Writing, Rewriting, and Craft by Elena Hartwell

 

Elena Hartwell author photo with horse

 

 

Writing, Rewriting, and Craft

By Elena Hartwell

 

As a novelist and playwright, I’m often asked where I get my ideas. Almost every writer I know gets this question, and I think we all feel the same. Ideas are never the problem. That’s the easy part. Ideas are a dime a dozen. The hard part, the magic part, is turning the idea into a polished, final manuscript.

The writing process varies wildly from author to author. Some write extensive, detailed outlines. Others sit down with an idea and write scenes on the fly. A number of writers fall somewhere in between, while they may not outline, neither do they sit down and write completely organically. They might write a synopsis or outline a chapter in advance.

The various combinations of these methods all work, depending on the writer and the project. There is no “wrong” way to write a novel. The “how” a writer works isn’t why their manuscript sells or doesn’t sell. The primary reason an author’s work has not yet sold is a lack of craft.

People who lack craft skills rarely sit down to write a novel. Or if they do, they can start, but never finish. Or if they do finish, they don’t rewrite. Or if they do rewrite, they quit after a single pass. Or, if they do continue to rewrite, they aren’t aware enough of craft to recognize the flaws in their own work. You get the picture. The problem is the writer stops too soon.

As a writing coach—I do one-on-one manuscript critiques as well as teaching workshops—there are some fundamental issues I see repeated in early drafts, over and over. These same issues show up in my own work, and probably on some level, in the early drafts of every writer out there. So the first thing aspiring writers can do to increase their chances of writing a successful manuscript, is learn how to identify these problems.

 

 

path to problem and solution

 

 

The first is a lack of clear objectives, obstacles, and stakes. It’s not enough to have a dead body to write a mystery. Someone has to investigate the murder. The person investigating the murder has to need to solve the crime. If they don’t need to solve the crime (objective) there’s no tension about the investigation. If the solution doesn’t matter to the investigator, it won’t matter to the reader.

The sleuth also can’t solve the crime easily, that’s not dramatic. Various impediments (obstacles) have to appear, one after the other, to prevent the protagonist from catching the killer. The more the investigator has to overcome, the more satisfying to the reader when they do.

Lastly, it has to matter (stakes). For example, the protagonist with an internal struggle, coinciding with their investigation, is far more interesting than someone who simply goes through the motions of solving a crime.

The more important solving the case is to the protagonist, the more dangerous or difficult the journey, and the greater the importance to find the guilty party, the more invested a reader will be. That’s what keeps a reader turning pages.

Complex protagonists will also have personal objectives, obstacles, and stakes to go along with their investigation. For example, a crumbling marriage, a child in danger, or overcoming an addiction are common tropes within the genre. When we know an investigator has to choose between catching a killer and saving their marriage, the stakes are high and we breathlessly turn each page waiting to see what the character chooses.

 

 

3D word structure against scaffolding in grey room

 

 

Another common error I find is a lack of structure. All stories have an underpinning structure. While there are variations to that structure, for the most part, especially in crime fiction, we start with the world as we know it, which is disrupted by a specific event, followed by rising action, where events pile one on top the other, each more important than the one that went before. This ends with a climactic scene, with the maximum danger to our hero or heroine, followed by a glimpse into the new world order for our characters.

If any of these parts are missing, the story can feel unfinished. For example, if we don’t have some sense of what the character’s life was before the intrusion, we don’t know what they are putting at risk. The “world before” can often be well hidden, it might not appear in the first chapter, but later in reflections the character makes as the story progresses, but usually a reader can identify it if they look for it.

The middle of a manuscript might falter if a lot of exciting things happen at the beginning, then nothing exciting follows. Rising action is important, because it builds dramatic tension, making it impossible to put the book down.

Lastly, an ending can feel unsatisfying if we have no sense of the outcome. Readers don’t need everything tied up in a bow, but they do want the primary threads to be resolved enough to know what the character’s lives will be like after they read “the end.”

 

 

Hello Speech Bubble Isolated On Yellow Background

 

 

Dialogue can also be difficult to master. One of the most common problems I see is when authors have their characters say exactly what they feel and exactly what they mean. That doesn’t ring true. People lie all the time. We lie because it’s expedient, it benefits us in some way, it keeps us from hurting others, or we don’t want to get in trouble. We rarely say what we mean, we obfuscate, we dither, we agree out loud when disagreeing feels like a mistake. Dialogue works best when each character speaks distinctly from the others, through word choice, sentence length, grammatical accuracy, and the use of slang.

If a writer can identify just these specific problem areas in their own writing, their next draft will be a much tighter, more polished manuscript. It can feel overwhelming to try to identify and fix all the issues I’ve outlined at one time. My recommendation for writers is to choose one aspect and rewrite just for that. Heighten the stakes in one rewrite. Focus solely on dialogue for the next. Breaking down the process into smaller chunks can make each rewrite a more successful venture. This will help the writer get through a series of rewrites rather than attempting one and feeling like the mountain is too high to climb. My final piece of advice. Don’t give up. That’s the only difference between a published author and an unpublished one.

 

 

Giveaway Colorful Stripes

 

 

One dead two to go imageTwo heads are deader than one imageThree strikes your dead

 

 

 I’d be happy to do a giveaway! Copies of my Eddie Shoes Mystery Series will be available to the first 3 people that sign up for my newsletter win! Send me a PM with your email! More info on the series here:  www.elenahartwell.com

 

 

 

Elena Hartwell author photo with horse

 

 

Elena 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.

Elena has more than twenty years of teaching experience and now works one-on-one with writers as a manuscript consultant and writing coach.

She lives in North Bend, Washington, with her husband, 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 nearby stables, playing with her horses.

For more information about Elena, please visit www.elenahartwell.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Becoming a Writer with Kerena Swan

 

 

Kerena Swan image

 

 

Interview

 

What do you do full time?

14 years ago I left a well-paid and secure job as Head of Disability Services for Bedfordshire County Council to start my own company; a care agency supporting children and families with disabilities. It was a scary leap into the unknown and meant investing my own money and a lot of time. For a while I worked full-time as a management consultant during the day and ran the business evenings and weekends, often totalling 70+ hours a week. I expected to have a team of eight carers but now have around ninety staff, including the management team. As I’ve built the business from scratch and have created all the necessary policies and procedures, the service is unique and personal. I have a highly motivated and positive team and together we provide highly valued care to families in need. It’s rewarding and satisfying though can be demanding at times.

 

 

Work Smart Vs Hard Better Process System Procedure Efficiency 3d Illustration

 

 

What’s it like writing with a full time job under a deadline?

I try to take Wednesdays off now and dedicate the day to my writing but it’s disappointing how meetings always seem to crop up on that day. As my company office is set in a large annexe attached to the house I’m always on hand to answer queries or make decisions. It’s convenient being nearby but I never get a proper break so I tend to do most of my writing at the weekends.

 

 

Why do you write?

Writing is no longer a hobby, it’s become an addiction. I’ve spent my career as a social worker and director writing reports, policies, training materials and content for websites. It was only when I was seriously ill in 2016 that I decided I wanted to tick one more thing off my bucket list which was to write a book and get it published. I joined a writing course and from day one I was hooked. I can lose myself for hours when I’m creating a story and am at my happiest when it pulls together. I just wish I’d discovered writing fiction a lot sooner as the market has become saturated with books and is really tough now.

 

 

Work Hard Dream Big written on desert road

 

 

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit” – Richard Back – What does this quote mean to you? 

As I was born in May I’m a Taurus and one of the characteristics is stubbornness. Once I have decided to do something I won’t stop trying until I’ve achieved it. I still feel like an amateur when I read fantastic authors like Robert McCammon or Michael Robotham but I dedicate time to learning as much about the craft of writing as I can. I study books on character arcs, forensics, and story structures. I research everything thoroughly and have learned how bodies decompose, what patterns blood spatters make and ten ways to bury a body. My husband is alarmed by my searches on the iPad and said I must never write about making bombs or we’ll have the terrorist squad knocking our door down.

I’ve always enjoyed learning and it doesn’t matter how good I am at something I believe there is always room for improvement so will study everything I can on the subject. It feels weird to think of myself as a professional writer but I suppose I am as I’ve earned a little money at it. I’m a long way from earning enough to live on though, so won’t be giving up the day job!

 

 

Metal Wheel Concept

 

 

What are you currently working on?

I’ve just finished the final proof-read of my third novel, a psychological thriller Scared to Breathe, which is being released on the 3rd June. My second novel, a social crime story called Who’s There? was declined by my current publisher as it didn’t quite fit their lists but is being considered by agents. I’m currently writing my fourth novel, Not My Sister, which was inspired by a news article about a woman who took a DNA test and discovered she wasn’t related to her family. It’s another psychological thriller with twists and turns and I’m about a third of the way through the first draft. I have a contract with my publisher for it and hope to release it by the end of the year.

 

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Scared to Breath image

 

 

When Tasha witnesses a stabbing at the train station in Luton, she is compelled to give evidence in court that leads to Dean Rigby being convicted. But when Lewis, Dean’s brother, vows revenge, Tasha is afraid and no longer feels safe in her own home.

Tasha’s partner, Reuben, hopes to marry her and start a family soon. But Reuben is concerned about Tasha’s state of mind and urges her to see a doctor.

When Tasha is left a derelict country house by her birth father, she sees an opportunity to escape Luton and start a new life. After visiting Black Hollow Hall she sees it as the perfect opportunity to live a life without fear.

At first Tasha feels liberated from her troubles. The gardener, William, who is partially paralysed but employed to maintain the grounds of Black Hollow Hall, is welcoming.

But soon Tasha realises the Hall is not quite the idyll she imagined.

When she discovers that a woman jumped to her death there years ago following the murder of her husband, strange events begin to take place and Tasha fears for her safety.

Have the Rigby family found her?
Is someone trying to scare her into selling the house?
Or is she suffering from paranoia as Reuben suggests?

As Tasha’s sanity is put under pressure she begins to wonder if Black Hollow Hall going to be her salvation or her undoing…

 

Extract of Scared to Breathe

 

The sooner I get the door or window fastened the sooner I can get back into the safety of my bed. Huh. Who am I kidding? Only children believe blankets offer security. I cross the hall and enter the small sitting room then through to the library. Nearly there. A draught of cold air wraps itself around my feet and I shiver, goosebumps rising on my arms and legs. It’s so dark, as though all the colours of the daytime have been layered one over the other like printing ink until the only colour left is black. The lantern barely lights a foot in front of me. Maybe Reuben was right. I should have gone back to Luton, at least until the overhead lighting is sorted.

The tall French window smashes into the wall again and this time glass shatters. Damn. I hasten across the room to secure the door to prevent any more panes breaking but before I get there I spring away to my right as something moves to the left of me. Still backing away, I bring the lantern round to see what it was. Or who…

The light from two tiny candles is pitiful. It barely penetrates the darkness but I’m too afraid to step forward again.

‘Who’s there?’ I can’t help asking.

No one answers. Of course they don’t. The storm continues to rage outside and gusts of air surge through the open door making the candles flicker. Making the shadows flicker too. Was that what I’d seen? Am I literally afraid of my own shadow now? I step to the door and with glass crunching underfoot I reach for the handle. It’s cold and wet in my sweaty palm. I’m exposed here and the rain soaks into my wrap while the strong wind flaps it around my legs. I scrape the soles of my slippers on the door sill to dislodge any fragments of glass then drag the door shut. I click the latch then test it to see if it holds. It seems fine but I puzzle over why I couldn’t open it earlier. The wind continues to throw rain through the broken pane but I’ll have to sort it out in the morning.

As I turn back to face the room a sudden flash lights up the wall of the library and I see a man-shaped shadow. My shock turns into a scream then I run, the poker bashing painfully on my shin and my wet slippers skidding on the wooden flooring as I bolt through the sitting room doorway. I catch my shoulder on the frame and pain erupts down my arm. A door creaks behind me but I don’t stop. I weave in and out of the furniture in the drawing room and rush into the dining room. The candle flames gutter and die as they drown in liquid wax. I slam the door behind me and throw the poker and lamp on the floor then grab a dining chair and tilt it, ramming it under the door handle.

It isn’t enough. One push from the other side of the door would send it flying across the room. The chest of drawers. They’ll be better. My breath’s coming in short gasps now and sweat trickles down my sides. My left arm feels numb. I run to the chest of drawers and lean all my weight into it, pushing it across the floor. The feet scratch the polished wood but I don’t care. It crashes into the dining chair sending it skittering away. With the furniture positioned across the doorway I turn and look wildly around. I need something else to go across the other doorway that leads to the kitchen but no. It won’t work. This one opens outwards.

Under the bed.

No. Too obvious.

The cupboard.

I grab my thin duvet and rush to the huge sideboard. I open one of the doors and crawl inside, grateful I’ve emptied it of old rubbish, and tuck the cover under and around my sodden robe. I find a screw head on the inside of the cupboard door and use it to pull the door shut. I wrap my arms around my knees and hunch into as tiny a ball as possible. I rock slowly back and forth, blood pounding through my veins. I’m trembling all over.

I listen.

Nothing.

I put my head on my knees, silent tears soaking into the thin duvet and then lift my head in horror.

I can hear the unmistakable sound of laughter. Deep and male. There’s no doubt about it now. I’m not going crazy or suffering from paranoia. There’s someone in the house.

 

 

 

Kerena Swan image

 

 

Kerena lives on the Bedfordshire/Buckingham border with her husband, son and two cats. She also has two daughters and two granddaughters.

‘Dying to See You’ is Kerena’s first novel, Her second book ‘Scared to Breathe is being released on 3rd June 2019. Drawing on her extensive knowledge and experience in the problematic world of social work, Kerena adds a unique angle to the domestic noir genre.

 

Website | Amazon | Goodreads | Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Motivating Factor By Daniella Bernett

Criminal Motive concept

 

 

The Motivating Factor

By Daniella Bernett

 

What is crime?

It begins as a kernel of an idea that metamorphoses itself into a series of thoughts that lead to a transgression against the law and, sometimes, the taking of a human life. It upsets the balance in a safe and ordered world. But this turmoil and chaos are precisely what an author craves and desperately needs when guiding the reader down the dark twists and turns—and dare I say dead ends?—of a mystery or thriller. But before an author can permit his or her imagination to completely unravel the tale one tantalizing layer at a time, there must be a reason, a motive. Without a motive, there would be no story because there would be no crime.

Motive is just as critical as character. A reader must suspend belief for a time and think, “This could happen.” “This person could be real.” For a story to have an air of authenticity, it is essential that an author thoroughly understand the criminal’s, and the sleuth’s, mindset before sitting down to write.

 

 

 

Criminal Mind sign blue sky image.jpeg

 

 

 

In life, each one of us is shaped by the myriad people with whom we come into contact; the situations in which we find ourselves; and the opportunities we’re given or let slip through our fingers. It is this confluence of factors, combined with our inherent nature and temperament, which make us unique. So too must it be in a mystery. One character’s motives are different from another’s because of his or her reactions to a particular situation, whether it be a perceived slight, a kind gesture or downright duplicity.

Among the juicy plethora of motives for murder tucked in an author’s arsenal are love (both romantic and unrequited); jealousy; greed; revenge; blackmail; and insanity. I must admit I find insanity (although terrifying) a boring motive. Rather than devising a knotty reason for the crime, an author is taking the easy road by suggesting the killer could not help himself or herself. I believe it is much more fun coming up with a complex motive, or even better a melding of motives, and then leading the reader on a merry chase for the clues. It’s wicked, but quite necessary, to coax the dear reader down a few blind alleys. A red herring or two simply adds a smidgen of spice to the story and keeps it hurtling forward to a dramatic (and one hopes satisfying) denouement. On the same token, a sleuth’s motive is to seek justice—whether for the victim or society as a whole—to ensure that someone pays for the crime.

 

 

 

Stop Crime

 

 

 

My series features journalist Emmeline Kirby as the sleuth. The core fabric of her being is finding the truth and seeing that justice is served. For her, it is anathema to allow a murderer or any other criminal to go free. Although noble and admirable, these motives at times have so consumed her that it has made her heedless of danger and plunged her into some harrowing predicaments. This impetuous streak is aided and abetted by Emmeline’s short temper. I mention this to highlight the human foibles to which all characters must succumb to make the story plausible. If readers can recognize and immediately relate to a character’s motives, the author has succeeded in making a connection.

My other protagonist is Gregory Longdon, a dashing jewel thief who is a gentleman at heart. Where to begin with Gregory? Is he a criminal or a sleuth? Well, the answer is a bit of both. His past is steeped in so many secrets and he’s trying to keep them from seeing the light of day. As opposed to Emmeline, he is not above stretching the truth upon occasion. Meanwhile wielding a rapier wit and charm, he takes tremendous pleasure in needling long-suffering Chief Inspector Oliver Burnell of Scotland Yard. Poor Burnell knows, without any doubt whatsoever, that Gregory has been responsible for a string of notorious jewel robberies in the U.K. and across Europe, but he has never been able to catch him red-handed. Burnell will never give up, though. His mission in life is to make sure that Gregory winds up as a guest of Her Majesty’s prison system. However while Gregory enjoys the thrill of the chase, one thing he could never condone is murder. Therefore, he is more than willing to offer his criminal—skills shall we say?—to help Emmeline and Burnell search for the culprit. After all, who better than a criminal to instantly understand the devious workings of another criminal’s mind.

What the author must remember is that humans are curious creatures. Readers must know why. You have to play on this thirst for answers to conjure up a nuanced motive that is at once intriguing but grounded in reason. A reason that at least your criminal rationalizes as justification for taking that fatal next step. If done with loving care and attention to detail, the reader will eagerly follow the story into the world of lawlessness, mayhem and murder that has risen like the phoenix from the smoldering ashes of your imagination.

 

 

 

Daniella Bernett Author Photo

 

 

Daniella Bernett is a member of the Mystery Writers of America New York Chapter. She graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in Journalism from St. John’s University. Lead Me Into Danger, Deadly Legacy, From Beyond The Grave and A Checkered Past are the first four books in the Emmeline Kirby-Gregory Longdon mystery series. She also is the author of two poetry collections, Timeless Allure and Silken Reflections. In her professional life, she is the research manager for a nationally prominent engineering, architectural and construction management firm. Daniella is currently working on Emmeline and Gregory’s next adventure.

Visit www.daniellabernett.com or follow her on Facebook or on Goodreads.

 

 

Historical Mystery with Karen Charlton Author of the Detective Lavender Series

Murder in Park Lane image

 

 

London, 1812. At a fashionable address in leafy Mayfair, a far cry from Detective Stephen Lavender’s usual haunts, a man is found dead in his room. He has been brutally stabbed, but the door is locked from the inside and the weapon is missing.

The deceased is David MacAdam, an Essex businessman with expensive tastes. As Lavender and Constable Ned Woods travel between London and Chelmsford seeking to understand MacAdam’s final hours and unearth the grisly truth, they uncover a tangled web of deceit behind his stylish facade. The unusual circumstances of MacAdam’s death are nothing compared to the shady nature of his life and it seems the house on Park Lane is at the heart of a dark conspiracy.

But when a second body turns up, everything they think they’ve learned is thrown into doubt. Can Lavender and Woods find out who’s behind these shocking murders before more lives are ruined?

 

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Interview

 

What motivated you to begin writing historical mysteries?


Many moons ago, I used to write murder mystery weekends for Raven Hall Hotel near Scarborough and I’d always been interested in crime fiction. While researching my husband’s family ancestors we discovered that he had a Regency gaol-bird roosting in his family tree; his 6 x Great-grandfather was Northumberland’s most notorious burglar. Following a massive robbery at Kirkley Hall and a very controversial trial, Jamie Charlton he was finally sentenced to transportation to New South Wales. I quickly realised that if I didn’t write about this miscarriage of justice in book, I would never fulfil my ambition to be a writer because the perfect plot had just landed in my lap. I wrote Jamie’s story in my debut novel, Catching the Eagle.

While researching this first novel, I was fascinated to discover that a Bow Street Principal Officer called Stephen Lavender had been brought up from London to investigate the Kirkley Hall Mystery. I had no idea at the time that Bow Street officers were hired out like private investigators to solve mysteries in the provinces. When it came to choosing a detective for a new crime series set in Regency London, Lavender was the perfect choice. I’d become quite fond of him and his genial sidekick, Constable Ned Woods and especially enjoyed writing the banter between the two men.

 

 

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What impressed you to write about Detective Stephen Lavender?

I enjoy writing about a real officer who was busy solving crime at the start of the nineteenth century. This was an age without forensics and fingerprints; crimes were solved with intelligent deduction and steady, plodding police work that left no stone unturned. I’ve found a lot of information about Lavender and his cases reported in the newspapers of the time and sometimes the real-life crimes he solved have inspired the plot of my novels.


 

What was the historical background of London 1812?


1812, the year of Murder in Park Lane, the fifth novel in the series was in the era we call the The Regency Period.  Mad King George III was the King and Napoleon Bonaparte was still terrorising Europe although Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington, was now chasing him out of the Iberian Peninsula back to Paris. It was an era of dashing, scarlet-clad cavalry officers, women in pretty bonnets and floaty muslin gowns and a massive expansion of the British Empire. We’d lost the American colonies but Britain still had India and the powerful East India Company was opening up the Asian sub-continent, stripping it of its riches and shipping them back to London in massive cargo ships.  London was the biggest and richest city in the world and the British navy dominated the high seas.

 

 

 

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Who is David MacAdam and what role does he play in the story?


David MacAdam, an Essex businessman with expensive tastes, is the victim in Murder in Park Lane. His body is found in mysterious circumstances in his bed chamber in a lodging house in leafy Mayfair. He’d been stabbed to death but his door was locked on the inside and there was no sign of the murder weapon in the room. But as Lavender and Woods soon discover, the unusual circumstances of MacAdam’s death are nothing compared to the shady nature of his life and it seems the house on Park Lane is at the heart of a dark conspiracy. MacAdam was a man of secrets.

 

 

What is Park Lane?

Park Lane is a major road in the City of Westminster in London. It runs from Hyde Park Corner in the south to Marble Arch in the north. Hyde Park was opened in the 16th century for wealthy Londoners to enjoy and the houses that overlook it on Park Lane have been some of the most-sought after properties in London ever since. Park Lane is the second most expensive property on the London Monopoly board.

 

 

 

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What was the police department like during this time period?

There was no official police force in the United Kingdom at this time. The British police force wasn’t formed until 1829.  In the Regency Period, crimes were usually investigated by local magistrates and a few police constables attached to their office. They used the reward system or a string of informers (usually fellow criminals) to track down the villains but both of these systems were notoriously unreliable and justice wasn’t always achieved or fair in Britain at this time. The officers at Bow Street Magistrates’ Court and Police Office in London had the best reputation in the country for crime solving and, as I’ve explained above, their Principal Officers, including Stephen Lavender, were often hired out to help provincial magistrates or wealthy private landowners solve difficult crimes.

 

 

Tell us some interesting facts from researching for Murder in Park Lane.

While researching the manufacture and export ready-to-wear male garments for this novel, I was particularly intrigued by the sheer scale of trade between Britain and the United States during this period when we were supposed to be at war with each other (The War of 1812).

As most lovers of Regency fiction will be aware, women’s fashion of this era was highly ornate and dependent on a precise fit, so ready-to-wear garments for women weren’t widely available. However, the relatively simple, flattering cuts and muted tones of men’s fashion made proportionate sizing possible in mass production. I learnt from my research that by the late 1700s, the English city of Bristol, was home to over 200 businesses that exported hats, gloves, drawers, pants, stockings, shirts, jackets, and footwear, mostly to the United States. When you consider the vast array of other businesses manufacturing items for export to America in Bristol – and in London and the other cities of Britain – the breathtaking scale of our trans-Atlantic trade becomes clear.

 

 

 

 

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About Karen Charlton

 

Karen Charlton writes historical mystery and is also the author of a nonfiction genealogy book, ‘Seeking Our Eagle,’ and the joint author of the cosy chicklit series, ‘The Silver Sex Kittens’. She has published short stories and numerous articles and reviews in newspapers and magazines. An English graduate and ex-teacher,
Karen has led writing workshops and has spoken at a series of literary events across the North of England, where she lives. Karen now writes full-time and is currently working on the sixth Detective Lavender Mystery for Thomas & Mercer.

A stalwart of the village pub quiz and a member of a winning team on the BBC quiz show ‘Eggheads’, Karen also enjoys the theatre, and she won a Yorkshire Tourist Board award for her Murder Mystery Weekends.

Find out more about Karen’s work at http://www.karencharlton.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Close up of angry man with steam coming out from his ears

 

 

 

*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.

 

 

 

Gretta Mulrooney Author Photo png

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

YOUR LAST LIE cover

 

 

 

Amazon | Goodreads | Website

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing Historical Mystery with Rhys Bowen

Rhys in LA 2006

 

 

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.

 

 

Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding ebook image

 

 

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…

 

Amazon | Goodreads | Audible

 

 

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

 

 

 

Research text on keyboard button

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Wedding engagement pic

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

west dean

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Champagne wedding

 

 

 

What’s next for you?

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

 

Victory Garden image

 

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

 

 

Lynn Constantine image

 

 

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.

 

 

 

The Last Time I Saw you image

 

 

 

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.

 

Amazon | Goodreads | Website

 

 

 

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

 

stevenjames.net

 

thestoryblender.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Interview with Scott Bell Author of the Abel Yeager Thrillers

Yeagers Getaway image

 

 

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.

 

Amazon | Goodreads

 

 

 

Scott Bell image

 

 

*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.

 

 

Endless Road under a dramatic sky

 

 

 

*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.

 

 

The Internet Navigator

 

 

 

*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.

 

 

Point of view through object.jpeg

 

 

 

*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.

 

 

 

Scott Bell image

 

 

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

 

 

MTW 2019 Facebook Event Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Interview with Morgan Summer Author of the Jean Stone Crime Series

Jean Crime mysteries image

 

 

 

*What do you love most about mysteries and thrillers?

The edge of your seat feeling you get while reading through the pages to discover who done it.

 

*What’s it like writing your own?

Nerve wracking, but fun all at the same time using my imagination to bring my stories to life.

 

*How did you come up with the name Jean Stone for your story?

It came to me a few days after I began writing the book. Jean is my grandmother’s name, my mom’s middle name, and my mother in law’s name. I found out later that my grandmother’s last name, Raulston is derived from the ancestral version of Raulstone. It was meant to be.

 

 

light bulb cable idea

 

 

 

*Can you tell us a little more about the setting?

A small rural town in Texas at a local high school nestled in the piney woods. It has aspects of my hometown and many other places I lived around the state of Texas. Jean is a new high school science teacher who has found herself stuck in the middle of a mystery at Harmony High School.

 

 

 

Texas Patriotic Map in White Wood Board Textured

 

 

 

*Why did you choose an amateur sleuth?

Jean finds herself in the middle of a mystery. Utilizing her educational background in forensics, she is able to put her skills to use. It is a way for self-discovery, here she sharpens her skills and learns as she goes.

 

 

虫眼鏡を持った男性,たくさんの本

 

 

*What makes her a good one?

Her passion, her desire for the truth and to save a student of hers from harm.

 

*What separates a decent mystery from a great one?

A decent mystery is either too slow in the story or not building enough anticipation to where it falls flat while a great one moves at a decent pace building up the momentum to knock your socks off!

 

*Who are your favorite mystery, crime writers?

Peter James, Patricia Cornwell, James Patterson

 

*What’s up next for you?

I have about 20 books outlined for the Jean Stone Crime Series, Book 2 is in storyboarding and Book 3 is in pre-production plus I am working on a young adult unnamed mystery series inspired by my daughter.

 

Thanks Morgan!

 

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

 

 

MTW 2019 Facebook Event Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Books and headphones. Concept of listening to audiobooks.

 

 

 

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

 

 

Tina Dietz image

 

Tina Dietz: Website

 

 

 

Attractive young man wearing glasses casual clothes.Man sitting in vintage armchair modern loft studio and relaxing whith headphone music.Panoramic windows on blurred background.Horizontal.