Enter your Email

Powered by FeedBlitz

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Research, Research, Oh How I Love Research – Part I

The law is a complicated area.

For starters there’s federal law. That consists of laws that Congress passes, the Constitution (that wonderful gift from the founding fathers), and decisions handed down by the Supreme Court. Then there are all the regulations created by federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and IRS to implement the many laws passed by Congress. And don’t forget things like Executive Orders implemented by the President.

Then there’s state law. Not just in your state, but in every state. Fifty different versions of the law. And that’s broken into Common Law which has largely been adopted from English law dating back to the 1300 and 1400s. Think torts. It is quite established law that there are four elements to a tort: duty, breach, causation, and damages. All states and federal law recognize these elements. But each state then has different cases interpreting those elements. So Common Law is theoretically standardized, but must be examined in each state.

Then there’s all the statutory law. These are the laws that were created by the state houses (either bicameral or unicameral – again depending on the state).

Don’t forget County laws, City ordinances, planning commissions, zoning boards, and so many other forms of local government. It can get crazy.

So what’s a writer to do? How can a writer make sure they accurately reflect the law? Here are a couple quick tips that I will expand in future posts:

1) Talk to an attorney.
2) Do some basic research on-line.
3) Talk to an attorney.
4) Know the state you are writing in.

Nothing is more distracting to a reader than to find an error in your story that could have been easily fact-checked. My favorite all time example (which is actually from one of my favorite romantic-suspense authors): in this particular book, the heroine works for a state’s governor’s reelection campaign. Only problem, this state doesn’t allow a governor to run for reelection for a consecutive term. The author assumed this state was like 90% of the states. And it isn’t.

So let’s take that extra step to spot-check the research and get it right. Your readers will know if you don’t.

Posted by Cara Putman. www.caraputman.com

Monday, November 26, 2007

Interview with Beth Goddard

Lisa: I'm thrilled to introduce one of our own KMIS hosts, Beth Goddard. Beth recently sold her first romantic suspense, Seasons of the Heart. Welcome Beth! Tell us your initial reaction in finding out you sold your first book? In other words, tell us about. . .THE CALL

Beth: Well, as you know, with Heartsong, “the call” is actually an email. I’ve received so many rejections that when I first saw the email, I figured it was yet another rejection. I opened it and scanned the first line, quickly realizing that it wasn’t a rejection but congratulations!

I gasped in utter surprise, then ran up the stairs to tell my daughter. Before I reached the top of the staircase, I remembered that I hadn’t read the entire email. So, I ran back down the stairs to read the rest!

My daughter was on the phone with my mom so I told her too. She was thrilled to share the excitement with me since she, as well as the rest of my family, have supported my dream through the years.

Lisa: Tell us some of the background behind your story.

Beth: When I first began writing novels I trained my mind to stay tuned to those little nuggets of inspiration that could generate an idea for a novel. I saw a short news clip on cranberry farming. The bright red berries floating on top a bog as they were harvested completely intrigued me. I decided I’d love to set a story on a cranberry farm.

Several years passed before that opportunity came. I needed a story set in Massachusetts, the perfect opportunity to write my cranberry story. The other aspect comes from my background and education in computer software and technology.
When Grandpa Sanderford asks Riley O’Hare to give up her climb on the corporate ladder and take over the family cranberry farm in Massachusetts, she actually considers it. Her mind is made up when her brother dies and she becomes the guardian of his son. Riley hopes the move and her new roles will help her find the purpose and peace she desires.

With the death of his friend and business partner, Zane Baldwyn’s world is turned upside down, and his company is in trouble. As he looks to replace John, strange things begin to happen that make Zane wonder if John’s death was really accidental. Riley has a farm to save, and Zane has a mystery to solve. Somehow the two goals seem related. As Riley and Zane are drawn closer together, can they stay out of danger and discover a season of love together?

Lisa: 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?

Beth: There’s no doubt that writing causes you to slow down and look deeper into your own motivations as you explore those of your characters. In Seasons of Love, both the hero and heroine’s discoveries about their lives are based on my own experiences. Riley realizes that she doesn’t make enough time to spend with God because her life is consumed with work. Zane learns that maintaining control over his life and achieving worldly success is not going to make him happy.

These are things I learned during my own stint at climbing the corporate ladder. I started out knowing these things about my characters, but what I learned from both of them was that I could have a deeper sense of trust in God’s plan for my life.

We spend our lives going to school, getting educated to have a career. I think it can be difficult, especially for women who choose to stay home with their family, to let go of your career. I thought I’d left behind that desire and drive to succeed in corporate America. The characters in Seasons of Love allowed me to release that remaining portion, though small.

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

Beth: Well, I have to say that content, craft and connections must take a backseat to the spiritual side of things. Writing forces you to dig down deep and discover things inside you’ve ignored for years. It forces you to cry out to God and ask him why he called you to write. And because of that, the writing journey is more a spiritual journey. The desire to become published can be overwhelming. I’ve learned that the writing really has to be about God, for Him and to Him, and content in writing for Him alone.

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?

Beth: It’s funny but I’ve spent most of my writing years working on historicals. Then the one and only contemporary that I wrote is what is getting published first. I have to say that I loved writing this story and it’s sparked a desire to write others along the same vein—suspense stories. But the main thing I’d love to accomplish is to write something that affects someone in a powerful spiritual way. Of course, author Francine Rivers comes to mind. I think the spiritual depth she achieves in her novels is something we all aspire to achieve as writers

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

Beth: I’ve attempted various methods including the Snowflake method of plotting out my novel. But my brain shuts down when things become too complicated. The old-fashioned chapter synopsis works wonders for me. I’m able to look at each chapter and in the case of suspense, quickly see the pacing and how much I need to increase tension in each chapter.

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

Beth: This question made me laugh. Organized? I admit, I haven’t developed a good system for this. But I know they exist. In fact, if I were to use a system for keeping clues organized I would follow suggestions in Karen Wiesner’s First Draft in 30 Days. She has a great chapter for mystery and suspense writers discussing timelines, fact sheets, and motives and alibis—all of these are in worksheet format.

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

Beth: The research is always the fun part. For the setting, I had to research from
the library and internet as well as have many conversations with cranberry farmers. That’s the wonder of the internet. . .Massachusetts Cranberry farmers were available to chat with me via email, answering every detailed question. I even received a video of the entire process from one farm.

For the police work I emailed with the Chief of Police in the town where my story is set. He was readily available to answer questions and very helpful to offer suggestions. I’ve been amazed, and blessed, at the way people have offered to help. I also enlisted my husband as well as another techno guru for technology related questions involving encryption, etc.

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

Beth: I’m sure there is no new advice that I can offer. We all know that persistence pays off. To work hard. Read, read, read, and write, write, write. I think something that has really kept me going is the fact that I haven’t been bowled over by rejection. I’ve received plenty of rejections, yes. Coming from a sales background, I know that it’s all about the numbers. The more you write, the better you’ll become. The more manuscripts you complete and have circulating with agents and editors, the better your chances. I think it’s important to keep yourself thinking positive and when you receive a rejection, go back to the numbers. Look up one of those sites that lists all of the rejections received by famous writers. Because even the big guys have gotten them, and still do! That always encourages me to keep moving forward.

One more thing is to cultivate those relationships that God places you in because God will use those. We really do need connections to help us along the way. God has blessed me with some wonderful writing friends, people that I can say are really my best friends because who else can understand me better than another writer.
The writing journey is truly about your relationship with God and with others.

Thanks so much for joining us, Beth! Find out more about Beth and her writing, check out her website or her blog. And remember, you can leave a comment on our contest page for a chance to win a copy of Seasons of Love!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Interview with Pamela Tracy

LISA: Today we're chatting with author Pamela Kaye Tracy. Welcome Pamela! Tell us your initial reaction in finding out you had sold your first book? How many books have you sold since then?

PAMELA: Are you kidding? I jumped up and down. Now, picture this. I innocently go to get my mail. In amidst the bills is an envelope from Barbour Publishing. Envelopes mean: Dear Author, we’re sorry….. So, with a sigh, I open the envelope, right there where the mass mailboxes are, and inside is a letter telling me that with a few changes, they’ll buy my book. Yup, I jumped up and down, all alone, while cars drove by. I’m sure drivers thought I was killing a bug or something.

That was in 1998 and that first sale was a Barbour Heartsong. Since then, I’ve also sold Barbour nine novellas and two prayer books. I’ve also sold a romantic comedy to Kensington, and four Steeple Hill Love Inspired books. Three to the suspense line and one to the straight romance line. Yabba Dabba! I’ve jumped on a lot of bugs since that first sale.

LISA: That's a great story! Tell us about your latest release, The Price of Redemption.

PAMELA: I think there comes a point in a writer’s career where she/he finally knows she’s reached a milestone – mastered craft, found voice, something. My first Love Inspired Suspense Pursuit of Justice was a book that felt different from the first chapter. I’m not saying writing it was easy, no, no, no. But it felt different than my other books. It’s almost like I had more to tell. That more to tell must have been Eric Santellis’s story. He was a secondary character in Pursuit of Justice, and he ‘demanded’ his own story. See, he spent one whole book in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Of course, he needed one whole book of freedom. Too bad his freedom started with finding a dead body.

Then, I made the dead body belong to a cop. Yup, he was falsely accused of murdering a cop. He winds up with the wife of the dead cop. Romantic Times gave The Price of Redemption a 4.5. My first 4.5!

LISA: That's fantastic, Pamela! I find in my own writing that I often grow alongside my characters, especially spiritually. Is there a character from your book who you relate to and who made an input on your life?

PAMELA: This book, no, there is not a human character . In The Price of Redemption there is setting. I’ve named the town Broken Bones, but it’s patterned after a town called Congress, and the cabin where Eric lives belongs to my sister-in-law's family. I love the cabin and the area. It is my ideal location.

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

PAMELA: The last time I did an interview with you, I mentioned discipline. I believe it even more now. I have a two-year-old. If I wasn’t disciplined with my writing, my writing career would either be on pause or over.

LISA: You are so right about the importance of discipline! Any future plans for your writing you’d like to share? Any specific dreams you’d like to accomplish in the area of writing?

PAMELA KAYE: Short term: Finish the Love Inspired Suspense due Jan. 2. Long term: My dream is write three books a year for Love Inspired.

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

PAMELA: I get up at 5:30 a.m. to write. Why? I have a two year old and a husband. Writing is my second career, so I also have a first career which demands more than forty hours a week. No matter what stage you’re in, be it pre-published beginner/intermediate /advanced all the way to multi-published, treat it like a career. You don’t write when you have time; you make time. Three pages a day, five days a week, will get you one or two books a year. Knowing that, schedule time to write 3 pages.

LISA: Any writer’s resources you could recommend?

PAMELA:When I began writing, I delved into any and all books. Now that I’m on 16, I don’t have time to spend.

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

PAMELA: I’m not sure I’d called it a process more an intentional arrangement of events. I make sure to start with a hook. Book one - hero stops woman to give speeding ticket, shots are fired at the woman. Book two – exonerated hero heads to shed to investigation strange odor, finds not one body but two. Book three - heroine finds illegal immigrant hiding at her place a business. From there, I simply follow a formula of who is the least likely love interest (who has the most to lose) and, of course, that is the love interest. Then I add chase, doubt, other people in jeopardy, false clues, dead ends, etc.
Your question is hard to answer because I’m a SOTP’s writer. I always know my characters, my beginning, and my end. I never know the middle. Sometimes I don’t know the middle even while I’m in the middle of writing it.

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

PAMELA: I use a spiral notebook. I have it divided into two columns. One is my hero's. In The Price of Redemption Eric has a column. His column is about five pages long. I have blocked a space where I make sure to jot three high-intensity events. I also writing down names of characters and details that I might refer back to later, like the name of a road. Then, Ruth (the heroine) has a five page column. I do the same thing with her.
The nice thing about this system is, as I’m writing, if I get ideas, I’ll write the idea in the column where I think it’s most likely to happen. See, page one has a column that usually takes up three chapters. If I get an idea that might fit in chapter 8, I jot that idea on page three. If I don’t know whether my idea will be in Eric’s POV or Ruth’s POV, I jot in in the middle of the two columns.

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

PAMELA: For this story, I did lot of research on how dead bodies would smell. No kidding! Keep in mind, there were two (and before the editor cut a whole plot line, I had three). I researched how the bones would look after certain months in a hot environment. I also researched if it was possible to have a funeral home on private land (a town that was basically one ranch that had been in existence for more than a hundred years). I did research on leave policy for a cop who’d lost her husband. I did research on washes (You know, after a rain when the water rushes down a wash). I did research on car junkyards and I did lots of research on the Chinese tunnels that really exist in Congress, Arizona. I love research!

LISA: THanks so much for dropping by our site, Pamela! Check out Pamela's website for more information on her books and be sure and leave a comment on our contest blog for a chance to win a copy of The Price of Redemption!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ending With Resonance

Someone once said that the first line of a novel sells the book, but it’s the last line that sells the next. A profound bit of wisdom that is too often ignored.

The ending of your book – the part where your reader gets the pay off for the time she’s invested – is the single most critical element toward ensuring your success as a writer. It certainly is if you define success as continuing to write. And in no other genre is the ending as important as in the mystery/suspense novel. (For our purposes we will roll the two genres into one). But more significantly, you want your ending to resonate with your reader; to touch her in a way that causes the book to come to mind long after she’s finished.

I had the honor of having a reviewer say that long after he had read one of my books, he was sitting between dives in Belize, and Colton Parker was still on his mind. Now, that’s resonance. It’s easy to recognize, but difficult to achieve. Difficult, but not impossible.

So how do you reach that lofty peak? What can you do to ensure that your readers remember your work long after the last page has been turned? Perhaps the best place to start is with the snares to avoid. And for that, let’s begin with The Sopranos.

In the ground-breaking television drama, the writers worked very hard to make the name of the show synonymous with mob hits, underhanded dealings, and the never ending quest for power. In other words, they wanted drama. Unfortunately, judging from the opinions of many – this writer included - they dropped the ball when the series ended, leaving some bitter emotions in their once faithful following.

Did Tony get whacked? Did he walk? Was he arrested? Who knows? Perhaps just as disconcerting as far as the show’s writers are concerned, who cares? The lackluster final episode left the answers to these questions as elusive as the evidence of Tony’s crimes. Why? Because the writers didn’t tie up the loose ends, the first of several pitfalls that can wreck your chance at resonance.

Remember, your readers want to know what happened. Who did the crime? Will they do the time? Why was she killed? What was the motive? All of these have to be answered. And they have to be answered in a satisfying way.

In her book Writing the Modern Mystery, Barbara Norville states that your first line (she refers to it as The Opening Gambit) should be designed to get the reader on the hook. Your last line, however, should be designed to let them off. Without that, you’ll have readers who will walk away unsatisfied, unhappy, and unlikely to read your next book. Not exactly the things of which writing careers are made.

Another error to avoid is lack of emotion. You must remember that your readers have put their trust in you. They’ve allowed you to take them along for a ride that promised to be exciting and suspenseful, and they’ve chosen your book over the myriad of other possibilities. They want to live vicariously through your characters. They want to know all that happens, but more importantly, they want to feel every emotion along the way; every up and down, every toss and turn that occurs. So when the ending comes, and the payoff is doled out, you want them to feel that too. Simply having your detective recite the facts won’t work. Your readers need to feel the satisfying emotion that comes when the victim receives justice. They need to feel that all is well with the world (your fictional world, anyway) and they want to have empathy for your characters. To feel tied to them, to have a stake in the outcome. If you rob your readers of that, they won’t be your readers for long.

Another thing to avoid like a mob hit list is to fail at playing fair. This is one snare that has entrapped many would-be mystery novelists.

Let’s say, for example, you have the case coming to a conclusion. The detective is standing in the drawing room (drawing rooms exist in cozy type mysteries. In novels like mine, the sleuth is most likely standing in a dark, rain-soaked alley) and all of the potential suspects are gathered. A muddy foot print is found outside the window through which the perpetrator entered the house, and one of the individuals in the parlor has mud on his shoes. In the eyes of everyone but the detective, the man with the muddy shoe is guilty. But alas, our detective who is knowledgeable in the science of biomechanics states: “This man cannot be the guilty party. Notice that he supinates with a heel inversion that is greater than thirty degrees. Our foot print outside the window is from someone who pronates with a heel strike that is everted to greater than twenty.”

Huh uh. This is bad. If you do something like that - withhold knowledge from your reader or drop an unforeseeable bomb in their lap - they’ll close the book on you for good.

When they pick up your mystery your readers see your story as more than entertainment. They see it as a personal challenge. This applies even to those mysteries that aren’t traditional puzzles. When you set up the crime and plant the clues, you’re dropping the gauntlet. So it isn’t fair to require your reader to see something you didn’t reveal, or they couldn’t possibly have been expected to know. In other words, it just ain’t fair.

And finally (although by no means the last word on the subject) be sure that your ending is consistent with the theme of your story.

Oh yes, your book will have a theme. It is the unifying message that ties all of your elements together. But if your theme is violence is wrong, and then your passive detective blows the perpetrator away, you’ve stepped off the curb. Your reader will be confused and the chord you wanted to strike in them will fall as flat as an accordion under the wheels of the Orient Express.

So then, what can you do to increase the likelihood that your writing will satisfy your readers and remain with them long after they’re done?

To start, you can turn the above don’ts into dos.

For example, do tie up the loose ends. If you have a character that appeared in the book, let us know what happened to him. If someone died, why? If you had a subplot (I’m actually being rather generous here. You MUST have a subplot), then tie it into the main plot at the book’s end. Oh, and by the way, the two plots should center on the same theme and should result in your protagonist coming out of the story a better person. In other words, he ought to have learned something by having gone through the trial he’s just experienced.

Another don’t that you can turn into a do is in remembering to play fair. Now this doesn’t mean you need to point your reader’s nose in the direction of every clue and away from every red herring. But it does mean that your reader ought to see, and know, everything that your detective sees, even if the reader doesn’t recognize them at the time. In fact, your sleuth may not recognize the importance of the clue either, although he must be able to reasonably deduce its significance later. When that deduction has occurred, your reader ought to breathe an audible, of course.

When writing the mystery you should never see your work as sub-literature. Genre fiction has every right – and every obligation – to address the human condition. Your work, as well as your ending, should address at least one of our common human frailties; love, anger, revenge, or despair. These are emotions that we’ve all experienced and will experience again. But if you use these elements as the framework for your story, you must also remember to include them at the end. Remember, you must engage your reader emotionally. Since they will not feel the rain on their cheek or the recoil of the gun in their hand, you must give them all you can to draw them into the story. Strumming their emotions is the best route I know.
But after you’ve tapped their emotional involvement, what then?

Presumably, you have something to say about the human condition. So why not use your reader's emotions (not to mention all of your hard work) and take them to the place you want them to go?

For example, in The Godfather we have a story that is about the human cost of pursuing the wrong things. At the end of part I, we see that Sonny is dead, Don Corleone is dead, and his son Michael has become everything that his father didn’t want him to be.

At the end of part II, Michael has become estranged from his wife, has had his brother murdered, and is sitting alone – isolated – as the credits roll. Of course in part III, having failed in his attempts to go legit, Michael sees his daughter slain in front of him, and eventually dies alone as an old man hiding in Sicily. Despite the treachery with which he has lived his life, we can feel sympathy for Michael. After all, haven’t we all pursued the wrong things? And hasn’t our emotional involvement in the story led us to the conclusion that Mr. Puzo wanted us to reach?

In King Kong, we initially fear for Fay Wray’s safety as the gorilla has her in his clutches. But when Kong escapes from the public display into which he’s been placed, and climbs the Empire State building as he tries to protect her from the airplanes and their machine guns, we begin to alter our sympathy. Then, when he is eventually shot dead, we hear the famous line, “It was beauty that killed the beast”. How true. And how consistent with the writer’s theme.

Kong didn’t invade our world, we invaded his. Therefore, man is the most dangerous animal and that means we’re a danger to each other. The writers played on our emotions to take us to the place (conclusion) they wanted us to reach. Now, whether you agree with their point or not, they were consistent with their theme and the movie continues to resonate with viewers more than seventy years later.

And finally, have something to say and say it – clearly. Our writing is often muddled when poor word choices are made and inconsistent thoughts are transcribed. One of the best books on the subject I’ve read is: Simple and Direct by Jacques Barzun. But be forewarned. Being clear in your writing can be difficult. But then, who said any of this was easy.

Of course, as an adjunct to keeping your writing clear, Hemingway’s advice to “kill your darlings” (or as Stephen King once wrote, “When it comes to people, mercy killing is against the law. When it comes to fiction, it is the law.”) still stands. In other words, whatever doesn’t serve your story, whatever interferes with your chance at a clearly written and satisfying novel, regardless of how much you like it, must die.

Now that we’ve looked at some of the elements that can enhance your novel’s ending, please don’t be fooled. Despite the observations we’ve made, writing an ending that will resonate with readers is not easy. Hard work is involved and it is often our own laziness that prevents us from doing the thinking necessary in achieving that literary ideal. But by reaching it, we can be confident that our readers will continue to be our readers for a long time to come. And after all, that is the goal. Isn’t it?

Brandt Dodson

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Interview with Lisa Harris!

SUSAN: Coming out this month, is your fifth Heartsong. Tell us some of the background behind your story.

LISA: This is actually one of the first stories I ever wrote. About six or seven years ago, I took it to a conference where I met DiAnn Mills. She graciously took me under her wing, gave me pointers, and encouraged me to keep writing. Looking back, though, I now know just how far I had to go.
About two years ago, I decided to take the same story line and completely rewrite the book. This new story, A Matter of Trust, is the one coming out this month. Because I love suspense, I added a thread to the story, adding another dimension to the romance.
Here’s a blurb from the back of the book.

A year ago, Kayla Marceilo had it all—a great job in Boston and a handsome, successful fiancé who loved the Lord. . .or so she thought. When Ty turned out to be a liar, Kayla’s world was shattered. Moving back home seemed like a good way to pick up the pieces. Just when she feels like everything’s falling into place, Ty reappears in her life, claiming to have changed. But has he?

Ty Lawrence is sorry for his past. Tragedy and heartache made him hit rock bottom and realize what really matters. He’s changed his ways and is hoping for a simpler, more meaningful life in Farrington. . .and another chance with Kayla. When Ty’s past catches up with him, and he’s accused of defrauding his former company. Can he ever earn Kayla’s trust—and

SUSAN: You also have a cozy mystery coming out early next year as well as a suspense with Love Inspired Suspense. What differences do writers need to pay attention to if interested in these two genres?

LISA: When I sat down and wrote these two novels back to back, I was impressed at the difference in writing style for these two genres. My cozy mystery is much more light- hearted than the suspense as it has a strong thread of humor. For the suspense, I had to work hard to keep the suspense growing at every page. Suspense needs shorter sentences, less-laugh-out-loud humor, and spine tingling hooks that keep the reader entranced.

Another difference between a mystery and suspense is that in a mystery, the protagonist is working to solve a puzzle rather run from someone who’s after them. While a suspense has a noose closing in on the hero and heroine with nowhere to run. Each chapter brings the danger closer and closer until that final dark moment.

While these differences might seem obvious at first glance, putting them into practice when you write can be a challenge.

SUSAN: How do you keep your cozies suspenseful without getting too scary?

LISA: The humor is definitely a tool to do this. Whenever anything gets too intense, I will throw in a bit of laughter. Pricilla Crumb, my quirky sixty-five year old heroine in my upcoming cozy mystery series, is always getting herself into trouble whether it’s poisoning one of her guests (at least that’s what she thinks), chasing a suspect in four wheeler, or even getting arrested.

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

LISA: I definitely plan to stick to the suspense and mystery genre, because I love writing it. After living in Africa for almost seven years, I’ve developed a huge love for the continent and desire to write stories set here. I currently writing an international suspense and hope to have an update on that project in the coming months.

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

LISA: Writing is, plain and simply, a lot of hard work. Whenever someone tells me they have a book they want published, I first tell them it will be one of the hardest things they’ve every done. But it can be done. Persistence, discipline, and continual learning are all essential to get that “yes” from an editor.

SUSAN: Lisa is also one of our hosts here at KMIS. You can check out her blog or her website to learn more about her writing.

You can read more about Lisa Harris at her website: http://www.lisaharriswrites.com/
and her blog: myblogintheheartofafrica.blogspot.com

Don't forget to check out our contest page .


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Heroes: To FBI or Not to FBI

Go to any bookstore. Any one. Your choice. Pull any 25 suspense/mystery titles down off the shelf and find out what the hero does for a living. How many do you think will NOT fall into the category of: Cop, FBI, Detective, Seal, Special Forces, Mercenary, or Elite something-or-other? That’s right. Not many. One or two… maybe.

And editors are tired of seeing the same-old thing coming across their desks.

When editors ask to see something different…they really do mean DIFFERENT. They want to see everyday people become heroes, not heroes doing another heroic thing. They want to see the guy next door get in over his head and make it out by the skin of his teeth.

I had the opportunity to chit-chat with several editors in Dallas at the ACFW conference. They were talking about being snowed under with the same old stuff. If it’s a legal thriller, ya gotta have a lawyer. If it’s a medical thriller, there’s going to be a doctor. But if it’s a suspense novel, why does it HAVE to be a cop, a detective, or some other law enforcement/military trained hero taking the lead?

I almost asked them how they would take to having the ex-mercenary hero break his leg in the first chapter and his geek brother have to take over… but I restrained myself. The editors were serious. They’re looking for something different. They want to see something OTHER THAN a cop, a detective, a soldier, a SEAL, a mercenary go up against impossible odds and walk away a better person for it. They want to see a regular guy (or gal) quake in his tasseled loafers at the prospect of defeating the force that is coming against him. Then they want to see him win in spite of himself.

Now, I say all this and I’m in the middle of writing a three-book series for Waterbrook about…. drumroll please…bounty hunters. But at least it’s a little bit different. And trust me…these bounty hunters are no “Dog the Bounty Hunter” types.

But next time you sit down and put together a suspense novel proposal with the beautiful girl, the evil villain, and the cop, scratch through the cop and write in “Phil Smith, car mechanic by day, bowling fanatic by night”… or “Tommy Harris, Starbucks Manager.” You might just get a request for the entire manuscript…

Wanda Dyson (www.wandadyson.com)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Interview with Margaret Daley!

SUSAN: Welcome back, Margaret! It’s always a pleasure to have you with us. Tell us about your new book, Buried Secrets.
Hidden Treasure

MARGARET: Fresh from her grandfather’s funeral, Maggie Somers was shocked to find his home—all she had left of him—ransacked. What wasn’t so shocking was that a Collier stood among the wreckage. Maggie had grown up hearing all about the Collier clan—liars and thieves who couldn’t be trusted. Yet Zach Collier asked Maggie to have faith in him, to put their feud and their families’ to rest. His grandfather had also recently passed away. Zach was sure the man—like Maggie’s grandfather—had been murdered for something hidden among his possessions. Something Zach and Maggie had to uncover before they became targets.

SUSAN: This book is a sequel to Heart of the Amazon. Can a reader who didn’t read the first book read this one alone? How closely are the two connected?

MARGARET: Buried Secrets definitely can stand alone. Then only connection is Zach, the heroine in Heart of the Amazon’s twin brother.

SUSAN: What unique research did you do for Buried Secrets?

MARGARET: I had to research about the Aztec Indians, caves, the terrain of New Mexico, and Latin.

SUSAN: After authoring so many books, do you find the planning and writing easier than at first? What aspects of the craft are you still learning?

MARGARET: I am always learning. I keep seeking better ways to tell my stories. With that said, I do find the planning and writing easier than when I started out. Knowing what I’m doing most of the time has helped make the process faster.

SUSAN: Tell us how you start out to plot a suspense book. Do you begin with your characters, a situation, or a crime? How do you build the plot from that first germ of an idea?

MARGARET: I don’t have one answer to this question because each story comes to me different. Heart of the Amazon started because I wanted to write a book in the jungle. I’m fascinated with the locale. The opening of So Dark the Night (the crime) was what came to me first. In Vanished I came up with a premise first where a law officer’s past comes back to haunt him and forces him to face his worst fears. In Buried Secrets I wanted to do something with the heroine’s brother I created in Heart of the Amazon. The same can be said with Forsaken Canyon. I had this terrific character in my head and he had to have his own story.

SUSAN: Do you revise as you go or plow through the rough draft, then go back to make changes?

MARGARET: I usually plow through the rough draft but sometimes I will go back and read what I have and when I read, I always edit.

SUSAN: Is it a challenge to make each story different? Are you ever afraid your heroines or heroes are too much alike from one book to the next?

MARGARET: It’s always a challenge to make each story unique and fresh. So far I haven’t run out of ideas.

SUSAN: Tell us about what you are working on now and future project plans. Will you continue this series?

MARGARET: I am currently working on Forsaken Canyon, a sequel to Buried Secrets. These two books are more closely connected than Heart of the Amazon and Buried Secrets. This is Hawke Lonechief’s story. He is Zach’s cousin and a tribal police chief.

SUSAN: Is there another book—maybe in a different genre—that you’ve always had a hankering to write but haven’t so far?

MARGARET: I have a larger romantic suspense that I want to write some day.

SUSAN: You’ve written 23 books for Love Inspired and Love Inspired Suspense. Any tips for writers who hope to break in with these lines?

MARGARET: Read what you want to write and keep at the writing. If you don’t, you for sure will never sell. You must write and send the book out to sell it. Also rejection is part of the business. I have received many of them through the years, so if you receive one, don’t get discouraged. You aren’t alone.

SUSAN: Margaret, Thank you so much for a fascinating interview! Readers, please leave your comments for Margaret on our contest page for a chance to win a copy of Buried Secrets.

You can visit Margaret's web page here.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Productive Writer: Write in spite of fear

"What if my book is drivel?"
"What if the editor sends it back with a resounding no?"
"What if I’m wasting my time?"
"What if I succeed?"

Some writers don’t accomplish much because of fear. I don’t mean accomplishment in terms of contracts, but just getting words on a page. The writer’s road is paved with potholes of insecurity, ready to trip us up. Or make us give up.

Those of us who’ve been writing for any length of time know that we’re capable of producing drivel. Deprive my brain cells of energy and sleep, who knows what might fly up onto the computer screen? The wonderful thing about drivel is that you can edit it. Maybe you’ll delete half of what you wrote, but a page of what looks like drivel is worth more than a glowing empty page (and spider solitaire minimized on the screen).

Fear can paralyze our minds and turn our thought processes to mush. We can make excuses, find something else to do (see spider solitaire above). An editor will never say no to work they haven’t read. And that means they’ll also never say yes.

Then there’s the whole fear that “I’m wasting my time.” The little games that come preinstalled on computers? Watching Match Game reruns? That’s time wasting. Every scene, every chapter, every book we write is an important lesson. Maybe it’s a lesson in how not to write. But the act of writing accomplishes more than reading all the craft books on your shelf. The second novel I completed (still unsold for good reason) took me a year to finish. A multi-published author offered to read the whole thing and share her thoughts with me. At the time, I didn’t recognize that her gesture was a wonderful gift. She read all 267 pages of hard copy, and handed it back to me with plenty of ink added. Said the beginning was pretty rough, but the end, well, much better. She could see the progression in my writing over the course of the year.

Maybe you think you’re wasting your time. But the learning process happens when we’re laying down those phrases, sentences, scenes, and chapters. Call it on-the-job training.

And success? Who’d be afraid of that? Plenty of people. To write in obscurity makes us battle one kind of fear, but once the contracts come, another sort of pressure presents itself.

The productive writer may know all these things, but the productive writer responds like this:

They write anyway. Productive writers hit their knees, then rise up and write. Even if they’re afraid.