Friday, May 29, 2009

Don't Give Up!

Have you ever wanted to give up on your writing career?

There are times in our writing career when we don’t want to get up and turn on the computer and pull up our work in progress. If we do turn it on, we don’t want to do anything except play solitaire or hearts or see what we can find to occupy our mind on the internet.

After all, when we left off we had written ourselves in a corner and aren’t sure which way to go now. Our characters are stubborn. They won’t follow directions. Our plots are thin and watery – just like stale dish water. Nobody will care what happens to our hero. At the moment we don’t care either. No publisher will ever put out this junk and if it happens to get in print no one will buy it and if they do they’ll toss it away after reading a few pages. Why not chuck it all and get a real job or volunteer where you can actually do some good in this world?

It isn’t the end of the world, though we might think it is. We’ve just come to that place most writers get to every now and then in their career. We’ve run smack dab into that dreaded enemy, WRITERS BLOCK. It doesn’t happen often, and it doesn’t last forever, but it’s one thing that most of us have to contend with on occasion. The big question is what are we going to do about it?
After I rant and rave to my cat and swear I’m never going to write another word, I calm down and remember a story I read a long time ago. I think it was a true story, but I don’t recall the names or where it took place, though it had to be in the west, probably California. It went something like this: A man sold everything he owned and invested in equipment, went to an area where gold had been found. He used all his resources and dug and dug, but no gold. He ran out of money and eventually he grew so discouraged he gave up and sold his equipment and moved back east to start all over. The man who bought the mine hired a surveyor and was told to move six feet either right or left, I don’t remember, and start digging. In a short time he hit gold and the mine became one of the largest gold producing sights ever found.

My mood changes and I get back on the computer and pull up that work in progress and begin working my way out of the corner. I’m not about to give up when I might be only six rejections from the next sale, or six small books away from that big contract.

Monday, May 25, 2009

What’s Your Alias?

Since it’s a holiday, I thought I’d post something on the lighter side today. Recently, I had to come up with a pseudonym for myself for an upcoming project.  I wish I’d found this online gem before I chose it.  :) Who knows what my name might have been? The directions are simple and the result is fun.  But my name is singularly bad for this type of exercise! 

1. Your real name:

2. Your Gangsta name:
(first 3 letters of real name plus izzle.)

3. Your Detective name:
(fave color and fave animal)
Yellow Dog

4. Your Soap Opera name:
(your middle name and street you live on)
Spann Haviland

5. Your Star Wars name:
(the first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 letters of your first name)

6. Your Superhero name:
(your 2ND favorite color, and favorite drink).
Blue Guinness

7. Your Witness Protection name:
(parents middle names)
Alva Begg

9. Your Goth name:
(black, and the name of one of your pets)
Black Shadow

I hope everyone has a wonderful Memorial Day!

Friday, May 22, 2009

25 minutes until my birthday

Happy Birthday!

Are you 10 or 55 today? No matter what the greeting cards say, it's just as exciting to have my birthday in 25 minutes now as it was when I was 10.

There is the sense of occasion, of marking that important moment when you came into this world. I wouldn't miss it or deny it because it makes me older.

This is REALLY the new year. What will I do this year? Where will I go? What wonderful things will I see?

Of course, it all comes out in my writing. It always has. It's fitting that I greet each personal new year with words since they seem to be so much a part of me.

Only 20 minutes now. I can feel the excitement. I've always had a hard time sleeping through the night before this special day. Only now, I don't have to hide it!

If May 23 is your birthday too, I send you my best regards and hope that you too are eager for the coming day!

Joyce Lavene

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Are you doing anything different?

Are you doing anything different to promote your books this year? Has the economic downturn caused you to think differently about what you do and how you do it?

Let's face it, authors spend thousands of dollars each year to promote their books. Usually far more than they earn on them. The idea is that if you spend a lot to get the book up and running, you'll attract more readers, the next book will get a better advance and good placement in the publisher's line up.

Of course, sometimes that happens and sometimes, you're just out of pocket on a book that never sells through on your advance. It's part of the mystery of sales. In rare cases it might have something to do with the quality of the writing, but how many bestsellers have you read that you questioned how they got published?

So in these tight financial times, how many authors are cutting back and how many are pushing harder?

From the answers to the poll I sent out to various authors, just under half are cutting their budgets this year. Some are skipping high priced conferences while other are pinning their hopes on less expensive Internet promotion.

Here are a few of the responses:

"I have been concentrating more on online promotion. I've started posting on Facebook and Twitter and I did a blog book tour the last half of April after The Surest Poison came out. I'm not doing as much travel as in the past. I'm looking for places to sell books like street fairs and craft fairs. My grandson's private school had a marketplace after a ladies fashion show and we sold quite a few books there."
~ Chester Campbell,

"The short answer is no. The expanded answer: There's always something, isn't there? I knock myself out to market (sell) my books, spending a lot more than I make on them, but it's all about building a reader base. Publishers of future books look favorably on those efforts. It shows commitment to self, and it makes their lives easier. I have a formal marketing plan, which I vary slightly with each book release. It works for me."
~ Lynda Fitzgerald, Of Words & Music,

"My favorite line lately has been 'my book costs about as much as a Happy Meal but it lasts a lot longer'."
~ Sheila Connolly, Agatha Nominee, Through a Glass, Deadly by Sarah Atwell, Best First Novel, /

"I'm getting out to conferences, events and signings, but I am also relying a lot more on Facebook announcements, book trailers, posting to online discussion groups and dropping into hospitable blogs such as yours. Certainly the level of interest in mysteries is still high. Although readers may not be able to travel to as many events in person, they are still passionate about crime fiction and it's great to find new fans and stay in touch with old friends in innovative ways. Here, have a book mark." ~ Mary Jane Maffini,, Death Loves a Messy Desk: a Charlotte Adams mystery

While it may seem prudent to cut back on what is essentially advertising for your books, read this article before making your decision:

"When the economy is faltering, advertising is often the first thing in the marketing budget that gets cut. This is true whether the business is Coca-Cola or the local car wash. But before you make the decision to scale back or cancel your advertising campaign altogether, consider the following tips."

Happy Promoting!
Joyce Lavene

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Carolina Conspiracy welcomes Evelyn David

How do you work together?

MEB – When we wrote Murder Off the Books, we weren’t speaking – literally. We had met in an Internet writers forum and our communication was by e-mail. We were painstakingly revising the first draft, comma by comma, and I finally sent a message that asked Rhonda to send me her telephone number. She replied with the info, but asked that I wait ten minutes while she combed her hair!

But the process, whether by e-mail or over the phone, is the same. We talk through a scene and one of us will say, “I’ll start.” That person writes a first draft, which then goes back and forth between us, often dozens of times. Each of us tweaks and adds to the scene until we’re both satisfied. We both write all characters – including Whiskey, the Irish wolfhound.

RD – Working with a co-author keeps me motivated to write. It's very easy to give up when you hit that wall at chapter 13. Having someone else depending on you to get a scene written or a problem solved helps.

How did you get started writing together?

MEB – We met on an Internet writers forum. Each of us were posting stories. We got to know each other through our stories, feedback we would send on the writing process, and then just chatting – and laughing – about writing and life in general.

RD – We got each other's jokes! For a lark we wrote a short story together and on-line readers sent us a lot of positive feedback. Who can resist that? Not us.

Tell us something exciting about your new book?

It’s the week before Thanksgiving and Mac Sullivan has a long to-do list before turkey and the trimmings can be served. He needs to:
· Get paying clients for his detective agency
· Help his drama queen goddaughter who insists someone is trying to kill her before she can say her “I do’s”
· Recover $100,000 worth of missing caskets
· Take his dog for a bath because she had an unfortunate experience at a turkey farm when the you-know-what hit the fan and the dog
· Buy a dating manual because his would-be girlfriend, Rachel Brenner, make-up artist in a funeral home, insists that Taco Bell does not qualify as a dinner date

Murder Takes the Cake has a story to die for, characters you’ll love, humor to make you laugh out loud, an adorable Irish wolfhound, and a touch of romance. It’s fun, fast…and furry.

What's the worst thing about writing with a partner? The best thing?

MEB – The best thing about writing with a partner is that there is someone to share, and when necessary commiserate about, the creative process. When it’s going well, it’s like being at a well-played tennis match, with ideas bouncing back and forth, faster and faster. Of course, when one of us hits the proverbial brick wall and can’t think of a single word to write, the other person is there to encourage, laugh, and gently prod her back on path. Having a writing partner also means there is someone to share the promotion and marketing efforts.

The worst thing about writing with a partner? In the case of Evelyn David, there really is no down side.

RD – The best thing is the friendship. Writing is usually a lonely pursuit. Having a co-author changes all that. I think Marian knows me better than my family. After exchanging emails for a couple of years before talking on the phone, my co-author has gotten very good at reading between the lines.

The worst thing –the same as the best - she knows me better than my family!

Describe your writing partner as a food - each of you, of course!

MEB – Rhonda is like a York Peppermint Patty – sweet with a refreshing zing.

RD – This is so hard! Okay – Marian is like homemade chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven – warm, dependable, and can always make a gloomy day much brighter.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mystery Writing Checklist

  Sometimes a task can be easier if you make yourself a checklist to ensure you're covering all your bases.  With that idea in mind, here's a brief checklist you might want to consult before sending your manuscript off into the big, bad world of editors and agents. Or, it might be more helpful to think about these things while you're still plotting your novel.

Genre: Have you got a clear genre for your book? Thriller, cozy, police procedural, hard boiled? If you can’t identify your genre to an agent or editor, your manuscript won’t go too far.

Have you followed the rules of writing a mystery?: (see Twenty Mystery Writing Rules )

Setting: Frequently, setting plays a role in a mystery novel. It limits the number of suspects if it’s a remote island, for example. For a thriller, you may want a faster-paced, big-city environment. See how setting plays a role in your book. If it doesn’t, you may want to consider tweaking your manuscript.

An Engaging Beginning: Have you started out with a bang? Or have you started out with some messy backstory that no one wants to wade through at the beginning of your book? Make sure you’ve lured your reader in from the very beginning so they’ll want to stick with you.  Think twice before using a prologue or using flashbacks at the beginning of your manuscript.

A Murder that Happens in First 50 pages or so: Don’t wait until you’re half-way through the book for a body to be discovered. Your reader may give up on you.

Protagonist: This will be your sleuth or police detective. Are they likable people or at least people interesting enough for your readers to want to spend time with? What special talents do they have that make them capable of solving the crime? Are they easy to talk to? Have they spent many years in the police department? What sets them apart?

Suspects: Do your suspects all have motive, means, and opportunity? Does their motive make sense and is it believable? Have you given the reader a chance to meet each suspect and learn about them? Have your suspects misdirected your readers and provided some red herrings? Have they lied to the sleuth and the reader? Do they have secrets? Do they have some depth?

Murderer: The killer will need to be fairly clever so he isn’t caught right away. Is your culprit believable but not obvious?  If the murderer ends up being the least likely candidate, have you made his motivation realistic? 

Clues:  The clues need to be made available to the reader as well as the detective.  You have to be fair with your reader in providing them the clues, but make sure they don't stand out too obviously in the scene.  If they do, think about pointing the reader's/detective's attention in another direction, quickly.  There also needs to be more than one clue--preferably three or more. 

Red Herrings:  Make sure your red herrings don't last the entire length of the book---that's generally considered unfair.  Red herrings are a good diversion to mislead your reader, but  they can be taken too far. If the entire focus of your murder was blackmail and the ensuing investigation is wrapped up with blackmail victims and scurrilous gossip: and then the real motivation ends up being revenge or obtaining life insurance money,  most readers will end up wanting to throw your book in frustration. 

Victims: You know you need at least one. Do you need two? Do you need more? (Remember that some genres, like cozies, generally don’t have a high body count.)

Element of Danger: Does your sleuth or detective know too much? Are they getting too close to the truth? Adding some action or a touch of danger can help with sagging middles of books.

Exciting Chapter Endings: Don’t let your reader put down your book and go to sleep. Do you have some exciting chapter endings so they’ll want to go on reading?

Resolution: Did you catch the bad guys in the end? Did you tie up all the loose ends that you created? Did you explain how the sleuth/police followed the clues?

Errors: Have you checked all the grammar, spelling, mechanics? And double-checked it? Have you trimmed any pointless dialogue, scenes that go on too long? Everything you write should have a purpose….there’s no time to dilly-dally.  Double-check to make sure you haven't made any major changes in your manuscript--did your character start out being middle-aged and then end up being older or younger?  Did your story start out during the dog days of summer and then suddenly change to spring? Make sure you read your manuscript from start to finish to eliminate any content errors. 

Elizabeth Spann Craig 

Follow me on Twitter: @elizabethscraig

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Monday, May 4, 2009

New book time!

Tonight is like Christmas around my house. No baking pies or turkey, but an excitement that is just as heady and bubbly. Tomorrow, a new book comes out.

A new book coming out is like Christmas and the Fourth of July all rolled into one. It's blood, sweat and tears. Long nights on the sofa and pacing the floor, wondering if it's right. It's a heartsick feeling when the edits come in and worse when the reviews roll in.

But it's also fireworks and smiles. It's dreams coming true and promises for tomorrow. It means there will be readers who gush how much they love it and ask when the next one will come out. It's a world that didn't exist except in your mind that comes to life for someone other than yourself. The only thing more intoxicating and exciting are my babies, furry and non-furry.

The first time you pick up that book and see it with its cover, all shiny and new, brings tears to the eyes and a broad smile to the lips. It may not be perfect (Some reviewers will be happy to point that out)but it's yours. It's a milestone and a lifeline. You are living your dream.

I guess that says it all. Tomorrow, A Corpse for Yew, fifth book in the Peggy Lee Garden Mysteries comes out. People always ask which book is our favorite. I always say I could never choose. Which daughter do I love best? Which grandchild is cutest? There is no way to measure these things and I wouldn't want to.I love them all the same. They are all a part of me. And Jim! 8-))

Joyce Lavene