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Showing posts from January, 2017

Where is the Love?

In past years, talking about love has been fairly straightforward here at the Blood-Red Pencil blog. We mostly examined love from the standpoint of romance from assorted angles. This year, the theme of love has gotten a little more complicated, thanks to politics. Where is the love, when finding even kindness is a challenge? Maybe we need to look at the different aspects of love and how we practice it to give us some insight -  our team will do that this blogging month. For now, let's think about it in the context of our writing. What do we do to give our book characters some love? From a Facebook prompt by Gary Chapman, I applied his five love languages to a few of my characters and gained some interesting insights. I'll write more about that this month, when I review his book, The 5 Love Languages , for #FridayReads. How about love of place? Do you treat your fictional settings like a character, exploring the moods and nuances as though the location were a character

New, New, New, Newsletters

Newsletters seem to be gaining popularity as a marketing tool for authors , as well as musicians and other artists. I have subscribed to a few newsletters from authors that I enjoy such as Lee Child, Harlan Coben , Craig Johnson , and  Libby Fischer Hellman . I would probably subscribe to the newsletters of all of the authors whose books I read regularly, but I hardly have time for the books, let alone read all the newsletters that would appear in my mailbox. What I like about most about the newsletters I have subscribed to, is that they are brief and they usually include something personal from the author, so I get to know them beyond just the books they write. It's almost as good as meeting them in person. Being somewhat reluctant to add one more thing to my list of things to do that take me away from working on my latest book, I didn't start my own newsletter until last fall. When doing some reading about the pros and cons of newsletters, I picked up some good

Making a Mess: Thoughts on Process

Photo by Ali West , via Flickr I’ve never been a tidy person. My car, my bathroom counter, and my office all attest to how difficult it is for me to organize things and make choices between what to keep and what to throw away. I often don’t have the time or patience to deal with all those pesky tasks. Unfortunately, in my writing, it’s much the same. I’m fine with dumping down a long, rambling random draft, somehow finding a structure to hang it on, but I always seem to leave a lot of proverbial socks sticking out of my drawers. In writing, as in life, I can make a mess, no problem. What I struggle with is cleaning it up. I’ve been working on a new project, one I’ve been thinking about for a couple of years. I started in earnest in October, and since it’s based on a true story, I have an overload of possible scenes and ideas. There’s probably no way it’s all going to fit into a cohesive, completed whole, but, since I believe in the method of making a mess and cleaning it up, I do

10 Old Things that are New Again

1. The leftovers lurking in the back of your fridge are old. What’s new are the fuzzy tentacles spreading their way across its surface. What to do? Your house, your rules.  2. My cat is old. His ways of dealing with the younger new-to-us cats is resigned acceptance. You can almost hear him muttering “Youths….”. He’d roll his eyes if he could. I feel sure of this.  3. The resolution to eat healthier is an old one for many of us. I approach it in a new way by defining ‘healthier’ as ‘happier’. Hey. My house, my rules.  4. Many resolve to eat one new food a day. I did this; I tried chocolate-dipped red liquorice. Don’t judge, it was a gift. And…resolution successful.  5. The other old resolution is to exercise more. My new take is to concentrate on the ‘more’. Remember, one more step is more. Resolution successful.  6. I have a constant old problem with procrastination. This year I’m trying a new approach, which I’ll write down soon.  7. I had an old flip-style cell phone. I n

Separate but Equal

I’m trying something new in my WIP. I usually have a plot and a subplot in my novels, but this time I’m writing two distinct plots that have nothing to do with each other except for the main characters in the series, psychic Diana Racine and her love, Lieutenant Ernie Lucier of the New Orleans Police Department. Not two POVs, mind you; I always have multiple POVs. Each story line will tie up at the end, but they will not connect. (Though characters and situations should grow and evolve in a series, each novel should stand alone as a separate entity, and in my opinion without a cliffhanger.) I’m not sure I can pull this off. It’s like watching a tennis match where you go back and forth between players. The difficult part is segueing from one plot to the other without jarring the reader. In a way it’s similar to time shifts or flashbacks in a novel. That can be tricky if it’s not done well because it can be confusing. I wrote one book that goes back and forth in time, Threads , but

How I Keep It Fresh #FridayReads

My ninth Alafair Tucker mystery, The Return of the Raven Mocker , was just released in paper and as an e-book on January 3. And yet I’m already working on book ten. When I first began writing the Alafair Tucker Mystery series, I had a story arc in mind that was going to carry through ten books. This is a wonderful idea, but as anyone who has ever written a long series knows, after a couple of books all your plans for a story arc have gone by the wayside. The reason this happened, at least to me, is that I seem to be writing about real people who have their own ideas about how things should be gone about, and once I put them into a situation, they react to it in ways I had never anticipated. So much for a ten-book arc. Besides, I really want readers to be able to pick up any book in the series and have a satisfying experience without having to know anything about what went before. This poses the million dollar question for the author of a long series: How do you keep it fresh? Ho

Beetling Along

Photo by Andi Gentsch , via Flickr Years ago I came across the advice that exercise can help to kick-start stalled creative juices, so, since some sort of house cleaning had to occur at least once a month, I tried to convince myself that vacuuming was good exercise—a strenuous upper-body workout, albeit only on my right side. But to this day I remain unconvinced (as do the strained muscles in my right shoulder). Vacuuming only makes me cranky, and a cranky writer eats chocolate and checks Facebook. So I invested in a time- and labour-saving gadget to make my life easier: a robotic vacuum cleaner. At first I was drawn to watch in fascination as “Beetle” laboured, making nice tidy bundles of dust bunnies and debris. Once I was confident of Beetle’s ability to navigate without getting stuck or nudging open forbidden doors, I reminded myself that Beetle was there to save me time—so what was I going to do with that gift of time? The answer was clear: this would be writing time, prima

New Stories

I love mysteries and cozy mysteries. I especially love Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in all its iterations from the old Basil Rathbone black and whites to the current crop played by Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert Downey Jr., and Johnny Lee Miller. There have been many fictional offshoots as well featuring Irene Adler, Moriarity, and female Sherlocks. I have enjoyed multiple versions of the Bronte sisters' works and all the Jane Austen tales from Emma to Pride and Prejudice, though I draw the line at adding zombies. I enjoy the endless Marvel comics-inspired movies from Iron Man to Guardians of the Galaxy . They will be making movies long after I am in the ground. In fact, Hollywood and fiction writing are awash with sequels, prequels, and too many to count remakes of just about every classic novel, television show, and movie within my lifetime. There are tried and true genre tropes repeated ad nauseum because they are comfortable and have been proven to work:

The Editorial Critique

Photo credit: Dani Greer I’m sometimes asked why I would hire an editor for my work, since I am an editor myself. Isn’t this a waste of money and time?  The answer is simple: No, it is not a waste of money or time.  I’m too close to the book to see the mistakes or recognize the places it could be better. Although I will always perform a self-edit before I send it off to another editor, I know from experience that I’ll miss things. Here is what I expect from my editor’s Manuscript Critique. First, I must recognize that it is an editor’s job to point out what does not work and where the problems are in a manuscript. They hunt for the bad stuff, so naturally they can sound negative and discouraging even though they might be positive, kind-hearted people. (I certainly try to be.) The trick for the editor is to point out the good stuff too, and the trick for the writer is to hold on to their vision for the book in the face of the realization that it’s not yet perfect. (Act