Monday, March 30, 2009

Hodgepodge of Information

blog22 I’ve been really slammed with writing lately, but I have come across several interesting blog posts that I thought I’d share here.

The first is a guest post by Veronica Heley on the So You Wanna Be Published blog regarding the need for great back cover copy (even if you’re in the manuscript-pitching stage) and some tips for writing it.

Agent Rachelle Gardner's blog discusses preparing yourself for success—what being a successful writer entails (expect a major time crunch), and questions you may want to consider to help yourself be more organized/professional in your approach.

The Mysterious Matters blog has been a treasure trove of information for mystery writers lately.  Among them: advice for writers from editors, publicists, cover designers, etc. , ten mystery characters this editor would like to see retired , and this editor's thoughts on various mystery sub-genres.

Vivian Zabel weighs in on the Make Mine Mystery blog about some pitfalls she encounters in some mystery novels. 

The Blood-Red Pencil takes on showing, not telling. 

Et in Arcaedia, Ego has been posting an interesting series, “Letters from the Query Wars.” 

Friday, March 27, 2009

Genre-Switching Debate


Rachelle Gardner's blog recently discussed switching genres.  She contends that you can’t be successful in publishing if you change genres.  She recommends specializing in one particular area.

I'm not sure that I agree.  I've read several authors who write under different names for different genres (Marion Chesney/M.C. Beaton is one).  Plus, I personally know authors that have left one genre for another and write under their own names.  If I'm a reader and I'm following a particular writer, I may be interested in switching genres to see how the author handles a different type of series. 

But the article raises a good point; it can help your career to focus your efforts on a particular area/genre.

Picking your genre:

First of all, you need to look at what you usually read.  Is your nightstand stacked with thrillers?  Or do you lean towards police procedurals and cozies?  I’m you’re more familiar with the plot structure of one particular mystery genre, that’s the one you’ll likely have an easier time writing.

Second, how much research are you willing to put into your book?  Be truthful with yourself: do you have a lot of hours to sink into ballistics and forensics research?  It's important for your information to be correct.  All mysteries require some degree of research--whether finding out how the structure of a small-town police station, or discovering how long it takes certain poisons to begin working.  If you sign yourself up for a Patricia Cornwell or P.D. James-style book, make sure you have enough time to devote to getting all your facts straight. 

Third, what's your comfort-level with writing graphic material?  If you're not comfortable lending your name to a book with excessive bloodshed, expletives, or lurid sex scenes, your discomfort will likely come through your writing to your readers. Choose a genre with content that's easier for you to successfully portray. 

Last weekend our guest blogger was J.A. Konrath.  He made a switch from humorous mysteries to dark thrillers---he did, however, use a pen name for the new series.  He didn’t want the readers who expected a funny read to accidentally end up with a frightening book like Afraid.  He has heavily cross-promoted the new series on his website, though, which has encouraged many readers who follow his lighter, more humorous books to try something different with an author they enjoy.  He may be experiencing the best of both worlds. 

Next blog, I’ll take a look at the clues and red herrings of another mystery and deconstruct what made it work.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Guest Blogger Jack Kilborn (a.k.a. JA Konrath)

blog18 Today we welcome our guest blogger, Jack Kilborn (pseudonym for JA Konrath), whose new release Afraid will hit the shelves March 31.  Click here to read a sample.  Be sure to check out Joe’s popular blog—a must for writers--A Newbie's Guide to Publishing.  The month of March has meant a whirlwind blog tour for Joe—he’s visiting several different blogs every single day of March.  Wonder if it’s working?  He reports that on March 1, Google had 68,400 listings of his name; on March 19th, the same search brought up 79,000 hits.

Thanks to Joe for stopping by.

Do you outline or wing it?  Or a combination of the two?
Sometimes my contract requires I turn in an outline in order to get paid. While outlines are useful, and make the book easier to write, I prefer winging it. But I always have notes nearby, reminding me which scene comes next, where to add clues and reveals, that sort of thing.

Do you occasionally get writer’s block?  How do you work through it?
Never. Getting a paycheck is a powerful motivator.
There are times where I don't feel like writing, but what does that matter? If you work in an office, can you avoid going in just because you don't feel like it?
If you're truly tortured by writers block, and getting words down is absolute agony, consider doing something else less painful with your time.

What type of writing schedule do you follow each day?
If I'm on a deadline, I write up to fourteen hours a day. If I'm in between books, or working on something not yet under contract, I spend about three hours a day writing, and five or six doing promo stuff--blogging, updating social networks, etc.

Are you working on something now?
I'm finishing the rewrite for TRAPPED, the second Jack Kilborn horror novel, and also working on a stand alone novel and a few short stories.

Any tips for successfully writing suspense?
I'll tell you tomorrow. :)

What was behind your decision to use a pseudonym for your new series?
A new genre means a new demographic and readers. While the Jack Daniels thrillers I write under the name JA Konrath have some scares in them, they're also filled with laughs. The Jack Kilborn books are scare-machines, no laughs at all. While some of the Konrath fans will also like the Kilborn books, a lot of them won't, and vice versa. So it's best to keep the brands separate.
Remember that books are a commodity, like cars or white bread. Branding is important, and the goal is to establish a connection in a customer's mind between an author and a certain type of book. JA Konrath is funny but scary. Jack Kilborn is all scary. If I ever do something all funny, I'll have to invent a new name...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Closer Look: Clues and Red Herrings in MURDER AT THE VICARAGE--Spoilers

Murder at the Vicarage: A Miss Marple Mystery (Agatha Christie Collection)Judging from the interest I've noted on posts about planting clues, I thought we could take a closer look at several mysteries….the clues and red herrings that make them such intriguing reads.

Because most current mystery writers would not be pleased at having spoilers on their books posted, I’m going to focus my efforts on the late, great Agatha Christie. Obviously, if you’re interested in reading these books (highly recommended), and don’t want to know the endings, read no further.

Today I’m focusing on Murder at the Vicarage by Christie. It’s one in her Miss Marple series. An excellent example of an early cozy mystery, it’s set in the fictitious village St. Mary Mead. Here, we’re introduced to a limited number of suspects, all with intimate knowledge of the victim: Colonel Protheroe.

Followers of Christie and Miss Marple may note that Miss Marple is a little more abrasive than in later novels.

The Murderer and His Motive:

  • Artist Lawrence Redding, who was having an affair with the Colonel’s wife. He killed the Colonel to ensure that his wife would become a wealthy woman (and,he hopes, marry him.)

Red Herrings:

  • Redding actually confessed to the murder (in an apparent, but false, attempt to “protect” another suspect). He was cleared of the murder, based on the time the coroner placed the murder. In fact, he was working with a partner--his lover, Mrs. Protheroe, who committed the crime while her partner had an alibi.
  • Mrs.Protheroe also confesses to the murder towards the beginning of the book (in a very unbelievable manner.) Consequently, the police believe that Mrs. Protheroe has confessed merely to win the freedom of her lover, Redding. Redding arranges an alibi to protect her from suspicion.


  • Redding puts the pistol in a potted plant outside the door to the Vicarage for Mrs. Protheroe to pick up immediately before the murder. Miss Marple realizes it would make the perfect place to hide a weapon for a partner.
  • No purse for the Colonel’s wife as she walked toward the vicarage (to prove to witness Miss Marple that she has no weapon on her person.) The absence of the purse was odd to Miss Marple.
  • Redding needed to have a second shot fired to create an alibi for Mrs. Protheroe. He rigs a rock to fall to create an explosion, or "shot." When discovered, he tells the person he's collecting a rock for Miss Marple's garden. Miss Marple realizes he clearly wouldn't have imagined she needed such a large stone for her garden...and starts to wonder.
  • It's established that Redding was an excellent amateur actor. He called the vicar, pretending to be a woman who needed him to call on her...drawing him away from the vicarage so Redding could murder the Colonel, who had an appointment with the vicar.
  • Miss Marple finds it strange that Redding and Mrs. Protheroe appear very light-hearted when she sees them departing from Redding's studio. They were supposed to be breaking off their affair, by request of the vicar who wanted them to do the right thing. In fact, they've just killed the Colonel and are attempting not to reflect the turbulent emotions they're feeling (they're completely aware that Miss Marple is the town's busybody and will be looking out her window.)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

End Game

blog16 Things are really moving along with the production of my book, Pretty is as Pretty Dies. My publisher, Midnight Ink, will be releasing the book August 1st.

In the meantime, there's a lot going on behind the scenes. I've spoken with the publicity department at Midnight Ink and they laid out the marketing plan (already underway). The trade magazines/reviewers will be getting ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) within the week.

I've made requested revisions and clarifications and submitted my bio.

And, yesterday, I emailed my editor my dedication page and acknowledgment page text. While writing my acknowledgment page, I came across some interesting articles on the subject (some recent, some not-so.) Moonrat gives acknowledgments her OK, but references an article by Jonathan Black from the "American Spectator" in which he disagrees with her. I also came across an old post on Black Table which humorously disses acknowledgments.

I've read some interesting blogs lately, and thought I'd round them up for you for your perusal:

The Mystery Reader's Bill of Rights on Mysterious Matters.

The Blood-Red Pencil on finding your writer's voice.

Post MFA on reaching back in time (waayy back) to remember your natural sense of story.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Do You Twitter?

Aswivel s many of you know, blogging, Twittering/Tweeting, and Facebook-ing can add a major time-sucking element to your day. can be useful in both the networking sense and as a way to glean great information.

I don't Twitter, actually, (but will likely start soon) but am planning on following one particular group: check this out--a bunch of agents, book editors, and periodical acquisition editors will be Tweeting on their queries in real-time.  They're intending on offering useful advice instead of mocking inept query writers.