End of year post

Hmm. I suppose these end-of-year posts are supposed to be somehow profound reflections on the year past, but it's really just another calender day to me. I declare this a profound-free zone, at least for today.

On that note, we've made it past the one-year mark with regard to last year's ice storm. Not that we won't still get hit by something nasty, but it was nice to see that anniversary go by without the sound of tree limbs cracking and falling.

January 2 marks seven months since I broke my ankle. There's a bit of lingering soreness-not surprising, I suppose, since the joint was basically dislocated when the fibula broke and the ligaments on the opposite side tore. People ask if the ankle hurts when the weather changes. The honest answer is...maybe. It's still too close to the time of injury for me to know for certain what's remaining from the soft-tissue damage, and what's weather-related.

I have my new calendar unwrapped and ready to hang up. Like last year's (and a number of other previous years'), it's a Classic Sailing calendar, with images from the Mystic Seaport--Rosenfeld Collection. I became fascinated with sailing ships when I researched them for Blood Money, and a boat-building firm plays a role in the short mystery "The Uncle Hunt." Looking forward to another year of gazing at water and wind-filled sails.

On the reading front--

Just recently finished The Abbot's Gibbet, by Michael Jecks. Like the Joliffe mysteries, these are set in Medieval England, though these are set slightly more than a century earlier.

Currently I have three books going. One is Murder by the Book, by Rex Stout. These are always pretty fast reads, and it's always great to get a Nero Wolfe book that I haven't read yet. The second is my 'laundromat book', to be read while waiting for the washers and dryers to finish doing their thing. It's City of Shadows, by Ariana Franklin, set in post WWI Germany. Haven't gotten far into it yet.

The third book is Mistress of the Art of Death, also by Ariana Franklin. It's set in King Henry II's England. (Detecting a pattern here?) It's also the first book I've bought and downloaded on the Barnes & Noble e-reader on my computer. It's not the first time I've read ebooks, so that's not a new experience for me, but I am finding that I like the reader software, and with the ability now to use gift cards to buy ebooks at the online store, I'll probably be doing it fairly regularly.

Does this mean I'll be going to straight e-reading? No. I've got a box of paper books coming via UPS on Monday. I really don't understand why some people freak out and declare that you'll only get their paper books when you've pried them from their cold, dead fingers. It's not an either/or proposition. Fear of change comes in many forms, I guess.

As for anything else of relevance...

Lost a friend to cancer this past month. By the time she'd gone to the doctor to find out what was wrong, the cancer had already gotten a foothold. Chemo kept it in check for a while, but in the end there was nothing that could be done. We'll miss you, Linda. See you in the resurrection.

And that's the most profound I intend to get today.

See you in the coming year...


A Senior Moment

My husband and I had dinner tonight at IHOP (it's inexpensive, relatively fast, and my husband likes breakfast foods at odd hours of the day), and in looking at the bill as the time arrived to pay it, I realized we'd been undercharged for what we ate. A quick check turned up why--the waitress had rung us up for the Senior BOGO deal, where one meal bought at regular price gets you a second free, for people 55 years and up. When I protested that neither of us qualified for the discount, she smiled and said, "That's all right!"

Now, I know my husband and I both have gray hair mixed in with the brown, but I had no idea we looked that old!

It's amazing that we're nearly halfway through the final month of the year. My son is almost 21. In just a few days over three months from now, my first book comes out. At this point, my publisher is already in the process of arranging reviews, and advertising is being arranged as well. The time is going to both drag and fly, which sounds like a contradiction unless you've been in this sort of situation.

Winter has arrived, and with quite a kick. We didn't get hit as bad as people further north did, but it was much colder than what we're used to. It was only a year ago, the end of this month (I think) that we had that massive ice storm that knocked out the power for days and broke trees everywhere. You can bet it's on a lot of people's minds this year, as we watch temperatures sitting on average 10-15 degrees lower than what's normal. There were a lot of trees trimmed back after the last storm, but if we get as much ice as we did last year, the weight of it is sure to pull some of the lines down. Folks are holding their breaths. You can also bet those who got generators last year are probably going to laugh at those of us who didn't, if it happens again this year.

Just read Margaret Frazer's new Joliffe the Player mystery, A Play of Treachery. It's the fifth in the series, set in the 1400's in England and now in France. Joliffe is an interesting character. I'm glad she's spun him off into his own series.

Okay, enough for now. Until next time~~


Life's Mysteries

Life is full of them. Like, for instance, where the whole of this last month went. I assume I didn't sleep through the whole thing, but there are times when I wonder.

So among the things I can remember from November--

Got the galley done for Blood Money. Found one error--but considering how often that manuscript has been combed through, that's probably about all there was in it. Not that there can't still be something lurking unfound in all those words, but that was the only one that jumped out at me.

Read some. Finished two by Georgette Heyer--Death in the Stocks, and They Found Him Dead, and one by Thea Phipps--The Doll in the Wall.

Finally gave up on a book that I'd been trying to read for months--the author writes well, but the constraints of the genre require that the main characters behave in certain ways, and they finally got too much on my nerves. I choose not to name names, because for some reason, authors aren't allowed the same freedom to point at books they didn't enjoy that other readers are. It was an historical mystery/romantic suspense, which isn't a sub-genre I normally read in. I really wanted to like it, because I enjoy historical mysteries.

For all those doing NaNoWriMo--

Congratulations if you made your goals! And congratulations even if you didn't--50K words during a holiday month is a lot to tackle, and you were brave to try it.

Okay, I'm brain-fried for now. More later~~


Post-conference recovery

I always think I'm going to do a post about the Muse conference once it's over, and I never get around to it. I was tentatively diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome a number of years ago--I say tentatively, because by the time I'd gotten to see a doctor and we'd had the second blood test done, the titer levels for the marker virus had gone down, and she wasn't prepared to make a firm diagnosis based on that. It would be handy to have the label to point at, but subsequent years have shown me that she wouldn't have been wrong to make the diagnosis.

As a result, intense activity can leave me flattened for a while. The Muse conference is a pretty intense experience. The conference runs twenty-four hours a day for seven days, with instructors and students coming together from different parts of the world. Students and instructors come and go as life and available time allow. The message board the conference is held on is always available. The first couple of years, I tried taking some workshops because there were three of us involved in teaching the suspense workshop, and we really didn't need three of us for that. I have a three inch binder filled with information gleaned from the first conference. The second year, I really overreached, and took so many workshops that it took me nearly a month to recover from the stress of trying to do too much. I believe I took one workshop last year, and none this year. Last year and this year, there were only two of us teaching the suspense workshop, so that's where my energy had to go.

JD Webb, my workshop partner, and I give a lot of feedback in our workshop. We both try to reply to all the participants' assignments, but since I don't touch horror or the supernatural, JD is the one who handles those. We encourage everyone to look at everyone else's feedback as well as their own, since we've only got a week to help them see what makes suspense and how to incorporate it in their own work. It can be draining, but it's worth it to see those little virtual light bulbs coming on when they get it and start working it into their assignments.

We'll be doing the workshop again next year, of course. We'll also be doing a workshop for a chapter of the Romance Writers of America. The pace should be a little less hectic, since we'll be spreading it out over a two week period instead of trying to cram it all into one week. That workshop is scheduled for mid-December 2010, so we'll have time to recover from the Muse conference beforehand. More on that at a future date, though.

If you're interested in the Muse Online Writers Conference, hop on over to the conference website and take a look at the workshops that were offered this year. Take a look at the testimonials. Sometimes people will register for the conference, and then back out at the last moment, pointing to the fact that the conference is free while reciting that old standby, "You get what you pay for." And that's true. You get the efforts of a whole lot of industry professionals, who volunteer their time for a week to help those coming along behind them. All it costs you is a little time and effort of your own. At the end of the week, when you've got that binder full of notes, you won't think that's a bad trade-off.


New Book Drawing

Thea Phipps's second book in her Bella Wildeve humorous mystery series, The Doll in the Wall, is due out in November, and she's celebrating with a giveaway. Three signed copies of the new book will be given away, one each to three winners drawn from among those who register on her forum or leave a comment on her blog. The drawing will be held November 7, so if you enjoy mysteries with humor, an interesting heroine, and a cast of quirky supporting characters, get over there and register for a chance to win.

Thea's website


Blood Money Cover Art

Somehow it all feels more real when you've got that cover art. Of course, it will be even more real once I've got a copy of the printed book in my hands.

If you click on the cover, a slightly larger version of it will come up.


And we have a cover!

I just got my first look at the cover art for Blood Money. As soon as I know that it's all right to go ahead and post it, I'll put up a thumbnail of it here.

Muse Conference starts on Monday. I doubt I'll be posting much during that week.

~~Until later...


Picture Imperfect is online

Mysterical-E's Fall 2009 issue is up now, and among the stories on offer is "Picture Imperfect", by yours truly. The story comes in at around 20,000 words, so make sure you have a few minutes before you head over to read it.

Current read: Just started All Shots, by Susan Conant. Haven't gotten far enough into it to know if I like it yet or not.

~~'til later...


Leaves aren't the only things falling in the Autumn

This time of year, when the fall allergies are just kicking off, my energy levels drop significantly. Oh, and there's this whole brain thing going on, too. I always knew the allergies were affecting my ability to think, but I didn't realize how much until I took one of those online IQ tests for fun on a good day, and then repeated it a few days later, under the influence of an allergy attack. There was a twelve-point drop. You'd think having taken the test only a few days before, there wouldn't be that much difference, but the brain-cloud from the allergies affected me that much.

It wouldn't be such a bad thing, except thinking is involved in...oh...pretty much every part of daily life. My vocabulary diminishes. Plus, my common sense seems to go on vacation. I'm more prone to saying things without giving careful thought to the words I choose, which means I mean one thing when I speak, but it comes out in a way that people think I mean something else. There are reasons I try to keep my mouth shut this time of year. I'm never certain what new ways I'm going to find of unintentionally offending everyone around me.

My current WIP is a Patty short story. It seems to be about my speed right now. More on that later, though.

I found this on one of the sites I frequent--a list of Dan Brown's 20 worst sentences. To be honest, I've never read any of Dan Brown's work, other than what's in this article, so I'm not saying anything about his abilities as a storyteller, but this article does give those of us trying to get a share of the readers' attention some pause for thought.

Recently there was an article posted by a well-known script writer, in which he explained with expletive-laced clarity why he doesn't read unsolicited material from unpublished authors. Not long after that, John Scalzi posted a similar article on his own site, minus the expletives. The thoughts included are enlightening. If you're thinking about tracking down a well-known author and asking for him/her to read your work, read this first.

The Muse Online Writers Conference is coming up in about two weeks--immediately before, during, and after, I will probably not be doing much updating of the blog, so be warned that there may not be anything new to read for a bit.

Current read: Malpractice in Maggody, by Joan Hess. This is the first of the Arly Hanks mysteries I've read. I've read all the Claire Malloy ones thus far.

~~Until later...


Book Drawing

Thea Phipps, author of Charades With A Lunatic, is holding a drawing for three signed copies of her novel, to be given away to three individuals who register on her forum by September 25, 2009. This book, a humorous mystery, is a fun read, and I highly recommend that you get yourselves over there and register for a chance to get one.

Thea's website

The link to the forum is in the sidebar on the right side of her blog.



Fun with Google, and Disappearing Apples

I don't know if there's an author out there who hasn't, at least once, done a vanity search on their own name on Google. It's one of those things that older and wiser authors tell you not to obsess about, though it's fun on occasion to see what's out there. Sometimes you come up with mentions of your books that you had no idea were out there. A number of authors with popular series available in ebook google from time to time to keep track of who's pirating their work. And sometimes you find things about yourself that you're not particularly happy about, though I haven't had that one happen yet.

I have found, however, that I'm not the only Pepper Smith out there. Go figure. My website is the first listing that comes up when you google my name, and a few of the other listings in the first ten pages or so are mine, but the vast majority are for other Pepper Smiths. Out of curiosity, I decided to follow the search out to 100 pages, but only got to page 81 before the same two listings kept coming up over and over again all by themselves. Beyond page 50, there were almost no mentions of the two names together, though most of the posts had both words, separately. From page 71 to page 79, there were three or four listings for this blog, for the post preceding this one.

Other than that, there were an astounding number of listings earlier in the search by other Pepper Smiths, including listings on Facebook, My Space, Twitter, posts on other people's blogs, listings for Pepper Smiths on high school reunion sites--at least the listing for the porn star seems to have disappeared. If you run across a Pepper Smith on Facebook, My Space, or Twitter, or one of the school reunion sites, it's not me. I'm on Crimespace, but that's about it for the social networking sites.

Our apple tree has presented us with a mystery this year. It had a number of small apples on it earlier this summer, green, but gradually reddening. They shouldn't have been ripe and ready until around now. However, they vanished about a month ago. I noticed them one day when I was hobbling out to the car to go somewhere, and a week later, they were gone. I checked the tree, and I checked the ground around it, and they're nowhere to be seen. I can only conclude someone picked them all, but I'm not sure when or why. They couldn't have tasted very good. We have a number of friends who come by and pick some when the apples are ripe, but there will be none for them to pick this year.

Oh well, maybe next year.



Technophobia, the old-fashioned way

Before I send you to someone else's blog to watch this video, I want to point out the following post, if you were looking for the companion piece to last week's post on writing suspense.

And now, Help Desk

Some things never change!

Recently read: Consequences of Sin, by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

~~Until next time...

Adding Suspense

Adding Suspense
By Pepper Smith

Suspense is defined as: A state of excited or anxious uncertainty about what may happen. ~~Oxford Dictionary of Current English

With that in mind, what can we as writers do to aid our readers in experiencing that state of excited or anxious uncertainty about what may happen next in our stories?

One thing to keep in mind about suspense is that it really only happens if the reader is given a character he or she has feelings about. This doesn’t mean that the character is someone they like—in fact, one can feel serious dislike or loathing for a character, and the suspense can come from wondering how that person is going to get caught, be murdered, or whatever the author chooses to impose on them.

Unlike thrillers, where the point is the action that propels the story breathlessly forward, suspense tends to be more character-driven, and relies heavily on the personal impact, or personal stakes, of the characters involved. What are some ways you can up those personal stakes?

Threats of Violence or Exposure

When your character has something to lose, it provides an opportunity to develop suspense.

Your protagonist’s physical well-being. Personal violence is stock-in-trade for the criminal element. Is your protagonist following a course that your villain doesn’t like? Threats of bodily injury or death make powerful deterrents. If your protagonist’s goal is strong enough to propel him or her onward in their quest, you can build suspense around their efforts to avoid attracting the villain’s attention and bringing the promised retribution down on them.

Family or Friends. As much as your protagonist may love his or her own skin, finding that a family member, such as a spouse or child, is in danger brings your protagonist’s heart into the equation and can increase the pressure exponentially. Will your hero or heroine back off? Or will they risk everything to save that family member and bring down the villain? Again, doing what they can to achieve that goal while remaining undiscovered can make a very fine line for them to walk, where the slightest misstep could bring grievous injury or death to someone they love.

A friend your protagonist is close to can also serve in this role, but it depends on how close the friend is on how much suspense the situation will bring.

Property. The threatened loss of property is another point of leverage that your villain might use, putting your protagonist in the position of having to do things to prevent that loss. Suppose what the villain asks is unacceptable to your hero or heroine? Can he or she try to rectify the situation without the villain finding out? Suppose the property isn’t land or a house, but an object, money, ampoules of a deadly toxin, a prized horse, something moveable that your protagonist must keep track of or find while staying under the villain’s radar?

In all of the above, what if the villain does find out and attempts to carry out his threats? That creates even more scope for suspense, as the protagonist tries to stay a step ahead and save himself, his family, or his property from death or disaster.

Exposure. We all have things in our past that we hope no one ever finds out about. For your characters, it could be things that might break up their marriage, lose them their job, result in a loss of position in society, maybe even send them to jail. The threat of the revelation of those secrets if your protagonist doesn’t stop their sleuthing or whatever else might be annoying the villain can up the pressure on your protagonist and increase the suspense level.

What if the one with the secrets is the villain? His knowledge that the hero or heroine is trying to expose those secrets will likely bring about a rapid and adverse response. Then it becomes a matter of the protagonist finding some way to complete their task of exposing those secrets while avoiding the consequences.

Then again, what if the supposed secret is a falsehood but achieves the goal of destroying the hero/heroine’s family/position/job/etc.? Can you imagine ways of developing suspense as your protagonist deals with the fallout while trying to clear his or her name and restore what was lost? What if the villain is actively trying to prevent that restoration?

Limited Time to Accomplish a Goal

Sometimes it all comes down to a matter of time. What if your protagonist is working against a deadline? There doesn’t actually need to be a human villain involved—what if the weather is threatening, and a trapped victim has to be rescued before floodwaters arrive? There are many possible aspects of nature-related limits on time to draw on for suspense.

This also works well with the threat of exposure or harm, upping the ante. If the protagonist doesn’t complete a specified demand by a particular time, the protagonist’s family member/property/self will be harmed, or the secret will be exposed. As the clock ticks down, the suspense can become unbearable.


Sometimes things happen that stand in the way of the protagonist achieving the goal, things that can be manmade, and others that aren’t. This can be along the lines of traffic mishaps, the relative who calls with a request for help that has to be dealt with right then, an illness in the family or of the hero/heroine, or perhaps the protagonist being physically restrained/stopped from carrying out the necessary actions. Some things can add temporary suspense by being overcome, while others might be permanent blocks that force your protagonist to find other ways of doing what needs doing.


Being imperfect, one can expect that sometimes the protagonist is going to fail in meeting the deadline or carrying out the demands, or in reaching their own imposed goal, and consequences are going to happen. The villain might inflict bodily harm on the protagonist as a warning. Will your hero/heroine risk further harm or even death to do what they know is right? Riding that thin edge between safety and further violence can up your suspense level.


Sometimes the suspense comes not from anything tangible, but from the characters’ perceptions of things. A character can perceive a situation to be dangerous that perhaps isn’t, but until he or she is certain of that, it’s cause for suspense. This psychological atmosphere can cause threats to seem very real, even if they are all a figment of the character’s imagination.

Physical details add to that atmosphere as well. A walk along a tree-lined path on a bright, sunny day will have a different feel than walking along it with a threatening storm approaching, or in the gloom just before nightfall. Remember details of experiences that made you uneasy or uncomfortable, and if they apply to the situation of your protagonist, see if it enhances the scene to work those things in.

Again, all these things work best if they make a personal impact on your protagonist. If the villain threatens to break your protagonist’s arm and your protagonist has a genetic disorder that prevents him from feeling pain, there is no suspense because your protagonist probably won’t view a broken arm as more than a minor inconvenience. Try to keep it reasonable and real. The threat has to mean something to the protagonist.

Copyright 2007 by Pepper Smith
Permission to distribute for educational purposes granted.

Click on the Writing label to find all other posts on writing.


New links

Here are a couple of links to blog posts that caught my attention this past week:

Leaving Out The Parts People Skip - On writing compelling fiction.

Postage Promotion - A look at a new promotional tool being touted by some self-publishing companies. If you are self-published, be sure to read the comments--turns out it's a service you can get elsewhere for less.

Recently read: Even Money by Dick Francis.

Still doing some character juggling on my story.

Next week I'll post on ways of adding suspense to your work. Enjoy this week's post (below) on things to avoid in writing a suspense novel.

Writing Suspense: Things that may derail your quest for the perfect suspense novel

I've been meaning to post this for some time--hopefully you'll find something useful in it:

Writing Suspense:
Things that may derail your quest for the perfect suspense novel.

By Pepper Smith

Not long ago, when I knew I would be contributing to this workshop, I ran several unscientific polls among readers, asking about their likes and dislikes in mystery/suspense fiction, primarily what things turned them off to a story. What follows was gathered from the responses to those polls.

There are always exceptions to every rule, but these are things that were of particular concern to the readers I corresponded with.

Look-alikes vs. Original fiction

Every now and then, a book will appear on the scene that becomes a runaway best seller. Like the weather, there’s no real way of predicting where or when it will happen—it just happens.

With it, though, comes a somewhat dangerous temptation, especially for newer authors.

“Well, if they liked The Mysterious Mountain so much, surely they’ll fall all over themselves to buy my novel, The Secret Precipice, which is just like it!”

Keep in mind that it’s probably going to take you a year or better to get your manuscript written and ready to submit, and that in all probability, you’re not the only one who’s trying to cash in on the popularity of that best-seller. Knowing that, the question becomes: Do you want to present some overworked editor with Mysterious Mountain clone #751, or with something original that will catch his or her attention because it’s different from what everyone else is submitting? And by about the fifth or sixth Mysterious Mountain clone to hit the shelves, readers are often already moving on, looking for something new.


Sometimes writers will fasten onto a ‘gimmick,’ like basing a mystery/suspense story on or around an actual historical person. There are some really fine examples of using historical persons that work very well, where the characters become so real that you feel like you’ve actually spent the day with them. It becomes a gimmick, though, when an author takes the names of historical figures and slap them on generic characters, and use them as the selling point of the story—say, for instance, taking the names of a certain famous writer of Victorian era detective fiction and a colleague, and placing them in the roles of Holmes and Watson, without much regard to personality, character traits, and the realities of the time period the story’s set in.

Readers of mystery/suspense fiction are not ignorant—in fact, they tend to be highly educated, and will notice if a writer ignores essentials. If they feel a writer has simply labeled cardboard cutouts with famous names to dress up a story that otherwise isn’t particularly well-written and inventive, it’s likely they’ll pass on buying any more of that author’s work.

Research your subjects and the era you’re using; make those things as close as you can get to what actually was. Or better yet, research, and change the characters names. Write something that’s original. Maybe you’ll be starting your own series of Victorian era detective novels.

The Big Bad World

Sometimes it seems as though authors deliberately put both their characters and their readers through Hades, as if to see how much they can all take. Sometimes authors work to make their protagonists and their readers fall in love with someone, only to kill the love interest off in rather senseless ways, as if to say, “This is the real world, and it’s a horrid, nasty place.”

Well, yes, sometimes the world is a horrid, nasty place. And yes, there are readers who delight in being made to feel miserable. Most readers don’t mind if you take them on a trip through the worst parts of town, as long as there’s a payoff of some sort. If you take your protagonist to the depths of the pit and leave him/her wallowing there, it’s very probable you’re going to lose readers. To paraphrase one reader’s remarks about that sort of ultra-dark fiction, “If my life was like that, I’d slit my wrists. Why would I want to read something that’s going to make me feel like that?”

This is fiction, after all. Most people read it to escape from the realities of the Big Bad World. Does this mean that everyone wants happy endings all the time? No, of course not. But readers do like to feel that there is something, a sense of justice done, of completion. Even horror stories tend to have happy endings of sorts—the monster dies, and the protagonist has survived, scarred perhaps, but tested to the limits and proven worthy of our admiration.

The Overuse of Violence

A related issue to consider is that of the use of violence in a story. “But wait!” I can hear you say. “You can’t have a murder without violence!”

That’s true, and the issue is not whether or not to use it, it’s how to use it. Once you rely on violence to add shock value to your story, you find yourself in a cycle of having to increase the level of violence to give your readers the same thrill that they got in your last story. This spirals upward until you wonder if you can keep your protagonist alive through all the violence you’re throwing at him/her, because you feel the need to outdo yourself with each story, and what you wrote last time is now old hat to your readers. You also risk not only writer fatigue, but reader fatigue, on an emotional level. It can literally reach the point where just making it through the story is so draining that the reader feels relieved to have finished it. It’s along the lines of a critic’s complaint about a recent James Bond movie—by the fourth time a character yells out “It’s a bomb!” and there’s an explosion, the critic just plain didn’t care anymore.

Keep in mind that the suspense in a story often comes not from something happening, but from the threat of something happening. Simplified, it’s like worrying about getting a shot at your next doctor visit, as opposed to the reality of getting a shot. Once you’ve had the shot, the suspense, or the anxiety leading up to it, is gone. Once you’ve inflicted the violence on your protagonist, the suspense is gone. You either have to up the violence level, or keep the violence as an escalating threat, with the suspense coming from wondering just how far the protagonist can push things before the axe falls.

Playing Fair

Writing a mystery/suspense story can be viewed as a sort of game between the author and future readers. You want to do the best you can to present something that will surprise and delight your readers, while at the same time not giving away the ending somewhere around the middle of the book. Who is causing the bad things to happen? Why? Will the hero or heroine figure it out before the villain closes in for the kill?

There are a few, and probably more, ways of keeping your reader from figuring out the ending that amount to cheating in the game. One is a method that was frequently used by Agatha Christie. There was always some key piece of information, some vital clue, which the detective noted but the reader was never informed of. This makes for the dramatic reveal scene in the drawing room at the end of the story (or the modern equivalent), where the protagonist reinforces his reputation for god-like powers of observation and ratiocination by walking his captive audience and the reader through the events of the book before springing that last vital clue or piece of evidence on them, thus revealing who the villain is. In such a case, there was clearly never any real intention of giving the reader a fair chance of figuring it out on their own, which is half the fun of reading a mystery/suspense novel.

Another favorite among some authors is the deus ex machina, the unexpected event that saves a seemingly hopeless situation. This could be the mysterious stranger that steps in and saves the day by revealing that he’s actually Inspector Crandall from Scotland Yard, and he’s been following this ruffian for years. Now, thanks to the protagonist, he’s finally caught up with the villain and can arrest him, thank you very much… Which leaves the question of where Crandall was during the whole rest of the story, why he didn’t step in earlier to help, and actually works to negate the struggle that the protagonist has been through to that point, because it’s never actually resolved. This scenario might come about because of getting your protagonist into a situation you can’t get him or her out of. Think it through a little more, see if there’s something your protagonist can do to get out of it, or try something different. A last-minute rescue from someone who wasn’t even in the story prior to that point will leave the reader feeling cheated.

One more is the trick of making the murderer/villain someone who never shows up at any point in the story until the last few pages, where he’s suddenly revealed as being the heroine’s third grade crush, who has always been obsessed with her and is killing off her boyfriends because they’re not good enough for her. Or it’s Joe Farnam, the passing stranger who shows up in the final scene holding a dripping knife over the body of his last victim, but has never been introduced to the reader or been given any sort of motive for his killing spree. This is patently unfair, especially if you’ve been planting clues all along that point at other people. Red herrings are one thing, but never planting clues at all that lead to the actual perpetrator may cause your readers to pass on your next book.

The Villain

Somewhere along the line, it seems to have become politically incorrect for villains to be anything but poor hapless victims who had horrendous childhoods and became the way they are because they couldn’t help it. Or they’re suffering from some bizarre mental disorder that takes away their culpability. This has become so common that it’s almost trite. Yes, this does exist in the world, but a lot of people had horrendous childhoods and didn’t become mass murderers, and probably few people with a mental disorder are likely to turn into knife-wielding maniacs when someone accidentally says something to set them off. People from all walks of life commit crimes for reasons that they can easily justify to themselves, if not to the law. Using the insanity angle, especially when it’s without any sort of prior warning that there might be a problem with that character, is along the lines of using Joe Farnam, the passing mass murderer. Yes, you surprised your reader, but you didn’t play fair doing it.

Readers also indicated that they didn’t want to know too much about a villain’s motives and background, or his identity, too soon in the story. Revealing too much can take away from the sense of dread the reader feels. It takes away from the game of figuring out whodunit, and why. Balance is required to reveal just enough to provide clues without giving away too much. Many prefer the bad guy to be a mysterious figure until the climax of the book.

The Protagonist

Whether male or female, your protagonist starts off at a disadvantage. Face it—villains tend to be more colorful characters, because they don’t play by the rules. It’s up to you to make your protagonist interesting enough for a reader to care about, but there are pitfalls to avoid.

Too perfect or too flawed—As one reader brought out, there are protagonists that speak seventeen languages and can solve complex mathematical equations while working out tomorrow’s lunch menu and painting the Sistine Chapel, or other equally improbable things. There are also protagonists who are so flawed that it’s nearly impossible to imagine them being capable of dealing with the plots they’re presented with.

Too dull or wooden. Not fleshed out. Stereotypes. These are things that will render a protagonist into someone the reader cannot connect with. If they can’t connect with your protagonist, there’s a good chance they won’t read to the end to find out whodunit.

For your protagonist to connect, he or she needs to feel real to the reader. Overly perfect or overly flawed comes across as a caricature—someone who works well will have strengths as well as flaws in a good balance. Character descriptions should include physical details that will help readers picture them in their own minds, and some history to provide readers with a sense of who the protagonist is. Your protagonist becomes the reader’s closest companion for the course of the book. Would you want to go on an adventure with a perfect stranger who remains a stranger from beginning to end?

Think through who your protagonist is, how you want to present him or her. Does he or she have interesting hobbies or character quirks that can be logically worked into the story without detracting from it? Find things about your character that will make a reader want to take that journey with your protagonist as the guide.


There are some things that can absolutely kill your pacing, which is important in suspense because the speed of the narrative, or the lack thereof, can make all the difference between a compelling tale and a slow tome that a reader might put down and never think to pick up again.

Extreme detail: Detail is important, there is no denying that. But if it takes a writer three pages to describe the room the protagonist is standing in, could that perhaps be overkill? Sometimes you want the reader to see the revolver on the mantelpiece because you intend to use it later in the story, but describing it in detail if you never intend to use it will only slow the narrative. Is it really necessary to describe every fold in the drapes to let the readers know that there are heavy blue curtains at the windows? Huge blocks of description are like unexpected speed bumps. They slow the pace and draw the reader away from the action.

There are some things that can be considered common experience. For instance, most people know what a palm tree looks like. It’s not necessary to describe what each individual frond looks like and how it’s positioned for a reader to understand that there’s a palm tree there. Most people know what a horse, a cow, or a dog looks like in general. There may be a need to throw in a qualifier, that the horse was a Clydesdale, or the cow was an Angus, or the dog was a Labrador. That, and a brief description of the animal’s color, are generally more than enough for most readers.

In other words, use a big brush when painting in the common experience details, and a fine brush to bring attention to those things that are vital to your plot or characterizations. Unnecessary detail slows you down.

Plot exposition, or the info-dump: It can be very tempting to give essential details in one big paragraph, to get it out of the way. This is another speed bump. Can you work the details in a bit at a time in other ways? A bit here or there in dialogue, or in a character’s thoughts as they’re involved in an otherwise uninteresting activity such as driving or waiting for the bus? A truckload of gravel can either make a pile five feet high, or a nice driveway surface if it’s spread out. You want the one that keeps things smooth and makes it easy to get down your driveway.

Beware—the info dump can also take place as a solid lump of dialogue, as one character shares information with another and thus with the reader. This takes on a rather ludicrous aspect in its “As you know, Bob,” form, when one character is telling another something that the second character clearly already knows, as a ploy to make sure the reader knows it as well. It’s better to find another way of sharing that with the reader.

Unnecessary repetition: This can happen more easily than you’d think, because as writers, it can take us quite a while to get a story down on paper. Details that we wrote early in the story are no longer fresh in our minds, and it’s tempting to think that we need to explain something again that we first wrote about two months ago. Remember, though, that what takes us months or even years to write will be devoured by the reader in a matter of hours, perhaps days at the most for slower readers. The same details given over and over and over will interrupt the flow, and cause your reader to question whether they’ve fallen into a time warp because they’ve read that bit before.

Inconsistencies in pacing: Have you ever read something where someone turns the heat on under a kettle, turns to have a conversation with their companion, and before they’ve gotten five words out, the kettle is whistling? This example is literally only a slight exaggeration—I have seen this type of thing in stories before. How long does it really take for a kettle to boil? How long does it take for a woman with long hair to braid it or pin it up on her head? How long does it actually take to drive across town, pick someone up, and come back? If you have one character head off to pick up the kids while two others have a conversation, and you have only five minutes of dialogue before the kids arrive, either the kids were right across the street, or you didn’t think about the time actually involved in the scene. Believe me, your readers won’t miss the mistake, and they’re going to take time out from reading your story to wonder what you were thinking when you wrote that.

Also, in describing action, it’s good to keep in mind that if it takes much longer to read your description of the action than it would have taken for the action to actually happen, it can slow your pacing tremendously.

Some things would seem to be intuitive, but sometimes aren’t:


Writing about something you’ve never had hands-on experience with means you’ll be doing research if you want to write about it knowledgeably. This is not a place where you can wing it. You will have readers who will know you got it wrong, in all likelihood ones that you wanted to attract by writing about the subject in the first place. Not only will they probably not finish your story, they’ll tell their friends about you story, so you’ll lose not just those readers who bought the book, you’ll lose others who will never bother to buy it.

Do readers notice what might appear to be inconsequential details? Yes. And they will let you know about it if you get it wrong, usually in terms that will make you feel stupid. This is easy enough to avoid by making sure you know what you’re writing about before you start.

Trust Your Audience’s Intelligence

Most readers of mystery/suspense stories are intelligent, educated people who resent being talked down to. They keep track of clues and details as they try to beat your protagonist to the solution of the mystery or the identity of the villain. If you’ve done your job properly, sharing clues and information throughout the narrative, you will not need to provide your readers with a detailed summary and explanation of what happened and how your protagonist reached the conclusions he or she did. As one reader pointed out, such a summary and explanation is insulting to your readers’ intelligence. If you’re concerned that you might not have explained things well enough through the narrative, have someone read it and tell you if they found it confusing. Leave the summarizing and explaining to the writers who never intended to let you beat them to the solution, so they can show off their protagonists’ detective skills in the grand drawing-room finale.

“Man Behind the Curtain” Syndrome

A writer’s job is to engage a reader’s emotions and senses in the story. One has to be careful, though, to avoid becoming the ‘man behind the curtain,’ writing things that are so obviously meant to make the reader feel joy or fear or anger that you can almost see the man standing there with cue cards and a cattle prod. The TV Movie of the Week needs to use these sort of tricks because they’ve only got an hour and a half to tell you the story, and usually have to engage your emotions within the first few minutes if they want you to feel for a character who dies early in the movie. Writers of novels, however, have time to be subtle about it. The best way to learn this is to read the works of other writers with an eye toward what they are doing and how they’re doing it. Practice it. It’s a skill that will make your narrative much smoother, and you won’t be insulting your readers by telling them how they should be feeling at any given point in your novel.

Presented at the Muse Online Writers Conference 2006
Copyright 2006 by Pepper Smith
Permission to distribute for educational purposes granted.

Click on the Writing label to find all other posts on writing.

'til later~~~


Links Updated

I've added a few links to the sidebar, so be sure to check out what's on other people's blogs in the writing and publishing world. Some agent blogs, some editor blogs, a blog dedicated to helping you polish your query letter, lots of good stuff.

Unless something untoward happens, I'm going to stop giving updates on the ankle. It's healing. Folks think I'm getting around a lot better, and it's not hurting quite so much anymore. I think I can safely say it's a hassle having to limp everywhere, but it's getting better and at least I'm getting around on it.

It's amazing how hard it is to write a story if you aren't using the right characters for it. I'm swapping some around in my current project, but I'm not saying more until I'm sure it's the right choice.

Currently reading: The Private Patient by P.D. James, and The Father Hunt by Rex Stout.

If you've signed up for our suspense workshop at the Muse Online Writers Conference, feel free to visit my website and download the articles on writing and adding suspense. They're not required reading, but it never hurts to prepare.

'til next time~~~


Editing round 2, done

Got back second round edits on Blood Money, as expected. Unless Alexandra finds anything that we missed the first two times through, we're probably done.

Here are some links to blog posts that might be of interest to writers:

What do you think? -- Talks about authors' attitudes toward themselves and their work, and how it can affect promotion efforts.

The Myth of "Just An Author" -- Can an author be 'just an author' and leave everything else to his publisher?

Book Publishing Glossary -- Ever hear a publishing term and wonder what it meant? Now you can find out!

Not publishing related, but hilarious: Cake Wrecks -- When Professional Cakes Go Horribly, Hilariously Wrong.

Currently I'm reading Triple Jeopardy by Rex Stout, and Persona Non Grata by Ruth Downie. Enjoying both.

Current ankle condition: I'm up and hobbling without support now, but goodness! Sometimes it hurts more now than I did when I broke the thing!

I'm going to have to look through my saved links and update the links in the sidebar. There are a number of useful blogs I haven't got listed there, such as Pimp My Novel, which are both fun to read and informative about the publishing business.

Until next time~~


Forward motion

Things are moving forward, although as usual not as easily or quickly as I might prefer. The ankle is still healing. I've gotten now to where I can walk without the walker or a cane while wearing the boot, so I am now adding in a bit of time spent walking in a regular shoe, which will no doubt help strengthen the muscles that stabilize the ankle. It's not quite as painful as it was when I started putting weight on it a few weeks ago, but it can still be very uncomfortable if I overdo.

We've done the first round of edits on Blood Money. Alexandra, my editor, says I may get the next round by Sunday. So far, so good. I'm not sure when the cover art will be started, so I'm still looking forward to seeing what the art department comes up with.

Recently read two books I enjoyed, Run Afoul, by Joan Druett, and Terra Incognita, by Ruth Downie. The first is the third novel in the Wiki Coffin series (Wiki is half-Maori, and works as a translator in an American exploring expedition fleet in the mid-1800s.) I liked the main character and the story enough that I'm considering getting the first two in the series. Terra Incognita is the second in Ruth Downie's Roman Britain series, and I enjoyed it as much as the first. I'm looking forward to reading the second.

More later~~


Ah, mobility!

As of today, I am on the way back to mobility. The doctor looked at the x-rays of my ankle and declared the bone healed, stating that the fracture line was close to unnoticeable. I've begun putting weight on the foot while working my way around the house with the aid my walker, which sometimes means working my way sideways through doors because the door frames are not wide enough. Still, after seven weeks, it feels great to be up and around.

One of the books I've read, from the recent spate of book buying, is Medicus by Ruth Downie. I hit it after about four other books that just didn't grab my interest, and was pulled into the story so quickly that I immediately began looking for other titles by the author. The narrative voice is great, the characters are fun to spend time with, and the historical era--Roman Britain--is one that hasn't already been explored to death, so it was a refreshing read. Her next novel is firmly on my to-buy list.

I've just started Royal Flush, the latest in Rhys Bowen's Her Royal Spyness series. It promises to be a fun read.

A bit of progress to report on the current WIP. Now that the brain is beginning to function better, the writing's coming more easily. Certainly being able to get up and get around should help some--it's not easy typing when you're lying on your side.

After a few really hot days, we've had a continued span of nice weather, really odd for the last part of July, but I'm certainly not complaining. Hopefully it won't mean we're in for nasty weather this winter to make up for it.

I contacted Mysterical-E, and my story, "Picture Imperfect", is scheduled for the fall edition, which should be out somewhere around the end of September. I'll post a link when it's up.

If you've tried following the link to the interview in the post a couple back, it works now.

'til next time~~~



Plagiarism is, basically, taking the words another has written and putting your own name to them, as if they were yours.

There are some wonderful blog posts around the web on the subject of plagiarism and why it's something writers and readers shouldn't tolerate.

Anti-Plagiarism Day!

It's Anti-Plagiarism Day

The posts contain a lot of links to other posts on the subject as well, so expect to spend some time looking.

Intellectual property has always had trouble getting the respect it deserves. It is exactly that--property. When you take someone else's words and present them as your own, it's stealing. It's the same as if you walked into a craftsman's workshop, picked up a fine carving from his workbench, walked off with it, and put it on display as your own work.

This is not flattery. The person you stole from will not feel that you've paid homage to them, and will not thank you. If you like a turn of phrase or a passage from a book that much, buy the book and put it on your shelf where you can re-read it all you want. Don't steal what someone else labored over and display it as your own work.

Plagiarism doesn't happen by accident. Don't be guilty of it.

Click on the Writing label to find all other posts on writing.

'til next time~~~


Hey, who let it get so hot?

Actually, we've had some really nice weather for the past week or so, but it's about to get back to summertime conditions, which I'm not looking forward to. Hot, humid air is still hot and humid, no matter how many fans you have blowing on you.

So, have I gotten anything written while I've been housebound with this ankle? Erm...no. I have been reading a lot, though. You can't call it slacking, because reading is as essential to the process of storytelling as putting words on a page. You never know when something you read will spark an idea that spins off in an entirely different direction and gives you something else to write about.

The ankle appears to be healing. I've got two more weeks of no walking, unless the doctor decides to add to it when I see him next. Hopefully he won't.

I've been telling everyone that the cutoff date for registration for the Muse Online Writers Conference is the end of August. Turns out it may actually be the first of August. If you're going to sign up, do so quickly. There's only about three weeks left in July.

My family's been bringing me gift cards from Barnes and Noble, so I can order books off their website. I've got a lovely stack of things waiting to be read, which is a delight, because I read fast. Current read is Not Quite Dead Enough by Rex Stout. Previous reads include other Rex Stout stories, some by Donna Leon, Rhys Bowen's second "Royal Spyness" book A Royal Pain, and the first in a new series by Thea Phipps, Charades With A Lunatic. Lots of great reading there! Also looking forward to the new Dick Francis/Felix Francis book, which is out in August.

Looking forward to being up and around again, in a few weeks. Watch your footing, so you don't end up spending the best parts of summer staring at the ceiling!

Until later~~


Those low down, imperfection blues

Isn't it fun when life decides to remind us that we're not the indestructible creatures that we like to think we are?

On June 2, I put my foot down wrong stepping out of my parents' house and twisted my ankle, in the process also breaking my fibula and tearing a bunch of ligaments in my right ankle. The orthopedist decided I needed a plate and screws to fix the break, and I underwent the operation on the 9th. Today was my first post-op checkup with the doctor. According to the x-ray, I have six screws in my ankle, five of which are attached to the plate and the bone, and the sixth appears to be directly linking the two bone ends. Got another four weeks to go before I'm supposed to begin walking again. No putting weight on it until then. The stitches came out today as well. I can say that I'm glad I didn't look at the incision site until after it had had a chance to do some healing.

The interview and article at Mysterious People, which I mentioned in my last post, are up, and have been since June 1 and 2. Of course, I haven't felt up to doing much computerwise during the last few weeks, so here are the links I promised before the broken ankle:

A Conversation with Pepper Smith

Writing Suspense

Hope your summer is injury-free. At least with all this down time, I don't have many excuses for not writing, lol!

'til next time~~~


Upcoming interview

The lovely Jean Henry Mead, who runs the Mysterious People blog, has been posting a series of author interviews and articles, some by well known authors and some by less well known ones. I'm honored that she's chosen to include me in the series. When the interview and article post, I'll post the links here.

As a reminder, if you're looking for previous posts on writing and don't want to search through the archives, there's a link in the sidebar that will bring up only those posts with the writing tag.

If you're looking to keep up to date with posts here...the only thing I can suggest is to add yourself as a follower on the widget in the sidebar. I post when something comes up I want to yak about, which isn't as often as I should.

Another reminder about the Muse Online Writers Conference. This is a free event held for one week during October. To find out what workshops are on offer this year, please visit the website and look through the list. JD Webb and I will, of course, be doing our suspense workshop again this year. Registration is open, but will close toward the end of August, so don't wait if you want to check it out.

Still have future writing posts rolling around in my head. Will get them out here once they stop rolling...

Till later~~~


Delayed gratification

Hmm. Well, if you’ve checked over at Mysterical-E, you’ve no doubt noticed that my story didn’t make this issue. Perhaps the next one, coming out in July? I’ll have to check back with them to see exactly when it’s supposed to show up if it’s not out in July.

Work is progressing on the current WIP. It remains to be seen if writing during allergy season is a good or bad thing, though. I feel like I’m in a fog so much of the time. Got to give some thought to another writing post. With everything blossoming right now, though, all I really seem to want to do is hibernate.

Once upon a time, I figured I’d put together a newsletter when enough interesting things happen to let people know about. I guess my life is just not that interesting. Check back here for any updates that I thought might be of interest, because I’m probably going to ditch the newsletter idea.

What makes suspense?

I have to warn you that it's a big part of allergy season for me, so if you detect a slight incoherence, you know why.

In October for the past three years, the Muse Online Writers Conference has offered a number of workshops and live chats with authors, editors, publishers, and even a few agents, with the goal of helping authors to improve their craft and their chances at publication. We will be offering our course on adding suspense to fiction again this year, following the same lines as last year–

JD Webb and I posted a number of writing prompts, sentences that students were to take and begin a suspense story with. The results were interesting–and by the end, I believe the participants understood more clearly what suspense is and how to incorporate it.

So what is suspense? It is the feeling that something bad might happen. It is not violence, it’s the fear that the violence might happen. It is not shock effect, although suspense and shock effect work hand in hand in some genres. It can be compared in a minor way to the fear you might feel going to the doctor when you know you’re going to get a shot. You feel apprehension about getting stabbed in the arm with a needle, but once it’s actually happened, you no longer feel the fear and apprehension. In the same way, suspense loses its punch if you let the bad thing happen. The goal is to keep the reader on edge by keeping your protagonist just this side of the bad results threatened by your villain.

As instructors, we, too, each took one of the prompts and began a suspense story with it. Mine is posted below:


The small hairs on the back of Roger’s neck rose as he slid the nozzle of the gas hose into the Miata’s tank.

He stiffened, looking up. The driver of the black Chevy at the next island over had his back to him. Close to the station’s front door, an elderly man held the lid of an old-fashioned chest freezer open, while two young boys picked out ice cream treats. No one from inside the station’s office seemed to be looking his way.

Someone, somewhere, was staring at him. And hard, by the feel of it.

He squeezed the pump handle and locked it on before turning slowly on his heel, looking around with a feigned casual air. Heat rose from the faded asphalt of Hwy 236. Directly across from him, a farmer wheeled his tractor in a tight arc and started back along the length of his field, cutting the long grass for hay. Down the road to his left, houses clustered on both sides for a distance of about a quarter of a mile. To the right, on his side of the road, was a feed store. The farmer’s field took up the rest of the other side, green grass stretching away for as far as he could see.

The small community was little more than a spot along the road, too small to be incorporated as a town. Quaint, Marissa had called it when they’d passed through on their honeymoon. There was also no one in sight, aside from the farmer, who was headed away from him.


He shook himself and turned back to the car. Marissa had fallen asleep not long before they’d gotten here. He leaned his forearms on the driver’s door, smiling as he studied her. She wasn’t one to let things get in the way of her plans. They’d made the reservations for this trip last year, before their honeymoon had ended, and not even the surprise discovery seven months ago that she was pregnant had been enough to deter her from it. He reached in and gently brushed a few strands of her long black hair from her face.

“Hey, hon, better wake up.”

One corner of her mouth quirked. “I wasn’t asleep.”

He grinned. “Sure. This is the last chance for a bathroom stop before we reach our hotel.”

She grimaced, opening her eyes. “You do know that this child of yours plays kickball with my bladder, don’t you?”

“You’ve mentioned it before.”

She sat up, unfastened her seatbelt, and opened her door.

“Need any help?” Roger asked.

“I’m not as big as a house, yet.” She carefully levered herself out of the low-slung car. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

The weight of the pregnancy had given her walk a cute little sway. Roger pushed himself upright, watching her over the roof of the Miata as she walked away.

The sense that he was being watch returned, so strong that he gave up any pretense of casual interest in his surroundings. He scanned the area, looking first past Marissa to be sure she wasn’t heading into trouble, then turning to look intently toward the small cluster of houses. A couple of children had come out onto a front lawn to play catch. An ancient Ford Fairlane rattled past along the highway, pulling off at the feed store. There were a few places where someone could have hidden behind bushes to stare at him unobserved. There was no way of knowing if anyone was using them without going to check.

The pump handle clicked off. He turned back to pull the nozzle from the tank and return it to the pump. As soon as Marissa came back from the bathroom, they’d be leaving, and his hidden observer would just have to find someone else to stare at.

A red pickup truck approached from the direction of the houses, slowing as if to turn in at the service station. Marissa swung around.

“Roger, do you have a couple of dollars for…” Her voice trailed away. He looked at her quickly. She stared past him, her eyes wide, and her face pale and blank with shock. “Billy--”

Roger half-turned, looking behind him. The red pickup had slowed to a crawl. Its driver, a lean, muscular man with short dark hair and a bushy mustache, stared back at him, cold, arrogant, a slight smile curving his mouth. Marissa’s psychotic ex-husband, who’d beaten her so badly that she’d lost their nearly full-term baby, and gotten himself convicted of manslaughter in the death of their child. She’d divorced him while he was in prison. He wasn’t supposed to be out yet.

Billy’s smile widened. He raised an arm and mimed pointing a gun at Roger’s head. His index finger crooked as if pulling the trigger. Roger’s skin crawled. Billy looked past him at Marissa, then stepped on the gas and accelerated away.


Does this give you the feeling that something bad is going to happen? Billy has announced his intentions. If I were to continue the story, of course, it would become a contest between Roger and Billy, with the lives of Roger, Marissa, and the unborn child at stake. Keeping the suspense high requires that the readers care about what happens to this young family, which is another vital aspect of suspense. If your readers don’t have a strong desire to see them escape, they might just root for Billy to track them down and kill them.

Click on the Writing label for all other posts on writing.

Back on Blogger

Erm...never mind. I didn't care as much as I ought to have for the new blog software on my website, so I'm back to posting here. I'll just transfer a couple of posts from the other blog to here, then shut the other one down.


New blog

Well, I'm in the process of setting up a blog on my website. Don't know yet if I like it more than this one, but I've got a post on it about writing suspense. The new site is here. This one will stay up, in any case, because google already sends people here for a few of the writing posts.

Edited to add: In case you get here through some freak of Google pointing you here, I gave up the blog on my website and have continued this one. Just click the home tab at the top of the page to get to the newest posts.


Update on publishing schedule

My books have been assigned dates for publication. They are as follows--

Blood Money--April 2010
Rio Star--October 2010
Reef Runner--April 2011

Haven't been assigned an editor yet, but that's coming.

If you haven't read anything of my series yet, don't forget the short story "The Uncle Hunt" is available in pdf on my website. Just click on the link on the front page, which will take you to the page where the download link resides (look for the download link toward the bottom of that page).

In looking through the stack of links I've been collecting, I found a couple that I think I'll add this time around. First is called The Cardinal Sins from over at Mysterious Matters, regarding what not to do in writing mysteries. Useful if you have aspirations in that direction.

The second: You know those emails going around every now and then about the woman who paid $250 for the Neiman-Marcus cookie recipe and generously decided to share it with the world via email? Guess what? It's an urban legend. To get the history of that particular story, visit Snopes, the urban legend site, and enter Neiman-Marcus cookie in the search box. If you want the REAL Neiman-Marcus cookie recipe, visit their website. It's free to whoever wants it.


Publishing news

Well, publishing news as it applies to me, that is.

Mundania Press has acquired my Patty O'Donnell series, as of the end of January. Blood Money is tentatively scheduled to come out next year, though there's no firm date yet. The other two are expected at six month intervals after that. Will post updates as I get them.



First post of 2009...

Well, if you've been checking in from time to time, you've noticed that I don't tend to post much. I've added (I think) the followers function to the sidebar--if you add yourself to it, and I happen to post something, you'll know about it rather than hoping to catch a new post through randomly clicking on my blog. Not that I'm expecting there are many people actually reading this...

In any case, we're still stuck in the old house. Once the weather got cold, the mold problem got to be much less of a problem because the mold doesn't like the cold much. Still looking for financing to build the new house. The first company we applied with kept us hanging for a while before informing us that our part of the country is a declining market and declined to make the loan. The fact that pretty much the whole country is a declining market doesn't seem to figure into it.

So far as I know, my story "Picture Imperfect" should be coming out in the Spring issue of Mysterical-E. I'm thinking somewhere around the first of March, but we'll see how it goes. I'll post more on it once I get word for certain.

I have a ton of links I've been saving up, but since I'm not posting from home, they'll have to wait until the next post.

'til next time~~~