Fear in Writing: August 2010

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What have you given your writing?

Corolla, NC
Writer and blogger Elspeth Antonelli is taking a sabbatical in September...She is calling it her "writer's retreat" and she will devote her time to--you guessed it--writing!  What a fantastic idea!!  Furthermore, Elspeth is creating her very own writing space.  Man, I would love to have an area sacred to the craft of writing.  And it got me thinking...What kind of time and setting do you give your writing?

There are writing conferences--but they are really more for socializing, networking, selling, and learning.  Nothing wrong with those things!  Love 'em!  But is there time at Bouchercon or Malice Domestic or Killer Nashville for actually writing?

Retreat in Asheville, NC
And, of course, you can pay for actual writing retreats.  (The one in Castellón, Spain is especially appealing, no?)  This would be ideal for me, for I really need to be away from my kids to get any writing done.  (Here's another retreat link for the curious.)

Then...(yes, there's more)...There are ways to completely engulf yourself in the story you are writing.  I'm talking about living like your characters.  Research can only take you so far, but have you ever tried living like a citizen of Victorian England?  Or perhaps, to keep it related, you'd like to experience the charms of a Steampunk lifestyle...

What have you done for yourself and your writing lately?  Have you devoted space or time or even money to your craft?

Monday, August 30, 2010

A movie post for a busy day: Repo Men

So this is a little late today b/c, yes, I'm at work again.  How do you work-outside-the-home-every-day people blog?  I just don't get it.  Anyway...

Sunday night, my husband and I watched Repo Men.  Now, let me preface this by saying we hardly every get to watch movies.  Our DVR fills up and we fit in one show an evening after the kids are in bed, and usually still have a a whole queue come the weekend.  But last week, we sprung for a little RedBox.

For a random Wed. my husband rented Hot Tub Time Machine.  I won't even comment.

For the weekend, we rented, as previously mentioned, Repo Men.  First of all, one of the hottest and most intimate sex-but-not-sex scenes ever.  It's toward the end of the film so I won't give it away.  Secondly, our absolute lack of exposure to gore recently made this film hit pretty hard.  Oh, and we watched the unrated version.

Premise: "In the future humans have extended and improved our lives through highly sophisticated and expensive mechanical organs created by a company called "The Union". The dark side of these medical breakthroughs is that if you don't pay your bill, "The Union" sends its highly skilled repo men to take back its property... with no concern for your comfort or survival. Former soldier Remy is one of the best organ repo men in the business. But when he suffers a cardiac failure on the job, he awakens to find himself fitted with the company's top-of-the-line heart-replacement... as well as a hefty debt...When he can't make the payments, The Union sends its toughest enforcer, Remy's former partner Jake, to track him down."

Needless to say, there is lots of blood, a few fake organs being ripped from bodies, and some serious knife-fight scenes.  Personally, I don't mind all of this.  I love a good action movie--don't throw chic flicks my way.  But the one thing that stood out from the was the intensity and apathy Jude Law seemed to exude at the same time.  The connection between him and the woman who becomes his leading lady late in the movie is hard to explain as anything but animalistic.  The relationship symbolizes the mechanized world in which Law's character lives, in contrast with the human need to survive and be happy, not just exist.  The actress who plays Law's wife furthers this contrast, with her emotionless tone and blank face.

At first glance, the movie is just another excuse for action and the exploration of futuristic technology.  (Reminds me of a post I did a while ago, actually.)  But look deeper and you'll see the theme I just mentioned portrayed through a series of contrasts--setting (aesthetic Union vs. jungle-like home of the outlaws), characters, and sound (the robotic words of the boss [Liev Schrieber] vs. the easy jazz and classic music that penetrates the lives of those on the run.

Bottom line:  If you have no tolerance for blood and weapons, avoid this movie.  If you like looking behind the face of a plot and enjoy the SciFi aspect in film, rent Repo Men today. 

One more comment--I don't think this movie has to be set in the future, but could also be set in an alternate reality.  A big theme in Repo Men is science and the use of it to create more perfect, alternate states of being.  The whole movie could be just one big alternate state of mind.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Foreign Post Roundup

1.  A cool new-to-me meme and some great answers by Clarissa at Listen to the Voices.

2. Back home--and back home she is!  Elspeth Antonelli returns to us from a vacation, and asks a great question about where you Main Character lives, and what it means to them.

3.  The word, Abracadabra!, and other fascinating ideas from Jan Morrison guest blogging at 'burrowers, books, and balderdash.'

4.  Brevity or longevity?  That is the question asked by Lynda at W.I.P. It.  Go answer!

5.  And now for a fun look at stupidity...That's right!  Stop by Stephen Tremp's blog to see what ignorance he is spouting.

6.  Guess what the numbers are saying?  E-books are increasing readership!  Find it here at Mystery Fanfare.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Blogger Arrogance

The title implied unequaled knowledge and importance.  The page showed nothing but the posts, blog description, and links to the blogger's sites.  The blogger/writer wrote only about her- or hisself in third person.

What would I, as a reader, like to see on this (and other blogs)? 

1.  Maybe an acknowledgement of followers.  As simple as this is, that little box in the sidebar tells readers they are important.

2.  A more humble title.  Tell your readers what you're about, but don't call yourself something you have to live up to--'Brilliant Writer,' 'Perfect Storyteller Blog,' or 'No one can match the words on this page. Comment if you Dare.'

3. Give us some color.  A black and white page shows a bit if apathy, and sometimes it comes across as cold and unwilling to give to the readers.  (Simple and clean is nice.  Take a lesson from Elizabeth Spann Craig--simple, but with color and nice elements.)

Then again, who am I to say?  How arrogant of me!
Anything else you like to see on blogs?  Have you come across and arrogant blog before and, if so, did you comment or turn away?

For fear of coming across 'arrogant,' I'd like to say that these are just the opinions of this humble blogger.  No laws should be based on my words. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lives Like Loaded Guns: a truly international author comes to SCM

Lyndall Gordon is an international author in the purest sense of the phrase.  She was born in Cape Town, educated in New York City, and began her career in England.  A member of the Royal Society of Literature, winner of multiple literary awards including the James Tait Black prize for biography, and author of seven biographical works...Southern City Mysteries is honored to welcome this intimidating and awe-inspiring woman.

I first came across Lyndall Gordon's latest work in an article in 'The Economist.' I know--not exactly the first place one looks for reviews in literature.  But that is one thing I love about being a writer--you never know from whence inspiration shall come! (These other interesting posts have been inspired by the magazine known for its Wall Street readership: one, two, and three.) And here is what 'The Economist' had to say about Gordon's latest work, Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds:
"This astonishing book, written with common sense and compassion, will do nothing less than revolutionise the way in which Emily Dickinson is read in years to come."
Wow. How could I not be intrigued? How could I not want to talk to this author? And so I emailed Gordon's agent, and received a prompt reply from both of them.  While she couldn't prepare something specifically for this blog (and the following will explain why), she had this to say to all of you...

Michele Emrath's invitation to contribute to this site reached me yesterday on the train from Edinburgh after the Festival. There I was in discussion with poet and novelist, Ruth Padel, great, great granddaughter of Darwin. Her recent (and terrific) novel, not as yet published in the US, is called "Where the Serpent Lives" and it's an extraordinary blend of fiction and biology - a story in which survival depends on lending oneself imaginatively to other species, especially reptiles. We discussed how people - the Dickinsons - lived in the shadow of ancestors and hidden family conflict. Tomorrow I leave for my native South Africa, and what I have in mind is to go through my mother's papers with a view to a future memoir. She called herself "only a housewife at the bottom of Africa" but she was also an Emily Dickinson character in some ways: a visionary and a poet who didn't publish. Her family used to joke about her "runaway basket" where she stashed her work, written on scraps of paper, undated and in a huge mess. I'm daunted and excited at the prospect of going through it.

Without further ado, here are some fascinating facts the author sent to me about Emily Dickinson, a mere glimpse into the biography Gordon has created. 

1.  Rather than the silent, brooding type, Emily Dickinson was, in Gordon's words, a "volcanic character...Stillness was not a retreat from life but her form of control...Far from the helplessness she played up at times, she was uncompromising; until an explosion in her family, she lived on her own terms."

2.  "...Emily Dickinson suffered from epilepsy. This would explain her secluded way of life, the customary course of non-disclosure (especially in the case of a woman) and the impossibility of marriage."

3.  A family feud involving her brother's adultery led to the fighting that followed the poet's death.  "Though the feud began with adultery, after the poet’s death she became its focus. There followed a battle to possess her and her papers, persisting through three generations."

4.  Slander of Dickinson's sister-in-law was immediate upon the beginning of Austin Dickinson's affair with Mabel Loomis Todd, wife of a professor (who was also probably implicit in the adultery).  "They called her 'the great Black Moghul,' implying an alien power when, in fact, Susan was in mourning – in black – after the death of her and Austin’s youngest child."

5.  Emily was not without standing in the feud.  "What look like unintelligible teasers in letters and notes to Mabel reveal Emily’s active involvement in the feud during her lifetime. Her stand is reinforced by a parallel discovery: the poet’s refusal to sign over Dickinson land to her brother’s mistress."

6.  Sexless or spiritually-fulfilled?  "There is some basis for [the same-sex love argument] in the ardour of the poet’s letters to the friend of her youth who married her brother. Yet the intensity the poet feels never quite fits our labels because her spark of spiritual connection carries her off into a sphere of her own."

7.  "...Emily Dickinson drafted love-letters to an older man, her father’s friend Otis Lord, a fierce judge in the Massachusetts Supreme Court. It’s clear from the letters that he wished to marry her. For more than half a century these letters lay buried in a Chinese chest belonging to Mabel Todd. As the first editor of Dickinson’s writings, Todd had promoted the sexless legend, and kept these letters under wraps. Eventually, her daughter Millicent Todd Bingham published them in 1954 entitled A Revelation. But by then the lovelorn legend was so established that this revelation went almost unnoticed."

8.  The mistress-turned-wife, Mabel Todd, became Dickinson's first editor.  "...The ousted wife, was ousted yet again as prospective editor. Mabel did the hands-on editing in secret (with the co-operation of a prestigious co-editor); then suddenly Poems (1890) was published to enormous acclaim."

9.  A surprising heroine in the tale: Mabel's daughter, Millicent Todd.  "This honest girl, who saw herself as the opposite of her flamboyant mother, was gradually tugged into the feud until it took over her life. She underwent a fascinating conflict between revulsion for her mother and loyalty – a female Hamlet who found herself on course for revenge and with the intelligence to question what she was doing. An adjunct to her mother at first, she ends by playing one of the most substantial roles in the ongoing feud. In her eighties she set in motion a posthumous campaign that would affect our view of Dickinson’s life to this day."

If you aren't completely fascinated, you're crazy...but if you are, click here to purchase Gordon's groundbreaking biography of Dickinson, Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds.  If you are a fan of my Literary Movement Series and this post subject as well, click over to Gordon's website for all of her amazing works, including the heralded Vindication: A Life of Mary Wollstonecraft and the award-winning T.S. Eliot: An Imperfect Life.

Lyndall Gordon will try to stop by today, so feel free to ask any questions you have.  But she is steeped in work, so there is no guarantee!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

the SHORT story

Washington Irving,
known for his short
stories, i.e. The Legend
of Sleepy Hollow and
Rip Van Winkle.
Do you like short stories? 

There are many compilations of shorts out there.  There are many famous writers known for their shorts--Edgar Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, etc. 

There are many reasons to read short stories.  One: they're short, and time seems to be important these days.  Two: they are condensed and, therefore, the reader reaches the action/turning point more quickly.  Three: as a writer, it's a way to get many ideas out there and show your versatility.  Foru: also as a writer, it is a way to get something published in a mass media circuit, i.e. magazines.

But do they sell?  I looked for statistics but couldn't find them.  In my opinion, based on the fact that I never buy them and I buy a lot of books, I would guess short stories sell less often in book form than do other types of writing.

And yet, there is so much potential in a short story.  Recently, I've been reading an anthology of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holme stories.  Yes, stories.  They all fit in two volumes--paperback-size--so they can't be too long.  And each night I have managed to read one of the longer ones, or two of the Adventures.  This is a satisfying feeling!  Not only was I pleased that these great detective stories held up against time, but I was so pleased with myself for reaching a definitive in any book: the End.
What prompted this discussion of the short story?  A review by Rose City Reader of the short story compilation Saving Stanley by Scott Nadelson.  I won't rewriter her review here (for that you must click the link), but I will repeat that "collection of eight interrelated stories about Daniel Brickman and his family. The stories move back and forth in time and focus on different family members, eventually piecing together a family history..."  How interesting is that?!  A group of short stories that, together, make up a whole.  A puzzle of writing.

What about you?  Do you read short stories?  Do you buy books that are compilations of shorts?  Do you subscribe to literary magazines that contain short stories?  If you're a writer, would you rather write a bunch of shorts, or one successful full-lenth work?

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Prize

Today I announce the big prize packs for my upcoming Blogfest/Blog Birthday:

First Prize: 3 of my favorite books + Amazon gift card

Second Prize: 2 of our fellow authors' books + Amazon gift card

Third Prize: Amazon gift card

If you remember, Southern City Mysteries' first birthday is September 24th.  In honor of one year in the blogging biz, I'm hosting my first ever Blogfest--the Happy Birthday Blogfest.
Happy Birthday Blogfest
Sept. 24th

I posted the rules last week, but here they are again:

1. Spread the word. Tweet or post or place the announcement in your sidebar. Add the link to any of these in the comment forum below. (3 pts. for sidebar, 2 pts. for post, 1 pt. for tweet)

2. What's your favorite? Don't just tell me how #1ed, tell me about your favorite post or topic Southern City Mysteries has done in the past year. No rules here. It can be anything--a guest post, a series, or a subject I touched on briefly. (2 pts.)

3. On Sept. 24th, Southern City Mysteries' 1 year birthday, post your Happy Birthday Blogfest story! Who said birthdays are fun? They can be creepy or dangerous or dramatic or even fatal. Write a short story (why limit the word count? Gimme what'chya got!) involving a birthday in any form and something mysterious, dangerous, dramatic, creepy, or deadly. The latter event doesn't have to take place in the story, but can instead be alluded to. It's your choice. Actually, the birthday can be alluded to as well--free form! (3 pts.)

Leave your point total in the comments, and link to your Blogfest post on Sept. 24th--oh, and sign up through Mister Linky!  And we'll be all set.  I promise I'll put together something special for the event.  Hope you all help me celebrate!

*I promise I won't keep blogging about this, now that the prize is announced!
* Emily Dickinson biographer Lyndall Gordon Wednesday--new book on the intriguing poet that you'll want to know more about...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday Foreign Post Roundup

1.  The plot in this book reviewed by MURDER by TYPE spoke to me.  It is so beautifully tragic I had to share it with you.

2.  Who is shaping the future of booksales?  Click over to Straight from Hel to find out!

3.  Does your MC wear a ponytail after shaving her head?  If timeline is an issue for you, check out Clarissa Draper's advisory post.

4.  A contest!  The Alliterative Allomorph is holding a contest that benefits a great writing resource.  Check it out and see what you can do to help, and how it benefits your writing.

5.  Developing character.  In writing, that is.  At East for Green Eyes.

6.  Check out Jen Daiker's Guess That Character Blogfest, where you can read dozens of great entries (including mine, here).  Don't forget to read the descriptions in Part II!

7. Sign up for the Happy Birthday Blogfest, celebrating Southern City Mysteries' first birthday, in the right-hand column or in the announcement post. The Blogfest is set for Sept. 24th.

Prize announcement is this week...

GTCBlogfest Part II: The Reveal

Finally!  The Big Reveal.  What are the characteristics of this character?

   I've never been one to brag, but my daddy was the king.
   He could turn my tears into giggles just by making that face—the one where his tongue lolls out the side of his mouth and his eyes roll up—you know, where it looks like a corpse? That's the one. He had it down!
   I know how he got it so good, too: he'd seen plenty of dead people. Most of them he probably killed himself. Or at least ordered it done.
   But, whatever. He was my father.
   Do you want to know about him? I'll be glad to tell you. I have so many wonderful stories about my dad. I'll throw in a little of the killing, too. I mean, that's interesting, right? And it'll show you how decisive he was. (makes a muscle with her arm and lowers her voice) How strong.
   (giggling) Daddy was the best.

Many of you came close...and together you nailed it.  This character is:
Loyal to her father, to a fault
From a working class family with "new money," hence the entitled voice with poor grammar
Used to getting what she wants, from her daddy
Immune to violence, but not one to get her hands dirty
Not as young as you think--late 20s, early 30s--which tells you she is socially stunted and immature
Beautiful in a harsh way--slightly on the too-thin side, works too hard at her makeup, clothing expensive but just a bit off in taste, blonde hair, blue eyes
And yes--she is Southern!

Thanks for your patience.  This was supposed to post on Saturday, but I didn't check to make sure it did.  The Sunday Roundup will post this afternoon.

*Tomorrow--guest blogger Sylvia Dickey Smith!

*Sign up for the Happy Birthday Blogfest, celebrating Southern City Mysteries' first birthday, in the right-hand column or in the announcement post. The Blogfest is set for Sept. 24th.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Guest Blogger: Margot Kinberg--POV in Crime Fiction

Margot Kinberg is the author of B-Very Flat and Publish or Perish.  She is a professor of Linguistics at National University in San Diego, California.  Kinberg is also a musician with a soft spot for Billy Joel.  She blogs at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist, where she posts very thought-provoking and well-researched articles on mystery writing.  If you haven't read one of Margot's prolific posts, here is your chance!  She has kindly agreed to post at Southern City Mysteries today, and I am so grateful to have her.  Thank you, Margot, and without further ado...

Margot: Thanks so much, Michele, for hosting me. It’s an honour to be here. One of the things that sets crime fiction apart from other genres is that there’s a mystery – a crime, really – to solve. Very often, that crime is murder. Crime fiction fans want to get caught up in the mystery and want that sense of suspense that comes with uncovering clues and finding out the truth. One way that mystery authors add that kind of suspense to their stories is in the way they use point of view. There are several ways to build suspense through point of view; any one of them can be successful depending on the author’s writing style and the plot. The key seems to be to use point of view to add interest and tension without confusing the reader or keeping too much from the reader.

The Sleuth’s Point of View

It can be very effective to tell a story from the sleuth’s point of view. As the sleuth discovers clues, so does the reader. If the sleuth happens to be in danger, the reader follows along, and that process can truly engage the reader. Several novels and series use this point of view quite skillfully.

One way to do that is to use the first person, with the sleuth as narrator. That’s what Janet Evanovich does in her Stephanie Plum series. Plum is a bounty hunter who learns the trade as she goes along. As she gets into and out of danger, we find clues as she finds them, we follow along as she goes in search of her quarry, and we put the pieces of the puzzle together as she does.

P.D. Martin uses the same strategy in her Sophie Anderson series. Anderson is a profiler for the FBI. Her specialty is “getting into the heads” of serial killers. She’s aided by psychic visions that allow her to see and feel what the murder sees and feels. In novels such as Body Count, The Killing Hands and Kiss of Death, Anderson uses those visions and dreams to help her solve her cases. In this series, using the sleuth’s point of view is especially effective because they allow readers to experience the same visions and dreams that Sophie Anderson does.

Sometimes, the sleuth’s point of view is told in third person, and that can work very well, too. For instance, Donna Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti series uses that point of view approach. So do many of Tony Hillerman’s Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee novels. There are many other examples of this point of view strategy and it works quite effectively. This strategy lets the reader learn what the sleuth learns, when the sleuth learns it, but also allows the reader to see, if you will, what else is going on. That third-person way of giving the sleuth’s point of view also gives the author an easy opportunity to describe the sleuth.

When stories are told from the sleuth’s point of view, the reader can put him or herself into the sleuth’s shoes, as it were, and get caught up in the investigation by “being the sleuth.”

The “Sidekick” or Secondary Character’s Point of View

Some crime fiction is told from a “sidekick’s” point of view. Two of the most famous examples of this approach are Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mysteries and the Agatha Christie mysteries that feature Hercule Poirot and Captian Hastings.

In nearly all of Sherlock Holmes’ adventures, the story is told from the point of view of Dr. Watson. The beauty of this point of view strategy is that it allows the author to surprise the reader and not reveal too much at once. The sleuth can, say, find a clue that the secondary character doesn’t see and then surprise the reader and the other characters with it. This strategy, in other words, allows the author to amaze the reader.

Another real advantage of this approach to point of view is that it lets the author tell the reader a great deal about the sleuth. For instance, in most of Agatha Christie’s stories that include Captain Hastings (and in some that include other “sidekicks”), the secondary character makes mention of Poirot’s fastidiousness, his sartorial splendor and what seems his egoism. We get quite an interesting perspective on Poirot when a story’s told from another point of view, since Poirot himself would not be likely to discuss his – er – less than perfect qualities…

Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories are, by and large, told from Watson’s point of view with a similar effect. We can be amazed, as Watson is, by Holmes’ deductive skills. We also get a clearer picture of the kind of man Holmes is, since Watson describes not just his appearance, but also his habits, his use of drugs, his behaviour and so on.

The Killer’s Point of View

Some crime fiction novels are told from the murderer’s point of view. This can be extremely suspenseful as we learn what goes on in the killer’s mind. That’s what Jim Thompson does in The Killer Inside Me, in which West Texas Deputy Sheriff Lou Ford investigates a savage beating and then a murder. As he gets involved in the investigations, we learn of a “sickness” that Ford has had since his youth. It makes for a truly suspenseful story.

There’s an Agatha Christie novel, too, that’s told from the point of view of the killer. I’m not going to mention which one – no spoilers : ). However, it does make for a fascinating way to look at a crime.

Multiple Points of View

Lots of crime fiction is written from multiple points of view. That’s a little trickier than staying with one point of view, because if it’s not done well, it can be confusing. It’s important to clarify for the reader whose point of view is being shared at any given time.

That said, though, there are advantages to shifts in point of view. The reader can get a broader picture of a character, a place, an event, etc., if there are multiple perspectives. It’s easier to really get to know the characters, too, if we see the events of the story from a variety of points of view. Also, shifts in point of view allow the reader to learn things that the sleuth doesn’t know yet, and watch how the sleuth finds those things out.

Simon Beckett shifts points of view in his novels featuring forensic anthropologist David Hunter. In Whispers of the Dead, for instance, Hunter is visiting Tennessee’s Forensic Anthropological Research Laboratory. While he’s there, a body is discovered in a cabin not far from the lab. Then another body is discovered. Before long, it’s clear that there’s a serial killer at work. Much of this story is told from Hunter’s point of view (using the first person). However, there are also sections of the story told from the killer’s point of view. That switch in point of view is indicated by different typeface and it’s included in different sections, so although some readers may find it distracting, it’s not hard to follow.

Martin Edwards’ Lake District series also features shifts in point of view. For instance, in The Serpent Pool, DCI Hannah Scarlett and her Cold Case Review team re-open the six-year old drowning death of Bethany Friend. In the course of the novel, we see the events from several points of view. Some of the story is told from Scarlett’s point of view. Other parts of the story are told from the point of view of Oxford historian Daniel Kind, who helps Scarlett solve the murder and two others that occur. Other parts of the story are told from the point of view of Scarlett’s lover, Marc Amos. Still others are told from other characters’ points of view. Edwards makes those shifts easily and elegantly by “setting the stage” so the reader knows which point of view is being shared at any given time.

I use multiple points of view in my Joel Williams series, too. Williams is a former police officer-turned-criminology professor. As he gets involved in mysteries, some of the stories I write are told from his point of view. Parts are told from other characters’ points of view, including the victim and the murderer. I think it gives readers an interesting perspective on the whole case, and allows the careful reader to pick up the clues ; ).

There are some other ways to handle point of view, of course. I’ve only touched on a few. Whichever decision the author makes about point of view, the key is for the story to make sense for the reader and be easy to follow. It’s also important that there be a good match between the story itself and the approach to point of view. Just as an example, part of what makes Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None so suspenseful and such an engaging novel is that she chose to shift points of view among the ten people involved in the novel. It’s a very effective choice.

What do you think about point of view? If you’re a crime fiction fan, do you have a point of view preference? If you’re a writer, what’s your choice for point of view?

Thanks again, Michele, for your hospitality!!

To purchase one of Margot's books, such as her latest, B-Very Flat, click on the links here and above. 
For those who came seeking the answer to Thursday's Blogfest entry, I will post it on Saturday.  I already had this great guest blogger lined up, so I couldn't intrude on her time with Guess That Character Blogfest Part II.  Check it out on Saturday, right here!
Sign up for the Happy Birthday Blogfest, celebrating Southern City Mysteries' first birthday, in the right-hand column or in the announcement post.  The Blogfest is set for Sept. 24th.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Guess that Character Blogfest

I had nearly forgot about it until I swung by DL Hammon's blog this morning...but today is Jen Daiker's Guess that Character Blogfest!  Just when I was announcing my own, I nearly miss her's. 

The rules: "On Aug. 19th, post a snippet of the character you'd like to be identified. Try and make sure there are no descriptions of what they might look like. This blog fest is based purely on voice, action and personality."  Then readers can guess what they think the character looks like!  On Fri., Aug. 20th, we'll all reveal what the truth.  Check back to see how close to the mark your guess was.

So here is my entry...It is short and shows the character mostly through the way she talks.  Yes, she is a female, I'll give you that.  And she is the narrator.  Now, what do you think she looks like?  (Feel free to add any other characteristics that jump out at you.)

     I've never been one to brag, but my daddy was the king.

     He could turn my tears into giggles just by making that face—the one where his tongue lolls out the side of his mouth and his eyes roll up—you know, where it looks like a corpse? That's the one. He had it down!
     I know how he got it so good, too: he'd seen plenty of dead people. Most of them he probably killed himself. Or at least ordered it done.
     But, whatever. He was my father.
     Do you want to know about him? I'll be glad to tell you. I have so many wonderful stories about my dad. I'll throw in a little of the killing, too. I mean, that's interesting, right? And it'll show you how decisive he was. (makes a muscle with her arm and lowers her voice) How strong.
     (giggling) Daddy was the best.

So, what do you think of her?  For more blogfest entries, check out Jen's blog, Unedited: Guess that Character Blogfest.

Oh--and don't forget to check out yesterday's post, in which I announce my own upcoming blogfest--the Happy Birthday Blogfest, in honor of Southern City Mysteries' 1 year birthday!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Announcing...the first EVER...

Kind of a quiet week so far here on Southern City Mysteries, especially after the two of weeks planned and researched articles.  But this post will serve as an announcement board...A few great things are coming up!

 First of all...author and blogger extroardinaire Margot Kinberg will be here Friday!  Her guest post topic is "POV in Famous Crime Fiction."  And we all know how thorough Margot is...Don't miss it!

There are more new guest bloggers as well, so make sure you check out the block in the top right of this blog.

Next...Southern City Mysteries is having a birthday!  And it's a pretty big one, too...The FIRST birthday!  In honor of one year in the blogging biz, I am having a major book giveaway.  Here's how it works:

1. Spread the word.  Tweet or post or place the announcement in your sidebar.  Add the link to any of these in the comment forum below.  (3 pts. for sidebar, 2 pts. for post, 1 pt. for tweet)

2.  What's your favorite?  Don't just tell me how #1ed, tell me about your favorite post or topic Southern City Mysteries has done in the past year.  No rules here.  It can be anything--a guest post, a series, or a subject I touched on briefly. (2 pts.)

3. On Sept. 24th, Southern City Mysteries' 1 year birthday, post your Happy Birthday Blogfest story!  Who said birthdays are fun?  They can be creepy or dangerous or dramatic or even fatal.  Write a short story in (why limit the word count?  Gimme what'chya got!) involving a birthday in any form and something mysterious, dangerous, dramatic, creepy, or deadly.  The latter event doesn't have to take place in the story, but can instead be alluded to.  It's your choice. (3 pts.)

Happy Birthday Blogfest
Sept. 24th

For the HBB buttong, click this link.

But what are the prizes?  I'll announce those soon--but they're pretty large, and there are First, Second, and Third Place winners.  Sign up for the blogfest portion of the Sept. 24th celebration below!


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Meeting authors at book events

Buy here
The event was lots of fun.  Elizabeth Spann Craig and three other Berkley authors spoke in a panel forum for a group of people who, quite honestly, loved them.  At one point, a reader practically begged Elizabeth to write another Myrtle Clover book--the same woman who had copies of nearly every one of the authors' books in her oversize purse.

And let me tell you, Elizabeth is gorgeous!  She looks so serene and ballet-beautiful in her pictures, but in person she has these fabulous dimples and a life that takes over her face when she talks or smiles.  And she smiles a lot. :)  Her answers were the best of the group, short but direct, and I didn't see any of the shyness she touts.  Great job, Elizabeth.

Buy here
The other three authors were Jennifer Stanley (Ellery Adams), Avery Aames, and Krista Davis.  They each have unique, strong voices, and they played off of each other beautifully.  These ladies blog together at Killer Characters, and Avery, Krista, and Elizabeth blog on Mystery Lovers' Kitchen.

There was only one awkward moment, and I mention it only because I was sort of close to the situation and I think there's a lesson for any book events you all might hold.  Let me set it up...

For about an hour, the four authors answered questions posed to them by their media escort--a hard-working, dry-humored woman.  Everything was going fine, laughing audience members and all, but then they took questions from the audience.  There was one silly question (do you all use KGB-style killing methods in your writing?), but most of the inquiries were book-specific.  Near the end, the sweet, old lady next to me asked, "How did you find your first publisher?" and the media escort was all over her! 

Buy here
"That's one of my no-no questions," she countered.  "You'll have to ask that elsewhere (or 'later,' I don't remember the last word)."  And the woman deflated.  She looked at me with sad eyes and I immediately told her it was a great question.

This was NOT the fault of the authors, but it definitely insulted a potential buyer.  I believe she left right after the panel while others stuck around to buy books and have them signed.

Buy here
Here is the lesson: there is no wrong question at media events and never make someone feel bad for wanting to know something.  Once again, this was no fault of the authors, and I'm sure the media escort didn't mean to insult anyone either.  But a better response would have been, "That is a question that requires a long answer, and I'm sorry, we don't have time."

Have you ever had an awkward question posed to you at a book event?  How did you handle it?
-or, alternatively-
Have you ever met someone in person you knew only through blogging?  How did it go?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Oh, today...

I'm sorry for not posting my article today...Working and can't get to it till tonight!  Promise to work on it later.

But I'll brag a bit...I get to see Elizabeth Spann Craig at her book event tonight!  I'll let you all know how she is. :)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Foreign Post Roundup

(Don't miss #13)
1. New-to-me blog Mysterious Writers, created by author Jean Henry Mead.  It is exactly what it sounds like: a look at various writers of the genre.  Last Sunday, the inimitable Ms. Mead interviewed my favorite-author-I-haven't-read, Craig McDonald.  (In other words, I have every one of his books on my TBR list, but just haven't gotten there yet.)  And the week prior, she interviewed one of my favorite authors of an international series, Timothy Hallinan.  So, stop by.  I have a few words of recommendation. :)

2. An experience of travel from an author who knows a bit about Europe...Really, read it.  Experience is an understatement for J. Sydney Jones.

3.  The River of Light, a look at a beautiful tradition in Thailand, written poetically by author Timothy Hallinan (mentioned twice already in this post...a bit creepy that I've done that!).

4.  A new-to-me blog!  (I love these.)  MURDER by TYPE.  Catchy title, catchy header image, great posts on great mysteries.

5.  Here's one reason it's important to proofread--the Alliterative Allomorph's list of oops!

6. Piedmont Writer talks from her character's perspective, In Their Own Words-Salvatore.  (There's a whole series of these, so make sure you click the backlinks.)

7. Univarn takes a strike against all that is evil...or at least annoying.  Read his words and learn what and WHEN not to quote.

8.  Aliens battle it out.  I bet you can't guess what this has to do with nature!  Click for one of Rayna's brilliant drabbles.

9.  A great discussion on reading today and yesterday at Clarissa Draper's blog.

10.  Oh, man.  I have found the Twitter King.  Check out the sheer volume of Twitter chats for writers here, and the best explanation on how to use this phenomenon here.  Kevin Hatch will be your new go-to guy for Twitter.

11.  Need a little inspiration?  Look no further than the words at Jenn Daikers' Friday Inspiration.

12. Stereotypes, love 'em or hate 'em?  (In writing, that is.)  Discuss at Margot's Confessions of a Mystery Novelist.

13. You are the best blogger ever.  You are sooooooooo fantastic and coming by my blog every day that I want to give you a little gift.  In fact, why don't you just send your bank account number my way and I'll make sure you receive a surprise next time you check your balance...
If you guessed I was lying, you are correct!  (Sorry, you don't win anything.)  And if you want to know more about lying and deception, check out Clarissa Draper's excellent post Writer's guide to reading people.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

What's "your Thing?"

Margot Kinberg titles every post after a name or line from a song.  (Oh, and she's a writing encyclopedia of crime novels.)

Elizabeth Spann Craig keeps her blog page clean and orderly, with one, dynamic piece of art at the top of every post.  Just one.

Elspeth Antonelli writes hilarious posts in number form.  1. You're a writer if you own a pen...2. You can't write if you lost said pen...

Dez showers everyone with love and keeps as much skin (not his own) exposed as possible.

My thing changes.  But I've tried to keep whatever I'm writing literary, related to writing (mostly mysteries) and discussion-enhancing.  I don't know if I have a hook.  Lately I think I've been the English Lit teacher!

Do you have a hook?  Blogwise or in writing.

FYI: If your comment doesn't post, it is not in moderation, it's this new spam filter by blogger.  Frustrating me big time--sorry!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Guest Blogger: Stephen Tremp on Stephen Tremp

Author Stephen Tremp stops by today to talk about his latest ventures-- Opening and Escalation.  This post is in question and answer form, but they are all questions of Stephen's choosing.  This is NOT an interview.  Now, let's learn more about Stephen Tremp!

Stephen Tremp on Stephen Tremp

Most of us are familiar with your book Breakthrough. Can you tell us about the other two books you are writing?
Breakthrough is the first installment in a trilogy, and is written as a stand alone book. The next two books entitled Opening and Escalation are written in the same manner, and compromise one continuous story that takes place over the course of a month.

How do Opening and Escalation differ from Breakthrough
The main differences are in the plot, setting, conflict, and the introduction of new discoveries and breakthroughs in theoretical physics. While Breakthrough is set in metropolitan Boston and Orange County, CA, Opening and Escalation expand to a global setting. In Opening (to be released early 2011), the action escalates to Geneva where Chase and his friends need to foil an attempt to blow up the World Trade Organization’s headquarters as well as a large portion of the international city. Events quickly spiral out of control as conflict erupts in the Strait of Taiwan with a showdown between the U.S. Seventh Fleet and the Chinese military. In Escalation, events expand to Europe and the Middle East.

New characters are introduced while others are killed off. Yet, still at the center of everything is Chase Manhattan, his group of friends, and the psychotic grad students at M.I.T. as the power play struggle continues over who will own or destroy this once-in-a-lifetime discovery. Action and suspense are still the name of the game throughout. Fortunately, I was writing Opening and Escalation while I wrote Breakthrough, so I’m half finished with both books.

If you could sum up the Breakthrough trilogy with a single theme, what would it be?Ultimately, the trilogy seeks to encompass the elusive Theory of everything, but with a supernatural twist. The Theory of Everything in philosophy is an all-encompassing explanation of nature or reality. In theoretical physics a Theory of Everything will (theoretically) link together and explains all known fundamental physical phenomena, forces, and matter into one cohesive framework.

Professor Steven Hawking
, in a series of lectures in the 1990s, helped popularize this theory amongst the general population by attempting to unite General Relativity (science of the very big) with Quantum Theory (science of the very small). For the record, Dr. Hawking recently stated he is pessimistic on any such discovery in the immediate future. Some of the greatest minds of the past 100 including Albert Einstein have spent decades of their lives in an attempt to unravel and explain this theory. Currently, some of the usual suspects for a unified theory are String Theory, M-Theory, and Supersymmetry.

Does a Theory of Everything need to be confined to scientific method?
Great question, and one many over the millennia have pondered. Would this theory need to take into account the spiritual realm? Throughout the history of mankind, most civilizations including our own hold the belief of a spiritual world that is more real than our own. That there are forces at work that affect our physical world in ways we know in part but cannot fully comprehend.

We do not really have any idea what else is out there, but there is no reason to believe that we are the only intelligent beings in the universe. That would be arrogant and asinine. And there is no reason to believe that whatever else is out there will necessarily have to obey the same laws of physics that we do. Perhaps a unified Theory of Everything will need to take into consideration parallel dimensions beyond our currently accepted space-time continuum where angels and demons dwell and cross back and forth at will. This would explain a lot of things. This is indeed a very strange universe we live in.

If science wants to limit reality to what they can only rigorously test in a lab, perhaps a Theory of Everything should be renamed the Partial Theory of Everything, or a Theory Of A Lot Of Things But Not Quite Everything

How do all these proposed theories tie into the Breakthrough trilogy?Breakthrough is basically a “What If” scenario. I have taken this premise and developed a trilogy that incorporates proposed theories of physics such as Einstein-Rosen Bridges (wormholes as they are commonly known), String Theory, Parallel Dimensions, and a Theory of Everything. It’s a scenario of what if science and the supernatural collided in such a way that mankind’s very existence was threatened. And to think it all begins with a breakthrough discovery in Einstein-Rosen Bridges, or wormholes, in a tiny lab at M.I.T. in the dead of winter by a lone professor of physics.

Any parting thoughts?In the right column of my blog I have links posted under SCIENCE, CERN, AND THE BIBLE. I’ve blogged across a broad spectrum of subjects, including the latest and greatest coming out of CERN and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), string theory, parallel universes, hyperspace, hyperbeings, the Bible and extra dimensions, and other fascinating topics. These matters are at the forefront of discussion and argument as it is very evident our understanding of the universe and our perception of our place in it is about to change.

*Breakthrough is available for download to Kindle through Amazon and to Sony Reader, B&N Nook, iPhone, Palm reading device, or your PC or iMac through Smashwords and will be available for sale in bookstores late August, 2010.

For excellent writing commentary and invaluable information on publishing and marketing your book, visit Stephen at Breakthrough Blogs .

Thank you, Stephen, for blogging here today!  Any questions?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Balance, Regrets, and Backstory

Regrets by Claude Marie Dubufe,
I was supposed to write about Modernism today...but I'll be honest: I wasn't feeling it. I woke up at 4:44 this morning and couldn't get back to sleep. I had had a dream. It wasn't a bad dream, but one of those that puts you in a mindset you can't break. It was a dream about getting a new job, which is not bad, but also had people from high school involved. So my thoughts started spiraling...How far have I come? How is my life? Wasn't it good and easy back then? I miss being so in shape and young...I miss those long soccer trip weekends with good girlfriends...You know the type: regrets. And that regreat monster is not easily shaken.

Oh, yeah, and when I woke up at 4:44 am, I realized I had completely missed a work teleconference on Wednesday! Talk about regrets.

Do you ever get bogged down in the past? In the should-haves and would-haves and could-haves? How about in your writing? Do your characters do this?

I have an MC who has some serious baggage. Get a load of this: he killed his girlfriend as a teenager (got away with it), lost his mother when he was 11 (oh, and his father killed her), and now he is a detective trying make things right, but keeping all the secrets secret. So, the past is a major part of his story and my MS.

And in order to mix the past with the present and future in writing, a writer has to find balance. Is this tough for you? Is backstory getting you bogged down? What's your "formula" for balance?

*Tomorrow is guest blogger Stephen Tremp!  Don't miss it.  And I'll get back to Modernism sometime soon.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Writers Jailed

Do you know how many writers go to prison?  O. Henry (surprised you, didn't it?), Oscar Wilde (for a most ridiculous reason), Emile Zola (sentenced, not served, for a very admirable reason), poet Robert Lowell (a war protester), Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (critic of the Stalin regime), Voltaire (who served for his writing).

Historically, we are a daring bunch.  I have written before about my admiration for those willing to toe the frontlines (The Comfort of our Homes), speaking mostly about journalists.  But novelists, playwrights, and poets have been just as daring...or just downright criminal, like good 'ol O. Henry--whose story reminds me of one Paul Harvey might tell!

Paul Harvey and FBI Dir. J. Edgar Hoover.
Courtesy Washington Post and FBI
And speaking of Paul Harvey...

It was the cold month of February in 1951.  The country was recovering from the affects of World War II and the young me werer fighting again, this time in Korea.  Back home, nuclear testing was going on at Argonne National Laboratory, just west of Chicago.  Many objected, but one young journalist went a step further.  This man drove his Cadillac Fleetwood to the Argonne property at around midnight on February 6th.  He threw his overcoat over the barbwire-topped fence and climbed over.  Security guards were upon him in a moment, but the journalist ran until headlights caught him in their light, and the journalist was forced to tell a tale.  He claimed his car had broken down, but eventually gave the true story: a plan that involved scratching his name on "'objects that could not possibly have been brought to the site by someone else" (source).  The man refused to comment further, demanding to talk to the American public before a congressional hearing.  Security guards found a complete script in the man's Cadillac.  The journalist had planned to tell the public the same story he told the guards, a tale of his accidental stop at the nuclear testing facility, and how "we could have carried a bomb in, or classified documents out."  Espionage charges were considered, but none were pressed because this man appealed his innocence on the radio.  This man debuted his own radio program on the ABC Radio Network.  And that show was...Paul Harvey News and Comment...
And now you have...the rest of the story.

Thought Harvey was the nice voice, didn't you?  Well, there are plenty more that won't surprise you.

How about One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest author Ken Kesey?  Police arrested the writer for possession of marijuana in 1965, but Kesey wasn't going to take it standing still.  He attempted to mislead police by faking his own death.  Friends left his truck on a cliffside, along with a suicide note that read, "Ocean, Ocean I’ll beat you in the end" (source).  Kesey fled to Mexico, where he stayed for eight months.  Upon his return to the U.S., police arrested the author and he spent five months in the San Mateo County jail.

While Harvey was taking on the American government, Beat Generation founder William S. Burroughs was getting into a different sort of trouble.  In that same year, 1951, Burroughs shot and killed his wife, Jean Volmer, in a drunken game of 'William Tell' in Mexico City.  He spent 13 days in jail until his brother bribed Mexican officials to let him out on bail until his trial.  But more problems followed.  Burroughs' attorney soon fled Mexico, following his own legal problems involving a car accident and altercation with the son of a government official.  Burroughs decided to skip bond and return to the U.S. He was convicted, in absentia, of homicide and given a two-year, suspended sentence.

Porträt des Thomas Morus,
by Hans Holbein the Younger
For those who love their history (and who watched the first season the The Tudors on Showtime), St. Thomas More is next.  I don't know about saintly, but he was certainly a man of strong convictions.  (This Catholic encyclopedia brushes over More's burning of Protestant heretics, while concentrating only one More's writing and so-called martyrdom.)  Writers will know More as the man who coined the term "utopia," creating the ideal island in his 1516 book of the same title.  But More lived in slippery times.  He went from sending Protestants to their firey death, to losing his life for refusing to sign the Act of Succession, under which King Henry VIII left the Catholic Church and named himself head of the Church of England.  He was beheaded on July 6, 1535.

O. Henry as clerk at
First National Bank of Austin
O. Henry.  To me, he is the man who wrote a thousand beautiful tales.  My father read The Gift of the Magi to me as a child, and the twists and this man's work will always be like a John Singer Sargent painting--a man who could make even a beggar look virginal and appealing.  But good O. Henry wasn't all poetic descriptions and rose-colored glasses.  In 1896, the First National Bank of Austin (Texas) was audited, and federal officials charged the writer and young journalist with embezzlement.  Henry (William Sydney Porter) fled to New Orleans, then Honduras, where he coined the term "banana republic" (source).  While he may or may not have been a criminal, Henry was certainly honorable.  In 1897, he learned his wife was dying, so he surrendered to the court in Austin.  He was found guilty and sentenced to five years at the Ohio Penitentiary.  "While in prison, Porter, as a licensed pharmacist, worked in the prison hospital as the night druggist" (source).

Okay...I know I promised you Emile Zola, Voltaire, Robert Lowell, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and Oscar Wilde.  But this post has grown long enough...and I keep finding more great information!  So I will have to break this theme into two (or more) posts.  Tune in next time for...the rest of the story!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Literary Movement Series: The Lost Generation

Ernest Hemingway in
uniform, Milan, 1918
If images of Peter Pan are dancing in your head, you aren't far off.  There is no Hemingway in green tights in this post, Fitzgerald with an eye patch and a sneer, or Gertrude Stein in a filmy blue nightgown.  But there is a group of boys grasping on to the effervescent life that is the 1920s, the post-war confusion they soaked in alcohol, and the needs of a world they struggled to understand.  They are the Lost Generation.

Stein coined the phrase to refer to the aimless feeling that followed World War I, and the loss of the idea that if you lived virtuously, good things would happen.  Hemingway, by far the leading literary figure of the 1920s, defined the generation in an epigraph to The Sun Also Rises.
"You're an expatriate. You've lost touch with the soil. You get precious. Fake European standards have ruined you. You drink yourself to death. You become obsessed by sex. You spend all your time talking, not working. You are an expatriate, see? You hang around cafes." ~Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
la Rotonde, Montparnasse
In the work of the Lost Generation, the alienation and forced exuberance of the decade is expressed.  Think F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.  Think of all the lounging, tense party scenes, and the happiness the characters are incapable of finding.  Think T.S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock with its lament over life's lost opportunities and carnal exploits.  Or, more famously, Eliot's The Waste Land and its visions of disillusionment..."I will show you fear in a handful of dust."

Aside fom the themes in the writing--which we will explore more in tomorrow's 'Modernism' post--the Lost Generation is largely associated with bohemian Paris, the Left Bank, and Montparnasse.  The draw to this area came right before WWI, with artists, poets, and even Russian political refugees Lenin and Trotsky flocking to the social life that centered around the cafes along boulevard Montparnesse--la Coupole, le Select, la Rotonde, and le Dôme.

Portrait of Gertrude Stein,
Pablo Picasso, 1906
The saddest fact I learned in researching the Lost Generation is the story of how the name came to be associated with them.  It goes like this...Gertrude Stein was in France when her car broke down (all stories say it was a Ford, the biggest auto manufacturer of the time).  In talking with the proprietor, Stein commented on the efficiency of the service.  M. Pernollet replied that boys of the mechanic's age made good workers, but not those who had gone to war.  He said "young men become civilized between 18 and 25, while the soldiers had missed that civilizing experience. They were, he said, une génération perdue."

A whole generation of men lost because of a war that maimed, killed, and destroyed.

Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises talks about the lives of these very people.  He attributes the phrase to Stein, but it was Hemingway's book that popularized the title and led to the loose interpretation that included all Americans living abroad and attempting art.

Unlike the Paris of today, in the 1920s it was a place artists could live on very little money.  It was, as Stein so aptly put it, "where the twentieth century was."  Ezra Pound said that, in Paris, he was look for "a poetic serum to save English letters from postmature and American letters from premature suicide and decomposition."

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald
So the Lost Generation was looking to be Saved.  Did they find it?  Hemingway lived a hard life and killed himself in 1961.  Fitzgerald was an alcoholic with a corrosive marriage, a wife who was schizophrenic, and died of a massive heart attack (his second) in 1940.  Zelda Fitzgerald suffered from the aforementioned schizophrenia and died in 1948, in a fire at a mental hospital in Asheville, North Carolina.  T.S. Eliot separated from one wife, who then went into a mental hospital, married his secretary and died of emphysema caused by years of heavy smoking.  Ezra Pound so disapproved of his contemporaries' lifestyles in the Quarter, that he moved to Italy.

Are these ends proof of the description "Lost?"  I don't know.  But I know the works that came from these writers were often tragic and searching, and the counter-Prohibition attitudes were often self-destructive.  I think of Gary Cooper's hardened but beautiful face, the dust and death that surrounds him in the movie version of Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls.  And these lines from that same story, the book by Ernest Hemingway, summing up the Lost Generation:
"You learned the dry-mouthed, fear-purged purging ecstasy of battle and you fought that summer and that fall for all the poor in the world against all tyranny, for all the things you believed in and for the new world you had been educated into." (Chapt. 18)

*Fittingly, today's 'Today in Literary History' speaks of Virginia Woolf, who married her husband on this day in 1912.  Woolf was a part of the Lost Generation, though not in the expat definition.  She and her husband, Leonard Woolf, published T.S. Eliot and her own novels through their dining room press, Hogarth Press.  Woolf killed herself in 1941, fearing the loss of her own sanity and the coming world war.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Quiet Books by Elizabeth Spann Craig, guest blogger

Southern City Mysteries welcomes guest blogger Elizabeth Spann Craig today.  Craig is the National Bestselling author of several books, including her latest, Delicious and Suspicious, published under the name Riley Adams.  Today she blogs about getting hooked on a book, no matter the pace.
Quiet Books
My daughter has been reading “The Secret Garden” this summer.

It’s a great book, but it’s not exactly a fast-paced read in a lot of ways. Lots of description of moors, birds, etc.

But even my son enjoyed the book when he was in elementary school.

Aside from a fairly dramatic beginning of the book with a household struck dead by cholera (and the frantic escape of the people who deserted the house to avoid it), the book is pretty quiet.

I was really excited that the book was such a good fit for my daughter. But I also starting thinking about quiet books, like this one. What keeps readers hooked?

For the Secret Garden, I think the key is in the title. Secrets. Secrets that were kept from the protagonist and the reader were the biggest reasons that my daughter was interested in the book.

The secrets worked to lead the reader on. Why is there a locked, overgrown garden at Mistlewaite Manor? What’s making the noises that Mary hears at night sometimes…and why won’t anyone talk about it?

There’s also some character transformation going on—Mary and Colin both change dramatically during the course of the book…and in a good way. It’s fascinating to see the children grow from unlikable characters into characters we want to spend more time with. Plus, the characters started out with some degree of depth to begin with—they were complex people, if unlikable ones.

The author also broached big questions for the reader: Will Colin ever be able to live a normal, or long life? Will he ever get out of his wheelchair? Even small questions that are broached—will Dickon come back over? When? Will Lord Craven let Mary have her garden?— kept my daughter turning the pages to see what happened next.

Have you written a quiet book? How do you hook the reader and keep them engaged?

Elizabeth Spann Craig (Riley Adams)

*p.s. I liked Delicious and Suspicious so much I bought it as a gift for a friend!  Check it out, and come back this week for...
Literary Movement Series continues...
Tuesday: The Lost Generation
Wednesday: Writers in Jail (promise this time!)
Thursday: Modernism
Friday: guest blogger, author Stephen Tremp