12 Crime Lab Tidbits

Taking Marica at her word. Here’s this week’s post at misterio press, which you all might find interesting.

12 Crime Lab Tidbits

by Vinnie Hansen

In March, I visited the Santa Clara Crime Lab because hey, that’s the kind of thing crime writers do on a lovely spring day.

My husband, Danny, went along. He enjoys police info, too. I guess you better if you’re married to a mystery author.

IMG_1420-624x468

We were disappointed to learn that we would not be able to traipse about the lab. Even though the event was advertised as a “virtual” tour, when Danny and I visited the FBI Crime Lab in San Francisco, our guide led us right up to the line of weapons waiting for rifling tests.

Read More…

 

Hope you feel better soon, Marcia!!!

 

To Write or Not To Write Short #amwriting

by Kassandra Lamb

Hi all!  Marcia and I thought you might find my guest post interesting. I’m over at Janice Hardy’s Fiction University today, talking about the pros and cons of writing short stories and novellas versus full-length novels.

Please check it out (and share if you are so inclined).

To Write or Not To Write Short?

a SomedayIsHere FINAL

Short stories, novellas, novels—what’s the best route to go as a fiction writer? Are there advantages to writing short?

This is a more complicated question than it may seem to be on the surface. There are several factors to consider:

● The definition of a short story vs. a novella
● The appeal of writing short for the author
● How readers feel about short stories and novellas vs. full-length novels
● The benefits of shorts for authors
● The bottom line: how much can you make off of shorts?

In order to give you more than just my take on writing short, I surveyed several authors from various genres. I’ve included their experiences along with my own, and in some cases, quoted them when they said it better than I could.

Definitions:

First let’s define our terms. A novel is considered to be full-length if it is at least 40,000 words. A novella is usually defined as 17,500 to 40,000 words. Technically, a short story is under 7,500 words.

There is this thing called a novelette that is 7,500 to 17,500 words, but the reality is that readers have rarely heard of this term. The 12K novelette I published several years ago is almost always referred to as a short story in reviews, and even my 25K novellas are sometimes viewed as short stories by readers.

So perhaps we should be defining short versus long differently. A “short” story, regardless of its length, is one with a simpler story arc, few if any subplots and simpler character arcs for its main character(s).

The Appeal of Writing Short:

To put it bluntly, it’s quick and easy… READ MORE

8 Tips for Short and Sweet Descriptions in Fiction #FabulousFridayGuestBlogger

by Kassandra Lamb

image00005-cropped

While editing the book I’m releasing tomorrow, and especially while trying to pare down the scenes that beta readers and my editor said were dragging, I truly came to appreciate the importance of a finely honed description.

Descriptions in fiction are needed to ground the reader in the setting and allow him/her to visualize characters. But they can also bog down the pace and bore the reader if they are too long, and they can be jarring if they’re in the wrong spot. Today I’d like to share some thoughts about how to make descriptions concise and effective.

1. Why descriptions are so important. People’s brains tend to show a preference for one sense over the others when processing information, and which sense is in the lead varies from person to person. Some people are primarily auditory (30% of U.S. population); they process words and sounds far easier than what they see or sense in other ways. Others are primarily kinesthetic, i.e., movement and touch-oriented (3%). A rare few are primarily smell and taste-oriented. Continue reading

#Writing Craft: book review of WRITING DEEP POINT OF VIEW by Rayne Hall

I though I would share with you a review I did earlier today, and suggest that if you haven’t yet discovered Rayne Hall’s Writing Craft books, you might like to take a look.

This one is the newly published thirteenth volume, and other titles in the series include:

  • Writing Vivid Settings
  • Why does my book not sell?
  • Writing Fight Scenes
  • Twitter for Writers
  • Writing about Villains
  • The Word Loss Diet

These books are not aimed at beginners, but at authors who want to improve their craft. They are succinct and brimming with knowledge from an author of more than 50 books.

I consider myself a fair writer, and I learn something from every one.

So without further ado, here is my review:

Writing Deep Point Of View: Professional Techniques for Fiction Authors (Writer's Craft Book 13)Writing Deep Point Of View: Professional Techniques for Fiction Authors by Rayne Hall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the thirteenth book in Rayne Hall’s Writer’s Craft Book Series, and like the others, it does what it says on the tin.
As an author, writing in deep point of view is a skill you will probably want to master, as it gives readers the most intense experience, allowing them not just to read about characters, but to inhabit their thoughts and emotions; to ‘become’ the character. This depth of identity with a fictional character is what makes the book live in a reader’s mind long after they’ve finished it, and drives them back for more as soon as they can get their hands on your next novel.
Using examples and exercises split into simple-to-follow categories, Hall makes the whole process simple to understand and execute. It isn’t a book for total beginners, rather for those ready to improve and expand their writing skills, so if that’s you, I’d advise you to grab a copy now.
On a personal level as a writer of fantasy novels, I found the chapters on character, sensory and gender filters (chapters 4 – 6) of particular interest, plus those on character thoughts and emotions (chapters 9 and 11), and I know I will be returning often to chapter 17, and its handy list of word choices.

View all my reviews

 

Have your #reading habits changed since the advent of #ebooks?

I posted this on my own blog a couple of days ago, and thought as it has relevance to indie authors, I would share it here as well.

1796593_669443539789357_731656816_n

Like so many, when ebooks first arrived on the scene I was a bit sniffy about them – “I like a real book,” I said.

I know quite a few who still haven’t succumbed to the electronic reader, though they are a dwindling group.

When I finally embraced the indie revolution and decided to self-publish, it went without saying that I purchased an ebook reader (Kindle Fire, in my case), and downloaded a kindle app to all my devices, so I could:

  1. check out my own books
  2. check out the competition
  3. read lots and lots of books that didn’t cost much and didn’t take over every shelf/cupboard/window ledge (and under beds) in my entire house.

Next, becoming an indie author and maintaining a blog involved producing content, and after a bit of experimentation, I settled on a mix of news, reviews, articles on writing – and hosting other authors on blog tours.

As a result, I find myself signing up for a number of review tours, and reading books I didn’t originally go shopping for, but which sound interesting. And here is where I’ve noticed how far my reading habits have changed.

Sadly, I find I’m becoming less tolerant. Back in the day, when books cost £8 – £10 a copy, I would read from cover to cover whether I was enthralled or not. I’d paid for the book and damned if I wasn’t going to get my money’s worth!

Those books were, of course, traditionally published; but that doesn’t mean to say they were all good – I’ve read many a turkey and wondered how the hell it got published. But no matter how crappy it was, my habit was to always finish.

Nowadays? My habit has been well and truly broken.

My kindle is stuffed to bursting with far more books than I will ever read, and I add more daily. The majority are indie books, and many are very good.

Unfortunately, many are not.

I really hate adding to my DNF list, as I know intimately how much time has gone into writing each and every book; the passion, the agonising over whether it’s good enough, the money spent (patently not on all of them, but most). But with that plethora of reading material available, I just don’t have time to invest in a book I’m not enthralled by.

Hence the change in habit. I now give a book 2 chapters to win me over (provided I haven’t ditched it before that, due to formatting and writing errors, or construction and/or word choice I just can’t bear), and if I’m not thoroughly hooked by then, I stop and delete.

This post, like my earlier rant about cliff hanger endings here, has been prompted by a book I really wanted to like, but just couldn’t. I took it on as part of a review tour, and had to pull out (which I feel slightly guilty about), but the first chapter left me cold, and while the second was markedly better, I realised that it was the main character I did not care for, so not a good basis on which to continue.

disappointed

The concept is terrific. I scanned the book to see where it was going, and the plot looks as good as it promised to be from the blurb. But that MC? I understand the issues with writing a somewhat unsympathetic character, and this was an exiled fae, with major issues in his life that led him to be rather cold and unpredictable emotionally and in his dealings with other people. I get that. But I couldn’t warm to him, so sadly that was that.

I find that I’m also much quicker to dismiss a book on its blurb – if I’m not hooked in the first two sentences, I don’t look any further.

I find this change a bit sad, but I’m guessing there are many other readers out there becoming more discriminating too, and I take it as a wake up call – indies, polish that blurb until it can’t fail but grab the right reader (of course it must be tailored to the genre), and for goodness sake, start your book with a dynamite scene!

How long do you give a book before you put it aside? Or do you still doggedly finish everything you start?

Why use #hashtags in your blog post titles?

If you’ve seen any of my blog posts, you may have noticed that I use hashtags in the titles.

You may be wondering why, as it doesn’t always look that attractive.

But wait! Not so long ago Marcia was exhorting us to ‘share, share, share’ – and rightly so.

squirrel

Having those neat little share buttons at the end of the post makes it so simple – but how effective are your shares?

If you’re sharing to Facebook, then its likely to be to your closer group of friends; to Google, your like-minded associates.

But to Twitter?

Have you looked at the tweets generated by the share buttons, before you click on ‘tweet’?

They include the title of your piece – but unless the sharer takes the time to add hashtags, they go out with, often, a title that strangers might not find interesting.

If, on the other hand, you put appropriate hashtags into your title, hey presto! There they are in the ready generated tweet, so anybody looking at the hashtagged subjects you’ve chosen will see the tweet, and hopefully come to take a look at your blog post.

And that, dear friends, is why there are Twitter hashtags in my blog post titles.

makeintentionsknown-220x135

And if you’re not sure what hashtag to use, here is a post with an exhaustive list of tags just for authors:

http://publishedtodeath.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/225-hashtags-for-writers.html?showComment=1430150581560#c8518488463420417282

Questions anyone?

Coming out to the ones you love about your alternative (writing) lifestyle

image By Ned Hickson

It began with my parents of course, who held hands as I explained that I had always felt “different,” and that I wanted to embrace who I was, without shame, hopefully with their acceptance and approval. They both exchanged glances, my mother squeezing my father’s hand and offering him a worried smile before turning back to me. She knew what was coming and slowly blinked, nodding her head ever so slightly, encouraging me.

I cleared my throat. Took a deep breath.

“Mom… Dad… I think I might be a writer.”

It’s been many years since I came out of the closet. Or, in my case, the laundry room, which is where I did most of my writing until becoming a columnist in 1998. But before that — before I actually started getting paid to write — that conversation replayed itself many times over the years with family, friends and co-workers, most of whom thought of my writing as something akin to collecting salt and pepper shakers; a “unique” hobby that I was asked not to talk about at parties.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but for people who don’t know you — it makes them uncomfortable when your eyes light up like that.”

The bottom line is that no one took my writing seriously (And, yes, I realize the irony of that statement considering I am a humor columnist, but still…). In retrospect, there were many reasons why my wanting to be a writer was perceived as a bucket list item instead of a legitimate rung on my life ladder — beginning with my own perception of “wanting to be” a writer. Because we’re conditioned from an early age to view money as a prime indicator of success and achievement, we naturally use that same measuring stick as validation when it comes to pursuits that don’t fall into traditional categories.

In short: If you aren’t getting paid for it, then you’re not legitimate.

That’s like saying you can’t include “skydiving instructor” among the achievements in your obituary just because your parachute didn’t open the last time you jumped. Even if you’ve landed flat on your face in terms of monetary or publishing success with your writing, it doesn’t mean you aren’t a writer.

It just means there’s a good possibility that every publisher you’ve submitted your work to was a skydiving instructor who died before they could read your masterpiece. I honestly can’t tell you how many publishers plunged to their death before I saw my first words in print.

Regardless, if you spend time formulating words for the sheer enjoyment while, at the same time, agonizing over those very same words, congratulations:

You are a writer.

How do I know this? Because no one who isn’t a writer would put themselves through this process. Ask the average person on the street to write five paragraphs about their favorite memory while holding them at gun point, and most will help you squeeze the trigger. The ones who don’t?

They’re the writers.

Or masochists. Which I realize is somewhat redundant.

My point is the only legitimacy you need as a writer comes from yourself — and it starts with believing what you do is important and has value that isn’t measured in dollars or even common sense in the eyes of others. Let’s face it, toiling alone over the choice and arrangement of words on a page doesn’t make much sense to anyone who isn’t a writer. They may nod their heads and smile when you try to explain it, but in their minds they’re wondering if buying a home so close to high-voltage power lines was a mistake. Again, the only thing that matters is giving yourself permission to take your writing seriously.

And by “serious,” I don’t just mean getting published or paid for the words you write. It simply means serious enough that you make time for it, in the same way you do other routines that are important to your daily life.

If you take your writing seriously, so will others.

And if they don’t? It doesn’t make you any less a writer. Published or unpublished, novelist or columnist, fiction or non-fiction, accept yourself for being a writer and always make time for putting those words down on paper. It is both a gift and a responsibility — and a pursuit that is uniquely your own to determine and discover. Make it part of your lifestyle and treasure those who embrace it with you.

As for everyone else?

I hear that skydiving makes a great holiday gift…

_______________________________________________________________

image

Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.

Sometimes, your Muse needs to be romanced

imageBy Ned Hickson

Today, we’re going to focus on tips for writing intimate love scenes. Or more specifically, how to effectively insert (see what I just did there?) descriptive phrases like:

“He grabbed her bare shoulders, caressing them with the kind of longing one only reserves for fresh-baked bread …”

And

“She de-pansed him in one quick motion, opening a floodgate of memories from freshman gym class…”

As you can see, this is a genre I am intimately familiar with because, as I’ve said before, you need to write what you know. And believe me, when it comes to intimacy no one knows it better than myself. That said, as a personal favor to 50 Shades author E.L. James, I will actually NOT be offering insights regarding the the ins-and-outs (See how I did that?) of writing descriptive lovemaking scenes. The reason is because her latest book, “14 Shades of Puce” is due out later this week, and she is concerned many of you would recognize some of the techniques I would be discussing today.

In short, that “fresh bread” example wasn’t something I pulled out (are you following these?) just willy-nilly (Did I mention subtlety is important?)

So instead, we will turn our attention to a different aspect of romance and writing. If you’re a serious writer who also happens to be in an equally serious relationship, I have news for you: We all know about your love triangle! That’s right! Don’t try to deny it. We know you’ve been spending a lot of time together. And yes, they get your heart racing too because, when things are going right, there’s nothing quite like it. Now, before I inadvertently send someone off to confess an affair they think may have happened because they woke up at a neighbor’s New Year’s Eve party clutching a pair of party favors in a suggestive manner, let me put your fears to rest. In this case we’re talking about your writing Muse; that voice of inspiration that whispers sweet somethings that just have to be written down.

In the case of those party favors… Just don’t ever let it happen again.

Some of you might be asking:

What If I’m not in a serious relationship?
Or What if I’m single by choice because I AM serious about my writing?
Or Did my mother call you again?

Whether you are seeing someone on a regular basis or have temporarily stopped seeing anyone due to irregularity, being a writer means you are already in a serious relationship with your Muse. And like any relationship you want to see flourish, you need to do your part in providing opportunities to help it grow. If one or more of the following statements could be made by your Muse, it’s time to make some changes;

1) You never take me anywhere — As I’m sure E.L. James would agree, an integral part of any relationship is exploring new things. With your Muse, however, I’m talking about actually leaving your home/apartment/bonds and getting out to experience new sights, sounds, scents — things that can inspire you and your Muse. Or at the very least provide experiences you can file in a mental cache and refer to later. In addition, consider taking some photos and jotting down your impressions in case, like mine, your “mental cache” is more like Snap-Chat.

2) I need to be romanced a little first — It’s easy to fall into a pattern of groping at your Muse, getting what you want and then — at least in the case of many men — falling asleep at the keyboard. Much like having a lover, there is a certain amount of foreplay involved when “seducing” your Muse. Even if yours is slutty like mine, the seduction process — i.e., your writing preparation routine — is important. My writing foreplay involves making a cup of java that is best described as a liquid Coffee Nip, then putting on my headphones to listen to AC/DC, checking and responding to any comments on my blog and Twitter account, then getting to work on whatever I’m writing. If I can’t finish a piece I’m working on, I always leave off in the middle of a sentence. That way, when I come back to it, I can start right out with some momentum by finishing the thought I had. Your Muse will appreciate you coming back to finish what you started.

3) I think your Mom hates me — If your Muse tells you this, it’s a good indication you might be spending too much time together. If nothing else, it’s time to take a break and re-evaluate your relationship. Possibly with the help of professional.

Whether you’re in a love triangle or monogamous relationship with your Muse, it needs to be nurtured and appreciated.

It’s the little things you do on a daily basis to express your appreciation that will keep your relationship strong, supportive and continually inspired.

Oh, and the same applies to your Muse, too.

_______________________________________________________________

image

Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.

Forget that image of Bruce Jenner and start writing

write write write copy By Ned Hickson

I’m going to open with a simple truth:

Step one to being a writer: Write!

That advice seems pretty straight forward. The kind of obvious straight forwardness that carries you with complete confidence toe-first into a brick. Like most advice we’re given, the wisdom behind it is simple; the problem comes in the execution.

And while there are countless books out there offering tips on everything from how to get inspired and avoid writer’s block to the kinds of foods that promote creative thinking (which, judging from what I read, you will be doing mostly while on the commode), all of those books essentially come down to one universal truth:

Nothing promotes and stimulates writing better than…

You guessed it:

Excessive drinking.

But let’s suppose you don’t want to become an alcoholic? Does that mean you’re not truly committed to being a writer? Could it jeopardize your dream of becoming a novelist, columnist, short story writer or inner city tagger?

Let me answer those questions by answering the single most important question you’re probably asking yourself right now:

Has HE been drinking?

Of course not. At least not yet.

I have four children, remember?

Regardless, my point is that the other universal truth to writing is this:

The fastest way to jumpstart the writing process is to put your fingers to the keyboard and just start writing.

I purposely sat down to write this post without any preparation. I did this to 1) challenge myself, and 2) because I really had no idea what I was going to write anyway, so it seemed like a good plan. To that end, I started putting words on the screen.

Did I take a wrong turn or two?

Absolutely.

But the beauty of writing is that — like the Kardashians — nothing is permanent, and you can easily fix imperfections by injecting or removing the things you don’t like. And many times, what you thought was going to be a wrong turn or dead end leads to a doorway you hadn’t expected — or at least a window you can jump out of.

Especially if you walk in on Bruce Jenner getting a body wax.

OK, in an effort to move on quickly from that image, how about a show of hands from anyone who has ever found themselves staring at a blank screen with their fingers poised over the keyboard, even if they have applied my advice?

Seriously, I’m watching, so get them up.

I ask this because, in spite of my advice, there are still times when you need to jump-start your jump start.

Something I’ve discovered from writing a daily blog is that the interaction with other writers on blogs and websites — whether replying to a comment or leaving one on another writer’s site — is a great way to grease the creative process.

… Great, just when we had gotten past that image of Bruce Jenner…

Sorry, everyone.

Anyway, starting your day with some social interaction at your computer not only gets you into writing position at the keyboard, but can get the creative process started by reading others’ work, getting inspired by it, and formulating responses or comments in a creative frame of mind.

Warning: Set a time limit!

As I can attest, it’s easy to lose track of time, or become so caught up in commenting and replying that your momentum is carried in the wrong direction. I usually give myself until I finish my first cup of coffee.

Which, by the way, I have switched from the giant 128-ounce Big Gulp size to a standard mug. Not only because I was using it as an excuse to blog until noon, but also because I discovered my bladder only holds 120 ounces.

Bottom line, once you’ve established a writing routine, solidify it by putting words on the page — whether for your actual writing project or during a social network warm-up — each time you sit down at the keyboard. Before you know it, your writing will be waiting for you in your mental queue at the same time each day.

Assuming you can get the image of Bruce Jenner out of your mind.

Again, my apologies for that.

_______________________________________________________________

image

Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.