Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Writing Senses

As a writer I feel like I am always on the job.  To me each new day is an opportunity to learn something new, to find something unique or to make new discoveries about old favorites. Even the dawn can be a new sensation, and I wake every day knowing I need to keep an eye out for unique opportunities that might otherwise go undetected.

 Now this may sound strange, but as a writer I am always looking for new ways to write a scene or to describe an even or a scene.  If I am having to write conversations, I need to constantly be on the look out for finding new ways that people can express themselves. Otherwise every conversation between my characters is going to sound the same.  New characters are going to view different sensations and events in different ways and I need to stay alert to what they might be.  My city reporter is going to view a night in the mountains or lost in the prairie different than a cowboy, while that cowboy is going to hear the noise of the city in a different way than the reporter who is used to waking in the morning to blaring horns and people shouting on the street.  For several years I lived above a freeway where the noise of the traffic was such a constant hum that when I visited home or stayed in a cabin in the woods I couldn’t sleep.  The night was too quiet.  Every little sound made me jump. 
Recently I spent a couple of days in Vancouver, BC, one of my favorite places to visit. I was there for a writing convention (more about that in a future blog) but I was also able to spend some time driving around the city, enjoying the sites and seeing how much it has changed. One of my favorite spots is the Hotel Vancouver downtown, and I am working on a story set near there with the old hotel as a backdrop so it was fun to watch the changes in how it looked as each day dawned and during the day and evening.  The movement of the sun was like another character, playing with the building and giving it a certain mood from sunrise to sunset. I sat in my room and wrote several scenes from the story, using the different looks of the building to build the story setting from a cool morning sunrise to the warm brilliance of the afternoon.  

This past weekend we made our annual visit to Denver’s Brown Palace Hotel for tea. It’s always a wonderfully festive occasion and as usual it was fun to watch the young girls dressed up in frilly dresses, sitting very properly on the sofas enjoying tea in dainty cups with their mothers and grandmothers. Some still wear white gloves.  In past years, we’ve attended during football season when some of the men wore orange t-shirts under their suit jackets (this being Denver and since the Broncos would be playing across town)
But again I was very aware of the sounds of the afternoon, the piano player running through a variety of showtunes to all time country favorites, the clinking of the glasses, the steady efficiency of the waiters and waitresses refilling tea pots and gliding by with china stacks of dainty sandwiches, scones and delicious tiny desserts.  The conversation stays at a low rumble below the piano music. And of course, this is all taking place in a stately lobby that has welcomed everyone from world leaders to presidents to the Beatles at one time. The center gallery is open all the way to the roof with its stained glass ceiling and every so often one of the guests on an upper floor can be seen peering over the wooden rails. 

This is one of those places where you want to imagine setting a scene in a novel from any year since the Brown Palace was built in the 1800s to the present when the big area still bustles with out of town visitors, the afternoon tea groups or hotel guests checking in for the night.

I might not use this particular setting for a book, but just being aware of the ambiance and listening for the unique sounds and breathing in the distinct smell of the flowers on the tables and the many small touches that enhance the scene make for a great opportunity to write a scene or practice writing by describing as setting.  It’s like being a painter with a fresh piece of canvas and all the colors on a nearby palette. It’s like as blank slate, just waiting to be written. As the author, I get to fill in the conversations, build the characters to sit in those overstuffed chairs and sofas and tell the stories. 
Look for those empty canvas moments and use them, whether it’s sitting on a lakefront, visiting a new city or trying a new experience. Use the writer’s senses to drink in the scene so you are ready to spill it out in the words and viewpoints of your characters.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Suspense with a Demonic Twist

What could be more fun than finding a new suspense author? 

Finding one with a new angle, something that is not only different but one that quickly grabs the reader's attention and makes one want to start turning the pages as quickly as one can read. That was how I felt when I saw the blurb for the newest suspense fantasy book by Karilyn Bentley. She is today's guest in My Writing Corner. 

Karilyn is a Colorado author who says that it was her love of reading stories and a preference for sitting in front of a computer at home instead of sitting in a cube at an office that drove her to begin writing her own works. Now she writes a combination of books that blend fantasy and romance mixed with a touch of funny. What an awesome combination! And it works. 

Her paranormal romance novella, Werewolves in London, placed in the Got Wolf contest and started her writing career as an author of sexy heroes and lush fantasy worlds.

Karilyn lives in Colorado with her own hunky hero, two crazy dogs, aka The Kraken and Sir Barks-A-Lot, and a handful of colorful saltwater fish. 

Her latest book is Devil Forget Me and if that title doesn't immediately grab your attention, as it certainly did mine, then just check out the blurb about the story: 

What appears to be a simple crime, unmasks a chilling deception... 

Gin Crawford, the world's newest demon huntress, kills two minions who are breaking into a financial adviser's office. But what she thinks of as another night in the life of a demon huntress leads to a cover-up of epic proportions. A demon haunts her employer, the Agency, and only she can stop it.

Aidan Smythe, her guardian mage and lover, along with her brother T, and the healer Eloise, join her search in discovering the demon's identity. A search thwarted by a powerful spell.

Breaking the spell requires her to join forces with Zagan, the demon of deceit, the demon who marked her as his. But working together comes with a price. One Gin is not sure she can pay.

Want more? Here's an excerpt:

     She chuckles as I sip my beer. “Not nothing. I am trying to discover the identity of the demon at the Agency.” She frowns. “It’s not going well. I know I know who the demon is, but every time I think of its identity”—her hands move in a poof motion—“it vanishes.”

     “Yeah, I have the same problem.”

     A memory pops into my mind. Two memories, actually. The first was of last night’s fight with Rahab. How the demon said he only had one demon left to kill in order to rule Hell. Mammon, the demon of greed. The second memory was from last week when Smythe and I went to the Agency. We ran into Chuck Tweedy, the Big Boss of the Agency, and my justitia couldn’t stop chanting “greedy.” I assumed the bracelet got its words mixed up, exchanging Tweedy for greedy. But what if there was a connection?

     A dull pain hammers my head. I rub my brow. What was I thinking? We were talking about the Agency demon. Who could it be?

     “You do have the same problem.” Eloise touches my leg, and the headache disappears. “That’s what happened to me.”

     “How did you know?” Eloise was blind, although I swear at times she sees fine. “I could feel your pain.” Her brow furrows. “Like a spell had been thrown at you that caused the headache. I wonder if the same thing happens when I get a headache from thinking on the demon’s identity.”

     “Wait. You mean whenever I think about who the demon is, my thoughts trigger a spell? What does the spell do?”

If you want to continue reading, you'll have to buy the book!  Here are the buy links:

Barnes & Noble:

And if you would like to learn more about Karilyn and her books, here how to find her online:


Thank you, Karilyn, for being my guest and for introducing us to your fascinating fantasy world! Any comments or questions for Karilyn?

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Finding New Suspense

The search for a new author to read or a new book series often takes me to many different locations. I'm just  back from a trip to British Columbia for the Left Coast Crime writers/readers' convention where I had the opportunity to meet many new authors and say hello to some of my favorite writers from around the country and Canada.

But this week's guest in My Writing Corner is an author who comes from a closer location--Pennsylvania. C. Becker earned a B.S. degree in Medical Technology and MT (ASCP) certification. She has worked in clinical settings analyzing body fluids and testing drugs of abuse. As an author, C. Becker has published  multiple stories in various genres.  

Her latest book is Finding Euphoria from The Wild Rose Press, and today she joins us to  tell us about it:  

Six years ago, the idea of writing a novel percolated in my head. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had a mystery/suspense story to tell and I wanted to tell it. As I wrote, I researched, and as I researched, ideas formed in my mind. Thus the Euphoria trilogy evolved. The series centers around Bixa aparra, a shrub that originated in the Amazon and was smuggled into the U.S. in the late 70s. Current day, the shrub is nearly extinct because of the deforestation of the rainforest. Each book uses this shrub in its plot. 
The first book Finding Euphoria centers on Hailey Langley, a mother who put her baby up for adoption. Seventeen years later, the adoptive father contacts Hailey when her now teenage son falls into a coma after trying an illicit drug—you guessed it—a drug called Euphoria, formed from the bark and leaf of the shrub. 
That sounds like a book readers will enjoy. How about a blurb?
Hailey Langley refuses to be a victim and has moved on from her traumatic past. But her marriage problems worsen when a deadly illicit drug threatens to draw her into the life she left behind.
Mark Langley has allowed his job to interfere with his marriage but he never suspected the secrets in Hailey's past might hold the key to solving both of his current investigations.
Together, they must unravel the mystery of the drug called Euphoria and find a way to save not only their marriage but countless lives before it's too late. 
The second book focuses on the mind-altering chemical harvested from the root of the Bixa appara, and the third book focuses on the shrub's flowers. As I plotted out the science, I structured the books so that each title reflected Hailey's emotional state. The fun (and hard) part was sprinkling the clues of the second and third books into the first novel. The Euporhia trilogy is not your ordinary romance. Life is never a bed of roses and this is especially true for Hailey. In each adventure, she runs from her emotions and struggles to hold her family together. The reader who follows the trilogy will see that Hailey's a fighter and pushes on, growing mentally stronger as she fights to keep her family together. 
Thank you for giving us a look at your books. Let's get an excerpt from Finding Euphoria:
            He turned the bottle around in his hand and set it on the end table. “Don’t put me in this position. You know what would happen. Grace is his mother. She’s the one who needs to stay with him.”
Regret tugged at her heart. “I wouldn’t take any time away from her.”
Parker groaned. “Just you being there would make her feel uncomfortable.”
“You know why.”
“But I’ve stayed away for seventeen years,” she whispered.
“That was the adoption arrangement.”
She bit her lip. “I can’t stay away any longer.”
“You agreed to those terms in the contract. You terminated all parental rights.” Parker stood and paced to the kitchen.
“But it’s not fair!” She put down her water and began wringing her hands.
Straightening his arms, he leaned against the bar. “Hailey, please don’t start. I know how you feel…”
“You couldn’t possibly know how I feel. I need to see him.” She fought to control the bitterness in her voice.
She rose, knocking over the water bottle. “He’s my son!”
“Not anymore, he isn’t.”
The rebuke stung. “He’ll always be my son!”
“When you gave him up, you promised to keep your distance.”
“I have.”
            The reminder lanced her heart. "You're being unfair. He's dying."
             He slammed his fist on the bar. "Don't say that. He can't die." Parker pushed himself up and stomped near the window, raising his hands to rest on top of his head as he faced the curtain.
            A muscle twitched in her hand. Her knees buckled. She sat on the edge of the couch, wringing her hands. "I was young. I couldn't give Justin the life he deserved. I"m not asking to take him back. I only want to see him."
            Rubbing his jaw, he walked back to the couch and sat. The hard lines on his face softened.
           “The adoption papers were clear. No contact.” He placed his hands on top of hers and stilled them. “If the decision was mine, I would allow it, but Grace would lose it if she found out you’re Justin’s biological mother.”
                  Her hands squeezed into tight fists. The urge was unbearable. “I wouldn’t tell her.”
                  Parker ran a hand through his hair. “Argh! Don’t you understand? She’d take one look at your face and know the truth. Don’t forget, you’re the one who wanted us to protect him.”
                  She stood. “Well, you did a hell of a fine job, didn’t you? You divorced Grace and deserted him. Parenting takes sacrifice, Parker. You were too busy changing careers, and now he’s messed up with drugs. How did that protect him?”
                  Standing, he reached for her.
                  “No. You stay away from me.” She extended her hands and backed up a step. “Justin’s dying! Dying, Parker! And I don’t know him…You won’t let me see my own son.”
                   He wrapped his arms around her.
                   She pushed him, pummeling her fists against his chest with all her strength.
                   He silently took his beating.

Thank you for that excerpt. Here are the buy links:

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Celebrating Writers and Writing

From the first time I discovered writing conventions, they have been one of my favorite ways to spend a few days. My first was in 1982, the Romance Writers of America Conference, being held that year in Long Beach, California, aboard the fabulous Queen Mary. It was a small convention--only a couple hundred writers--but it hooked me on their value for life.

Where else can a writer commiserate with so many others about how their characters won't speak to them or how to make settings come alive? Where else can you sit down with several other writers and work on a plot problem and come up with some fantastic fictional answers while hanging out in the bar? Where else can you meet editors and hear directly from them what sort of books they are looking to buy? Or pitch your work directly to editors?

I joined RWA after that Long Beach convention and made the conference my vacation the next couple of years. I even sent in several proposals. Alas, I didn't get a contract out of that convention, but every conference I attended after that made me a better writer and kept me in touch with the audience of readers. Years later it was another convention in southern California--RWA in Anaheim--that got me back into the writing realm. This time I did get a publisher!

I've continued going to various writing conventions ever since, from RWA to Emerald Cities in Washington, to Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers in Colorado. But perhaps my favorite convention of them all is Left Coast Crime. What I love about this gathering of writers and would-be authors is the various panel discussions featuring mystery, suspense and thriller writers. This isn't a teaching convention like RWA, but more of a fan convention. Still the learning possibilities are endless. Where else can one hear directly from so many fine writers about how they craft their mystery novels or work on characters or voice?

Last week I had the opportunity to not only attend the latest LCC, but to participate in a wonderful panel discussion with best- selling author Lee Goldberg, who writes the Heist series with Janet Evanovich. Just to hear him talk about his writing process and take questions from him that made me think about my own writing process was worth the time and cost of going. Spending time in the gorgeous city of Vancouver, BC, was a bonus!

The entire event was inspirational as well. So many writers spoke of how they brought their characters and their settings to life. But they also spoke about their connection and "contracts" with the reader. It's important to forge that connection with a reader so that it becomes a bond that keeps the reader coming back for more. Best selling author William Deverill talked about how authors need to develop their voice because it's not just the words readers remember when they close the book, it's the voice of the author. Readers may not identify it as such, but it is the author's voice that remains with the reader and drives them to look for more books from that writer.

Mystery author Terry Shames said good authors are sure-handed about what they are putting on the written page. Danny Gardner put it more directly. "If it isn't on the page, it's not on the stage."

The panelists also said that writers shouldn't expect to find their voice immediately, but they need to keep searching for it and it will eventually emerge.  They also cautioned about forcing yourself to write something you don't want to write. "Write what you want," Danny Gardner said. "And don't be afraid to shoot for the moon."

Good advice for writers at any stage of their career.  It's also the sort of advice that only can come from one author to another, which is why conventions like Left Coast Crime keep me coming back. Having the opportunity to talk writing with others who have struggled with their characters and their works not only helps our writing, it keeps us going.

And those stories keep the readers coming back for more!

Mysterious Doings

As the  summer begins, it is time to start selecting those books we want to take on vacation or for sitting around the pool or at  the beach...