Tag Archives: writing tips

Authors Talk: Partnering in Writing by Janet Lynn

Published authors Will Zeilinger and Janet Lynn had been writing individually until they got together and wrote the Skylar Drake Mystery Series. These hard-boiled tales are based in old Hollywood of 1955. Janet has published seven mystery novels and Will has three plus a couple of short stories. Their world travels have sparked several ideas for murder and crime stories. This creative couple is married and live in Southern California.

Here’s Janet’s advice on how to write with a partner:

Someone once came up with the following equation for successfully completing a novel: Butt + chair = book. After publishing thirteen novels I can attest to the truthfulness of this equation. Though a simple formula, it is the best way to get a novel completed.

My husband, Will Zeilinger, a published author, and I joined “talents” and write The Skylar Drake Murder Mysteries, a hard boiled 1950 series. I always wanted to write something like this but couldn’t figure out how to get into a guy’s head effectively, hence this partnership began.

People warned that it would tarnish our marriage. They insisted it wouldn’t work. Concerned, we took a business approach and set rules of professionalism, respect and overall patience.

Here are some things we did to make it work:

  1. Meetings We set a regular schedule and met weekly or monthly depending on where we were in the manuscript and PR. We have a beginning and an end time for all meetings.
  2. Agenda Our meetings always include an agenda in order to keep the discussions on track. We review our deadlines and where we feel the book should be at each point in the journey.
  3. Respect difference of opinions. It is important to check your egos at the door. No one is 100% right or wrong at any times. We find a medium we can agree to.
  4. A sense of humor Laughter decreases anxiety when self doubt hits. Like brainstorming, it would be difficult to do this by yourself or with a pet!

The result-SLIVERS OF GLASS, STRANGE MARKINGS, and the just released DESERT ICE. It has been a wonderful partnering experience for the both of us. And by the way…we are still married!!

Synopsis for DESERT ICE

In 1955, a missing Marine and stolen diamonds lead Private Eye Skylar Drake to Sin City, where the women are beautiful and almost everything is legal—except murder.

The FBI and a Las Vegas crime boss force him to choose between the right and wrong side of the law. All the while, government secrets, sordid lies and trickery block his efforts to solve the case.

Common sense tells him to go back to L.A. but is gut tells him to find his fellow Marine.

Find out more about Will Zeilinger and Janet Lynn at www.janetlynnauthor.com and www.willzeilingerauthor.com

Before They Were Authors: Geoffrey Wells on Writing & The Analysis of Change

A South African farm left Geoffrey Wells with a writer’s imagination. Piano and drum kits and Mozambique led to his first thriller. Advertising art direction led to the American Film Institute, and Information Technology to vice president for two US broadcasting networks. Wells has written an award-winning animated film, visited elephant reserves, and climbed Kilimanjaro. He swims the open water and runs a video and design company on Long Island.

Here’s Geoffrey’s story:

The job I had before publishing my first thriller was Vice President and Chief Information Officer (CIO)—though I had no intension of going down the IT (information technology) road. I was aiming to work in the movie business, after a career as Art Director in Advertising, which tempted me with filmmaking. After graduating from The American Film Institute (while working the graveyard shift at a Beverly Hills hotel, where I provided room service for famous and infamous actors and rock stars), I did work in Hollywood: I shoveled shit under freeways, plastered ceilings, scouted locations, produced small movies, and worked as a director’s assistant as a “reader” evaluating screenplays submitted by his agent. Not what I thought it would be.

A temp research job at Disney in television syndication had some promise. However, they hired me for admin and technical duties—making sure executives got their show ratings, 9 a.m. Monday to Friday. The blossoming job was making sure that the disparate data sources used in the systems were “normalized” for data integrity. It was a problem, and I set about solving it. To make my case I studied structured system analysis—an approach to identifying only the “true” and essential activities required for a system. The literary equivalent is developmental editing, but I didn’t know that then. This attention to integrity endures in my writing.

This knowledge landed me a permanent position and catapulted me to manager, then director in charge of application development and then Vice President of IT. The years slid by. The pattern that emerged was that my steadily-improving methodology led to disruptive projects. I felt justified in modeling a system’s essence. I still do, in the stories I write. I found obsolete remnants that had been in place for years. In some cases decades. Management got on board seeing the value over the long-term and started calling me “the velvet fist.”

Stakeholders did not. They called me other names, like the anti-Christ. Yes, that happened! It hurt, and my white South African liberal skin grew thicker still—but the job paid well. After all, it wasn’t a popularity contest. End users of systems fought me, which is why I can kill my literary babies, torture my characters and edit ruthlessly. I don’t mind when readers say they don’t like a protagonist’s choices. For me the truth of the story must always prevail.

The hardest part of change wasn’t technology, it was the people who operated it. My success in persuading them to accept change lay in asking them to imagine a way of working that not only befitted them, but also the business. I under-promised and over-delivered hope to everyone from the end-user to the CEO. You’ll find that value proposition of hope in my writing. My projects grew in budget and in ambition. I had become a Chief Information Officer (CIO) for a major broadcasting company.

And then, new technologies started to change too quickly for me to implement them. By the time a system was replaced, there was a better technology waiting to be implemented. What Thomas Friedman calls, “the age of accelerations” in his book, Thank You for Being Late, had begun. Suddenly I knew what I did, could not keep up.

I wanted to be back in control. I started to write—mornings at 4 a.m. A short story turned into a novel. By habit, I applied systems analysis to my story and it became tight, acquired pace and turned into a thriller.

The writing (pun intended) was on the wall. Corporate IT departments, and broadcasting itself was—and still is—being swallowed by Internet services in the Cloud. It was time for me to make a change. I published that first novel independently because I did not want to trade one hamster wheel for another. A year later I left the corporate world.

My wife and I, two dogs and cat moved to the North Fork of Long Island where I write, and we run a video and graphics studio. And the change management disciplines I learned get applied to time management, careful plotting and the elimination of the non-essential remnants—of a different story.

 

Find out more about Geoffrey and his books on his website.

 

 

My Publishing Journey: Becoming a Professional Writer

Agatha Christie, 1949

“There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you’re writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.” Agatha Christie.

I spent the better part of my teen years and early twenties devouring Agatha Christie books, until I’d read every one, though my preference leaned heavily to stories featuring Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. I even went so far as to read Christie’s six romance novels, penned as Mary Westmacott.

My fascination with Christie fueled my desire to write murder mysteries. But like Christie, for many years I was an amateur. Actually, amateur is overstating it. I was more of a “want-to be” writer. You know the type: the person who says they’re going to write a book “one day.”

For me, “one day” took about three decades from the time I put down Curtain, Hercule Poirot’s final mystery. In between, I worked as a Credit & Collections Manager, a Sales and Marketing Coordinator, and over the past thirteen years, a freelance writer and editor. It wasn’t my fault, you see. I was waiting for the muse to show up. I knew once the muse made an appearance I’d be ready to write that book.

Except the muse never came for a visit. Not even after I bought some shiny new writing software for my computer. [Here’s a head’s up for those of you who don’t know: you still have to WRITE the story!]

Barry Dempster

Sometime in the early 2000s, I decided to take a creative writing class taught by Barry Dempster, an award-winning Canadian author and poet. It was Barry who told me, “The muse will never come unless you let her know you’re going to be there. Make time to write every day, even if it’s only for thirty minutes, even if all you’re doing is sitting there, staring at a blank page. One day, the words will come.”

They did. Faced with ten days off of all my freelance gigs, I started writing my first book, The Hanged Man’s Noose, on Christmas Eve 2011. I wrote every day, including Christmas and New Year’s Day. By the end of that ten-day period, I had a few chapters written. It never got easy…but it did get easier, and by February 2013, I’d finished writing and revising the book. Then I tried to find an agent, and when that didn’t work out, I went to work looking for a publisher.

I knew how elusive that muse could be, and I knew I should start another book, but I couldn’t bear to write the sequel to a book I hadn’t sold. I started Skeletons in the Attic, determined to make it as different from Noose as I could: Noose is written in third person, with multiple (primarily two) POVs. Skeletons, on the other hand, is written in first person, and entirely from the POV of the protagonist, Calamity (Callie) Barnstable. But this time, the Christie quote actually applied to me. Somewhere along the line, I’d stopped waiting for the muse to show up and graduated from want-to be writer to amateur writer to professional.

Some days, the muse is slow to appear, but that doesn’t stop me any more. To quote Agatha Christie once again, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

Interview with an Author: Marian Stanley’s Third Incarnation

Archie, Marian's Westie

Archie, Marian’s Westie

Marian Stanley has had two long careers – first in a Fortune 500 company, then in a university. She is delighted with her third incarnation as a mystery novelist. Marian writes in a small town outside Boston where she lives with her husband, Bill, and a Westie named Archie.

 The Immaculate is a Boston-based mystery about the murder of an elderly nun and the unholy alliance that did her in. Rosaria O’Reilly, a former student, arrives back in her old neighborhood looking for answers – only to find that nothing about the case is as it seemed.

Book Cover.Jungle RedJudy: Tell us what inspired the story behind The Immaculate.

Marian: About two years ago, an image came to my mind of an elderly nun in full habit striding across a deserted schoolyard in the winter dusk. For whatever reason, I couldn’t shake this picture.

I’ve thought about where this image came from and remembered that I had visited an old factory town about that time. I happened to drive by an abandoned school and noted it as an interesting place. Just a nice drive by, nothing heavy.

But shortly afterward, this persistent image came to my mind. Then, I started to wonder what the nun was doing there. Somehow I knew she was in grave danger – but from what, from whom? Finally, I decided that the only thing to be done was to write a story about what the old nun was doing in that place at that time and what happened to her. I think Sister Mary Aurelius just wanted her story to be told. She’s a pretty aggressive character.

Judy: How long did it take you to write?

Marian: Two years of writing, classes, workshops, manuscript critiques, revisions. Every exercise that I submitted for class critique was related in some way to what would become The Immaculate. I’m getting on in years. I figured that if I was going to get this thing done, I had better focus pretty tightly!

Judy: Tell us about finding a publisher, and how you decided on Barking Rain Press.

Sister MA. Jungle redMarian: Not every book is for everybody. There was interest, and I had a number of partial or full manuscripts out there. But, not everyone was excited about a story of how an old nun in Boston gets herself bumped off. Or, they wanted her story changed so dramatically that it would have been a different tale. (Could I make it less Catholic? Well, that’s hard as it’s the story of the murder of a nun. Or could I make the protagonist younger? Well, I’m committed to writing a series with an older protagonist.)

Finally, I sent the manuscript to Barking Rain Press during the open submission period, and Sheri Gormley sent a welcome email. She liked the story and wanted to publish it. I said yes. She assigned me a fabulous editor in Melissa Eskue Ousley and we were off to the races.

Judy: Describe your writing process.

Marian: Me scribbling on a long yellow legal pad in the pre-dawn darkness and silence while sitting on the big green chair in the living room – usually with a small white dog sleeping on my lap.

Judy: What’s the best writing advice you have ever read or been given?  

Marian: Take yourself and your writing seriously. Treat it like a job. Get your rear end in the chair whether you feel inspired or not.

Judy: Do you have a favorite author and genre?

Marian: Mysteries are my genre and I’ll read anything by Louise Penny or Tana French.

Judy: Do you read your genre when writing? Why or why not?

 Marian: I belong to too many book clubs, including a mystery book club, so that I am always reading. Perhaps I am influenced by a Ruth Rendell book when I working on a manuscript – but that can’t be bad, can it?

Judy: What’s next?

Marian: Buried Troubles, my current WIP, is set in Boston and Ireland. Rosaria is once again the protagonist, now caught up in the legacy of old grievances and secrets that cross the Atlantic – leading to murder in Boston.

Thank you, Marian.Pro. photo.Jungle Red

http://www.marianmcmahonstanley.com Amazon Goodreads Facebook 

The Immaculate is available in print and ebook at all the usual suspects, including Barking Rain Press.

Leave a comment for a chance to WIN a copy of The Immaculate. Winner will be selected at random.

Interview with an Author: Sharon St. George on Plotting

Sharon St. George

Sharon St. George

It’s my pleasure to introduce you to Sharon St. George,  author of the hospital-based Aimee Machado Mystery series. Sharon draws on her past experience as a hospital librarian and medical staff coordinator when writing her hospital-based mystery series. She holds dual degrees in English and Theatre Arts and is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. She currently serves as program director for a 90-member nonprofit writers’ organization in northern California. For leisure, she enjoys wilderness llama packing.

Breach CoverJudy: Tell me a bit about your BREACH OF ETHICS, your latest novel.

Sharon: BREACH OF ETHICS (May, 2016 Camel Press) is the latest novel in my hospital-based Aimee Machado Mystery series. The first title was DUE FOR DISCARD (March, 2015 Camel Press) followed by CHECKED OUT (October, 2015 Camel Press).

Judy: You’re visiting today to talk about plotting. Every writer has their own method of getting the story down. What system works for you, and why?

due_for_discard_300Sharon: The crime or murder always involves or impacts the hospital where Aimee Machado works as a librarian specializing in forensics. I usually create five potential suspects, all of whom have some connection to the victim that offers a potential motive. Most of the suspects have connections to each other as well. Once I get that far, I hold off deciding who is guilty until after my protagonist and her team begin sleuthing. I’ve given Aimee friends, family and co-workers who have special skills, so that she has a pool of crime-solving talent to draw from. In real life, I have access to people with similar skills who are available to keep me from writing myself into a corner. By the time Aimee and her gang have gathered clues about each suspect, I have usually decided who did it and why. That’s when the real plotting work begins, which involves some revising from the beginning to weave in the necessary foreshadowing. Then I call on the special skills of my protagonist and her team of crimesolvers to crack the case.

Judy: Describe your writing process and/or a typical day in your life. 

Sharon: I write at home in the morning using a desktop computer and sipping coffee. My home office window looks out on our backyard garden, many oak trees, our llama pasture, and a distant vista of mountains to the west. To set the mood when I start to write each day, I’ve given each book in my series its own music, which I refer to throughout the story. Book one is country, book two is blues, and book three is classical piano. I create Pandora radio stations for each of my novels, and listen to the related music as I write. The book I’m working on now, SPINE DAMAGE, is fourth in the series. It involves a trip to the Azores, so I’ve just created a Pandora station of Portuguese fado music.

checked_out_300 (1)Judy: What’s the best writing advice you have ever read or been given?

Sharon: Write every day if at all possible. Find a like-minded critique group with writing skills equal to, or above, your own level.

Judy: What are you currently reading?

Sharon: I just finished Off the Grid by C. J. Box. I’m now reading Alexander McCall Smith’s The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine.

Judy: Do you read your genre when writing? If so, why? If not, why not?

Sharon: I do read my genre while writing, mostly for enjoyment, but always looking to improve my own craft by reading something done brilliantly by another author, such as McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series.

Thank you Sharon!

Find out more about Sharon and her books at www.sharonstgeorge.com.

Interview with an Author: J.E. Seymour on Creating an Antagonist

J.E. Seymour

J.E. Seymour

J.E. (Joy) Seymour lives in a small town in seacoast NH. The third novel in the Kevin Markinson series, “Frostbite,” was released in March of 2016. J.E.’s first novel, “Lead Poisoning” was released by Mainly Murder Press in 2010. The second edition of “Lead Poisoning” was released by Barking Rain Press in May of 2014. Her second novel, “Stress Fractures,” (Barking Rain Press) was released in the summer of 2014.
collection3resizedamazon“Blackbird and Other Stories,” an ebook of short stories, was released in May of 2014. J.E has had short stories published in print in an anthology of New Hampshire noir: “Live Free or Die, Die, Die” (Plaidswede Press) and in three anthologies of crime fiction by New England writers : “Windchill,” “Deadfall,” and “Quarry;” (Level Best Books) and in Thriller UK Magazine. In addition, she has had stories online in numerous ezines, including Spinetingler, Shots, Mouth Full of Bullets, Mysterical-E, A Twist of Noir, Beat to a Pulp, Yellow Mama and Shred of Evidence.  She is the New Hampshire member at large on the board of Sisters In Crime New England.

In addition to writing, Joy has worked as a horseback riding instructor, a ski instructor, ski patroller, librarian and camp counselor. When not writing, she spends her time riding her pony in mounted games, playing video games, working at a library, or relaxing with her family.

510x765-Frostbite-200x300Judy: Tell me a bit about Frostbite.

Joy: The third in the Kevin Markinson crime fiction series, this book, set mostly in Concord, NH, is about a bumbling group of Rhode Island mobsters who get more than they bargained for when they bust Kevin Markinson out of prison to do a job for them.

Judy: You’re visiting today to talk about creating an antagonist. Are there “rules” or a set of guidelines that you follow or can recommend?

Joy: I am not a big believer in rules. I’m a “pantser,” meaning I write by the seat of my pants. My work is character driven, so the characters are more important than the plot, and the plot flows from the character development. Therefore, the characters need to be fully developed. Especially the bad guys. I have to know what they would do in any situation, just as I have to know my good guys. I think about their backgrounds, where they come from, even things like what they might have been like as kids. I want my baddies to be just as real as the good guy. For “Frostbite,” I have three brothers, all working for the same mob boss, and I know how they got there, what they do in their spare time, why their hands are dirty all the time, etc. There’s no need to share this backstory with the reader, but I know it. Developing the backstory, even if I don’t put it on paper, makes the characters more realistic.

Judy: What or who inspired you to become a writer?

Joy: I’ve been writing since I was in fourth grade. I’ve always received encouragement from teachers, so I figured that must mean I could write well. I’m not sure my middle school teachers meant that I should become a writer, but that encouragement kept me going. I love telling stories, and writing them down is the only way I can tell them.

 Judy: What advice and/or resources would you recommend for aspiring writers?

Joy: There is so much out there, but my number one piece of advice is Yog’s Law: Money flows to the writer. Don’t pay to be published. If an agent wants you to pay up front, it’s a scam. Check out Writer Beware and Absolute Write Water Cooler.

 Judy: Do you have a favorite author or series? A favorite genre?

Joy: I have a number of favorite authors, among them Elmore Leonard and Lawrence Block. Block’s Scudder series is my favorite series. I also enjoyed Dick Francis. I am a fan of dark, gritty crime fiction, where the bad guy might just be the good guy.

 Judy: What are you currently reading?

Joy: “Animals in Translation” by Temple Grandin.

Judy: What’s next for J.E. Seymour? 

Joy: I have a fourth novel in my series pretty much finished, just tidying up. TI am trying to write more short stories as well.

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Thank you, Joy. 

Find J.E. Seymour on: Website  Amazon Goodreads Facebook Twitter 

NOTE: The Comments option has been acting up for the past few days. I have Jetpack and SiteLock technical support working on it (apparently they aren’t communicating with each other properly). So if you try to leave a comment and it doesn’t work (it should say “Awaiting Moderation”), I’m so sorry. If you do want to leave a comment for Joy (or for any other post), email me at judy at judypenzsheluk dot com. I will post the comment manually from my end. Be sure to tell me what post you’re referring to! Thanks, Judy

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Goddess Fish Promotions: FictionZeal

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 9.19.35 AMIn stop 3 on my Goddess Fish Promotions Tour, I pay a visit to FictionZeal.com.

If you’ve ever wondered how I created the fictional town of Lount’s Landing, this blog post will answer your question. I also discuss how I came up with the premise (greedy developer comes to town with plans to build a mega-box store) behind The Hanged Man’s Noose.

Here’s a brief excerpt:

Like the fictional town of Lount’s Landing, which is starting to experience modest growth, the population of Holland Landing is expected to grow to about 20,000 residents. This sort of growth, which inevitably involves razing of forests and urbanization of farmland, never goes without angering many of the current residents—I remember a builder telling me once that “Sprawl is the house next to yours” and it’s true. People forget that their home was once farmland or forest. I suppose knowing that doesn’t help if you’re suddenly facing a brick wall instead of an open field or a bank of trees.

To read the rest of the post, click here. You can also win a $25 B&N or Amazon gift card!

nbtm_thehangedmansnoose_banner-copy

 

Goddess Fish Promotions: Long and Short Book Reviews

nbtm_thehangedmansnoose_banner-copy
Continuing on with my Goddess Fish Tour, this time on Long and Short Book Reviews with another look at my publishing journey, including 5 tips for aspiring authors. Here’s the first one:

  • Don’t submit your story before it’s truly ready. Most beginning writers get impatient (and I was no exception). Remember this: you get one chance at an agent or publisher. There are no “do-overs.”

To read more of this post, which includes an excerpt from The Hanged Man’s Noose, click here. If you leave a  comment on Long and Short Book Reviews, you’ll be entered into a Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win a $25 Barnes & Noble or Amazon gift card.

The Final Cover by Craig Jennion.

Find The Hanged Man’s Noose at all the usual suspects, including Amazon, Chapters.Indigo, Barnes and Noble, AbeBooks.com, GooglePlay, KOBO and iBooks.

 

 

 

 

 

Coming Friday, February 19: An Interview with Editor Lourdes Venard, author of Publishing for Beginners!

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