MISS DEMEANORS

The Real World Or Fiction?

Should writers incorporate real-world events into the fictional world of their novels? The question isn’t how much your characters actually know about these events but rather why the events matter to them. That takes perspective.

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Breaking the Rules: The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Instead of staying indoors and watching Hamilton during the July fourth weekend, I practiced social distancing by heading for the hammock and a summer read. I chose The Guest List by Lucy Foley, which is set on an island off the west coast of Ireland. I’m very partial to islands, having written two books set on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. I’m also a huge fan of the Wild Atlantic Way where I traveled last year and was eager to return, albeit by hammock. The Guest List takes place during an elaborate and exclusive weekend wedding when an unexpected coastal storm strikes. Weddings are notorious for high conflict, so naturally, a murder takes place. With so much to recommend it, you won’t be surprised to hear that I loved the book. Foley is a gifted writer, equally as talented at describing setting dripping with atmosphere as she is at creating complex characters, who simultaneously can be flawed yet likable and sympathetic. She manages to transport her readers deftly to the place she wants them to experience the story and in the shoes of the character she wants them to be standing in. Now I understand why it’s called […]

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A Book Long Enough to Suit

A deadly pandemic. Protests against racial injustice. Unemployment at levels not seen since the Great Depression. Seismic social upheaval. Wrapping your mind around 2020 presents challenges most of us never imagined facing. Many of us struggle to find the energy to get excited about anything. We’re so overwhelmed, it’s tough to find things to feel good about. Fortunately, books exist. Whatever your preferred format, paper, electronic, or audio, books can help you process what’s happening around you, learn about experiences and perspectives different from your own, help put your fears into perspective, or provide respite. Books, in short, can make you feel good. Here are a few that do that for me: A Step So Grave by Catriona McPherson. Set in the 1930s, this offering in the Dandy Gilver series pays homage to Golden Age Detective fiction without sacrificing a contemporary feel. Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett. A cozy with a Black amateur sleuth. ‘Nuff said. Lies She Told by Cate Holahan. A domestic thriller with a strong, independent female protagonist who drives the action instead of reacts to events. Fer de Lance by Rex Stout. His entire Nero Wolfe series, actually. Because Archie Goodwin. The Return of Retief by […]

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News and the future. Or is it news that there is a future?

Thinking about my fellow MissDemeanors as this week draws to a close. Lots of good work going on among them, including tales of domestic suspense, far away places, ghosts, Christmas, and some very interesting tech things (but no spoilers here). There is also news of one of our very own preparing to attend the Naval War College (big applause here for the multi talented Alexia Gordon on earning her spot at this prestigious institution.) Given that she’s going to study strategy I was reminded that having a strategy for the second half of 2020 might be a good idea. After all, I have a pretty good idea about the general scope of things: basically stay at home. (On the other hand, and no offense to all those studying at war colleges around the world, sometimes strategies don’t play out as intended. Schlieffen Plan, anyone?) Part of my Fall plan is to incorporate NaNoWriMo. (Again, hat tip to our resident strategist Alexia, whose participation in NaNoWriMo has inspired me.) Any other NaNoWriMo veterans out there? You know better than I do that the idea behind it is an online community of support to write a novel in one month. This is […]

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My months of trying to rest and relax: a Covid induced baking frenzy.

Over the past months I’ve managed to meet obligations noted on my calendar– although they don’t exist in the scope of a day or even a time of day. They simply are appointments which must be tended to. Rough translation: if it’s not on my calendar it won’t happen. Because something had happened the second week of the month my entire life or every Tuesday for years doesn’t assure it cutting through Covid self-quarantine fog. Even trash and recycling days must be marked on the calendar. In fact, every day is Saturday in the sense of hours untouched by the strains of external life. Although I’ve yet to miss a meal.  That’s not to say I haven’t been productive. I’ve turned a manuscript in to my agent, and have advanced on details of two other ideas. I’ve also learned how to bake many forms of bread and manage to tend to my own sour dough starter. How can I remember to feed sour dough starter when I can’t remember to do much else without a prompt? Perhaps the answer lies in the ‘not missing a meal.’ There’s a psychological study in there somewhere, along with the psychology of toilet paper. […]

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Social (Network) Distancing

A topic that comes up at nearly every writers conference or workshop is social networks. Most insiders agree there’s value in a social media presence. They also agree there’s no “right” network to join between Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. The right one is the one where you feel comfortable consistently interacting and engaging with readers and other writers. Personally, I’m a fan of Twitter. No particular reason, I just gravitated to it. The lens I view these platforms through is a little different, though. Before I reply to a tweet or retweet, my first thought is how the information may be used. Or, rather, misused. Call it an occupational hazard. A good example happened last week. Someone posted what appeared to be an innocent question, “Who is your high school’s most famous alumni?” Over 6,700 people answered, including several authors I know in real life and some I Twitter-know. I was about to respond, too. Seemed harmless, right? Then I realized the answer revealed key information that can and probably will be misused. See, over the last few years, there have been massive data breaches exposing personally identifiable information on more than 9 billion people. On any given day, […]

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I Am A Nasty Woman

In the fall of 2018, my friend and fabulous noir crime fiction author, Kelli Stanley, and I were on the faculty of the Mystery Writers Conference in Corte Madera, California. Kelli had just founded Nasty Woman Press, in response to current events. She wanted to bring the writing community together to produce an anthology that spoke to the theme of women’s empowerment and support Planned Parenthood. That’s the day that I, and so many authors I admire, including Heather Graham, Cara Black, Hallie Ephron, Rachel Howzell Hall, and Anne Lamott, became a Nasty Woman. Kelli’s vision is available today. Shattering Glass is the first Nasty Woman Press anthology, featuring short stories, conversations, interviews, and essays. It’s a unique experience unlike anything I’ve ever read. I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of it.

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Pure Word Music

I was about thirteen, an impressionable age, when among the stacks in my small hometown library, I stumbled upon the novels of P. G. Wodehouse (pronounced “Woodhouse,” by the way). For the first time in my life I realized that a story could be brilliant, not only for what was said but also for how it was said.

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Many Voices, Many Stories

Voice isn’t content; it’s the way that content is translated onto the page. Voice is easy to recognize in music. Take the same song lyrics sung, for example, by Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Dolly Parton, and Little Richard. You’d never mistake one for the other. In the same way, you’d never confuse Charles Dickens with J. R. R. Tolkien or Hawthorne with Louise Penny. Your voice as an author is yours alone. Developing your authorial voice takes time.

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On The Short Side

“Surely, moving to Columbus is all Gerald and Annette Reed need to start a new life and escape their demons…”
Mercedes King is the author of “An Agreeable Wife For A Suitable Husband,” one of the stories in the newly published Columbus Noir anthology by Akashic Books. Columbus Noir was the 101st installment in the series—and the first for Ohio.

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