Writing: Things I Still Haven’t Gotten Around To

When I started writing the Babet/Prosper novellas, it was because my daughter, Holly, kept bugging me to write more mysteries. I didn’t want to write a novel, but I did get excited about writing short stories. I’ve sold mystery short stories, and I enjoy writing them. That’s how ONE LESS WARLOCK (free on Kindle, Nook, smashwords) came about. It was an experiment to see if I could combine paranormal and mystery elements into a locked room mystery–you know the type, where they find a body in a sealed room. So how did the killer enter or leave? With paranormal, I had more gimmicks to work with. Totally fun. ONE LESS WARLOCK is short, because I intended on making it a one-shot deal–my effort to write a locked-room that would rival Agatha Christie. (Like that’s possible). But then, I really enjoyed Babet and Prosper. I got hooked on River City, and I thought, Why not write other types of mysteries and see how they work with witches and shifters?

I listed some of the types of mysteries that I enjoy. Of course, “puzzles” were at the top of my list. (I am a huge Agatha Christie fan). Try as I might, though, I can never make mine as clever as hers. MAGRAT’S DAGGER started out as a puzzle mystery–with the carved box that the “bad” witch dug up from the witch’s grave and the mummified hand holding the dagger inside it–as a clue. I was happy with the mystery when I finished it, but I fell short of Agatha. So who knows? Someday, I might try a puzzle again. I was happier with my “face in a crowd” mystery–of a person who’s supposedly been dead for years–when I wrote A DIFFERENT UNDEAD. Again, when you can mix paranormal and necromancers in the mix, anything’s possible. BAD JUJU was my stab at a missing person mystery. Who took her? Why? But then the paranormal elements started swallowing the mystery elements, and my whole process got a little murky. Which means there are still lots of types of mysteries that call to me. CELT SECRETS was my stab at the villain who kidnaps the hero’s girlfriend to use as leverage. I liked that, but I still want to write a Ten Little Indians plot, (by Christie)–where people are stranded somewhere and one person dies at a time–like the game and movie CLUE. And there are still the switched identity gimmicks, a suspense/thriller type story with a ticking clock, and maybe even a spy/betrayal type.

I’ve tried to write a mystery that hinges on handwriting analysis, and the idea still fascinates me. The entire process intrigues me. Which way does your writing slant? What does that say about you? What are your loops like in your letters–open or closed? http://www.viewzone.com/handwriting.html My friend wrote a story that pivots on handwriting, and I’m jealous, but it’s still on my “to do” list.

I can add another. I want to write a story from the POV of an unreliable character–but those are tricky. I could go on and on, but I hope you have the same problem I do–more ideas for stories than time to write them. Still, it’s fun having a “list” of things to do. Life never gets boring. So I hope you’re brimming with ideas, too, and happy writing!


BTW: Michael finished the cover for my 2nd Empty Altars book: Spinners of Misfortune. I love it! Hopefully, the book will be online soon. I think the cover hints at the Norse myths in the story line.

Write What You Read

You know the saying, “You are what you eat.”  *shivers* (Makes me think of Patricia Briggs’ vampire in Silver Borne, who took that very literally).  Sorry..I digress…my brain does that, but I think it would be appropriate to describe most writers as “you write what you read.”  I started out reading mysteries…lots of them.  So, when I wanted to write my first book, that’s what I wrote.  That’s the form that I intuitively felt comfortable with.  My friends who devoured one romance after another write romances.  One of them reads romances and watches tons of horror movies…and she writes both.  Odd combo, right?  Write a romance with a happy ending.  Write a horror novel and go dark.  Might balance things out.  Sci/fi readers tend to write sci/fi.  It makes sense.  We write what we love/what draws our minds and imaginations to it.

Another reason I advocate to write what you read is that each genre (and I include literary novels in this category–they have their own rules and structure too) has its own rhythms and intricacies.  We “learn” them while we read one book after another.  They become an internal compass that guides us from page to page.    We can feel when a red herring should appear or a twist in plot should occur.

Years ago, when I was trying to find a “home” for a mystery I wrote, I sent the manuscript to Tor, and the wonderful editor who worked there at the time, wrote me back and told me that she loved my writing, loved my characters, but she’d just been moved to head up the paranormal romance line for the company.  Did I have one?  Now, I had lots of spare mystery manuscripts stuffed in file drawers, but I had no idea what a paranormal romance even was, so I wrote and told her so.  And bless her, she said, “Here’s a list of the things that make a paranormal romance.”  There were no books on shelves for me to look at, nothing to go by but her list, but hey–I have lots of creativity, right?

I’m a writer.  I read the list and said to myself, “This doesn’t look too hard.  I can do this.”  And I tried.  Needless to say, my first attempt was maybe a good book, but it sure wasn’t a paranormal romance.  So she sent me another list and a few titles to look at.  I stuck the ideas on a solid mystery plot (something I knew), and she liked that one–wanted to buy it, actually–but she got shot down because the sales department had just pedaled a book with Tarot cards in it and didn’t want another one.  Such is the world of publishing.  And then she left Tor, and her type of paranormal romances morphed into the type I read today.  And I was behind the transition again.

The thing is, once more paranormal romances reached the market, I discovered I’d never be good at them.  I’m not romantic.  Have a heck of a time writing it.  But urban fantasy–now that I not only loved, but got hooked on.  And it took lots and lots of reading until I felt comfortable there.  Now, I never want to go back to writing mysteries.

My point is, even with a list of “this is what’s in an urban fantasy,” you won’t get it right.   There are lots and lots of small, key elements, rhythms, nuances that you only learn by reading…and reading more.  How you label your book or story matters, because readers come to your work with set expectations.  I learned that on Goodreads.  If you say your book is a paranormal romance,  the romance has to be the key ingredient that turns your story.  If you label it as urban fantasy, romance is a subplot and a battle between a good paranormal and a bad paranormal drives the plot.  So my advice?  Once you decide what you want to write, read as many books in that genre as you can.  And then read some more.