MISS DEMEANORS

What’s the Story?: True Crime Fraud

Long a popular subject in fiction—The Sting, Paper Moon, The Grifters, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Six Degrees of Separation—fraud and con games have become a true crime staple. From early entries like the 2005 film, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, and the 2008 book, The Billionaire’s Vinegar, we now have television series (the Stacy Keach-narrated “American Greed” on CNBC), more films (Sour Grapes in 2016, competing Fyre Festival documentaries in 2019), books (King Con, Bad Blood), and podcasts (Drilled, Swindled, American Greed, The Dropout, Dirty John, The Dream). Podcasts, in particular, have embraced the art of the con as a rich source of material. Some, like the American Greed podcast, a spin-off of the CNBC show, offer a brief report of a specific case, similar to a news brief that might pop up in your Facebook or Google newsfeed. Others, like Swindled, offer a deeper dive into each crime, giving listeners more background on the perpetrators and victims along with some analysis of the case. Still others, like Drilled, The Dream, and The Dropout, devote an entire series to a single con, like climate change denial (Drilled), multi-level marketing schemes (The Dream), and the Theranos scandal (The Dropout). […]

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Fool Me Once…

Not all crimes involve a dead body. Robbery, assault, and fraud are as criminal as murder and can be as destructive to victims and families. Fraud, especially, fascinates me. How can someone trick other competent adults (I omit children and incompetent adults because people who prey on them are a special class of evil) into giving them money, property, love, and trust? I’m on the cynical end of the spectrum, so that last one, trust, in particular confuses me. Some frauds are easy to understand. The con artist plays on people’s greed, sympathy, or fear/confusion. Take greed. Face it, if you fall for a con who tells you, up front, he/she needs you to help them launder money—and that’s what helping some deposed royal or disgraced official or surviving spouse smuggle their “inheritance” or other shady fortune out of their country is—then you’re greedy enough to agree to an illegal act for the promise of a cut and shame on you. Shame on the con artist who takes advantage of a tender-hearted person’s desire to help or to rescue someone. Crooks who run charity scams and ransom scams are bottom-feeders and deserve a special place in hell. Cons who ape […]

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Extra-special near pathological attention… to first and last lines….

Tracee: I’m given a bit of time this week to the importance first lines and pages in a manuscript.  Do you work on these with special attention? Well, not special, but extra-special near pathological attention?  Robin: If by “extra-special near pathological level” you mean “agonize day and night then second-guess myself to this very day,” yes. The first page is the most rewritten part of any manuscript for me. Runner up is the rest of the first chapter. I may revise the entire book 4 – 5 times, but I typically revise the first chapter 5 – 10 times. I literally pace like a caged animal while mulling over, writing, and rewriting the first sentence. Once I hit on a “grabber,” I’ll stick with it til I can picture it on my tombstone then I make sure the rest of the chapter measures up. Susan: I’m definitely in the pathological-attention- to-first- paragraph camp. However, the flip side of that is that once I’m happy with my first paragraph, I’m generally happy with the book. Or as happy as anyone ever is with anything. I can then move forward and enjoy myself. Although occasionally I’ll be reading someone else’s book and want to […]

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Valentines/Galentines. What’s in a name?

February 14th already? What happened to January? From all of the Miss Demeanors….. we hope your year is going well, filled with lots of reading and/or writing. We’d love to hear what books have made you feel extra good so far this year. Or what books you keep on hand for that pick me up? Anyway you look at today…. have a happy one.

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First pages.

If the first line sets the tone, the first page(s) lay the groundwork for the entire tapestry of a book. What does the reader expect: genre, point of view, place (time and geography). How about mood?  If the compelling first line did its work the reader is interested. Now you have to round out the experience. Did the first sentence make them uncomfortable? Or pose a question. I’m again reminded of Celeste Ng’s “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” The opening to Everything I Never Told You. The first pages need to immerse the reader in the story, and most likely in a significant, if not main character. What kind of protagonist is at the heart of the tale?  What about the first pages of a “next in series?” The first pages must bring fans back to a familiar world while introducing it to new readers for the first time.  This brings the complication of repeating information in a new way. Reassuring fans that they will enjoy this installation as much as they did the last.  For ongoing discussion and examination of this topic look to the weekly First Two Pages blog hosted by Art Taylor athttp://www.arttaylorwriter.com/blog

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First lines.

I didn’t grow up in the tradition of memorizing great swaths of poetry or prose (this is an entire subject of great regret) so it means something when I can quote a first line without pulling out the book. Think about this. It is one line. The first line. The one read before all the others on hundreds of pages, and yet it sticks in the mind. For example – Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were. (Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind) The small boys came early to the hanging. (Ken Follett, The Pillars of the Earth) The last camel collapsed at noon. (Ken Follett, The Key to Rebecca) The gale tore at him and he felt its bite deep within and he knew that if they did not make landfall in three days they would all be dead. (James Clavell, Shogun) Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. (Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina) More recently – Lydia is dead. They they don’t know this yet. (Celeste Ng, Everything I Never Told You) The snow in the mountains was melting […]

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Lots of counting in writing

Here’s how I see my current WIP by the numbers: Daily word counts to keep the manuscript on schedule, or give the illusion of progress. Overall word count, with plusses and minuses every day.  Number of times I’ve read the manuscript.  Number of weeks (months) set aside before the final edit. Number of working titles.  Number of revisions I’ll admit to.  Number of words (by specific example) to be checked and possibly purged. Number of time the specifics of the murder have been changed. My numbers look like this: 1,000+/-; 78,000; a gazillion; hmmm, 3; 22; 13, 3 and counting. What are your writing numbers?

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How Do You Even Brand?

My brand of “cyber” was easy to identify and build on (once I listened). What about you – how did you define your brand? What tidbit of advice would you give to someone just starting out? Tracee: I hear a voice echoing in my head, Paula perhaps! saying focus on writing the best book you can. I’d say that’s what I’d like to develop as my brand…. but that is in process. More literally, I’d say that my brand will be (is?)  books that are tightly tied to place. I’m not sure I’ve done a good job developing a brand, but I am sure that this is a theme I won’t sway from. Going back to the advice to those starting out – do all the things you have to (website, twitter, etc) but most importantly write the best book you can. That’s a brand you’ll never regret. Cate: I don’t have a brand. If someone figures it out, let me know. Maybe domestic suspense writer…  Tracee: I thought about this question a bit more and think that brand and promotion are separate things. Cate’s book brand is definitely excellent domestic suspense but that doesn’t mean that’s ALL that she […]

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Left Coast Party

Attending Left Coast Crime this year? Join me, along with several of the short story authors appearing in Sisters in Crime NorCal’s brand-new anthology of crime and mystery fiction, FAULT LINES, for a Happy Hour toast to our readers! We’ll be at the Grain Tasting Bar in the main lobby of the Hyatt Regency Vancouver on Thursday March 28 at 5pm. What’s Left Coast Crime? It’s the annual gathering of authors, readers, critics, librarians, publishers, and other fans of mysteries held during the first quarter of the year in Western North America. Hope to see you there!

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The Power of Yes

Finding your audience doesn’t have to wait for your first novel to come out. Publicists have told me the promotion lifecycle starts months ahead. I started earlier. Years earlier. The first big conference I attended was the California Crime Writers Conference in 2013. On the registration form, they asked for volunteers. I clicked “Yes” without hesitation. I didn’t have a clue what I’d be asked to do. I also didn’t have an agent at the time. What I did have was the first 50 pages of the first draft of my first cyber crime thriller. I also had many years’ worth of experience attending industry events and meetups for my day job and knew the content at conferences is only part of the draw. Networking is equally (perhaps more) important. I really didn’t care what would be asked of me as a volunteer at CCWC, I just cared that I would get to interact with published authors and agents. That was where I first learned that the crime fiction community is filled with incredibly supportive, kind, and funny people. Over the next few years, I joined Mystery Writers of America and Sisters In Crime, and attended more conferences and local […]

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Recent Posts

Fool Me Once…
  • February 18, 2019
First pages.
  • February 13, 2019
First lines.
  • February 12, 2019
Lots of counting in writing
  • February 11, 2019
How Do You Even Brand?
  • February 8, 2019
Left Coast Party
  • February 7, 2019
The Power of Yes
  • February 5, 2019

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