Friday, January 25, 2013

Being Pulled In Two Directions

             Years ago when my niece and nephew were young, my brother decided to take them through the ice caves in upstate New York. It was a popular tourist attraction and he figured that his 8 year old daughter and 7 year old son would enjoy it. What he didn’t count on was being pulled in two directions.
            You see, the minute they entered the ice cave, my nephew yanked his father’s arm and started bellowing, “Let’s go Daddy! Let’s go!” But my niece planted her feet in one spot and pulled his other arm, crying “I don’t want to go in! I don’t want to go in!”
            Forget the stalactites and stalagmites. All my brother remembers about the experience was yelling “Slow Down!” and “Come on!” depending upon which arm was attached to which kid. But somehow they made it through the ice caves.
            As an indie writer trying to make my way, I know the feeling only too well. I’m constantly caught in the middle trying to decide if I should be using what available minutes I have to write, or to market my books.
            Writing and marketing have become the yin and yang of my world.  They’ve got to work in harmony or I won’t survive this game. Then why do I feel so guilty when I’m doing one thing instead of the other?
            My characters plague me all day with their continuous dialoguing in my head. But my social network is constantly reaching out for attention, too. Which writers’ conferences to attend?  Who might be interested in interviewing me? What brick and mortar bookstores are eager to sell my novels? It’s all about contacts, contacts, contacts. And I can’t do that if I’m thinking about the grisly body that my protagonist just found.
            I know. I know. It’s all about time management. At least that’s what they teach you in school. Maybe set a block of time for writing and another for marketing. But believe me, it’s not as easy as it sounds.
            Like it or not, I’ve become my brother. I’m moving through the ice caves in two directions. But I’m moving. And right now, that’s the best I can do.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Dilemma With Writing a Multi-Genre Book

When Kirkus Reviews said that perhaps my greatest feat in writing Light Riders and the Morenci Mine Murder was “an effective multi-genre approach of murder, mystery, sci-fi and …western,” I was overjoyed! Someone got it! Not all books can be pigeonholed into one category. But that’s not how agents and booksellers see it. And there’s the dilemma. My last conversation with an agent went something like this:

“Just tell me one thing – Where are you going to shelve it?”

“Fiction. Young adult fiction.”

“No, no, no. That’s too broad. I would suggest it be placed in science fiction and that’s the category it should carry.”

“But it’s not really science fiction. Okay, yes, there’s the time travel thing. My characters use Snell’s Laws of Refraction for time travel, but that only gets them someplace. Then they either have to solve a mystery or a murder, or a puzzle or-----”

“Stop right there. It’s still science fiction. Strange planets, weird universes, and all of that.”

“Actually, it’s more like historical fiction. My characters never leave earth. They just go back in time. Back to 1930’s Arizona. Everything I wrote was historically accurate. You can’t imagine the research I did.”

“Doesn’t matter. Once you’ve got that time travel thing, it’s sci-fi.”

“But what about the mystery part? I introduce and develop all those key elements. You know…the ticking clock, one step forward and two steps back, foreshadowing, withholding information, and of course the cliffhangers. It wouldn’t be suspense without the cliffhangers.”

“Still doesn’t matter.”

“But what about the western element? The book practically screams “Western.”

“It’s not screaming loud enough. I don’t care if it has a stampede, a barroom, and dangerous outlaws running about.”

I had to admit, I was stuck. And not just with this novel, with all of my novels; since every one of them is a blend of historical and science fiction. I still say the book belongs in fiction and leave it at that. But I’m new to this business and frankly, if someone wants to sell my books, I would be ecstatic no matter where they place them. But maybe the time has come for a new section – Multi-Genre. I’m sure I’m not the only author in this predicament.   

In the meantime, sci-fi is looking pretty good!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Getting Stuck in the Muck

Maybe it has something to do with odd and even numbers. Who knows. But whatever it is, it’s driving me crazy with my latest novel, novel # 6. Writing this novel is like getting wagon wheels stuck in the muck; and just when you think you’ve managed to pull or prod your way out, they go slip-sliding again.

It’s a number thing. I swear. My first novel glided smoothly with each computer keystroke, and I was energized and optimistic. Then came novel #2. With its twists and turns I stayed awake at night trying to piece together the puzzle I had created. It drove me nuts! Then, novel #3, a fast paced race to the finish line that moved quicker than Apolo Anton Ohno on ice. Once again, I could sleep at night.

Then, novel #4 tied up my stomach in knots for weeks. My characters argued in my head and two converging plot lines drove me to the brink. It was insanity. Then, joyous respite with novel #5. It bolted onto the keyboard with a speed and intensity I’d never seen. Thankfully I could sleep without tossing and turning.

And now…novel #6. Juxtaposed timelines. Unstable characters. And to make matters worse, a new element for my seasoned protagonists. This novel is giving me aggravation like none other. And sleep will just have to wait a while. But there’s hope. 

It’s the numbers. Odd numbers = smooth sailing, even numbers = storms, shipwrecks and sea sickness. Or so it would seem. Maybe I’m the only author who is plagued by this numerical phenomena but one thing for sure – the ride is never dull.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Mystery Suspense Author Donis Casey Explores Plot and Elements of Suspense

Mystery suspense author Donis Casey presented an insightful workshop for fellow authors and readers at the Winter Writers Circle, sponsored by AZ Authors on Saturday, January 5, 2013 at Cholla Library in Phoenix.

From developing plot line to the nuances of suspense, Donis explored a number of techniques that move a piece of writing from neophyte level to mastery. And what better way to learn about developing our craft than to work with master authors like Donis who showed us how to deconstruct a good novel in order to learn the technique.

Best of all were her words of advice:

"Don't analyze yourself as you're writing or you'll never finish."
"You can't make your characters do things just to fit the plot."
"Don't solve the problem too soon."
"Drop your reader in the middle of the action."

For first hand info and a look at her novels, visit  or check out her publisher, Poisoned Pen Press. As for me, I can't wait to jump into her latest book, The Wrong Hill To Die On.

Donis Casey Engages Authors at AZ Authors Winter Writers Circle

From Top to Bottom: Author Donis Casey, Donis Casey and author Toby Heathcotte, AZ Authors Table at the Winter Writers Circle