Monthly Archives: June 2018

Going Short

by Vinnie Hansen

Circa 1979? Golden Gate Park.

Way back, when I was in the graduate writing program at San Francisco State, I had short stories published in the campus literary magazines every semester. This instilled confidence in my writing, but also inflated my ego. I launched into the world thinking I might set the literary world on fire. Instead, after a few years, I realized I needed to eat and went back to school for a teaching credential.

While I still aspired to write books, short stories buoyed me during my teaching career. I could squeeze these manageable bits into my holidays and summers. The manuscripts found homes, won contests, and kept my writing dream alive.

short story nail polish

Short stories even have their own OPI nail polish. This color is called Short Story. 🙂

But I didn’t stop longing to write books and eventually hit on my Carol Sabala mystery series.

This year, after writing seven books in the series, as well as a stand-alone novel, I find myself back, full circle, concentrating on shorter works. I enjoy being able to envision the whole arc of the story from the get-go, certainly not something that happens for me with a 300-page manuscript. I like the time to fuss at the sentence level, weighing each word.

Last August, I added a novella prequel to my Carol Sabala series, which became one of the works in SLEUTHING WOMEN II: 10 MYSTERY NOVELLAS. It may have been at this point that I began seriously to contemplate the other advantages of going short.

While short fiction may mean fewer readers, it means more cohorts. In SLEUTHING WOMEN II, I rubbed shoulders with 10 other authors (one of the authors being a team)—meaning ten others to help market the product. We pooled our resources to buy advertising and took turns posting on blog tours. We amplified one another’s voices. Our e-anthology sells for only $.99, but I’ve been making money, and remember, that’s splitting the profit with 10 others.

Working collaboratively also creates connections and friendships. This year I headed off to Left Coast Crime in Reno armed with the cell number of the Guest of Honor, Naomi Hirahara. This only came about because we are both in Akashic Books’ SANTA CRUZ NOIR.

Clowning with Peggy Townsend and Naomi Hirahara. We all have stories in SANTA CRUZ NOIR.

Because Akashic Books’ Noir Series is world famous, encompassing over 80 titles from BALTIMORE NOIR to ZAGREB NOIR, their $200 payment for my story “Miscalculation,” qualified me to become an active member of Mystery Writers of America as did the earnings on the Sleuthing Women e-anthologies. This is not a benchmark I’d reached with my individual book-length works. To consider the financial reward of short fiction, for one flash-fiction piece (200 words), I garnered the Golden Donut Award, which came with free registration to the Writers’ Police Academy. The registration is currently a $425 value. That’s over $2.00 a word remuneration. Think about that in terms of a full-length book of 60,000 to 80,000 words!

As part of a well-established brand, SANTA CRUZ NOIR

received reviews in Publishers’ Weekly and Kirkus. In Kirkus Review, I received my own little paragraph: Though many of these stories are more interested in evoking a voice or mood than pursuing a plot to its conclusion, Vinnie Hansen’s “Miscalculation” provides a textbook example of how many twists can fit into the simple tale of a bank teller’s adventures with the Guitar Case Bandit.

Short stories also seem like the most probable way for me to be considered for an award. Edgars, for example, are awarded for short stories. Stories in collections like SANTA CRUZ NOIR, or the upcoming Sisters in Crime Guppies’ anthology, FISHY BUSINESS, (to which I’ve had my story “Room and Board” accepted), can be put before the Edgar Committee. Once an author wins an Edgar, he/she does not have to qualify that the award was for short story. One’s info can simply say, “Edgar Award winning author.”

Finally, short works are a way to keep my name in front of readers. I’m an incredibly slow writer. It takes me a couple of years to turn out a book-length manuscript. But between books I can announce other publications. My last book, my novel LOSTART STREET, was published in May, 2017, and I don’t see another book release until summer 2019. However, in the meantime, my novella SMOKED MEAT came out in August, 2017, my story in SANTA CRUZ NOIR released in June, 2018. Another story will come out in a local anthology titled SANTA CRUZ WEIRD in August, 2018. FISHY BUSINESS will reach the copy-editing stage about October, 2018, and I just learned that my story “Last Word” will be in FAULT LINES, the NorCal Sisters in Crime anthology. These stories fill the breech until my next book-length work.

Going short assists my going long.

How do you feel, as a reader and/or writer, about short stories and novellas?

Vinnie Hansen fled the howling winds of South Dakota and headed for the California coast the day after high school graduation. She’s now the author of numerous short stories, the Carol Sabala mystery series, and LOSTART STREET, a cross-genre novel of mystery, murder, and moonbeams. Still sane(ish) after 27 years of teaching high school English, Vinnie has retired. She plays keyboards with ukulele bands in Santa Cruz, California, where she lives with her husband and the requisite cat.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE.

The Murky Middle

On our “off” week, something interesting for the writers among our followers…

But readers, you may be curious about this too. Do you ever feel like a book slooows down some in the middle and gets a bit draggy.

It’s not your imagination. The middle of a story is the hardest part to write. The writer has to give all the details that will allow the story to unfold and make sense as it moves toward the climax, but also keep the pace consistent with the rest of the book.

Not an easy task. Indeed, the murky middle is the bane of our existence. Here are some tips for writers from Joanne Guidoccio on ways to deal with it.

On Navigating the Murky Middle by Joanne Guidoccio

Joanne Guidoccio

(Note: when you click the link above, you have to scroll down some to see the post)

I love beginnings—in life and on the page. Anything and everything is possible whenever a blank slate appears before me. That momentum can last for days, weeks, months, and sometimes even longer.

At least, that’s what I like to think whenever I begin a new writing project.

A linear pantser, I write brief character sketches, plot the first three chapters and the last, and then let the words flow. At some point, usually around Page 80, I encounter the murky middle, that nebulous place where I find it difficult to continue or sustain the tension of the novel. In short, I’m lost with no clear trail or direction in sight.

In the early days of my writing career, I struggled to regain my motivation, wondering if I should abandon the novel. Thankfully, I have discovered three strategies that have lifted me out of the abyss.  READ MORE…

(Note: when you click the link above, you have to scroll down some to see the post)

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE.

A Crime Writers Interview: The Fascinating Peggy Townsend

Crime Writers logo

We are pleased to bring you another crime writers interview, this time with the fascinating Peggy Townsend, who has just released her very first mystery novel.

Why do I say fascinating? Read on!

An award-winning newspaper journalist, Peggy Townsend has reported stories that ranged from the trial of a murdering mortician to an Auschwitz survivor’s fight to get back the portraits she’d painted in the death camp. When Peggy isn’t writing, she loves to run and ski and she has rafted wild rivers, twice lived for seven weeks in her van, and has come face-to-face with both a mountain lion and a grizzly bear, which proves she probably spends a little too much time outdoors. Her first mystery novel, SEE HER RUN, published by Thomas & Mercer, just released on June 1.

Kass Lamb (on behalf of misterio press) To start things off, tell us one or two interesting things that will help folks understand who you are?

Peggy Townsend

Peggy in her running shoes!

Peggy Townsend:  I guess the first thing you might want to know about me is that, one dark October night, I chased an escaped serial killer through the woods. I was working the crime beat for my newspaper at the time and just happened to be riding along with this tough, street-smart cop when his radio squawked awake. A serial killer named Billy Mansfield had escaped from County Jail and a witness had seen a man in an orange jail jumpsuit headed downtown.

Most of the searchers went that way. But the officer I was with turned his patrol car in the opposite direction, almost as if he knew exactly where Mansfield would be.

We parked outside a cemetery that bordered a river east of the jail and hurried through the graveyard, flashlights sweeping over headstones and places a prisoner might hide. Then, we plunged into the brush and woods along the river following a faint trail for about a mile until a search dog arrived. The disheveled killer, later found guilty of murdering five women, was found a few hours later hiding on the same trail the officer and I had been following

All of which leads to the second thing you should know about me, which is that, in my regular life, I would have run in the opposite direction of an escaped serial killer.

Also, because I’m a reporter, I’m really, really good at deadlines.

Why crime fiction? What is the appeal of mysteries for you, rather than say romance or science fiction?

I’ve spent a lot of time in courtrooms and in the investigation bureau as a newspaper reporter. I covered the trial of a mortician and casket salesman who tried to disguise his murder of a young male prostitute by refrigerating the body and then dumping it later so it appeared the boy had died when the guy had an alibi. The mortician was foiled, however, by a small blotch of decomposition on the boy’s body, which was spotted by a sharp-eyed medical examiner.

I wrote stories about rapes, gang shootings and about the investigation and arrest of David Carpenter, the so-called Trailside Killer. I attended parole hearings for serial killers John Linley Frazier and Herbert Mullins and got to see the inner workings of the justice system from both the prosecution and defense sides.

So, when I decided I wanted to write a novel, I turned to crime fiction because not only did I know it best, but I loved the whole cat-and-mouse idea of how you catch a killer or a rapist. Plus, as a writer, putting myself in the minds of both the criminal and detective, figuring out plot twists, and dropping clues that may or may not be important, is not only challenging but super fun and creative.

Kass:  Wow, you have had a really exciting career as a journalist. So where are you with your fiction writing now? Tell us a little about your stories.

book coverPeggy:  After spending decades writing non-fiction, I decided to give fiction a try and, let me tell you, it’s a lot harder than it looks. But thanks to my smart writing groups, a talented developmental editor named Heather Lazare, and my wise and wonderful agent, Heather Jackson, I got my first two-book deal last year with Thomas & Mercer publishing. I have an amazing editor at T&M, along with a super-talented team of publicists, road-smoothers, artists and editors so when SEE HER RUN was given an early release in the U.K. and Australia, it hit the bestseller list: No. 4 overall in paid Kindle sales, which made me realize that I can actually call myself an author. I’m finishing up my second novel as we speak.

Kass:  What’s the oddest and/or most difficult thing you ever had to research?

Peggy:  I spent an entire day researching chemical castration (I know, I know) which led me to the discovery that a widely used pesticide not only chemically castrates three-quarters of male frogs exposed to it but also turns one in ten male frogs into females. Scary and weird stuff.

On the lighter side, I now know how to make really good French-press coffee after researching it for my book.

Kass:  In your story, what changed the most from the first draft to the last?

Peggy:  I had to cut a character I loved because my very wise and talented agent said he was a distraction. I protested. I argued. But, deep down, I knew she was right. The character (and his dog) now resides on a lonely Word doc titled simply, “Noah.” Maybe he’ll come back some day, but probably not.

Kass:  Aww, Now I want to meet Noah. I hope you get to write him into a future story. Last of all, what question do you wish interviewers would ask you that they usually don’t? What is your answer to that question?

Peggy:  This is funny because this is often the last question I ask when I’m writing a profile about someone. So, I would like an interviewer to ask me: What is my hidden talent?

The answer would be that I am a whiz at mirror writing, which is writing backward so the message can only be read in a mirror.

I learned to mirror write in fifth-grade after I read a story about Leonardo da Vinci and how he hid all his discoveries and thoughts in his journal using mirror writing.  Because I was a weird kid, I’d do my homework every night and then turn the paper over and trace the backward sentences until I got the hang of it. Now, I’m a master mirror writer. Unfortunately, my penmanship still looks like a fifth-grader’s.

Kass:  And there you have it, folks, an award-winning journalist with lots of real-life stories under her belt and some new make-believe ones she’s eager to tell, and she can mirror-write them for you if you wish…LOL

Thanks so much for joining us today, Peggy, and please stick around for a bit in case our readers have any questions for you in the comments.

You can connect with Peggy on Facebook and Twitter @peggytownsend, and here is her new release:

SEE HER RUN, An Aloa Snow Mystery

book cover

A former reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Aloa Snow knows what it means to be down and out. Once highly respected, she’s now blackballed, in debt, and dealing with the echoes of an eating disorder. Until she gets one more shot to prove that she has what it takes—with a story some would die for…

After the body of a promising young athlete, Hayley Poole, is recovered in the Nevada desert, authorities rule it a suicide. But when Aloa discovers that the girl’s boyfriend died in a similar accident only months before, her investigative instincts are on high alert. It turns out the girl was on the run from secrets that could kill.

This case is murder for Aloa, and Hayley won’t be the last one to suffer. Someone very powerful forced Hayley to run for her life. Now Aloa must do the same.

Available now on AMAZON

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE.