Tag Archives: writing

Romantic Suspense: Sugar and Spice and Things Not So Nice

by Kassandra Lamb and Kirsten Weiss

Both of us have ventured a bit into the realm of romantic suspense lately. Since we already had romances as subplots in many of our mysteries, we thought it shouldn’t be that hard to make the romance a bit more central and call it romantic suspense.

It’s turned out to be a little more complicated than that. So we thought we’d explore for you, our readers, and also for ourselves, our motives and challenges as we’ve ventured into this cross-over genre.

spirit on fire book cover

The first of the Witches of Doyle In-Betweens, romantic suspense novellas “written” by Karin Bonheim, Kirsten’s fictional character.

So first up, Kirsten answering the question:

What motivated you to try your hand at romantic suspense?

Kirsten:  Crass commercialism! But seriously, I’m in the Romance Writers of America and have been slowly improving my romance writing chops. So I thought I’d try my hand at some novellas, ostensibly written by Karin Bonheim, a character in my Witches of Doyle cozy mysteries.

Then of course, I had to go and complicate everything by adding in a second story about Karin, woven between the chapters…

Kass: I also have to admit to a monetary motive. Mystery is the second largest genre, but romance is number one, with many avid readers who devour several books a week. What I didn’t realize is that the readership of romantic suspense is a somewhat different group.

Payback book cover

First story in Kass’s Unintended Consequences Romantic Suspense series.

But now I’m hooked, with multiple story ideas buzzing around in my head, so Jessica Dale (my romance-writing alter ego) will be continuing to produce romantic suspense stories for the foreseeable future.

What surprised you the most about this cross-over genre?

Kirsten: A lot of people sneer at romance, but writing good romance ain’t easy. I have huge respect for the romance writers I know. They tend to start their books from the perspective of emotion and character. As a mystery writer, who looks first at character and plot and then figures out the emotion later, this “emotion-based” approach has been a useful way of developing my plot outline.

Kass: I’ve never particularly cared for straight romance stories, because they all seem to follow the same formula. Girl meets boy, they are attracted to each other but there is tension between them—often due to some misunderstanding that seems a little artificial to me—the tension eventually reaches a climax (no pun intended), and boy and girl finally get together.

What I found pleasantly surprising when writing romantic suspense is that the conflict in the story doesn’t have to be BETWEEN the hero and heroine. The conflict can come from the mystery component. Something bad has happened and/or is going to happen, and the hero and heroine must work together to come through the other end intact.

Backlash cover

Book 2 in the Unintended Consequences series.

Certainly the early stages of the relationship won’t be all sweetness and light, but the tension doesn’t have to be sustained or exaggerated in an unnatural way. The mystery component of the story provides plenty of tension and obstacles for them to overcome, and also opportunities to cement their love.

What have you found most challenging writing romantic suspense?

Kirsten: There’s a lot more romance to deal with! In my mysteries, the romances tend to be a slow burn. Especially in novella format, you have to get to it much more quickly, and still make it seem realistic. I hope I succeeded.

Kass: Having read some of “Karin’s” stories, I’d say you have, Kirsten!

My biggest challenge is similar. Pacing is always tough for me, especially at the beginning of a story when I’m setting things up. But in mysteries with a romantic subplot, one just has to set up the mystery initially. You can bring in the attraction between the hero and heroine later.

But in romantic suspense, you’ve got to get the hero and heroine feeling things toward and about each other more quickly. The sparks have to fly pretty early on. And yet not slow down the story and kill the suspense about the mystery component.

How do you maintain the balance between the romance and the mysterious elements? Do your stories lean more toward one or the other?

shaman's bane cover

The 2nd Witches of Doyle In-Between

Kirsten: In the Witches of Doyle In-Betweens, the paranormal romances that “Karin” writes, romance and mystery are woven together, so I think those elements get fairly equal play. The hero and heroine generally start out with mutual suspicion battling mutual attraction, and then moving toward cooperation and mutual respect as they work together to stop the bad guy.

Because they’re working together to solve the crime, and when they’re apart, they’re thinking of each other (and the crime), there’s always some romantic tension on the page. Or at least, that’s what I try to create. But for me, mystery still comes first!

Kass: I’d say in terms of space on the page, the two components get equal time. The romance maybe a little more initially as the suspenseful events build up to a realization that something really bad is going on. Then as things start to break loose in the mystery component, it gets more page time, and the couple is mostly hanging on for dear life. But also the negative events are exposing flaws in each other and challenges between them.

The tricky part is trying to portray those quick flashes of insight and the fears that go along with them, without distracting from the build-up of the suspense toward the grand reveal.

Like Kirsten, I hope I’ve met that challenge well. And yes, if I have to choose, the mystery takes precedence.

How do you feel about romantic suspense? Who’s your favorite author in that genre?

And here’s Karin Bonheim’s *cough Kirsten’s * newest release:

lone wolf book cover

LONE WOLF, A Doyle Witch Supplement

A San Francisco homicide detective with a secret.

Christy Pavenic is a werewolf with the strength and speed to make it in her macho police precinct. But when her power takes a turn to the dark side, she fears she might be the killer responsible for a series of savage homicides she’s been called to investigate.

FBI agent Jason Shepherd is hard on the trail of a serial killer whose kills mimic animal attacks. A specialist in the paranormal, Jason hides a secret of his own—he can see the true nature of werewolves in their human form, and he’s certain one is at the bottom of the killings.

Battling both suspicion and attraction, the two must work together to solve the crime. Desire wars with distrust as they race to stop the killer before he strikes again.

A mystery within a mystery, Lone Wolf is novella three in the Doyle Witch supplements, and the sequel to Shaman’s Bane by fictional witch, Karin Bonheim.

And Karin has gone missing…

AMAZON    NOOK    iBOOKS    KOBO

Kirsten Weiss worked for fourteen years in the fringes of the former USSR and deep in the Afghan war zone. Her experiences abroad gave her glimpses into the darker side of human nature but also sparked an interest in the effects of mysticism and mythology, and how both are woven into our daily lives. She is the author of the Riga Hayworth Metaphysical Detective urban fantasy/mystery series, the Sensibility Grey steampunk mysteries, the Rocky Bridges mysteries and the Witches of Doyle cozy mystery series.

Kassandra Lamb is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

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.

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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. 🙂 )

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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. 🙂 )

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The Magic is in the Process

Magic writing processHey, all! Gilian here. We don’t always publish something here on our “off” weeks, but this week, you got lucky. 😉

The most common question I get as an author is “How in the world do you come up with the stories for your Jade Blackwell Mysteries series?”

I’m happy to answer the question, but I must admit that much of it is magical, and I don’t fully comprehend it myself. Cool, huh? And scary sometimes. And frustrating on occasion. And it’s always messy.

Who knew messy could be magical? Magical Writing Process

To learn about my writing process and the reason I call it magical, follow this link to my blog. You can read all about it here.

 

Stop back next week for a great 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. 🙂 )

A Crime Writer Interview: Nancy Lynn Jarvis

Crime Writers Intro image

Welcome to our second Crime Writers’ Interview! Our goal is to bring to you, our readers, some new and interesting authors and books for your reading pleasure.

Because books are not toasters. We don’t just buy one every few years. They are more like clothes. (Or for some of us, food!) We need a sustainable supply.

headshot Nancy Lynn Jarvis

So please help us welcome Nancy Lynn Jarvis.

Nancy Lynn Jarvis was a Santa Cruz, California, Realtor® for more than twenty years before she fell in love with writing and let her license lapse.

She has worked in the advertising department of a newspaper, as a librarian, and as the business manager for Shakespeare/Santa Cruz at UCSC.

Nancy’s work history reflects her philosophy: people should try something radically different every few years, a philosophy she applies to her writing, as well.

Kass Lamb (on behalf of misterio press):  We like to start with a somewhat open-ended, “tell us about yourself” question. What two or three things do you feel people need to know in order to understand who you are?

Nancy:  If there was any doubt about it before, there isn’t now: I turn seventy as my new book, “The Two-Faced Triplex” comes out, so I’m officially a geezerette. I was late to the writing party, starting the Regan McHenry Real Estate series at fifty-nine, but I love telling stories on paper so there’s no planned retirement for my writing venture.

My favorite out of the books I’ve written is not a mystery, but a comedy/commentary on the invisibility that comes to older people titled, “Mags and the AARP Gang.” I’ve also edited a cookbook, “Cozy Food: 128 Cozy Mystery Writers Share Their Favorite Recipes.”

photo of sunrise

The view my Airbnb guests will see at sunrise.

I like new adventures, so every few years I try something different. Currently, I’ve started hosting Airbnb (yes, there will be a book about it; look for “The Truth About Hosting Airbnb” in March) and what I really want to do is start having writer retreats at my house where five or so of us writers can come together to work on our mysteries while we share creative synergy and, hopefully, have a great time

Kass:  *raising hand* Please put me down for that first retreat. That sounds amazing.

So tell us, why crime fiction? What is the appeal of mysteries for you, rather than say romance or science fiction?

Nancy:  I love the logic of it. It’s fun to think about the order of events and clues and it’s an enjoyable challenge revealing everything the reader needs to know to solve the mystery without revealing too much too soon.

I’m a very visual writer―I need to be able to see what I’m writing about―so I don’t think I’d be any good at science fiction, and writing romance novels simply doesn’t appeal to me.

Kass:  What type, i.e. subgenre, of mysteries do you write? Why does that subgenre appeal to you as a writer? Do you also prefer it as a reader?

Nancy:  My mysteries fall in the cozy genre. Regan McHenry is a Realtor who gets involved in murder because of clients, colleagues, and friends.

I grew up reading Agatha Christie at my grandmother’s house while sitting in a wicker rocking chair that I still have. Miss Marple was my favorite of Dame Agatha’s protagonists and was the perfect cozy amateur sleuth, so that’s the style I chose.

Sadly, since I’ve started writing, I’ve learned how to spot a red herring from miles away and usually I’ve solved the murder by page eighty-six, so I don’t enjoy reading cozies as much now.

Kass:  Where are you in your writing career, newly published, have 20 books under your belt, or somewhere in between? Tell us a little about your stories.

book coverNancy:  “The Two-Faced Triplex” is book seven and probably the final chapter of the Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series. I was a Realtor for almost twenty-five years and had many related stories to use for background material and, while I still have more ideas, the technology involved in being a Realtor today has moved beyond my remembrances of working and I worry that if I continue the series, my books will become dated.

I’m currently editing a short story anthology pertaining to Santa Cruz, California (where I live) which will be titled, “Santa Cruz Weird.”

Beyond that, I’ve already begun playing with an idea for a series called “Geezers with Tools” about two single senior men, one widowed and one who thinks he’s a player, who start a handyman business to meet women. I like older characters and want to put more humor in my books. The very title of the series is a double entendre and, in my mind, a great setup to play with. The series will still be in the cozy mystery genre. My protagonists will solve crimes that come up as they work.

Kass:  What do you find to be the most difficult part of the writing process—first draft, editing, researching? Why is that?

Nancy:  I love writing first drafts and think researching for the mysteries is fun, although it does produce some very odd offers for items for sale in my inbox, so I would have to say editing is the hardest part of writing for me.

I was fortunate enough to have a willing (well almost willing) husband who became a great beta reader and content editor who kept me on track in large part, but he died about a year-and-a-half ago. “The Two-Faced Triplex” was hard to write and especially hard to finish because I didn’t know how I was going to get from finished first draft to something I was willing to send to my editor without his input in the middle.

Kass:  Oh my, so sorry about your husband. And I know what you mean about having that one beta reader whose blessing you have to have in order to feel comfortable releasing a book out into the world.

You said you enjoy doing research. What’s the oddest or most interesting thing you’ve ever researched?

Buying Murder book coverNancy:   The most unusual thing I’ve ever researched was the evolution of cat litter. In “Buying Murder,” Regan and her husband buy a house with a permanent resident. He was mostly decomposed, although partially mummified, as he spent time sealed in a wall anomaly filled with cat litter to keep him from leaking body fluids and, well, smelling like death.

He’d been there for sixteen years and, at the start of the mystery, who he was and when he died were unknown facts. I had those questions answered based on the type of cat litter that surrounded him. Cat litter formulations have changed over time, so I had to figure out what the litter components would have been sixteen years prior to the body’s discovery so his approximate death date could be determined.

Kass:  That is fascinating! Thanks so much, Nancy, for joining us today.

Before you leave, let me open up the floor to our subscribers and guests, in case any of them have questions for you.

And folks, don’t forget to check out Nancy’s new release, The Two-Faced Triplex:

The Two-Face Triplex book coverRegan signs on to play consoler-and-chief after the body of Martha Varner, one of her favorite clients, is found and the woman’s distraught daughter begs Regan to stop escrow from closing on a purchase her mother was about to make.

Martha Varner’s death, at first ruled suicide, is quickly ruled homicide. The dead woman’s best friend thinks she knows who Martha’s killer is. The police have a different suspect. And Regan? Well, she has her own ideas about who killed Martha Varner.

She just can’t imagine how complicated playing amateur sleuth will make her life and how dangerous her investigation will prove to be for her husband, Tom.

Now available on AMAZON.

You can check out Nancy’s other books on her Amazon Author Page. Also she is on Goodreads and Facebook.

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. 🙂 )

“Impostor Syndrome” and What To Do About It

by Kassandra Lamb

Today I’m guest posting over on Jami Gold’s site on the subject of Impostor Syndrome in writers. But there are nuggets of truth in the post for everyone on the topic of believing in the quality of one’s work, filtering feedback, and letting the good stuff in to bolster our self-esteem.

Why Writers Feel Like Impostors Sometimes (and What to Do About It)

“Impostor Syndrome”—it’s the bane of a writer’s existence. Am I really a writer? Am I really any good at this writing thing?

Even after we’ve produced several books and they’re selling, we may still encounter those moments of fear—Am I a fraud? Have I just fooled everyone?

Why is writing (or any creative endeavor) so prone to impostor syndrome?

1.  “Good” is subjective. No matter how great our talent, some people will love our work, and some will hate it. (Just look at the bad reviews on many of the classics.)

2.  We are too close to our work to judge it accurately.

3.  We feel things more intensely than others might. That’s what fuels our creativity, and also our self-doubt.

4.  Our stories, poems, etc. are our children. Criticism of them is a knife in the heart.

5.  Any insecurities we have about our worth as a person will feed into insecurities about our work. Criticism will seem harsher than it was intended to be; praise will be seen as people just being kind.

created via imgflip.com

What to Do About It: 

First, are you a writer?

If you write, you are a writer! Claim that title. You have a right to it. (Or to sculptor, painter, or even teacher, architect…whatever the case may be.)

Whether or not you are a good writer is something else. Being good at something almost always involves three things: natural talent, training, and practice.

Talent is the subjective, innate component. (I’ll come back to that.) But the training and the practice you can make happen. Take craft classes. Find a good critique group, editor, beta readers, etc. who can help you hone your skills.

And then write. A lot.

How do you know if you’ve got the talent?

When you are first starting out, have lots of people read your writing and give you feedback.

Then pay close attention to that feedback. This does NOT mean that you BELIEVE all the feedback you get, but pay close attention to it.

First, who is giving it? Do they have their own agenda (such as making themselves seem important), or are they sincerely trying to help?

Do they know what they are talking about? Do they normally read your genre? Are they writers themselves or editors? (They don’t have to be, and just because they are doesn’t mean everything they say is correct.)

I intentionally have at least one beta reader who is not primarily a mystery reader (currently my daughter-in-law, romance writer G.G. Andrew). This gives me…READ MORE

To Write or Not To Write Short

by Kassandra Lamb

Someday is Here! book cover

I’m guest posting today over on Janice Hardy’s wonderful site for authors: Fiction University. So thrilled to have this opportunity!

I’m talking about the pros and cons of writing short stories/novellas vs. full-length novels. Please hop on over and check it out!

To Write or Not To Write Short:

Short stories, novellas, novels—what’s the best route to go as a fiction writer? Are there advantages to writing short?

This is a more complicated question than it may seem to be on the surface. There are several factors to consider:

● The definition of a short story vs. a novella
● The appeal of writing short for the author
● How readers feel about short stories and novellas vs. full-length novels
● The benefits of shorts for authors
● The bottom line: how much can you make off of shorts?

In order to give you more than just my take on writing short, I surveyed several authors from various genres. I’ve included their experiences along with my own… Read More

The Power of Group Support

by Kassandra Lamb

I’m in the middle of a two-week stint of fast-drafting. What is fast-drafting, you might ask?

A bunch of authors get together and make a commitment to themselves and each other that they will write X number of words per day for a certain period of time. Each author sets their own goals but they’re not supposed to let anything interfere with making it happen.

I’m going for 3,000 words a day, an ambitious but not unreasonable goal. I’m normally lucky if I write 3-4,000 new words per week. Mainly because too many other things come up that need my time and attention, or at the very least, they break my train of thought.

(public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

(public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

But having made this commitment to the group, I have been able, for the most part, to give myself permission to ignore most of those other demands (fire or blood, I will probably respond to 😉 ).

And it’s amazing how much the cheering section of the group can do for one’s motivation.

Each day we report in on our progress and everybody comments with Woohoo’s and Yay’s if we make our goal, or even if we don’t but we at least get some new words on the page. If we hit a snag, the group will rally around and offer support and advice to get us unstuck.

The last time I did this, it was just a one-day affair, with 30 to 60-minute “sprints.” It happened to land on a day when I had many other distractions and obligations. I wasn’t able to participate in all of the sprints. And yet I cranked out over 6,000 words that day. During one 60-minute sprint alone, I wrote 3,000 words.

I’m not real sure why the group support makes such a difference. It’s really a bit of a mystery. It all remains positive. If you fail to make your goal for the day, nobody gives you a hard time. Indeed, the group will commiserate. And somehow that makes one that much more determined to write more the next day.

It’s amazing. Truly this kind of group effort gives meaning to the saying:

The whole is greater than the parts!

It reminds me of when I worked with a group called Women Build. They were an all-female crew that built houses for Habitat for Humanity. There were a few young, strong women in the group but most of us were middle-aged or older. Nonetheless, we managed to hang drywall and sand floors and shingle roofs. A dozen or so of us would show up at the building site each Saturday morning, and together we’d somehow get things done that none of us would dream of doing by ourselves. In less than a year, we had built a house!

How about you? Have you ever found you could do something as part of a group that you’d never have accomplished all on your own?

This fast-drafting session was organized, by the way, by my sister mp author, K.B. Owen. Check out her post if you’d like to know more about why fast-drafting with a group is so successful for authors. I especially like Elizabeth Anne Mitchell’s comment about outrunning one’s inner critic. 🙂

If you are an aspiring writer, you might want to check out my new guidebook for newbie authors.

It’s just 99 cents for a limited time! (Goes up to $2.99 soon.)

a SomedayIsHere FINAL (1)Someday Is Here! by Kassandra Lamb

This easy-to-read, how-to guide is full of both practical advice and emotional support. Psychotherapist turned successful mystery writer, Kassandra Lamb takes novice writers by the hand and walks with them on their journey, pointing out pitfalls along the way, some of which she discovered through tumbled-head-first-into-them experience.

From the decisions to be made before setting pen to paper to whether to submit to agents or self-publish, from the basics of writing craft to the nuts and bolts of copyrighting and ISBNs, from promotion strategies to the perseverance needed to make your writing business a success, this overview of the writing and publishing process is a must-read for new authors who aren’t sure what they’re getting themselves into.

AVAILABLE NOW ON (just $0.99): AMAZON US AMAZON UK AMAZON CA APPLE KOBO B&N

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington mystery series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, 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. 😉 )

Chasing Your Dreams!

by Kassandra Lamb

We all have dreams, and we all believe that we want our dreams to come true.

So what stops us? Many people will say that life gets in the way. I can certainly relate to that. While I was busy making other dreams come true–marriage, raising a child, becoming a psychotherapist–my dream of being a writer simmered on the back burner for a very long time.

But other things can get in the way as well. The biggie is fear of failure.

Epic_fail pub domain wiki

(public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

The bigger the dream, the more we may fear that we won’t be able to achieve it, so why even try? The mild ache we feel when we think about our unfulfilled dream is nothing compared to the heartbreak we will experience if we try and fail.

I don’t have all the answers for overcoming this fear. But I think the most important step in that direction is realizing that a failure does not define who you are or your worth. To try and fail means you are brave. To not try…uh, not so brave.

Also, we’re not going to be great at everything we do. Your achievements do not define your worth; your inner self does. Are you kind, compassionate, hard-working, responsible? Then you are a worthy human being even if you’re not great at everything you try. (See my two posts on recovering from perfectionism for more on this.)

And if we don’t try, how will we ever know if we’re great at it or not?

The other fear that gets in people’s way, usually on a subconscious level, is fear of success.

Yes, you heard me right. Fear of Success. This is what that fear sounds like as it whispers in your ear:

So what if you do finish this first book and people like it? Then they’ll expect you to write another one, just as good or better. What if the first one’s a fluke? What if you only have one good book in you?

People can sometimes fear that they won’t be able to sustain success. And/or they may fear that others will develop certain expectations of them that they won’t be able to continue to fulfill.

This fear is more common when others have pushed us to pursue our dream. They may have inadvertently put undue pressure on us, made us feel that we would be letting them down if we don’t succeed.

Think about this for a moment. If you are successful at your first stab at something, how likely is it that you won’t be able to do it again? I get better at things with practice. Don’t you?

And even if you can only do it once. Isn’t that better than never pursuing your dream at all?

Yet another thing that can slow us down is not knowing the steps needed to get to our dream. We may have a vague idea of the first step or two, but after that it’s all a fog.

Steps to Nowhere (photo by Evelyn Simak, CC-BY-SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons)

Steps to Nowhere (photo by Evelyn Simak, CC-BY-SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons)

What I discovered with writing though is that the fog clears as you take the next step, and then the next. So you don’t have to see the whole path, just the next step or two in front of you.

My other dreams seemed obtainable so I pursued them, but the one about becoming a fiction writer–that always seemed out of reach. I absolutely hate having other people control my fate. I just couldn’t imagine myself making the rounds of agents and publishers, begging someone to give my literary baby a chance to live. So I never really tried. I wrote the beginnings of about five books over the years, but never got past chapter five or six in any of them.

Then I attended a workshop on e-publishing, and everything changed. I didn’t know all the steps but here was a path that would allow me to take control of my dream.

Whether or not it happened would depend on whether I could please my readers, not whether an agent or publisher thought my book was saleable. It’s taken six years to get here, but I now have eight books and three novellas published, with two more on the way. (To make the process easier for today’s new writers, I’ve spelled out the steps in the guidebook below.)

Whatever your dream is, don’t let fear stop you. Research what the first steps would be to make it happen. It might not be as hard as it looked, all foggy from the outside looking in. You may discover a path that you feel confident you can handle.

And as the saying goes: Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

How about you? Do you have a dream you’ve never really pursued? Is this the year to make it happen?

If your dream has been to become a fiction writer, I now have a short, easy-to-read guidebook out for new writers. My goal is to show the path to making your dream come true, while helping you avoid the pain of some of the pitfalls and potholes I stumbled into during the last six years.

It’s just 99 cents for a limited time! (Goes up to $2.99 soon.)

a SomedayIsHere FINAL (1)Someday Is Here! by Kassandra Lamb

This easy-to-read, how-to guide is full of both practical advice and emotional support. Psychotherapist turned successful mystery writer, Kassandra Lamb takes novice writers by the hand and walks with them on their journey, pointing out pitfalls along the way, some of which she discovered through tumbled-head-first-into-them experience.

From the decisions to be made before setting pen to paper to whether to submit to agents or self-publish, from the basics of writing craft to the nuts and bolts of copyrighting and ISBNs, from promotion strategies to the perseverance needed to make your writing business a success, this overview of the writing and publishing process is a must-read for new authors who aren’t sure what they’re getting themselves into.

AVAILABLE NOW ON (just $0.99):   AMAZON US    AMAZON UK    AMAZON CA    APPLE    KOBO    B&N

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington mystery series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, 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. 🙂 )

8 Ways For an Introvert to Enjoy a Convention

by Vinnie Hansen

As authors, we often attend conventions. Probably you have done so as well in the course of your career.

After several Left Coast Crime Conventions and one Killer Nashville Convention, as a painful introvert, I finally have the hang of how to enjoy these events. This is the wisdom I’ve gleaned:

The Willamette River in Portland

The Willamette River in Portland, Oregon

1.  See the venue. On my trip to Nashville, exhausted as I was, I caught a hotel shuttle to the downtown strip at night and walked place to place until I heard music that appealed to me—The Don Kelley band at Robert’s.

At the recent Left Coast Crime, the sun was shining when I arrived in Portland. Knowing the weather wouldn’t hold, I seized the moment and walked to Powell’s Books. These were unforgettable experiences. In both cases I went with another person I didn’t know well. I feel bonded to them through the shared activity, which brings me to tip #2.

My new friend, Cindy Brown, author of MacDeath

My new friend, Cindy Brown, author of MacDeath

2.  Attend the convention alone. If you go with a good friend or spouse, you’ll spend too much time together. It’s natural, especially for a shy person like me. A huge benefit of a conference is meeting other writers and making new friends. Which brings me to tip #3.

3.  Park the idea that the conference is mainly about selling books. All writers want book sales, but that’s my point. Attendees can develop marketing fatigue. They tire of people thrusting books in their faces. Calm down. Let people get to know you. Share yourself. Then maybe they’ll buy your book. But . . .

Vinnie's bookmark
4.  Be prepared. Take bookmarks and/or cards and have them handy. Tuck some in the conference lanyard pocket. I kick myself for every time I had interest in my book and was not able to hand the person my info.

5.  Promote others. If you like someone else’s book, give it a plug. It builds friendships and good karma.

6.  Get involved. I’ve asked for and been lucky to receive panel assignments at all the conventions I’ve attended. I’ve made lasting connections with my panel mates. But volunteering is another way to form bonds. I don’t regret a minute of the hour I spent “manning” the Sisters in Crime table in Portland, or the time I spent helping Robin Burcell heft around boxes of books in Monterey.

Lovely, Dark & Deep: What Makes a Literary Mystery panel with authors John Addiego, Jennifer Bosworth, Deborah Reed, Susanna Calkins and Vinnie Hansen

Lovely, Dark & Deep: What Makes a Literary Mystery panel with authors John Addiego, Jennifer Bosworth, Deborah Reed, Susanna Calkins and me (far right)

7.  Observe your surroundings. As writers, isn’t that imperative? I met people who holed up in their rooms to make their word counts and I admire their discipline. But what do we write about if we don’t observe what’s around us?

judge with a fluffy white catThe Portland DoubleTree had a Cat Fanciers Show right next door. For the nominal fee of four dollars, I discovered a fascinating foreign world and gained a wealth of information.

8.  Take photos. They are so important for follow-up Facebook posts or blogs like this one. And, at my age, they really help me to remember all those people I met!

These simple practices have transformed my convention experience from intimidating to stimulating.

Have you had to attend conventions for your job? How do you feel about them?

OneToughCookieComing soon! The re-release of One Tough Cookie, A Carol Sabala Mystery, under the misterio press imprint. So stay tuned.

Posted by Vinnie Hansen. Vinnie is a retired English teacher and award-winning author. Her cozy noir mystery series, the Carol Sabala mysteries, is set in Santa Cruz, California.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, 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. 🙂 )