Yesterday a dream came true for me. I got to discuss my book, Gilt Ridden, with my book club. No, you didn’t miss the publication date. It’s not published yet. They agreed to be my beta readers (aka guinea pigs) and give me feedback.
And since we met at my house, I thought I’d have some fun with it. I decided to make it a themed party! Check out those gold coins, delicious chocolate of course.
For food I tried to make snakes with the cinnamon rolls but the eyes didn’t quite turn out right. The nonpareils I used melted and the color ran. Even though they looked like they were hemorrhaging dark blood from their eyes, they tasted good! (Hence, no closeups of the “snakes”.) Yes, that’s a typical result of cooking experiments for me.
The beer you see is some of my favorite. It’s Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy. I thought it was a Texas beer, alas, it’s not. But it has a German name so it also goes with my story. 😀 One of my protagonists has a German name. The wines are Texas wines. I didn’t get a chance to taste them. But I’ve heard good things about them. I liked the labels.
We had such a good time sitting around and chatting. It was neat for me to ask, “What did you think about…?” “Were you confused by…?” “Did you catch the hidden mystery with…?” If was so fun! They said they couldn’t put it down. (Whew!)
They gave me constructive feedback and I’ll use it to tighten up my story. Hopefully I’ll be shopping it around soon. I surely know that their comments and encouragement helped me immensely!
If you read the book and would like to host your own Gilt Ridden party, I’ve made a Pinterest board full of ideas! Gilt Ridden Book Club board.You’ll also find other Gilt Ridden pictures on another Pinterest board. I also have boards on History, and Texas History, among other things.
I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything. I thought I’d give you an update on what’s going on and tell you about the change I’m going to make on the blog.
So what have I been up to? Hoo boy, let’s see.
In September I went to Bouchercon in New Orleans. It was a blast! I’d tell you more but what happens in New Orleans, stays in New Orleans. 🙂 But I can say it was cool meeting so many nice and talented people.
Laura Oles and I starting the road trip to Bouchercon!
Austin Mystery Writers is working on a new anthology. I’ve written a short story about a Texas Ranger who is asked to save a girl who has been kidnapped by a villain. (historical crime fiction.) I think the anthology will be out sometime this year.
In early November attended the 2nd Writer Unboxed UnCon in Salem! It was a blast to see my many friends again. It was filled with so much information and wisdom, that I couldn’t give it justice if I tried to explain it. So instead, I’ll provide a link that explains the events we had and lessons learned from the writers who attended. The conference focuses on the craft of writing. Writer Unboxed- Author in Progress.
My beloved Writer Unboxed Mod Squad fellows. <3
During the conference was the launch of the Writer Unboxed book, Author In Progress. I’m honored they asked me to participate in the project. It’s full of essays on the process of writing. Lots of big names in there like Donald Maass and Lisa Cron. It’s available in all major books stores and online. Here’s a brief article about it.
Author In Progress! I’m honored they asked me to provide some comments on essays.
The week after the UnConference, Austin Mystery Writers did a presentation at the Wimberley, Texas Library. It was a small gathering but we had an interesting back and forth about the process of writing, and we talked about Murder on Wheels. After the event, members of AMW gathered at a local restaurant and had lunch. I’m glad we did that because we hadn’t gathered for a few months. Little did we know that a two days later we’d lose fellow member Gale Albright. She was participating in NaNoWriMo and suddenly had a heart attack. Gale was such a strong force in AMW (Yes, like a Gale force wind.) that suddenly losing her took the wind out of my sails. I had trouble writing anything for a couple of months. That’s another reason why I haven’t written a blog post in a long while. It’s still unreal to me. I hear her voice and her laugh. I can hear her telling me to get with it and get work done. I push things away so now, four months later, it’s starting to sink in.
In other news, I’ve made a few videos, and more are to come. I know they aren’t great, but I have fun thinking about them and making them.
Here’s one called Reflection (from Mulan), about my main character, Kay Stuart. Reflection
Here’s another. I was just having fun in my car. I like the vintage look I gave it. (It’s a horrible angle! But c’est la vie.) It’s one of my favorite songs, singing with Queen Latifah’s version of Baby Get Lost.
I’ve got a couple of more videos coming soon.
So now I’ll talk about some changes I plan to make here on my blog. I plan to post about once a month, but instead of trying to come up with a topic, I’ll write a book review. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for some time. There are so many good books our there, I’d like to share them with you! Not all of the books I’ll be talking about will be mysteries. I’m more than just a mystery writer! I like all kinds of sub-genres of fiction. I also think this may provide some interesting discussions. Or maybe it will at least provide you with a new book for you to enjoy. Not all of the books will be new. In fact, I may just choose one at random from my Goodreads list.
I’ll also keep you up to date on the music I’m writing and the jewelry I’m making. That’s right. Because I don’t have enough to do, I want to try my hand at jewelry.
Oh yeah, and I’m still progressing on my book, Gilt Ridden. If you’d like to keep up to date with my progress, sign up for email notifications.
Last Saturday I attended a writer’s workshop at Book People, sponsored by Mystery People and the Austin chapter of Sisters In Crime. I honestly didn’t think I’d learn much new. But I was wrong. *Note- Between classes we had drawings for giveaways like books and tote bags!
It started with George Wier speaking about writing action scenes. He’s literally a pro at this. Just read any of his books. (www.billtravismysteries.com) It wasn’t about how to describe a blow-by-blow fistfight. It was more about how to add tension to a scene, how to make it move along. I don’t know about you, but I like bullet points. So I’ll share my notes in that manner.
Before you can add action, you must put the reader in the moment. They won’t follow anything if they aren’t there. To accomplish this, describe the lay of the land and the surroundings.
What are the results of the action? There should be consequences or the reader won’t care.
The scene must have a beginning, middle, and end.
Don’t describe things in terms of time. (aka- three hours later). Believe it or not, that doesn’t do anything for the reader. Time isn’t as tangible as distance. “They walked down a flight of stairs.” Is much easier for the reader to see and instantly understand.
Perception is everything. Use all the senses. Have your characters be aware of their breathing, their surroundings, sounds, pain, everything.
The idea of writing about distance instead of time interests me. All of the things listed above make sense, but the idea that the reader can intuitively understand distance better than the concept of time is fascinating.
Scott Montgomery of Book People recommended the book, The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson. He said it was a good example of what Wier was talking about.
Cutting up between classes. Friend and author Billy Kring dropped by. He’s trying to distract me while George Wier looks on.
The guys behaving for Terry’s talk.
Next at the workshop was Terry Shames. She gave us many tips on how to writing compelling settings. And she should know. She does an excellent job of describing the Texas town where her Samuel Craddock series takes place. (www.terryshames.com) I came away with the concept of interior settings and exterior settings. No, not what a living room looks like, interior as in what’s going on inside a character. (More bullet points!)
Treat your scenes as characters.
The way to make your story interesting is to show how the interior setting (of characters) intersect with the exterior setting. How would someone from a Texas ranch interact with the people and setting of New York city? How would that same person act in their own hometown?
The devil is in the details. Immerse the reader in the setting. You don’t have to do an information dump. (Please don’t.) But you can provide things like smells and sounds.
If you aren’t familiar with a place, research it. Talk to people who know the place.
Above all, know how your characters would interact with the setting. Someone who almost drowned would have a different reaction to falling in the water than someone who is an Olympic swimmer. So Know Your Characters!
Every scene should try to have-
Physical description of setting
Physical description of characters
Internal physical descriptions.
A good rhythm of a scene would be: 2/1/2, 4/3/5, 6/2/1. Try it and see what happens.
Brent and James. Looking forward to reading their books.
After lunch we gathered for the last class about collaboration. Brent Douglass and James Dennis, two of the three authors who make up the persona of Miles Arecenaux (www.milesarceneaux.com), led a funny discussion on their journey of collaborative writing. They started their first book back in the days before email. Thank goodness the days of mailing a manuscript back and forth are gone. Thank you email! So what are their tips?
Don’t be afraid to be honest with each other. Actually, they said to be brutally honest. Treat each other like siblings.
Play up to your partners’ strengths. You are different people with different experiences. You that to your advantage.
Work to maintain “one voice” for your book. It will get easier with practice but it will also take many edits to achieve this.
Defer to people with experience. (Again, take advantage of your partner’s strengths.)
It helps to build accountability. If you know that you’re expected to get your part done by a certain time and the others are counting on you, you better do it.
Broadcast gratitude. Not only show gratitude to your partners, show gratitude to other writers.
(Collaborating sounds interesting. I think I’d like to take a stab at that just for fun.)
The last event was a panel discussion that was very informal. It was about publishing, marketing, and networking. Honestly, I was so caught up in listening, I forgot to take notes! All the speakers were charming, personable, and informative. It was worth every moment that I was there.
Gale Albright helped put it all together and did the raffle.
George answering questions between classes.
Terry and Scott
I’d like to say thank you to Book People and Scott Montgomery of Mystery People for hosting us!
Mystery People is celebrating their 5th anniversary at Book People!
Saturday, November 7th at 3PM
Join us on our third floor as we celebrate five years of MysteryPeople with cake, champagne, mystery trivia, give aways and a panel discussion about the future of crime fiction. We’ll also unveil the MysteryPeople 100, a list of the top 100 must-read mystery and crime fiction picks, compiled from the recommendations of some of our favorite authors writing today. Happy birthday, MysteryPeople!
Our Life in Crime:
Authors, Booksellers and a Critic on the Novels That Define the Genre and the Future of Mystery/Crime Fiction Reading
Join Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery, MysteryPeople maven Molly Odintz, and some of Austin’s crime fiction writers for a discussion of where crime fiction’s been and where it’s going.
Cake & Champagne!
Stick around after the conversation to help us pop a few corks and cut the MysteryPeople birthday cake!
Mystery Trivia & Book Give Aways!
While you’re enjoying a bit of cake and champagne, we’ll toss out trivia questions drawn from books, authors and the mystery/crime fiction genre at large. Winners will receive free books!
Behold, The MysteryPeople 100!
It’s time for the big reveal! We’ve canvased some of the top mystery/crime fiction authors writing today for their must-read, top genre picks of all time. We’ve compiled their submissions to create the MysteryPeople 100, a definitive list of the top 100 mystery/crime fiction novels of all time (in no particular order). Check out our display in-store and snag a copy of the list.
Thank you, Austin, for five wonderful years of great crime fiction reading. Here’s to the next five years of MysteryPeople! Cheers!