Monday, January 21, 2013

Pull it together, baby!

While cleaning out a few messy spots in my office basket, I came across a Writers Digest article from 2005. Yes, my cleaning and purging are long overdue, but I'm so glad I held on to this article, entitled "Pull it together." As I work on my fifth Logan Hunter mystery, I need to read the article once again.  It's all about plot. Well, I have a pretty darn good plot, I think, but it has some serious holes in it right now, so I thought I'd loosely share some of the gems I gleaned from this article by James Scott Bell.

First, the plot must thrust the protagonist into some kind of quest, searching for another person, evidence, knowledge or inner peace. In order to accomplish that, the writer (you and me) must create a character who is incomplete in some way, and whatever s/he is searching for must be important and worthwhile, or readers won't care.

Then the writer has to throw boulders, both real and imaginary obstacles in the way to keep the protag from reaching the goal. By the end of the quest or journey, the main character should have changed (usually for the better). If not, the ending is a tragedy.

As the article declares "The quest is a powerful pattern because it mirrors our own journey through life. We encounter challenges, suffer setbacks and victories but move on."

In the manuscript I'm writing now, this statement rings true, mirroring sometimes too closely my own journey through life. Can you say the same? What kind of journey are you sending your main characters on, and how much of yourself have you intertwined within the work? Leave a comment for a chance to win your choice of my mysteries.


A good frosty morning to all of you. As you all know, I write the Logan Hunter Mystery series about ... well, murder.

I have never claimed to write cozies where the death happens but the reader does not have to wade through the graphic details.

In each of my books, my protagonist, Logan Hunter, investigates, solves the crime, and brings the bad guy (or gal) to justice.

The back of each book includes a blurb about the contents and there is a "mystery" label at the top, just in case a reader still isn't sure of the genre.

The first novel, Genesis Beach, is quite mild, with the dead man found in his hot tub. Then I upped the ante in Just North of Luck because I wanted to challenge myself and Logan with a serial killer. I spent quite a lot of time in the area where I set the book and even though it's ALL FICTION, I've always told folks that it's my most violent book.

Don't like to read violence? Then don't buy this particular book!

A few weeks ago I had a phone call from a librarian who wanted to schedule a book signing with me and requested a copy of Just North of Luck to read ahead of my visit. I was ecstatic because the book was published in 2009 and I tried to get into libraries in that area then. I never heard back from any of them. This man said he'd "just discovered" me. So, of course, I sent him a free book and waited for a reply.

Having said that, it seems that I've been the victim of "moral panic", a knee jerk reaction to recent shootings around the country. When I finally heard from the librarian through email, he stated that he'd read the book and discussed it with the Friends of the Library group there. They decided that it was too violent a book and withdrew the invitation to have me come.

I was certainly caught off guard since I'd told him it was my most violent book upfront and it didn't seem to bother him. I'm left feeling duped and disappointed. After all, I tell myself, what does one expect from a murder mystery? Especially one with a serial killer creating chaos?

I now have to wonder what they hope to gain by not allowing me to come and talk about crime, investigations, and bringing culprits to justice, good overcoming evil.

Censorhip really bothers me whether it's my books or someone else's.

I wonder if they've turned off their TVs filled with horrible and visually graphic details, or if they're combing the library to remove any book that contains violence. If so, they'll have many empty shelves, won't they? If they have a Bible, they'll have to remove that first since it's filled with all kinds of sins and violence far beyond my simple fiction.

I write about life. Evil isn't going away, but we have to have characters who're strong enough to take a stand and bring justice to innocent victims and communities.

Today I am sad. Tomorrow I will begin to write again.