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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Four Mistakes Mystery Writers Make

alt text at the Blood and Tea mystery writers' conference, L-R D.E. Johnson, Aaron Stander, Elizabeth Buzzelli, Lev Raphael (photo by jhy)

There was lots to take in and think about at the recent Blood and Tea mystery writers' conference in Ludington. Four Michigan mystery writers led workshops, and participated in two panel discussions.

The writers were D.E. Johnson, Aaron Stander, Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli, and Lev Raphael, seen left to right in the picture.

The conference was nearly over by the time this discussion was held, and we'd all become friends, so there was a fair amount of joking and teasing going on.

But, when things settled down, here are the mistakes these successful mystery writers noted:

D.E. Johnson- If you want to make money (as opposed to writing for yourself out of a need to do so), you have to pay attention to the market, and know what is selling.

Aaron Stander- Not being careful about details. If there is too much suspension of disbelief it will stop the reader cold. Make sure that you haven't said something totally ridiculous.

Elizabeth Buzzelli- Not having the courage to confront a major dramatic scene. Don't avoid including a good conflict where one naturally seems to fit.

Lev Raphael- In mysteries, deaths often don't have enough emotional impact on the protagonist or other characters, or just expressing the impact in cliches (they throw up).

Over the next few days, I'll try to share some of the other things from workshops that had an impact on me. It won't be comprehensive. Most of my notes are focused on things that caught my attention, rather than an overview or class-notes as if there were going to be a test.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Chapter 6 - Bury the Hatchet in Dead Mule Swamp

Bury the Hatchet in Dead Mule Swamp
Sometimes more complex is just that: complicated. This book is the most tangled I've ever tried to write, and sometimes I'm not sure which piece should come next.

One night earlier this week I had trouble getting to sleep, so I pondered "what next" for Bury the Hatchet. I realized quite quickly that I didn't really need any continuing description of the events that began in Chapter 5.

Sometimes writing a story is just as much about what to leave out, as what to put in. Sure, I could have spun out those events, but it wasn't necessary, and one sentence covering the outcome was fine, less boring, and moved things along.

Instead, Chapter 6 goes in a completely different direction. In fact, the reader might think the plot isn't being advanced, but that it only serves to develop characters. Hopefully, it does some of each.

An excerpt from Chapter 6:
    My brain was seriously foggy, and I might have dozed off because I jumped at the sound of a knock at the door. I hadn’t heard anyone drive in.
    The knocking was repeated, more insistently, and I hurried to the door. Whoever was out there was standing to the side, out of sight. I couldn’t see anyone through the old wavy glass door panels, and no vehicle was within view.
    “Who’s there?” I called.
    There was no answer, but a squareish shoulder eased into sight and the person knocked again.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Keeping Web Sites Up to Date

One of the biggest killers of interest in your work is having a web site with wrong information on it- usually because it's out of date.

I'm guilty of falling behind sometimes, too. But it does hurt. I just did some updating on my publishing site Books Leaving Footprints, and I've added two ways to get to know me better to the sidebar here. I've also added them to this blog post.

Here's an author interview with me on "A Cup of Coffee and a Good Book," an excellent show by Jennifer Walker.

Listen to internet radio with Jennifer Walker on Blog Talk Radio
And here's a news video created by the Petoskey News-Review of the day I completed my 4400-mile hike on the North Country Trail.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Chapter 5- Bury the Hatchet in Dead Mule Swamp

Bury the Hatchet in Dead Mule Swamp
This chapter was fun to write in one way. I've always admired authors like Ngaio Marsh and some others who can handle a whole room full of characters, keep them straight, make something important happen, and befuddle the reader enough that a major clue is slipped in right under their noses.

Well, I certainly didn't take on that big of a challenge. All I tried for was to have a room full of people, and have the scene make sense. Since I personally have trouble dealing with more than one or two people at a time, it's hard for me to write about crowds.

Tomorrow night, my writers' group will help me decide if I succeeded! Meanwhile, here's a sample:

An excerpt from Chapter 5:
    “Caulfield’s...” she began tentatively, but was cut off by Adele who swept toward us.
    “This is one sad day for our community,” she announced loudly, shaking her head.
    From a couple of tables away, a man yelled, “Where’s the Sheriff? It’s 6:58.”
    “Damn mysterious, if you ask me,” said a woman I only knew as a one of the Lutherans.
    People had continued to drift in, and now the room was packed. I saw Cora and her son Tom, but they sat down on the far side of the room, and didn’t even see me wave.
I wasn't sure when I began where this chapter should end. But when I got there, today, it was obvious!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Book Sales- August 2012

North Country Cache
  I've decided to post sales numbers for August, because if nothing else, I hope they will be a benchmark I can compare to later and see the growth.

My goal was to sell three ebooks a day, and I (or the books on their own merits) succeeded. Promotion is such a crap shoot, but I keep trying to get more links and mentions and reviews and...

With all venues together that I know about (North Country Cache is in a number of bookstores on consignment. I won't know those sales numbers for months), here are the August results. All the others are ebook sales.

North Country Cache (paperback only)- 7

Devotions for Hikers- 4
Get Off the Couch with Joan- 1

News from Dead Mule Swamp- 74
The Hollow Tree at Dead Mule Swamp- 1217 (free)
Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp- 39

Total ebooks sold for money- 118

My goal was to have more than 3 sales a day. If I'd remembered to count in the Smashwords distribution sales I would have realized I was already close to that and might have chosen something higher. Nevertheless, I'm pleased. So the overall average of paid ebooks was 3.8/ day. I was thinking I should only hope for 3.5 for September, but now 4/day is looking very possible.

If you are a member at Smashwords, and haven't clicked me as a favorite author, I'd really appreciate it if you would. You can do that at my Smashwords author page. It only takes a minute!