Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Talking to Book Clubs

uwharrie I’m looking forward to meeting with a book club tonight at Uwharrie Books in Locust, North Carolina.

Book clubs are usually a lot more fun for me than signings. At most signings, the folks who come into the bookstore have no idea who you are (unless they’ve come out specifically to see you) and may not be interested in the types of books you write.

At a book club, you’ve got a group of people who’ve chosen your book to read. And the sales pressure is off, which is always a real relief. They’ve (usually) read your book and are eager to talk to you about it.

Usually book clubs fall into two different groups—the kind that takes a more casual approach where you participate as a book club member—by sitting as part of the group, listening to the discussion, and answering any questions the readers have about why you chose to send the plot in a particular direction or what inspired a particular character.

The other kind wants you to talk a little about your book—the inspiration for it, the challenges and fun of writing it, and things like cover selection, etc. and then open it up to questions.

I usually come prepared for either one. :)

I hear sometimes from authors who are interested in reaching out to book clubs and aren’t sure how to find them. Good places to check are usually libraries (my local branch has a book club that focuses on mysteries), bookstores (which frequently have book clubs meet in their cafes—and Borders has recently made a public drive to attract book clubs to its stores), churches, and clubhouses for different subdivisions.

Things I’ve discovered from talking at book clubs:

Find out if you should bring anything. I’ve been to book clubs where everyone brought food. They probably would tell me not to bring food, but I feel funny not bringing anything with me when everyone else is.

Bring bookmarks, postcards, and other small giveaways. Individually-wrapped chocolates and mints are always popular. :)

Consider doing a door prize giveaway for one book club member to win.

Bring a sign up sheet for your email newsletter, if you have one.

Consider bringing a cheat sheet with your book’s characters on it. I hate to admit it, but sometimes when I’m on the spot, I’ve been known to forget a minor character’s name. It doesn’t look good for someone else to know your book better than you do.

Be prepared that someone might not like your book and will talk about why they didn’t. It’s tough, but learn to accept it and not get defensive.

Be prepared for the book club to find deeper meaning in your book than you intended. :) It’s happened to me a couple of times and I loved their ideas about my book,although symbolism wasn’t my intention. A lot of book clubs are used to reading literary fiction.

Be prepared to talk succinctly about what you’re working on next.

Have you ever spoken to a book club or belonged to one where authors spoke? How did it go?

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Boulevard of Broken Dreams…for Writers

Portrait of Ivan Pavlov--1935--Mikhail Vasilyevich Nesterov One thing that I noticed during my book tour was how many people would like to be writers or authors.

A couple of times, writers approached our table at signings. They wanted to know our secrets for getting an agent or getting a publisher. And, yes, the word “secret” was actually used by one of the people.

My mind boggled a little at the thought of boiling all the publishing advice down into the quick sound bite they seemed to be looking for. Avery Aames, who was with me, was very good to point to helpful reference guides for writers— Literary Marketplace (which you can also get an online subscription to) and Writers Market, and the need to direct queries to the right agent instead of doing a blanket search.

I was glad Avery jumped in because honestly, I’m not sure how I would have answered that question in less than twenty minutes (which was time I didn’t have.)

Thinking on it now, I’d also recommend that people read books in the genre they’re writing to make sure they’re in line with the market expectations for the genre, read industry-related blogs—written by agents and editors as well as writers, that they find an objective person to help critique their work, and that they learn how to write a query letter from sites like Query Shark, The Rejector, Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent, and Pub Rants. This is all assuming they’ve really got their manuscript in excellent, submission-ready shape.

Avery also mentioned the need to develop a thick skin and persevere, which I thought was a very good point. She and I both got our share of rejections before landing our agents and publishers (I was actually rejected at least once by the agent I currently have.)

Avery might disagree, but I thought the writers looked a little disappointed with her on-target advice…and maybe were hoping for a magic bullet. Sad to say, there really isn’t one—it’s just a combination of luck, perseverance, research, and practicing the craft.

Then there were people I’ve spoken to recently who’ve looked at me sadly and said they always wanted to be a writer.

For those folks, I’m quick to respond, but I think I need to develop a more sympathetic approach. Actually, my approach is more reproach. If you’ve always wanted to write, you should write! It may not be the luxury of hours of writing (it’s not for me), but you can fit in ten to fifteen minutes a day if you really want to. That’s exactly what I did seven years ago with Sesame Street playing in the background as I scratched together a first draft. If you write a page a day, you can have a first draft in less than a year.

And these people clearly wanted to write. They really looked like they were on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams when they were talking to me about their hope of writing.

Plus—they spoke in the past tense as if it was too late to try to write. It’s never too late. I’ve not seen a single agent or editor who wants to know how old we are in our query letter. All they care about is a good story. It is too late, though, if we’re dead before we try to pen something. And then that is a shame.

What advice do you have for people looking for an agent or publisher? And what do you tell people who say they always wanted to write (because I think I need some sensitivity training for that second question.) :)

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Terry3 Here are writing links that I’ve posted to Twitter for the past week. (And there are fewer tweets—I went on a Tweetcation while I was out of town.) :) If you’re looking for a particular topic, just plug in your keyword into the search box at the top left-hand corner of the blog (on the black header right above my blog name…next to the Blogger symbol…the small search window is next to the magnifying glass) and the roundup with your subject will come up. To narrow your search down on the page, do a CTRL+F, type your subject, and hit enter.

Create a Web Banner in Microsoft Word: http://dld.bz/s6bW

Elevate Your Ending: http://dld.bz/s6bQ

6 Steps to a Prettier Blog (sans designer): http://dld.bz/s6bK

The Irony of Impossible: http://dld.bz/s6bG

10 Sunday Night Blues Busters for a Better Monday Morning: http://dld.bz/s6aU

How to Crush It As a Writer: The ‘Weird’ Trick: http://dld.bz/s6aT

Best Articles This Week for Writers 8/27/2010: http://dld.bz/tBMZ @4KidLit

Are you benefiting from the intimacy of pronouns? http://dld.bz/s6aG

Writers--what's your specialty? http://dld.bz/tByS

The Death of Print Publishing: http://dld.bz/s6a9

How the media gets it wrong: http://dld.bz/tBy3 @victoriastrauss

The elevator pitch: http://dld.bz/s6av

A Post About Plotting: http://dld.bz/s6aq

Dealing With Rejection And Moving On: http://dld.bz/s6aj

The Writer Olympics: http://dld.bz/s6ah

Revisions are a messy but necessary beast: http://dld.bz/s6aw

How Can Writers Know if Their Writing Is Ready For Querying? http://dld.bz/s5ZQ

What Fiction Writers Blog About: http://dld.bz/s5YA

Windows and Mirrors: Stories That Cross Borders: http://dld.bz/s5ZP

23 (More) Websites that Make Your Writing Stronger: http://dld.bz/s5ZE

How To Be A Completely Authentic Tweep (Without Sending People Screaming in the Opposite Direction) http://dld.bz/s5Z4

Are You Ready To Submit Your Novel? http://dld.bz/rHmu and http://dld.bz/s5Z2

When Christian fiction becomes preachy: http://dld.bz/s5Zd

Do e-readers mean more book reading? http://bit.ly/b9EaWE @MermaidHel

Five Simple Things Agents Can Do To Make Writers' Lives Easier (and Three Things Writers Should Do Regardless): http://dld.bz/s5Zc

The Query Critique Group: http://dld.bz/s5YY

Ten Reasons To Keep Writing: http://dld.bz/s5YT

Keywords: A writer’s guide to attracting more traffic to your blog: http://dld.bz/s5YC

Writing -- When Things Go Wrong: http://dld.bz/s5Y8

How Important is Blogging For Unpublished Writers? http://dld.bz/s5Y2

9 Ways to Use Social Media to Inspire Your Writing: http://dld.bz/s5Yn

The Two Laws for In-Person Critique: http://dld.bz/s5Yj

The importance of having our characters *want* something: http://dld.bz/s5Yd

Better to wine than to whine: http://dld.bz/sxGs

Untying the knot while weaving the tapestry of a novel: http://dld.bz/s4pB

The Key to Forming a New Habit: http://dld.bz/sxNx

What is dynamic? http://dld.bz/sxNq

Why digital publishing didn't catch on 10 years ago--and why it might now: http://dld.bz/sxNp

The 5 Best Start Page Services to Start Your MorningThe 5 Best Start Page Services to Start Your Morning: http://dld.bz/sxNe

Today's Tweak: Show Don't Tell: http://dld.bz/sxNa

Writing to meet your Needs: http://dld.bz/sxMX

Writing today for tomorrow's world: http://dld.bz/sxMS

Where We Write: The Merits of Making Do: http://dld.bz/sxMP

Poets & Writers releases list of top 50 MFA programs for 2011: http://dld.bz/ttEx

Agents Tell All at RWA National: http://dld.bz/sxKw

Writing the Basics. Sentence Structure, Paragraph Structure and Why they Matter: http://dld.bz/sxJu

"Delicious and Suspicious" giveaway on The World of Book Reviews blog: http://bit.ly/aFtZie @Babslighthouse

The Changing Face of Publishing: http://dld.bz/sxJn

The Wastefulness of Decluttering; or How to Make Less Count for More: http://dld.bz/sxJm

The tao of novel pacing: http://bit.ly/bmoRUw @HeatherMcCorkle

How to Stay Productive When the Internet Is Down: http://dld.bz/sxJf

Are You Making It Hard for People to Comment on Your Blog? http://dld.bz/sxHQ

60 Tips to Improve Your Nonfiction Writing: http://dld.bz/sxHH

Strengthen your story with proper framing: http://dld.bz/sxHx

Your writing business--tips for running it: http://dld.bz/sxGr

Nurturing talent in writers: http://dld.bz/sxHY

What will future generations of writers relate to? http://dld.bz/sxGh

When You Simply MUST Finish: http://dld.bz/sxGc

5 Time Management Tips for Those Writers & Freelancers Who Can: http://dld.bz/sxFX

When Are Characters Off Limits? http://dld.bz/sxBN

How much do writers make? The Rejecter explains: http://bit.ly/d417ee

How to sign an e-book (Baltimore Sun) : http://dld.bz/sxBu

Crime fiction fashions and trends--do trends affect you, if you're a mystery writer? http://bit.ly/csQtMJ @mkinberg

5 keys to realistic dialogue: http://bit.ly/cuEdjZ @clarissadraper

The Power of an E-mail Network (10 Years in the Making): http://dld.bz/sxBr

Unblock Your Writing Through Visualization: http://dld.bz/sxBm

What Makes a Good First Sentence: http://dld.bz/sxAT

Ten top tips for new writers: http://dld.bz/sxAK

The Perks of Being Unpublished: http://dld.bz/sxAD

Be a better beta: http://dld.bz/sxAA

5 Resources for Tracking Your To-do Lists: http://dld.bz/sxA8

How to Write a Query Letter: http://dld.bz/sxAz @victoriastrauss

The tussle over Barnes & Noble (LA Times): http://dld.bz/sxAv

How To Have Zen In Your Pen Again And Again: http://dld.bz/sxAk

5 tips on using social media to market yourself: http://dld.bz/sx9Z

How to Use Tone To Your Advantage (Zelda Style): http://dld.bz/sx9x

8 Ways Writers Can Push Themselves To Grow: http://dld.bz/sx9t @jodyhedlund

Simple ways to streamline your writing life: http://dld.bz/sx9k @jillkemerer

Voice, voice, voice: http://dld.bz/sx77 @RoniGriffin

Friday, August 27, 2010

What’s Your Specialty?

Kitchen Interior-- 1560's--Joachim Beuckelaer A few times this summer, we’ve gone out to eat with our son and he’s been dissatisfied with his meal.

He was really excited about the food when he ordered it, but when he got the steak from the seafood restaurant, or the seafood salad from the deli, he wasn’t thrilled with the results.

I wasn’t really connecting the dots on my end, either. But finally (I’m slow sometimes) I realized there was a pattern to the problems with his orders. He wasn’t ordering the specialty of the house. Actually, he wasn’t even ordering something that the restaurant was very particularly good at cooking. He was just ordering what he was in the mood to eat.

So I pointed out to him the next time we went out, that if we were at a burger joint, he should get a burger—not a spinach quiche. If we were at a barbeque restaurant, he should get a barbeque sandwich—not the grilled chicken. It was better to order something that played to the restaurant’s strengths to produce more satisfying results.

I think, for a lot of writers, we’ve got a ton of ideas and aren’t sure which to write first. To me, it’s like those restaurants with the huge menus—there are lots of possibilities, but they can’t deliver some things as well as others.

That’s the nice thing about being creative—we get all these great ideas…all the time.

Since I’m focused right now on the projects I’m under contract for, I tend to just jot down these ideas and put them in a Word file for later.

But what if you’re trying to decide what ideas to write? Or even what genre to focus on?

That’s when I think it’s a good idea to play to our strengths.

Of course, every genre has a range of draws for readers and writers. But some genres are better known for some qualities than others. Do you write really riveting action scenes? You probably should focus on a genre like thrillers or fantasy/sci fi that allow you to showcase that talent.

Are your characters your strong point? Do they jump off the page? Choose a genre that’s more character focused and less about nonstop action.

Are you naturally funny and write humor well? Consider focusing on writing a lighter read instead of literary fiction.

That’s definitely not to say that we can’t include a lot of different elements in our books—but maybe we should pick an idea or a genre that really plays to our strengths for our first efforts—and try a more challenging project later.

What’s your specialty of the house?

Marketing vs. Creativity

Gauguins and Connoisseurs at the Stafford Gallery- 1911-Spencer Gore I’ve basically trained myself to be creative on demand—and leave my muse out of the equation all together. Inspiration is too unpredictable—I seem to get better results from just old fashioned perseverance.

But there are times when it’s more difficult to write than others and I wonder if there are other writers out there in the same boat.

I’m going to limit my observations here to genre writing, which is all I’m familiar with. But—and this is a generalization—I think that genre writers are some of the hardest-working folks in the business.

I’m part of a couple of different promotional groups that are made up of genre writers published by big houses. Many of them have more than one series that they’re currently working on. Most are promoting at least one new release while on deadline with at least one book. And they're promoting the heck out of the new release--really strenuous, long-term marketing.

Almost all of them do a lot of sales tracking. And there are plenty of places to track these numbers. Some of them get the numbers directly from their editor (I got a few numbers from mine.) Some subscribe to Publisher’s Alley (and I’ll admit to being a subscriber.) Some even subscribe to Bookscan, which is REALLY pricy. Others look at Amazon and Barnes and Noble sales.

I do some sales tracking. I know enough to know that Delicious and Suspicious is selling well. I know enough to know that my publisher is happy with me.

But when I start doing sales comparisons between other releases or try to figure out where my sales are coming from or how to duplicate it—it just messes me up when I try to segue into a writing session.

I think this is because I’m being analytical—which is something I’m not great at, anyway. Then I try to go from looking at charts and numbers and chart legends—and return to being creative.

It’s hard. Most of the writers I know look to good numbers as validation of their writing talent. Or at numbers as a sign whether their series is going to be continued or not. And they’re still busily working on their next book or coming up with the next series idea while they're tracking sales.

Going from sales figures to creative writing isn’t easy. It’s also not easy to go from reading negative reviews (which happen to all of us) back to writing.

So, for me? I just want to know things in generalizations. Is my publisher happy or unhappy? If they’re unhappy, is there anything I can do to make amends or help out in any way from a marketing perspective?

On my end, I’m just planning to promote as best I can and write as well as I can. Because I think it all boils down to the writing in the end. Readers will buy good books. But I've had plenty of authors look at me askance when I've admitted that sales tracking only makes me feel anxious.

What do you think? If you’re published, do you study sales tracking? Or, if you’re unpublished, is there another factor that messes up your writing mojo?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Writing While Traveling

George Spencer Watson--1869-1934--Four loves I found - a woman, a child, a horse, a hound I was basically out traveling for almost two weeks. But—I still had writing to do.

Actually, while I was gone, I had a call from my agent. I had revision requests on a project I’m working on and she suggested I knock them out in two weeks. That meant that half of that time I would be on the road while working on the edits.

I’ve always been able to work while I’m gone—but I’m not nearly as productive when I’m traveling as when I’m home.

So this is what I did—and I thought it might help y’all out if you’re on a deadline for a manuscript (either self-imposed or editor-imposed) or are needing to work on edits like I was.

First of all I figured out what I needed to work on. With a manuscript, this could mean that you tell yourself you want to write one particular chapter or one particular scene (if you’re jumping around as you write. So you could choose to write the book’s ending, etc.) With my edits, I printed out the editor’s revision requests so I could have them handy and think about what they wanted done.

Next I spent my road time (this could be time driving on a highway, or flying on a plane, or riding on a train) thinking about the action in a particular scene, or a particular character that I needed to develop in a different way, etc. Here in the States, we have miles and miles of really, really boring highway driving where the scenery rarely changes. The kids were both watching movies in the car with their headphones, and it gave me an amazing expanse of time (about 7 hours) to just think.

During the time I spent brainstorming the requested plot changes and character tweaks, I found that I really started getting more of a handle on my characters and getting better acquainted with them.

If you’re driving, like I was, then writing on paper isn’t really the best thing to do. :) I downloaded a voice recording feature onto my phone (most phones have a voice recorder, I think…or you could just leave a really LONG message on your home answering machine!) and whenever I got ideas, I spoke them into the voice recorder. The kids were totally wrapped up in their movie and oblivious (which was good, since I’d gotten a revision request to change my killer and I was mulling over the murder and red herrings and clues!)

If you’re riding on a plane or train, paper or your computer would work really well to jot down the ideas you have. I always think I’m going to remember my brainstorming sessions—but I never do.

When I got to our destination, I put everything aside until it was time for me to turn in (since I was there to visit family.) So there may not be the perfect time to just excuse yourself and write, but you can always turn in 20-30 minutes before you’re totally exhausted and get some writing done then.

But to be productive during such a short time, it really does help to plan ahead and know what you’re going to write for that evening.

Although being away from home does sometimes tire me out, I found that it was also really inspiring being in a different place with different people keeping different hours doing different things. Maybe shaking myself out of my usual routine was a good way to really stir up my imagination…and deadlines have a way of doing that, too!

Have you written while on the road this summer? Have any tips?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Trouble With Smart Phones

blog500 It’s so good to be back and blogging again! I missed it more than I’d thought---and especially missed visiting with all of y’all!

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, starting out with the book tour and then ending up by catching up with family in Alabama and South Carolina—and my daughter’s 9th birthday and subsequent party.

One thing that’s been different from other trips out of state is that I was more plugged in than usual.

I’ve always traveled with my laptop, but usually didn’t connect unless I was at a coffee shop or library.

But now I’ve got a smart phone—the Droid. And, as I’m discovering, it looks like it can do practically anything. Am I lost? (And I had my lost moments on the book tour.) Not for long-- I’ve got GPS on the phone and call ask the phone where my destination is. Should I plan outdoor activities tomorrow? Check the weather on the phone. Should I go home and leaf through all the ads in the Sunday paper to find out who has the best deal on school supplies? No…just check it on the phone.

In fact, in a short period of time, my list of things to do has shrunk because I’m getting instant information.

And, boy, does this have a downside.

In the past, when I’ve needed to get some writing done, I’ve escaped—to a place with no Wi-Fi. That way I couldn’t check emails, Twitter, Facebook, the news, or blogs.

Now, there is no escape.

Which means it’s down to me and self-discipline. And my self-discipline varies from day to day. Especially with this devilish distraction in my pocketbook.

I’m thinking I should go back to super-scheduling my time just until I get caught back up and back into the groove again. And, when I’m not working on a couple of deadlines, maybe it won’t matter if I mess around with my phone from time to time.

So, since I’m a list-making and schedule-following junkie, here is my plan:

5:00 a.m.ish: Check emails, but I’m only scanning for really alarming subjects like “Guest Post Today?!” or calendar reminders.

Then start writing. (And make sure the kids are fed, packed up, dressed appropriately, and carpooled to school.)

After I write, I can make sure that Blogger hasn’t eaten my blog post du jour, that Twitter is running on schedule (I tweet ahead) and that I’ve got some sort of a blog post to run the next day.

And probably then read and reply to emails—which does usually take a little time.

And I’ll put my phone wayyyyy across the room. And turn off the internet on my laptop.

Are any of you getting even more distractions in your life? How are you dealing with them?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


blog75 I’ve hesitated doing this, since I’m a creature of habit and I’ve blogged every day since May 1 2009. :) But looking at my schedule, where I’m coming back from the book tour and then visiting with family and celebrating family birthdays—and going to open houses at my children’s schools—I’m thinking that I will take a blogcation until Wednesday, August 25th.

Until then…Happy Writing, everybody!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Thoughts on Group Blogs

MLK banner Besides this blog, I’m on a few group blogs: Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen (Berkley Prime Crime mystery authors and our recipes), Inkspot (for Midnight Ink authors), Killer Characters (where cozy writers’ characters have taken over the blog), and A Good Blog is Hard to Find (Southern authors).

I love my own blog and feel like it’s my own little front door to the online world. But it’s also fun being part of a group blog of other writers. You have a chance to connect with them (Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen and Inkspot both connect to their members through a closed Yahoo Group—Good Blog uses email) and really develop some online friendships. Plus, you’re getting more online exposure for your writing on another venue—and, depending on the size of the group, you’re not blogging every day.

If you decide to go that route, this is how the ones I’m on usually work: Everyone has the ability to make changes on the blog and author posts.

Usually, though, there’s one person who is mostly in charge of the design of the blog. We usually run any changes on the blog by them first…otherwise it’s sort of a “too many cooks spoiling the stew” scenario. Major design changes should be decided by the group, though.

If you have a week’s worth of members on the blog, everyone has an assigned day of the week. I know I’m up every Thursday on Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen. If you have a month’s worth of members, then everyone has a day of the month…I’m up on the 10th of each month on Killer Characters. Otherwise, the schedule needs to be emailed out each time—usually 5-6 weeks of schedule at a time. Most of the time, this will work out—but sometimes writers will forget their day on the larger group blogs.

Saturdays are usually not popular with writers for posting. It’s thought to be a day that gets less blog traffic (although I haven’t actually noticed this to be true.) Sometimes, rotating out Saturday duties is nice. And some blogs that I’m on actually leave weekends out of the mix…they’ll either have a guest blogger scheduled or will have PR news or announcements from group members posted on those days.

You’re expected as a group member to support the other members by commenting on their blog posts at least every few days.

You’ll be expected to respond to comments on your day.

Promoting the group blog on social media like Facebook and Twitter is also really appreciated.

Trading out guest posts with other group blogs is a nice way to get cross-exposure for both groups.

Have you thought about forming a group blog or asking to join one?

And again, my apologies for being offline more often than not as I’m on my book tour.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Make Your Characters Earn Their Keep---Guest Post by Wendy Lyn Watson

Hope you’ll joining me in welcoming Wendy Lyn Watson to Mystery Writing is Murder today. Wendy is a fellow mystery writer and a friend of mine from the Killer Characters blog. Scoop to Kill releases September 7.

Scoop to kill First, I want to thank Elizabeth for letting me hang out on her blog today. So many generous writers have helped me over the years (and continue to help me every dang day), so it’s nice to get a chance to pay it forward now and then.

The first time I sat down to hammer out a manuscript (a historical romance), I made a ton of rookie mistakes. One of the biggest was the endless parade of secondary characters I had strolling through the pages. Much of the action of the book took place at a country house party in Georgian England. Between guests and the cadre of servants waiting on them, that meant there’d be a lot of people around.

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t give every last one a name and back story. But whenever I needed something to happen to my hero or heroine--someone to say something cutting to the heroine, bring the hero a note on a silver salver, or interrupt the couple in a romantic embrace--I created someone new. There’s Mary, the maid of all work, who showed up in Chapter 12 and was never seen again. Lady H who destroyed the heroine’s self-confidence at a musicale and then dropped off the planet. You get the idea.

I’ve come a long way (I hope), and I’ve learned to pare down the roster of characters considerably. But I still struggle with the occasional hanger-on. In fact, I think the challenge is particularly great for mystery writers for two equal but opposite reasons. First, characters are often the conveyers of clues. More clues equals more characters (really, it’s just simple math). But once a character does his job and conveys important information to the sleuth, it’s hard to waste precious words on him. Second, because we do love our quirky townsfolk, it’s hard to resist the urge to create a role for every oddball person we dream up.

When these two forces combine, you end up with tons of characters who pop in for a scene and then disappear, causing confusion to your readers and sapping a lot of the tension from your story.

I learned a great trick for weeding out unnecessary characters in a writing class I took a few years ago. It’s primarily for main characters, and it’s known as “the spaghetti bowl.” Identify the six to ten most important characters in your story and write their names in a circle around the perimeter of a piece of paper. Now, draw lines connecting each character to every other character. (This is where the “spaghetti” image comes from; visually, it’s a mess.)

Now, on each of those lines, identify the relationship between the characters. That’s right, every single pair. And here are the rules:

(1) If there isn’t a relationship between two characters, you either need to cut a character or make a relationship. No obvious connection between the butcher and the Sunday school teacher? Maybe they’re having an affair. Or maybe they dated in high school, and he’s never gotten over her. This will increase the tension in your story and add layers of motivation and intrigue.

(2) If two characters are fulfilling the same role in the story, one of them has to go. Your sleuth has two brothers, they’re both cops, and they both give her grief for throwing herself in harm’s way? One of the brothers must go. In the alternative, you can make the brothers different: perhaps one gives her grief while the other eggs her on. Aha, now the brothers are like the angel and devil on your sleuth’s shoulder, and they’re both pulling their weight.

For your minor characters (the ones with names), identify what each one adds to the story. It may be a clue or a bit of insight into a main character. But whatever it is, each named character should do at least 3 things for your story. If a character pops on scene to provide one piece of information and then disappears? She gets the ax. Or, in the alternative, give her two more tasks. This will add richness to the story and make even your minor characters seem more alive.

We write mysteries, and we’re going to have a lot of characters. But each one needs to earn his or her keep. Put them to work to make your story stronger.

Wendy Lyn Watson I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM - Oct. 2009, NAL SCOOP TO KILL - Sept. 2010, NAL www.wendylynwatson.com www.killercharacters.com www.facebook.com/iscreamyouscream

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Terry3 Here are writing links that I’ve posted to Twitter for the past week. If you’re looking for a particular topic, just plug in your keyword into the search box at the top left-hand corner of the blog (on the black header right above my blog name…next to the Blogger symbol…the small search window is next to the magnifying glass) and the roundup with your subject will come up. To narrow your search down on the page, do a CTRL+F, type your subject, and hit enter.

Novel Done, Soundbite? Handle? Aargh!! http://dld.bz/rHkv

Lessons from Queryfest: http://dld.bz/rHkq

Top Six Reasons Your Book is Not in the School Library…http://dld.bz/rHjX

Why You Should Understand Your Weaknesses: http://dld.bz/rHjS

The Craft of Writing: Structure, Shape, and Interest: http://dld.bz/rHjQ

Mystery writer's guide to forensic science--ballistics: http://dld.bz/rHjK @clarissadraper

Dos and Don'ts of Twitter: http://dld.bz/rHj6

The Dark Side of Writer's Conferences: http://dld.bz/rHj3

Questions to ask yourself before you start a revision: http://dld.bz/rHjw

The Writer’s Forensics Blog--Bang! You’re Dead! Or Not? http://dld.bz/rHjr

Do You Suffer From One of These Writing Maladies? http://dld.bz/rHjp

Bang! Pow! Blog like a Comic Book! http://dld.bz/rHjh

Magazine and Book Publishing Rights: http://dld.bz/rHjg

A few words on genre and literary fiction: http://dld.bz/rHhW

Are You Developing for Android? http://dld.bz/rHhU

Surviving the Draft: Pushing Your Book Over the Finish Line: http://dld.bz/rHhM

5 Ways to Use Book Trailers to Drive Sales: http://dld.bz/rHhJ

Tips for writing a query letter: http://dld.bz/rHhs

10 Book Writing Tips From Published Book Authors and Freelancers: http://dld.bz/r5p5

It's The Little Things: http://dld.bz/r5pJ

What Makes Writing Art? http://dld.bz/r5p2

Ray Bradbury Rejects eReaders: http://dld.bz/r4Sm

Borders Cuts Employees at Corporate Headquarters: http://dld.bz/r4SP

China’s Biggest E-Publisher Launches Bambook E-Reader and E-bookstore: http://dld.bz/r5pb

What Does The Romance Genre Say About the Good Life? http://dld.bz/r5nV

Does Your Novel Suffer From Flat Writing? http://dld.bz/r5nK

5 Reasons Why No One Is Reading Your Email Newsletter: http://dld.bz/r4WY

Tight Writing for Good Tweets: http://dld.bz/r4UE

Conflict--the fuel of your story: http://dld.bz/r4WK

Women in Publishing Twitter Directory http://dld.bz/r4St @galleycat

Tight Writing for Good Tweets-- http://dld.bz/r4UE

Common Excuses For Not Using Social Media: http://dld.bz/r4Uw

A little goes a long way--writing laughs in chick lit: http://dld.bz/r4Ud

Contemplating new publishing models (interesting look at money in publishing): http://dld.bz/r4T9

How Stieg Larsson Changed One UK Publishing House: http://dld.bz/r4Rd @GalleyCat

A post that looks at writers who were jailed: http://dld.bz/r4Jw @micheleemrath

Simon & Schuster Publisher Reorganizes: http://dld.bz/r4SD

Supporting other writers--it's not about reciprocity: http://dld.bz/r4HX @authorterryo

Six Myths About Publishing: http://dld.bz/rqDj

10 things not to do if you want to get published: http://dld.bz/rqDa

The Publishing Death Spiral--part one--The Cold Equations: http://dld.bz/rqCU

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Too Hot to Bake Oreo Ice Cream Cake http://bit.ly/dzEGz0 @CleoCoyle

"5 Self-Publishing Lessons I Learned From My Toddler" : http://dld.bz/rqC9

A Truly Public Monster or Why Are Zombies Fun to Talk about? http://dld.bz/rqCz

Home is where the writer's heart is: http://dld.bz/rq6F @hownottowrite

In Defense of YA-Reading Adults: http://dld.bz/rq6A

How one writer (who is now an agent) got started as a writer--and his 3 big writing tips: http://dld.bz/rq63

More Detail, Please: http://dld.bz/rq6r

The emailed book pitch: http://dld.bz/rq6d @bubblecow

5 things I’ve learned about writing — writing is a business: http://dld.bz/rq5U

Trusting Authorial Voices: http://dld.bz/rq5K

Winds of change in publishing: http://dld.bz/rq5A

The 17 Principles of Success (Part 1): http://dld.bz/rq5x

Setting--getting the details right: http://dld.bz/rq5j

What makes a good head shot? http://dld.bz/rq4y @alexisgrant

Facebook 101 for Business: Your Complete Guide: http://dld.bz/rq4q

Pitching beyond plot: http://dld.bz/rq3M

5 BS Indicators for Writers Conferences: http://dld.bz/rq2G @VictoriaMixon

On writer's voice: http://dld.bz/rq35

The Death of (Another) Format: http://dld.bz/rq3B

Showing love to your fellow writers: http://dld.bz/rq3s

What if you forgot everything you ever wrote? http://dld.bz/rq3Z

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: A book cover celebration with cupcakes! http://bit.ly/aTIesv @CleoCoyle

How to Be a Super Competent Author: http://dld.bz/rq2p

How Post its can help writers: http://dld.bz/rq2a

8 tips for getting your books into bookstores: http://dld.bz/rq2k

10 Top Novel Writing Mistakes: http://dld.bz/rqzE

Writing tips--writing out loud: http://dld.bz/rqzC

Crime fiction--depicting the murderer's reaction to killing: http://dld.bz/rtCj @mkinberg

9 Productivity Techniques for Freelancers: http://dld.bz/rqxV @sixrevisions

Protagonist IQ--how important is it, and how can we show, not tell it? http://dld.bz/rtjf @MsMystery

Map Your Reading: http://dld.bz/rqxN

5 Mistakes That Weaken Your Writing: http://dld.bz/rqxj @UrbanMuseWriter

Top 10 urban fantasy pet peeves: http://dld.bz/rqwm

How Google Counted The World’s 129 Million Books (Wired): http://dld.bz/rqvZ

Tips and checklist for writing a middle grade novel: http://dld.bz/rqv5 @4KidLit

9 Ways to Make Your Blog Work Harder for You: http://dld.bz/rquU

"A few things I learned about life as a poet from watching 'Bright Star'": http://dld.bz/rquG

Literary Movement Series: The Lost Generation: http://dld.bz/rqPJ @micheleemrath

Research or Background: http://dld.bz/rqu5 @__Deb

Tips for making your characters stand out from the crowd: http://dld.bz/rqND

Lessons from SCBWI-LA: How to Sell Your Novel: http://dld.bz/rmFQ @4KidLit

Snarketing for marketing? Is being snarky an effective way to draw people to your blog? http://dld.bz/rq7F @WritingAgain

Excellent series on plot and the 36 dramatic situations: http://dld.bz/rqwS @msforster

Copyrights (and wrongs): http://dld.bz/rmFg

Finding time to write: http://dld.bz/rmEX

What Should I Write About? Focusing Your Ideas: http://dld.bz/rmEK

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Chef for a Night http://bit.ly/9pmPj3 @CleoCoyle

New Writing Challenges: http://dld.bz/rgFb

How to Cut Your To-Do List in Half: http://dld.bz/rgEY

The Phenomenology of Writing by Hand: http://dld.bz/rmEw : @ichibanbrianne

Editing Your Own Novel: The Importance Of Self Editing: http://dld.bz/rgEU

Thoughts on quiet books--how to keep readers turning the pages when your book is slower-paced: http://dld.bz/rmEn @micheleemrath

How Writing Keeps Us Well: http://dld.bz/rgEG

A filter for your writing well: http://dld.bz/rgEA

"One tiny sign that I'm a writer": http://dld.bz/rgE4 @RebHargreaves

The Art of Characterization: http://dld.bz/rgEw

What to ask an agent when you get the call: http://dld.bz/rgEn

Pursuing the Dream When Time is Scarce: http://dld.bz/rgD8 @KatieGanshert

Tips for writing conferences: http://dld.bz/rgDe

Why an Online Presence Can Help Every Kind of Writer: http://dld.bz/rgCA @JodyHedlund

The Three-Step Process To Surprising Your Readers: http://dld.bz/rgC8

Orientation for Writers--a Checklist: http://dld.bz/rgCw

The 15 Most Overrated Contemporary American Writers (PHOTOS)--Huff Post-- http://dld.bz/rdWV

Why do novelists hate being interviewed? (Salon): http://dld.bz/rdWJ

The Language of the Senses: http://dld.bz/rdWE

Selling out? http://dld.bz/rdW9

Best Tweets for Writers (week ending 8/6/10)--Writer's Digest: http://dld.bz/rdWx

5 Tips for Managing Your Facebook Privacy: http://dld.bz/rdSA

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Timothy O'Shea's Goat Cheese Mushrooms http://bit.ly/9KLX8t @CleoCoyle

Take care of your verbs, and they’ll take care of you: http://dld.bz/rdRZ

8 Tips to Expand Your Personal Capacity: http://dld.bz/qYRW

5 steps to dazzling minor characters: http://dld.bz/rdRH

A character chart for your main characters: http://dld.bz/rdRB

10 Tests a Novel Must Pass to Prove It's REALLY Ready for Submission to Publishers: http://dld.bz/rdQU @4KidLit

The Woman Who Paid Actresses to Read Her Book: http://dld.bz/qYSv

Ten of the best motorbikes in literature (Guardian): http://dld.bz/qYSK

Staying Organized: 8 Tips for Daily Sanity: http://dld.bz/qYSE

Terms and Definitions Every Writer Should Know: http://dld.bz/qYSs

Your Taste in Books Does Not Make You Better Than Anyone. http://dld.bz/qYSc

A life without rejection is...dull: http://dld.bz/qYQH

12 dos and don’ts for making the first page of your novel more compelling: http://dld.bz/qYQF

The lying art of historical fiction (Guardian): http://dld.bz/qYQ8

How to Start Your Mystery Novel: http://dld.bz/qYPW

What's the difference between querying an agent and querying an editor? http://dld.bz/qYPS

Novel endings (thorough discussion): http://dld.bz/qYPA

5 Ways to Use Your Friends to Better Your Writing: http://dld.bz/qN3a

Building an Audience (and a Case) for Translations: http://dld.bz/qN2J

Three Tests That Can Help Us Handle Difficult Feedback: http://dld.bz/qN2B @JodyHedlund

Setting writing standards for ourselves: http://dld.bz/qNzd

How Social Media Can Help Writers Get Their Mojo Back: http://dld.bz/qCYK

Going With Your Gut to Sell that Book: http://dld.bz/qCXM

Anchors and Hooks: http://dld.bz/qNyU

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Riley and Avery at Joseph-Beth Bookstore, Charlotte, NC

Busy day on Friday, but we really covered some ground!

First of all, actually, was the signing Avery and I did at Joseph Beth bookstore in the South Park area of Charlotte.  They did a beautiful banner for us, which you can see in the background.  Great crowd came out and they asked wonderful questions.

I think that really I never need to follow a presentation by Avery!  She (as her alter-ego Daryl Wood Gerber) was a professional actress on television.  And me? I need to work on my presentation a little!  :) 

Friday we signed in Winston-Salem, NC and Greensboro, NC before driving to a tea in Raleigh.  Great tea, great staff and readers at the Barnes and Noble there!

I’m going to crash now….full day tomorrow.


Killer Cozies Tour:  Ellery Adams, Avery Aames, Krista Davis, Riley Adams (and no…I don’t turn around when someone calls “Riley!” because Avery tried it.) :) 

Friday, August 13, 2010

Getting From Point A to Point B

A Good Blog is Hard to Find

One of the group blogs I’m on, A Good Blog is Hard to Find, is re-launching and asked its members to tell a little about themselves and how they started writing.  Mine is up today and I kept it pretty brief! :)  Hope you’ll pop by.

I’m traveling for the next four days on my book tour, so I won’t be as active online as I usually am (and probably going through internet withdrawal!) 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Keeping Readers in the Loop

cup-of-coffee I usually like to go to independently owned coffee houses…but there come times when I really, really need a cup of coffee and Starbucks is the only thing around.

I popped in last week and instead of asking for a “small coffee” (I never look at their menu because it makes me confused), I got a little daring and asked for a small chai tea latte.

“A short or a tall?”

“A…well, the smallest size you have.”

“That’s a short. If you ask for a small, you get a 12 oz. tall. Medium is grande and venti is large.”


She rang me up and said, “Here’s your treat receipt!” And then went off to make my drink. What the…..??

Once I figured out that was a coupon to come back later that same day, I realized my drink was ready…and they were asking me something else.

“Would you like a splash stick?”


“I’m sorry—what’s a splash stick?” But I felt dumb for asking. Apparently, everyone else knew what a splash stick was.

She explained it was a device to plug up the sipping hole in the lid while I walked back out across the parking lot. She looked a little impatient by now.

As I left, I started thinking about how I feel when I leave Starbucks—confused. (Although that quickly morphs into hyper because I down the caffeine pretty fast.) I think they’re just used to their regulars over there—customers who visit every day and know the routine and the lingo.

It really doesn’t make me happy to feel like I don’t know what’s going on, and I don’t want my readers to have the same experience. I’m currently working on the third book of my series and I don’t want to make assumptions that my readers know what I’m talking about when I bring up people and places from previous books.

I think it’s easy to assume our series readers are regulars and know all the characters as well as we do. And that our readers will catch on to inside jokes from previous books in the series…or be acquainted with the series’ backstory.

I’ve read series books both out of order and with large gaps of time in between books. When characters aren’t really introduced, I’ll usually try to figure out who they are by the way they relate to other characters—but if I still don’t get it, I’m giving up…who has the time? I’d rather have a small tag that won’t bore the regular readers of the series but will fill in the newer readers: John, Mary’s oldest son, stomped into the room.

If there’s an inside joke or a character idiosyncrasy that cracks up the regular readers, then the new readers should be filled in to give them the opportunity to “get it” when the joke is made.

If there’s backstory from previous books that directly affects the plot, then it should be briefly worked in (probably through dialogue or some other pretty innocuous way). That would serve to both fill in new readers to the series, and to remind regular readers of background, too.

We can write each book in our series as a standalone and play it perfectly safe—but then we do risk boring the readers who have read the previous books in our series. It’s a little bit of a balancing act.

How do some of your favorite authors fill in new readers while keeping regular readers from getting bored? How do you do it, if you write series?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Delicious Review

Sharon's Garden of Book Reviews

I’ve been in a promotion and writing haze lately, making sure Delicious and Suspicious stays on track, then quickly shifting back into creative mode to pen Memphis book three. 

So it’s wonderful to come across such a generous review in the middle of a crazy day. :)  Thanks so much, Sharon!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Protagonist IQ

Meritorious Mysteries How smart should your protagonist be?  And—how can you show, instead of tell, your protagonist’s intelligence?

Hope you’ll come by Molly Weston’s blog, Meritorious Mysteries, to weigh in on the importance of IQ in our main characters.


blog 300 Okay, things are slow starting up today at the Mystery Writing is Murder blog!  :)  I’ll explain first of all that I hosted a sleepover party for my son’s friends and daughter’s friends….and the “sleep” part of the sleepover was minimal, at best!  But they all seemed to have a good time.

I’m trying to sync up to a blog that I’m guesting on today, but unfortunately I’m not sure what time the post is running.  This is the way things go with guest posts sometimes. :)

I am also on Killer Characters today—or, actually, my character Flo from Delicious and Suspicious is on. 

When I see that my guest post is up on the other blog, I’ll link over to it.  Until then, hope y’all have a great Tuesday!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Quiet Books

Southern City Mysteries

We hear a lot of advice these days on hooking our readers and grabbing them on page one.  That’s easy enough—if we’ve written something fast-paced, like a thriller.

But what if we’ve written a quiet book?  Hope you’ll pop over to Michele Emrath’s Southern City Mysteries blog for some thoughts on hooking a reader in a slower-paced book. 

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Terry3 Here are writing links that I’ve posted to Twitter for the past week. If you’re looking for a particular topic, just plug in your keyword into the search box at the top left-hand corner of the blog (on the black header right above my blog name…next to the Blogger symbol…the small search window is next to the magnifying glass) and the roundup with your subject will come up. To narrow your search down on the page, do a CTRL+F, type your subject, and hit enter.

Do the things you *think* you cannot do: http://dld.bz/qNy8

The World is Ready For Your Book – But Are You? http://dld.bz/qNyk

Stuff your friends know about your writing--that you don't: http://dld.bz/qNx7

Free online writer's conference for children's lit writers: http://dld.bz/qYTz

7 Secrets to Getting into Libraries: http://dld.bz/qNxz

How to ensure your readers suspend disbelief--link included! :) http://dld.bz/qYGM

Tips for planning a scaled-down book tour: http://dld.bz/qYFB

14 Reasons Your Manuscript Got Rejected Before Page 1: http://dld.bz/qNxr

Excel for Authors: http://dld.bz/qCY9

Why Books? 9 Reasons to be Optimistic: http://dld.bz/qCYw

Can a writer have a staff? http://dld.bz/qCYr

About theme...the muscle of your story: http://dld.bz/qCYh

What Motivates the Book Buyer? (Huff Post): http://dld.bz/qCWj

Literary last words (Guardian): http://dld.bz/qCWd

5 Links for Speed Reading and Concentration: http://dld.bz/qCTu

In praise of the novella: http://dld.bz/qCTm

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Fig & Blueberry Clafouti http://bit.ly/9lwc4f @CleoCoyle

Eliminating sentence clarity errors in 2 easy steps: http://dld.bz/q7Bk

7 things one writer has learned so far: http://dld.bz/q7A8

How to be a very silly science fiction/fantasy writer: http://dld.bz/q7Ag

How to indent the first line of a paragraph: http://dld.bz/q7Ae

What Should I Write About? Finding Inspiration: http://dld.bz/q79Q

Series synopsis: http://dld.bz/q798

Point of View overview: http://dld.bz/q79t

The Million Word Myth: http://dld.bz/q79m

Respecting Your Readers: http://dld.bz/q78n

First Novel Karma: http://dld.bz/q77B

Finding more story ideas (for freelancers): http://dld.bz/q778

On writing dialect: http://dld.bz/q76J

Best articles this week for writers--8/6: http://dld.bz/qN3d @4KidLit

Strike Back Against Procrastination With A Mental Mongoose: http://dld.bz/qtjj

The High Cost of Self Promotion: http://dld.bz/qtaQ @jakonrath

Are you a #blogger? @CleoCoyle Roast Mortem Pub Party is on. #Win great prizes for yourself and followers: http://bit.ly/pubParty @CleoCoyle

Why a bad day makes for a good story. http://bit.ly/9TRTqf @p2p_editor

Urban Fantasy Reading Recommendations: http://dld.bz/qta8

2 steps to a better revision: http://dld.bz/qsYq @ClarissaDraper

Behind the Scenes with Fine Print Lit's Assistant and Intern: http://dld.bz/qsX7

8 Tips for Boosting Your Energy: http://dld.bz/qsXN

The Difference Between Begging for and Building Influence: http://dld.bz/qsZB

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Instant Giveaway! California Firehouse Cookbook + a Recipe for Cleo Coyle's Coffee... http://bit.ly/cbKPdL @kristadavis

Mini-Vacations-Fuel for Writers: http://dld.bz/qsTt

5 Ways to Build Your Blog’s Voice: http://dld.bz/qsZh

Mind your manners and be known as a writer that's easy to work with: http://dld.bz/qsRV

Is Your Story Premise Plausible? http://dld.bz/qsR9

Backing Up Your Blog: http://dld.bz/qCYD @HeatherMcCorkle

In the first 1 1/2 pages, engage the reader with your character and their problem: http://dld.bz/qswf

Creativity Reloaded: Why You Should Try New Creative Activities: http://dld.bz/qsuK

How to Use Details to Suspend Disbelief (Video): http://dld.bz/qsum

The Trouble with Dialogue – Part 4: http://dld.bz/qstG

Keep Track of Library Books and Avoid Fines: http://dld.bz/qsq4

The Pain of Rejection Never Gets Easier: http://dld.bz/qsnT @JodyHedlund

Tips for creating character presence (before the character actually makes an appearance in your book): http://dld.bz/qsnK

Writing THE END. Be BOLD! http://dld.bz/qsn4

A touch of Frost: the story of Penguin's secret editor (Telegraph): http://dld.bz/q78J

How one writer develops her characters: http://dld.bz/qsns

Reviewing those tough books: http://dld.bz/qsnf

Congrats Cleo! @LesaHolstine review: No one combines cozy atmosphere w/ a realistic crime novel better than @CleoCoyle: http://bit.ly/b8Rr7g

Literary Movement Series: Beat Generation: http://dld.bz/q7p5 @micheleemrath

The Writer’s Life: Listening: http://dld.bz/qsmC

Grounding the Reader: http://dld.bz/qsm2

Introducing the jumper colon: http://dld.bz/qsmk

One writer's process: http://dld.bz/qsjS

Who will read your book? http://dld.bz/qskU @bubblecow

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Healthy Weeknight Meal in a Hurry--Black Bean Quesadillas http://bit.ly/9kup5B @kristadavis

Writing--Noble or Selfish? http://dld.bz/qshj

On Writing Fantasy: The Plot Thickens--http://dld.bz/qsha

The Short Synopsis: http://dld.bz/qsgT

Magazine Query Checklist: http://dld.bz/qsgN

Abstinence or Sex: Twilight vs. In Praise of Older Women: http://dld.bz/qsgF

Rejection? Rejection? We don't need no stinkin' rejection! http://dld.bz/qsgz

Simon & Schuster sees profits grow 64%: http://dld.bz/qsfj

The significance of milestones: http://dld.bz/qsfe

Pitching based on your goals: http://dld.bz/qseR

8 things that help make a good novel: http://dld.bz/qreC @wendypmiller

An Overview of Different Types of Punctuation Used for Emphasis: http://dld.bz/qrbn

Why is Passive Voice Considered Taboo? http://dld.bz/qhQX

An Agent on Writing vs. Storytelling: http://dld.bz/qhQU

Sean Penn Might Play Editor Maxwell Perkins: http://dld.bz/qsMe @GalleyCat

Ooo, Aww, Ah! - an emotional approach to querying: http://dld.bz/qsyH @CherylAngst

"The Great Typo Hunt": The irresistible allure of bad spelling (Salon): http://dld.bz/qhQj

Top 100 Killer Thrillers (chosen by the NPR audience): http://dld.bz/qsKJ

The chick-lit debate: who in Playboy Mansion Hell calls women chicks? (Guardian): http://dld.bz/qswp

Mystery writer's guide to forensic science--guilty, but sleeping: http://dld.bz/qhFN

What happened to genres? http://dld.bz/qhEP

Self-Publishing & Online Publishing Will Not Ruin Your Chances at a Traditional Deal (Writer's Digest): http://dld.bz/qhEG

POV--tips for staying in one character's head: http://dld.bz/qqYX @authorterryo

5 Reasons to Practice Timeboxing: http://dld.bz/qhE4

Really Great Sex: A Writing Lesson: http://dld.bz/qqeq @HartJohnson

7 Simple Ways To Say “No”--and maybe free up more time to write?: http://dld.bz/qhDH

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Vacation Potpourri http://bit.ly/adXx5E @kristadavis

The best way to make sure your book is the right length for your genre: http://dld.bz/pSzT

How Book Club Readers (and Bookstores) Can Drive Success (Writer's Digest): http://dld.bz/pSxj

The Deer Hunter Guide to Social Media Networks: http://dld.bz/pS2X

10 ways to procrastinate before you begin writing: http://dld.bz/qhVp @elspethwrites

Barnes and Noble bookstore chain put up for sale (Guardian): http://dld.bz/qhMC

On the writerly task of waiting (via @JaneFriedman ): http://dld.bz/pSzr

The Sun Sign Guide For Writers: http://dld.bz/qfb8

What Your Twitter Numbers Say About You, part 1: http://dld.bz/qfbQ

Avoiding "talking heads" syndrome: http://dld.bz/qfc7 @Paize_Fiddler

Using the bystander effect in your novels: http://bit.ly/arWETn @p2p_editor

5 Ways to Skyrocket Your Blog Traffic: http://dld.bz/qfch

SCBWI Conference Soundbites: http://dld.bz/qfca

My tips for managing blog reading with Google Reader: http://dld.bz/qffy

Useful things to know about your characters (before you write them): http://dld.bz/qfaz

Mobile Tip: Managing Notes between Desktop and Mobile with Gmail: http://dld.bz/pS3u @merylkevans

Why You (Still) Want an Agent: http://dld.bz/pStW

Tips regarding writer's conferences: http://dld.bz/pSzE

An Agent on Making a Living at Writing: http://dld.bz/pSzz

An agent on how to write a thriller: http://dld.bz/pSwX

7 Success Lessons from Dale Carnegie: http://dld.bz/pSwq

Pulling A Story Out Of Nowhere: http://dld.bz/pSwK

Huge congrats to my friend, @CleoCoyle for her brand new release, "Roast Mortem!" Picking up my copy today. :) http://bit.ly/dcZSM8

Thanks so much to @PatriciaMWarren for making my blog her blog of the week! :) http://nblo.gs/6te4A

More encouragement to do the 15 min. a day writing challenge: http://dld.bz/pSwH

Survey Finds Mystery Readers Surprisingly Savvy: http://dld.bz/pSwx

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Super Fabulous Summer No-Bake Cheesecake! http://bit.ly/cBBF8Z @kristadavis

Marketing your book on your blog? 101 Ways to Make More Sales Online: http://dld.bz/pSwg

How to Outline a Novel: http://dld.bz/pSvy

Writing Woes: http://dld.bz/pPWu

Writers, enough with the self-flagellation! http://dld.bz/pPU3

The Quickest Way to Create a New Mindset: http://dld.bz/pPUv

"Everything I needed to know about writing I learned from my 6 year old." : http://dld.bz/pPTD

Organizing Your Days on a Weekly Basis: http://dld.bz/pPT3

Premature Querying (Rapid Submission), or, It’s Not Me, It’s You: http://dld.bz/pPSW

The Incredible Highs & the Discouraging Lows of the Writer's Life: http://dld.bz/pPRd @JodyHedlund

Perfect characters are boring--10 tips for non-perfection: http://dld.bz/pS4u @elspethwrites

Micro-level Revision Tips: http://dld.bz/pS3C @paulgreci

Developing your craft--tips on character development: http://dld.bz/pPRa @4KidLit

What the heck is steampunk? http://dld.bz/pPJC

Antiques dealer jailed for handling stolen Shakespeare First Folio (Guardian): http://dld.bz/pPJw

Is a writer's loyalty to the research or the reader? http://dld.bz/pPH8

The 15 Biggest Bestsellers EVER After The Bible (Photo essay--Huff Post): http://dld.bz/pPHv

Writing scenes that sizzle: http://dld.bz/pNgy @KatieGanshert

Help spotting POV errors and POV practice: http://dld.bz/pPSK @authorterryo

Targeting niche markets: http://dld.bz/pNfp

Tips on creating lifelike characters: http://dld.bz/pN8S

How to Keep Your Blog Posts from Dying in Your Archives: http://dld.bz/pNfa

Nice overview of the Gothic lit movement: http://dld.bz/pNUf

How a Sticky Note Can Change Your Life: http://dld.bz/pNeV

Ten Things One Writer Knows For Sure: http://dld.bz/pNM2 @labanan

Info on the free, online writing conference, The Muse Online (deadline to register Aug. 15): http://dld.bz/pNFN @nasharpe

How to type em-dashes, etc. into your Word processing program correctly: http://dld.bz/pNeA

Tips for blog headline writing: http://dld.bz/pNec

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Fan Request http://bit.ly/aEqMH9 @kristadavis

Create a clickable link when you comment on blogs: http://dld.bz/pGRJ

The Write-15-Minutes-a-Day Challenge: http://dld.bz/pGNS

Best Tweets for Writers (week ending 7/30/10)--Writer's Digest: http://dld.bz/pGNr

7 things one author has learned so far: http://dld.bz/pGNk

Making Your Passion a Higher Priority: http://dld.bz/pGMM

Thoughts on perseverance-- http://dld.bz/pDMy

Writers as characters in crime fiction: http://dld.bz/pGVf @mkinberg

Mad Men and Bad Men: http://dld.bz/pDKX

Why Kindle-Killers Haven’t Killed Kindle: http://dld.bz/pDKP

An agent on what you should look for when choosing between agents: http://dld.bz/pBhQ

Is the Booker a barometer of the best literature? (Guardian) http://dld.bz/pBhF

Sex disappears from the British novel as authors run scared of ridicule (Guardian): http://dld.bz/pBhw

Your inner teen and you: http://dld.bz/pAmy

Ebook Predictions Redux: http://dld.bz/pAmw

That New Kid Smell: The Allure of the New Kid at School: http://dld.bz/pAk9

Do You Have an Online Hub? http://dld.bz/pAk3

Did Twitter Just Kill Off Follow Fridays? http://dld.bz/pAk2

Need Novel Fodder? Visit Snopes. http://dld.bz/pAkk

21 Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block: http://dld.bz/pAjX

On character block: http://dld.bz/pAmv

Myst. Lov. Kitchen: Cleo Coyle's Blueberry Buttermilk Firehall Pancakes + 2 Instant Giveaways! http://bit.ly/9K3nCJ @kristadavis

Writer Websites: Do it Yourself or Hire a Professional? http://dld.bz/p348

6 Tips to Add Time to Your 24/7 Work Schedule: http://dld.bz/p34v

One Writer’s Top 10: http://dld.bz/p3x8

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Planning a Book Tour

killer cozies tour Book tours can get expensive and overwhelming, but they don’t have to be. And a tour doesn’t mean you have to cover a broad area of the country, either. You can limit it to just a few towns that are close to each other, geographically.

The nice things about book tours is that you get an opportunity to produce a spike in book sales, develop a relationship with some book retailers, and create a little buzz about your book.

I’m going on a book tour starting this next Friday in central North Carolina with three friends of mine. Here are some thoughts on making your tour easier:

Find authors that live close or have connections to the area you’re touring. (I live in NC, Jenn Stanley’s (she’s also Ellery Adams) family still lives in the area, Krista Davis lives fairly close in Virginia, and Avery Aames used to live in NC.)

Decide on the cities you’ll be covering—with a map so you don’t agree to be in Town A at 9 a.m. for a stock signing, 11 a.m. in Town B for a talk, then 2 p.m. back in Town A for a meet and greet if the towns aren’t even close to each other.

Lodging: If you all have connections to the area, chances are you’ll have friends or family in the area you can stay with and reduce your travel costs. Otherwise, consider sharing rooms.

Contact bookstores (chain and independent) and consider other venues, too. Are there libraries that like hosting events? Are there any art fairs, etc., that you could attend? It’s a good idea to call the bookstores a month out so that you can make sure they can order extra copies of your book to have in stock.

Consider stock signings. Each event doesn’t have to be a signing or a talk. You can also arrange to go to a store and sign the stock and leave your bookmarks at the front desk or the customer service desk. Again, you’ll want to call a month ahead even for a stock signing and just make sure that the books are there.

Name your tour. We called ours the Killer Cozies tour. :)

Come up with a promotional flyer that can be emailed to the CRMs or put on webpages.

Post the events on Goodreads.

Add a webpage to your blog or website to give details on appearances.

Divide up some of this work and planning between the authors.

Take all the information on when you’ll be where and put it in an itinerary for the group with everyone’s cell numbers.

Keep all your receipts while you’re on the tour.

Arrange to go with some really organized authors who do most of this for you! :) Thanks Krista and Jenn! And a special thanks to mystery lover Molly Weston who is putting me up (and putting up with me) for four nights during the tour. Hope I don't drive her completely around the bend...

Friday, August 6, 2010

Making a Living With Art?


Sometimes it’s easy to get dragged into your day…and the day isn’t a very inspiring one.

That was my day on Wednesday. I had what felt like an army of workmen at my house, in and out, lugging materials around for the air and heat system. They kept me in the loop as far as what they were doing (although I didn’t understand a word of it.) And my daughter was dying to get out of the house (probably because we couldn’t get out of the house.)

The salesman who sold us the system, which cost a pretty penny, dropped by on Wednesday afternoon to check and make sure I was happy with the installation so far and that the workers were doing all right in the extreme heat they were working in.

I noticed he kept looking into my living room. Then, he finally asked me with some hesitation, “Do you mind if I play your piano?”

Please play the piano,” I said. “It’s dying to be played.”

I thought I might hear The Entertainer or maybe Frère Jacques but he launched right into a complex and long bit of classical music that I wasn’t familiar with. He played without any hesitation and it was fantastic.

The men came down out of the attic to listen to him play and I moved into the living room. We all applauded when he was done. It totally took me out of the HVAC replacement doldrums.

“That was amazing,” I told him. “I can only play Twinkle Twinkle.”

“I was a music major in college,” he said, “but my dad told me that no one would pay me to play the piano, so I started working with air and heat installation. Then I was promoted to sales…but the piano is my first love.” And he was probably in his late-fifties. “I just wish I could make a living at it.”

I told him I completely understood—that I wrote books. But my husband makes a nice living so that I can write books instead of earning a living.

Which makes me think—how many of us out there are downgrading our artistic talents to hobbies? I know plenty of us don’t have the need to share what we write or the music we play or the paintings we create…and that’s totally understandable. But I wonder how many of us would be pursuing something artistic full-time—if only we could make a living at it.

Also, my friend Dave on My Year on the Grill reviewed Delicious and Suspicious and cooked a recipe from the book. :) If you’re in the mood for some comfort food, pop by for some country fried steaks.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Mental Preparation—Or, Expecting the Worst

blog98 Right now, even as I type, we’re having our upstairs and downstairs a/c systems replaced, along with our furnace.

In my blissful ignorance, I thought this wasn’t that complex of a job. Actually, I don’t think I thought anything much about it at all. I was a little surprised when I heard that it was going to take Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday to do the job…but I didn’t really think about the why behind the length of the job.

Then, a few days ago, I spoke to a friend of mine and mentioned the upcoming work. “Ohhh,” she said. “That was the craziest, most invasive thing I’ve ever had to go through when we had ours replaced. They were in every room of the house and the garage and attic, too! It took days and they kept running into problems during the installation.”

This was an eye-opener.

So when the guys showed up Wednesday morning and were in and out the door with all kinds of materials for the HVAC installation, I had the cats squirreled away in a quiet place where they wouldn’t be too freaked out. When they ended up having to take the attic door off because the new furnace was too big to go through the door, I wasn’t too surprised. When I was told the upstairs wouldn’t have any air conditioning Wednesday night, I had the downstairs bedroom ready for us to sleep in.

So far, the process feels like it’s going pretty smoothly—even when it’s not—because I’m prepared for the possible outcomes.

This same approach works well for writing, too. I think, sometimes, when we prepare ourselves for rejection or criticism or bumpy spots in our manuscripts or writer’s block then when it happens (as it inevitably does if we write for a long while) that it’s easier to deal with.

We’re still going through the bad patch…but we’re better equipped to deal with it because it’s not a surprise.

Jody Hedlund, who writes an excellent blog under her name, wrote a post Wednesday called “The Pain of Rejection Never Gets Easier.” She’s right—it doesn’t…whether it comes from agents, publishers, editors, readers, or reviewers.

But I think we can steel ourselves against it a little. And while we’re at it, we can also expect that there will be places in our manuscript where the muse will give us the silent treatment. There’s a point, obviously, where this attitude becomes pessimism, but I think I’m one of those people who likes to be pleasantly surprised instead by good news instead of sucker-punched by the bad stuff.

How do you prepare yourself for problems—whether they’re bad writing days, manuscript rejections, or poor reviews?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Inspiration from Unusual Places

Leonard Campbell Taylor--Japanese Prints I’d reached one of those points in my current manuscript where I really wasn’t excited about moving forward with the plot. I wasn’t even really sure how I was going to move the plot forward. In fact…I’d stalled out.

I skipped ahead to a different part of the book…which works out great. You still get work done on the manuscript, but you’re not working on the part that’s tripping you up.

But I needed to get back to the rocky part of my story.

I’m one of those writers who works completely alone on the first draft portion of my book. I don’t tell people what, specifically, I’m writing about. I don’t belong to critique groups, I don’t ask for help. I just sweat it out through the first draft.

Subsequent drafts are different. I need help for those. But I usually can’t imagine a scenario where I’d talk to someone about my plot while drafting a story. It’s just not finished enough for me to really recap.

Plus, it’s sort of like the baby name conundrum—you know. When you’re expecting a baby and someone asks you what you’re going to name the baby. You’re not really sure what name you’re going to stick with, so you tell them the ones you’re deciding between. Then you hear how one name reminds them of this kid that threw up in 4th grade on his desk, or how one name is really, really cute (and that’s not the one you’re leaning toward), etc.

So a friend of mine called and invited my daughter over for a playdate. I sweated over my manuscript for a while, then jumped in the car to pick my daughter back up. I was thinking about the manuscript the whole way in the car.

When my friend asked me how my book writing went that afternoon, I suddenly spilled everything out. It wasn’t going well. I was stuck. I was even thinking about doing a rewrite after the first draft was done to change the whole motive for the murder.

“What’s the book about?” she asked.

So I told her. And the funny thing was that she had a lot of experience with the topic I was writing on. I’d had no idea. And she told me all kinds of stories filled with people stabbing other people in the back—real people with real emotions and real stories.

And as she was vividly telling me these stories, waving her hands around while she did it, I was thinking about my story and getting all kinds of tangent ideas.

Which is a very good argument for sharing what we’re working on. Although, as you can tell, I’m not doing it here…still thinking about the baby name example. :) And not everyone we share with is helpful—sometimes they can be more critical.

So my question for you is—do you share what you’re working on as you write a first draft? Why or why not?