MISS DEMEANORS

My Favorite First Chapters – Day 3

I’m often asked about authors or novels I think best tackle techie topics without making me cringe. There are two standout authors to me, in this respect. Each take pains to get it right but make it look easy. They both are adept at adding touches of timelessness without sacrificing accuracy. That’s why I love them. First up is my friend and hero, Lisa Gardner. The first chapter of Never Tell is a perfect example of an author who embraces the influence technology can have on a story. Like it or not, our online lives leave breadcrumbs that sometimes provide insights to the darker side of our personal truths. The opening of this book hooks us with the damage wrought by just such a collision of what a character thought she knew to be true and conflicting digital information. By the end of the chapter, we know all is not as it seems and the truth lies in the ether. The cloak of foreshadowing is draped in technology while the word “computer” is mentioned only once. After reading this first chapter, I knew I was buckled in for a great ride. Never Tell takes us on a journey through the […]

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My Favorite First Chapters – Day 2

In my second installment of first chapters I love, today I’m highlighting our very own Alexia Gordon for a very specific reason. One of the hardest feats to pull off is how to start a book that’s part of a series. A population of readers are already familiar with the principal characters, while each book in a series needs to stand on its own to attract new fans. In my completely unscientific study, researching the careers of authors I hope to emulate, I’ve noticed authors’ third books in a series tend to hit bestseller lists first. The all-important first chapter needs to hook existing fans and newcomers alike. I’m a big fan of Alexia’s Gethsemane Brown series. What’s not to love about music, an American fish-out-of-water in Ireland, and a ghostly sidekick solving crimes in a tight-knit community? In Killing in C Sharp, Alexia makes the first chapter challenge look effortless. We’re introduced to Gethsemane, her background, current location, and the ghost of the composer whose home she now occupies all while laying out this episode’s characters and theme. Alexia’s words are lyrical and whimsical, deftly setting the stage with a maestro’s ease (puns intended – read the book). By […]

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My Favorite First Chapters

The first chapter of any book is critical. It sets the stage for everything that comes after it. Tone, setting, point of view, and main characters are all established within the first few pages. Personally, I revise these pages more than any other, which is why I appreciate the first chapters written by other by others. One of my favorite first chapters comes from Lou Berney’s November Road. It’s a master class in openings. It’s so perfect that when I read it the first time, I went back and reread it two more times before moving on to Chapter 2. This isn’t a knock – I definitely got hooked and couldn’t wait to read more. It’s just that the first chapter packed such a wallop, I had to go back to study it. The third time was just for fun and when I went on to devour the rest of the book. I’ve been told quoting another author’s work here could be a potential legal quagmire so, instead, I’ll just explain why this book is my go-to reference on how to open a standalone novel. I also encourage you to read November Road, if you haven’t already. It’s obvious Lou […]

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Scammers Work From Home, Too

I’m departing from talking about reading or writing today. In the last week, I’ve had multiple friends reach out to ask me about emails they received. The messages threatened to expose personal or suggestive information about the recipient unless they paid the sender Bitcoin. The sender included one of each recipient’s correct passwords in these emails as “proof” of the sender’s access. It’s a scam. The friends who reached out to me already knew it was a scam. But…but… what about those passwords? Those were correct. Even though everything about these emails screams out “scam,” could these threats be real? You already know the answer. Say it with me – no. So how are the scammers doing this password thing? Data breaches. In 2019, there were over 7 billion records exposed. In January 2019 alone, hackers circulated more than 2 billion usernames and passwords in dark web forums. Chances are really high that bad guys know the password to at least one of your online accounts. Probably more than one. Before sending out these extortion emails, the savvier scammers will test passwords associated with your email address to verify that the one they include in their scam is valid, all […]

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What I Love About Writing, Part 5: Revision

One of my fantasies is dreaming up a complete plot and typing it into my computer, full-blown like the birth of Venus. Maybe that happens for some writers. For me, the reality looks nothing like that.

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What I Love About Writing Fiction, Part 4: Romancing the Words

“I hate writing. I love having written.” –Dorothy Parker
One aspect of writing is pure joy for me, though–romancing the words.

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What I Love About Writing Fiction, Part 3: Weaving a Twisty Plot

What does it take to keep the reader turning pages? Story structure. Rules are made to be broken, but first you have to know the rules.

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What I Love About Writing Fiction, Part 2: Creating Interesting Characters

What we remember best about the books we’ve read is usually not the plot or the setting, as wonderful as these can be. We remember characters. Some of them walk into our hearts and never leave us. I recently finished reading the New York Times Bestseller We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet for my book club. The novel is set in the south of England (a favorite setting), during and after World War 2 (a favorite time frame). The story begins when a young woman, Ellen Parr, finds an abandoned child, little Pamela, asleep on a bus. The theme is courage and love—the fierce love of a woman’s heart for a child. The plot, spanning decades, is beautifully laid out, but what will stick with me forever is Ellen herself—a believable, relatable, flawed, lovable human being. Some fictional characters achieve immortality—Miss Havisham (Great Expectations), Elizabeth Bennet (Pride & Prejudice), Atticus Finch (To Kill A Mockingbird), Sherlock Holmes (The Complete Sherlock Holmes), Gandalf (Lord of the Rings), Lisbeth Salander (The Millennium Trilogy), Celie (The Color Purple), Beatrice (Much Ado About Nothing), Peter Pan (Peter Pan), Scarlett O’Hara (Gone With The Wind), Mole (The Wind In The Willows), Armand Gamache (The […]

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What I Love About Writing Fiction, Part I: Creating a World

Novelist Alice Hoffman said once, “Place matters to me. Invented place matters more.” Creating a world is one of the joys of writing fiction.

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Survival Tip #4 Help

I’m fortunate to be be friends with a doctor who works at one of the New York City hospitals. You can only imagine what his life has been like the last few weeks. Yet, he is one of the most cheerful people I know. Of course, he started off cheerful, which helps, but I think he’s also buoyed by the knowledge that the work he’s doing is so meaningful. This is what he’s trained to do. One thing I’ve noticed is that people who’ve found ways to help are navigating this crisis better than others. We can’t all work on the front-lines, but there are opportunities. I’ve made a list of some ways in which writers can help. 1. A number of organizations are looking for people to write letters. One of them, Operation Gratitude, sends letters to our first-responders and members of the military. 2. Support independent bookstores. Many of them are struggling, and it’s a huge help if you can order books to be shipped, or use curbside pick-up, or buy a gift card. Also, Bookshop.org is donating 10% of its sales to booksellers in need. 3. Support other writers by donating to organizations that are helping them. […]

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