Monday, July 23, 2012

From Voices in Our Heads to Voice on Paper

Writers joke about listening to the voices in our heads. When we don't hear anything, we have writer's block. Translating the voice in the head to the voice on a printed or "e" page can be difficult.

When I was at the Tinker Mountain Writers Workshop this year, Dan Mueller gave me some great advice that added richness to what I was workshopping. I write almost exclusively in first person singular. I have a strong, mouthy main character, Mad Max, who takes us through her story. Dan suggested I combine Max's voice was a narrator's voice. Let me show you what he suggested.

I have a scene where Max knocks at a door, which is opened by a child. The child hesitates, then let's Max in. Here's what I wrote:

Marianna's frightened eyes flared as she peered at me.

"Don't worry. I came alone."

She started to close the door, then changed her mind. She opened it enough to let me slip in.

Dan made several suggestions. One was to show Marianna's fear better. Yup, old show versus tell. He also said I could describe the room once Max was inside, because the things in a place create a vivid fictional world. While I don't want to pad the narrative with extraneous words, this made sense. My next draft reads:

Marianna stood in the open doorway, her hands twisting the hem of her tee-shirt. She looked past me to see if Emilie was with me.

"Don't worry. I came alone."

She hesitated before stepping aside to let me enter. As soon as I was inside, she closed and locked the door.

Three days earlier, the room was clean and neat. Today, dust dimmed the polished table tops. Light came through a four-inch gap in the drapes and left cross-hatched shadows on the wrinkled rug. A book lay on the floor, its pages ripped out.

Marianna closed the drapes. Not before I saw the dark bruise on the side of her face, though.

Now, I could have said squishy things like, "Max looked around the room." But once Max is in the room, the  narrator's voice can fill in some "stuff" details.

Don't know if I'll use something like the second example, but it does open different ways of presenting scene and action. Gave me lots of room for creative thought.

Hey writers, ideas???

Friday, July 13, 2012

Interview with Kathleen Delaney, author of "And Murder for Dessert"

I love doing interviews with writers of books I liked. My last book review was of Kathleen Delaney's And Murder for Dessert. She recently sat down for an interview about her writing life. Please meet Kathleen.

Will you introduce yourself to my blog readers? Not all of them may know you.  
My name is Kathleen Delaney.  That is my original name. I use it to write under because my mother asked me to. She wasn’t too fond of my ex-husband. However, we had five children together, and I now have 8 grandchildren, one great grandson and another due any minute. I grew up in Glendale, Ca., and lived all over southern California for many years, finally moved to Paso Robles, on California’s central coast, where I worked as a real estate broker for over twenty years, and bred and showed Arabian horses. After I retired from real estate, my two dogs and I moved to South Carolina where I currently live in a one hundred year old house with a wonderful wrap around porch. I love to cook, write, and of course read.

You like to write about exciting places. Where have you traveled?I love to travel and do so as often as possible. Two of the most exciting places were Egypt and a barge trip down the canals in France, ending in Provence. I went to Egypt because my youngest daughter was at school at the American University of Cairo and because after reading all of the Amelia Peabody mysteries I was fascinated with the idea of visiting there. The trip was wonderful. I don’t like cruises as a rule but the idea of floating through France on a barge, sipping wine as we watched the landscape slip by, stopping in medieval towns along the way, appealed. Especially as I went with family and friends. We took up 2 barges. It was even more fun than I thought. So was Paris and the few days we spent on the Mediterranean.
How did you become a writer?  
I think anyone who reads a lot has a secret, or not so secret, desire to be a writer. I used to scribble stories and hide them in the cedar chest so no one could read them. I really didn’t think I had what it took to be a writer. One day one of my daughters found a bunch of them and pronounced them good. They weren’t, but a couple of other things happened and I decided to try. I wrote an article about my children’s adventures in 4H. I sent it to Family Fun. They bought it, for money, and published it. I was a writer.
Is And Murder for Dessert the 3rd book in the series? 

I know you lived in Paso Robles. Before you wrote, did you have any experience making wine? 
The setting is in the Paso Robles wine country, but I have no personal experience with making wine. However, one of my daughters does and I know several of the wine makers in the area. They were all most helpful.

Since this is the third book in your series, can you tell us a little about the others?
The first book is Dying for a Change. It introduces Ellen, a woman in her early forties, who has returned to her hometown after a nasty divorce. She has gotten a real estate license and is determined to have a new life as well. Unfortunately, she finds a dead body, a bashed and bloody body, in the first house she tries to show. She finds Dan Dunham, whom she hasn’t seen since she was in high school. He has returned to their small town, as Chief of Police. Romance looms.  Except Ellen isn’t one bit sure she wants romance. Her first try at it didn’t work out so well. 

Ellen and Dan’s relationship gets a little closer in Give First Place to Murder. The book centers around Arabian horses, horse shows and drug running. While trying to figure out who murdered the highly objectionable trainer, Bryce Ellis, Ellen and her daughter, Susannah, get locked in a horse van and almost end up dead. I threw in a pirate to keep the story interesting. 

And Murder for Dessert is all about temperamental chefs, beds and breakfasts, unwelcome suitors, and, of course, murder. 

The fourth book, Murder Half-Baked, centers on Grace House, a halfway house for women in transition and a bakery. Ellen and Dan are getting married, the wedding is to be on New Year's Eve but nothing is going right.  Ellen has been handed a new client, Grace House. Only it burns down and the residents move in with Dan and Ellen while Dan tries to figure out who set the fire and who killed Dr.Sadler by bashing him on the head with the arm of a cemetery angel. Unfortunately all clues point to someone from Grace House. Only, who? Ellen had better find out before her own house goes up in smoke 

Do you model characters after living people? 
No. Characters just come as the story unravels. In the book I am writing now, Dead in a Manger, two gay guys have appeared. I didn’t plan them. Only, I was writing this scene in a pet shop and they walked in. They’ve stayed in, too.
Your books are available in print and e-book formats. Are you satisfied with your print and e-book sales?
Not my print sales.  The e-books are selling unbelievably well and I’m thrilled, but the print books are moving at a much more leisurely pace.
What do you do to promote your books and yourself?  
Lots of different things. Since I am now “handicapped” I am doing lots more on line than I used to.  Besides, there is more you can do on line. Facebook, blogging, Goodreads, lots of things and while I don’t do them all all the time, I do use that avenue a lot. However, I go wherever anyone will listen to me. Libraries, book clubs, any other kind of club. The book I’m writing has a lot in it about dogs and dog breeding. When it comes out (here is where we cross our fingers that it does come out) I will add dog clubs to my list. 

I belong to the Carolina Conspiracy and we do a lot of different things as a group. Getting on a panel at writers conferences is always good, and just doing book signings at bookstores is great. I’ve done a Christmas bazaar, sharing a booth with 2 other writers, and done book fairs several times. The hardest one is the LA Book fair held every year at UCLA. There are thousands of books there and even more thousands of people wandering around. It’s hard to get noticed, but it can be done. Bookstores are important even if you just drop in and leave information. The booksellers tend to notice and if they like you and/or your book, will hand sell it. I keep lists of people, book stores where I have appeared, libraries, where I’ve made a speech, fans who have emailed me or signed the email list at events, and send them a notice when a new book comes out and follow through. Have a master list of all the libraries that carry the books and they get a notice of a new release as well. And on and on…

What are you writing now?
I am writing a new series, features a woman in her seventies who manages all of the volunteer activities in town. Amazing how bloody volunteer work can get.  I am hoping it will turn into a series as well. The 5th book in the Ellen McKenzie series needs a serious rewrite before it goes back to Camel Press, who has asked for it. If they like it, Ellen and her Aunt Mary are going to go to Williamsburg, VA. A few ghosts, a little history, and, of course, murder, one that Ellen and Aunt Mary had better solve if they want to get through alive.
Is this book under contract?
No. Camel wants to see it, but I’m not quite ready to send it.

Lastly, what are the last three books you read? 
Hmm. Some one gave me the Runaway Jury by John Grisham, and I read that one. Catherine Coulter's The Cove, that one was my mothers, it was on my shelf. I picked it up and didn’t put it back down until I was done. I am currently reading Kate Atkinson’s Started Early, Took My Dog. She has four different main characters, doing very different things, and they are about to collide. Great book.
Thank you, Kathleen. You've given my readers a very important insight into your writing life and the next books coming out. 

To my readers, if you didn't know Kathleen's books before, you do now. All of her books are available through Amazon.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Book Review: And Murder for Dessert by Kathleen Delaney

I've taken a vacation from reading cozy mysteries for quite a while. I met Kathleen Delaney earlier this month, picked up her And Murder for Dessert, and decided I needed a break from the serious non-fiction reading I've been doing for several weeks. And what a break it was.

Set in the wine country in California, we meet Ellen McKenzie working in real estate and engaged to the local chief of police. When Ellen's sister calls to inform her that her niece, Sabrina, and her husband Mark are coming to live with her, Ellen once again bridles at her sister's presumption, but since the young couple is on its way, she can do nothing but make them welcome. Soon, Sabrina ropes her into helping plan an upscale dinner at the winery where Mark is the wine master.

The guest chef is a nightmare right out of hell's kitchen. He's histrionic, unstable and downright mean. Many readers will cheer when he ends up dead in a vat of wine. The weaving of several secondary story arcs into a  whole keeps the reader wondering who killed the chef. More importantly, readers will want to solve the crime and unravel the secrets themselves.

Kathleen Delaney understands both the wine business and real estate, although real estate doesn't figure in as strongly as it did with her Dying for a Change, available in Kindle version only. Right now, that is. Dying for a Change is scheduled for a new release in print later this year.

I confess. I guessed who the killer was about half-way through. I enjoyed the way the author tied up all the arcs and brought to story to a successful conclusion. Even if you figure it out, too, this is a fun read.

Available in print and on Kindle, it's a read well worth it.