Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Do you know who you are as a writer?

Tour de Blog


Thanks to Calgary Mystery Author, Susan Calder, for tagging me in this round of blogs. The following questions are asked often. Writers are in many ways a fickle bunch swayed by their current plot, characters and writers' life situation.  Answering these questions and others (see list at the bottom) helps us solidify what the marketers out there call our brand. 

Long Walk Home - Photo: M. Hudgins


1) What am I working on right now?

My current writing project is the third book in the Caleb Cove Mysteries. The working title is Emily Martin Can't Go Home. I wrote the first 35,000 words (give or take) during 2014-July's NaNoRiMo Summer Camp. I am continuing writing encouraged my “Challenge Group” consisting of two other writers. My projected release date is December 2014. I have that goal, but the book will dictate when it is ready. My readers are mystery lovers who also may like Canadian content.


2) How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I'm not sure I differ hugely from others in the genre, which by the way is a mix of cozy, malice domestic and suspense. My setting is uniquely mine as I created it. However, it is an island off an eastern coast line which I'm sure someone else has used at some time in the past. Even with the same plot, no two writers will produce exactly the same book. Our unique experiences influence our characters and our personal voice flavors our stories.  In that we all differ one from the other.

3) Why do I write what I do?

My core theme is personal identity.  Finding out who I am is a life long search. I blame it on wishing that I was not the daughter of a small town Presbyterian minister. My characters suffer the same fate. However, they get to find out, at least in part, who they really are inside and out.
Mysteries have fascinated and entertained me. I’m drawn to complicated back stories that require uncovering the story behind the story. My reading included Nancy Drew, Mary Stewart, Agatha Christie and Dana Stabenow. On TV I like Bones or Castle. The bottom line: I enjoy  puzzles, relationships and satisfactory endings. So, that’s what I write.

4) How does my writing process work?

A news event, a scene out a bus window or a story someone tells me triggers an idea. I write a premise and collect the maybes and the what-ifs. My brain roars with ideas, some of which are actually useful. The ideas might sound crazy or impossible or mundane. It doesn't matter. At this stage, everything that pops into my head is recorded.

Later I review, compile and create a skeleton for the story. I flesh out the skeleton as I go, using either scene cards or a rough first draft. Although the back story is complex and recorded, the plot for the book is a loose plan. What I’m going to write is suggested, not written in stone, and changes as I layer my way through the book. Finally, I do a line edit, listen to it in Natural Soft Reader and present the (hopefully) final copy to my Beta Readers.

Are you a writer? Who are you, what do you write, when did you start, where is your writing haven, why do you write what you do and how do you survive the writer's life? 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

3 steps to incorporating effective details in your writing

DETAILS make your writing memorable.

There’s been a recent go-round on Facebook asking folks to list ten books that touched their lives. Just put them down, don’t think about it. For me the first book that came to mind was “Five Little Peppers and How They Grew.” (by Margaret Sidney-originally published 1881 – republished numerous times and still available on Amazon)

I remember three details from that book even though it has been decades since I read it.

  • 1) How to properly sweep the floor. (Use long, slow strokes so as not to raise a dust cloud.) 
  • 2) It is possible to knit if you are blind. (Polly had to learn when her eyes were compromised.) 
  • 3) Polly for some reason is a nickname for Mary.

Woven into those details is the feeling of family, personal growth and survival. The remembered details provide a gateway to the overall effect the book had on me. And I remember the book with affection.

As writers, we want people to remember our books. We work with words yet we need to paint pictures, offer photo-snaps and create worlds.

Details get the job done.

Whether it is solidifying an overall theme or painting a momentary stage, details used effectively can shift telling to showing and leave story moments planted in the reader’s brain and soul.

How do you get the result you want?  

When you are writing fast and hot, simply get the information, the action or the dialogue on the page anyway you can. When you re-write, tidy up and beef up as needed, using details.

Here’s a tip I learned years ago.

  • First, write your general thought. 
It was a dark and scary night.”

  • Second, describe what makes that statement true.

It was a dark and scary night. Clouds obscured the moon. The rain beat down like the tears of dead sailors and a banshee wind howled, obliterating any hope of comfort. Shadows deeper than the darkness lurked ready to suck a man’s soul from his bones.

  • Third: Go back and take out the first sentence.

It was a dark and scary night. “Clouds obscured the moon. The rain beat down like the tears of dead sailors and a banshee wind howled, obliterating any hope of comfort. Shadows deeper than the darkness lurked ready to suck a man’s soul from his bones.

Find a process that works for you.

This process frees me to write my first draft without worry. In the second draft, I get to play with words and add the details that give the reader what I want them to see, feel, hear, taste, smell or sense. (Yes – using the senses.) Additionally, I use metaphors, personification and similes as needed. But, for me, the basic three step process is the key to incorporating effective details.


Do you have a tip or process that works for you? Please share it if you do.

And check out Details and Description by M. J. King over on the Anxiety Ink site.



Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What is your tag line?

Identity - we all have one - but what is your true identity?

We present faces to the world that match our roles: mother, friend, sister, boss... But who are we really?  Behind all your faces, who are you? What do you care about? What do you want? What cheers you, harms you or drives you?

I've thought about those questions. I've searched for answers, direction and inner peace. In the distant past, I thought I was the only one searching for these answers. Turns out I do not have a monopoly on the questions. Everyone I've met has asked these or similar questions more than once in their lives

We start out as babies with a clean slate. Everyone we meet, every circumstance of our lives and every action we take write on our slate. But do we let the writing of others define us? Or do we search out our own identity?

Each of us is unique and our answers will be ours alone.

I don't pretend to have answers for you. I have found a few for myself. However, those answers shift with my mood, my circumstances and my heart. I continue to search, to redefine and find new purpose in my life.

This fascination with who we are, why we are here and how we cope has shaped my writing. I write about:

- the puzzle of inner and outer identity
- the impact of people and circumstances on my characters
- the course of overturned lives.
- and I write about characters who find inner strength and skills to put things right in their world.

There are many reality-based books, horror stories, and love tales on the market. A story for everyone, but not the same story for all. I like stories with a puzzle, with struggling human characters and an ending that offers hope. In my writing, I strive to offer those ingredients to my readers.


Two of my favorite authors have tag lines I can get behind.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips: Because life is too short to read depressing stories.
Mary M. Forbes: In dreams we can be anyone we want.

 For today, my tag line is:

Stories that set things right....characters that find their way.

Do you have a tag line for your books or for your personal life story? Care to share it? I'd love to hear from you.