Guest Post

If you have a book to promote, Lyrical Pens welcomes guest posts on Wednesdays. I can furnish a questionnaire or you can create your own post. FYI, up front: The site is a definite PG-13. Contact for details. cj

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Bouchercon 2016 and true characters

cj Sez: Bouchercon was amazing. I heard there were about 2,000 people there. The first lady I met at the check-in desk was from Aukland, New Zealand. I met a panelist from Wales, and another from Iceland, and still others from England. On Saturday, on my way back to my hotel for the day, I spoke with a lady from Toronto, Canada. And those were just a few of my encounters. I can’t imagine how many countries I missed.

Fans of best-selling authors were everywhere, and on Saturday, they were en masse. Michael Connolly interviewing Harlan Coban in a crowded-to-the-walls ballroom was a highlight for me.

And, and, and there were two ballrooms filled with tables and tables and row after row of books…made me feel like a kid in a candy store whose mother had given her a quarter to spend.

If you can swing it, mark your calendar: Next year in Toronto, October 12-15, 2017.

Today, I’d like to chat briefly about the amount of preplanning necessary to bring a scene to life and ultimately the story. Every chapter ought to answer these questions: Who did what when where why and how? Ultimately, any novel with a satisfying ending has answered them as well.

Let’s start with who and what. Character and conflict. Almost always an intriguing scene/story begins with the action of a character in conflict, either on the page or in some narrative. This is true whether it’s a memoir or a mystery. To be interesting, to be the character a reader can relate to and commiserate with, s/he needs conflict.

Conflict doesn’t have to be an argument or a threat. It can be as simple as having a flat tire when s/he gets ready to leave for work. Knowing how a character should react to any and all conflict is an author imperative. Since the conflict is stronger when it’s internal—a part of their personalities—authors need to spend time creating characters’ bios before they start writing.

What makes characters the way they are is the same thing that makes real-life people the way they are.

Where were they born? When were they born? Any siblings? What was the home situation like? Is s/he a loner? If so, what caused that? Are they vain? Ego-driven? Church-going? Each one of these questions has the potential to cause conflict, and conflict is what is needed for a great novel. And for the real emotional drama, there needs to be internal conflict...conflict that arises from the way these people look at life. 
The hero and heroine—just like all of us—have habits that were decided long ago…before your story started. The hero may have decided that no one is going to help him succeed. If anything, they’re going to help him fail, so he has to look out for himself. His way of dealing with that is to never trust anyone. As a character in the story, he must react that way in all of his scenes until the story’s character arc changes that attitude. The heroine may have become the proverbial middle child who thinks the way to succeed is to become the center of attention. She will always say and do things to achieve that goal unless her character arc changes.

Remember though, lengthy backstory dumps are both disrupting and unnecessary. Readers are carried along on the characters’ actions.

When you're building conflict into your characters, you have to know who they are and what they want and how far they’ll go to get what they want. The answers are an ideal place for the conflict to begin

Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.


PS: Got your perfect Christmas present right here—for you and the BFF who loves reading a good story. Choosing Carter is in the bundle of six romance novels, “More Than Friends,” launched on Sept 19—it’s available until February 2017 for 99 cents. It’s not too early to be thinking of Christmas presents, and here’s hours and hours of entertainment for less than a buck! Check it out and after you’ve read them, please leave the authors an Amazon review. Thanks.
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook

Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

GUEST C. T. Collier talks about a mystery writer's learning curve

cj Sez:  Lyrical Pens is happy to welcome a guest post from author C. T. Collier today. C. T. (aka Kate) blogs about how she went about learning to become a published mystery writer.

In January five years ago, I made a decision: instead of waiting for retirement to take my writing seriously, I’d set aside one hour a day and make steady progress toward my goal of publishing not just a murder mystery, but one I was proud to put my name on. It would be well written, well crafted, and engaging. It would fit with the marketplace, embrace the history of academic mysteries, and honor the tradition of mysteries back to the Golden Age of Murder. Tall order, especially since none of the novels I’d dashed off in prior years had come close to satisfying the tenets of the mystery genre and only one had gotten a nibble from an agent.

I needed basic training in character development. I needed to develop a professional network. And I had to make friends with conflict. My first giant step forward came when a writer friend invited me to tag along to a writer’s conference. Three days later I was armed with Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation, and Conflict; I had pitched my concept for a small-town series to a well-respected agent and received invaluable feedback; and I had joined a national association.

Since a fair number of mystery and suspense writers started their careers as romance authors, I chose to do the same. I used Dixon’s classic as my foundation, selected RWA workshops that addressed my weaknesses, and entered contests specifically for feedback to gauge my progress toward publishing-ready.

Slowly my small-town concept developed into a series of four romance novels, Lakeside Porches under the pen name Katie O’Boyle. Each book was an improvement over the one before. With book one, I found a publisher. With book two, I tackled an arrogant abrasive protagonist ripe for transformation. With book three, I placed in a contest. With book four, I tangled with a villain.

At the conclusion of Lakeside Porches, I had a body of work I was proud of and
a good start on a spinoff series of traditional academic mysteries. My protagonists from book four, an academic married to a technical guru, grew into a sleuthing duo in The Penningtons Investigate, set in the same small Finger Lakes city of Tompkins Falls, NY, with a college riddled with intrigue.

Still, writing a mystery required new discipline and resources. I chose as my second foundational work The Elements of Mystery Fiction: Writing the Modern Whodunit by master of the craft William G. Tapply. I took workshops and classes in creating suspense, cybercrime, and crafting the mystery genre. With a favorably critiqued first draft in hand, I engaged an outstanding editor and made significant revisions with her feedback.

Now writing under my own name, C. T. Collier, my first mystery, Planted, launched in July and is enjoying a modest and positive response from the market. It’s been a suspenseful and satisfying process, with more twists and turns still to come.

C. T. Collier was born to solve logic puzzles, wear tweed, and drink Earl Grey tea. Her professional experience in cutthroat high tech and backstabbing higher education gave her endless opportunity to study intrigue. Add to that her longtime love of mysteries, and it’s no wonder she writes academic mysteries that draw inspiration from traditional whodunits. Her setting, Tompkins Falls, is a blend of several Finger Lakes towns, including her hometown, Seneca Falls, NY. Entirely fictional, Tompkins College is no college and every college. 
Facebook: kate.collier.315
Twitter: @TompkinsFalls

It’s Monday of spring break when Professor Lyssa Pennington’s backyard garden project unearths a loaded revolver. With no record of violence at their address and no related cold case, the Tompkins Falls police have no interest. But the Penningtons and a friend with the State Police believe there’s a body somewhere. Whose? Where? And who pulled the trigger?

Here’s the link to buy Planted, the first in The Penningtons Investigate:

cj Sez: Thanks, Kate, for the wonderful details about your path to mystery writer. You are one determined author! Congratulations on the release of your book, and best wishes for great sales and wonderful reviews.

I hope Lyrical Pens visitors will take a moment to leave a comment below and let you know how their experience compares with yours.

Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same. And before I forget (as if), the bundle of six romance novels, More Than Friends, launched on Sept 19 and is available until February 2017 for 99 cents

It's not too early to start thinking of Christmas presents, and here's hours and hours of entertainment, including my Choosing Carter, for less than a buck! Check it out and after you’ve read them, please leave the authors an Amazon review. Thanks.