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Showing posts from October, 2018

Writers Gotta Read, Right? Halloween

It’s October— the nights are getting longer and colder, and thoughts turn to ghosts, pumpkins (pies or Jack-o-Lanterns or headless horsemen ), and the great beyond. If you are looking for a season-appropriate book to snuggle up with on Halloween, keep reading for places to start your exploration. Online mystery lists are a great place to find Halloween-themed stories, from the cozy end of the spectrum to the dark and devious: The Mystery Fanfare blog , run by mystery aficionado Janet Rudolph, offers a looooooong list of Halloween crime fiction (what is it about mystery writers and Halloween, I wonder?). Head over to the not-entirely-cozy Cozy Mystery List to find Halloween-themed mysteries to fit your mood , from BEDEVILED EGGS by Laura Childs and VAMPIRES, BONES, AND TREACLE SCONES by Kaitlyn Dunnett, to THE WITCHFINDER by Loren D. Estleman and TRICKS (87th PRECINCT) by Ed McBain. Nightstand Book Reviews offers up a list of 55 Halloween mysteries , some brand new and some c

Resurrecting an Unfinished Book

In September, I decided I didn’t like the book I was working on. I had written almost 30,000 unimaginative and dull words. Depression hit me like a body slam. World events had me reeling, breaking my concentration, but I couldn’t blame that for a crappy story. I put the book aside, hoping I’d find the trigger to motivate me with fresh ideas at a later date. I’ve covered a lot of ground in my books, from a prisoner wrongly accused, rape, stalking, Nazis, crooked televangelists, baby kidnapping, and vigilantes to name a few. Coming up with a fresh idea was straining my overloaded brain. And there it was: 34,000 words sitting in my computer, minding its own business. I had started the book way back in 2015, and it has one of the best opening chapters I’d ever written. Suspenseful and twisty. Intriguing enough to make a reader turn the page. My opinion, of course. The book was my first and only foray into a political novel, and international politics at that. I touch on political t

Rules - Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

In keeping with the October theme here at The Blood-Red-Pencil, loosely connected to Halloween and fears and all that, I thought I'd pop in with something that has bothered me for some time now, and that is the proliferation of writing rules that can leave a new writer's head spinning. I got the idea after reading a blog post over at the Author's Community site, about rules of writing . A lot of rules have popped up over the years I've been writing, and more and more they are matters of opinion, often contradictory, hence the head-spinning and all that. Some of the more popular rules that are cited on the blog post I read, and elsewhere, are Elmore Leonard's famous rules that include: Never open a book with weather:  If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a character’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people. Instead of "never" that would be a good guideline if it suggested

Using Facts in Fiction

Typically, when facts and fiction are mentioned together, it is as fact or fiction. Yet another application of the two words has a very different meaning: facts in fiction. Why is this important to writers and readers alike? Making sure a story is factually accurate when appropriate grounds that story and allows the reader to suspend disbelief. When I retired from teaching elementary school, I began my second career—writing fiction. My first stories centered on my interest in dance. Seventeen years of lessons and performances throughout the Pacific Northwest provided fodder to keep my fiction real. Still, my experience alone didn't seem quite enough, so I researched professional dancers and read ballet stories. Then I sent Marta and Lynne, my two seventeen-year-old dancers, off to join a ballet company set in Billings, Montana, in the late fifties. My original intent to write a single young adult story grew into a trilogy, 84 Ribbons ; When the Music Stops—Dance on ; and L

The Journey by L. Katherine Dailey — A Review — #FridayReads

The Journey , Volume II of the Viana Memoirs, follows the lives of the three Viana daughters in Victorian era England. Rich in the activities and lifestyles of the time, this fascinating story pulls the reader in to experience the ups and downs of Alexandra Viana as she is pursued by the less-than-gallant Roman Winterfield. However, there may be hope for him. When he unexpectedly joins her family and his on holiday in France, Alexandra notes some significant changes in the man she and her sisters once dubbed "The Ogre." Sadly, his distasteful qualities resurface in all their revolting grandeur, and Alexandra is perplexed when he nonetheless appears to win the approval of her family. Her fascination turns to distress upon her return to England to spend the summer as the guest of Roman's sister, Catherine. Much to her dismay, Catherine is courting one man while falling in love with another—a servant of her father! Catherine chooses to keep both romances a secret, and Al

What Are Writers Afraid Of?

Photo by HTO [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons Writers. We’re talking about the folks who create sci fi novels and don’t flinch when confronted with hostile aliens. And horror writers who deal with vampires, zombies, and werewolves (and worse yet, evil humans) without breaking a sweat. And romance writers who create tales of love and sex, the scariest experiences some people face during their lifetimes. If a writer can handle vicious crimes, terrifying cartels, human trafficking, other tragedies of modern life, and even love, why aren’t they fearless in all things writing-related? I can’t speak for others, but I can tell you what turns me into a squishy doubter of my abilities and ideas. 1. The sneaking suspicion I don’t know what I’m doing. In spite of reading hundreds of books and taking many classes and workshops on writing craft, including plot development, point of view, dialogue, and common mistakes, I still screw up. A lot. Like my last manuscript in which

Truth and Controversy in Writing

Truth—or lack thereof—and controversy seem to hang over us like a thermal inversion in a windless desert valley, where the smog of dissension and division dictate the behavior of distressed residents. Normally calm, rational people react to this toxic environment with unprecedented anger as they spew forth vile language and violent demonstrations against what they perceive to be a threat to their belief systems and lifestyles. Is that threat real? Only time will tell. Will vocal and physical resistance stem the tide of unwanted change? Again, time holds the answer. Can writers weave the growing unrest into the fabric of their stories? Of course, but beware. Unwarranted assumption and words quoted out of context can send misleading or false messages to the reader and incite an ugly retaliatory response. The war of words is then on, and the battle rages. Newspapers, magazines, television programs, and documentaries report truths, half-truths, unverified stories, and personal opini

Writing Steampunk

As the mists of October roll in, there is no better time to curl up with a good Steampunk novel. My love of steampunk started with Cassandra Clare's Clockwork Angel series, continued with Susan Kaye Quinn's bollypunk Sisters of Dharia series, The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman, and the Lady of Devices by Shelly Adina to name a few. I have added to my toppling to be purchased list with these titles from Best Sci Fi . Initially a combination of Victorian steam age and futuristic mechanics, the genre has expanded to cowboy punk, spacepunk, cyberpunk, bollypunk, elfpunk, mythpunk, and atompunk. The story skeletons are firmly rooted in Science Fiction and Fantasy, sometimes with a little Romance thrown in. Westerns also get a retool with cowboy punk. Some could be considered alternate history. Others have a literary feel. In steampunk, world building is a unique mixing of old and new worlds in the costuming, settings, vehicles, and props. The only limi