Joeseph Finder’s Tips for Writers

I recently had the pleasure of attending a lecture at The Center for Fiction given
by Joseph Finder, The New York Times Best Selling Author. He shared his story
—a fascinating one—of how he went from working for the CIA to writing thrillers.

51e-V7ZwpwL._AA160_He also shared his10 Tips for Writers from which he believes every writer can benefit. Here’s a summary:

1. Rejection can be useful. It can prompt you to do more work and get it to the right      editor.
2.   Be stubborn but be smart about it and be persistent.
3.  Learn to value criticism. It can give you good feedback.
4.  The best fiction is about character, not plot. The plot should arise from the character.
5.   Avoid backstory dump. It takes people out of the story.
6.   Every scene should do some work Ask yourself why is it there.
7.   Reveal. Surprise. Cut out the slow parts.
8.   Never underestimate your readers. Surprise them rather than fool them.
9.   Just write the book. Don’t get hung up in the prose or the words.

10. Get lucky. Hopefully get in front of the right people at the right time.

I’ve read several of Joe’s books and have enjoyed them all very much. His last thriller, THE FIXER, a stand alone, certainly proves he takes his own advice.

How about you? What, if any, rules do you apply to your writing? We’d love to know.

Stay At Home Writer

A month and a half ago, I left my full-time job. Woo hoo, I thought, now I’ll have more than enough time fojpg_BPA0225r full-time writing and I’ll finish my new novel in a New York minute. Well, not so fast.

Even though the whole day is mine, stretching out before me like the road to Oz, there seem to be so many other things that muscle in on my writing time.

There are errands and food shopping—a person has to eat, right?

Or catching up with friends who were always worried I’d be too busy for a conversation.
And of course, the triple threat: Email, Facebook and Twitter. They reach out to me the moment I sit down at the computer. I could justify all this attention paid to social media as beneficial input rather than procrastination. Sort of.

There seem to be hundreds of obstacles that get in the way of writing my work in progress, including writing about not writing it.

I guess I’m still getting used to finding a routine. When I was working, I got everything in, including writing time. Maybe it was because I knew I had to make it fit; that my opportunities weren’t as numerous as the day is long
.

So how about you? What’s your writing routine and how do you make it work?

Writer Readings in Long Island City

Last Saturday was a beautiful day and made even nicer by a trip to Long Island City to listen to the work of writers from Queens, including two of our Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writes or America authors: Terrie Farley Moran, also a Woman of Mystery, and Laura Joh Rowland.

Reading at the LIC bar, both Terrie and Laura gave us an up close look into their writing.
IMG_1709Terrie read her short story, “The Sneaker Tree,” a Queens based tale, published in the Sisters in Crime Anthology, MURDER NEW YORK STYLE: FRESH SLICES, which she also edited. The story about the death of a young woman’s mother just before 911, pointed out how one death can be eclipsed by the death of many and how that one will forever be overshadowed by what followed it, except in the heart of her daughter.

LauraLaura, the author of 18 Sano Ichiro novels set in Feudal Japan, gave us a glimpse into her wip, THE CIRCLE OF SHADOWS. Set in Victorian England, the chapters she read focused on a female photographer who’d taken pictures of a prostitute who later turns up dead. Unwilling to get involved with the police, she keeps silent about the dead woman’s name, knowing the pictures she took are against the law.

There are many other books by these two award-winning writers. All available online or in your favorite bookstore.

Opening Lines: A First Impression

large_open_bookIn a recent Huffington Post Blog, author Mark Rubinstein, talks about the power the opening sentences of a novel have to grab the reader and pull them into the story.

With examples from authors as diverse as Charles Dickens and David Morrell, we see how they structured their opening lines to make us want to read on.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the craft of novel writing and just how important a good opening is in making that first impression, not only in enticing your readers, but also in setting the premise of the story to come.

Some of my favorite first few sentences are from the novel BACKSEAT SAINTS by Joshilyn Jackson, the story of a young woman who’s finding her way back to herself.

“It was an airport gypsy who told me that I had to kill my husband. She may have been the first to say the words out loud, but she was only giving voice to a thing I’d been trying not to know for a long, long time.”

I read on, curious to find out whom the protagonist was and if she was really going to do the deed, why. I won’t tell you here, but I think you’d find it fun to read the book.

Here are a few sentences from a novel I’m working on, OUT OF TIME. It features
Nick Donahue, the protagonist from the novella, NICK OF TIME.

“Just ask Marina.
If you want to know how I wound tethered like a sacrificial goat to a flimsy spire swaying
in the wind on top of the world’s tallest building, maybe she can explain it.
Because I definitely can’t.”

How about you? Any first sentences that drew you in? Or, any that you’re working on?
We’d love to know.

I Spy With A Writer’s Eye

gallery-thumbnails.phpA recent blog post from thriller and suspense author Ed Kovacs, discussed gadgets every thriller/spy novelist should have at their disposal. Many were digital and some seemed items you would think of immediately, such as a camcorder watch for undercover videos and a smart phone, a great multi-tasker, while others, such as four-cipher locks and hide safes were things I hadn’t heard of before.

As you may know from previous posts, I’ve always wanted to be a spy. So, I decided to do a little research and add my own must have spy items, if not for myself, for the next time one of my characters goes undercover.

Here are my results:
Night vision goggles, perfect for stakeouts

Voice activated recorder pen, so you never miss a word

Air freshener hidden security camera, for those hard to spy on settings

Tripwire, the invisible alarm

A drone, for the complete overview

And a pair of oversize dark sunglasses for glamorous camouflage

Now that I’ve amassed these items (figuratively that is) I’ll have to write a story
in which to use them.

How about you? Have any equipment your sleuth could use on a case? Let us know.

Summer Reading Contest…

…AND  A CHANCE TO SEE YOUR NAME IN PRINT!
Here’s the deal: purchase a copy of my novella, NICK OF TIME, between now and July 4th, and send me a line from the book along with your name & email info and I will enter your name in a contest to be a character in my next Nick Donahue Adventure.
UnknownNICK OF TIME is a great summer read, an international adventure of a Blackjack player hoodwinked by a beautiful woman. If you want to enter my Summer Reading Contest, the Kindle edition is just $2.51 over at Amazon. Hope you’ll enjoy it!

Well Heeled An Emily’s Place Mystery

51tKXwGTGSL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_A few weeks ago, Roz Siegel, one of our Sisters In Crime (the group from which this blog arose), gave us a preview of the first chapter of her new novel, Well Heeled. It was so funny and witty it had me  pacing the floor in anticipation of the rest. Now, that I’ve read the entire novel, available on Amazon, I can truly say the pacing was worth it.

If Emily’s Place existed in reality on Manhattan’s Upper East Side instead of in fiction on its Upper West Side, I’d certainly be a customer. Not only for the great deals on Manolo’s, Jimmy Choo’s and Louboutin’s but to chat with Emily herself. Siegel has captured the spirit of her protagonist and her neighborhood and brought it to life. I could easily visualize Emily stocking the shelves, dealing with her customers and walking along its brownstone-lined blocks.

The cast of colorful characters that inhabit the novel are just that—a variety of West Side  characters who patronize her store looking for bargains or just stop by for a cup of coffee. When one of them, Sophia Sarfatti, a long time customer, complains about her shoe being uncomfortable, Emily looks into it and finds a fistful of diamonds secreted in the heel. When Sophia turns up dead and things begin to heat up.

The shoes were a find for Emily who bought them for a good price from a neighborhood kid who got them when they “fell off a truck.” As things progress, Emily scrambles to get back the other pairs she’s sold. As she does, she becomes involved with the Italian mafia, the Russian mob and several neighborhood pals, any one of whom could be a murderer. The only saving grace is that all this running around puts her in the path of Murphy the Cop, who she met when she helped him nab a killer and would definitely like to get to know better.

Well Heeled is the second book in Roz’s Emily’s Place Mystery series following Goodie One Shoe, but can be read as a stand alone. And, I for one, am tapping my foot as I type this, impatient for Emily to step out again.

 

Derringer Awards Announced, Congrats to Our Cathi Stoler!

SMFSLogo-10sq-300dpiEarlier this month, we congratulated all the wonderful writers who were nominated for the 2015 Derringer Awards for short fiction in 4 different categoies, including one author who we know rather well here at Women of Mystery.

 

 

Family-Matters-198x300

Well, we now have the especial joy to announce that the winner for Best Short Story (1001-4000 words) is our very own talented WoM Cathi Stoler, author of “The Kaluki Kings of Queens!” This story, about a young man who learns more than a game from his elders over cards, appeared in the anthology Family Matters, edited by this blog’s own Anita Page, and was published by Glenmere Books in partnership with the New York/Tri-State Chapter of Sisters in Crime, the local organization where all of us who’ve ever posted here met. You see why it’s so special?! Besides Cathi, this year, the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s Derringer Awards honor the following—

Best Flash: Joseph D’Agnese, “How Lil’ Jimmie Beat the Big C” (Shotgun Honey, May 12, 2014)

Best Long Story: Hilary Davidson, “A Hopeless Case” (All Due Respect #4, September 2014)

Best Novelette: Doug Allyn, “The Snow Angel” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, January 2014)

The Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer for Lifetime Achievement: James Powell

A public presentation of the awards will be made at the 2015 Bouchercon Convention in Raleigh, North Carolina in October. Congratulations to all!

GO AHEAD, MAKE MY BOOK INTO A MOVIE

Okay. I know that’s not the correct ending for this famous movie quote, but I’ll be back with another post about making books into movies very soon, especially if I’m feeling lucky that day.

film-clipart-Movie-Clip-Art-1344.jpgFor now, let’s talk about famous lines that have become part of our everyday language, or as a recent article in The New York Time, “The Rapid Decline of The Movie Quotation,” put it, the lack of them. The writer of the article, Teddy Wayne, offers the opinion that movies from the last 15 years lack memorable dialogue. Some of it may be chalked up to bad writing and some to the way movies are now produced and distributed—anyone can watch them with the click of a remote rather than buying a DVD. And, the fact that a lot of millenials are using devices other than a TV for their viewing pleasure.

The article goes on to discuss that while they’re still making good moves, people are not just watching them as much. Instead, viewers are choosing other media, such as TV and Internet video with a better chance of quoting “The Wire” than they do of a current film.

So, since I haven’t had any of my books made into movies (yet), I don’t know if any of their phrases would be quotable. I’m hoping that if I build it, they will come. While I’m waiting, I’ll be inspired by the 50 best film quotes ever.

How about you? Any movie quotes you love or hope to write? Are you ready for your close up? Let us know.

Derringer Nominations! Congratulations to Cathi Stoler!

SMFSlogoThe Short Mystery Fiction Society has posted its 2015 Derringer Award nominations, and Women of Mystery’s own Cathi Stoler has been shortlisted in the category of Best Short Story!

 

 

 

For Best Flash (Up to 1,000 words)

For Best Short Story (1,001–4,000 words)

  • B.V. Lawson, “The Least of These” (Plan B Magazine, June 6, 2014)
  • William Burton McCormick, “Killing Sam Clemens” (Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine #13, July 2014)
  • Britni Patterson, “The Bad Son” (Carolina Crimes: 19 Tales of Lust, Love, and Longing, March 2014)
  • Mary E. Stibal, “A Friend in Brown” (Best New England Crime Stories 2015: Rogue Wave, November 2014)
  • Cathi Stoler, “The Kaluki King of Queens” (Murder New York Style: Family Matters, August 2014)

For Best Long Story (4,001–8,000 words)

  • M.H. Callway, “The Ultimate Mystery” (World Enough and Crime, October 2014)
  • Angel Luis Colón, “Separation Anxiety” (All Due Respect #3, May 2014)
  • Hilary Davidson, “A Hopeless Case” (All Due Respect #4, September 2014)
  • James T. Shannon, “The Missing Money” (Best New England Crime Stories 2015: Rogue Wave, November 2014)
  • Cathy Wiley, “Dead Men Tell No Tales” (Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays, October 2014)

For Best Novelette (8,001–20,000 words)

  • Doug Allyn, “The Snow Angel” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, January 2014)
  • Doug Allyn, “Hitler’s Dogs” (Fiction River: Crime, March 2014)
  • Vicki Delany, “Juba Good” (Orca Books Rapid Reads, April 2014)
  • Trey Dowell, “Infernal” (Untreed Reads, June 2014)
  • Richard Helms, “Busting Red Heads” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, March/April 2014)

Participating members of SMFS nominate the stories, then a panel of judges whittles it down to the shortlist, then turn it over to members again, who’ll vote by month’s end to decide the winners. This year, as always, there’s a fantastic assortment of authors and stories. It’s an honor to be among them, one which we happen to think, immodestly perhaps, Cathi richly deserves. We’d also like to offer our kudos to WoM Anita Page, who–most excellently, obviously–edited the anthology where Cathi’s story appears.

The group vote to determine the winners takes place March 1–30th. Winners will be announced March 31st.

Congratulations to all the Derringer nominees!