Fear in Writing: June 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, June 29, 2010

A Journal Entry from my MC

A fun contest from Matthew Delman at Free the Princess.  The rules are listed below, but first, my entry...

Hey Journal,
Met a murderer today at a crime scene.  I don't mean he was there, but I could feel him like I always do when the body is still in situ.  How could I not feel his intent?  After all, I've killed, too.

R. Bell

Here are the rules:
1. Your diary entry must be three to four sentences long.

2. You are allowed as many entries as you can come up with.

3. It doesn't have to be funny; if you can come up with a poignant entry in four sentences, then feel free to submit.

4. You can write it from the perspective of any FICTIONAL character you choose. (If you write historical fiction then you're excused from this rule -- contact me otherwise if you want to write it from the viewpoint of a historical person)

5. It must be posted in the comments of this post no later than 12 am U.S. Eastern Time on Tuesday, June 29, 2010.
My journal entry is from the perspective of my MC, Det. Ryan Bell of the Nashville Police.  It was fun to write from his perspective.  It got me thinking how he would talk, and even begin the journal--dear, hi, yo...I'd love to read all of your entries, so include them in your comment, or leave your link.  And don't forget to link back to Matthew's site if you're participating in the contest.
Thanks, Matthew, for a fun challenge that helped me get into the mind of my MC.

Monday, June 28, 2010

How adaptable are you?

Are you as adaptable as a 2yo?

My husband and I took our kids to the beach over Memorial Day weekend.  My daughter, who is 2, finally got up the courage to go out in the water, but she couldn't do it alone.  So Russ held her hands in his and gently swung her over the waves as thtedey broke.  He was so careful to keep her joints loose and bent, and this worked for about 15 or 20 swings.  But, on the last swing, something went wrong.  We don't know how, but the pressure on her right wrist changed and she screamed out in pain.  I mean screamed.  The wrist immediately swelled up and she refused to use it.
For the next three days, Natalie used only her left arm.  It was amazing.  The change was immediate.  No right arm for anything--holding books, eating, climbing, playing, dressing up...nothing.  She adapted not on quickly, but well.

Could I have done that?  I don't know.  I've certainly had my fair share of injuries, but I usually sulk for a bit and let it rest.  Not Natalie.  In true 2yo form, she didn't let this slow her down.

Not only was I impressed, but it also got me thinking.  We write characters that have to adapt top tough situations in their everyday lives.  If we didn't write them that way, we wouldn't have very interesting books!  We may not literally tie a hand behind their back, but we certainly handicap them.

How are your characters 'handicapped?'  Are they adaptable?  As adaptable as a 2yo?  What about you?

As to the last question, I am having to be very adaptable right now.  As a freelancer, I take many different shifts at the station--one day working 8-5, the next day 2:30 to 11:30pm.  In addition, neither my kids nor I are used to my working three or four days a week.  Everything is adapting!  My sleep schedulel, my doctors' appointments, my day plans...It's tough.  And I've been sulking and feeling sorry for myself for a bit.  But I'm over that now.  Despite disappointment and frustration, I am sucking it up and adapting.  This is it for now, and this, too, shall pass.

Adaptable--the word of the day. : )

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday Foreign Post Roundup

1. A beautiful look that evolution of character and love: guest blogger Davin Malasarn on The Secret Archives of the Alliterati.

2. A small story, but bursting with thought.  Smile plays at your mouth with you read A New Language an Rayna's Coffee Rings Everywhere.

3.  Fun Friday indeed...Check out these fantastic signs on Elspeth's It's A Mystery.

4.  Two book recommendations from Mysterious Matters..and they're both new-to-me authors!

5.  The Queen of Writing Advice tackles 'steps to publication.'  That's right--I mean Elizabeth Spann Craig!

6.  A veritable 'Vegetable Soup' of information at Mason Canyon's Thoughts in Progress.  I found two reads to add to my shelf--what will you find?

7.  An interesting look at the Germany v. England rivalry from British author Dan Waddell at Murder is Everywhere.

Just a few links this Sunday b/c  I haven't been touring blogs much in the past few weeks.  But the ones I have hopped to have been SFP Roundup worthy!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Facebook apps

The world of social media is upon us, and there is seemingly no end to the amount of widgets and apps one can find.

But is all of it necessary?

How do you know what is and what isn't going to be a useful tool in pumping up your blog or your book?

Twitter.  Facebook.  Dig.  And now I find this link: social plugins from the Facebook developers.

So I added a Facebook "Like" app to my sidebar.  See?  Look right.  See it now?  Right below "The Writer."  Pretty spiffy, eh?

But now I'm wondering, do I have to make a Southern City Mysteries fan page for everyone to "Like?"

Oh, goodness.  Another technology to learn.

What apps/widgets do you use and recommend?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Genre Boundaries (Comment-driven post series)

Before my recent traveling absence, I posted a 'comment-driven post series' article titled 'Do you write yourself?'  This is the next in my comment-driven post series...This one stems from a comment made by Elizabeth Spann Craig on my Touching the Rain post.  Here's what she had to say:

Oh, I have a LOT of boundaries I need to let go! :) I'm not quite ready to with my writing, but that's okay...I'm writing a genre with some boundaries of its own.

- Elizabeth Spann Craig
Elizabeth mentions writing in a genre that has boundaries.  In case you don't know, she writes Cozy Mysteries.  Mystery writing, of course, has its own basic boundaries...or does it?

In 1929, priest, English theologian, and crime writer Ronald Knox created the Ten Commandments for detective fiction in his 'Decalogue.'  Here they are:

1. The criminal must be someone mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow.

2. All supernaural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.

3. Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.

4. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.

5. No Chinaman must figure in the story.

6. No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.

7. The detective must not himself commit the crime.

8. The detective must not light on any clues which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader.

9. The stupid friend of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind; his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.

10. Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.

Needless to say, the rules have been broken.  In fact, in Josef Svoresky wrote a book in the eighties titled The Sins of Father Knox, in which he attempted to break all of these rules.   But Knox had set them up specifically for writers of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, which speaks specifically to those writers of the 1920s and 30s.  These authors include Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, John Dickerson Carr and Ellery Queen.

According to Knox, a detective story "must have as its main interest the unravelling of a mystery; a mystery whose elements are clearly presented to the reader at an early stage in the proceedings, and whose nature is such as to arouse curiosity, a curiosity which is gratified at the end."  I think we can agree on that!

What defines your genre?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Viagra what?

I just got a Viagra comment on an old post...What?!?

I'll try to get a real post up this afternoon...:)

Monday, June 21, 2010

What is this "organization" thing?

Many of you work and write on the side...or write and work on the side...So here is my question for you, right at the beginning: how do you do it?

Most of you know I am a freelance news producer.  Freelance has become a more regular 2-3 days a week for the last month and the next one.  Last week I worked 4 days.

Writing?  Non-existent.

When it was just me and the kids (a full-time job, don't get me wrong) I basically knew how my day would go.  Their schedule didn't allow for much "me time," but at least I knew how tight things would be.  If I am to work a professional job on top of taking care of the kids...when will I write?

I once met a doctor who woke at 5 every morning to write before surgery.  Sounds great, right?  (Not to me, actually, but sounds like a plan at least.)  But he didn't have young kids to come home to after work.  Rest was on his own schedule.

When do you who work outside the home find the time to write?  Do you set up a schedule?  Am I going to have to become "organized?"  (I've heard tell of such things...)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Discernable Taste Ruins Pulp Fiction

So I just flashed through Jonathan Kellerman's Evidence...and it was really bad.

Let me enhance that statement...I love Kellerman books.  I have read them all.  In the first few reads, I picked up psych lingo that has stuck with me ("munchausen by proxy"), became enamored with Dr. Delaware, and got a character-crush on good ol' Milo.  Most of Kellerman's books have interesting plots and even more arresting narrative/dialogue.

This one did not.  This one fell far short of the mark.  I felt like he had to meet a deadline with this book.  Maybe he has exhausted the Delaware/Sturgis relationship and just can't admit it.  There is a reason Michael Connelly brok off from Harry Bosch for a few books: you can't pump water from a dry well.

Or, could it be me?

Have I been reading to much literature and am more critical of regular fiction?  Possibly.

I suppose I should try another old favorite's new release and see if it sticks better.  Mark Mills, Jeffrey Eugenides, and Louise Penny may have ruined me for all airport fiction.

The horror!  But what does it mean for my writing?  Time will tell.

Has this happened to you?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Absence explained

I am so sorry for my absence.  Following the Chicago trip I had to rush back to Raleigh to work at the station, leaving my kids in Nashville with my parents.

No kids? you ask.  Why no posts, then?

Despite the quiet house, I haven't been there.  I have worked every day and had events nearly every night.

I know most you work full-time jobs and still manage to post...but this is unusual for me, so I hope you will forgive my absence.  The plan is to get posts back in cue and get back to blogging.

I miss you all!

And a big welcome back to Crystal of Crystal Clear Proofing!  You've been missed.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Chicago, World Cup, Stanley Cup and Me

I write to you from the heart of Chicago.  My break this week was not planned, but was much needed.

On Saturday last, I drove my two children across the mountains of North Carolina, through the rolling hills of Tennessee, nine and a half hours to Nashville--or the little suburb where my parents and in-laws live, Brentwood.  We spent two days at my in-laws and then I took off for the Windy City, where I am helping my sister find a place to live.  Lucky girl gets to live in this vibrant place while she attends Northwestern University law school.

So, for the past four days, I've been roaming the concrete, staring at historic buildings refurbished as modern commerce, and seeing what kind of view you can get for as little as possible.

I love cities.  I love the feel of buildings soaring above me, architecture beckoning me to guess its era, and people--endless streams of colorful people!  I fell in love with Boston in two days, dream about New York ever since visiting, and could wonder Seattle for days.  But Chicago?  I've never considered Chicago.  As it turns out, it is fantastic!  Clean, crisp, Midwest-meets-East Coast.

And now...USA v. England!!!  I am sitting in a fantastic restaurant watching the players warm up.  I won't claim I follow the teams religiously.  But USA v England!!!  The USA is trying to repeat its 1950 World Cup win over the British. And what a time for South Africa!  With all sympathy paid to Nelson Mandela and his family, the country is hopefully exultant at the attention they are receiving.  Most of you know I played soccer for 14 years, including competitve teams and some college.  (I just pissed off some non-soccer fans at the bar who wanted to watch something else.  The city is getting in my blood!  Go USA!)  I saw the World Cup games in Dallas when they came to the US in '94.  Now my friend tells me we're planning to go to Brazil in 2014...I'll start planning now!

We were also lucky enough to be here for Chicago winning the Stanley Cup.  The city went wild!  Every car was honking and every person on the street was yelling.  People who had never met were joined by this event.  Hard to deny the divisive and cohesive nature of sports.

Alright.  I know it's a mishmash, but the city is The Great Conjunctive.  So, here.  Thank you for returning and understanding my absence.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sunday Foreign Post Roundup

1. Cranium or Scrabble?  Find out which kind of person you are, and which you write about--from lovely Lorel Blogging Drowning Down Here!

2. Bathroom Monologues: Necessity the Harlot.  I know, it sounds like bullshit, right?  I thought so, too.  But it's actually very smart.  Read it.

3. The Language of Flowers by Corra McFaddon.  This blog is impressive, and the research behind this post matches completely.  If you love history, romance, and Victorian times, this post is for you.

4. A book review as well-written as any book, and the author takes the time to comment--I love that.  Check out International Noir Fiction for a fantastic look at a South American read.

5. Laughs, laughs, and questions to ponder at It's a Mystery by Elspeth Antonelli.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Picture of the Week

So, I'm not hopping around the blogosphere today, but the No Post Saturday thing wasn't working out so well.  I mean, what kind of a post says it's not a post?  I get the confusion, I really do.

My new Saturday series is 'Picture of the Week.'  I'll scour the Internet for something interesting--usually something I see on one of your blogs or sites.

For the first installation, I bring you something colorful, something simple, but something oh-so-pretty.
I found these fancy key fobs at my friend Rachel's blog, Olivethebeach...and then realized I could actually buy them at her Etsy shop!  The picture appeals to me for its lineup of color and pattern--especially the black thrown in to darken the mix.  I also love the way they aren't aligned, as I hate symmetry (except when I hit my elbow, then I have to hit the other elbow, see quirks post for more).

As for the product itself, I think anyway someone can set themselves apart is fantastic.  Who doesn't have a set of keys they carry around?  Personalizing is one way we make a claim on life.

I hope you have a colorful Saturday.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Do you write yourself? (Comment-Driven Post Series)

Paying attention to comments is important!  I say that because this post was inspired by a comment on  a previous post.  The post was Strange Combinations, and I asked: Do you intentionally make your characters alike or very, very different? Do you count on strange combinations to entice your readers?

Corra McFaddon, who blogs at From the Desk of a Historical Writer, replied:

Yep, definitely. And I didn't do it on purpose. It's as if one character filled in the holes of the other - like they knew to move together to create something more balanced. Our characters are ourselves, I reckon. So likely we create in characters who we want to be - and who we really are.
- Corra
So today I ask you, is Corra right?  Do we create characters like ourselves?  Do we create them with our flaws, or do we create them as our ideal?  Do you strive to be the characters you write?
My answer: No.  I certainly write from a comfortable place.  I set my MS in Nashville, the city in which I grew up and spent most of my life.  But the characters I have created are pretty dissimilar from me.  My MC is a detective who killed his girlfriend when they were teenagers.  The killing haunts him, because his own father was also a murderer: guilty of killing my MC's mother.  Over the course of my series, I plan to develop this sub-plot, turning it into the plot of one book on down the line.

Does he have things I want to have?  Yes.  He lives in a condo in downtown Nashville, the trendy part of town (though now the waterlogged part).  He has no ties--children, wife, family--and therefore has complete freedom.  He investigates interesting crimes and digs into history every day.  These are things I would enjoy and of which I am probably a bit envious.
And, even as I say no, I realize I just created a second MC who is a lot more like me.  She is a TV news reporter struggling to overcome personal tragedy.  Where hers is a rape and abortion, mine is depression and fibromyalgia.  Did I mean for this to parallel so much?  No, but the words flowed out.

Do you write yourself?  If you are not a writer, but a reader, can you tell when a book mirrors its writer?  Do you like that?

*This is the first of several comment-driven posts.  You all spark ideas in me, so keep 'em comin'!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

How do you Blog?

This is an important question.  It's one I've seen on the blogosphere a lot lately.  In fact, I found the following list of questions on Maribeth's Giggles and Guns, which sent me back to the Spunky Queen herself, L. Diane Wolf.  We all blog to reach out, create a community.  There are no rules, which is nice.  But there are some unspoken courtesies.

Here is how I blog...

How often do you blog?
Every day, with few, unplanned exceptions.  I recently changed to take Saturdays off, but a post still goes up--the No Post Saturday picture post.  Since this doesn't actually make sense, I'm going to do a picture of the week type post on that day.  Look for it Saturdays!
Do you have a schedule?
Some weeks yes, mostly no.  I do have several guest bloggers and authors come by occasionally.  I love to have new authors on, b/c I love to help them get the word out there about their books.  After all, I hope someone will do the same for me one day.

How do I follow/read?
I follow using the follow gadget in the sidebar.  I like this gadget b/c I can see automatically if anyone else I know is following the same blog--it creates an instant community and shows appreciation for one's readers.  I read using the blog list on my own blog...to the right, if you'll be so kind to turn your eyes.  I have it divided by mystery and non-mystery blogs, though I have thought about changing this.  I also have a movie blogs section, since I love movies and there are so many tie-ins with books.  These lists update as the blogs update, so on a given day, I'll see entirely different blogs listed than on another.  I like that uncertainty of what will pop up.  I also use the Blogger Dashboard, if a headline or picture catches my eye.
Do I comment?
I always comment.  If I was there, I want them to know their writing was read and appreciated.  I can at least say "Interesting post," "great topic," etc.  I also leave a link to my blog, so it spreads the word.  A little self-promotion isn't a bad thing.

How do I comment?
See above.

Do I answer comments?
Yes, especially recently.  I was great about this at first, then waned as life got crazy.  I always try, even if it's the next morning when I catch up.  But I do so on my blog.
Do I visit the blogs of the commenter?
Yes.  This is easy for me b/c they're usually some of my favorite blogs to visit!  Do I visit commenters' blogs every time they comment?  The only reason not is that I don't get to visit blogs every day.  I have two young kids, a freelance job, etc.  (Right now I'm tping one-handed w/ a giggling 2yo in my lap.)  But I want to!

Last week I posted about comment responses.  For my take on the email/comment-on-blog debate, click here.

Is there anything you would like me to change?  How do you blog?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Strange Combinations

So Snow White Barbie was riding in a Transformer dump truck...
Yep.  That's how my morning began.  An interesting combination, don't you think?

In literature, sometimes the most compelling partnerships are the ones that seem mismatched.  Think The Da Vinci Code--dead bodies among some of the most precious, highly protected art in the world.  Or Christopher Fowler's detectives, Bryant & May--Bryant dabbling in the strange and the occult to solve crimes, May following logic, reasoning, and more traditional methods.  Or even Holmes and Watson--their talents certainly complemented each other, but they were very different in character and approach.

My husband and I watched a new show the other night--'The Good Guys' with Tom Hanks' son, Colin Hanks, and Bradley Whitford of 'The West Wing' fame.  In summary, an old-school, drunk of a cop (Whitford) gets young, preppy (Hanks) into crazy action to solve petty crimes-that-turn-big.  The villains were comical when need-be, the storyline was interesting, and the conflict between the detectives was definitely ON.
These characters worked because of their opposite traits.  They played off each others' weaknesses, and ended up forming a bond of crazy partnership.  (The show is not Emmy material, but it's entertaining, especially where Whitford is concerned.)

You may not have a team of detectives at the helm of your book, but you probably have two characters who interact and conflict.  Did you intentionally make them alike or very, very different?  Do you count on strange combinations like Snow White Barbie and Transformer Dump Truck to entice your readers?

*Sorry, I couldn't find a picture of my son't Transformer dump truck.  The above is a substitution, Optimus Prime Battle Blaster. I know you all care about accuracy. :)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Touching the rain

"I'm just going to touch the rain!" he protested.

I had just told my son to close the back door against the torrential downpour.  Really?  He wanted to let that in here?

But he didn't.  Jake just wanted to explore.  He just wanted to feel the rain.

How often do we say no out of some sense of propriety or safety that isn't necessary?

Would opening the backdoor really bring in so much rain?  In this case, no.  It brought in the sound of rain, the wonderful, drumming sound of rain.  Jake reached out with his curious hand and felt its wetness, stared for a moment, and that was it.  Nothing damaged.

What sort of boundaries do you need to let go?  How about in writing?  Is there anything stifling your imagination of which you are trying to be free?