Monday, July 10, 2017

Take Five With Leeann Betts

Leeann Betts also writers as Donna Schlachter. Leeann is her contemporary suspense writer's nom de plume while Donna writes historical suspense.  How about that for fun. And wait until you read her last answer!

 Welcome to An Indie Adventure, Leeann. Tell us, what inspired you to write your book Hidden Assets?

Hi L.A., thank you for having me on your blog as Leeann this time. I actually wanted to make the next book an Alaskan cruise adventure, but I didn’t get to go on the cruise yet, so I had to find another setting. We recently visited eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska, and so I chose to set it there.

How do you use setting to further your story?

The setting should be as obvious as the nose on your face yet as unobtrusive as breathing. Setting, when used properly, doesn’t intrude on the story, but the characters make different choices based on what the setting is. If I had set this one in New York City, for example, it should be a different story because there are more resources available, easier to find people, more difficult to stay focused because of other distractions.

How do you construct your characters?

Carly is very autobiographical, and Mike is fashioned after my husband Patrick, so I tend to incorporate some of the things we say and do. However, Carly is much quicker on the comeback than I am, and Mike is much more likely to give Carly her head and let her run with an idea than my hubby would. Other than that, secondary characters are fashioned after people I know or have met.

How is your main character completely different than you?

Carly is much more bold than I am. She’ll go down in a basement whereas I won’t, and she’ll dig in a place where she’s likely to find a body, where I wouldn’t.

Tell us something about yourself we might not expect!

I once ice skated with an Olympic champion.

Give us a brief summary of Hidden Assets:
Carly Turnquist, forensic accountant, responds to a call from her friend, Anne, who is in the middle of a nasty divorce, and travels to Wyoming to help find assets Anne thinks her husband has stolen. But the mystery begins before Carly even arrives when she sees a man thrown off a train. Except there’s no body. Husband Mike uncovers an illegal scam in a computer program he has been asked to upgrade, and then Anne is arrested for her ex’s murder. 

Can Carly figure out what’s going on, and why a strange couple is digging in Anne’s basement? Or will she disappear along with the artwork, coins, and money?

Buy Links: 

Leeann Betts writes contemporary suspense, while her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, pens historical suspense. She has released five titles in her cozy mystery series, By the Numbers, with Hidden Assets releasing the end of June. 

In addition, Leeann has written a devotional for accountants, bookkeepers, and financial folk, Counting the Days, and with her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, has published a book on writing, Nuggets of Writing Gold, a compilation of essays, articles, and exercises on the craft.

Find Leeann:
I publish a free quarterly newsletter that includes a book review and articles on writing and books of interest to readers and writers. You can subscribe at or follow Leeann at 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Be Strong and Courageous ~ Happy 4th of July, America

I originally wrote this post about my way to "Kick Discouragement to the Curb"  for the New Year's Celebration onf the amazing Seekerville blog. 
And while it pertained to my writing, I believe the advice I offer is applicable for this celebration of America's birth. 

Be Strong and Courageous. Using my own experience in this crazy world of writing and publishing, either trad or indie, I'm going to give you my suggestion for kicking discouragement to the curb. And believe me, it doesn't matter if you're a best-selling author or a newbie, discouragement is bound to affect you at some point...or at many points. From that white page waiting for your genius or those red lines from your editor, discouragement fills you and you're not sure where to turn.

Re-read the above statement in bold and then take a walk and be surrounded by the beauty of this world, this country. The gifts we've been given. The wonders right in front of you. Think of all who have gone before you, the pioneers, the seafaring folks, the daring, the bold, the oppressed. What would have happened if they stopped because they were discouraged?  

Oh and notice I didn't say read a book. GET OUT and look around you. Admire that tender shoot of grass, that oh-so-blue sky, the child running toward its loved one, the hugs shared by young and the aged, the random acts of kindness.

Let all of this fill you with Strength and Courage until you're nearly bursting with energy. Then go back to whatever task was at hand and see if you can continue. I'll bet you can. 

Happy 4th of July, America. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Class Flash ~ New Classes For You From Laurie Schnebly Campbell

I'm happy to share this list of Laurie's upcoming classes.
I'm a huge Laurie fan and love her method of teaching.
And she has some early 2018 classes listed.  WOW.

live in Columbus: ALL-DAY WORKSHOP
(July 15, 9-4, optional $10 donation)
Alpha Males, Building Characters, Plotting Via Motivation and From Plot To Finish

live in Cincinnati: INFORMAL AFTERNOON
(July 16, 1:15-3:30, free) A casual get-together over Description & Dialogue, followed by The Personality Ladder

(August 2) If anyone reads just the first few words of your book, what happens?


(August 7-Sept. 1)
You've seen online listings that made you buy immediately, knowing you wanted that book for sure. You've seen others that told you "don't want this one" and others that left you lukewarm. While nobody can (or should) write listings that attract readers looking for a whole different type of book, writing blurbs that turn browsers into buyers is easy to do...with the hands-on techniques from this filled-with-feedback class.

(August 8, 7:30pm)
See the description for March

(September 9, 12:30pm)

(August 18)
Your heroine has to transcend limits, but what can those limits be?


(Sept. 4-29)
Christopher Vogler identified 12 steps for daredevil heroes who explore the outside world and return with the elixir. But a character whose emotional journey leads to flowering change instead of physical adventure, as described in Kim Hudson's 13 steps, will embark on a journey filled with other -- more internal -- challenges. For writers whose heroine faces her own less traveled road to discovery, this class offers a fascinating map.

(Oct. 9-20)
This limited-enrollment master class picks up where September's leaves off, focusing on the heroine's journey through everything she needs to overcome from beginning to end. With a choice of homework commentary delivered one-on-one or to the entire class, chart the route she'll use for transcending her weak points -- as well as those of people she cares about -- while avoiding both the false triumph and false disaster of her own story.


(Nov. 5-18)
What makes great dialogue? How can yours become better with each book you write? Writers who've never thought about such questions, because they're naturally skilled with dialogue, won't need to bother with this class. But anyone who's occasionally thought "I wish I could make my dialogue stronger / punchier / more entertaining / more subtle / more revealing" will appreciate the five key tools of dynamic dialogue.


(Nov. 11, 10:30-2)
Not yet sure what this day will include, but will know by Nov. 10!

(As always, there's no class in December.)


(Jan. 2-26, 2018)
Whether it's the first rejection, the 50th-book slump, or just not getting the story you want, frustration is part of every writer's life. For some, it's a nuisance; for others, it's the end of a career. For anyone determined to make 2018 a Better Writing Year, this class offers both practical and psychological techniques for dealing with rejection, writer's block, frustration, motivation, and other issues that keep writers from loving their craft.

(Feb. 5-23, 2018)
It's one thing to write a stand-alone novel. It's another to write a sequel, a trilogy, a box set or an open-ended series that'll continue for as long as you want. While great storytelling is great storytelling no matter what the format, there are techniques to keep in mind when writing a series that will not only keep your readers on board through every story, but keep you from burning out while they're still waiting for more.


(March 5-30)
Any of us could write a book in which characters get shipwrecked on an uncharted desert isle. We've seen what seven such characters would do…over and over and over again. But what would YOURS do? If you nail down any character's motivation, it doesn't matter whether the ship capsizes or lands safely three hours later. Your characters will create a plot from whatEVER happens, because you've got their motivation built in from the very beginning...and here's how to do it.

online: FROM PLOT TO FINISH(April 9-20)
A continuation of the March process open solely to people who've taken PVM online or in person at some point, this no-more-than-30-people group gets you plotting a brand new or already-begun book (using your completed 14-point worksheet) from start to finish. No need to prepare a new story idea, character bios, goal charts or anything else, because you'll see how to plot an entire book -- and actually have it ready to type -- by the end of this hands-on workshop.

online: ARISTOTLE ON RELATIONSHIPS(May 7-18) Relationships haven’t changed much since the days of ancient Greece. Aristotle identified personality types for different types of people who, even though their descriptive names have changed, still embody those who wind up in your novel. Naturally, each type has intriguing and attractive elements that make readers want to know this person, as well as some problematic issues that’ll keep the conflict coming…and going…and coming…

online: PERFECTING YOUR PITCH(June 7-14)
Are you pitching your work at a conference? In an email? By phone, by letter, by chance if you run into someone browsing for a good book? The techniques will be slightly different for each situation — and while writers tend to feel more anxiety when pitching face-to-face, it’s useful to have a plan of action for every possible scenario. Whether you’re pitching an agent, editor, interviewer, publisher or a regular reader, learn how to make it a good experience for you both!

Laurie's Bio:

Laurie Schnebly Campbell loves giving workshops for writer groups about "Psychology for Creating Characters," "Making Rejection WORK For You," "Building A Happy Relationship For Your Characters (And Yourself)" and other issues that draw on her background as a counseling therapist and romance writer.

In fact, she chose her website ( so people would find it easy to Book Laurie for programs.

But giving workshops -- for students from London and Los Angeles to New Zealand and New York -- is just one of her interests. During weekdays, she writes and produces videos, brochures and commercials (some of which feature her voice) for a Phoenix advertising agency. For several years she would turn off her computer every day at five o'clock, wait thirty seconds, turn it on again and start writing romance.

It finally paid off. Her first novel was nominated by Romantic Times as the year's "Best First Series Romance," and her second beat out Nora Roberts for "Best Special Edition of the Year." But between those two successes came a three-year dry spell, during which Laurie discovered that selling a first book doesn't guarantee ongoing success.

"What got me through that period," she says, "was realizing that the real fun of writing a romance is the actual writing. Selling is wonderful, sure, but nothing compares to the absolute, primal joy of sitting at the computer and making a scene unfold and thinking 'Wow! Yes! This is great!'"

After six books for Special Edition, she turned her attention to writing non-fiction -- using her research into the nine personality types to help writers create plausible, likable people with realistic flaws. Her other favorite activities include playing with her husband and son, recording for the blind, counseling at a mental health center, traveling to Sedona (the Arizona red-rock town named for her great-grandmother, Sedona Schnebly) and working with other writers.

"People ask how I find time to do all that," Laurie says, "and I tell them it's easy. I never clean my house!"

Laurie welcomes email from readers—send her a "Hello!"

Friday, June 30, 2017

Author Spotlight Featuring Angela Sylvaine

Today I'm so happy to feature Angela Sylvaine. I've known Angie for a long time, 
in fact, I used to work with her.  
And I was lucky enough to read some of her early work and was blown away.  

Thanks for having me as a guest, L.A.! I love all things spooky and was inspired to write The Bride when I learned of a haunted wedding dress on display at the Baker Mansion in Pennsylvania. Legend has it that the owner’s daughter fell in love with a man beneath her class and was forbidden to marry. She later died having never married and is said to haunt the wedding dress she didn’t have the chance to wear. 

My story is about what happens when the dress falls into the hands of Rose, a young bride-to-be preparing to marry her true love. If you enjoy a good old-fashioned ghost story, this one is for you, unless you’re a bride-to-be. You might want to wait until after the nuptials to dive into this one;)

Supernatural Horror Short Stories- This latest title crawls with the dark fingers of terror, the chilling sensation of another presence sitting alongside you while you read the tales of horror laid out before you. Contains a fabulous mix of classic and brand new writing, with authors from the US, Canada, and the UK.

Excerpt from The Bride:
I close my eyes and imagine myself as a bride, my auburn hair piled on my head, curls spilling down my neck and tumbling over my shoulders. The Victorian style gown of delicate golden lace and fine beading shimmers under the lights. The boned corset nips in at the waist, giving way to a full skirt that bursts over my hips and flows to the floor.
The vision fades and I sag against the wall, gasping for breath. The sweet taste of cake and pleasant sting of champagne bubbles lingers on my tongue.
“Rose, you’re losing it,” I say to no one in particular. I’ve finally cracked. My pre-wedding jitters are morphing into full blown psychosis.  
I lift the dress from its hook to check under each arm and inside the neckline for a price tag. My wallet holds fifty bucks cash and my bank account a measly two hundred, even with all the extra shifts I’ve been picking up at the restaurant. I clutch the dress to my chest and rush toward the front of the store.
A stick of an old man in a flannel shirt, unnecessary suspenders attached to his polyester pants, sits behind the counter. He runs a finger down the page of a ledger book, a pair of spectacles perched on his nose.
“Hello, sir? This doesn’t have a price tag.” I cringe at the frantic wobble in my voice.
He grunts and reaches toward me. I release my hold on the gown, letting him pull it across the counter. His hand shakes with tremors as he sweeps the dress for a tag.
“I already checked.” I rub my damp hands down the front of my jeans.
“Where’d ya get it?” he asks.
“Sorry?” Has the old guy gone senile and forgotten this is a store?
He glares at me over his glasses with eyes milky from cataracts. “Which stall?”
“Oh, right.” I point toward the back of the store. “The one with the dolls.”
“Widow Montgomery never was able to have kids of her own.” He tugs the ledger out from under the dress to flip through the pages. The binding of the book creaks with each movement and the musty smell of old paper tickles my nose. “Collected those damn dolls until they took her off to the home.”
I reach out, ready to yank the book from his hands and find the darn page myself, but stop myself. What in world has come over me? I paste on a smile.
He stops flipping and runs his finger down the page. “Nothin’ here.” His lips pull down at the corners, taking the rest of his face with them.
“Maybe it got moved from another stall.” I stand on my toes, craning my neck to see the ledger. “Could you please look in the other ones, sir?”
             “I don’t remember no dress, and I know this place inside and out.” He slams the book closed, releasing a puff of dust into the air.


Angela Sylvaine still believes in monsters, both real and imagined, and always checks under the bed. She holds degrees in psychology and philosophy. Her work has appeared in Every Day Fiction and Supernatural Horror Short Stories (Gothic Fantasy Series), and will be published upcoming in Disturbed Digest and My American Nightmare. North Dakotan by birth and Coloradoan by choice, she lives with her husband and three creepy cats on the front range of the Rockies. 

Find Angela:

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Screenwriter Robert Gosnell ~ Understanding The Word "No"

Understanding the Word "No"

We all encounter it throughout our careers, and either accept it and keep going or give into it and quit. Simply the fear of rejection is enough to stall, or even prevent a promising writing career.

I have submitted dozens of screenplays and TV scripts to potential producers, film companies and investors over the years. Enough of them hit home to provide me with a career, but they only represent a fraction of my submissions. The vast majority were rejected, and some quite callously.

It's never personal, of course. At least, that's what they tell us, and maybe they actually mean it, but for us, the writers, it's never not personal.

In virtually all of my rejected screenplay submissions, the response went something like this: My agent would call and say, "They liked the writing, but it's not what they're looking for."

That isn't exactly brutal. In fact, it's pretty diplomatic, which may be why so many of them used it. 

"It isn't you, it's us."

First off, they always tell writers that they liked the writing. Maybe, they did, or maybe they didn't, but I've never not been given that note.

"It's not what they're looking for" holds a lot more water. Honestly, that is the most likely scenario.

Perhaps, they determined the budget to be too high and passed on it for economic reasons. Maybe, they're looking for a vehicle for a particular star, and my lead character didn't fit. Maybe, they already have something similar in the pipeline. It's also quite possible that it just isn't something they want to do.

Like every business, a production company sets goals for itself. They have a clear business plan, and it's easy to not fit into it.

The fact is, success relies on getting the right script in front of the right person at the right time. I'm asking them to pay me thousands of dollars to spend millions of dollars and a great deal of time and energy producing my screenplay. It demands a perfect storm of opportunity which is fragile and rare.

That's the good news. It really isn't personal. There are many reasons for rejecting a screenplay that have nothing to do with me. So, I reject the rejection and keep going. Breathe in, breathe out, move on.

And, why not? After all, they liked the writing.


"The Blue Collar Screenwriter and The Elements of Screenplay" is currently available at:
Amazon digital and paperback
Find Robert at:
Website (with information on classes)

A  professional screenwriter for more than thirty years,  Robert Gosnell has produced credits in feature films, network television, syndicated television, basic cable and pay cable, and is a member of the Writers Guild of America, West and the Writers Guild of Canada.

Robert began his career writing situation comedy as a staff writer for the ABC series Baby Makes Five.  As a freelance writer, he wrote episodes for Too Close for Comfort and the TBS comedies Safe at Home andRocky Road.  In cable, he has scripted numerous projects for the Disney Channel, including Just Perfect, a Disney Channel movie featuring  Jennie Garth. In 1998, he wrote the  Showtime original movie, Escape from Wildcat Canyon, which starred Dennis Weaver and won the national "Parents Choice Award." Robert's feature credits include the Chuck Norris/Louis Gosset Jr. film Firewalker, an uncredited rewrite on the motion picture Number One With A Bullet starring Robert Carradine and Billy Dee Williams, and the sale of his original screenplay Kick And Kick Back to Cannon Films. Robert was also selected as a judge for the 1990 Cable Ace Awards, in the Comedy Special category.

In 1990, Robert left Hollywood for Denver, where he became active in the local independent film community. His screenplay Tiger Street was produced by the Pagoda Group of Denver and premiered on Showtime Extreme in August of 2003. In 1999, Denver’s Inferno Films produced the action film Dragon and the Hawk from his script. In 2001, Robert co-wrote the screenplay for the independent feature Siren for Las Vegas company Stage Left Productions. His feature script Juncture was produced by Front Range Films in March of 2006. 

Robert  is a principal member of the Denver production company "Conspiracy Films." He is frequently an invited speaker for local writers organizations,  served on the faculty of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference in 2002, and in 2007 was chosen to participate as a panelist for the Aspen Film Festival Short Screenplay Contest. Robert regularly presents his screenwriting class "The Elements of Screenplay," along with advanced classes and workshops, in the Denver area.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Take Five With Author Mary Vine

Well, it's supposed to be spring here in the Rockies, but after a snow last week and much cooler weather than I'd like, I decided I'm due for some reading.  And guess what, I find a new-to-me author writing a time travel romantic novella.  Perfect.
Welcome to An Indie Adventure, Mary Vine.  Tell us, what inspired you to write your book, A Nugget of Time?
Hi, L.A., thank for having me as your guest today. I have been in love with the woods of Northeast Oregon for about twenty years now. My husband likes to pan for gold there, but I am more interested in the history of the mining district during the mid to late 1800s. We bought a couple of lots in the ghost town of Bourne (first named Cracker City) and that is where my story came alive. While wondering what it would have been like to live in this town during its heyday, I brought back heroine Dixie Lea, a 21st-century newspaper reporter, to 1870.

If you were not a writer, what vocation would you pursue?

I was blessed to find two jobs I really enjoy. Writing is one of course, and the other is education. I spent 28 years in the field and then retired last summer as a licensed speech and language pathology assistant, teaching k through 12th grades.

Do you prefer to read in the same genre you write in, or do you avoid reading that genre?  Why?

I usually prefer happily ever after romances with mystery and/or suspense and that is what I write. I’ve always liked romantic time travel as well.

How do you create internal and external conflict in your characters?  I find conflict often the hardest to create when I start planning a book.

I don’t know that I have the answer to that specifically. I am the kind of author that doesn’t plan much on paper but lets the story unfold in my head at the computer. But, I usually start the story knowing the setting and the internal struggle of the heroine and hero and go from there.

If you could live during any era of history, which one would you choose?

The 1870s or just after the Civil War. Yet, when I wrote Nugget of Time I had the heroine, Dixie Lea, doing tasks around the house without the use of 21th-century technology and it didn’t seem quite as “romantic” as I once thought. I would like to learn how to wash clothes at the river by hero James Brogan, though.

Give us a brief summary of A Nugget of Time:
A Boise newspaper sends Dixie Lea to interview the owner of the largest gold nugget found in the 21st century. While waiting for him in a mining territory in Northeast Oregon, she walks into a cave. Feeling dizzy, she puts a hand to the wall of the tunnel and wakes up alone on a hill. 

Retired Lieutenant Colonel James Brogan is at a complete loss of what to do with this self-directed woman alone in the woods with no knowledge of how to survive in 1870. His sense of right and wrong gives him no choice but to keep her safe. Yet, someone else is waiting and planning for them to come to a disastrous end.

Buy Links:

Mary Vine is the author of contemporary romantic fiction books MAYA’S GOLD, A PLACE TO LAND, SNAKE RIVER RENDEZVOUS and historical novella WANTING MOORE, published by Black Lyon Publishing. 

Through Melland Publishing, LLC, she has published a romantic mystery, A HAUNTING IN TRILLIUM FALLS, a time travel, A NUGGET OF TIME and an inspirational children’s book, THE BIG GUY UPSTAIRS. 

She has also published two children’s books by author Velma Parker, EMMA COMES THROUGH and MOLLY’S MONKEYSHINES. Mary, and her husband can usually be found in Southwest Idaho or Northeast Oregon.

Find Mary:

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Five Secrets From Author B.K. Stevens

I'm telling you, we're a lucky bunch to find all these new-to-us authors.  Please welcome mystery writer, B.K. Stevens. Her secrets are really cool, read on.

B.K. (Bonnie) Stevens has published over fifty short stories, most of them in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. Eleven of those stories, including Agatha, Macavity, and Derringer finalists, are collected in Her Infinite Variety: Tales of Women and Crime. B.K.’s first novel, Interpretation of Murder, is a whodunit offering readers insights into deaf culture. 

Fighting Chance, a martial arts mystery for teens, was an Agatha and Anthony finalist. B.K. blogs at SleuthSayers and also hosts The First Two Pages. She and her husband, Dennis, live in Virginia with their smug cat. They have two amazing daughters, one amazing son-in-law, and four perfect grandchildren.
Hi, B.K., please tell us Five Secrets we may not know about Her Infinite Variety: Tales of Women and Crime or you, but will after today!

1)   Thanks for having me here today as your guest, L.A. I often have fun with naming characters—I sometimes name them after people I know, sometimes after characters from literature and mythology. And sometimes I get out my book on the origins and meanings of names. “Death in Rehab,” first published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and included in Her Infinite Variety, is set at a clinic for people with unusual addictions—for example, a Jeopardy! fanatic who speaks only in the form of questions, a serial plagiarist who always echoes what other characters say, and a compulsive proofreader who can’t stop correcting other characters’ grammar. The meaning of one name turns out to be an important clue in solving the mystery, so I decided to give all the suspects names that reflect something about their personalities or situations. For example, an angry, resentful character is named Martha (“bitter”), a character who’s eccentric but contented is named Felix (“happy”), and a celebrity who checks into the clinic for court-mandated rehabilitation is named Roland (“famous”).

2)    Here’s a secret that will give you a head start at figuring out what’s going on in one of my stories. Once, when I was teaching Shakespeare’s Othello, I got especially fascinated by Iago. I thought it might be interesting to write a mystery story with a character like Iago in it. So I did. The story got published in a magazine and is now in Her Infinite Variety: Tales of Women and Crime. Which story is it? That’s a secret I’m not sharing—if you read the stories, you’ll know.

3)    Since short story writers don’t have much time to capture the reader’s attention, I always devote special care to my opening sentences. Of all the stories in Her Infinite Variety, I think “Honor among Thieves” has the best opening sentences. Here they are: “The first time it happened, it was just barely a crime. It started as an honest mistake, and she simply didn’t correct it.” Those are the first sentences of “Honor among Thieves.” I think there’s something quietly ominous about those sentences. We don’t know exactly what “she” did (although the title gives us a big hint), but we know it was a crime, even if “just barely.” And “the first time it happened” lets us know it’s going to happen again, and that next time it probably won’t start as “an honest mistake.” So someone who’s generally honest is going to commit a number of crimes. I hope readers will wonder how and why that might happen, and will want to read on.

4)    Sometimes, nasty thoughts can lead to successful stories. For many years, I was an adjunct English professor, following my husband’s career from state to state and patching together any part-time teaching jobs I could find. At one college, the director of the composition program was an unpleasant, obnoxious woman, a gossip and a snoop. She wasn’t qualified for her position, but she’d maneuvered her way into it by playing up to powerful administrators. Adjuncts had no power, so she treated us like dirt. And she found sneaky ways to inflate her paycheck and use college funds for personal purposes. I sometimes fantasized about exposing her and getting her fired, but I never did anything—just fumed. Years later, I decided to write a story called “Adjuncts Anonymous,” about a group of four English adjuncts who fantasize about getting revenge on their despicable director of composition. It starts as a joke, as a way of letting off steam—but then the revenge fantasy seems to be coming true, though none of the four will admit to taking any actions. That story made the cover of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, earned a Derringer nomination, and ended up in Her Infinite Variety. And writing it was good therapy for me.

5)    In “The Shopper,” a young librarian’s house is burglarized while she’s at home, asleep. The police know this burglar’s pattern well: They call him The Shopper because in addition to stealing things with monetary value, he seems to wander through a house picking up anything that appeals to him, whether it can be fenced or not. Then two men the librarian’s never seen before start showing up at the library every day. For various reasons, she suspects one of them is The Shopper, and she fears he’s stalking her. But which man is the one who burglarized her house? Here’s a secret that will help you figure it out. On the second page of the story, a police detective lists all the items stolen from the librarian’s house. Pay careful attention to that list, and keep it in mind as you observe the actions of the two men she suspects. The list offers you valuable insights that should help you zero in on The Shopper. 

Her Infinite Variety: Tales of Women and Crime includes eleven stories of various lengths, types, and tones, from humorous novella-length whodunits to a dark flash fiction suspense story. Most were first published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. The stories include Agatha, Macavity, and Derringer finalists, along with the winner of a national suspense-writing contest judged by Mary Higgins Clark. 

Some of the women featured in these stories are detectives, and some are victims. Some inspire crimes, and some commit them. The women’s ages vary, and so do their professions—librarian, administrative assistant, housewife, trophy wife, personnel director, college professor. Romance is an element in some stories, but never the primary one.

Always, the stories focus sharply on the various entanglements of women and crime. “These finely crafted stories have it all -- psychological heft, suspense, subtle humor -- and the author's notes on each story are especially illuminating. A treat for lovers of the short story form and students of the craft of writing.”--Linda Landrigan, Editor, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine
Find BK:

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mental Can Openers and Writer's Hash ~ Don't Mess Around With An Author's Voice

Brad Leach once again brings us his viewpoint that is both fascinating 
and right-on-point.  

Don’t Mess Around with an Author’s Voice!

     “Agents and editors often say they're looking for a fresh writing voice.  The world needs to honor your voice.  Use the words that come naturally to you and write the stories that haunt you.” Natalie Charles
     What is “Voice” when you write?  Is it another word for your story?  Is it the distinctive way each character speaks?  Is it an ongoing message woven in each story or novel?  I’ve heard it billed as “an author’s style.”  But what is that?
     Voice is one of those confusing writer’s terms kicked around by pipe-puffing, cardigan- clad, sophisticate-writers in loafers, chatting up Susan Sontag wannabes in urban writer’s groups.  He’ll toss it out in reference to his Hemmingway experiment.  She’ll talk about how her younger New York experience formed it.  It’s the je ne sais quoi of the writer’s world.  It’s what you say when you don’t know what to say.
     After exploration and drilling that mandated an OSHA permit, I’ve excavated a definition.  It’s how the author chooses to write something. 
     “What?” I hear you ask, teeth grinding.  “All this fuss and it’s simply what words I choose?”  And at its heart, the answer is “yes.”  But remember, how you choose to write something impacts the reader’s images and moods.  It will appeal to some and put off others.
      Take Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s cliché phrase, “It was a dark and stormy night.” That’s how he decided to open his 1830 Victorian novel, Paul Clifford.  But how many ways can someone open a novel with a storm or bad weather?

     “The storm broke.  Hard.”  Or, “Tidal winds poured even amounts of fury and rain across the alien jungles on the planet’s dark side.”  Or, “Rain for her tears and rents of wild wind for her scratched soul, she was as broken as the sky when lightning tore through it.”  How about, “Rains lashed against umbrellas, black as the clouds, while nasty winds threatened to pluck them from the hands of their proper owners.”
     Each of these choices might illustrate authorial style and could open a story.  The first I was thinking of Louis L'Amore’s style.  The next how Alan Dean Foster might open a fantasy.  The next pulls my mind toward a gothic romance voice; the last I envisioned Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  (Authors/estates forgive me if I’ve missed the mark.)
     My point is the author’s “voice” is simply what you choose to say and how you choose to say it.  Some authors are pithy or laconic; some verbose and labored.  Some love description; some loathe it.  Some want to set the scene then hit the dialogue and action.  Others work the setting into the dialogue or action.  It all creates your unique voice or style, like you can recognize a singer by their voice and how they deliver the song.
     You may have had an article or book writer tell you to pick a favorite author and study his or her voice.  Can an author work on “voice” or is it something you’re born with?  Parallel question: Can I sound like Johnny Cash or am I stuck sounding like a braying mule?  The answer is “Yes.”

     I can train my voice, discipline my breathing, adopt pauses, and work on vibrato.  I can study what allows Cash to put a song across. I can improve all those things.  I still won’t sound like Johnny.  But my braying will sound more cultured.  With enough work, it might even merit a nod or two from fellow mules. 
     Now there is a subtle danger to copying anyone’s voice.  In the movie, Ray (based on Ray Charles), Ray is auditioning in a studio, but he’s intentionally sounding like other artists, hoping to get a contract.  A booth producer complains that nobody wants to hear another Nat King Cole or Charles Brown.  Ray’s agent, Ahmet, wanting to save the deal, tells Ray they don’t want a copy-cat.  Ray says that’s what the people want.  Ahmet suggests Ray do a song Ahmet wrote called “Mess Around.”  Ray asks to hear it.  Ahmet asks if he can play stride piano in a “Pete Johnson” style, then he sings it.  Ray listens.  Ray had already learned to play various styles of piano.  He already knew when to breathe or break his voice for emphasis.  In a magical moment, Ray took the song and added his unique style.  It was a hit, and Ray Charles took off.
     This is what we all are trying to do.  Study techniques.  Analyze successful author’s styles, yes.  Not to copy them but to incorporate what they do well into our own words and sentences.  Read, write, absorb techniques; let them inspire us.  We can even practice short snippets.  But then we step back into our own stories and write our own words.  Form our own sentences.  Try writing an opening two or three ways.
     Master literary techniques.  And if some of the ways you say things sounds a bit more like your favorite authors, great.  But ultimately, strive to be the unique voice other authors will hope to incorporate someday.

~ Brad