thematic elements?

I’m big on the Average Joe theme. None of my characters are James Bond or Jack Reacher types, and they all struggle with day-to-day things like paying the bills. Typically you’ll find my Everyman and Everywoman people thrown into combustible situations and forced to do their best. They make mistakes. They struggle to do the right thing. Sometimes they have to grow to reach their potential.

 

 

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*Name three of the hardest aspects of writing.

1.) The middle. Beginnings are easy, endings are fun. Bridging the gap from the endorphin rush of a good beginning to the pulse-pounding climax takes discipline and work ethic.

 

2.) Plotting. Writing organically (not by outline) can mean scrapping whole sections of a novel. Figuring out how to get my character out of the corner I just wrote him into and keep the plot on track can be a challenge.

 

3.) Waiting. If you trad publish like me, there’s a cycle of waiting that happens with every book and every short story. Query, wait, submit, wait, lather, rinse, repeat.

 

And, just for fun…

 

4.) Reviews. Getting reviews, querying bloggers for reviews, reading reviews and not responding to, or slitting your wrists over, the bad ones…the whole review process is a pain. I typically get good reviews, and I stay in the 4-plus range on average for both Goodreads and Amazon, and yet a single bad review can rub a blister on my ass for days at a time.

 

 

 

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Scott Bell writes because that way he can daydream and claim it on his taxes. A Certified Fraud Examiner and professional Suburban Man, Scott has a wife, two grown kids, and at least one cat sleeping on his keyboard. (The cat, not the wife and kids. They have their own keyboards to sleep on.)

His works include the mystery/thrillers Yeager’s Law, Yeager’s Mission, and April’s Fool, along with the forthcoming Yeager’s Getaway and May Day. He has a Science Fiction novel out called Working Stiffs, and his short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and online publications.

 

 

Mysteries, thrillers, authors, readers, true crime. Bring your voice. Make some noise in this year’s MYSTERY THRILLER WEEK May 13-24 2019.  #MTW2019 Spread the word.  Sign up to participate:  Participate in MTW 2019

 

 

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The Writer’s Digest Podcast: Old and New Technology with Elizabeth Sims

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The Writer’s Digest Podcast with Gabriela Pereira

 

Episode 11: Writing Technology Old and New with Crime and Mystery writer Elizabeth Sims

 

 

This podcast originally appears on Writer’s Digest December 7, 2018. Duration: 51 min.

 

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Photo credit: Thomas Bender

 

Elizabeth Sims is an American author and writing authority. Her novels include the Lambda Award-winning Lillian Byrd crime series and the Rita Farmer mystery series, and she writes frequently for Writer’s Digest magazine, where she is a Contributing Editor.

Booklist calls her work “crime fiction as smart as it is compelling,” and Crimespree magazine praises her “strong voice and wonderful characters.”
Are you a writer too—or would you like to be one? If so, you might find inspiration in Elizabeth’s book You’ve Got a Book in You: A Stress-Free Guide to Writing the Book of Your Dreams, published by Writer’s Digest Books.

Elizabeth earned degrees in English from Michigan State University and Wayne State University, where she won the Tompkins Award for graduate fiction. She has worked as a reporter, editor, photographer, technical writer, bookseller, street busker, ranch hand, corporate executive, and symphonic percussionist. Elizabeth belongs to several literary societies as well as American Mensa.

To learn more about her and to view a full list of her available works, including free excerpts and book discussion guides, visit www.elizabethsims.com
There you can get in touch and / or join her newsgroup.

 

Writer’s Digest | Elizabeth Sims

 

 

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Why You Need to be Publishing Audiobooks – With Mark Dawson, James Blanch, and Tina Dietz

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Why You Need to be Publishing Audiobooks

 

 

 

 

Highlights

  • The importance of creativity in every type of business
  • How creativity makes us more productive
  • The different approaches to audiobooks by fiction and non-fiction authors
  • Thoughts on narrating your book yourself
  • The range of cost for producing an audiobook, including what you can expect to pay a narrator
  • Auditioning narrators to find the right voice for your book
  • Providing character information to narrators to find a good fit
  • Reading your book out loud yourself to get a sense of your characters’ voices
  • The three reasons for starting a podcast

 

This podcast originally appears on selfpublishingformula.com Sept. 14, 2018. Duration 50 min. Download full transcript: Here

 

 

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Tina Dietz: Website

 

 

 

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ThrillerFest 2018 Part 2 via Mark Dawson

News

 

 

 

 

 

Highlights per Mark Dawson:

Mike Lewis on building relationships at conferences, Jon Land on picking up the Murder She Wrote franchise — Bringing Jessica Fletcher into the present day, The advantages to readers when authors have choices about how to publish, Lynda La Plante on doing research for her novels, The inspirational female police officer behind Prime Suspect, The luck and skill involved in Lynda’s writing career, Resources mentioned in this episode: Karen’s marketing book for authors of children’s books.

 

Sneak Peek of ThrillerFest 2018 via Mark Dawson

Thrillerwriters.org

ITW Facebook Organization

 

 

 

 

A Worthy Villain – By Allison Brennan

 

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A Worthy Villain – By Allison Brennan

 

“The villain is the hero of his own journey.”
— Christopher Vogler

 

When I first started writing, I didn’t read any craft books. Everything I learned about writing fiction I learned through reading, falling in with a terrific critique group, and on- line workshops I took through RWA’s Kiss of Death chapter (the online chapter for romantic suspense.) It wasn’t until I sold my first three books that I started picking up craft books to see if I could improve my writing.

I was primarily looking for books that would help me take my books to the next level. By that I didn’t really know what I was looking for, just books that would help me understand my own intuition, I suppose. A lot of books didn’t resonate with me. Anything too technical, or anything that attempted to explain why that way was the best (or only) way to craft a story, irritated or bored me.

Then I read The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler and had that light bulb moment.

The Writer’s Journey is a simplified and far more accessible view of the Hero’s Journey (Hero With a Thousand Faces) as explained by Joseph Campbell. But Vogler took the meat from Campbell and seasoned it with modern examples that resonated with me. I could see in all the books that I’d written that I had intuitively, albeit loosely, adopted a hero’s journey structure. But what really helped me was how I began to view the role of the villain in my books.

The quote from Vogler — that the villain is the hero of his own journey — gave me that lightbulb moment. I loved getting into my villain’s heads, but I’d somewhat separated the villain from the hero. The villain’s were bad; the hero’s were good. In classic fiction this works well — people like to know who the bad guys are and who the good guys are. Yet, to create a compelling story, the villain needs to be more than a caricature. The villain needs to be as strong and three-dimensional as the hero. And while there are some all bad villains, how did they get that way? What made them commit their first illegal or immoral act?

 

 

 

 

 

Villan cartoon image

 

 

 

 

About this time, I read two books that have stuck with me for years. The first was Thomas Harris’s The Red Dragon, which I still believe is superior to The Silence of the Lambs in almost every way. The hero is tortured, the villain is believable, and the dynamic between Will Graham (tortured hero) and Francis Dollarhyde (tortured villain) is truly compelling. (As an aside — don’t watch the movies. Neither movie did the book justice, unlike Silence of the Lambs which is iconic.)

What resonated with me the most was how deep Harris got into his killer. We get into Dollarhyde’s head, we begin to understand how he got to this point in his life. And there is a pivotal scene where he could choose the light—where he could turn away from the violence within him. But why he doesn’t—how he breaks—is so compelling and felt so real that The Red Dragon is one of the few books I’ve read twice. It taught me first and foremost that villains need to be real people. They are not monsters, at least not at first glance. They have backstories and conflicts and goals just like every other character in the story.

In fact, I’d argue that villains must have as strong or stronger conflicts than the hero. Every author should know exactly why their villain is committing the crime they are committing, and be able to justify it when in the killer’s head. It might not make sense to a “normal” person, but it had better make sense to the villain.

The other book I read was Psychopath by Dr. Keith Ablow. What drew me in was an intelligent and almost reasonable villain who had a very specific reason for why and how he killed. In fact, the villain was so compelling, that when the hero (a forensic psychiatrist) and the villain were on the same page, the villain appeared to be a stronger individual. How—why—can some who do such good in the world also be so bad?

 

 

 

Motivation award

 

 

 

Johan Wrens is the Highway Killer. He slits the throats of random people all over the country. His body count is in the dozens. Wrens is also a brilliant psychiatrist who helps disturbed children. He has relationships with women, is attractive and cultured. He’s a bit reminiscent of Hannibal Lecter, Thomas Harris’s “arch-villain”—but in many ways, far more layered. He’s definitely the bad guy, but he also saves children for a living. He detests crimes against children, and that redeeming quality, especially when the reader learns his whole story, makes him a tragic character.

The hero, Dr. Frank Clevenger, had very real problems and very real conflicts. A recovering drug addict who had serious problems with interpersonal relationships, readers wondered if he could overcome his personal adversity to stop a very real—and very intelligent—threat.

Through these two books—The Red Dragon and Psychopath—I realized that the dynamic between the hero and villain needs to be intense; it needs to matter to both characters. I haven’t always been able to achieve this, though I consistently strive to. And that, really, is what being a growing writer is all about: constantly striving to write a stronger, better story with stronger, more compelling characters.

A “good” villain needs to challenge the hero; a good villain must be as smart—or smarter—than the hero. The villain needs to be complex, capable, and cunning so the hero is challenged. It’s the hero’s intelligence, perseverance, and humanity that brings the villain to justice—not merely following the breadcrumbs of a villain who would rank in the Top Ten Stupidest Criminals.

 

 

 

Criminal painting

 

 

 

In essence, not only does the villain need to be worthy of your hero, but your hero needs to be worthy of your villain. It’s the creation of this dynamic that gives the reader what she is looking for in crime thrillers.

When you think about the villain as the hero of his own journey, you realize that there are logical reasons for every action the villain takes. Logical for the villain. This is why authors (or actors) need to spend some time in their villain’s head. Think of the villain as you would the hero, ask the same questions. Know what they want and why. Know how they got to this moment in the story. Give them the option of turning away from evil … and then when they don’t, know why they don’t.

The villain makes—or breaks—your story.

And if you remember that the villain is the hero of his own journey? Well, your job just got a small bit easier.

 

 

 

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Allison Brennan is the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of three dozen romantic thrillers and many short stories. RT Book Reviews calls Allison “A master of suspense” and her books “haunting,” “mesmerizing,” “pulse-pounding” and “emotionally complex.” RT Book Reviews gave her recent Lucy Kincaid thriller BREAKING POINT a Top Pick and Lisa Gardner says, “Brennan knows how to deliver.” SHATTERED, currently out in hardcover, will be released in paperback on May 1. The next book in the Maxine Revere series ABANDONED is on sale August 14, and the next Lucy Kincaid thriller TOO FAR GONE will be out on October 30. Allison lives near Sacramento, California with her husband, five children, and assorted animals.

 

 

 

Breaking point

 

Amazon | Goodreads

 

 

 

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Amazon | Goodreads

 

 

 

 

 

Crime Writing Conferences by Christina Hoag

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Conferences: Where to go? Which to Choose?
By Christina Hoag

 

For crime fiction authors, the good news is that there are plenty of  writing conferences. The bad news is that there are plenty of writing conferences. It can be hard to choose the best investment for your money and time.

I decided not to choose. I just went to a slew of them, although not all by any means. Not only did I have a great time at every one, I found value in all of them. Each offers something different, and from each I took away things I didn’t know before, as well as a host of new friends. Frankly for me, networking is one of the best reasons for attending conferences. I love meeting other writers and discussing writing, publishing, reading. These are my peeps!

The two biggies are Bouchercon, held in a different city every year, and Thrillerfest, held in New York City every year. Both get well over 1,000 attendees. I chose to attend Thrillerfest this year, leaving Bouchercon for 2018. Thrillerfest is the most expensive con of the bunch, plus Manhattan is a pricey destination, which is something to keep in mind. But this is the place for networking and there’s plenty of opportunity to mingle with the biggest names in the business from Lee Child to Lisa Gardner. Thrillerfest also hosts a separate event, Pitchfest, which attracts a ton of top agents and editors, a key advantage to being in the center of the publishing industry.

There are also a host of smaller regional conferences, usually sponsored by local chapters of the Mystery Writers of America and/or Sisters in Crime. These typically attract 200-300 attendees, including published and aspiring authors as well as fans, and cost in the range of $200 to $350. Most offer authors a chance to participate as panelists and to sell and sign their books in the con bookshop. This makes them great promotional vehicles if you’ve got a new book out or are simply seeking exposure.

However, cons have different requirements for panelists so that may affect where you choose to go if promotion is your goal. Sleuthfest, held around Florida, for example, requires panelists to be published by approved publishers. Killer Nashville is friendly to independent and pre-published writers while New England Crimebake in Boston does not allow authors to request panels and selects its own. Magna cum Murder in Indianapolis, California Crime Writers Conference, held biannually in Los Angeles, and Left Coast Crime, offered in a different western city every year, generally offer authors panel spots.

Another factor to look at is the con’s subgenre emphasis. Malice Domestic, held annually in Bethesda, Maryland, is geared to cozies and traditional mysteries while Thrillerfest is as its name suggests.

Finally, you may choose a particular conference simply because it’s in a place you want to visit or where you have friends or family. Whichever conference you choose, you can save by planning well in advance and taking advantage of early bird prices, which usually start the year before. Another cost-cutting tip: you can stay in less expensive hotels, or AirBnBs, or with friends and Uber back and forth. I’m already looking forward to my next conference in 2018!

Christina Hoag is a former journalist for the Miami Herald and Associated Press who’s been threatened by a murderer’s girlfriend, had her laptop searched by Colombian guerrillas and phone tapped in Venezuela, hidden under a car to evade Guatemalan soldiers, posed as a nun to get inside a Caracas jail, interviewed gang members, bank robbers, thieves and thugs in prisons, shantytowns and slums, not to forget billionaires and presidents, some of whom fall into the previous categories. Her noir crime novel Skin of Tattoos (Martin Brown Publishing, 2016) was a finalist for the Silver Falchion Award for suspense, while her thriller Girl on the Brink (Fire and Ice YA, 2016) was named to Suspense Magazine’s Best of 2016 YA list. She also writes nonfiction, co-authoring Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence (Turner Publishing, 2014. Christina makes her home in Los Angeles and lives on the web at www.christinahoag.com.

 

Her novel Skin of Tattoos is available at Amazon

 

 

Skin of tattoes

 

 

When Cyco Lokos gang member Magdaleno (Mags) Argueta comes home to Los Angeles after serving prison time for a robbery, he wants nothing more than to start a new life. However, there’s one obstacle he has to overcome first…his old life.

Mags tries to let go of his bitterness–he was framed by Rico, the new leader of the Cyco Lokos–and stay out of gang life for the sake of his Salvadoran immigrant family and his girlfriend Paloma, but trying to integrate into society after a stint in prison doesn’t come easily. Faced with low job prospects and Rico’s demands to help the Cyco Lokos make money, a broke and disillusioned Mags makes the only choice he can. However, Mags soon discovers that loyalties have shifted, including his, and being a part of the Cyco Lokos with Rico in charge is far more dangerous and uncertain than it used to be. With his sister pregnant by a rival gang member and his own relationship with Paloma, his best friend’s sister, a violation of gang code, Mags becomes caught in a web of secrets, revenge, lies, and murder that might ultimately cost him everything.

 

Amazon | Goodreads | My review