Showing posts with label readers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label readers. Show all posts

Dec 7, 2020

Which Book Was That?

 It happens to me sometimes. A reader mentions a character or a scene in one of my books, and it takes me a second to find it in my memory. Oh, right, Caroline, the protagonist in Somebody Doesn't Like Sarah Leigh. I remember her--kind of.

https://books2read.com/u/4AgVOq
The thing is, authors move on. We have new ideas. We dream up new people. But there's no way to tell when a reader will find a book, read it, and get excited for more. My first book was published in 2006. I just saw online where someone ordered it. Yay...but how much of Macbeth's Niece do I even remember?
https://books2read.com/u/m0xYdY

My newest book, Deceiving Elvera, released on Friday. There are ads for it everywhere, and the introductory price is a bargain, so readers are talking about it. One beta reader suggested I could make it a series. Um, no. Some books are meant to be stand-alones, and this one is...big-time.

https://books2read.com/u/38RZoB


The other day a fan wrote to say she wished Maggie Pill (that's me) would consider another Sleuth Sisters book. I said I'd think about it, but it's probably not going to happen. 

I remember going to a Peter, Paul, and Mary concert late in their career as a group. They sang songs I'd never heard before, songs they'd written recently, and I left a little disappointed. I'd gone there to hear "If I Had a Hammer" and "Puff, the Magic Dragon," but they were tired of singing those old chestnuts over and over. I get it: creative people want to move on and do something new. Audiences want to recapture the joy they felt the first time they heard/read/saw a creative work. Some authors can make themselves keep adding another episode. I can't.

Then what am I doing? Tweaking the characters for my next mystery, The Cutest Little Killer. I'm thinking this one could be a series, but readers will have a lot to say about that. It's kind of a partnership, at least with independent writers. Authors let readers know what they like to write by putting the books out there. Readers let an author know they want more by buying books, reviewing them, and recommending them to others.

Mar 12, 2018

...and Then the Monsters Showed Up


I'm not a big reader of science fiction, but I love it when it's well done. (Michael Crichton comes to mind.) Good sci-fi writers explore interesting social questions while constructing cool plots about things that haven't happened...yet.
My complaint with SF is that all too often the story ends with "and now we must kill the aliens before they kill us." The last few chapters are the all out battle for the survival of our species, with lots of things blowing up and gallons of green blood spilt.
That's not my thing. In the most recent example I read, the story began well, with questions about how time travel would actually work and what the resulting physical and mental problems might be, but it ended up with monsters pouring out of the portal and lots of shooting. We started with questions and ended with an arcade game.

SF isn't the only predictable genre, which is why genre fiction has a bad name with literary folks. Who hasn't started a romance novel and known from the first chapter what was going to happen and who was going to end up living happily ever after together? (Sometimes it's a tossup between two men, but if you go with the less socially acceptable one, you'll probably get it right.)

Mysteries are often predictable too, and after reading them all my life, I really enjoy finding one that escapes the rules a little. An interesting (but not mean) sleuth is great, a unique setting is nice, and if at all possible, a solution that's clever and even obvious...after I read it. Too often these days I know the "who" early on, and I tend to skip chapters to get to the end and find exactly the same thing that happened in the last five books I read: The protag is bloody but alive, the cop that doubted him/her becomes a friend/lover, etc. etc. etc.

Even "literary fiction" novels, those books that are supposed to "transcend genre," are often the same old same old, and lately they seem to come in streaks. I'm tired of books about bookstore owners who are delightfully fey, tired of titles with "Girl," and tired of lead characters with no redeeming qualities who wallow in their own misery for 400 pages and end up exactly where they began.

If you're nodding your head as you read this, I know what's wrong with you. You have read TOO MUCH. YOU NEED TO STOP READING BOOKS. (YOU NEED TO STOP WATCHING TV AND MOVIES TOO.) YOU NEED TO GET A HOBBY, LIKE COLLECTING SPOONS OR WEAVING YOGA MATS OUT OF OLD GROCERY BAGS.

Or you can keep doing what you're doing, looking for the one book in ten that occupies your mind and satisfies your heart. That's what I intend to do!

Nov 28, 2016

Free Books and All That

I'm kind of bad at selling things (which is odd because my dad was a used car salesman. He wasn't the stereotypical one, though, and worked hard to find the best car for the money for each customer.)
Anyway, even with years of watching people sell things to other people, I can't make myself tell readers that my books are amazing and will change their lives. Nor can I follow the advice of one writer I met who said, "When people come up to your table at a signing, shove the book at them so they have to take it into their hands. They'll be embarrassed to put it down, so they'll buy it."
Really? I'd be embarrassed to be that pushy.

So here's the deal. It's the holiday season and people are looking for gifts. If you know a mystery reader, you might consider giving one of my books. I've listed below the first in each series, and I'm giving the Kindle versions away over the next month on Amazon. I won't hide my motive: if a person reads one book, this author hopes it will lead to buying the next and the next.

You win. I win. I like it that way.

First Sleuth Sisters Mystery (four so far, another on the way) is free TODAY/TOMORROW on Amazon. (Nov. 28-29) It's called, oddly enough, THE SLEUTH SISTERS. (Written as Maggie Pill).
Link to Amazon

The first Dead Detective Mystery (4 total) is THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY. Link to Amazon

The first Loser Mystery (3 total) is KILLING SILENCE  Link to Amazon.

The first Simon & Elizabeth Mystery is HER HIGHNESS' FIRST MURDER. Link to Amazon

All my books are available in print and e-book. Most are available in audio. Of course I have stand-alone mysteries too. You can find out more about them here on my site, at Amazon, or you can ask any bookstore to order them for you through their regular distributor.
 


May 30, 2016

The Bitter End

Not me. My hero, Dorothy Parker
I posted on Facebook the other day that each book I write comes to the point where I'd like to tell the reader, "I've brought you this far, now you finish it!"
I was surprised to read in the responses I got that it's been done. Can't imagine reading a whole book and being left in the lurch like that. As one respondent pointed out, "As the author, you know the characters better than anyone else. You have to tell us what happens to them."
Yes, it's the author's responsibility to sort out the mess she's created. Still:
1) I'm tired of them at that point. Like one's children, an author loves her characters, but there are times when she'd like to love them from a galaxy far, far away.
2) Some readers won't be satisfied. I've heard from some who wanted more romance (okay, sex) between the characters to end the book. One reader complained that a certain character would never have given in and obeyed the bad guy who stuck a gun to her head. (Maybe I should have said, "He pointed the gun at her and she said, "Stop that," so he dropped the gun, gave himself up to the police, and admitted everything.) In another instance, a woman at a book group expressed vexation that I never told what happened to a certain very minor character at the end of the book. (She lived her life--I guess.)
3)  The biggest reason I don't look forward to writing the end is that it's hard, especially in a mystery, where a writer can't just fade out, as some literary novelists do. There has to be an accounting of some sort, and though I've had in mind all the way along who's guilty, making the ending logical, exciting, and summary of all previous events takes concentration. Every strand should pull together and make a nice whole. There shouldn't be a point where the reader thinks, "That wasn't fair."
 I've read books where the killer came out of the woodwork, like an ant when dinner's over, and it irritates me. The clues should be there, and the ending should make it clear it couldn't have been anyone else. One of my favorite comments ever from a reader of my work was, "I didn't figure out the ending, but I should have been able to."
If you haven't guessed by now, my task this week is to end a book I've been working on. I know how it ends. I know where each character needs to step in and do his part.
I just haven't written it down yet.

Apr 18, 2016

The Gifts I Buy Myself

I buy myself presents all the time: they're called books.
Sometimes they're Kindle books, although I'm often irritated by the inflated cost of books by big-name authors. If mid-list authors' books can be produced for six dollars or less, why can't everyone's?
I know, supply and demand, but there isn't the cost in e-books that there is with print: no print cost, no warehousing, no shipping.
But I digress.
In addition to Kindle books, I also buy print books. Lots of them. No less than three, sometimes more, bookstores exist where the clerks smile when they see me coming. They know I'm buying.
Sometimes my purchases result in entertainment for few hours, and that's great. People gripe about "affording" books, but where else do you get eight hours of entertainment for under thirty bucks?
The best times are when my purchase results in absolute rapture. I got lucky last week with THE NIGHTINGALE on my Kindle, which was wonderful. On Thursday I picked up (at a nice young clerk at McLean and Eakin's suggestion) BE FRANK WITH ME.
Oh, the joy.
I can't tell you where it's going for sure yet, because I haven't finished. It concerns a young woman who's sent to smooth the way for a famous author so she can get a  book written. Smoothing the way involves dealing with Frank, a kid who's unique, hilarious, frustrating, and endearing. If you love unique characters cleverly presented, you will love Frank, and his mom's pretty interesting, too.
One of the blurbs mentions that the reader wants to
read the book again later, just to spend more time with Frank.
That's like double value for your money. How great is that?

Mar 21, 2016

Taking Criticism

E-book available on Amazon. Print soon
Writers have to learn to accept criticism. It starts with your editor, who takes out some of your favorite passages because they don't advance the plot.
"But it's a commentary on society!" you whine.
"You're not a philosopher. You're a mystery writer," is the reply.
Then you get the beta reader who wants the story to end differently. "Why didn't she hook up with the sheriff?"
"I preferred to suggest that she might and let the reader imagine it. I didn't want to start another whole thread in the last few pages."
(Pouty face) "I think you should say it."
Later come the readers, who go on Amazon and say things like, "The author speaks of a 'dollar' but there were no dollars in Tudor England."
Actually, the word was slang for a coin called a crown in the 1500s. But don't let my months of research top your assumption you know what you're talking about.
Of course, there is criticism that's justified. My favorite story is the person who wrote to inform me that though the first Simon & Elizabeth book was interesting and historically well done, I'd put in rhododendrons, which didn't exist in the 1500s.
Okay, I'll take the blame for that one. Who knew? And who'd have thought to include it in her research? (Well, I do now!)
Writers have to learn not only to take criticism, but to not take it as well. Tastes vary. Best-selling authors sometimes leave me cold, since they don't write things I like to read. I try not to conclude they're bad writers because of my tastes. It's hard when a reader assumes that because he/she felt a certain way about a book, that's the final truth of it. "I didn't feel connected to the characters because they were not well-developed" is hurtful. It helps, though, when the very next review says the exact opposite. "Great characters that felt like people I knew well. I was eager to know what they'd do next."


 

Feb 16, 2016

MACDEATH

Four authors are observing the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death by showing off their Bard-related mysteries. I'm going to focus on one at a time, so this week it's Cindy Brown's Macdeath.
Here are some things I like/love about the book.
*It's a cozy--amateur sleuth, small cast of characters who all know each other--but it never descends to the silliness I despise in some cozies. People act like real people (even if they are all actors). :)
*It takes place in a theater. Anyone who knows my drama director background can guess I'd like that.
*The play Macbeth is woven into the story. Anyone who knows my English teacher background will know I loved that.
*The main character is real. I felt like she was someone I've known, or might have.
*The author has a sense of story. I particularly liked the connection between the first line and the last.
*...and who doesn't love that title? Makes me wish I'd thought of it!





Here are the other three books, which I'll talk about in the weeks to come:


Jan 18, 2016

Old People Who Read

Note: I was going to call this post "Old Readers," but I was afraid it might bring to mind the original Kindle. I'm looking at those of us who've read all our lives: Old Readers.

My husband started reading in his fifties. My father started even later than that. That isn't me. I can't remember when I didn't have my nose in a book.

Reading is wonderful, but a lifetime of reading leads to a problem: What to read next. When I was a kid, my choices were limited to what books our school library had, though I eventually moved on to reading my mom's mystery novels (MacDonald, Carr, Christie, etc.), and gothics (Stewart, duMaurier, and the like). As a young adult I read historical pot-boilers from Frank Yerby (lots of rape threat) to Rosemary Rodgers (lots of actual rape). I also read a lot of biographies back then, mostly movie stars like David Niven and John Wayne.

Now I'm pretty old, and I've read a lot of stuff. When people gush about the newest prize-winning or best-selling book, I take a look, but often I find it's very similar to something I've already read. Yes, Harry Potter is cool, but have you read The Once and Future King? Unreliable narrators like the one in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time are all the rage, but have you heard of We Have Always Lived in the Castle?

Past reading experience can spoil the "surprise" of many current books, because we've been there before and recognize the territory. And the "ground-breaking" characters aren't so surprising. Yeah the kids in Paper Towns and The Gold Finch feel lost and disconnected from society, but have you read "Paul's Case" by Willa Cather or anything at all by Thomas Hardy?

So what do I read these days? Mostly mysteries, because although they're "genre fiction" and therefore predictable (according to the experts), they present a puzzle to be solved. The characters can be every bit as interesting as those in "literary fiction," and Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly, Laura Lippman, and Sara Paretsky can rope me in as well as any writer can.

I recently finished a "literary" novel and had a familiar response: So? I read hundreds of pages of stuff that was interesting historically, but the story added up to nothing in the end. There was a war. It was tough. Some lived, some died.

If it had been a mystery, they'd have caught the person responsible for all that grief, put him or her in jail, and seen that justice was done. As an old reader almost immune to surprises, that's what I look for these days.

Oct 12, 2015

Plain Talk for Writers: Series

3 Current Series: Upper left, Loser Mysteries. Upper right, Simon & Elizabeth Historical Mysteries. Lower left: Dead Detective Mysteries. Somebody Doesn't Like Sarah Leigh is a stand-along mystery.
Publishers love series. They invest in an author's work, and series mean they can reap the rewards of that investment more than once.

Readers love series. It's nice to know that characters we love are going to come back and visit us again, telling us about their latest scrapes.

Writers love series--to a point. It's comfortable to slip into the minds of characters we've already created. We know how they think, what they'll do. (Even if we don't, we can look back at the books that came before and refresh our memories.)

The problem with series-writing is keeping it fresh. Writers don't want their characters to "jump the shark," but it's obvious to me from reading some series that authors find it difficult to tell when they've reached that point. If you've ever stopped reading a series because things got too weird, too over-the-top emotional, or too unbelievable, you've seen it happen.

On the other hand, a series shouldn't be the same story over and over. We like familiar characters in new situations, and that makes it tough for a writer. Readers want the same thing, only different.

Publishers push their writers to keep a series going, often despite the writer's feelings. We know that Conan Doyle wanted to kill off Sherlock Holmes, as did Martha Grimes with her Inspector Jury. Steve Hamilton admits that though he likes Alex McKnight, he wants to write other things. I admire these writers for wanting to stretch themselves and not depend on a single successful character to make their whole career. Still, you'll notice that in each case, someone in the publishing industry has decreed differently: the public wants more of the same, and Sue Grafton will be required/encouraged to finish the alphabet, no matter how tired she might be or Kinsey Milhone. (Hey, it's all downhill from X, right?)

I've ended one series (Loser Mysteries) and am at working ending two more (Dead Detectives right now and Simon & Elizabeth next year), because I don't want to get tired of my characters. I did cheat a little and leave possibilities for continuing them at a later date, but right now, they're telling me they've traveled the arc that kept me and my readers interested. After three books, Loser's in a good place in her life. Seamus is about to come to terms with his demons in Book #4. Simon & Elizabeth are getting old as the fifth book circles in my head. I can't see forcing them to have more adventures--not when there are new characters talking from the back of my brain, whispering that they're waiting for their turn.

Oct 5, 2015

Plain Talk For Writers: A Sense of Place

No, I'm not talking about book settings, though they're important and wonderful when done well.

I'm talking about YOUR place in the world of writing.

If you're published, you probably already have an idea of where you fit, and it probably bothers you a little that it isn't where you'd like to be or where you thought you'd be. If you're not yet published, you should spend some time thinking about where you will fit in once you show your work to the world.

Before publication, many writers have an inflated idea of the importance of their work. I'm approached all the time at book signings by people who claim they have the next bestseller in mind or in progress. The fact that they tell me about it is a hint that they don't know the process at all. There's hope in their eyes, a fantasy scenario where I grab them by the arm and say, "Wow! I need to tell my agent right away about your completely awesome idea." Well, I won't. In the first place, I fired my agent, and in the second place, I've heard it before. Really.


Honestly, 99% of books, including my own, are not that original. Most of us take a theme that's well known (In mystery it's usually the search for justice), find some characters we like, and work out a story. However, the number of variations on any theme is limited. For example, I'm aware of three best-selling authors right now who have a new book where the protagonist has amnesia. I bought two of them, and I had to quit reading one until I finish the other, because I kept getting them mixed up in my head. Amnesia as a theme in mysteries comes in waves--as do other themes, alcoholic protagonists, divorced sleuths with children at risk, cops with bosses who hate them, etc. Apparently it's been long enough since writers did amnesiacs as protags that we can use it again.

What's your place in the writing world? Chances are your plot isn't original (Nor are those of most best-selling authors). Chances are the people in your book are re-hashes of stereotypical characters readers have seen before, probably many times. That's okay, as long as you recognize it. The most honest thing a writer can do is accept that she isn't doing anything groundbreaking. Once we accept that truth, we won't expect to shoot to the top of the ranks like Nike rising from the sea.

If you're lucky, you write something entertaining enough that a portion of the population will read it. Then you build on that, so they learn to come back to you for the kind of story they like. If you're even more lucky, a few of them will say nice things about it to other readers (Most don't. They just reach for the next book on their TBR pile).

That's your place, and when you understand it, you'll stop wondering why awards aren't lining your office wall and movie producers aren't knocking on your door. You'll be happy brightening the corner where you are.


Sep 28, 2015

Recap: Alpena Book Festival

It was great! Good weather, great fans, knowledgeable authors, and wonderful downtown businesses, especially our sponsors: Blue Phoenix Books, Olivet Book & Give, and the George M. Fletcher Library!
But I won't tell you: I'll show you!

 Volunteers make an event, and we had some great ones, including S-in-Law Julie and her niece Skyla, who took these pics.
 Other helpers P.J. & Kaylee had a bit of trouble with tangled balloons.
 Loved what Allen & Goel Marketing Company did with the tote bags.
 Author Elizabeth Buzzelli shares a laugh with a fan.
 Bob of Bob's Bullpen demonstrates some facets of graphic arts.
 "My Favorite Book" tree
 Love to see a kid enjoying a book!

Panel at Blue Phoenix Books: What Makes a Genre, and Which Ones Do You Read?
l to r: Christine Johnson, Connie Doherty, P.J. Coldren, Laura Kolar, Chris Chagnon
 Signing for Clarence, a voracious reader and nice man.
 Author Susan Froetschel with a new fan.
.Work station for Bill & Diane Speer, who did ALL the registration for the Festival. Thank you!
 Chanda Stafford & Laura Kolar hosted the YA segment...
...and look what they got? I shoulda volunteered for that one. I'd like to thank the bakers at the cupcake shop, but sadly, I don't remember the name!!
 Before the Nonfiction panel at Art in the Loft: Mark Thompson, Tedd Galloway, Delores Liesner, & Elaine Stenger
The Long Conversation was an experiment, but it worked out well. Authors came and went for three hours, and discussion meandered through a series of topics related to reading, writing, publishing, and promoting books.

Aug 17, 2015

Check Your Reading

Readers are smart people. We know that. Reading almost anything makes you learn things, even if they're not massively important things. Non-fiction is the most reliable source for learning, although you have to be careful whose nonfiction it is. Recent studies showed that reading fiction can make a person more empathetic, presumably because you put yourself in the place of others and see life from viewpoints other than your own.

Over time we develop reading habits, and that's both good and bad. If you always read one genre and even one sub-genre, you're going to end up in a rut. Publishers encourage this, hoping and expecting that readers will buy the next book in a series by their favorite author, even if it's pretty much the same as the book before it and the one before that. Sadly, they can get sloppy if they think buyers are locked-in to the series. The last book I read by one of my favorite authors was poorly edited and so much like the rest that there wasn't much joy in reading it.

I read mostly mystery, but events of the last few years forced me to branch out, which made me more aware of my reading choices. I read to someone who could no longer read for herself, and that meant scientific stuff I'd never have chosen, Hollywood biographies (again, not my style), and sci-fi/fantasy like The Hunger Games and Twilight (waaaaay down my list of worthwhile reading).

I can't say the time was wasted. I learned a lot about astrophysics, brain research, Tina Fey, and what most of America is reading. I also learned that I don't always have to pick up another mystery. I doubt I'll go back to YA adventure anytime soon, but I do regularly buy something on the scientific spectrum now, because it's interesting to learn what's out there that I know little about. And I've done some reading in other genres, mostly by asking local bookstore people, "What would I like to read?" They're very patient about searching out books for me, and though sometimes it isn't to my taste, other times I'm very interested.

A few days ago a former student recommended the Gentleman Bastards series, so I bought the first one. So far it's kind of fun, though I'm not much into the world-building part of fantasy novels. It's got interesting characters and lots of action, so I'm enjoying the temporary shift from the likes of Lee Child and Michael Connelly.

I recommend shaking up your reading every once in a while. Ask yourself:
Am I in a reading rut?
Have I read outside my favorite sub-genre lately?
Do I explore other genres?

If you haven't, it's like living on chocolate cake. It's really sweet, but it probably isn't the best thing for you in the long run.

May 4, 2015

What Is a Good Book?

Which Are the Good Ones?
I've read a lot of books, but we probably won't agree on which were the best ones. Why? Because each book speaks to us as individuals: where we come from, what we value, and how we want our leisure activities to go.
Reading requires commitment: time for sure, concentration (some books more than others), and a degree of background preparation. The ability to read is the most basic level, but requirements build after that. For example, a person isn't likely to enjoy a book about modern immunology if she doesn't understand the vocabulary used or a book about WWII if she doesn't know or care who Winston Churchill was.
Reading serves different purposes. Many people read to escape from hum-drum, daily stuff. They want to escape reality, and they don't mind how wild the plots get as long as they're entertaining. Others demand that their fiction be realistic, with characters who could be real and plot-lines that might actually happen. People who read to become enlightened usually choose non-fiction and often have little patience for books that are offered just for fun.
Lots of readers. Lots of reasons to read.
As a former English teacher, I have to tell you I'm not thrilled with a lot of what sells these days. Bad writing, bad plots, and lack of creativity seem like glaring faults to me. Much of what's billed as non-fiction is actually fiction, with the authors either so biased or so deluded that I have no interest in what they claim is truth.
But not to the people who are reading those books and thinking they're really good.
So what constitutes a good book?
A good book is one that captures and holds your interest, whatever that interest might be. If it's panned by people like me but you enjoy it, read it. If nothing on the Best Sellers list does it for you but you have favorite authors you can't wait to get back to, that's okay. Keep reading what you like.
Keep reading.

Feb 2, 2015

Protagonists Who Are Difficult to Like

Now available in print, e-book, and audio                                                                                      Killing Silence on Amazon
There's been a lot of discussion on mystery readers' sites lately about books like Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. Some pan them because the protagonists aren't very likeable; others claim they brilliantly reflect the realities of life. The fact that The Gold Finch won literature's highest reward indicates that reflecting reality is a big deal for the important voices in publishing and reading.

I read The Girl on the Train last week, and I have to say it was well done. I was drawn into the woman's blurry world, and I guess I understand better now what it's like to be an alcoholic, promising yourself you'll do better tomorrow while you pour yourself another drink today. I never read Gone Girl, having heard there was no one to like in the book, and I stopped just over halfway through The Gold Finch, tired of the young man's spiral downward to the point that each time I set it down, I didn't want to pick it up again.  Whether that makes me a low-class reader or not I don't know, but in any movie I watch or book I read, I want someone I can cheer for, someone I like.

That's not to say I don't enjoy a protagonist with issues. I fell in love with Craig Johnson's books because Walt Longmire was so troubled in the first one, and Steve Hamilton's Alex McKnight and the Todds' Ian Rutledge grabbed me for the same reasons. In those books, however, the protagonist tries to assure that the problem he has doesn't make the situation (whatever the mystery is) worse for others. It only makes things harder for him personally.

Loser, my homeless protagonist, is that type. She's got lots of issues, but she's desperate not to inflict them on others. For me that signals the type of nobility required of an appealing protagonist: a lack of selfishness. The boy in The Gold Finch and the woman in The Girl on the Train are so wrapped up in themselves that they make others pay for their hurt and anguish. Yes, they have excuses, but so does Loser, so do Walt Longmire and Ian Rutledge. It's their determination not to inflict their hurt on anyone else that makes them, for me anyway, worthy protagonists, people with whom I can spend a few hours of my time without feeling I've wasted it.

So while I admit to the talent of writers who can accurately portray unlikeable characters, when those characters are protagonists I'm left feeling vaguely unhappy at the end. There are already messed-up people in the world who are beyond caring whom they hurt. I prefer those who, though troubled, work to make the world better, even as they wrestle with their own demons.

Nov 11, 2014

What Do Authors Do For Fun?


If you know someone who writes, you might have noticed her idea of fun is different from that of other people. An invitation to go shopping might be answered with, "I have a chapter that just won't work out right, so I think I'll stay home and work on it."
Conversations all turn into analyses of publishing.
And don't think about asking what she's working on if you don't have half an hour to listen to the Next Great Idea.
Two things authors enjoy are talking about books with other readers and talking about books with other writers. I did both those things recently, so I count it as a great week.
First, I visited Petrolia, Ontario, where a lively group of readers listened to my spiel on mysteries, offering their own suggestions as we went. The library is in an old train station, and the town itself is charming. I highly recommend visiting, and I have promised to return (in summer, of course. Everything is better in summer!)
The Petrolia visit was made even nicer by the fact that my sister lives on the way, so we had a "girls' day out." Anyone who knows her can attest that she knows books, too, so she was a hit with the group.
Then it was on to Traverse City, where I spent the weekend with a dozen authors who came together to...remain separate. It's a writers' retreat we've had for the last few years, and the purpose is to get away from ringing phones, household chores, and family demands and simply write for hours on end. Of course there is some socializing, as you see in this photo, but we try not to spend too much time at it. For lunch we visited the grounds of the old State Hospital, now a cool tourist spot, and talked about how one might poison someone and get away with it (in a novel, of course). The place is a must see if you're in TC, although it still has associations for me of the time we were taken there in high school by our sociology teacher. I haven't yet figured out what we were supposed to learn from the visit, but I was left with a feeling of sadness for those poor, imprisoned souls that still haunts me 46 years later.
.
Anyway, except for mealtimes, we wrote for hours, right up until checkout time on Sunday. I got a great start on the fourth and final Dead Detective story, and others in the group all reported good progress on their various projects.
So when you get to know a writer, you're likely to learn that what they consider fun is a little odd. Traveling 200+ miles to talk about books? Yup. Spending a weekend shut up in a hotel room while the rest of the world plays outside? Yup. That's just how we are.

It's Getting Close!

  You might think "Christmas!" when you read that headline, but for me it's the release of SISTER SAINT, SISTER SINNER on Dece...