A Writer or a Storyteller?

Are you a writer or a storyteller? Since I write two different genres, this question came up into my mind. There does seem to be a difference. When I’m writing a mystery, I feel like a writer. I have to know the beginning and the end. I have to know ‘who done it’ right at the start. As the plot unfolds, there has to be red herrings thrown in – but not helter-skelter. It has to all go by plan. There has to be several suspects; after all, it wouldn’t be much of a read if you figured out the mystery after the first chapter. In other words, you can’t just sit down at your computer and tell a story.

Historical fiction, on the other hand, is told by a storyteller. It’s true that you do need to know where you’re going with it but if you’re following a time in history, much is done for you. It  takes research on your part but then you can fit your characters into their life. There might be a mystery involved or a romance but your main emphasis is on life during that time period. Everything else adds interest and spice to your story. Your readers take themselves back in time and become those people. They feel the hardships, joys, endurance, and struggles. Unlike reading a mystery, where you wait with great anticipation until the end to find out who the culprit is, in historical fiction, you live the story from beginning to end.

Which do I prefer writing? I guess it depends on my mood. Right now, I’m writing a historical fiction that is a sequel to Sarah’s Valley. This one will be the next generation so I will be checking out what life was like during the 1930s and 1940s in southern Saskatchewan, Canada. I have the plan in my head but there will be no mysteries or romance – just a story about a young man  who faced hardships but is helped by a ten year old boy. I’m planning on telling a feel-good story!

When that is finished and published, I will think of what murder I can plot for either Beryl or Mabel to solve.

My Conflicts of Interest

It has been quite some time since I sat down and tapped out a blog. I would like to list my reasons for not doing so sooner, but sadly, I have none. Unless you count laziness and lack of imagination as reasons. In my case, they seem to be.

Spring is here. At least, it says so on my calendar. I actually believed it one day because the temperature, the bits of green grass poking out of the ground, and the birds singing proved it. Then suddenly the warm temperature disappeared and a cold north wind took its place. It was discouraging but this was April in Canada.

You would think with all the fluctuating temperatures, it would be an ideal time to curl up inside with your laptop and write a book. My agenda for the year includes writing three new books. My Mabel Wickles series is in need of a new book because there is now a new sheriff who needs Mabel’s help. Retired Reg Smee has started up a taxi service and I’m sure he’s going to find a dead body in one of his taxis any day now. Beryl Swallows has moved to Arizona but how much will she miss her neighbor, Sam Galloway? Perhaps finding a body at the bottom of her apartment’s garbage chute will keep her mind off her homesickness. Then there’s my historical fiction novel, Sarah’s Valley – too many readers have said they want to learn more about the young man, Patrick.  Obviously, I must write My Return to Sarah’s Valley.

However, I have one more hurdle (besides the lack of imagination and laziness) to overcome. Even though the weather is yucky, I have a conflict of interest. Every spring, my mind turns to spring cleaning. I know, it’s an old fashioned concept. Once it’s been ingrained in you, it’s hard to let it go. No, I don’t wash all the walls and windows in my house like I once did but I suddenly get the urge to empty out all my closets and then neatly replace everything. Well, maybe I do wash most of the windows but I draw the line at wall washing. Now it consists of wiping around all the light switches.

This is also the time of year that I get the urge to paint. I think this is my way of getting out of washing walls. So far, I’ve decided on a lighter gray for the hallway, a darker color for the main bathroom, and perhaps a brighter shade for one wall in the kitchen.

After spring cleaning is over, it’s gardening time. Already my husband is getting ready to start plants in the house. I’m wondering what flowers to plant this year and how I can rearrange my pots. Should I buy new ones or just use some of the leftover paint from the kitchen to spruce them up a bit?

Now you understand my conflicts of interest. I have no concept of writers who sit down every day, at the same desk, in the same spot, and write, spellbound, for hours at a time. If I’m going to write three books, it will be done while I’m sitting on the floor in my closet surrounded by my junk, while waiting for paint to dry, or while I’m sitting on the ground, waiting for my husband to finish tilling the garden.

Well, I have to get those books written before fall because that’s when fall cleaning begins.

Where I’m at…

After being in Texas for a while, you begin to pick up some of the jargon. Obviously, I find myself saying ‘y’all’ instead of ‘all of you,’ as if three words were too difficult to say. And instead of saying, ‘where are you?’ for some reason, ‘Where’re you at?’ pops out of my mouth. I do realize that after returning to Canada, I have to let go of my Texas talk. Not that anyone would say anything; folks are much too polite but they might secretly roll their eyes. Canadians are proud of their British roots, which means finishing each word properly and not leaving anything off – like the ‘g’ in words that end with ‘ing.’ It also means speaking slowly and pronouncing each syllable. To Texans, this is a foreign language.

However, I digress. I really do want to tell you where I’m at.

Where I’m at with my writing, that is.

A couple of months ago, I was not pleased with how my writing was going. Basically,  that is because it was going nowhere. It wasn’t that I wanted or had the desire to become a well known author or even make tons of money. I wanted to enjoy what I was doing but I was not. That’s where I was at then.

I decided to change my whole outlook about writing. Writing should be fun. I did not want it to be stressful in any way. When I’m not writing, there is something missing in my life. It’s good for my brain. It forces me to widen my vocabulary. In other words, it’s healthy. Especially as we age.

I was never satisfied with two of my books and I always thought that if someone read one of those books first, they would never want to read another. It feels terrible not liking your own books. However, they were there for anyone to buy. Overnight, I made the decision to republish all my books. It was as if a weight lifted off my shoulders. When you decide to do this without any premeditation, it is like plunging into a pool of cold water!

While family members worked on covers, I edited one book at a time. After publishing my books the first time, I never picked one up to read. I was too afraid they might be as bad as some reviewers wrote. Well, guess what? I read, I edited, I did some rewriting, and in the end, I thoroughly enjoyed every book! Creating covers was a bit of a challenge but I have a very talented daughter, and together with her dad’s finishing touches, I was very pleased with the end result. They were ‘me.’

I now have all my books on Kindle for 99 cents and they will stay that price. These I write for friends and family and for anyone else who would enjoy reading them. Every few weeks, I will pick one book and do a free promotion. I feel happy doing this.

And, that is where I’m at.

Two Cozy Cat Press authors nominated

 

AURORA, Ill.Sept. 3, 2016 — Independent publisher of mystery books, Cozy Cat Press, today announced that two of its authors––Alice K. Boatwright and Vicki Vass––have been announced as finalists in Chanticleer’s Murder and Mayhem Novel Writing Contest for 2016. Boatwright’s mystery Under an English Heaven and Vass’s Murder by the Spoonful are the books being honored.

According to Cozy Cat Press publisher, Patricia Rockwell, “We are extremely proud of Alice and Vicki.  The Murder and Mayhem contest is one that is quite meaningful to us because it honors cozy mysteries specifically.  The fact that two of our authors have been selected as finalists for this prize, is especially gratifying.”

Alice K. Boatwright’s book, Under an English Heaven, is her first Ellie Kent mystery and her first book with Cozy Cat Press. She is also the author of Collateral Damage, three novellas about the long-term impact of the Vietnam War, which won the 2013 Bronze Award for Literary Fiction from the Independent Publisher Book Awards. She formerly lived in the Cotswolds for several years, and now divides her time between the U.S. and Paris.

Vicki Vass has written more than 1,400 articles for The Chicago Tribune as well as Women’s World, The Daily Herald and Home & Away. Her science fiction novel, The Lexicon, was inspired by her journeys in the jungle of Sudan, Africa, while writing about the ongoing civil war for World Relief. She has also authored Killer Finds, Pickin’ Murder, and Key to a Murder in her Antique Hunters Mystery series with Cozy Cat, as well as a new series Gem Hunter. She lives outside Chicago, with her writer, musician, husband Brian, their 20-year old son Tony, kittens Pixel and Terra, Australian shepherd Bandit, seven koi and Gary the turtle.

For more information about these and other cozy mystery authors, and about Cozy Cat Press, readers may visit the company’s website:  www.cozycatpress.com. For more information about Chanticleer’s Murder and Mayhem contest: http://www.chantireviews.com/2016/08/18/the-mms-chanticle….

 

 

Having fun with words!

Good morning, everyone! Well, it is the second Thursday of the month and even though we don’t have a set schedule anymore, I’m still on a schedule. I thought I would share some cute plays with words. See how many you can come up with.

“Lexophile” is a word used to describe those that have a love for words, such as “you can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish”, or “To write with a broken pencil is pointless.” A competition to see who can come up with the best lexophiles is held every year in an undisclosed location.

..No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery.

..If you don’t pay your exorcist you can get repossessed.

..I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. I just can’t put it down.

..I didn’t like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.

..Did you hear about the crossed-eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn’t control her pupils?

..When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble.

..When chemists die, they barium.

..I stayed up all night to see where the sun went, and then it dawned on me.

..I changed my iPod’s name to Titanic. It’s syncing now.

..England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.

..Haunted French pancakes give me the crepes.

..This girl today said she recognized me from the Vegetarians Club, but I’d swear I’ve never met herbivore

..I know a guy who’s addicted to brake fluid, but he says he can stop any time.

..A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.

..When the smog lifts in Los Angeles U.C.L.A.

..The batteries were given out free of charge.

..A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail.

..A will is a dead giveaway.

..With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.

..A boiled egg is hard to beat.

..When you’ve seen one shopping center you’ve seen a mall.

..Police were summoned to a daycare center where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.

..Did you hear about the fellow whose entire left side was cut off? He’s all right now.

..A bicycle can’t stand alone; it’s just two tired.

..The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine is now fully recovered.

..He had a photographic memory which was never developed.

..When she saw her first strands of grey hair she thought she’d dye.

..Acupuncture is a jab well done. That’s the point of it.

..Those who get too big for their pants will be totally exposed in the end.

 

 

https://www.amazon.com/Sharon-Rose/e/B00BL8HTZY/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary

by Sally Carpenter

The inspiration for this post came in an unusual way. In my day job, I work at a community newspaper. Recently an editor asked if I’d cover the opening of the “Vatican Splendors” exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, a mere 20-minute drive from my house.

So I went on the “Splendors” press tour a mere two days before the library closed for Nancy Reagan’s funeral preparations. Talk about timing. Anyway, the exhibit has many artifacts and artworks rarely seen in or outside Rome.

One of my favorites was a large oil painting from the Renaissance titled “The Supper of Emmaus” by the workshop of Francesco or Leandro Bassano (sons of the better known Jacopo Bassano).

The work is an unusual retelling of the story from Luke’s gospel of the resurrected Jesus having a meal in the town of Emmaus with two of his disciples, who don’t recognize him at first.

The house and clothing are from the 16th century. Servants are bustling about, cooking dinner in a fireplace. Plucked chickens hang from the ceiling. A dog barks at a cat. I was the only person in my tour group who notice that the cat was clutching a mouse (a common sight in my yard). In the center of the picture a seated man, probably the homeowner, gazes off in thought.

Tucked back in the right hand corner is a table with Jesus, the two disciples and a servant boy waiting on them.

What the painting says to me is that the household residents are so preoccupied with their daily work that they are oblivious of the special guest under their roof. Not even the disciples can see the greatness in their midst.

As mystery writers our job is to find the extraordinary events taking place in the mundane world. Our amateur sleuths go about their usual habits when bam! A dead body appears. Their routines are disrupted and chaos ensues until the killer is found. Plenty of tension for the hero, but fun for the reader.

Most people live uneventful lives that would make for dull reading. It’s that extraordinary incident that kicks the story into high gear.

In my series, my hero is either the one who finds the body, or the victim dies in his arms. This gets him out of his rut and off on his own investigation.

So I keep my eyes open for those exciting events that I can use to write a good story. I try not to miss the special guest in the house.

 

 

 

 

Musical chapter headers

By Sally Carpenter

One distinct feature of my cozies is that I use song titles as my chapter headers. My protagonist is a former teen idol, so the story is heavy into music. And just saying “chapter one, “chapter two,” etc. is so bland.

The title makes some reference to what’s in the chapter so I can keep track of the action. And I just like the challenge and fun of finding songs to fit the story; it amuses me.

Below are the chapter titles to my upcoming cozy. “The Quirky Quiz Show Caper.” See if you know the artist who recorded the song.

1. Monday, Monday

2. I Want To Know

3. We Just Disagree

4. Carry On Wayward Son

5. Be True to Your School

6. Stiletto

7. (It’s a) Family Affair

8. If You’ve Got Trouble

9. Call Me

10. Games People Play

11. Xanadu

12. Listen to the Band

13. Sometimes She’s a Little Girl

14. Saturday in the Park.

15. Up, Up and Away

16. We Can Work It Out

17. FM (No Static at All)

18. (I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden

19 You Won’t See Me

20. Diary

21. Your Lying Eyes

22. Mr. Success

23. Thanks for the Pepperoni

24. I Can’t Get Her Off My Mind

26. Garden Party

26. Live and Let Die

27. Last Dance

Answers:

1. The Mamas and The Papas

2. Eric Clapton and The Powerhouse

3. Dave Mason

4. Kansas

5. The Beach Boys

6. Billy Joel

7. Sly and the Family Stone

8. Beatles, but didn’t appear until “Anthology”

9. Blondie

10. The Spinners

11. Olivia Newton-John from the movie soundtrack

12. The Monkees

13. Boyce and Hart

15. Fifth Dimension

16. Beatles again

17. Steely Dan

18. Lynn Anderson

19. Beatles one more time

20. Bread on the original version but Micky Dolenz recorded it years later

21. The Eagles

22. First recorded by Frank Sinatra but I have a version by Bobby Sherman

23. Extra points as this one’s obscure. An instrumental jam on the third disc of George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” opus.

24. Monkees once more

25. Ricky Nelson

26. Paul McCartney and Wings

27. Donna Summers.

 

 

 

I love revisions

By Sally Carpenter

Last week I checked out “The Muppet Show Season One” from my hometown library. The discs have a feature that allows interesting trivia to pop up on the screen during the show. I’ve learned how some of the Muppet characters evolved over several episodes.

In episode 7, for the first time Kermit shows he has a temper. A different puppeteer operated Miss Piggy before Frank Oz took her over. Over several episodes Miss Piggy’s voice became more feminine and her personality deepened. Fozzie began as just a bad comic but over time acquired more sympathetic traits.

I’ve also been listening to my Beatles Anthology records (yes, vinyl). A number of the cuts are early takes on the songs. Some of the tunes required dozens of takes-revisions if you will-before the song was perfect. It’s fascinating to hear how a complex song began with just a few chords on the guitar and some lyrics.

I used this as an example of how revisions can help any work of art.

Many writers hate revisions. They write one draft of a piece and consider it finished. Granted, this is a big time saver. Writers who face tight deadlines may need to rush out a piece out just so they can move on to the next project.

A few authors can get away with this, but the majority of writers need to go back and refine their work. Very few works are ready to go from the outset.

I look at writing like crafting a jewel. Gemstones dug from the ground look like rocks. They must be cut and polished to achieve their beauty. Likewise, I see each revision as cutting another facet and adding another layer of polish until my work shines.

My first drafts are just to dump the information on the page. It’s to get the ideas down so I can see what I have. I often don’t have character names at this point. The first draft is largely dialogue with little description of setting, clothing or faces.

In the second draft I rearrange material, shift scenes around, name characters, look for repetition, and start to work on the dialogue. I also spot continuity errors. In one chapter of my WIP, my protagonist left his house riding his motorcycle and returned driving his car! I also found I needed to add more red herrings.

I’m in the third draft of my WIP. The characters are taking on more shape, so I’m smoothing out their dialogue. I’m adding description as well and making sure the plot makes sense.

What makes revisions fun in that in each pass, the story gets better and I see the improvement. The downside is that revisions are time consuming. I want to get my book on the market soon, but it’s better to take my time and make sure it’s the best story it can be instead of rushing out a book with errors.

So I’m off to work on my book some more. And mostly likely some more after that.

 

Dead Lines… and Stuff

As you can tell by the subject, we are going to discuss something that mystery writers talk about all the time. After all, we solve murders, right? This usually involves a dead body. Of course, there are other ‘dead’ names for dead bodies. For example, dead duck.
We usually are not referring to a literal duck when we say that, we are talking about someone who just breathed his last. Perhaps, your protagonist witnesses a man trying to escape out of a twenty-first floor balcony; he falls to his death, and she says, “Boy, he’s gotta be a dead duck!”
Because he is dead, the cop at the scene says, with a deadpan face, ‘Someone help me pick him up; he’s a dead weight.” Well, of course, he is because he is a dead body. As soon as he ran onto the balcony, he knew it was a dead end and there was nowhere else to go – only down, falling through dead air.
However, your sleuth has some solving to do. How did the killer get into the room in the first place when the door was locked with … you guessed it – a deadbolt? Do you think his ex-wife coerced him to come there because he was a deadbeat dad? When he opened the door and walked in, she aimed dead center at his heart; however, it was a dead heat and he aimed and hit and she aimed and missed.
The irony of this whole story is that the deadbeat dad sent his twin brother to knock off his ex-wife and since they were dead ringers of each other, she shot at the wrong man. The deadbeat dad then bolted the dead lock so his brother couldn’t escape. The deadbeat dad, however, could escape. He fled to Deadwood, South Dakota, and from there caught a plane to the Mediterranean where he is now relaxing beside the Dead Sea.
As you see, we use the word ‘dead’ quite often in our English language. (I refuse to say that’s because it’s not a dead language). In fact, I wasn’t even going to talk about all the words that include ‘that’ word. All I originally wanted to do was talk about deadlines! And the reason I wanted to was because I knew my turn was coming up to write my blog and I couldn’t think of a thing to say. Well, I still can’t but it seems I’ve filled up the page anyway. That’s what a deadline will do. It makes you panic and write.

I’m pleased to say that my second Historical Fiction book, The Widow’s Walk, is now available on Kindle. Please check out my other books – six Parson’s Cove Cozy Mysteries, Virtual Enemies, and Sarah’s Valley.
My website is http://www.sharonrosemierke.weebly.com
I am also on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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