When Justice Isn’t Served

I wrote this for our group blog in 2017, but Brock Turner was the first person I thought about when I saw the unbelievably lenient sentence Paul Manafort received. Disparity in sentencing is not justice and is simply wrong.

Original Post

You saw the Times cover for the Person(s) of the Year, right?

Maybe people are starting to hear the voices of women who have for years (and years) been wrestling with sexual harassment and assault.

Maybe it’s not being heard, if the players aren’t high profile in every day life.

Case in point: Did you see that Brock Turner is appealing his conviction?

You remember Brock, right? The Stanford University swimmer convicted of three (count ‘em, three) felonies (which normally carries a sentence of up to fourteen years) who was sentenced to a whopping six months and released after serving only three months in a county jail (instead of prison).

Yeah.

That guy.

In his appeal, Brock claims he didn’t get a fair trial for the following reasons:

1) The defense team, the one Mommy and Daddy paid for (You remember Dad and his infamous reaction: his son should not go to jail or have his life ruined for “20 minutes of action”) didn’t get to put characters witnesses on the stand to say what a great guy he is.

The great guy who found an unconscious woman outside on the ground and instead of calling for help, sexually assaulted her.

What a guy.

2) The prosecutor repeated used the word “Dumpster.” The defense says this “implied moral depravity, callousness, and culpability on the appellant’s part because of the inherent connotations of filth, garbage, detritus and criminal activity frequently generally associated with Dumpsters.”

I suspect the Dumpster makers didn’t appreciate that characterization.

In Brock case, the victim and “Mr. Turner” were found “in a three-sided structure that customarily houses”…wait for it… “a Dumpster.” They were discovered on the open side, facing a darkened basketball court, which by the way is where the prosecutor said the assault occurred. In the open.

Brock – hint – that big green box, the one usually housed in that structure, is called a Dumpster.

And you assaulted a woman in the open area in front of that structure.

3) Brock claims it was consensual sex.

Two graduate students caught him assaulting the UNCONSCIOUS woman and tackled him when he tried to run away.

Really hard to give consent when you’re UNCONSCIOUS.

And those two grad students made really good witnesses for the prosecutor since they caught him in the act.

4) And incredibly (as if the above isn’t already incredulous) 60 pages (yes SIXTY) of the appeal focus on how much the VICTIM drank that night.

‘Cause in Predator Land, it always the victim’s fault.

And you always blame the victim.

Live with it Brock.

Read more

The impact statement (which is incredibly powerful)  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/06/stanford-sexual-assault-case-victim-impact-statement-in-full

His appeal attempt  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/02/us/brock-turner-appeal.html

And  https://www.salon.com/2017/12/04/brock-turner-is-appealing-his-conviction-because-the-prosecutor-used-the-word-dumpster/

 

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Focus on the Good Stuff

What can you say about a year that’s a Dog in the Chinese calendar? Whose Pantone color of the year kinda looked like a smushed plum?

Thank goodness 2018’s over?

The year was the pits in too many ways, with too many people focused on the things that divide us rather than looking for common goals, values or ideas. So today, I want to focus on the good stuff.

2018 held wonderful times for my family – a wedding, a new baby, and I chose to retire early from a career I’ve enjoyed for years. All of these are thresholds to new adventures, new stages of life.

I can’t wait to see what 2019 holds – even if it’s the Year of the Pig, because the color is Living Coral.

What about you? What was the best thing that happened during 2018?

 

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Behind the Bodyguard

By Jacki Delecki

In my new military romantic suspense series, The Impossible Mission, Delta Force operatives fight not just for their country but to win the hearts of the women they love. This team is highly trained, and incredibly loyal—as seen in book one, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE TO RESIST. Aiden Foster takes on a short assignment as a bodyguard to fulfill a promise to a friend. Jordan Dean is nothing like the high-value assets he’s protected before. The beautiful, intelligent researcher ignores his directives, and challenges him in ways he never expected. And, at six foot six, Aiden doesn’t blend in to the background like bodyguards are trained to do.

In book 2 of the series, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE TO SURRENDER, out on February 21st, Finn Jenkins will do whatever it takes to keep Sophie Dean safe. For Sophie, trusting her best friend Finn as her bodyguard is easy—it’s trusting him with her heart that she’s not so sure about. Whoever thought guarding bodies could prove so difficult?

When writing these books, I did some research on professional bodyguards. Here are five facts that surprised me.

  1. Not all bodyguards are armed. One expert explained that a bodyguard’s best strategy is to remove the person they’re protecting from dangerous situations, not fight off attackers.
  2. TMZ.com is a great source for news about celebrities. Some protection specialists use TMZ.com for information about which celebrities are uncooperative with their bodyguards or who’s having trouble and might be in need of services.
  3. Social media makes their job harder. Celebrities and entertainers can inadvertently expose themselves to risk by sharing personal information that reveals travel schedules, upcoming appearances and details about their routines and private life. Professional bodyguards often monitor clients’ social media accounts to identify and minimize risk.
  4. No glitz and glamour for bodyguards. Protection specialists are often part of a luxury lifestyle, but they are not living that lifestyle. Their job might include international travel on private jets to exotic locations, but they are there to do a job, not enjoy the amenities.
  5. Bodyguard is not their preferred title. Professionals don’t refer to themselves as bodyguards. The preferred term, according to the president and CEO of a company that provides such services, is “executive protection agents.”

I have huge respect for anyone who puts themselves between danger and others, but I’m sticking with “bodyguard.” Executive Protection Agent just doesn’t have the same allure.

 

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE TO RESIST

Book 1 in the Impossible Mission Series

Available October 18, 2018

 

Amazon | Nook | iBooks | Kobo | Google Play

 

 

 

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE TO SURRENDER

Book 2 in the Impossible Mission Series

Available February 21, 2019

 

 

Amazon | Nook | iBooks | Kobo | Google Play

 

 

About Jacki Delecki

Jacki Delecki is a bestselling romantic suspense author whose stories are filled with heart-pounding adventure, danger, intrigue, and romance. Her books have consistently received rave reviews, and AN INNER FIRE was chosen as an Editor’s Selection by USA Today. Currently, she has three series: the contemporary romantic suspense Impossible Mission, featuring Delta Force operatives; Grayce Walters, contemporary romantic suspense following a Seattle animal acupuncturist with a nose for crime; and the Code Breakers, Regency suspense set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars. Delecki’s stories reflect her lifelong love affair with the arts and history. When not writing, she volunteers for Seattle’s Ballet and Opera Companies, and leads children’s tours of Pike Street Market.

Website:  http://jackidelecki.com/

Newsletter:  http://bit.ly/2D7yoFt

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/JDelecki/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/jackidelecki

Book+Main Bites:  https://bookandmainbites.com/users/20961

Bookbub:  https://www.bookbub.com/authors/jacki-delecki

Amazon Author Page:  https://www.amazon.com/Jacki-Delecki/e/B00G9BC9YE/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7394357.Jacki_Delecki

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Copy. Cut. Paste.

Have you heard about the latest scandal rocking RomanceLandia? A woman has been caught lifting sentences, paragraphs, pages from multiple (up to 20 and counting) authors and stringing them together into a new book.

Copy. Cut. Paste.

Plagiarism.

I thought about this while I walked the dogs and see the following spectrum from the benign to the terrible.

The Same, But Different

How many times have we seen that phrase as to what an agent/publisher wants? It’s why tropes are so popular in RomanceLandia: friends to lovers; secret baby. The mystery world has its own familiar plots. The protagonist who races to save the world before the villain takes over/destroys it. The serial killer; can the hero stop him before he kills again? The small-town heroine who a body and must investigate to remove herself from the prime suspect position.
Shoot, I’m part of a Common Elements Project where we’re all given the same five required elements, and then told Go! 
What makes all of these “work” is each author will tell the story in a different way, with their unique voice.

So, the same…but different.

The Inadvertent

This may be every author’s secret fear. Or maybe it’s just mine.
I read. A lot.
There’s always the concern a story’s clever phrase has tucked away in a memory cell and will reappear in a similar fashion on my page. I can’t point to a particular phrase—if I recognized it, I’d change it—but I fear it could happen. I remember reading—somewhere—that this is more common than expected. Or maybe the point of the article was it happens a lot more than we realize.

But, again, I stress it’s inadvertent.

And the Ugly

Stealing. Deliberately.
Plagiarism hurts authors at a deeper level than the whack-a-mole, steal-a-book in a “free” download sites. Those sites and the people who use them are stealing from authors financially.

Plagiarism takes an author’s soul. Words we’ve sweated over, melded into scenes to convey action, character and theme are casually stolen with no thought to the crafting that underlies them.
And worse, it’s done with full knowledge of the theft.
One of the authors impacted by Serruya is a friend—Courtney Milan. She’s written a post about her experience and her reaction. Because the hurt is so personal, I won’t presume to tell you about it. Instead, I urge you to read her words.

Authors – Have you worried about the inadvertent? Found your work ripped off?
Readers – Have you read something you felt was a little too close to something else you’ve read?

On a completely different note, I put DOUBLE DOWN on sale this week because it’s my birthday and I like to share (legally).

DOUBLE DOWN is the second book in the Holly Price series, written because readers wanted to see events from Detective JC Dimitrak’s perspective.
Murder isn’t supposed to be in the cards for blackjack dealer Maddie Larsson. Busted takes on a new meaning when her favorite customer, a former Poker World Tour champion, is murdered. His family claims—loudly and often—Maddie is the gold-digging murderer. She better prove she’s on the level before the real killer cashes in her chips. 

If the victim’s body had been dumped five hundred yards up the road, Franklin County Sheriff’s Detective JC Dimitrak wouldn’t have been assigned to the Tom Tom Casino murder case. Instead, he’s hunting for suspects and evidence while dealing with a nemesis from the past and trying to preserve his own future. He better play his hand correctly and find the killer before an innocent woman takes the ultimate hit.

Find it here from your favorite store. books2read.com/DoubleDown 

And because I forgot to put it on my calendar, HONOR CODE is also on sale this weekend, with a group promo.

In a small southern town where everyone normally knows each other’s business, veteran detective Larry Robbins must solve the disappearance of eighty-year-old widower, African-American George Beason.

 

When evidence arises that Beason may have left town on his own, it would be easy for Robbins to close the case, but his gut instinct tells him more’s at stake. As he uncovers clues about Beason’s deceased wife and his estranged daughter, Robbins must untangle conflicting motives and hidden agendas to bring Beason home alive. 

HONOR CODE hit #1 in its category at release. You can pick up a copy here or here.

Happy Reading!

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Hiding Your Identity Just Isn’t as Easy as It Used To Be

By Sally Bayless

Hi Everyone!

I’m Sally Bayless and I write contemporary Christian romance. I’m a huge lover of mysteries as well, and for my latest release, Love, Lies, and Homemade Pie, I wanted my heroine to be hiding her past. The more I researched how to do that, the more the story idea gelled with my desire to write a prequel to the other books in my series, which are set in the present day. Let me tell you, hiding your identity was a lot easier in 1980! Here’s the story I came up with:

Love, Lies, and Homemade Pie

When a woman who’s keeping secrets falls for a journalist who’s digging for the truth, does the attraction between them stand a chance?

Cara Smith has a whole new life planned—a new name, a new look, and a new hometown in Abundance, Missouri. If she can just avoid questions from that intriguing guy at the newspaper, no one will ever find out about her past.

Will Hamlin, editor of the local paper, can’t help but wonder about the mayor’s new secretary. She’s clearly hiding something—something that could be the big story the newspaper desperately needs to stay afloat. But after Will’s initial inquiries fail to turn up anything, he grows less interested in Cara’s past and more interested in winning her heart with slices of pie and stolen kisses.

When a crime is uncovered at city hall just as Will unearths Cara’s dark secret, the repercussions shatter their romance. Has Cara really left her past behind? Can Will finally find a way to save the paper? And can they each place their trust in God and together find freedom in the truth and overcome the obstacles to their love?

“Love, Lies, and Homemade Pie” is a stand-alone contemporary Christian romance novel and is the prequel to the Abundance Series by Sally Bayless. If you like a sweet, small-town romance with a touch of humor and characters with real-world problems, you’ll love this heartwarming story.

This book is available on Amazon for Kindle, Paperback, and in Kindle Unlimited

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07N31GM6S

About the Author 

Sally Bayless is the author of five contemporary Christian romance books—Love, Lies, and Homemade Pie, Love at Sunset Lake, Love and Harmony, Love and Roses, and Christmas in Abundance. She lives in a small town in the beautiful hills of Appalachian Ohio and has two grown children. When not working on her next book, she enjoys watching BBC television with her husband, swimming, baking, and shopping for cute shoes.

To connect with Sally: Join her newsletter (and get a free family tree of the characters in the Abundance Series as well as a free insider’s guide to her books):

Follow her on Facebook, TwitterPinterest (to which she is rapidly developing an addiction), or join her Facebook group (to get even more of an inside scoop).

 

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Top Ten Writing Tips

I can’t believe it’s already the middle of January! How are you coming with your New Year’s Resolutions?

One of my resolutions was to transfer the organization I always implemented in my day job to my writing life. Since my writing space and habits were a bit (cough, a lot) disorganized, I got together with some author friends. What quickly evolved was a set of writing tips. Many of these I’ve done without conscious thought. I’m attempting to be more mindful, however, and plan to use this structure as additional motivation to, as one friend puts it, finish the damn book.

So, without further fanfare – the writing tips:

Ten – Make lists. Every day I make a list of the things I want to accomplish that day. (I’m not sure what it says about me that I love drawing a line through an item when it’s done.) The first line (every day but Sunday) is always, Write. Long-term-goals are listed on my white board: things I want to be sure I don’t forget, but I don’t have to do today.

Nine – Sprint.  A group of us grabs our first, or next, cup of coffee and checks in, then we all ignore each other, turn off the internet and the phone, and work steadily for an hour. It’s a writing club, a mutual support group, and a fabulous technique for working without interruption. I write until I meet my word count goal for the day. (Thank Steven King for this one.)

Eight – Work on one series at a time. I try my best to immerse myself in one setting, one set of characters, one story, whether I’m working on a first draft or revising a draft. Avoiding the “new shiny” keeps me focused.

Seven – Finish what’s due first. Except #8 blows up sometimes. I’ll be in first draft mode on Pony Ring and edits will come in from Beaver Pond. I operate on the First Due principle. I knock out the edits, because they’re due in a week or two, then get back to the longer work. The problem with doing that, of course, is getting back up to speed with the work-in-process, so I can re-immerse myself in that world.

Six – Take time away from the desk. By the end of a writing session, my creative brain is mush. I usually go for what I call my plotting walk, especially if I’m writing a first draft. There’s something about the rhythm of walking that brings the next scene or a plot problem into focus. It makes the dogs happy to get out of the house, too.

Five – Separate creative time from admin time. I’m most creative in the early morning, so I do my writing then. A corollary is, Keep creative time sacred. I don’t schedule anything else for mornings. I try to keep writing blog posts, scheduling author events, record-keeping, and all the other business stuff for the evenings.

Four – Work ahead. Know what you want to accomplish. I’ve written my goals for the year and set up a time table to implement them. That means I work now on upcoming items instead of waiting and scrambling at the last minute.

Three – Outsource what I can’t do. While I tinker with art and photo-editing, I know my limits with graphic design. I hire a wonderful cover artist. I like formatting my books, but it’s something I can do in the evening while my husband watches TV. The key point is identifying what I’m good at and enjoy, versus what I can outsource. Why waste time on things it would take me forever to do and rob me of the hours I need to do what I’m good at – writing stories?

Two – Stay healthy. I always have a full flask of water on my desk. Fluids in, fluids out. It makes me get up and move around every hour or so. And if I forget, my Fitbit buzzes at me with a reminder. I try to eat lean fresh foods, and I get regular exercise even if it isn’t always a sweaty gym workout. And the exercise doubles as creative time – see #6!

One – Butt in the chair, fingers on the keyboard. This is really the most important one. If I get distracted, schedule other things, or simply don’t do the writing, then…I’m not doing the writing. And that’s my job. Of all the varied jobs I’ve held, I’m lucky and blessed to have this one I love.

What tips can you add?

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Is Noir Hard-Boiled? Or Tough?

By Dana King

Debating noir vs. hard-boiled is a popular panel subject at conferences. I think it’s a false choice. Noir is a genre, a type of story; hard-boiled is a writing style. Much noir is hard-boiled, but it doesn’t have to be. If we consider noir to be a story where the protagonist comes to a bad end, often through his own ill-considered actions, then Hamlet is noir, as is Richard III. Shakespeare’s writing was a lot of things; hard-boiled was not one of them.

I’ve struggled for years with hard-boiled as a description of my writing. Not that I take it as a pejorative; far from it. It’s used as a compliment far more often than not. It’s the term itself I don’t care for. Strikes me too much of dames and gams and gats and yeggs and things that were written for pulps by writers who were often more interested in being pulpy than good.

I was on one of the panels mentioned above when moderator Ted Fitzgerald used the term I like best: tough. “Hard-boiled” too often shows evidence of the effort the author put in to make it so; “tough” just is. Not that I always achieve that, but the real work is in expending as little effort as possible to write what seems natural. That’s not to say one types up a first draft and sends off whatever dreck results. The heavy lifting is shaping that first draft into something worth reading while retaining the seeming effortlessness that comes with whatever your imagination brought to mind, warts and all; removing the warts while leaving no visible scars.

My favorite and most durable quote about writing, my go-to quote when I feel I’m missing the voice, is from James M. Cain:

I make no conscious effort to be tough, or hard-boiled, or grim, or any of the things I am usually called. I merely try to write as the character would write, and I never forget that the average man, from the fields, the streets, the bars, the offices and even the gutters of his country, has acquired a vividness of speech that goes beyond anything I could invent, and that if I stick to this heritage, this logos of the American countryside, I shall attain a maximum of effectiveness with very little effort.

You can’t try to write like anything or anyone. That’s what it will sound like: trying. It’s easy to spot writers who have spent little or no time with working-class men in bars when they try to craft dialog for working-class men in a bar. What I object to most strongly in what I call “bestseller style” is dialog that reads like how people think other people talk instead of how people actually talk. That’s why I’ll never write a book (or even a scene) about teenaged girls talking among themselves; I don’t know what teenaged girls say among themselves when I’m not around and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to. I could take a guess. Might even get away with it until one of two things happens:

  1. Someone who actually does know reads the book;
  2. Anyone who has read Megan Abbott reads it.

It’s a losing proposition for me, not unlike Danny DeVito playing volleyball or Tom Waits singing opera. Both men are substantial talents, just not in those fields.

Not that I am particularly tough, either, but I grew up working class and almost literally in a bar. My mother worked as a cook and sometimes had me behind the bar in a bassinet when I was an infant if her work schedule didn’t quite mesh with Dad’s. In high school when I needed a car for something and Mom and Dad both worked evenings, I’d drop Mom off and met Dad and his friends at the bar to leave a car for Mom. Dad and the boys drank a few beers and I drank a couple of Cokes and got a truly immersive experience in bar talk.

It’s plain-spoken language with rough humor and not all that concerned if someone’s feelings are ruffled; those with excessive sensitivity can drink at home. We call it bullshitting, but actual bullshit is rapidly and sometimes pointedly called out. It’s a euphemism-free zone. People don’t drink too much; they’re drunks. They don’t pass; they die. They may even fucking die. It’s not language for the faint of heart, but neither is it put on. It is what it is.

Tough.

 

This blog was cross posted to Do Some Damage a group blog with an inside look at crime fiction.

*  *  *

 

Dana King has earned Shamus Award nominations for two of his Nick Forte novels, A Small Sacrifice and The Man in the Window. He also writes the Penns River novels, of which the fourth novel in the series, Ten-Seven, releases from Down & Out Books.

His work has appeared in the anthologies The Black Car Business, Unloaded 2, The Shamus Sampler 2, and Blood, Guts, and Whiskey. You can get to know him better on his website, blog, or Facebook page, which he promises to update more often.

 

 

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Are Writing Contests Relevant?

Are writing contests relevant? Worth the money?

Those questions surface periodically on loops and blogs, but I’ve heard from other contest coordinators that entries are down, perhaps in response to the lingering effects of a crummy economy, but maybe because people aren’t sure it’s something they should do.

Whether a contest is relevant or worth the money depends on what you’re hoping to accomplish. If you expect to get an agent or a book contract from them, you’re probably going to be disappointed. It does happen. Final judges often request full or partial manuscripts. Some people do sign with an agent or sell to an editor based upon a contest.

If you’re entering for feedback on your manuscript, then you may feel you’ve won something, regardless of your entry’s final placement. Even if you aren’t a finalist, you may receive enough positive responses to keep you encouraged.

What if your comments are less than stellar? Do the judges mention the same things? These strangers, who haven’t seen ten versions of your story like your critique partners, can tell you if what’s in your head is hitting the page. Allow for different tastes and perspectives, but if there are consistent references to… whatever, try to find a class or online workshop that can help you in those areas. Good critique partners or a good writers’ workshop can also help as you learn the craft of writing.

But let’s do the happy dance because maybe the contest coordinator just called and said your entry reached the finals. Does it really have an impact on your writing career?

Possibly.

Several years ago, one of my critique partners encouraged me to enter The Professor in an RWA contest. The first round judges pointed out spots to polish and I’m sure that helped my manuscript final in the Golden Heart. Of course the contest wins don’t guarantee a sale, but I suspect having those contest credentials in my query letter helped move the manuscript over the first set of hurdles when I sought publication. I’m happy to say Carina Press acquired The Professor, which became my debut novel.

For me, those early contest finals were an affirmation by other professional and a much needed ego-boost when I wondered if I was beating my head against the proverbial brick wall. People liked the characters, the story, my voice – the encouragement I needed.

So what if things don’t go as you’d hoped? We’ve all heard the story of “that judge,” the grammar police who treat your paper as if it were part of English 101 (Side bar, I use sentence fragments. A lot. It’s fiction. Deal with it.) or the one who wants to rewrite your story the way they would write it.

They happen. Just like the rest of your life, chance is an element in contests. As a coordinator for the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense contest (deadline is March 15, get your entry turned in!) I can tell you most judges are trying to give back to the writing community, taking time away from their writing, family, the rest of their life, in an attempt to nurture other authors. I can also share that the overwhelming majority of our contest judges offer constructive feedback. (As the coordinator, I see all the entries) Any judge who isn’t doing so will not be invited back the next year. On the very positive side, our rate of returning judges is incredibly high.

There are numerous contests in addition to the Romance Writers of America ones I’ve mentioned. Check around and you’ll find legitimate contests in every literary genre. If you enter a contest, make sure you know who is actually sponsoring it, read the fine print and watch out for the scams.

With the explosive growth of self-publishing, I’ve heard people question whether contests add any value. Why try to attract an editor or agent if you plan to “do it yourself?”

Feedback.

Is your material ready for the harsh reality of publication? Are there still holes you need to patch in the all-important opening?

One last point. I’ve seen some concern about someone “stealing” your contest material. An important thing to remember is your voice, the way you tell a story, is as unique as you are. Generally contests only cover the first 15 -25 pages. Even with a synopsis, no one is going to tell the story the same way you would. So put that worry aside and concentrate on writing the story of your heart.

I polled a number of friends about this topic and this is the summary of their advice:

Benefits:

1) Inexpensive way to get impartial feedback

2) Learn how to work with negative feedback – protect your voice but stay open to constructive criticism

3) Compare your work/skill level to your peers

Potential drawbacks:

1) Subjective comments may not be consistent – learn to trust your voice after you acquire sufficient skills

2) Feedback can be overwhelming – and confidence shaking – to a new writer; make sure you and your manuscript are ready before entering a contest

3) Don’t turn into a contest junky – don’t endlessly polish the beginning and neglect the rest of the manuscript. You need the whole book to sell it.

What has your contest experience – as a judge, contestant or coordinator – been?

Can you add to the benefits or offer another caution?

 

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Inspiration Needs A New Form

All writers need inspiration. Where do you find yours?

For me, inspiration comes from the “what if” scenario: What if your neighbor turns out to be a serial killer? What if the supermarket at the end of your street is a cover for an international drugs cartel? What if the pale-skinned old man who owns the second-hand bookshop is actually a ghost?

Big Flats/Snake River

Most writers relish these observations and use them as a launching pad for stories. When my husband and I were battling through a dense thicket of bushes and small trees wedged between the Snake River and the cliff bank soaring above us, I remember telling him, “Wouldn’t this be a great place to find a body?” That remark grew into So About The Money, a fun, amateur sleuth mystery. (It’s Book 1 in the Holly Price mystery series.)

 

Recently, I been crazy busy between the day job and packing (shredding, wrapping, tossing, gifting) everything we own in preparation for a move into a place 1/4th the size of our current digs, while we build a new house. Well, while assorted crews of craftsmen build the house, but I digress.

So… there’s no time to write, other than in snatched moments. Those snatched moments, however, can lend humor. I’ve discovered the voice recorder on my phone returns gibberish – or maybe it’s my Southern accent that turns reasonable statements into sentences that…well…aren’t remotely reasonable.

But the resulting text is enough that I can at least, sorta remember where I was going with the scene idea.  Then there are the scribbles on the backs of envelopes and sticky notes. Where would we be without sticky notes?

And I’m dreaming like mad. For some weird reason (I’m sure the mental health people can analyze, except I’d really hate it if they did), when I don’t have the creative outlet from writing (or painting or fusing glass or oops, another tangent), all those wild ideas invade my sleep.

 

What about you? How do you handle it when the rest of your life is overwhelming your writing time? 

 

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How to Make a New Series

By Edith Maxwell

How does a new series come about?

When my agent said my editor at Kensington Publishing would be happy to consider a new cozy series written by my alter ego, Maddie Day, I was delighted. Why as Maddie Day and not Edith Maxwell? My Country Store Mysteries written under that name sell toward the spectacular end of the spectrum and he wanted to leverage that success.

But then…hmm, where to set it? Who would the protagonist be and what would she do for work? What secrets would she have? Who would her cast of regulars be? For someone like me with an overactive imagination, the prospect of inventing a new world was almost overwhelming.

First I came up with another good Midwestern setting. I homed in on western Illinois on the Iowa border, with the Mississippi River running through town. The area has interesting history and geography. I created a whole-grains baker, her family and friends, and a plot for the first book. I found some comparable titles and sent the proposal off to my agent. And then…my agent nixed the setting and the baker! Rats.

Next I floated a different idea with him before I did all that work. I wanted to leverage what I learned during my first full-time job at age 22, working full time at a Mobil gas station on Highway 1 in Newport Beach, California. I worked my way up from pump jock (wearing my Mobil shirt with Edie embroidered on the pocket) to doing tuneups. I know analog cars, and I love the simplicity and beauty of their engine compartments. Those kinds of cars really last in California.

So I dreamed up a female auto mechanic in a fictional town near Santa Barbara who only works on cars made before 1970. That is, on engines that don’t have computers or electronics in them. The mechanic’s name is Jamie Jullien and her father, who trained her, left her JJ Automotive, her repair shop. She lives in an adobe house in an old orange grove. She has a sidekick best friend who is a single mom. Car owners from all over the region, including from the high-income enclave of Montecito just to the northwest, (where Sue Grafton lived) bring her their cars to maintain.

Wouldn’t you want to read the Vintage Car Mysteries? Agent approved, I wrote the proposal, and we sent it to my editor. Who said…”It’s not a cozy.” Wha? Yes it is! Just because Jamie works on cars and not quilts? I wanted a unique occupation for my cozy protag. I wanted to set a series back in my home state. It was amateur sleuth, village-based, the cozy works. Heavy sigh. [NOTE: Don’t nobody even think of stealing that premise – I’m determined to write it one day.]

But…he’s the senior editor at Kensington and I didn’t want to turn down the offer of a new series. This time I had my agent just ask him: “What are you looking for?” When “Something on Cape Cod” came back, I smiled and nodded to myself. For several years I’ve been renting a Quaker retreat cottage in West Falmouth during off season for solo writing retreats. I walk on the Shining Sea Trail. I poke around Falmouth’s shops and restaurants and watch the ospreys over Chapoquoit Beach. Yeah, I could do a series set on the iconic Cape.

And voila! Murder on Cape Cod is the first in the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries.

Summer is busy season for Mackenzie “Mac” Almeida’s bicycle shop, nestled in the quaint, seaside hamlet of Westham, Massachusetts. She’s expecting an influx of tourists at Mac’s Bikes; instead she discovers the body of Jake Lacey, and her brother soon becomes a suspect. Mac’s experience with murder investigations is limited to the cozy mysteries she reads with her local book group, the Cozy Capers. To clear her brother’s name, Mac has to summon help from her book group co-investigators. For a small town, Westham is teeming with possible killers, and this is one mystery where Mac is hoping for anything but a surprise ending.

I loved inventing Mac and her bicycle rental and repair shop. I added her father, the UU minister, her mom, a quirky astrologer, her tiny nosy grandma, and her half-brother, single dad to a four year old girl. The Cozy Capers members are the rest of the cast. They include shopkeepers, a head librarian, the town clerk, and more. Mac’s boyfriend is a hunky baker, and the touristy town plays a big part, with its soup kitchen and food pantry to help out needy year-round residents.

The book released December 18 in a paperback exclusive from Barnes & Noble. It will re-release a year later in all formats on all platforms. In the meantime, I’d love to give away a signed copy to one commenter here today.

Readers:

Where’s your favorite waterside getaway? Do you ever rent bikes and ride along the shore? What about book groups? Love ‘em? Hate ‘em? Dish!

 

[Note: a version of this post first appeared on Jungle Red Writers in December.]

 

Agatha- and Macavity-nominated Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries, the Local Foods Mysteries, and award-winning short crime fiction. As Maddie Day she writes the Country Store Mysteries and the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. Maxwell lives north of Boston with her beau and two elderly cats, and gardens and cooks when she isn’t wasting time on Facebook.

Please find her at the Wicked Authors, on Killer Characters and her web site, and on social media:

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