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Showing posts from August, 2016

StorySlam and Stage Fright

Photo by Cara Lopez Lee A few nights ago, for the first time, I stepped in front of an audience of more than a hundred, without book, paper, or index card in hand, without a memorized song, dance, or play in my head. Just the mic and me. The place was in Los Angeles. The theme was Heat . The event was StorySlam. An organization called The Moth puts on these competitive events all over the country. The premise is: “True Stories Told Live”… no notes. Are you kidding?! When I first heard of StorySlam it sounded petrifying. I didn’t even want to watch. Why? It might be like watching amateur trapeze artists perform without a net: could be beautiful, could be painful. Then I started taking long drives to visit my sister, and on the way back I listened to The Moth Radio Hour on NPR. These storytellers mesmerize. Each spends 10 to 15 minutes revealing their most frightening, embarrassing, grief-stricken, weird, dysfunctional moments. Their stories are inspiring, hilarious,

My Detour into Erotica

First there were dozens, maybe hundreds, of rejections from queries I sent to agents for my suspense novels. Then when I got an agent, more rejections from editors. “Not what we’re looking for at the moment.” “Like it but don’t love it.” “I could put it down. Not great for a suspense novel.” Sheesh! You want to be a writer? You’d better develop a thick skin. I had three or four finished novels at the time. I could keep writing or try something else—a different genre, for example. Around 2009, erotica was a big deal. Stories of successful erotic romance authors were all over the romance blogs. I’d never even read erotica. Could that be my ticket to publication? How hard could writing a sexy story be? Erotica embraces all the genres, including sub-genres and sub-sub genres—BDSM, gay, contemporary, paranormal, etc. To keep it simple, I needed to write story lines that were as close to what I’m comfortable writing as possible, only with more, um, sex. After all, would Janet Eva

In the heat of the moment—

Image by Mr Clementi , via Flickr Mysteries/crime fiction are sometimes called “murder mysteries”, but one or more murders are not really necessary. “Homicide” or “Unnatural death mysteries” would be more appropriate. I just looked up Homicide in my grandmother’s UK-published encyclopaedia, published in the UK in 1913, a useful resource for me as my Daisy Dalrymple mysteries are set in England in the 1920s. It directs me to two other entries: Manslaughter and Murder. My 1964 American encyclopedia agrees. Disregarding accidental homicide, what is the difference? Basically, it’s “in the heat of the moment” versus “malice aforethought.” I have no statistics—I doubt anyone has ever compiled any-but based on my own writing and reading I’d guess a large proportion of mysteries have homicides that can be classified as manslaughter, not murder. This doesn’t make the chase any less urgent, however. Usually the detective can’t tell which he is dealing with, and in any case, he doesn’

It’s a Hot Time in My Office Tonight

WAIT! Before you gasp and hide your eyes, you should know this is NOT an X (or R) rated post. Instead, it honors this month’s theme on Blood Red Pencil: The Heat Is On — as that applies to writing. by adwinda on morguefile When thinking of heat, the first thing that come to this writer’s mind is a sizzling romance. After some contemplation, however, I conclude that “sizzling” need not be synonymous with explicit bedroom adventures. In fact, a romantic scene that ends with the reader standing outside the closing bedroom door may sizzle even more than a show-all, tell-all bird’s eye view of the action. How so? Imagination. Every reader’s experience is different, so the scene becomes personalized based on individual knowledge and lifestyle. Furthermore, the scene after the fact will speak volumes about what went on behind that closed door. The next possibility that presents itself is fire. A roaring conflagration adds tension to almost any story as firefighters battle house fires

It's the Heat - Honest #FridayReads

There are some parts of the country where it is hotter than it is here in Texas. I know that, but it always seems the hottest where you are, especially when you have to go outside and feed animals, mow pastures, and clear the endless debris that comes with owning property with trees that shed limbs like dogs shed fur. This is my dog, Poppy, who leaves enough hair around, I could make another dog when I sweep. She also loves to play with Harry. So I am blaming my curmudgeonry - is that even a word? - on the heat. Back in May, I posted here about what I learned listening to audio books . I have been doing that - listening not posting - for 7 months now since my eyes are impaired and I am not able to read for long periods. In May, I was confident that the health issue would resolve quickly, but quickly has not even been on the radar. While I am better, the better has come slowly, and I still have no idea when, or if, I will get back to 100%. Maybe it isn't all the heat? An

The Heat is on to Finish My Book!

It's August, and the heat is on, in more ways than one. I'm outside every morning in the early morning hours taking long walks with Buster, my miniature pinscher. Then, I sit in the shade for about an hour afterward and watch Buster enjoy the great outdoors. I'm just not into the sun and heat like I used to be. Buster, who likes the sun more than I do. Strangely enough, though I've been avoiding the sun, it's still catching up with me. My arms sport a decent suntan, which is even more apparent when I take off my watch. While inside, I've been wasting too much time on mundane things, like housework. Then I tell myself I'll spend only half an hour on Facebook, and it turns out to be way past an hour. I need to get out my kitchen timer and put it right by my desk and stop fooling around when it goes off. Tentative cover for Awake, A Good Twin, Bad Twin Thriller I must get Awake , my good twin,bad twin thriller, finished. So far, progress is eking

#FridayReads - Shantaram

Mumbai, photo by Ben Garrison , via Flickr To kick off our new #FridayReads segment and tie in to August’s The Heat is On theme, I thought I would introduce our Blood-Red Pencil readers to a fellow Australian – Gregory Smith, aka Gregory David Roberts , aka “The Gentleman Bandit”, aka Shantaram. Roberts’ real-life story is crazy enough - he robbed banks, politely, with a toy pistol while wearing a three-piece suit, was caught, convicted, and sentenced to 23 years in prison, broke out of jail MacGyver-style in broad daylight, fled the country with police hot on his tail , and ended up living in a slum in Mumbai, India. Shantaram is Roberts’ heavily-fictionalized account of the decade when he seemingly vanished from the face of the earth. Arriving just as a devastating fire rips through a Mumbai slum, Marty-Stu the protagonist, driven by a Messiah-complex desire to atone for his crimes, opens a make-shift medical clinic (with just a first-aid course under his belt), infil

Don't Burn Your Reader

As a book lover, there is nothing more disappointing than shelling out precious book money for a story that lets me down. I have been drawn in by your cover, intrigued by your premise, and have been given a promise that I am settling down for a specific type of story. There are times when I have been "burned" by the author and regret the purchase. It doesn't happen terribly often. However, when it does, I never forget it. Let’s look at a five ways writers “burn” their readers: 1. The Bait and Switch This happens when you promise your reader a specific type of story, but give them something completely different. If you promise a thriller, you need to deliver high stakes, tense action, and a protagonist you can root for. I have picked up a five separate thrillers of late that were duller than ditch water. If you haven’t made me care by the third chapter, I stop reading. Another book I read was pitched as a comedy, but turned out to be about sexual

Hot Under the Collar about Cold, Hard Cash

There’s an old joke in the music biz: How do you make a small fortune as a musician? Start with a large one. The same can be said for the publishing industry. In most industries, a worker, be they hourly, salaried, contract, or freelance, makes an agreement with The Boss to do X job for X amount of pay. When the job is done, the check is signed. If you’re an author or a copy writer, things get a little hazy. You may have to sell a certain number of books before you see a dime, or the company with which you signed may be a small start-up with limited capital. Either way, it is incredibly disheartening to see your hard work devalued and dismissed. “Oh, you want to get paid? Hey, look over there!” So what do you do if you feel that you’ve been stiffed? There are a number of approaches. Mine involves stomping around the house while grumbling and swearing, followed by downing a few shots of chocolate syrup. Seriously, though. You can take the Ralph Kramden Approac

The Heat Is On

It's August, hotter than Hades, and I've had enough hell in my personal life to get hot under the collar for a long time. Mostly I'm just crisp around the edges from efforts that weren't inspiring, uplifting, or in any way motivating to my writing life. I don't even have a writing life right now! To top it off, I ache. Physically. From sitting in a car for far too many hours of endless travel, and not moving my butt in a daily exercise program. Just in time, one of my favorite fitness companies, Man Flow Yoga , has a new product: Yoga Start -  Yoga for Beginners With Modifications For the Inflexible . I'm already the Lady Manbassador for this outfit, having been sold on the program for a couple of years. (Obviously, ladies are welcome too!) Now that I seem to be back to square one on a fitness level, this will help me get on track. The program is good for any writer who is tight from too much sitting at the computer,