Tag: #crimefiction

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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My Favorite First Chapters – The Big Finish

I’m a huge Joseph Finder fan. Technology is featured prominently in most of his books, interwoven seamlessly. It’s not a big surprise, given his background in intelligence. When I want a refresher on describing technical topics in a reader-friendly manner, I read Joe’s books. He’s who I want to be when I grow up. One of my favorite first chapters is from Joe’s recent standalone, Judgment. The subtext is so thick you can cut it with a knife. We’re steeped in time, place, and the protagonist’s internal conflict with a subtle but growing undertone of menace despite a situation that doesn’t seem all that dangerous. I was left with a delicious sense of dread but I didn’t know why. That’s the very definition of a hook. This first chapter is what other first chapters aspire to be. I started reading Judgment on a flight from New York to San Francisco. By the time the plane landed, I had finished the book. Every chapter was a grabber that built on the chapters before it. I tried to put it down a couple of times to catch my breath and to savor the experience. Maybe watch a movie. But I kept going […]

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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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Keeping Up With My Writing Peeps

I attended my Sisters in Crime chapter meeting last weekend and it was the salve I didn’t know I needed. Attendees were all mindful of the perils of social interaction. Everyone kept a respectful distance from one another. Hand sanitizer flowed. But so did the smiles. I think we all had in the back of our minds that we may not see each other in person again for a while. Note that I say “in person.” Just because writers tend to skew introvert doesn’t mean we always want or like to be alone. Thanks to the Internet, we can still participate in our communities, whether local, regional, or global. In the current climate of “social distancing,” keeping in touch is more important than ever. I’m not a psychologist but I do know that isolation isn’t healthy. We’re mammals, and most mammals are pack animals. We need each other. I’ve learned a few tricks in maintaining personal connections from a distance, thanks to a day job that’s 24/7/365. First, of course, there’s social networks. Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. The danger of relying solely on these is the risk of feeding fear and anxiety so I tread lightly here. I’m a […]

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Writing in the Time of Coronavirus

These are turbulent times. Writing, and even reading, can feel like a frivolous luxury. I would argue just the opposite. I’ve lost both my parents so I have to rely on memories when I need their comfort. The only experience I can liken to the current global landscape is 9/11. It was the first time in my life when our country faced its own vulnerability. My parents had lived through previous periods of tumult so I asked them what to do, how to handle the sometimes overwhelming fear and anxiety. My mother, the pragmatist, told me to take care of myself, check in with friends and family often, and remember to give myself permission to live my life. Go on bike rides, go to the movies, laugh. My dad, the artist, said, “What are you working on these days? A painting? A sculpture? A story?” The question took me off guard. How could he think about art when the world was so scary? I said as much to him. A man of few words, he said, “Try it.” Even though he didn’t tell me why he suggested it, I took my dad’s advice. I picked up a novel I’d set […]

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My Art Deco Crime Fighters of Color & Today’s Crime Writers of Color

Featured 1930s Crime Fighters of Color In my 1930s Art Deco Mystery Series, it’s been an absolute joy to highlight marginalized people in history who fought to change the world when discriminatory laws were in place and the odds were stacked against them in a multitude of ways. One of my main characters is Mayor Fiorello La Guardia – New York’s three term mayor who was half-Italian and half-Jewish. It had only been about 40 years since Italians were allowed on the police force, not to mention the anti-Semitic views he endured. I loved adding Sam Battle to the cast of characters, the NYPD’s first black officer who saved lives, stopped a riot pretty much single handedly, and changed the force’s divides in powerful ways (Langston Hughes wrote a manuscript about him (!!!) and the book One Righteous Man: Samuel Battle and the Shattering of the Color Line in New York by Arthur Browne was written from it. Highly recommend).  Jane Bolin makes an appearance and will have future highlights. She was the first black woman to graduate Yale Law School, the first to join the NYC Bar Association, and the first to join the NYC Law Department. In 1939, Mayor La Guardia appointed her as the […]

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A Few of My Favorite People

All of us are actively involved in the writing and reading communities. We’re members of groups like Sisters in Crime (aka SinC) and Mystery Writers of America (aka MWA). These organizations offer fantastic opportunities to both writers and fans of crime fiction at national and local levels. A lot of conferences we all know and love are sponsored in part by these organizations. Those that come immediately to mind are California Crime Writers Conference, New England Crime Bake, Left Coast Crime, Mystery Writers Conference, and Bouchercon. Even if you can’t attend a conference, local/regional SinC and MWA meetings and events are often open to the public. Here are some of the folks I follow on social media for news of readings, mixers, and to get hyped for conferences: Sisters in Crime National Mystery Writers of America National Lori Rader-Day, President of SinC National and one of my heroes Meg Gardiner, President of MWA National and one of my heroes SinCNorcal and as many regional chapters as I can find MWANorcal and as many regional chapters as I can find Crime Writers of Color, a bunch of my heroes in one place Dru’s Book Musings, book world hero to us all […]

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