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.

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What She Writes and Why She Writes…

Meet Rebekah Lee Jenkins!

 

The quote goes something like this “Here’s to strong women. May we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.” I would like to add… may we write about them to inspire this generation. The Night They Came For Til, is a book about strong women who follow their passion in life despite the roles society tried to stifle them into.

Twenty two years standing behind a cutting chair as a hairdresser, I know a lot about women and I love watching women succeed. Love it. So, Shannon’s story is about a young woman with a strong aunt Til who champions her. Til instills in her that she can lead an unconventional life; she can defy the role she has been assigned, and soldier forth on her own terms. She can choose her career, and then marriage and children. Til wanted the best for Shannon. I can relate, I feel the same way about my girls.

I wrote this book for my nieces, all of them, Sophia, Olivia and Meika but due to her age, specifically Azelin Rose. I hope they find their true passion in life and pursue it with every confidence. I hope the men they find love them as equals and propel them forward in life. I hope we raise them with the self worth to demand it.

The Night They Came For Til explores the relationship between Aunt and Niece, between men and women, in the progressive era where women demanded equal rights and some men complied. Issues we still grapple with today.

The Night They Came for Til is coming soon to Kindle. I hope you enjoy it!

 

Coming soon to kindle:

The Night They Came For Til, they took me too.”

In the tenements of London England, 1904 is dangerous time to be suffragettes on crusade.

Shannon’s aunt Matilda “Til” Stone, gynecologist, suffragette, and all around tyrant, believes women should have the right to birth control and self determination. After ten years spent at Til’s side, Shannon was trained as a midwife to be her right hand.

“It’s not enough to be on the front line of this battle Shannon; you must hold the line and advance it forward.” Til reminded Shannon at every opportunity.

After a brutal attack that was meant to destroy their work, Shannon is shipped off to Canada to avoid the scandal around Til’s arrest.

In Oakland Manitoba, Shannon landed in women’s rights battle that shook the community and threatened the new hospital.

Busy working as a midwife Shannon helped the women of the community find their voice while she found her own.

Faced with a choice to live a normal life as a wife and mother or go back to England and crusade with her aunt,  this book explores her choices and how they affected an entire community.

The Night They Came for Til is a historical fiction novel based on true events.

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.

New Year, New Ideas

Happy New Year! I love setting New Year Resolutions, but here’s my trick to success. I never write them down! That way, by the end of the year, I don’t remember what they were so I don’t remember if I didn’t get where I thought I was going.

In 2016, I do remember one of my goals – to have my new series published by a small press instead of my own imprint, as I do with my Jake & Emma series. That’s when I approached Cozy Cat Press, a publisher I’d had my eye on for a year or more. I’m happy to say that’s one resolution I achieved! The Deadly Art of Deception was released September 30.

In 2017, I hope to release the second book in that series and the (oh my gosh, I can’t believe I’m saying this) the sixth Jake & Emma. I’m also planning to devote more time to my writing since I’ve been writing pretty much whenever I feel the inspiration. That’s nice, but it doesn’t get much writing done! I’ve started writing every day but Sunday and it’s been great. I’ve already written two short stories based on my daily writing prompts.

My second resolution is to start working my way through my “to be read” pile. Do you have books waiting for you? I have them in my e-reader, on my shelf and stacked on the bedside table!

What are your plans for the new year?

Made it by the skin of my teeth!

Since the beginning of August, I have been thinking about posting a blog the second Thursday of the month. That used to be my day on the schedule. We now have no schedule so we can post whenever we like. That really throws a person off. I happen to be a person of habit.

So, this is what I’d like to talk about – habits!

There are good and bad habits as everyone knows. People struggle to overcome bad ones and struggle to start new ones. Habits are a bit like New Year’s resolutions – we try to break old habits too quickly or try to develop too many new ones all at once and get frustrated.

Let’s say we smoke, have poor eating habits, and don’t exercise at all. One morning, we wake up with a horrible cough, believe we might have lung cancer, so decide to stop smoking that very day. Since the other two habits tend to cause health problems too, we decide to not only stop smoking but eat properly and exercise.   Our goal is to exercise an hour a day and go vegetarian. We plan to begin immediately.

How long do you think our grand transformation will last? Maybe until noon if we’re lucky. Why? Because we’ve bitten off more than we can chew. Breaking or changing a habit has to be a slow process. You have to be able to visualize the end result and keep it always in your mind. Perhaps, you will be able to break the smoking habit after three months. If that is your goal, it will seem more achievable. If you want to start exercising, why not start with fifteen minutes a day or a half hour three times a week? And you want to become a vegetarian?  After a week, you might cave in, eat a huge double bacon cheeseburger, and give up. Maybe try eating a meatless meal once or twice a week to start out.

And what about writing habits? Do you have a certain routine you have to go through? I do. I have a certain place where I always write. It’s like my brain doesn’t function anywhere else. Do I start writing immediately? No, I have a habit of checking out certain websites before I can begin. And when my mind is going too fast for my fingers to type, I stop and play Mahjong Tiles! Those are my writing habits. They are actually kind of silly but they seem to work for me and I believe they are quite harmless.

Well, this wasn’t a profound blog but it did get published on the second Thursday of the month. I will now make it a habit to mark it on my calendar.

Happy writing everyone!

Watch Your Mouth!

oh-my for blog

I admit to having a bit of a potty mouth – after all, I grew  as an Army brat and heard foul language with some frequency. My mom would caution me, “Watch your mouth, young lady,” when she heard me use a mild expletive. In today’s culture, those words would hardly be noticed.

After retiring from a long career in telephony, God got hold of me and dragged me to seminary. (Can you tell it was a bit of a struggle?) I had to give up a lot of things to comply, including the occasional cuss word.

Which brings me to my current dilemma. I write mystery novels, and they are not in the Christian fiction category. While my protagonist, private investigator Angie Bonaparte, uses fairly inoffensive language, my writerly instincts tell me that neither her homicide detective boyfriend nor the killers necessarily would. So what’s a woman who wants to paint a realistic picture and yet not violate her internal standards to do?

An interesting article by Elizabeth Sims helped me to clarify my thinking on the subject. She defines the subsets of foul language thusly:

  • Profanity – using God’s name in improper, irreligious ways. My books don’t include this kind of usage.
  • Cursing – calling on God to deliver a bad outcome, as in damning someone. I’ve been known to use ‘dammit’ as a sign of frustration by Angie’s guy, Wukowski. After all, as Ms. Sims notes, “characters do need a verbal pressure valve.”
  • Swearing – making an oath to God. “I swear, next time I’ll …” This one has lost its original oath-making impact from normal usage.
  • Obscenity – the infamous f-bomb is the most egregious example. I don’t let that litter my pages.
  • Vulgarity – a word that is considered impolite, often used for body functions. Since Angie is a former librarian turned PI, her vocabulary is up to the challenge of using language in ways that don’t require vulgarity. Wukowski is not crass enough to indulge in that kind of language.

Are there readers who object to even the mildest use of these kinds of words? Yes. Amazon reviews sometimes include a comment to that effect. But a writer has to decide who her audience is and how best to engage them. My work is not so pure that I could submit it to a Christian publishing house, nor is it so offensive that I am embarrassed to have church friends or seminary professors read it. My mom’s stricture to “watch my mouth” has extended into the written words that I produce. I think she would approve.

This link will take you to Ms. Sims’ insightful post: http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/how-to-use-profanity-and-other-raw-talk-in-your-fiction

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.

 

 

 

Love me as I am…

I was thinking today about all the wonderful friends I have right now and those I’ve had throughout the years. It’s quite amazing how people become good friends. Who chooses whom? Do you know what I mean? I have met women that within minutes, I knew we would be friends. There is this certain chemistry which is hard to explain. It goes beyond what we have in common because I have absolutely nothing in common with some of my best friends. I enjoy their differences and for some unknown reason, they enjoy mine. Go figure!

I have friends who suffer from depression but we are able to laugh together. One friend happens to be a big-time hypochondriac and when we get together, we share our aches and pains. She knows the name of every brand of medication from the cure for headaches to the diet for diverticulosis. If I’m not feeling well, she is the one who shows the most empathy.

Four years ago, I met up with my first roommate after many years of not seeing each other or keeping in touch. We shared the attic suite in an old house back in 1963! What did we do when we got together? We laughed and acted like we were twenty again. It was so easy to pick up where we left off.

IMG1279

 

Ah, but what is the connection to writing? It is wonderful to write about friends. The two main characters in my Parson Cove mystery series are best friends – lifelong friends. And, they are as opposite as chalk and cheese.

As lovely as it would be to write solely about the fun and enjoyment best friends share, there is always a need for conflict. Believe it or not, a book gets quite boring if everything is always hunky-dory. So, we need to create a character that stirs our emotions in other ways. If we’re writing a mystery, we obviously don’t want to end up loving the killer and feeling disappointed when he or she gets caught. We might love them at the beginning of a story but as the story unfolds, we have to see some characteristics that we don’t particularly like. We also have to see the imperfections in the good characters; otherwise it would be too easy to pick out who ‘did it.’

No matter how wonderful we think people are, we know we all have our shortcomings. For example, Mabel Wickles, my protagonist in my cozy mystery series, even irritates me sometimes. Why is she so snoopy? Why does she get herself into such dangerous situations? And then, there’s Flori Flanders – why does she cry over every little thing?

And my wonderful friends? They are also imperfect – just like me! I am forever grateful that they overlook my shortcomings and love me as I am.

http://authorsdb.com/breaking-news/21110-the-widow-s-walk

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