The Evil Mind

Rick David, a licensed Florida mental health therapist for over thirty years, spoke at the Florida Romance Writers monthly meeting in Fort Lauderdale on “Inside the Mind of Evil”. First he differentiated between a sociopath and a psychopath. The sociopath lacks empathy and remorse and is fueled by narcissism. He has feelings of omnipotence and is ego-centric. These people may be criminals but “not all sociopaths are psychopaths.”

Psychopathy means mental illness. The psychopath may be a sociopath with a mental illness, usually psychosis in that he’s out of touch with reality or living in a fantasy world of his own creation. All psychopaths are not criminals.    3836602_med

Killers objectify people and see them as things to bring gain. These psychopathic killers are incapable of meaningful relationships. They lack remorse in their actions. They can be deceitful, impulsive, and glib. Power, control, and fear are their motivators. They are cold and calculating. Many have early behavioral problems as noted below. They can look at you with a steely, predatory stare (or they can be as friendly as the guy next door). Usually they’ll project blame onto others. Killing fills their emotional void, and it may be the only way they can feel anything. Drugs and alcohol are often involved. If anti-social behaviors are mixed in, they may be the loner type, avoiding social contact with others.

Behaviors in children that may be warning signs when taken to the extreme can be testing limits, kids described as difficult or “different”, young people to whom consequences mean nothing. Aggression, bullying, and lying may be evident. A pattern of hurting animals or setting fires may be signals that this person needs intervention. Also, not every serial killer has had an abusive childhood. Even kids from happy families can take a turn to the dark side.

When writing crime fiction or romantic suspense, the writer needs to get inside the mind of evil. These behavioral factors should help you create your villain. Remember that he thinks differently from normal people and rationalizes his internal fantasy. Better we should meet him on the page than on the street.

Writing Effective Dialogue

You’ve finished writing your book and are ready to start self-edits. What should you be examining in each conversation? Here are 14 tips to help you write more effective dialogue.

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All conversations should have a purpose.
Dialogue is a great way to start a story and provide an opening hook. You’ll want to keep the pace moving forward. Besides backstory and flashbacks, there’s nothing that kills pacing more than meandering dialogue. Conversations should reveal information, advance the plot, deepen characterization, create conflict, offer comic relief, or present new insights. Long passages of dialogue where nothing happens will make your reader wonder when the story will move ahead.

Vary your techniques.
Information exchanges don’t have to be straightforward. Revelations can be tricked, teased, or threatened out of a character. Have your heroine blurt out something in the heat of the moment. Or have two characters discuss a situation and reach a new conclusion together. What you want to avoid is an info dump. Even at the end of a thriller or mystery where you have to reveal the How-Done-It about the crime, don’t just have the killer stand there pointing a gun at your hero while rattling off his confession. Save some of this info for the final wrap scene, where your hero reflects on events with another character and comes to an insight that brings growth and change.

Cut the fillers that people use in real conversations.
“Excuse me, um, did you—I mean, did I—tell you, like, what this topic, you know, will be about?” In this instance, we don’t want to write realistic dialogue. Our fictional sentences must be more concise and to the point. Some mannerisms are allowed for character development, like the person who says “you know” all the time, but leave out the rest of the fluff.

Watch those cuss words.
You may have a gutter mouth, or think your character should talk that way, but be wary of alienating your readers. Who’s your target audience? Do you want a wider readership? If so, sprinkle in the use of bad language judiciously or substitute a word like “frak” in Battlestar Galactica.

Don’t be too clinical.
When writing sex scenes, certain language is permissible if your genre is erotica but not if you want to appeal to a more general audience. Again, consider your readership. You may want to look at the emotional ramifications of a love scene rather than focusing on the sex act itself.
Avoiding certain terminology also applies to your character’s point of view. Occasionally, I will slip in some medical terms into my story. This comes from my own background as a nurse, not my hairdresser sleuth’s. My critique group always catches me on this error. So be careful of using jargon your character might not know but that you do.

Use dialect sparingly.
It can be enough to say your character has a heavy southern accent rather than changing every word, as in “Ah have to git me a new dress for the party Ah am hankerin’ to attend.” This is okay in small doses but can get annoying throughout an entire book. Ditto for foreign languages. Sprinkle in a few select phrases to give the reader the flavor of the character’s speech without making us stumble over sentences that are hard to pronounce, let alone comprehend.

Favorite phrases can enhance character.
What does your protagonist say when surprised? When he’s annoyed? Make up some favorite phrases for him to use as a speech tag, keeping his background in mind. For example, a hairstylist might say, “Holy highlights!”, or a space pilot: “By the stars!”

Avoid unnecessary speech tags and adverbs.
Leave off the “she cackled merrily,” “he ranted angrily,” or “she snickered devilishly.” You don’t need descriptive adverbs. Let the dialogue speak for itself. Use “he said” or “she said.” Better yet, show through action who is speaking.

Consider the technique of oblique dialogue.
This is where one speaker asks a question. The respondent either counters with another question or answers with an unrelated comment. Nonverbal cues can supply the subtext or clues as to what’s really going on in this conversation.

Don’t repeat info the characters already know.
This kind of info exchange, where two people talk about something they both already know, serves merely to fill the reader in on background info. Find another less obvious way to slide this knowledge into the conversation. Dialogue is a great way to add backstory but only if done in an unobtrusive manner and if it’s related to the current situation.

Separate single lines of dialogue from expository passages.
If you have a single line in quotes and the rest of the paragraph is introspection or action from the same character, put the line of dialogue in its own paragraph.

Reveal character through conversation.
Does your character always end a sentence in a question? Talk in a confrontational manner? Show his wishy-washy attitude in phrases like “I think,” “I guess,” “Well, maybe…,” or “I suppose?” These are ways to reveal personality through dialogue. Also, have your protagonist use metaphors, similes, and slang within his unique frame of reference.

Avoid talking heads.
Intersperse your lines of dialogue with action and emotional reactions. Conversation that’s not meaningful to your character isn’t going to grip the reader. We want to feel his gut responses. Even when the conversation itself sparkles with emotion, it helps to have the viewpoint character throw in a thought or two about it or perform some action that shows his emotional state. Then we as readers will empathize more strongly with him.

Review your work.
Reread your conversations looking for stilted dialogue, formal speech, out of character responses, and repetitions. This should be part of your editing process.

Dialogue is an important tool in our writer’s toolbox. Use it wisely and your readers will keep coming back for more.

Common Writing Mistakes

Recently, I’ve been judging writing contest entries. Below are some of the common problems I have discovered among these manuscripts. Out of several entries, only one passed muster. It was well written, kept my interest, had an interesting “voice” and an intriguing premise. I’d read this book if more was available.

The other submissions, however, were painful to get through. Here are some of the problems I encountered so you can avoid them in your work. I use the pronouns “he” or “she” interchangeably as this advice applies to readers and writers of both genders.

Establish the Setting Up Front

As soon as possible into the story, establish the place, season, and time of day. Remember your Who, What, Why, Where, and When. Try to work these into the opening pages unobtrusively. Example: Crickets chirped their nightly chorus, the music of summer. Or: Late afternoon sunlight glinted off an icicle hanging from the roof. Also, don’t mention a street name or landmark and assume the reader knows where this place is. Be specific and give a location.

Make Your Characters Likeable

Remember to address your character’s goals, motivation, and conflict. If you show her acting in an unfavorable manner, what made her that way? Motivate her behavior so the reader understands where she’s coming from and sees the light at the end of the tunnel with character growth by the book’s end. Give her redeemable qualities so we can like certain aspects of her. If not, the reader won’t care and that’s the death knoll to your story.

This also applies to the anti-hero. What makes him redeemable? Why should I, the reader, care about him? Also, what does your character want? If he wanders aimlessly through life with no particular goals, that makes me as a reader less interested in him. Unless, of course, you give me a reason why he behaves that way. Maybe he lacks confidence in himself because of a past event. Maybe he’s afraid of failure. Knowing this will make me more sympathetic toward him.

Watch Your Use of Bad Language

The occasional curse word may be acceptable for a romance hero who’s a hard ass or for a heroine in the urban fantasy genre or for guy fiction in general, but elsewhere it may raise a reader’s hackles. It can also turn off some readers completely, so this language should be sprinkled in judiciously, if at all. Add it only if it helps to define a character, not because it’s the way you speak or because you believe it makes your protagonist seem tough. Always ask yourself: is this necessary? If not, leave it out. Or deploy a substitute, like “frak” on Battlestar Galactica. If writing sex scenes, consider the subgenre. Certain words that may be acceptable for erotica might be too graphic or crude for readers with more delicate sensibilities, especially those who read romances more for the stories than the love scenes. Remember the old adage: Less is better, especially if you want to expand your readership.

Show, Don’t Tell

To keep the pace flowing, use mostly dialogue and action and minimal exposition. If you have long passages where nothing happens except the protagonist thinks to herself or explains to the reader what happened, the story comes to a dead halt. You want to imbue a sense of immediacy in your story, and that won’t happen unless you involve the reader. Telling me what is going on isn’t nearly as gripping as showing me. Each chapter should start and end with a hook. Again, long meandering passages of narration will not encourage the reader to turn the page and may put her to sleep instead. Also keep in mind that reader attention spans are shorter today. What worked in past prose doesn’t work in this age of technological marvels.

Save Flashbacks for Later

The first chapter is your only chance to grab the reader so she’ll continue your story. If you segue into a flashback, the forward momentum is lost. Who cares what happened in the past? Throw in a line or two in dialogue or introspection to show us and then move on. Or make it part of the story action, like in a confrontation with a friend or a hesitation on the part of the main character to perform some act. Work backstory in with minimal intrusion in your first few chapters. Flashbacks will kill pacing, so again, remove those long passages of remembrances. Only retain what is necessary to explain the current action. Later, after you’ve hooked the reader, you can work this info into the story, hopefully through dialogue.

Every Conversation Should Have a Purpose

When I say that you should use dialogue generously, I don’t mean that two friends should get together and chat meaninglessly on matters that don’t move the story forward. Dialogue should serve a purpose: reveal information, define character, move the plot ahead, offer reaction and reflection on what’s just occurred. So ask yourself as you approach a conversation, what do you want to get across in this segment? If you don’t have a point to make, delete the scene.

Proofread Your Work

Would you send an editor a manuscript that you haven’t read through to check for typos? No? Then why send one to a contest where mechanics are judged? Proofread your work for typos, dropped punctuation marks, repetitions and misspellings.

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Most of the entries I’ve read have been competently written. In some cases, the author’s voice comes through as distinctive and engaging. However, the writing itself isn’t the problem. It’s the content— in particular the pacing, structure, and/or character motivations. Does a crisis or a change happen to the character at the start so that she (or he) experiences a call to action? Does the story move forward from there? Or does it stumble while you detour into a long introspection or memory sequence? Do you involve the reader in the action or tell us what happened? Is your character passive or proactive? Have you done all you can to attract new readers and not repel them with questionable language? Reread your first three chapters. If you were an editor, would you want to read more?

Pardon Me, But I Misspoke (Or Miswrote)

Pardon Me, But I Misspoke (Or Miswrote…Whatever!)

By Joanna Campbell Slan

“In cases of legitimate rape…”      JSlanBook

By now, you’re probably sick of hearing that phrase by Todd Akin, the State Representative from Missouri who’s running for Senator. As many commentators observed, “Exactly what constitutes ‘legitimate’ rape? How does that differ from any other kind of rape?”

Just one little misbegotten adjective and kaboom! A career goes up in smoke. It can hardly seem fair. But it happens. At the very least, a misplaced word or phrase can both misleading and occasionally hilarious. For example, there’s the classic: “The girl jumped into the swimming pool with the red hair.”

I’ve never seen a swimming pool with red hair. Have you?

Or the sign on the bus in Decatur, Illinois. The letter “L” had fallen off the sign and wasn’t replaced. Riders in that city availed themselves of the “Decatur Pubic Transit System.”

Those of us who write for a living are not impervious to silly mistakes. In fact, the sheer number of words we plop down practically guarantees we’ll create more than our share of guffaws.

One author friend complained about her new editor. “That woman is driving me nuts! She keeps circling what she calls ‘redundancies.’ When I wrote, ‘She clapped her hands,’ that stupid editor said, ‘What else would she clap?’”

Frankly, I think the editor had a point. Unless you’re penning a book about Flipper, the trained porpoise, your protagonist can only clap her hands, so why mention her appendages at all?

On occasion, dear Brutus, the fault actually starts with our fingers. The fourth and pink fingers are notoriously weaker than their counterparts. The position of frequently used letters on the keyboard can confound even the most seasoned writer. Here’s a list of words often misspelled as a result of ergonomic challenges: http://www.mit.edu/~jcb/Dvorak/demons.html All I can say is, thank goodness for the self-correcting function. Otherwise, I would be stuck with “t-e-h” rather than “t-h-e.”

Sometimes we commit mental slip ups. I recently inserted the word “intact” while referencing an “intake” form. I also confess to writing “meddle” instead of “mettle,” as in “testing one’s mettle.” (Boy, is my face red as I admit that!)

Since I’m from the South, I also fall victim to “Southernisms,” phrases I’ve misheard or misunderstood since childhood. Thus, “widder woman” is a mispronunciation of the redundancy “widow woman.” And “conniption fit” is another doubly unnecessary phrase, because anyone who has a “conniption” has by definition had a “fit.” Whereas the oft lamented “a hard row to tow” was actually not what it seemed at all! What people intended to say was, “A hard row to hoe.” Who knew?

Beyond all these goofs, there lurks another type of problem: woeful ignorance. No matter how hard you work to perfect your writing, mistakes will happen. Especially when there’s research involved. Let’s face it, you can’t know what you don’t know! That explains why I erred by putting a “mockingbird” in England while writing my new book, Death of a Schoolgirl. You see, I lived in England for a year and I could have sworn on a stack of Bibles that while I was there I had heard the song of a mockingbird. Turns out, I must have been wrong.

After a sharp-eyed reader spotted my mistake, I confessed my error to a friend. She winked at me and said, “Oh, no, Joanna. I’m sure you were right. It must have been one of those rare imported American birds, don’t you think?”

Hmm. I bet it was. In fact, I’m sure of it!

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DEATH OF A SCHOOLGIRL  (The Jane Eyre Chronicles)

Jane can’t help but fret when a letter arrives from Adèle Varens—Rochester’s ward, currently at boarding school—warning that the girl’s life is in jeopardy. Although it means leaving her young son and invalid husband, and despite never having been to a city of any size, Jane feels strongly compelled to go to London to ensure Adèle’s safety. But almost from the beginning, Jane’s travels don’t go as planned—she is knocked about and robbed, and no one believes that the plain, unassuming Jane could indeed be the wife of a gentleman; even the school superintendent takes her for an errant new teacher. But most shocking to Jane is the discovery that Adèle’s schoolmate has recently passed away under very suspicious circumstances, yet no one appears overly concerned. Taking advantage of the situation, Jane decides to pose as the missing instructor—and soon uncovers several unsavory secrets, which may very well make her the killer’s next target…

BUY at Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/ckgs2cn or Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/death-of-a-schoolgirl-joanna-campbell-slan/1104878528?ean=9780425247747

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Joanna Campbell SlanJoanna Campbell Slan is the author of more than twenty books. (Maybe. She’s worse at counting than she is at identifying birds.) Her most recent work—Death of a Schoolgirl—features Jane Eyre as an amateur detective. Visit Joanna at http://www.JoannaSlan.com or on Facebook http://tinyurl.com/JCSlan

The Wrap Scene

You’re approaching the end of your book. Do you finish in a spate of action, or do you have your characters meet in a quiet scene where they reflect on what’s occurred? In a romance, these last pages are where the hero proposes and the main characters profess their love for each other. In a mystery, this scene serves a different purpose. It’s where all loose ends are tied up and final explanations for the crime come to light. Use the following steps as a guideline for your own work.

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The authorities reveal information they previously couldn’t discuss.

In the course of an investigation, the police/detectives/federal agents cannot reveal all that they know. But once the killer is in custody, they can explain the rationale that led them to determining the murderer’s identity. In my Bad Hair Day mysteries, hairstylist Marla Vail is married to a homicide detective. Her husband Dalton may discuss some aspects of the crime with her earlier on, but much of what he learns cannot come out until later. Marla follows a different path to targeting the killer. This final scene may show them exchanging information on how each one arrived at the same conclusion but from a different angle.

The villain’s means, motives, and opportunity are confirmed.

What drove the villain to commit the crime? How did he do it? Very likely, in the previous chapter, the hero confronted the killer, who may have confessed. But here is where you can fill in the sordid details and psychological aspects of the crime.

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The survivors are not forgotten.

Even if you’re writing a light cozy mystery, the murder affects people. What happens to the victim’s family? How about the killer’s close relations? Two sets of tragedies occur here. What are the ramifications for these people?

What has my character learned?

This is perhaps the most important item. Your main character, the amateur sleuth, has been affected by these events in some way. What has she learned from this experience? How have the people around her changed? How does this sequence of events change her plans for the future?

Set up for the sequel.

Has a new person been introduced into your universe who may play a larger role next time? Is there an unsolved mystery that’s part of a bigger story arc? Or does your main character receive a call to action that he has to accept? Here is where you can drop a hint of what’s to come.

Revisit old friends.

This final scene might take place between your main characters alone, or among recurrent characters whom your readers have come to regard as friends. This decision will arise from your setting and from the people who’ve peppered your story. Genre expectations may play a role here, too. In a romance, usually the hero and heroine are focused on each other at the end. Anything goes in a mystery, thriller, or sci-fi/fantasy, but make sure the ending has emotional impact no matter which characters it includes.

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Frame the story.

If you began your story with a particular setting, you may want to return there for your final scene. This gives your book a sense of completeness. It also resonates with readers.

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It’s hard to remember everything that’s happened in the story when you write the first draft of this scene. No doubt you’ll add more later during self-edits. It helps to write down all the loose ends when you do a thorough read-through. Then you can check off each item as it’s answered in the story and fill in any missing information during the final chapter. Once you are satisfied that you have covered all bases, save and close the file with a smile.

World Building with Angela Renee

DEBUT AUTHOR ANGELA RENEE visits us today with a discussion on World Building.

World Building

I’m an avid reader. Read just about every genre, but my favorite genres are fantasy and sci-fi with a good dose of romance thrown in there, which explains why my debut novel, You Are Mine, is a sci-fi romance. I love reading the world the author creates and I love creating worlds. But you still must be careful. YouAreMine

I was reading my favorite fantasy novel, Villains by Necessity by Eve Forward, which made me completely change this post. I had planned to write about how fantastic You Are Mine, is… No not really. I’m kidding. I had planned on submitting a post about the excitement and expectations of a debut author.

Back to the book I was re-reading for the umpteenth time. The important part is the lesson I learned about world building. I love the world Eve Forward built just as much as I love the cast of characters and the plot she dropped them into. She made rules and didn’t break them. I know there are those out there who say, “Rules are made to be broken,” but that doesn’t work in fiction. And this is more than just other worldly genres such as fantasy and sci-fi. In mainstream and contemporary genres, authors use artistic license combined with “reality” to set up the world rules. If a rule is broken, there needs to be a legitimate reason and then it’s not actually breaking the rule but giving a broader understanding of the rules.

I’m an experienced reader of forty years and am just tipping into this published author thing, so I am a much better reader than author and whenever my reading buddies and I are discussing books, we rarely bring up the world the novel is built in itself. The only time it comes up is if the author breaks some rule of the world. Hmmm, interesting. Without proper world building, your novel will not be realistic (fiction realistic not real realistic. LOL). World building is under appreciated. As a reader, I love sinking into the author’s fictional world, no matter what the genre. So while this post was supposed to be about my novel, it has turned out to be more of a thank you to the great world builders out there. THANK YOU!

Now I can’t go without saying something about You Are Mine. I hope the world I built in this sci-fi romance meets your expectations. I know the thought of sci-fi romance may be foreign to many of you. Don’t be scared to try something new. Have fun with it.

You Are Mine: In the hundreds of special assignments Erica Morgan has worked, there was nothing that prepared her for waking one morning on an alien spaceship. More surprisingly, her captor and adversary, the leader of this mission, is the one man who could make her want to leave her home planet and embrace a different life.

D’Jarus Commodore doesn’t want a wife, but his planet is slowly dying, and their salvation lies in the people of Earth. As leader of Darien, he chooses to make a sacrifice and be the first to marry a terran. His captive bride, Erica, is like no other being he has ever met. At first sight he knows he must have her, but for obvious reasons—he did kidnap her after all—she resists him every step of the way.

Website/Blog: http://www.authorangelarenee.com/

Buy links: Purchase the Print Version ($9.99) or the electronic version Nook, Kindle ($3.99)

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Angela-Renee/224764087637836

Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/angelareneebook

Nancy, thank you for allowing me visit your piece of the cyber world.

Love, Life and Hiroshima

Love, Life and Hiroshima by LaVerne Clark

Jenna Thomas stormed into my head the moment I started thinking of a premise to a superhero-themed novella. Why superhero? I’d heard of a submission call that excited me like nothing else had in a long time. Rushing to my computer, I swept aside the current WIP I’d been labouring over and let the words pour out on the new. Pretty soon, I had my first pivotal scene; how my heroine came by her abilities; the setting – and then I hit a brick wall. Jenna dug her toes in and point-blank refused to be cast as a superhero. No matter how much I tried to manipulate her, or how much pleading and whining was involved, I couldn’t get her to budge. There was no way on earth she was going to be flying around saving people left, right and centre. Jenna shunned the limelight, preferring to keep her distance from the general public as much as humanly possible.    Laverne2

“Fine then,” I finally snapped, throwing my hands up in surrender. “Show me who you really are then and why I should write your story.” As I sat at my computer sulking over the fact I wasn’t going to be writing a fantastic superhero story after all, she revealed her story to me and I was captivated.

Jenna’s family originated from Hiroshima, Japan. They’d lived quiet, ordinary lives until that fateful day of August 6th 1945, when the atomic bomb was dropped over their city, changing everyone’s lives forever. After the initial horror had passed, it became apparent a new one was on the horizon – radiation poisoning – and Jenna’s family fled to New Zealand. Trekking halfway around the world, they thought they’d escaped the repercussions of the war – but the radiation from the fall-out had affected them after all. It sank deep into their molecular structure and changed their DNA forever.

For most of the family, it presented itself as cancer, killing them off one by one. But for a select few, it brought strange abilities instead. For a long time, Jenna was sure she’d been dealt the dud-hand – and then she met Nick – and for the first time, she thought she might have had it wrong.

Although the horror of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were well before my time and in a different part of the world, I remember seeing the black and white photos described in a scene of Affinity as a young girl and they haunted me. I didn’t know how much until I met Jenna, and I could see them in my mind’s eye as clearly as the first time I gazed at them in shocked fascination.

But along with those feelings of distress and sorrow, I experienced equal ones of awe and inspiration. Amongst the awful photos were occasional ones of hope and beauty. The people of Japan affected by this terrible event were undoubtedly angry at what had been done to them, but I never saw hatred in their eyes. Maybe it was because they were sick of the fighting – or more likely they were just too devastated. Whatever it was, it affected me personally and Jenna’s story is a result of that long-ago memory.

Maybe we can’t all have special abilities like Jenna does, but what we do all have at our core is the ability to empathize and care for one another. We have the capacity to forgive atrocities and get on with life – and that to me is an incredible ability worthy of any superhero, don’t you think? J

AUTHOR BIO    LaVerne

Like the heroines in my stories, I married my own gorgeous hero and have been blessed with a school-aged son and a toddler-aged daughter. I’m passionately involved with the charitable organization, “Greyhounds as Pets” after falling in love and adopting my own ex-racing greyhound, and became the Area Coordinator for my region. Perhaps, in the back of my mind was the old adage of owners looking like their dogs, but sadly, my legs don’t seem to have got any longer and my waist hasn’t shrunk to minuscule proportions, but on a good note, at least my nose isn’t any longer! I’m a member of Romance Writers of New Zealand and live in the beautiful coastal town of Nelson at the top of the South Island, the sun capital of the country.

BLURB: Affinity

In the wrong hands, Jenna Thomas’s legacy could be a curse—in her mind it already is.

As a child, a routine x-ray awakened an abnormality in Jenna’s DNA giving her the ability to “call” creatures and take on their attributes. Labeled a freak since then, Jenna’s learned to keep everyone at a distance. But all that changes the day she saves a young boy from drowning, and the story goes viral.

Nick Hawke, an off-duty policeman, witnesses part of the drama. Captivated by Jenna’s exotic beauty, he decides to investigate, not sure what to believe. Jenna puts his cynicism to the test—even as the attraction between them grows.

As word of her extraordinary rescue spreads, a dangerous man who will stop at nothing to control Jenna’s abilities draws near. With her feelings for Nick putting him in danger too, can Jenna risk everything to protect them both?

http://www.laverneclark.blogspot.co.nz

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Fact or Fiction?

Do you write about real life events in your fictional story? As a reader, how can you tell fact from fiction? Are some ideas so far out that they should be relegated to science fiction, or is there a kernel of truth in them? Where do the lines blur?

At Saturday’s meeting of the Florida chapter of MWA, we heard speaker Jim Linder, former Navy aviator and intelligence agent. This man—tall, dark, and handsome—lived a life you’d only find in books. A self-professed fan of Ian Fleming and Robert Ludlum novels, as a youth he aspired to adventure. He found it in the work he did. A romance hero come alive, Linder said “the fictional and the real world blend together. Whatever story you want to tell, it’s probably already out there.”

He told stories of notorious Russian smuggler Victor Bout, of how pirates smuggle diesel fuel to diamond mines in South Africa, and of how there’s a market among drug runners for mini-submarines made in the States. “There are bad guys out there who are richer and more powerful than anyone in fiction,” he says. The upsurge in social media has made a difference in his current consulting position. “We use social media a lot. Finding information isn’t the problem. Connecting with the person who has the info is harder.”

As for myself, I use personal experiences and composites of people I meet in my stories.

For example, the Countess in Killer Knots was based on a white-haired lady I noticed on a cruise. She always wore the most fabulous outfits. When I got up the nerve to ask where she shopped, “Paris” was her answer. Why was I not surprised?

In Perish by Pedicure, I visited the North Miami shvitz where Marla goes to interview a suspect. Now, that was an experience!

And the setting in Shear Murder was inspired by Harry P. Leu Gardens in Winter Park, where I’ve been many times. Marla journeys to Coral Gables and the Venetian Pool, another local gem I’d discovered. Visits to the dermatologist and dentist show up in some of my books—in Marla’s viewpoint, of course. Plus a reading from a psychic that I’d experienced shows up in Died Blonde.

Even in Warrior Prince, my upcoming paranormal release, the action starts out in Orlando, Florida on International Drive. The sinister theme park in this story is partially based on an attraction that used to be in the Fort Lauderdale area and designed with other theme parks in mind. I’ll have to admit, though, the action that follows is purely imaginary. Well, almost.

One of the bad guys uses what I call an EM (electromagnetic) grenade in Warrior Rogue: Book Two in the Drift Lords Series. “Are EM weapons real or the stuff of sci-fi?” I asked our speaker. He gave a broad grin. “Many of the things you’d relegate to science fiction are already here.”

Being An Earnest Researcher

The Importance of Being Earnest Researcher by J.H. Bogran

The truth is that you never know who may end up reading the works you publish, so the best course of action is to be sure of what you write is accurate.

Last year I was reading a story where the main character took his toddler to Disney World and made a point of mentioning the kid had enjoyed a particular attraction. I was immediately surprised because when I took my own kid to that same attraction, he cried his heart out; he freaked out in the dark environment. After calming my five-year-old I took a closer look at the program and indeed it had a warning stating the attraction may be frightening for small children. So, don’t ask me what happened in the immediate chapters because I fumed about the tiny little thing for the next following pages of the novel.                  JH Bogran cover

For my novel in Spanish—Heredero del Mal or Heir of Evil—I had short prologue where I show Adolph Hitler smoking a cigar when it’s a well-known fact that he didn’t smoke nor drink. A keen observer brought this fact to my attention just before the book went into print. After a self-imposed and much deserved slap on the face I went to correct that detail.

There are other examples like people telling they made sure the safety is on when they have a revolver. Revolvers, wheel-guns, six-shooters, whatever you want to call them, don’t sport a safety. They are very secure weapons because they are reliable, durable, and overall very cool. A revolver plays a very important part during the climax of my novel Treasure Hunt.

K. L. (Karen) Dionne wrote an ecological thriller titled Boiling Point. The climax was atop an erupting volcano. She had the opportunity to travel down to Chile and visit the Chaiten Volcano there. She saw the aftermath, the ashes, smelled the sulfur, and heard the chirping birds or the lack of them. It was an eye opener experience for her and Boiling Point is a much better book because of it. Karen wrote a bit about her adventure in Chile.

Of course, not everybody is lucky enough to visit intended locations. However, you can contact people who have been there, get maps, or read the almanac.

The internet is one of my most valuable tools for research. One bit of advice, though, is don’t believe all you read online; search for secondary confirmation. Another fabulous research tool is a questionnaire. Search through your network of friends—remember Six Degrees of Separation? It works—and find a person in the profession or field that you plan to write about. People generally like to talk about their day job so it’s not like pulling teeth.

When it comes to names, they must also be researched thoroughly. My main character in The Assassin’s Mistress uses the alias of Robert I. Prescott, or R.I.P. His thinking is that once he takes a contract, his target goes to Rest in Peace. My research struck gold when I discovered the French name Chantal means “stone.” I had just found my female lead character and Robert’s love interest’s name.

In the end, the knowledge the author acquires before the final draft goes great lengths to improve the story. The details seep through the page and they even help with the suspension of disbelief. If you read all the way to the end of this post, I guess you know what my favorite part of penning a new novel is.

JH Bogran Author

Author Bio and Links:

J. H. Bográn, born and raised in Honduras, is the son of a journalist. He ironically prefers to write fiction rather than fact. José’s genre of choice is thrillers, but he likes to throw in a twist of romance into the mix. His works include novels and short stories in both English and Spanish. He’s a member of the International Thriller Writers where he also serves as the Thriller Roundtable Coordinator.

Website at: www.jhbogran.net
Blog: www.thetaleweaver.blogspt.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/jhbogran
Twitter: @JHBogran

Blurb for The Assassin’s Mistress

A random encounter leads to deception, love and murder. While vacationing at a ski resort, professional hitman Robert Prescott meets a strange and beautiful woman. They discover passion and embark into a dangerous game hiding their relationship from her powerful husband. Then a further twist of fate makes Robert’s occupation collide with his new found love.

Buy link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007BOC0OW

Writing a Mystery Series by Peg Herring

May 8, 2012
Writing a Mystery Series by Peg Herring

pegherring 5B(WinCE)Once is not enough. Readers love a series; just ask Laurie King or Lee Child or Charles Todd. A series is fun for the reader, since the characters become like old friends. I know Harry Bosch better than I know many people I see every day. I’ve seen Harry in danger, under extreme temptation, and tested to the limits of endurance. The toughest test I’ve seen most of my real friends endure is a traffic snarl or an uncooperative vending machine.

Many readers find characters they like and then read everything they can find about them. Writers are usually happy to oblige—at least for a while.

I have two series in progress, the Dead Detective mysteries and the Simon & Elizabeth (Tudor) historical mysteries. Although insanity does not run in my family, I recently signed to do a third series. How, you might ask, will I handle that? Here’s the plan, and I hope it works.

I’ve limited the number of books in each series. When I began the historicals, I plotted out five books. The first two (one with Henry VIII as king and one when Edward takes the throne) are now in print. Book #3 is under my editors’ care. Book #4 is forming, although I keep telling my husband that a trip to the UK would help to solidify the colorful historical background.

The Dead Detective series will also consist of five books. The one you see here is Book #2, DEAD FOR THE MONEY. Book #3, DEAD FOR THE SHOW, is mostly done, and Book #4 is just starting to dance around at the back of my head, calling “Me! Pick me! I’m ready!”

The first book of the third series demanded my attention until I gave up and took the time to write it down. When I sent it to LL-Publications, the word “Awesome!” came back to me. They’re excited about It and hope I find time to write Book #2 soon. (Me too.)

So what are the problems with series? Keeping things straight, for one thing. It pays to take good notes all the way along, because it’s easy by Book #4 to forget what kind of car your sleuth drives or what he usually orders at the diner for breakfast.

Another possible problem is boredom for the author. Some end up wanting to murder their own protagonists, as I once heard Martha Grimes confess. Her publisher wouldn’t hear of it, of course, because the fans wanted more and more of Inspector Jury. Steve Hamilton likes to try his hand at standalones, but I’ve heard his fans ask more than once, “When will we get another Alex McKnight mystery?” Publishers prefer a safe bet, the characters that worked before, but writers are creative people. We often want to do what feels right, not what will sell most.

For me, writing what I want to write is more important than commercial success. (Not that I know what commercial success would do to me!) Readers tell me they like my books, and I try to make it clear that they’re different. You might like Simon but hate Seamus. What is the same in my books is my belief in justice and the triumph of the human spirit (no pun intended). Whether it’s a series or a standalone, I just work to deliver “Strong women; Great Stories” with every book.

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First, thanks to Nancy for sharing her space at Notes from Florida!                 Dead for the Money

Schedule: Peg Herring’s Blog Tour for May (and one post in June) consists of a mix of interviews with Seamus, the Dead Detective, and posts on writing. The last stop was at http://melissasimaginarium.blogspot.com. Tomorrow’s stop is at http://www.jennymilchman.com/blog/. A complete schedule is posted on my blog, It’s A Mystery to Me-http://itsamysterytomepegherring.blogspot.com/ When the tour is over (June 11th), the complete Seamus interview will be posted on my blog.

Prizes: People who comment on any blog post on the tour will be entered in drawings for several prizes: Dead Detective T-shirts, copies of THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY and DEAD FOR THE MONEY (paperback or e-books available), and the chance to be a character in the third of the series DEAD FOR THE SHOW. Multiple winners will be drawn.

Bio: Peg Herring lives in Michigan and writes two series, the critically acclaimed Simon & Elizabeth (Tudor) Mysteries (Five Star Publishing) and the award-winning Dead Detective Mysteries (LL-Publications). When not writing, Peg enjoys directing musical groups, gardening, and talking about writing.

Links: DEAD FOR THE MONEY (e-book) http://tinyurl.com/c6pzz5z

THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY (paperback) http://tinyurl.com/7f6yc2r

Peg’s website: http://pegherring.com