Why Read When You Know the End?

I posted this last week on Austin Mystery Writers

Whether you’re reading Mystery, Romance, Thriller, or Adventure, the ending is almost always predictable. We hope the bad guy will be caught, the couple that’s at odds with each other will come together, the deadly virus won’t kill everyone on Earth, and the hero will complete his quest.

So why do we read these books? I think it’s because of three things.

  1. We love a good story. I think the human brain is wired for stories. For millennia that’s how we’ve passed down our history, folklore, and myths.

    I believe it’s almost like a form of magic or time travel. Our minds are transported to another place. We are immersed in the story and feel for the characters. And if the writing is really good, you get a sense that you know the characters personally. I mean really, how cool is that?

 

 

 

  1. We like the ritual. It can be comforting to know how the story will end. Everyone loves a hero and likes to root for the underdog. (Of course some heroes are anti-heroes. Not very likeable but they get the job done.)

    We like coming of age stories and romance because good prevails and we get to believe in true love. It’s also comforting to know that the bad guy will be caught. It’s something to hold onto in an uncertain world.

 

 

 

 

3. We like the journey and the tingly excitement of uncertainty. We’re in it for the ride. We like to see how the clues will unfold, how the problems will be solved. We’re often surprised with twists and turns, just like on a roller coaster. “Holy moly! Now what’s going to happen?” And, of course, what often keeps us on the edge of our seats is knowing that possibly not all of the characters we’ve come to love will make it to the end. That little bit of uncertainty keeps me turning pages!

 

So, as with most things in life, it’s the journey, not the destination, that’s important. Hopefully we’ve learned a little something along the way, (maybe a new survival skill!), become reacquainted with an archetype, and been along for a fun ride, twists and turns and all. It’s a magic that keeps us coming back for more.


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Wise Words from Amelia Barr

Today happened to be one of those days where things come together.

Back when we got married in Austin, we had our reception at a Victorian manor called the Barr Mansion. So years ago when I was looking for descriptions of Texas circa 1865, and came across the Barr name, I got really excited! Is this the same Barr? Well, no, it wasn’t.

I was disappointed but read more about Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr and became fascinated with her. She and her husband moved from England to Galveston and lived there from 1853-1867. She loved Texas stories and became a part of the Austin social scene. (Sounds like I have to write a novel about her, huh?) (Here’s a link to more information about her, and other Texas originals)

amelia-barr-350px_edited

Most of her novels are free in ebook format (Amazon link here) but I bought the paperback version of All the Days of My Life: An Autobiography (1913) because I like to pull it from the shelf sometimes and skim through the pages. When asked why she wrote her memoir, she said it was to help “any sad or doubtful woman to outleap her own shadow, and to stand bravely out in the sunshine to meet her destiny.” She gives a vivid account of what Texas life was like at the time. It’s a great source of information!

Have you heard of her? Probably not many people have. So I was surprised this morning when I was skimming through Facebook and my friend Minerva Koenig wrote a post on her blog, sharing Barr’s nine rules for success. This excerpt of her nine rules comes from an essay Barr contributed to a book, How They Succeeded. It contains interviews with successful people of the time. Her essay is in with such greats as Alexander Graham Bell, Andrew Carnegie, Marshall Field, and John Rockefeller, to name a few. In a time ruled by men, her words meant even more, and yet they still apply to us today.

So here’s Minerva Koenig’s post:

9 Rules for Success by British Novelist Amelia E. Barr, 1901

 

I hope you enjoy it!    


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Open letter to moms

My friend Tonia Marie Harris talks about how many moms make time for writing. She interviewed some of us, including yours truly. 🙂

Go on over and check out her blog.

 


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I have a lot of reading to do!

Sometimes when other mystery writers are talking trade, I’m a little “at sea”.  Now I read a lot and watch a lot of movies, but apparently my informal education hasn’t been on the same track as others.

So I asked my friends (many are writers and editors) for a list of “must read” writers and books.

These are books recommended by my friends.

 1.Megan Abbott – Dare Me

2. Eric Ambler – A Coffin for Dimitrios

3. Lilian Jackson Braun

4. James Lee Burke

5. Raymond Chandler

6. Agatha Christie –  All of her books including:

   And Then There Were None

7. James Church – Inspector O Novels including:

        A Corpse in the Koryo

8.  Harlan Coben

9. Reed Farrell Coleman – Moe Prager mysteries including:

    The James Deans

10. Wilkie Collins – The Moonstone

11.  Michael Connelly – “Harry Bosch” mysteries

12. Robert Crais

11. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – All Sherlock Holmes mysteries

12. James Ellroy – L.A. Quartet

       L. A. Confidential

13. Federick Forsyth – Day of the Jackal

14. Dick Francis

15. Robert Goldsborough – Nero Wolfe books

16.Graham Greene – Third Man

    Our Man in Havana

17. Dashiel Hammett

18. Richard Harris – Silence of the Lambs

19. Carl Hiaasen

20. George V. Higgins – Friends of Eddie Coyle

21. Patricia Highsmith – Ripley mysteries

22. Reginald Hill – Diologues of the Dead

23. Tony Hillerman -Coyote Waits

24. P.D. James

25. Craig Johnson

26. Laurie King

27. Natsuo Kirino – Out

28. Robert Parker -Looking for Rachel Wallace

29.. Ridley Pearson

30. Margaret Maron

31. Ross MacDonald

32. John D. MacDonald

33. Mickey Spillane

34. Robert Parker

35. Donna Tartt – The Secret History

       The Goldfinch

36. Rex Stout

37. Dana Stabenow

 38. T. Jefferson Parker

 39. Charles McCarry

 40. Edgar Allan Poe – Dupin Mystery series

 41. Stieg Larsson – The Girl series

 42. Elmore Leonard – Rum Punch

      Out of Sight

43. John le Carre- Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

       The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

44. Pierre le Maitre – Alex

45. John Mortimer – Rumpole of the Bailey series

46. Richard Stark Parker (who is also Westlake)

47. Ian Rankin

48. Dorothy Sayers – All of her books including:

    Whose Body

49. Martin Cruz Smith – Gorky Park

        Polar Star

50. Tom Rob Smith – Child 44

51. Jim Thompson – Killer Inside Me

52. Mary Willis Walker – Under the Beetle’s Cellar

53. Minette Walters

54. Donald Westlake – God Save the Mark

       Hot Spot

55. Stuart Woods

Do you agree with their choices? Anything crucial we left off the list?


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Successful Workshop at Book People!

This will be a short article, but I wanted to say a little something about our first writers’ workshop for Austin Mystery Writers.

First of all, I’d like to thank Book People and Mystery People for allowing us to use their space. And  huge thanks to the writers Reavis Z. Wortham, Karen MacInerney, and Janice Hamrick for giving of their time to share their knowledge with us.

Lessons I learned:

1. Mysteries come in all shapes, sizes, and styles, but good writing is good writing.

2. Take out as many of the dialogue tags as you can. (he said, she said, he yelled, etc.) Try to change your description and action so you don’t have to use them. Reavis called it “trimming the fat”. Actually, I think he said, “It’s trimming the fat, y’all. You don’t need it.”

Words of wisdom

Words of wisdom from Reavis

3. Your story will drive the pace of your writing. Slower action will probably have longer chapters, faster action will have shorter chapters. The shorter chapters will make it move quickly.

4. It’s good to have a little humor to break up the heaviness of the drama. But don’t force the humor, some people just aren’t funny. (Surely I don’t have that problem. Right?)

5. Most writers probably write to work out something from their past. (I can see that.)

6. Karen said, “Read, read, read your genre!” You should know what is expected of your writing. A cozy mystery will have a different form and elements from a hard boiled mystery.

 

Karen MacInerney

Karen MacInerney

7. Your MC (Main Character) has to have a reason for solving the mystery. They can’t just “be there”. They have to have a stake in the outcome. (I knew this, but for some reason I’ve had trouble applying this to my current WIP, until Saturday. I had an “aha!” moment and fixed the problem.)

8. Janice talked about creating great characters. She had the audience do a simple, yet effective, writing exercise. She asked us to write down a description of a dotty old woman. The descriptions varied widely. She gave a scenario and told us to write the woman’s reaction. Boy! Even more variety than the first descriptions! She said that it goes to show that no two people write exactly the same way.

Jancie Hamrick teaching about how to make great characters.

Jancie Hamrick teaching about how to make great characters.

9. The one thing Janice said that really stuck with me was about adding depth to a character. You can start with a stereotype, but add an unexpected twist to the character. For some reason that really stuck with me. So many of my favorite characters are flawed heroes. It works.

10. Janice also recommended you Google a character’s name before using it.  Make sure you don’t accidentally give your hero the name of a famous killer.

There was so much more to the lectures, but these were the things that struck a chord with me. We had such a good time laughing and learning and giving away prizes! We are already talking of doing another on in the Spring.

P.S. I think my cookies helped make it fun too. 😉

Cookies!

Cookies!


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Making the Best of What Life Deals You

Yesterday and today I’ve been thinking about tough people. Those people who pick up themselves when Life has knocked them down. There are 3 reasons why I’ve been thinking about this.

1. On Sunday my son said he had to write an essay about his hero. “I don’t have a hero. Who has a hero?” We thought about it and decided he should write about his grandfather, my father in-law.

He was a World War II vet who served in the Pacific. He came home from the war, got a college degree on the G.I. bill, and became a cotton farmer. Back when my husband was about six, my father in-law had a farming accident and lost his left arm. He was being pulled into the machine and had only seconds to think about what to do. So he did the only thing he could do, he broke the arm to escape. He wrapped his shirt around the wound, walked 1/4 of a mile to his truck and drove 2 miles back to the house. My mother in-law drove him to the hospital with my husband in tow.  That in itself is astonishing, but I’m even more impressed with how he has lived his life. My husband says that his father healed (I don’t know how long, a month?) and was back at farming. Having one arm never slowed him down. He kept on farming until recently when he turned 90. And on top of that, he never complained about his situation, never once. Talk about a great example on how to live your life!

2. This is one of the reasons I’m writing about west Texas. I can’t tell you how many tough people I met out there. Of course there are resilient people everywhere, but there is just something about west Texas that still has that pioneer spirit. In my book I mention, in passing, a woman who lost her husband. It was cotton stripping time so she drove the tractor (one of those HUGE tractors!) to bring in the crop. My husband was really impressed because those are not easy to drive! The other farmers came together and helped her finish. Isn’t that wonderful? They always come together when someone needs help.

3. Over on Writer Unboxed, Therese Walsh talks about working on her second book. The blog post is called “Notes From a Desk: Love the Rock You’re Pushing”.  She talks about how difficult it was facing the book, writing it. She worked and worked and finally fell in love with writing again.

Well that’s also how I feel about my writing. I’m STILL working on my novel. As I said in my comments on the WU blog,

 

I’m still working on my first book and the shiny new honeymoon glow has faded. It has morning breath and belches, but I force myself to work on it because that’s what writers do. I like to think I’m tough, that I can face whatever Life throws at me, but this is hard! So many people have no idea how tough it is.

It is a labor of love, like taking care of a child. It stinks sometimes and cries and moans, but I’m sticking with it. I would feel sick in the pit of my stomach if I never finished it. If I go more than a few days without working on it, I start to have bad dreams. 😛

 

So I’m sticking with it, even though it’s hard. I mean really, can I complain? After all, it’s a labor of love,  a stinky, irritating, joyful labor of love.

 

 


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Ten Signs That You May Be an Author

Ten signs you may be an author:

1. You spend time downloading a word cloud app. and enter your book’s outline just to see what it will make.

 

word cloud for Gilt Ridden

2. You make mental notes of people who have wronged you so you can kill them off in your book.

3. It’s almost 4 and you are still in your pjs and you didn’t even know it. (And note to yourself that at least you took a shower last night, which you sometimes forget to do for days on end because you’re thinking of another place and time.)

4. You’ve spent hours researching seemingly unrelated topics such as Egyptian symbols, Hawaiian words, nautical lingo and laws, and pictures of Jason Momoa.

 

conan

 

(Hey, I didn’t say the time was wasted!)

5. You type away at the keyboard, unaware that you are saying things like “Yes! Awesome!” and “Ohhh, that’s total crap!”

6. Keyboard pattern imprinted on forehead.

7. Family members walk in on you as you reenact fight scenes and they don’t think anything of it.

8. You yell at your family to eat leftovers for dinner because  you have something more important to do. You must get this story written tonight for your beta readers!

9. Your wrists ache and your butt is numb, but you must finish the work because you are a “professional” even though you’ve never earned a dime.

10. You waste time making top ten lists when you should be writing.

 


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Make Time, Not Excuses

So it’s been quite some time since I had any super-fantastic insights regarding writing. I know I’m supposed to keep a “presence” on my site, keep engaged with my readers. Hey, I figure you’d rather I didn’t write just to write. I figure you’d rather I wait until I actually had something to say!

Well now I do.

Found this on http://www.cafepress.com/+time-to-write+clocks They have cool stuff!

Make time, not excuses. 

I’ve been busy, extremely busy, and my schedule is about to get even more so. What could I possibly have to make me busy? Why, I’ll tell you. Here are the things that keep me busy on a daily/weekly/monthly basis (in no special order of importance)

 

Monitoring the Writer Unboxed page on Facebook. I don’t mind doing this because it is an honor to be a part of such a special group of writers. They are the siblings of my writer family. 🙂  Also check out the website at Writer Unboxed.com.

I try to keep up a daily presence on my Facebook author page (VP Chandler- Author). I try to share  bits of wisdom from other writers and give updates about what I’m doing. Anything I post there is automatically posted on…

My Twitter page – I try to participate a little on Twitter everyday. I try to see what’s going on out there in Twitterville. I’ll admit that I don’t spend much time on it.
I will also fess up to the fact that I spend quite a bit of time on Facebook, on my personal page. I know, I know! (I think my friends are rolling their eyes and saying, “Yea, A LOT of time!”)  I just can’t help from looking at kitty pictures. I’m really trying to cut back on it. No, really!
Church- I sing in the choir, work on the church’s FB page, website, help make the Sunday slideshow, besides being on a few committees, and sometimes lead a Bible study.
Book club– I love my book club! I wouldn’t give it up for anything in the world. You wouldn’t think that reading one book a month takes a lot of time, but it does. I definitely get a lot out of it, more than I put in.
Reading for pleasure- Oh yeah, writers are supposed to be readers. When do I have time to read? I try to read a book of my own choosing in between book club books. I always keep a paperback in my car,  and thanks to the wonders of audio books, I can also listen to one while driving.
Music – (Performing) I try to spend at least a couple of hours a week on learning music for voice/piano/oboe/ or other instrument like recorder. Yes, I’m that geeky girl who loves to play recorder. I particularly like Celtic or Native American music. I’m also learning how to play the trumpet.
Music- (Writing) I’ve written a few pieces and I’m trying to get those polished and copyrighted. I always seem to get little bits of tunes running through me head.
I’m a member of Sisters in Crime (Heart of Texas Chapter) – This is an great national and local organization for crime/mystery writers and fans of the genre. I intend to make more time for them. They meet once a month, so I think I can make it to more of the meetings. I also volunteered to help with some of the media, like Facebook.
Keeping up with this website. I know it needs some work. I know, it’s a work in progress.
Family- Oh yeah…there’s this thing called my family. I do have to spend some time with them. 🙂   Now that my son is a teenager, I feel like it’s a full time job just keeping him fed! Of course during the school year, I spend a lot of time helping Son get his homework done.
Household– Yes, let’s not forget those thankless, never-ending jobs like washing dishes and laundry, taking care of pets and plants, dusting and vacuuming, etc.  I will give hubby credit for learning how to do some cooking for himself. We’ve been married twenty years and he’s learning some new skills…out of self-defense! He doesn’t mind too much if I’m spending that time writing. He keeps telling me, “I want to be a kept man so you better hurry up and write that novel and make a million bucks.”  Yea, I’m working on it. 😉
Exercise– I gotta fit in exercise in here some where. I do when I can. Hubby and I usually take a walk in the evening.
Friends– gotta spend time with friends. (Isn’t there a Bette Midler song…?)
And the new, big thing is I’m now a member of Austin Mystery Writers. We meet about once a week to critique each other’s writing and give advice to each other. This is great for me because it has forced me to show my writing to someone else! And besides our own writing, we are working on a few group projects. I’ll keep you informed about what’s to come! Being with this group has forced me to refocus on writing and prioritize my time. So that’s good!
Writing– Oh Yeah…I’m supposed to be a writer.  (And for those of you who have full time jobs, families, and are writers on the side, my hat is off to you!)
SO, what have I learned? How do I handle all of this? No, not by drinking. Although I think I know why so many writers turn to drink. Okay, I’m not a teetotaler, but I’m no Hemingway either.

It’s all about prioritizing and saying, “NO”. From now on, no more things added to the list.  And to be honest, I think I’m gong to trim a few things from it. It also helps to just let some things go. The last couple of years I’ve been so consumed with learning everything I could about writing and publishing, that I haven’t spent much time actually writing! I tried learning everything I could. You can’t read the whole internet. I know, I’ve tried.

So no matter what you’re job or what’s going on in your life, prioritize.

And if you’re a friend and you’re wondering where I am, I’m holed up in my house, writing … and looking at pictures of kittens.

What about you? Do you have a lot of things taking up your time? Do you have any suggestions on how to manage your time?

 


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