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.

On the (Guest Blog) Road Again

It’s almost here. In less than a month, my new book, Brooklyn Secrets, will be out in the world. I am appropriately excited and nervous. It was a harder book to write than I expected and while I hope I succeeded, who knows? Brooklyn Secrets Cover

So I am sidetracking anxiety by immersing myself in publicity activities. We are supposed to do that anyway, so it serves two purposes. Here’s what I am up to over the next month plus.

Guest Blogging dates for now. I’d be happy to do more. I have topics for some as I write this somewhat in advance.

11/5 Jungle Reds. Stretching as a Writer (see above)
11/17 Crime Writers Chronicle
11/30 Bookbrowsing (PJ Nunn)
12/2 Auntie M
12/7 Lori Rader-Day (Lori asks the questions)
12/8 CnC Books Blog
12/10 Wicked Cozy Are my Books Cozies?
12/TBA Dru’s Book Musing Day in the Life

Will I run out of things to say? Not at all likely. I am a talkative person, in real life or on paper (using “paper” loosely!) Will I run out of things worth saying? Hmmm

There are also a few events:

Launch (!!!)

December 3. At New York’s well-known Mysterious Bookshop, at 6:30. 298327_268242919874769_957023598_n

Naturally you are all invited. There will be interesting talk. Friendly folks. And cookies that look like the book cover! Somewhat like this: rec logo big

Brooklyn Public Library

I have finally succeeded in making the right contacts there. (There are disadvantages in living in a city with a writer on every street corner. Librarians and bookstores are not necessarily excited about one being a “local” author). However:

Dec 8 I will be a guest at the Brooklyn Collection, part of their monthly programs on Brooklyn history, which is exciting and appropriate.

TBA later: I am hoping to connect also with the historic Stone Avenue branch of the library, the setting of some crucial scenes in Brooklyn Secrets. stone02_bc

Eudora Welty and Ross MacDonald

Meanwhile there are lettersA book review by Susan Straight of Meanwhile There Are Letters:
The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and Ross Macdonald, edited by Suzanne Marrs and Tom Nolan (Arcade: 568 pp., $35), caught my attention in the Los Angeles Times and I just had to share it with my fellow Women of Mystery, our blog pals and readers.

Susan writes: “This remarkable book collects more than a decade’s worth of written and mailed correspondence between the two writers — he who was emphatically married (though his marriage is represented as dutiful and often painful by the time of their letters) and she who remained single and died in the same town in which she was born and had nursed her brother and parents when they became ill and died.”

Click on over to ‘Letters’ inscribes a grand love affair with words between Ross Macdonald and Eudora Welty to read more about it.

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Long-lost Dr. Seuss Book Releases Today

635598582886844008-WhatPetShouldIGet-COVERThe first book from the hands of Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) in 25 years, What Pet Should I Get?  is set for release today by Random House, with a first printing of one million copies.

The manuscript is thought to have been written in the late 1950s or early 1960s. It was discovered in 2013 by his widow, Audrey Geisel, and an assistant, Claudia Prescott. Ms. Prescott began working for Mr. Geisel in 1972 and helps Mrs. Geisel, age 93, run Dr. Seuss Enterprises.

The last original Dr. Seuss book, Oh, The Places You’ll Go! was released in 1990. Dr. Seuss died in 1991. His books have sold more than 650 million copies globally.

Horton_hatches_the_eggDo you have a favorite Dr. Seuss book? It’s a difficult choice, because there are so many favorites. Mine’s a toss-up between Horton Hatches the Egg and Oh,The Places You’ll Go!

Follow me on Twitter @katcop13

On The Road With Broken Window-Family Style

Broken Window and Murder at the P&Z and I will be traveling to Bluffton, South Carolina in June, to Cleveland, Ohio in August, and to Santa Maria, California in September.

UnknownAt each stop, a family member is hosting a book signing party. It is one of the many incredible benefits to having a large family.

While I promote my Carol Rossi Mysteries in different areas of the country, I’ll be thrilled for the opportunity to share this moment with my children and grandchildren since we are separated by so many miles. Thank heavens my daughter, Lisa, and son-in-law, Brian, who live nearby have faithfully come to book launchings. To boot, they’ve brought their friends as well and we’ve gone out to dinner later to celebrate.

happy-family-car-vacation-13549568When coming up with this family book tour, I was surprised by the enthusiasm of all involved living in other states, in particular one of my grandsons and granddaughters who insisted that their friends come. Two of my daughters and one granddaughter are arranging everything, and I’m calling myself a very lucky person.

 

 

Flannery O’Connor U.S. Postage Stamp

Author Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) will grace a U.S. “Forever” Postage Stamp, set to debut on June 5, 2015. The stamp will also feature peacock feathers, since O’Connor raised peacocks on her family’s farm in Georgia.

This will be the 30th stamp issued in the USPS’s Literary Arts series.

WatercolorJoyce Carol Oates, however, does not think the watercolor painting resembles O’Connor.

The publishing firm Farrar, Straus & Giroux is holding a sweepstakes open to U.S. residents to win a complete set of Flannery O’Connor’s newly reissued Wise Blood, Everything That Rises Must Converge, The Complete Stories, The Violent Bear It Away, and Mystery and Manners (with covers illustrated by June Glasson and designed by Charlotte Strick), by subscribing to their FSG Work in Progress email news. The deadline to enter is 11:59 PM ET on Monday, June 22, 2015. There will be five grand prize winners.

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On Twitter, you can learn more about Andalusia Farm, the historic home of Flannery O’Connor in Milledgeville, Georgia; or “like” the farm’s page on Facebook.

Listen to a rare audio of Flannery O’Connor reading, “A Good Man Is Hard To Find,” ~ my favorite short story of all time.

Late-breaking news: Minnesota artist Chris Larson takes on Flannery O’Connor in opera, “Wise Blood,” by Gregory J. Scott in the StarTribune. If I lived in Minneapolis, I wouldn’t miss this production at the Soap Factory!

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Follow me on Twitter @katcop13.

Maya Angelou Forever Stamp

Today, during National Poetry Month (celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture), the United States Postal Service issues the Maya Angelou Forever stamp.

On April 7, 2015, Postmaster General Megan Brennan will be joined by Oprah Winfrey, Ambassador Andrew Young and other notables at a first-day-of-issue stamp dedication ceremony in Washington, DC.

Also attending the ceremony will be Angelou’s grandson Colin Johnson; Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL); poet Sonia Sanchez; author and journalist Sophia Nelson; Howard University English professor Eleanor Traylor; poet and civil rights activist Nikki Giovanni; civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton; and Atlanta-based artist Ross Rossin, whose portrait of Angelou was used for the stamp. Melissa Harris-Perry will serve as master of ceremonies.

The USPS.com announcement:

Author, poet, actress, and champion of civil rights Dr. Maya Angelou (1928-2014) was one of the most dynamic voices in all of 20th-century American literature. The book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, an autobiographical account of her childhood, gained wide acclaim for its vivid depiction of African-American life in the South.

The stamp showcases artist Ross Rossin’s 2013 portrait of Dr. Angelou. The oil-on-canvas painting is part of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s collection. In the bottom left corner is the following phrase quoted by Dr. Angelou: “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” Above the quotation is her name in black type. The words “Forever” and “USA” are along the right side.

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The stamp pane includes a short excerpt from Angelou’s book, “Letter to My Daughter.” It reads: “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” Art director Ethel Kessler of Bethesda, MD, designed the stamp.

Share the news via social media using #MayaForever.

Follow me on Twitter @katcop13.

Do Reading Levels Matter?

stack of booksThe other day as I was reading through the latest issue of SinC Links, one story jumped out and got my attention. Written by Shane Snow and published online at Contently.com, it dealt with Reading Level Analysis.

The author asked the question of whether reading level analysis of your work would change the way you write. Putting a chapter of his own work through the Flesch-Kincaid readability formula, he found he was writing at the 8th grade level. But he wasn’t alone. He also put Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea through the program and was surprised to see that work was scored at a 4th grade level.

In the article you’ll find a chart in which he tested the reading level of a few dozen authors from best-selling fiction authors, to non-fiction writers, to those writing academic documents and used several programs to calculate ease of readability. For fiction, none of the authors wrote above a 9th grade level. For non-fiction and academic work the level was a little higher. While many people assume that a higher reading level means better writing, the lower score seems to indicate commercial success and how good people believe a writer to be.

I thought I’d take the test for myself and put the first chapter of my WIP, a Nick Donahue Adventure, into the Flesch-Kincaid program. The results are for that program as well as a few others.

Flesch Reading Ease score: 82.1 (text scale)
Flesch Reading Ease scored your text: easy to read.

Gunning Fog: 7.5 (text scale)
Gunning Fog scored your text: fairly easy to read.

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 5.4
Grade level: Fifth Grade.

The Coleman-Liau Index: 6
Grade level: Sixth Grade

The SMOG Index: 5.4
Grade level: Fifth Grade

Automated Readability Index: 4.9
Grade level: 8-9 yrs. old (Fourth and Fifth graders)

Linsear Write Formula : 7
Grade level: Seventh Grade.

Readability Consensus
Based on 8 readability formulas, we have scored your text:
Grade Level: 6

Reading Level: easy to read.
Reader’s Age: 10-11 yrs. olds (Fifth and Sixth graders)

Here’s a breakdown of what all that means:

  1. The Flesch Reading Ease formula will output a number from 0 to 100 – a higher score indicates easier reading. An average document has a Flesch Reading Ease score between 6 – 70.
    As a rule of thumb, scores of 90-100 can be understood by an average 5th grader. 8th and 9th grade students can understand documents with a score of 60-70; and college graduates can understand documents with a score of 0-30.
  2. The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level outputs a U.S. school grade level; this indicates the average student in that grade level can read the text. For example, a score of 7.4 indicates that the text is
    understood by an average student in 7th grade.
  3. The Fog Scale (Gunning FOG Formula) is similar to the Flesch scale in that it compares syllables and sentence lengths. A Fog score of 5 is readable, 10 is hard, 15 is difficult and 20 is very difficult. Based on its name, ‘Foggy’ words are words that contain 3 or more syllables.
  4. The SMOG Index outputs a U.S. school grade level; this indicates the average student in that grade level can read the text. For example, a score of 7.4 indicates that the text is understood by an average student in 7th grade.
  5. The Coleman-Liau Index relies on characters instead of syllables per word and sentence length. This formula will output a grade. For example, 10.6 means your text is appropriate for a 10-11th grade high school student.
  6. Automated Readability Index outputs a number which approximates the grade level needed to comprehend the text. For example, if the ARI outputs the number 3, it means students in 3rd grade (ages 8-9 yrs. old) should be able to comprehend the text.
  7. Linsear Write Formula is a readability formula for English text, originally developed
    for the United States Air Force to help them calculate the readability of their technical manuals. Linsear Write Formula is specifically designed to calculate the United States grade level of a text sample based on sentence length and the number words used that have three or more syllables.

Although I didn’t think I was writing for the pre-teen set, that’s where my work seems to fall.
And maybe it’s not such a bad thing. As the article goes on suggests, we shouldn’t discount simple  writing as long as we make it interesting.

How about you? Have any of you done this type of analysis?

Pardon the Ravens by Alan Hruska

HruskaIf you’re into legal mysteries, you’ll want to read Pardon the Ravens. Set in the 1961, this book follows an interesting case for young, inexperienced lawyer, Alec Brno. It’s a great recipe for suspense and intrigue: a sadistic mob boss, an abused drug-addicted, a case that’s probably not a winner, and a young attorney in love with the wrong woman.

It’s out today. Check out my review at Criminal Element.