Fearless Writing

I’ve been reading Octavia Butler’s novel, Kindred, which is about “a modern black woman, who is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband, when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South.” From the opening page, this book is just as searing as you’d think it would be, and as I’ve been reading it, I’ve been thinking that if I had an idea for a book like this, it would terrify me and I’m not sure I could go there. So my question is two-fold. Have you ever been scared by something you wrote? Or, alternatively, what books have you read that you thought took courage to write? Keenan: I think I suffer from adrenal fatigue. Or denial. I don’t get scared anymore. I get bored. However, to address the brave book, I’d say it’s “The Liar’s Daughter” by Claire Allan.  Here’s my Goodreads review: Meet Heidi, the long-suffering dutiful step-daughter, Ciara, the long-suffering spiteful biological daughter, and Joe McKee, the man who molded both their lives and knows he does not deserve forgiveness for his sins. Joe is dying of cancer. Heidi is caring for him, despite her feelings towards him […]

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Assembling a Cast or Creating Characters?

I have two sons, born three years apart—raised in the same household by the same parents, attending the same schools, going on the same family vacations, and sharing many of the same life experiences. And yet, in spite of all they have in common, my sons couldn’t be more different. Let me quickly say, they are great friends, and they are both delightful, intelligent, interesting, and talented human beings, but their looks, their personalities, their interests in life, and their gifts are so different, so unique, they might have been born on different continents—even, I sometimes think, in different centuries. It’s the differences between people that make life interesting. And challenging. The same is true of the characters we create as authors. Years ago when I’d “finished” my first novel, a mentor who was helping me with dialogue said, “Your characters all sound like you.” Not surprising since I’d created them, but I had to learn how to give each character, even the relatively minor ones, unique speech patterns as well as individual personalities, histories, and emotional lives. In the world of fiction, this is called developing “fully realized characters.” Recently I came across a helpful article in Dramatics, an […]

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https://www.bouchercon2021.com/registration-information Last March, I was in San Diego at Left Coast Crime when the convention was shut down on the first night. Many of us stayed up way past our bedtimes, hanging out in the bar/restaurant, drifting from table to table. I didn’t want to go home. I don’t think anyone else did. Since then there have been virtual conference. But they just aren’t the same. I miss my friends. I miss talking about crime fiction writing with people who understand the art, craft, and business. Bouchercon is on! It’s the biggest fan convention in America, maybe anywhere. Guests of honor include Michael Connelly, Steph Cha, Craig Johnson, Charles and Caroline Todd, Alafair Burke, Ali Karim and Jonathan Marberry. There will be panels from Wednesday through Sunday with all of yours (and my) favorite authors sharing anecdotes. Wednesday evening, my buddy Ellen Byron will be having a release party, get this, in a bar! It’s going to be a blast. For Bouchercon tips, check out Ellen’s post here: 2021 – Twelve New Orleans Do’s and Don’ts – UPDATED with Shopping Tips! (ellenbyron.com) Check in! Are you going to B’con?

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A Matter of Broiling Importance

Turns out, broilers can be anywhere and nowhere, powered by gas or electricity, and mistaking a gas broiler for a storage cabinet can have…erm… torrid consequences.

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How writers recharge

Retreat? Recharge? Is there a difference and do writers need both? I’d argue yes. My fellow MissDemeanors shared their official Retreat thoughts last week, while I was on a Recharge trip. A recharge isn’t the same as a working trip where I’m running around researching a place, taking notes, jotting details on a map about smells and sounds, hoping to capture that perfect element that says “here.” My trip was a vacation.

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Get Away From it All

The Missdemeanors discuss finding places and times to focus on writing. If you had the chance to escape from your every day, where would you go? Join the discussion.

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Art Imitates Life: The Detective and the Serial Killer

I read a fascinating account about a police detective in New Jersey who solved a number of cases involving the same serial killer. The article about Robert Anzilotti written by Michael Wilson in the New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/13/nyregion/new-jersey-serial-killer-cottingham-anzilotti.html) gave a chilling account about Detective Anzilotti, who, days before his retirement, finally solved the last of the serial murders committed by Richard Cottingham. The story about Cottingham, who has been in prison since 1981when Detective Anzilotti was still a teenager, chronicles the brutal murders of young girls and women and is in its own right a riveting story. But, as a crime writer, I was equally fascinated by Detective Anzilotti as a character in his own story. He was more compelling than any cop in the many police procedurals I’ve read, and I have read many excellent ones.             Writing a credible character is integral to telling a story. The writer likes to think she’s telling the story, but it’s the characters she creates who actually reveal it. The character must be displayed in full human dimension, never as a cardboard cutout.             Within a one-page newspaper story, Anzilotti jumped off the page. I wanted to understand how he felt so […]

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Should we be writing about the pandemic? Now?

A few nights ago I attended a virtual reading at Neo-Noir at the Bar. Got to hear a number of exciting authors, among them Kellye Garrett, Lori Rader-Day and Ivy Pochoda. At one point, Pochoda mentioned that her new work was set during the pandemic. She’d gone to a panel where a number of writers were saying that they didn’t intend to write about the pandemic, and as soon as she heard them she thought, then I will. (She also read the opening pages of her new work, which started with someone looking at a tree, so you can imagine that I was on-board immediately.) She did get me thinking, however, about whether I intend to write about the pandemic. I’ve not been tempted, though not because I don’t find the subject intriguing. It’s the timing I can’t figure out. I’ve written a bit about 9/11, but years after the event. My concern is that I’ll be overtaken by events. By the time a book comes out, it will probably be in 2023. By then we might have forgotten all about it. Or we might be fighting off something worse. Coincidentally, I’ve been reading Alone in Berlin, which was written […]

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Silver Linings

Yesterday evening at 8pm, just as the sun in central Ohio was sinking below the horizon and the cicadas were considering the merits of silence at last, I logged onto Poisoned Pen Bookstore Facebook Live for a conversation with well-known bookstore owner Barbara Peters and the amazing writer and teacher Jane K. Cleland. What a privilege for a relative newcomer like me to be talking about writing mysteries with such kind and generous women. Barbara, editor-in-chief of Poisoned Pen Press and owner of The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona, is a well-known advocate for writers. Her store has a worldwide clientele. She reads more books in a year than most people read in a lifetime and still finds time to host an incredible number of interviews and events. She does it all, as it turns out, not for profit but for the love of good books. Both Jane and I write stories about American antiques dealers who solve crimes on the side. I’m a relative newcomer. My protagonist, Kate Hamilton, owns an antiques shop in Jackson Falls, Ohio, but has been spending most of her time recently in a small Suffolk village called Long Barston. The third in the […]

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Happy Solstice!

Solstice is coming up on June 21. It’s is a big deal in Alaska. Everything is blooming. The fish are running. And we have lots of sun. In Utqiagvik, the northern most city in Alaska, the sun rises on May 10 or 11 and sets on August 1 or 2. That’s 83 days of daylight. In Anchorage, where I live, 722 miles south of Utqiagvik, the sun rises on June 21st at 4:21 a.m. and sets at 11:42 p.m. That’s 19 hours and 21 minutes of daylight. But to tell the truth, the “night” isn’t dark – it’s more like dusk for a while. Most years we have a street fair in Anchorage. The cops and the fireman compete in feats of strength – very entertaining. There are carnival rides, fair food, face painting, and lots of booths. One year, they blocked off an entire street and filled it with sand for little kids to play in. This year, no fair. But I’m certain everyone will be celebrating in their own way. Lots of fisher people on the rivers. Lots of campers in the woods. Lots of hikers on the trails. I’ll probably work in an extra long bike ride […]

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