Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Murder Déjà Vu

A few years back I heard a newstory about a man who had spent half his life in prison for murder before DNA set him free. Since then, thousands of prisoners have been exonerated because of the improvement in DNA testing. The story gave me the idea for my book, Murder Déjà Vu, in which a man spends fifteen years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. He's released not on DNA evidence but on a botched crime scene technicality. A TV story about an artisan who created rock fireplaces filled out my character's profile.

Wealthy Harvard-educated architect, Reese Daughtry, has spent the last six years living an almost hermit-like existence in the mountains of North Carolina after his release from prison, building artistic rock fireplaces for a waiting list of clients. When author Dana Minette, newly divorced from her abusive husband, the county prosecutor, sees photos of Daughtry's creations in a magazine, she contracts him to build a fireplace in her new home. There’s a romance, a murder that mirrors the one for which Daughtry went to prison, and a jealous ex-husband who sees a path to higher office by prosecuting Daughtry, not only for the present murder but to prove he was guilty of the murder in Boston.

After the book’s publication, I received an email from a woman who lives with a man who spent ten years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. He was exonerated when DNA incriminated another man. She told me I had portrayed my character’s PTSD exactly right. It was the best “review” I ever received. 

 

Polly Iyer is the author of nine novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and Indiscretion, and four books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, Backlash and The Scent of Murder. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

What Are You Afraid Of?

Unless you were already living in a war zone, a global pandemic is the probably scariest thing you have experienced in a very long time. If you were already prone to depression and anxiety, there is nothing like a plague to ramp up the tension setting to high.

It is okay to feel scared and frozen. To wonder why you should bother to write a book when the world feels like it is ending. What's the point? Who can afford to buy it? How could you possibly launch it? Are publishers even accepting new works?

The fact is books are getting many of us through this difficult time. Book sales are up. 

Some are reading dystopian books for reassurance. Fictional worlds survived. People carried on. In many countries, dictators are in power and authoritarianism is on the rise. We may be inspired by heroes who fought to overturn corruption.

The same applies to historical books set in war time and disaster thrillers. There is comfort in knowing someone somewhere managed to survive natural disasters, famine, pandemics, world wars, regime changes, and genocide.

Fantasy has been a great distraction. Fictional worlds where the problems aren't real allow us to escape for a while. Times like these make us wish more than ever that we had magic wands.

Mysteries are a way to tap into the desire for vengeance and justice. We may not be able to control our own environment, but the bad guy always gets caught and punished in a good murder mystery. 

For some, Romance novels make us feel hopeful about the world. Finding love and connection are important parts of life.

Uplifting literary novels remind us that loving our neighbor is a good thing. We are inspired by people pulling together to overcome adversity. We are reminded of the power of love, the need for forgiveness and tolerance, the value of friendships, and the importance of community.

So, when it comes to being uncertain about whether you should continue to write, my answer is yes, please do.

There have been so many great memes about writing this year, but this is my favorite, "I wonder how many incredible book series are out there that I'll never get to read because the author gave up on their dream. I bet my favorite book in the world was never even published. Finish what you started." Caleb Robinson.





Further reading:

Best Writing Year Ever



Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit DianaHurwitz.com for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Year End Q & A

How do you feel about 2020?

Without a doubt, this year will go down in history as one we never want to revisit. Certainly, we've read (and lived through) challenges we never imagined we'd endure. News folks, other commentators, and journalists have beaten us nearly to death with negativity from virtually all fronts—and understandably so. 

We are writers of fiction and nonfiction. We are editors, journalists, and so on. Among our talents is the ability to look at any given situation from a variety of perspectives. Let's put the kaleidoscope of 2020 up to our eye and turn the image wheel slowly. 

Bright colors of rebirth we expected in the spring lost their brilliance, their beauty, their appeal. Instead, we faced a pandemic, something most of us have never experienced. Schools closed. Restaurants and a host of other businesses shut their doors. Store shelves emptied faster than they could be restocked, and many necessities could not be found because warehouses ran out of supplies. Friends, neighbors, relatives, loved ones, and strangers got sick. We lost some of them—too many of them. We saw the best of people and the worst of people. It was and still is a frightening and unstable time. 

What else did we lose? Freedom to travel. Family get-togethers. Safe work environments. Visiting friends and relatives. Eating out. Quality time with adult children and grandchildren. Hugs. And much, much more. 

As though this were not enough, we rolled through the punches of a troubled summer into hurricane season. Families and towns impacted by the virus now face destruction at the hands of an angry Mother Nature. Wildfires continue to rage through the western United States, destroying millions of acres, numerous homes, and taking a toll in human and animal lives. Loss of income meant loss of homes to too many families. Some elected leaders around the world minimized the problem or chose to battle each other rather than battle the virus, fires, and other issues that led to these catastrophes. Sadly, the end to all this distress and much more does not appear to be in sight.

Bleak as all this is, has there been a bright side? True, it's a challenge to find anything good in this most forgettable year in modern times. Any stretch of the imagination about a bright side comes with a significant amount of tarnish. Still . . . 

We've had time to reflect on what's truly valuable to us. Hectic lifestyles often keep reflections at bay. Those lifestyles fell by the wayside as businesses closed and social distancing significantly diminished face-to-face meetings of any sort.

Many of us learned how to use Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangouts, and other apps to keep in touch, often with people we've lost contact with over the busy years. Religious institutions resumed services through Zoom to reach homebound parishioners. Cuddles with grandchildren gave way to virtual hugs and conversations over digital communication devices. However, those who didn't have either the devices or the know-how to use the ones they possessed were shut out of this vital stay-in-touch method.

Many more examples could be cited, but the ones above make the point. The silver lining on the black cloud is so thin it can barely be seen. The tarnish on the bright side still resists efforts to remove it. 

As we enter the final quarter of this year, how are you coping?

Are you able to transfer our present reality into grist for your writing mill?

Have you renewed old friendships and drawn closer to family via Zoom, etc.?

What has helped you get through the past dark months?

Do people in your area comply with safety precautions to protect others?

How have people's attitudes affected you?

What has made it most difficult to adjust to our current situations?

Please share your feelings with our BRP community. Sharing unites us. It lends us support. It can change casual acquaintanceship into lasting friendship. Perhaps we can help one another travel this rocky, uninvited path to a better time. 

What do you think?


Editor Linda Lane has returned to her first love—writing—while maintaining her editing work. Her novels fall into the literary category because they are character driven rather than plot driven, but their quick pace reminds the reader of genre fiction. You can contact her through her websites: LSLaneBooks.com and DenverEditor.com.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Writing in the Time of Covid

Forgive me for word-playing on the title of one of my favorite books, Love in the Time of Cholera, but Gabriel García Márquez won’t mind.

I’ve finished my book titled we are but WARRIORS (No initial caps), even created the cover (posted) and formatted the paperback. Clap, clap. My problem is I’m not sure what I want to do with it. I’ve self-published nine mystery/thriller/suspense novels. All at one time or another have been an Amazon bestseller, one was a Kindle Scout winner. I haven’t published a new book in almost two years. I’ve worked on my current novel off and on for a few years, mainly because there are political aspects that I felt might change, so I picked it up and put it down, over and over again. Now it’s finished.
Do I want to go my usual route, try for an agent, or send it to a publisher that doesn’t require an agent? Would I be wasting my time with the two latter possibilities? If I choose one of the latter two, why? Is it for the validation a self-published book doesn’t get and a traditionally published book does? Is that even true anymore? If accepted, do I want to wait for the time it would take to see it traditionally published―maybe a year or more―when I could publish it myself? Would the fact that I’m solely self-published work against me in the eyes of a publisher or an agent? Is the book good enough? I’m really at a crossroad.

This is a stressful time. We are in the midst of a pandemic with no end in sight, hundreds of thousands have died, and then there’s what's sure to be a contentious election on November 3rd. A definitive result could take days if not weeks before the winner is declared, then we expect discord because of the unprecedented political dynamic. I know I'm not alone. These things have weighed on people across the nation, world, and political spectrum as we curb our anger, fears, and plans for the future. I'm not usually wishy-washy, not prone to depression, so I'm experiencing emotions I'm not accustomed to. My answer has been to stop watching the news and reading more. Those things don't solve the problem but they sure help.

Now, back to the book. Decisions, decisions.


Polly Iyer is the author of nine novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and Indiscretion, and four books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, Backlash and The Scent of Murder. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Moving Forward While the World Stands Still

This morning, I read Pat Stoltey's excellent post on the Colorado Writers Collaborative. Because I was a Colorado writer for many years, my curiosity was piqued. If you have not read her article, I suggest you do so, whether or not you are in Colorado and especially if world events have neutralized or totally drained your creative juices.


When I was raising my children, I looked forward to the time when I could sit down unhampered and transfer all the stories running around in my head to a written format. "Unhampered" means unbridled, unrestrained by circumstances, and I needed that freedom to write. The children long ago reached adulthood, their youngsters are grown, and most of them have grandchildren. So what's the excuse now?

Circumstances change. Mates die. Homes are gone. Families scatter. Estrangements shut down communication. Incentive wanes. Minds and bodies grow weary with age. Illness saps energy. Depression suppresses creative expression.

The list of potential creativity stiflers goes on and on, and the brass ring that seemed just out of reach in days gone by eludes all efforts to grasp it. Dulled by the tarnish of passing years, it no longer holds the appeal it once did. Seeking another way to reach it requires too much effort. Is there a brighter side to all this negativity?

Actually . . . yes. Even when the writing habit could not (or did not) take root and grow during earlier years, it's likely hibernating. It needs only to be awakened and pressed into service. That sounds easy enough, but the process can prove daunting. Then along comes a pandemic, and the chuckholes in the road to rehabbing it grow into major sinkholes. So what's next? Does the lemon-into-lemonade cliché apply here?


Perhaps it does. Stories can come from a deep well of memories, rather like Phoenix rising from the ashes. Historical events, current or past news, experiences, changed circumstances, and a host of other sources can fuel the creation of a blockbuster book. Take a pandemic, for example.

What happens if a worldwide plague grows out of a new virus in a single country? What if the extent of its spread is kept secret from the people? What if a huge disparity of the "facts" develops between scientists and authorities? What if flourishing businesses must close their doors, albeit temporarily, while struggling businesses cease to exist. What if unemployment rises sharply, and families are forced from their homes into the streets? What if food prices escalate, store shelves are empty, and penniless people, young and old, have nothing to eat? What if authorities seize the opportunity to take control of populations accustomed to being free to make their own choices? What if the world comes under the control of a single government that claims to have the interest of all at heart? And what if that government dictates what all citizens must do, although not necessarily in the best interests of the people?


Whether we write women's fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, romance, or whatever, within those parameters of "what-ifs" lie a plethora of gripping stories that can touch readers' hearts, possibly even offer them hope. People are starving for honesty, for reassurance, for a positive word about their future, the future of their children, grandchildren, other loved ones, and the world in general. We have a unique opportunity to explore a situation such as noted above from a variety of angles. We can move forward even if the world stands still. Could this be the inspiration we need to begin writing—or continue writing? What do you think?


Editor Linda Lane has returned to her first love—writing—while maintaining her editing work. Her novels typically fall into the literary category because they are character driven rather than plot driven, but their quick pace reminds the reader of genre fiction. You can contact her through her websites: LSLaneBooks.com and DenverEditor.com.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Are You Tuned in to the Colorado Writers Collaborative?

When this coronavirus pandemic lurched on to the conference and convention scene, live events all over the world were cancelled. We writers, just like the rest of humanity, had to stop in our tracks, go home, and scrap the schedule. Our calendars began to look pretty empty.

But then planners and managers got creative, online opportunities grew like wildfires (sorry, that reference is very painful for some folks these days), and we social butterflies jumped on board. We found new ways to indulge our occasional attacks of extrovertness, see the smiling faces of our friends and acquaintances, and connect.

In Colorado, three major writerly conferences were cancelled: Northern Colorado Writers and Pikes Peak Writers in the spring and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold in the fall. Not to be sabotaged by a nasty virus, the brilliant minds at these organizations, with additional support from others such as Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime Colorado, put together an extensive September event called the Colorado Writers Collaborative.

Pre-recorded presentations and conference-like sessions prepared by a wide variety of writers and writing-related experts are available this month (and maybe a little beyond if we’re lucky because there are some I’d like to watch again). Over thirty-five offerings are on You Tube in one easy location.

The ones I’ve watched so far, from motivational talks to self-publishing have been excellent. Some will make you laugh. Others will have you scrambling for a notebook and pen to take notes. Mark Coker from Smashwords is there with three in-depth workshops. John Gilstrap talks movie deals. Do you have questions about organization? Check out Post-It Planning or Storyboarding. Can’t figure out Amazon ads? There’s a session to help.

Time is running out, so take a look at the Colorado Writers Collaborative now. 



Pat (Patricia) Stoltey is the author of four novels published by Five Star/Cengage: two amateur sleuth, one thriller that was a finalist for a Colorado Book Award in 2015, and the historical mystery Wishing Caswell Dead (December 20, 2017), a finalist for the 2018 Colorado Book Awards. This novel is available in a large print edition, ebook, and trade paperback. Her short story, “Good Work for a Girl,” appears in the Five Star Anthology, The Spoilt Quilt and Other Frontier Stories: Pioneering Women of the West, released in November 2019.

Pat lives in Northern Colorado with her husband Bill, Scottish Terrier Sassy (aka Doggity), and brown tabby Katie (aka Kitty Cat).

You can learn more about Pat at her website/blog, on Facebook, and Twitter. She was interviewed for the Colorado Sun’s SunLit feature that you can find at the Colorado Sun website.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Advertising Merchandise

I have to admit I am not a hoarder of book advertising merchandise. Every month charities inundate our mailbox with with canvas totes, mailing labels, note pads, pens, calculators, blankets, pins, calendars, greeting cards, even nickles and dimes.

However some readers love them. And they must be somewhat successful or the charities wouldn't keep sending them.

1. Should you include merchandise items as part of your marketing strategy?  

It depends. Do you make personal appearances (pre-quarantine and hopefully again post-quarantine)? Do you go to conventions, writer meetings, book clubs? Do local independent bookstores or libraries allow you to display items along with your book? Do you have a mailing list? Do you hold contests and raffles and giveaways?

Can you afford it? There may or may not be a return on investment. You may want a few instead of hundreds.

The allure of Free Stuff

Christmas is only three months away, so they also make terrific presents.

2. Do you have the appropriate permissions?

If you are published by a traditional publisher, make sure you have the rights to your own words and images for this purpose.
If you are self-published and someone created the artwork for your cover, make sure you have a merchandising license for the images. There are restrictions you can read about here.

If you would like someone to design merchandise for you, consider hiring artists on places like Fiverr or Deviant Art. Even a graphic arts student at a local college or high school can help. See article on stock images and custom designers.

3. What should they contain?

At a minimum, merchandise should feature your cover image which has your name. You can add a tag line. It should offer contact information such as your website, blog, social media account names, and ordering information.

4. Where do you get them?

If you are a savvy Photoshop or photo manipulation program user with a color laser or inkjet printer there are some things you can make for yourself. There are printing fabrics, stickers, photo paper, card stock, etc.

If not, there are quite a few sources. I will only mention a few here.

Your local office supply store and Fed/Ex Kinkos work with suppliers of customized items from T-shirts to totes, to cupholders. They can help design your products too.

Other printing sources are: 4imprint, Smart Press, Got Print, National PensShutterfly, and Discount Mugs.

Lithographs can put book cover designs on many items. I ordered a scarf with part of my first book's texts on it for my daughter.

Depending on the quantity, your local retail store or pharmacy photo department has options for a few merchandising items like mugs, calendars, and greeting cards, even canvas prints. Even Costco has joined the fray.

Vistaprint is another source for customized t-shirts, mugs, pens, usb memory sticks, even candies.

5. What are the options?

The options are endless: 


Coloring Books with your characters and setting scenes

Matted poems or lines from your book for framing

Maps of your story world

Book Marks

Buttons and Magnets

Character Cards or Trading cards

Crafting Book Marks and Cards

Customized fabric and home decor items from SpoonFlower (for masks?)
Customized journals from Shutterfly

Stickers and Vinyl decals

I have even seen car decals

Read more:

How to Promote Your Writing with Author Merch

How to Create Merchandise for Your Books

Tips for Selling Merchandise for Your Books


Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit DianaHurwitz.com for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.