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Monday, April 30, 2007

Writing With Abandon

I think rules and guidelines are great things. Without them, we'd have chaos. Just think of driving. Stop signs mean...stop. Green lights...go. Speed limit signs tell us how fast to drive (unless you're driving on 93 outside Boston and you just try to keep up with the traffic. Trust me, don't look at the speedometer too much).

Lately I've been thinking of how sometimes we can rule and guideline our writing into the ground. Don't get me wrong. Publisher have guidelines. Writing "rules" exist. They have a purpose. When I was a freshman art major, some of my classmates balked at still life and technique. But what our professors tried to drill into us was that there were basics we had to master before we could create our work of genius.

Guidelines and rules are always countered by passion. Write your cozy. Write your romantic suspense. Write a knuckle-whitening thriller. But don't lose your passion for what you write in an effort to get your foot in the proverbial door.

Because what happens is this: We can stand on our heads to force our stories to fit a certain mold, and that squelches our emerging voice. Our stories flatten, and let's face it, we look like we're "trying."

I've seen master wordsmiths work, and their facile use of technique makes story crafting look easy. What I believe they've learned is the rules and guidelines. The basics are so ingrained that the story comes forth intuitively. Not without work, but working smarter...not harder. One of my critique partners has made that something of a motto lately, and it's worth considering.

Stop losing sleep while you're crafting your WIP. Will the editor like it? Will I fall on my face? LOVE your story. WRITE with abandon. You might be pleasantly surprised to learn your technique has improved along the way. If not, you'll learn to delete. Add. Develop. Subtract. Cut entire scenes--for the sake of a solid story. And passion will still shine through.

Friday, April 20, 2007

So You Want to be a Lawyer? Post One. . .Vocabulary

The Keep Me in Suspense Team is pleased to begin a new series of law articles for writers from guest blogger, Carla Putman, lawyer and author. Her first book, Canteen Dreams, will release from Heartsong Presents in October 2007. Sandhill Dreams and Captive Dreams will follow in 2008.

You can learn more about her at her blog spot (The Law, Books, and Life): http://carasmusings.blogspot.com/ (You'll find a lot of great stuff there.)

Now, here's her post:

I inhaled legal novels long before I went to law school. John Grishom books didn’t scare me away from being an attorney. Nope, they made me even more interested in a questionable career as an attorney.

Now after four years of law school, one year clerking for a judge, and four years in private practice, I have a few tips to share with those of you who feel the need to add legal twists to your plots.

I can understand the need. More and more of us find our lives intersecting with the law when and where we least expect it. Sometimes it’s because of a car wreck. Other times because of something that happened at work: violence, an injury, harassment. Or it might be because you want to start a business. Get married. Have a will prepared. Adopt a child. Gain custody of a child. Avoid child support. On and on the list could go.

In this first post, I want to hit on one of the key areas – and it’s a simple one to fix – where I see authors miss the details. Vocabulary. Words have precise meanings and lawyers love them. So here are a couple to get us started. Use them correctly, and you’ll be light years ahead of other writers.

Prosecution: only criminal. Only the state or federal governments can prosecute crimes. Everything else is civil.

Defendant: can be criminal or civil.

Plaintiff: technically the state is the plaintiff in a criminal case, but it is usually referred to as the prosecution. Plaintiff is always the party brining the suit in a civil matter. In a civil matter there is NEVER a prosecutor.

Criminal: an alleged crime has been committed by the defendant and the prosecutor believes there is a strong enough case to warrant filing charges against the defendant. If convicted, the defendant could owe money in the form of restitution and spend time in jail, under house arrest, etc.

Civil: a complaint is filed by the Plaintiff against the Defendant for a wrong the Plaintiff believes was committed by the Defendant. If the Plaintiff prevails he/she/it will usually obtain money damages or an injunction to stop the behavior of the Defendant. Jail time is not an option (except in extremely rare cases like high child support arrearages, and then the child support prosecutor is the one pushing the case.)

These terms are just the tip of the iceberg, but if you use them correctly you are well on your way to adding authenticity to your legal scenes.

Disclaimer: This post is not to be used as legal advice. This is only to assist writers in writing scenes in their novels regarding the law.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Interview with Dana Mentink!

Today I’m excited to introduce to you Dana Mentink and her latest release, Pi and the Fabulosa (slightly married) Twenty Four Hour Man.

Dana also writes for Barbour publishing’s new mystery line, so you can look forward to seeing more of her books in the near future.

LISA: Dana, tell us your initial reaction in finding out you sold your first book? In other words, tell us about. . .THE CALL

DANA: Well actually, it wasn’t a call. It was an e-mail. The Wild Rose Press publishes both e-books and the print variety so the Pi book was released digitally first. Nonetheless, I was very excited in a weird, I-don’t-really-believe-it kinda way.

LISA: Tell us some of the background behind the idea for your stories and a blurb about Pi and the Fabulosa (Slightly Married) Twenty Four Hour Man.

DANA: I’ve always been fascinated by the circus. Most people would say that is because I am primarily a clown. I even drive a teeny tiny car and wear floppy clothes that don’t fit properly. Circuses are tight families who create a world independent of the outside culture. That makes the perfect backdrop for a story, a world within a world.

Here’s a blurb from Pi and the Fabulosa (slightly married) Twenty Four Hour Man. The title, by the way, is thanks to Ruth Logan Herne who was my editor at that time.

Pi Steely’s life is a circus. Literally. As business manager for the Steely Family Circus, sensible Pi steers her madcap troupe through the perils of life on a daily basis. Things progress from muddled to madness when her soul mate accidentally turns up married and a body is discovered on circus grounds.

Aided and abetted by a zany young man with a tarantula tattooed on his forehead, and her pet chicken, Rhonda Sue, the smart and sassy Pi must fight the odds to save her circus family, reunite with Reuben, the slightly married love of her life, and manage to mollify an international cast of flamboyant, one-of-a-kind characters, one of whom could be a murderer. It’s going to take a brilliant performance and a whole lot of heavenly intervention to keep the show on the road.

LISA: This definitely sounds like a book full of laughs, Dana! On another note, I find in my own writing that I often grow alongside my characters, especially spiritually. Is there a character who you relate to and who made an input on your life?

DANA: I gotta love Pi because she’s a couple eggs short of an omelet but in a lovely, innocent way. I’ve always admired people who had the courage to be who they are with no apologies. She has an authentic and childlike faith which is something I strive for with less than stellar success sometimes.

LISA: What is the number one thing you’ve learned from your writing journey?

DANA: Never lean too far back on your exercise ball/office chair. The results aren’t pretty.

LISA: You’re a hoot, Dana. Any future plans for your writing you’d like to share? Any specific dreams you’d like to accomplish in the area of writing?

DANA: I’d like to write mysteries for a living, humorous mysteries with quirky people struggling with real faith issues and solving crimes in the meantime. What a dream job that would be! That’s why I’m beyond thrilled to be writing for Barbour’s Heartsong Presents Mysteries, a new line that launches in the Fall. The people there are fabulosa!

LISA: I completely agree! Because I know there are many aspiring writers out there, can you share any tidbits of wisdom on getting published, especially from someone who has just broken in?

DANA: Write what you have a passion to write. Don’t try to change who you are to sell something. God gave you that particular passion for a reason. Stick with the writing and be humble enough to keep learning and keep asking God to direct you. I believe creativity is one of His most precious gifts in whatever form it takes.

LISA: Any writer’s resources you could recommend?

DANA: Find a great critique group and read Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King.

LISA: What is the process you use when writing a mystery/suspense?

DANA: I find an incident or phenomenon that fascinates me. Then I go off on a complete research tangent for about a month. Then I’m ready to start plotting. There is a lot of coffee and scribbling on napkins and such in the interim. It takes a lot of mental gymnastics to keep this brain in order, let me tell you.

LISA: What is your system to keep the story/clues organized?

DANA: As Pi would say, the key to my organizational system is a little piece of high tech paraphernalia I like to call… the file cabinet. I know, it’s not a PDA and it has no giga anythings but sheesh, what a great invention. I am also a fan of the light-up pen I have next to my bed and of course, the Post-it. Did you know the Post-it was invented by a man who was frustrated that when he stood up to sing in church his notes fell all over the place? Did I mention I tend to go off on tangents? It’s an ADD thing. Sorry. Where was I?

LISA: Right here telling us more about the research you had to do for this story! LOL

DANA: I read everything I could about the circus and circus history. I learned about nuns who travel with the circus and the rich language that characterizes the business. Oh yes, I had to learn a little about goats too. Don’t ask.

LISA: You can’t leave us hanging like that, Dana! To find out more about Dana’s new book, (and maybe a goat or two) check out her website. And don’t forget to check out our contest page for a change to win a copy of Pi and the Fabulosa (Slightly Married) Twenty Four Hour Man.



Thursday, April 12, 2007

What's your formula?

I recently read an article with Dee Henderson where she suggested looking for your writing strengths then writing your own formula that defines your personal voice. This kind of formula doesn’t take away the uniqueness of your stories, instead it draws upon the strengths and gives you measurable markers for your writing that will work every time.

I decided the idea was worth following up on and came up with my own formula for my suspense novel. Here’s what I came up with.

*Explosive opening event
*Short chapters that keep the reader turning pages
*Strong cliff hangers at the end of each chapter
*Unique setting with interesting details
*Moving dialogue that explores spiritual issues
*Characters that are three dimensional
*Recognizable growth of the characters
*A dark, impossible moment leading up to the ending
*Ticking bomb time frame

If you’re interested in reading the article and Dee Henderson’s formula click here.

Try it!


Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Living in South Africa sometimes puts me a bit behind the latest American craze. I’m just now watching a friend’s DVDs of the series LOST. Speaking as a writer, it’s one of the best shows I’ve seen lately that lets you get to know the characters in detail and especially the motivation as to why they react the way they do to each and every suspenseful situation.

One of the most important aspects of writing, to me, is the motivation behind the character’s action. You can have a character do almost whatever you want and it will work as long as the motivation is there. No valid motivation and the story tends to fall flat. Not every story we write will include volumes of back story like the TV show Lost, but we still need to know our own characters and their motivations. This is one way to make our characters jump off the page and into the imagination and hearts of our readers.

Take, for instance, the story I’m working on right now which is an international suspense. Chad, my hero, is motivated to do anything he can to help my heroine in her quest to save a young boy’s family--even as the stakes continue to rise and his life is in danger. But why is he willing to risk his own life? The reader will only see snippets of Chad’s back story, but it will be enough to show how he tried to save his sister and couldn’t. This in turn gives him a believable motivation to do whatever he can to help the heroine.

Some writers enjoy spending time interviewing their characters. Others, like myself, get to know their characters’ personalities and quirks as the story progresses. Either way, knowing your character’s past as well as their motivations are essential in making a story tug at our readers’ emotions.

Look at your own stories. How well do you know your characters? Do they have a valid motivation for doing what they are doing? For help in learning more about your characters, I’m including a link I found through Google for basic character charts to get you started.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Interview with John Olson

John Olson is the Christy award winning author of the science thriller, Oxygen and other novels, including the sequel to Oxygen, The Fifth Man, and Adrenaline.

For John Olson, growing up with biologist parents was always an adventure. While his friends went to Disney World on their vacations, he and his family traveled out into the desert so that his father could study desert bacteriology. While his friends learned about early birds getting the worm, he learned the migratory patterns of the Zonotrichia albicollis. 

He went on to earn a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. After two years of postdoctoral work in computational drug design at the University of California at San Francisco, John worked for a computational biochemistry company in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Tell us how you went from you’re amazing science background to writing novels?

Actually I don’t have an amazing science background. I have a Ph.D. in biochemistry, but I was a pretty lousy scientist. I was much more interested in creating something new out of my own head, than I ever was at reading the literature and learning what others had done before me. I can’t read five sentences of a scientific research paper without my brain taking me off in a hundred different directions at once, darting this way and that like a beagle puppy in a new park, chasing after new ideas for inventions and innovations and cures. I used to feel terrible about my inability to focus – until I finally realized what that inability was good for.

What would you say comes first for you in the development of a novel—the plot or the characters? Do you use the snowflake method?

Neither… For me the concept always comes first. The characters and plot follow in an iterative process that probably comes from a fusion of iterative software development practices and the scientific method. I’m ashamed to say I’ve never actually read Randy’s snowflake method (Randy still maintains I’m illiterate). I’ve always assumed it’s similar to the process we went through to write Oxygen and Fifth Man, but with all the false starts and dead ends taken out.

How did co-authoring Oxygen with Randy Ingermanson come about?

I came up with the initial idea for Oxygen while I was watching a Scientific American Frontiers special on NASA. I love Daniel Defoe and thought, wouldn’t it be great to do Robinson Crusoe on Mars? The more I looked into it, the more I realized Mars was mankind’s next new frontier. We actually have the technology to get there; we just don’t have the resolve. But what if the next president were to supply the resolve? Mars would be huge!

For a few delusional minutes, I, in my naiveté, thought I was the only writer in the world who could write this guaranteed best-selling story... then I remembered my good friend Randy. We had been talking about writing a book together for years. Why not this one? The project was perfect for him. So I called him up from my mother-in-law’s house and proposed the collaboration, and well… the rest is fiction.

How did it feel when you heard that Oxygen won the Christy Award?

I felt like, wow, I get to shake Jerry Jenkins’ hand. It was a very humbling night. The thing I remember most is that Kathy Tyers, one of the authors I admire and love most in this world, stayed in the hotel and babysat my kids so Amy could go to the banquet with me. Talk about humbling. I guess we all know who’s going to get the biggest reward…

What books would you say have influenced you most in general? On writing?

I don’t read books on writing. I tried a couple of times, but the books were so poorly written I put them down quickly for fear I might learn something from them.

The books that influenced my writing most were the ones I read when I was young: E.R. Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes, Baroness Orczy’s Scarlet Pimpernel, C.S. Lewis’ Perelandra, J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings, Anthony Hope’s Prisoner of Zenda, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, George MacDonald’s The Princess and Curdie, and P.C. Wren’s Beau Sabreur. I love these stories of heroism, adventure, romance and intrigue. I spend a lot of time in this petty, self-indulgent, mundane world; I don’t want to read about it. The reality our society has created is a mere shadow of the reality God intends for us. We’re called to live life bigger than that. When I read a book, I want to live in a more solid world where people are bigger and more alive than the shadow people I meet during the commercial break we call life. This is why I love to read, and this is why I have to write.

Your books can be considered “science-thrillers.” Any advice for those of us who are not scientists, but want to write science thrillers?

Sure… Go ahead and write them. You’ll probably do better than I do. The problem with knowing science well, is that it’s difficult to figure out what the typical reader already knows and what you have to help her with. If you’ve just learned the science in order to write the book, you’ll probably be much better at communicating it. Just remember, science thrillers aren’t about science. They’re about real people the reader needs to care about. If your readers don’t care about your hero, they won’t experience any thrills and they won’t care about the science.

Can you give us your thoughts on thrillers as a genre and a few writing tips?

Hmmm… Thrillers. That’s pretty much a two hour lecture without any potty breaks. I guess my best advice is… thrillers should be thrilling. Isaac Newton worked out the three laws governing thriller writing over three hundred years ago, and they still haven’t changed. A reader at rest will remain at rest until the author acts on the reader with an emotional force. A reader in motion will get bored with the motion unless the author accelerates or decelerates the story. (The reader experiences the most acceleration during sharp turns and twists.) The author should vary the emotional forces used to accelerate the reader. My favorite emotional forces are mystery, suspense, romance, fantasy and fear.

You have a novel coming out the fall of this year, Fossil Hunter, Tyndale House. Tell us about it.

I just finished writing it so I actually haven’t had the chance to read it yet. I am illiterate, after all. You had the chance to read an early rough draft. What did you think of it?

All right, I’ll give it a try. First, I haven’t read a novel in a long while that pulled me in so quickly with the great cast of characters and interesting subject matter. When life pulled me away from the pages, I couldn’t wait to get back to them. I love action and adventure and this novel is definitely packed with both.

Here’s a short blurb: Christian paleontologist Katie James is on a race to find an ancient fossil in Iraq before her competition, Nick Murad. But they must join forces to fight more than the deadly heat when Iraqi guards chase them through the desert and Baghdad. Who can they trust with their lives and their controversial discovery that defies evolutionary theories?

I especially love the science and how you brought out the conflict that Christian scientists face in a world where their peers only accept the evolutionary theory.

What sparked the idea for this novel?

The whole novel was one of those God things I always hear about but think could never happen to me. I’m still shaking my head over it. One day, out of the blue, while I was in the middle of preparations to quit my day job, a guy from a movie company calls me up and asks me to write a novel based on a screenplay his company was thinking about producing. My first thought was, “Wow, what a God thing! Of course I’ll do it!” But then, after reading the screenplay, I realized I couldn’t write that story. Maybe someone else could, but that someone definitely wasn’t me.

So I had to call the guy back and turn him down – not an easy thing to do. Later, however, as we were talking about the movie company’s plans, he asked me what I would have done differently. I told him I would have written a completely different story. A thriller instead of a drama – perhaps something set in Iraq. Something about a fossil hunter maybe… A scientist who finds something that doesn’t square with evolutionary theory… And thus Katie James was born.

Can you explain some of the research involved in a story like this?

I didn’t have time for a lot of research because of the movie company’s schedule, but the research I had a chance to do was a lot of fun. A very kind grad student at UC Berkeley talked to me about his research and took me on a tour of the fossil vaults at the UC Museum of Paleontology. Shelves and shelves and shelves full of ancient fossils… Too many fossils to display or even characterize. It was amazing.

Can you share what your next project will be?

It’s a hard call. I have a new idea for a fantasy that I’d love to explore more, but my next project will very likely be a series of heroic supernatural thrillers set against a very dark and very creepy backdrop. Some of you writers out there may recognize one of the books as the infamous “vampireless vampire story” – the manuscript that made Randy Ingermanson check under his bed and sleep with the lights on while he was at a conference one summer.

Any parting words to writers? To you fans?

If you comb your hair so that it falls back to cover your part, you’ll be less likely to get sunburn on the top of your head.

Other than that, I don’t think parting words are necessary. It’s all up to God, of course, but I’m not planning to go anywhere. I’ll see y’all around.

That concludes my interview with John Olson. He's a good-looking brainy guy loaded with personality. What more could you want in a thriller writer?


Monday, April 02, 2007

An Interview with Carol Cox

I’m excited to have the chance to chat with Carol Cox today. Carol was one of my first mentors, so I love the opportunity to catch up with her on her latest series, A Fair to Remember, from Barbour Publishing. The setting for this series is fascinating, so pick up a copy of her latest release in the series, Fair Game, at your local bookstore, or sign up today on our contest page for a chance to win a free copy!

LISA: Tell us some of the background behind the idea for your series.

CAROL: My mother had a book that fascinated me as a little girl. It was called News of a Nation, a history of the United States done up in a mock newspaper format. I’d sit on our living room floor and go through a few pages at a time, reading articles about everything from the arrival of Columbus to the early 1940s, when the book was printed. Considering that history was absolutely my least favorite subject in those days, finding something that would grip my attention that way was pretty amazing.

Fast forward to my son’s college years. Knowing he was a history major, my mother dug out the book and gave it to him. When I saw it again after all that time, I had to sit down and go through it again. I came across an article with a brief mention of the World’s Columbian Exposition and what a turning point it had been for our country. And my reaction was: “Huh??? If it was such a big thing, why haven’t I ever heard of it?”

Being the inquisitive person I am (a word I much prefer to “nosy”), I had to check it out on the Internet and found tons of information. And what a treasure trove it turned out to be! I was hooked right away. The fair was an absolutely fascinating moment in our history, and I knew right away it would be the perfect setting for a book. Or two or three. : )

While I was doing research for Ticket to Tomorrow, the first title in the A Fair to Remember series, I came across some interesting tidbits of information, like the idea of girls flocking to the big city in search of independence. . .and many of them going missing during the fair for one reason or another. The police were so overwhelmed with missing person reports they couldn’t hope to track them all down.

What great potential for a mystery! That was enough to spark the idea that developed into Fair Game.

LISA: Wow. I love the idea for your setting. I find in my own writing that I often grow alongside my characters, especially spiritually. Is there a character who you relate to and who made an input on your life?

CAROL: Most of them do, in one way or another. In Fair Game, there are things I can relate to in both of the main characters.

Seth Howell—sort of an early urban missionary who spends a good part of his time at a local gym—lives and ministers in a way quite different from what is typically thought of as the norm for pastors. Like Seth, my husband is a pastor, but he also owns a saddle shop. Lately he’s been making gun rigs for many of the participants in Cowboy Action Shooting and recently started going to some of the meets as a competitor as well as a vendor. These have become great family outings for the two of us and our daughter, as well as opening new opportunities for ministry. People don’t expect a pastor to double as a sparring partner. . .or to spend time practicing his fast draw!
But like Seth, this gives us a way to move out of our “box” and connect with people outside the church setting.

I can also relate to the way both Dinah and Seth become discouraged and question their calling when nothing seems to come of all their efforts. It’s disheartening when you do your best to share the love of Christ, but no one seems to listen or care. That’s when I have to remember that I’m where I am because God planted me there. My job is not to bring about results. My job is to be faithful. Knowing I’m right where I’m supposed to be—regardless of whether I appear to be successful or not—gives me the encouragement I need to go on.

LISA: What is the number one thing you’ve learned from your writing journey?

CAROL: Much as I love the process—making up stories, researching fascinating eras, spending time in the company of characters I thoroughly enjoy—I am not writing for myself. God has called me to do this, and I write for Him. It takes my breath away to realize that through my writing, I can reach many more people than I ever would be able to connect with one on one.

LISA: Any future plans for your writing you’d like to share? Any specific dreams you’d like to accomplish in the area of writing?

CAROL: I would love to continue writing stories with a strong mystery/suspense element. That has been my favorite genre to read since my dad presented me with my first chapter book at age five. Historical mysteries allow me to combine two wonderful genres in one project!

As for specific dreams, it would be a joy to write an ongoing series, where readers follow the same characters through a whole string of books instead of a handful of titles. That doesn’t seem likely to happen anytime soon, given the current market, but I can always hope!

LISA: Because I know there are many aspiring writers out there, can you share any tidbits of wisdom on getting published?

CAROL: Learn all you can about the craft of writing. That sounds simplistic, but I’m concerned about a trend I’ve noticed for aspiring writers to focus on learning to market their books before they ever produce a publishable manuscript. There is nothing wrong with developing promotion skills, but it’s important to keep these things in balance.

There are wonderful books available, covering everything from basic grammar to character development to plot and structure and much more. In addition, organizations like American Christian Fiction Writers offer teaching, encouragement, and support to their members. And writers conferences are held all around the country at different times throughout the year. Attending conferences is a wonderful way to build on your knowledge as well as getting to know others who share your passion for writing.

I am currently working on my twenty-third title, which, like Ticket to Tomorrow and Fair Game, will be set at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. The more I write, the more I realize how much more there still is to learn. There is always the joy of growing, of improving my skills, of learning to be a “workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (from 2 Timothy 2:15 NIV)

LISA: Any writer’s resources you could recommend?

CAROL: Absolutely! Here are some of my favorites:
*Stein on Writing by Sol Stein
*Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell
*Getting into Character by Brandilyn Collins
*Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King
*Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain
*Writing the Breakout Novel and Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass
*Christian Writers’ Market Guide by Sally Stuart

LISA: What is the process you use when writing a mystery/suspense

CAROL: A sense of place is very important to me. Quite often, a setting will be the first thing that takes hold of my imagination, with the characters and plot emerging from that. Just as an example of how writers of different genres react to the same setting, I once visited a theme park with another writer and our editor. The other author, who writes wonderful romances, was enthused about the possibilities the park presented as a setting for a romantic interlude. I, on the other hand, was practically giddy at the wealth places it offered to plant a body. Sad, isn’t it? : )

The characters tend to take form while I’m getting acquainted with the setting. Who would be in that particular place, and why? What would they be doing? Once they walk onto the stage of my imagination, I watch them and learn what makes them tick.
And from that, the plot unfolds. What are they looking for? What forces work against them? And how will it all resolve in a satisfactory way? I usually have a general ending in mind, but the specific answer to that last question may not come to me until I’m close to writing the end of the book.

In addition to the mystery story arc, these characters have lives. What else is happening to them? And how does that tie in to the mystery? Finding ways to crank up the tension and make it more difficult and dangerous for your characters is essential to keep the reader turning pages.

LISA: Tell us a bit about the research you had to do for this story?

CAROL: I’ve loved researching all my books, but the research for this series was even more fun than most. I discovered websites that covered the fair in great detail, with descriptions of the buildings, admission prices to the various attractions on the midway, maps, photos, you name it. I spent hours poring over those!

One of the sites, from the Paul V. Galvin Library at the Illinois Institute of Technology, even showed floor plans of some of the buildings. What a find! When I wasn’t able to decipher the lettering on the plans, I contacted their assistant dean of bibliographic systems. She was kind enough to make copies of the floor plans and send them to me. Having those helped immeasurably in being able to portray the setting accurately.

In addition, I’ve been able to purchase several books published at the time of the fair. Opening those fragile pages and reading about the event from the point of view of the people who were actually there is like taking a step back in time. For anyone who is interested in getting a better idea of the fair and the role it played in ushering in the 20th century in America, I recommend The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, available from Dover Publications. It’s an easy read, chock full of photos and a map of the grounds that bring the setting to life and show why it truly was A Fair to Remember.

What I really wish I had is a time machine. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to travel back to take part in that event? I did find a map that showed the layout of the fair in relation to the roads that crisscross Jackson Park today. When my family visited Chicago while I was writing the first book in the series, we spent a day wandering around Jackson Park with the map in hand, getting a feel for its size and scope and the locations of the buildings. That’s probably as close as I’ll ever come to making that trip by time machine!

Lisa, thanks so much for inviting me to be a part of Keep Me In Suspense. I’ve enjoyed the visit!

LISA: You are so welcome, Carol. Blessings as you continue to write for Him!