Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Deadline

Manuscript deadline - including 365 illustrations is 28 hours away! Yikes!

Happy New Year and all the best happiness and prosperity for 2009!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Writers: Learn about 'The Four Firsts and Chapter Hooks'

In fiction, suspense and foreshadowing create mood, tension and the desire for a reader to read more. You can do this, by using the Four Firsts rule and by using Chapter Hooks...

Read the article on The Four Firsts and Chapter Hooks.

~Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author of Whale Song, The River and Divine Intervention

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ring in the New!

Days away from 2009 I imagine you are all writing down your resolutions, just like me. I will work out every day. I'll fix up the front of the house. I'll reduce my personal debt.

Of course, there are the writing goals as well. I will support the new book coming out by following the marketing plan I painstakingly created. And I have a specific writing goal - finish the current novel project by July 1st. I love this time of year because it gets me focused on what I want to accomplish.

The approach of a new year also brings a rather random collection of thoughts and memories to mind. I remember the first time as a child that I was allowed to stay up late on New Year's Eve. When you reach middle age you’re kind of forced to. Being an optimist I do want to stay up until midnight to see the New Year in, although I know some who stay up just to make sure the old year leaves. We all make New Year's resolutions, knowing that they just go in one year and out the other. But my favorite New Year’s quote comes from the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin:

“Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each New Year find you a better man.”

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Lies


For students of human nature, this gem from Frank Herbert, author of the incredible Dune series:

“If a man lies about an apparently inconsequential thing, then that thing is not inconsequential.”

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...

Ah yes, the holidays are very nearly upon us and it appears that all over the Northeast the weather is cooperating in bringing us lovely postcard views of winter weather... snowy landscapes abound, framed by slushy or frozen streams, children; their downy cheeks rosy with cold cavort in nature's drifts; their falls cushioned by fluffy, crunchy, wet and cold snow...

We enjoy the winter, as we should. After all it's a respite from summer's stifling heat and humidity. It feels clean and new and fresh.... it invigorates and sets noses to tingling while also numbing our reddening ears...

And yet, the time comes when we yearn for Spring. We look upon the crocuses and tulips that bravely push themselves through the winter snow and slush in winter's waning days...and nights with a mixture of hope and admiration. But there are other things under the snow aren't there? Awful, ugly, secret things that would smell of rot and frighten the bejeezus out of us if it weren't for their wonderfully concealing blanket of white... What secrets have Mother Nature jealously hidden under her white mantle? Secrets that surface only when she deigns to turn her wintry face away and, perhaps shyly, let us see? Does the snow hide that nice old lady that used to walk her dog near the poplars every morning? What happened to her? Why didn't anyone miss her? What about that little boy that was reported as missing in the next county over? Is that his red cap we see peeking out through the otherwise pristine whiteness? Whatever happened to that poor, sad woman everyone knew was being abused by her husband but everyone kept quiet about? Is that her blue, broken hand poking up from the dirty slush by the side of the road?

For crime writers, our Winter Wonderland is often really a veil of secrets that do not come to light until the thaws of Spring. We know that crime doesn't recognize seasons or pretty landscapes. How often have you heard someone say to a reporter on t.v., "Things like that just don't happen around here..." Maybe the next time you find yourself hiking through those pretty woods, your boots crunching through nature's snowy path, maybe you'll quicken your steps because really, what is the snow hiding? Maybe next time you gaze securely through your kitchen window at the lovely landscape that the winter so graciously provided you, you'll feel a slight shudder and the picture will blur for just a moment as you wonder...what's hiding under the snow in YOUR yard?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bad Time for Publishers... but What About Writers?

What is going on in the publishing industry right now? It seems like a rather scary time for people in the business. I read not long ago that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has asked its editors to stop buying books. So if you have submitted a manuscript to that house or its many imprints, don’t expect to hear anything any time soon. I’ve never heard of a publisher going so far as to instruct its editors to stop acquiring. One wonders what acquisition editors do at times like these.

At the same time, Simon & Schuster cut 35 positions from their staff. And Random House, the world's biggest publisher, announced a sweeping reorganization of its publishing divisions. Bantam Dell (the imprint publishes Danielle Steel and Dean Koontz) and Doubleday Publishing Group (Dan Brown and John Grisham) both lost their publishers. Not fired, but resigned. And imprints are being combined or dropped.

Some insiders are saying they’ve never seen anything like it. I guess that means they weren’t around ten years ago when HarperCollins cancelled more than 100 contracts and laid off more than 400 people. The industry survives these challenges, just as other businesses do during a tough economic time. But what does it mean to you and me?

Well, if you’re published by one of the majors you might well be nervous about your next book seeing print. I, on the other hand, have a book placed with a small press. The management has not changed, and I don’t’ think acquisition policies have either. And despite the harsh economic climate, people around me seem to still be buying books. In fact, bookstores I was in this last weekend were doing brisk business, even without the 55 books I signed.

The situation today might be bad news for most of the books published by the big companies, but most of them never turn a profit anyway. Maybe this economic climate will force them to trim some of the fat, to lose some books that just don’t sell anyway. For those of us in the small press or self-published world, the big news may be no news. We already know how to work lean, we already work at marketing smart, we already look for every opportunity, and we know how to cut our losses if stuck with a loser.

So for me, and folks like me, the publishing recession might represent more opportunity than disaster. If Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Simon & Schuster stop flooding the market for a while, maybe more people will notice my work.

Am I overly optimistic? Probably. It may be impossible for me to thrive while the giants stumble. But at this time of year, I remember the words of Rogers and Hammerstein in Cinderella:

The world is full of zanies and fools,
who don’t believe in sensible rules,
and won’t believe what sensible people say.

And because these daft and dewy-eyed dopes
keep building up impossible hopes,
impossible things are happening everyday!


Happy holidays and all the best to all my writing friends!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Tis the Season

Isn't this the time when our gentler, kinder selves are supposed to prevail?  So how does the murder mystery writer continue to bludgeon not-so innocent victims with merriment and joy? It's easy - that might be one illustration of how a crime writer's mind works.

As I enjoy the dichotomy of Vancouver  - there's snow on the ground but all my spring bulbs are coming up and it's not yet Christmas - I recognize a similar conflict within me.  During this peaceful time of year, I'm getting images of people pushing each other's buttons to the extent that it's guaranteed someone will be murdered.

That's the easy part: deciding who will be murdered and by whom.  That leads to the motive or the "why" of the tale.  Then comes the fun part: the "how" it gets done.  From there, it's a matter of laying out the bread crumbs so a reader hears the story while also having an opportunity to figure out "who done it".  It's all in a way playtime.

And isn't that what the season is for: having fun?  So I guess it is also a time for murder (at least in a crime writer's mind)!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Enter to win a copy of 1106 Grand Boulevard by Betty Dravis


"1106 Grand Boulevard" is the story of passions that last a lifetime; of family love and betrayal; of spousal abuse and sadistic child abuse; a story of Billie Jean's desperate search for happiness, self-worth, and maturity ... a story of people needing people and people using people.

Enter to win 1106 Grand Boulevard:

http://writetype.blogspot.com/2008/12/part-1-of-interview-with-betty-dravis.html

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Register for Bloody Words 2009

Canada’s premier mystery writers' and fan conference Bloody Words will be in Ottawa from June 5-7, 2009.

Confirmed guests of honour include Denise Mina, Louise Penny and Barbara Fradkin with Mary Jane Maffini as Mistress of Ceremonies.

For more information and registration forms, please visit:

http://www.bloodywords2009.com/

Friday, December 05, 2008

This Writer's Room





What: My writing space. This used to be my daughter's nursery, hence the closet. Wonder hubby filled it with bookshelves after we left the diaper-era.

Why: I shot this picture after viewing a Video slideshow of Writers' Rooms as photographed by Eammon McCabe. All the spaces he photographed were of major writers so I thought you ought to see the room of an emerging writer, too. All the rooms have pretty much the same ingredients, if not reflective of different personalities and degrees of neatness.

Who: From the article: "In a new exhibition, award winning photographer Eamonn McCabe, draws together a selection of works from his project illustrating the working environments of novelists,biographers and poets."

Where: Eamonn McCabe: Writers' Rooms runs 3 December - 17 January at Madison Contemporary Art, London.Writers' Rooms feature each Saturday in The Guardian.
---
k. harrington
author, Janeology
What did Jane do and why? Read an excerpt of Janeology to find out - http://www.karenharringtonbooks.com/

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

"Divine Intervention captivated me"


"Para-psychic, Para-psychotic, Para-captivating! Ditto on the previous reviewers who loved the scenery, intricate plot lines with twists and turns...Divine Intervention captivated me and I think it will turn out to be better than the movie!"

--Yale R. Jaffe, author of Advantage Disadvantage

Read the entire review on Amazon.com.

(Note: No movie deal at this time. Film rights are available; email Cheryl.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Challenge of the Theme

Like most writers I’m a walking contradiction. For example, I hate writing short stories because I find them difficult to craft, but I love a writing challenge.

That’s how I end up in anthologies. They generally have a theme that establishes some commonality among the stories. For the last two years I’ve contributed to the annual Wolfmont Press collection of crime stories related to the winter holidays. I loved this year’s title: Dying in a Winter Wonderland. I also placed a story in the Echelon Press anthology Heat of the Moment. Published to benefit the victims of last year’s California wildfires, all those stories had a fire-related theme. Each time, the theme was a hook on which to hang an idea, and I really loved that extra challenge.

Recently, fellow author John French invited me to contribute to an anthology to be entitled, “BAD COP, NO DONUT.” This is slated to be a collection of stories about police behaving badly. This one comes with an extra helping of challenges.

First, and most obviously, one of the primary characters has to be a cop doing wrong. Since I’m generally positive about the police this calls for thinking outside the box.

Then there is the fact that John, aside from being a fine writer, is also a full time crime scene supervisor for the Baltimore Police Department. That means I can’t play fast and loose with the forensics or police procedure.

And then there is the matter of deadline. All the stories have to be in by a certain time for the book to go to print on schedule.

One reason I love being a novelist is the freedom it gives you. You can tell whatever story comes to mind, and tell it however you choose, in any voice, almost any length, at your own pace. But sometimes there is a weird appeal to having restrictions. That’s why I write in a specific genre that has its own conventions and comes with a set of reader expectations. And that’s why I always accept the challenge of writing to a theme for an anthology.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Free sample of Cheryl Kaye Tardif's latest novelette


You can now read the entire novelette REMOTE CONTROL for free on Textnovel.com.

In this dark, suspenseful and somewhat comical look at one man's desires, Remote Control by bestselling author Cheryl Kaye Tardif delivers a strong message: Be careful what you wish for!

Meet Harold Fielding--plumber by part of the day, slacker/tv addict the rest of the day and night. Harry believes that fame and fortune will come to him if he wishes hard enough. God forbid if he should actually work for it.

Beatrice Fielding is Harry's hardworking wife. She holds down multiple jobs so her husband can laze about on his recliner, eating popcorn and drinking cola while watching his favorite shows. She has many wishes--some aren't so nice.

I hope you'll check it out. If you sign up (FREE) on Textnovel.com you'll also be able to read my suspenseful and creepy short story OUIJA.

And please don't forget to vote by clicking on the "thumbs up" icon. I need all the votes I can get. :)

http://www.textnovel.com/stories_list_detail.php?story_id=309

~Cheryl Kaye Tardif, bestselling author of Divine Intervention, The River and Whale Song



Monday, November 17, 2008

What is it?

Crime writing, what is it?  That's the question that came to me as I read Dick Francis's latest novel, Silks.  There is such a variety in stories that involve a "crime".  Dick Francis and Agatha Christie are two very different writers.  Yet both tell stories of crimes.  Coincidently (or maybe not) both are on my list of favorite authors.  Dick Francis was my most recent crime writing read and Agatha Christie was my first. I remember it well; it was her novel, Hickory Dickory Dock. It sounded like it was about mice and I was about eight.  Need I say more?  Later I enjoyed Daphne Du Maurier's novels.  Though I don’t know that she’s considered a crime writer I do recall thieving in Frenchman’s Creek.  And was that a murder in Rebecca?  Along the way, I've enjoyed Dashiell Hammett, dropped into some of Elmore Leonard's worlds, laughed at scenes by Susan Evanovich, got serious with John Grisham and read all of Ian Fleming’s Bond books.

Whether it’s a mentally challenging puzzle, a light laugh-filled jaunt or a realistic look at a serious side of life, crime writing it seems has something for everyone.  So what is crime writing?  It’s an endless supply of pleasure.  There is the joy of a new novel by a favorite author, there’s the thrill of discovering a new writer, and there is the quiet comfort when re-visiting a classic.  That’s just the reading pleasure crime writing provides.  There is also the viewing pleasure that comes from all the TV and movie adaptations (having just seen the latest James Bond film).

So Crime Writing, what is it?  To me, it’s limitless, it’s life and it’s fun.

Everything Old is New Again


I’ve noticed an increase in the publication of reprint books. Apparently books that are out of print are being picked up by publishers and sent out to attract a new audience. The most obvious publisher is probably New York Review Books, but I think Europa Editions is also pretty popular. Of course, I have a special place in my heart for Hard Case Crime. Their line combines classic hard-boiled paperback fiction with some of the best new stuff by people like Max Allen Collins, and the new books get convincing classic-style paperback covers.

Okay, Hard Case isn’t one of the publishing giants, nor perhaps should it be. The company has a very specific focus and can narrow its selections to please one specific audience. They don’t need to try to find the big summer blockbuster like the big names do. If you like what they like, you’ll want to buy them all anyway, so each book markets the others.

But why are reprints so popular now? Does it imply that modern writers have forgotten how to write what we want to read? Maybe it’s more accurate to say that what we really want can’t get thru the eye of the needle at big publishers these days. Or it may be that the big guys demand a specific length – fatter books for fatter prices – whereas in the case of the best hardboiled stuff, writing tight was the rule and novels tend to be shorter. You can blow thru a Mickey Spillane and even most Hammett or Chandler books in an evening.

If your taste runs to more traditional mystery you might be a big fan of Persephone Books, an English publisher that reprints fiction written by British women written between the wars. A good share of that work is mystery fiction, although they are broader – and very selective. It’s almost like having a publisher serve the purpose of curator in a literary museum. Local bookstores used to do this, and in some enlightened part of the world still do.

I must admit that even to my eye, the classic authors that Persephone publishes all seem to have a gift for storytelling that I don’t see in much contemporary work. Books like Dorothy B. Hughes’ The Expendable Man and The Blank Wall by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding are crime novels , but also so much more. It's tough to think of a contemporary match for them in terms of sophisticated use of the language.

So if you’re looking for that next great read, and you’ve read all the work of my fellow bloggers here, you should consider revisiting the past with one of the recent reprints.


And BTW, do you have a favorite classic mystery that you wish was back in print??

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mysteries are Circular


Mysterys are circular by nature. Their construction is circles within circles. Because of the shape of a mystery there are many different points of entry when devising a cluetrail. In the centre of the circle is the crime. Around the circumference are the suspects. Orbiting between the centre and the circumference are the motive, method, opportunity - any one of them a point of entry into creating and solving a mystery. You can start with the big picture of what actually happened or begin with a small portion of the picture; motive, method or opportunity.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cluetrails


Wanting to please everyone, has long been a trait of mine; some would call it a failing, yet I’m
still sure it can be done, at least with mysteries. I want to have as many mystery party themes as possible available at MysteryFactory.com - something for everyone - with as little work as possible. Laziness is another trait of mine. Luckily there is a way it can be done.

I am going to write six different cluetrails and plug them into eighteen different mysteries; three mysteries per cluetrail.

A cluetrail is different from a mystery. The cluetrail is the path of clues that a sleuth follows to solve the mystery, and the mystery is the forest the path runs through ... or the desert, town, castle, or anywhere ‘evil lurks in the heart of men’. A path can run anywhere. A cluetrail can be made to fit any theme.

It’s quite exciting to come up with scenario that works just as well in the late 1800s of Paris and in contemporary Hollywood. Poison can go anywhere though, just like a cluetrail.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

REMOTE CONTROL is now featured on Textnovel.com


For those of you who were following the progress of my serialized novelette titled REMOTE CONTROL, I am not updating it on my website at this time. I was contacted by the founder of Textnovel.com and was asked if I'd consider posting a story there. I've decided to post REMOTE CONTROL from beginning to end, with a new chapter every day.

So if you've been reading about Harold Fielding and his wife Bea and want to read about what happens when Harry's wish for fame and fortune is granted, please visit my novelette's page on Textnovel.com. It has been selected as an Editor's Picks.

REMOTE CONTROL

I hope you enjoy. Please sign up for Textnovel (free) and then you can subscribe so you don't miss a chapter, plus you can leave a review or vote by clicking on the "thumbs up" symbol. :)

~Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
suspense author
http://www.cherylktardif.com/

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Why We Love Mysteries - Part II

A couple weeks ago I posted some opinions as to why we all love crime fiction so much. It was a start, but I only scratched the surface - there is much more to our passion for these books.

For example, another big draw of crime fiction is that it lets us look into the lives of others. My character Hannibal Jones is a professional troubleshooter living in Southeast DC. But you can check out the lives of private detectives, cops, DA’s, lawyers, and amateur sleuths who can be chefs, maids, cab drivers, practically anything. Then there are the lives of the suspects and victims. We see them all, and see their every secret because, let’s face it, there are no secrets in a murder investigation. And because these stories are about people’s motives, the good ones are really about the truth. Stories based on investigations are ideal for exploring the smallest details of daily life. And to create realistic characters we authors have to pay attention to the details: what people eat, what they drink, what they wear, what music they listen to and maybe more than anything else, what they want out of life. We have to show what the prevailing customs are in our society, and what the norms are in different groups. We examine social issues best.

My stories often start in the poorer quarters of Washington, but before me Walter Mosley used Easy Rawlins to push mysteries out of the drawing room and out into the streets where violence is a day-to-day, life and death issue. We use our characters to show people a side of our society they might not see any other way.

Since the early days of mysteries, women have done for women what Walter Mosley and I do for African Americans. Starting in 1920 Agatha Christie wrote nearly 70 novels, and Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham, Josephine Tey, Georgette Heyer, and Ngaio March represented for British ladies. And a lot of women got hooked on mysteries early because of Mildred Wirt Benson, who, as Carolyn Keene, wrote most of the original Nancy Drew mysteries.

Reading more contemporary mysteries is a good way to understand the changing role of women in our society. Until the 70’s women wrote cozies while men wrote hard-boiled and police procedurals. Then Sue Grafton got published and offered the distaff view of professional detective work. Patricia Cornwell and Karin Slaughter write books that make a lot of MEN squeamish. I’ve already mentioned Tess Monahan, Laura Lippman’s private eye. Tess and Sara Paretsky’s V.I Warshawski are both female hard-boiled private eyes. In 1986 Ms. Paretsky helped found Sisters in Crime to, in her words, “combat discrimination against women in the mystery field,” among other things. Today, Sisters in Crime boasts more than 3,000 members, and 20% of us are men.

Lauren Henderson’s detective is a dominatrix. She, Laura Lippman and Katy Munger call their sub-genre of detective fiction “tart noir.” Their web site, tart city.com, says that their characters are, “neofeminist women, half Phillip Marlowe, half femme fatale, who think it’s entirely possible to save the world while wearing s drop-dead dress and stiletto heels.”

Among the seemingly contradictory reasons we love mysteries is because they keep us up at night. Karin Slaughter is one of the recent writers who take violence to a new level. Dealing with violence is one of the important undercurrents of crime fiction. My detective, Hannibal Jones has a problem controlling his temper in the first novel. It’s one of the more important sub-plots because he lives in a violent world.

Paradoxically, people also read mysteries because they keep the darkness away. Remember these books gained popularity in the Victorian Age, when the murder rate was double what it is now. People needed reassurance, and these books give us that. We can see how the police actually do their job, and get a sense that the criminal justice system really works. And we get to spend time in a world where bad guys are always punished. It’s comforting.

We love mysteries in part because of the rich historical heritage. It’s generally agreed that the genre as we know it began with Edgar Allen Poe in the 1840’s, although I personally don’t consider his stuff real detective fiction. I pin the beginning to Wilkie Collins who published the Moonstone in 1868. It settled into a firm shape when Arthur Conan Doyle published “A Study in Scarlet” in 1887. Amazingly, these people are still in print, along with others I mentioned earlier – Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers and the rest. And the people I admire most, those who created hardboiled fiction, can still be found. All five of Dashiel Hammett’s books are available, and all seven of Raymond Chandler’s beautiful novels remain in print. Ellery Queen? Still there. And what better way to rediscover the noir period of the 1950’s, the free love days of the 1960s, and the rebellious 1970s’?

So mysteries give us a lot to look back on. But I think the biggest reason my readers say they love mysteries is that these books gives them something to look forward to. Fans develop serious addictions to their favorite characters. They want to know what happens next in the lives of Hannibal Jones or Kinsey Milhone or Tess Monahan or Alex Delaware. Let’s face it; we know more about these fictional people than we do about our best friends. And we can’t wait to see them again when the next book comes out.

And it’s a good thing that we love mysteries because as I said, crime fiction is the only literature courageous enough to deal with the biggest issues of our times – guilty versus innocence, good versus evil, right versus wrong. We can escape reality and deal with it at the same time, reading crime fiction.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It's raining...

Congratulations to Karen Harrington for being roasted!

I opened my front door today to go to work, the forecasts had predicted rain and they were right. It is raining. I don't know what I expected, I guess I kind of thought it would a a sweet sort of rain, the kind that inspires you to snuggle up next to a really good friend or book, maybe catch up on those DVD's that always seem to be collecting dust somewhere.... But no, it's not that kind of rain. It's not the kind of rain that traps you in introspection as you gaze out of your window, it's not even the kind of rain you silently thank for keeping what's left of your lawn from dying and turning the sad, lusterless brown of failure and decay. No, it's a dreary, ugly, mean kind of rain. The kind of rain that makes you turn away in dread, the kind that fills you with dismay at the thought of going out in its soggy, nasty ether. It's a rain cold as the grave and twice as repellent. At home, you close the curtains with a shudder and turn up the volume on your television or radio to drown out the leathery sussuration of its unnatural call. You don't care that it is reviving your lawn or saving the last of this season's tomatoes... this rain is not quite right, it just feels bad. It makes you feel inexplicably lonely, it dredges up memories of things you'd buried deep inside and prayed that you'd forget... yes, it's that kind of rain. The kind of rain that washes the blood of murder victims down sewer drains, that destroys crime scenes and renders evidence unusable. The kind of rain that hides a victims tears, that makes escape from a predator so much harder, that causes the innocent to slip and fall at the worst possible time...
it's a crime writer's kind of rain...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Book Roast is grilling up authors



What's cookin? Well, the fine book chefs at Book Roast are officially roasting me today. Hmm. I'd like to ask Martha if this is a "good thing."

Hop on over to the Book Roast grill and take a look at how they've set the table.Not only is the Maitre d serving up an excerpt from JANEOLOGY, he is also going to help me give away one copy of the book to a lucky commenter. And the winner will be chosen by the end of TODAY! I'll be stopping by the grill all day to answer questions, too.


Hey, one little blog comment of what, 50 or so words, to win 75,000 words! That seems like a deal to me.




"Fascinating...this debut novel is as much a character study as a thriller. -- BOOKLIST

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Opportunity versus Means...

Oh those meanies, always seeking any opportunity to make a writer's job so much harder! Okay, okay, so I'm not such a funny guy. Here's what I have always considered the differences between Means and Opportunity.

Opportunity conveys the actual, physical ability to have been able to commit the crime. The time frame is always extremely important and many individuals have been caught due solely to the "WHEN". The criminal's proximity to the victim or crime scene. As you know, most murders are committed by people known to the victim. Was there something the criminal could immediately gain by committing the crime at that particular time (see, time again), many crimes are crimes of "opportunity" such as baggage checkers at airports stealing valuables from someone's suitcase.

Means means (okay, sorry again) the criminal's ability to commit a crime as referenced by that particular criminal's skill, tools, background, etc. If a particularly breach-proof safe is broken into without causing undo damage to said safe physically, law enforcement starts looking for those unsavory characters that have the singular skills and/or access to the tools needed to have committed this act of perfidy. That criminal has the "means" to have committed his/her crime.

Anyway, that's what I think. Hope it helps.

Friday, October 24, 2008

In a Word


Here’s a question that has puzzled me for a long time: I have always considered the three elements of a crime leading to the solution as Motive, Method and Opportunity while others state the elements as Motive, Method and Means. Could someone please define the difference between Opportunity and Means for me. I’m thinking it might just be a matter of alliteration but I could be missing a finer point.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

It's a Small World

This is a time of communities especially on-line communities. Be it social networks like Facebook, professional networks like Linkedin or company communities that support their products like Kraft.  Groups of people are coming together in numbers unprecedented.  This is nothing new though for readers.  There have always been "people who read" and people who don't. Us readers have always had that drive to connect with other readers (and to be honest maybe even convert a few non-readers!)   What is it about a book that just begs to be lent to a friend?  I've done this all my life: shared books, exchanged books, talked books with friends and with strangers.  It's a much better way to get to know someone than talking about the weather.

So why did it so surprise me when it happened with my book, Murder Makes Mischief?  It was easy to follow some of my early sales as they went to friends and family.  One of my first sales ended up being passed through five different people in four different cities before I lost track of it.  Now to be honest, one side of me would have liked each of those people to buy their own copy but the other side said Yes!  You don't pass on a book you don't like.  Besides part of why I write is to provide people with a few hours of reading pleasure, a few hours of fun.  Bottom line: the more my books are shared the better.

Still it was a surprise to get a fan letter from a remote coastal town in Scotland!  Between sharing and the on-line book sites and communities, books are being sold and shared in places I would not have imagined.  Where next? My cozy murder mystery is off to book fairs in China and Germany and after that who knows.  It is after all a very small world!  

 

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Remote Control - another scene is added to this serialized novelette


Meet Harold Fielding--plumber by part of the day, slacker/tv addict the rest of the day and night. Harry believes that fame and fortune will come to him if he wishes hard enough. God forbid if he should actually work for it.

Beatrice Fielding is Harry's hardworking wife. She holds down multiple jobs so her husband can laze about on his recliner, eating popcorn and drinking cola while watching his favorite shows. She has many wishes--some aren't so nice.

In this dark, suspenseful and somewhat comical look at one man's desires, Remote Control delivers a strong message:

Be careful what you wish for!

I am serializing this novelette, adding one scene each week. I hope you enjoy. If so, please leave me a comment.

Read Remote Control.

~Cheryl Kaye Tardif

http://www.cherylktardif.com/


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bones


Research is a passion for me. When I began writing murder mystery scripts I was determined to have a performance that was entertaining AND 'fair play'; meaning that all the clues needed to solve the mystery were presented to the audience so that the mystery could be solved if they were clever enough to follow the cluetrail.

Glorious years were spent reading and analyzing mysteries by the masters of the craft; Agatha Christie, Rex Stout and many, many others. Plots and perpetrators were reduced to their bare bones and plunked into a spreadsheet in an attempt to find a cluetrail formula. Patterns began to emerge. Library stacks were searched looking for one book that would detail the tangled web. It hasn’t been written yet. Ok – I’ll write it then.

The manuscript has been gathering dust for five years. Now as the website for Mystery Factory is taking shape I am starting to write instructions for mystery house parties. That dusty manuscript is going to be getting a workout. Over the next however long it takes, I will be sharing the process of what is involved in creating the bones of a cluetrail and fleshing it out into a mystery. Any feedback and questions will be welcome.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Why do we love crime fiction?

Next week I’ll be in the midst of Bouchercon. Aside from the panel I’ll be on Thursday morning, I’ve been asked to give a presentation on Saturday, October 11 at the Canton Library in Baltimore. Being as much as fan as an author, I decided to talk about why we love crime fiction so much, which gave me an opportunity to do some interesting research.

Did you know that crime novels account for somewhere between 20 and 25 percent of the fiction sold around the world? At least what’s published in English. It makes you wonder why books about murder and other evils that men do are so popular.

There’s no denying that this is the kind of book that people really read. I mean, Independent bookstores have almost disappeared, but shops that specialize in mysteries are booming. I’ve done signings at Mystery Loves Company in Baltimore, but I’ve probably bought more books there over the years than I’ve sold. There are three shops in New York City alone: Black Orchid, Partners and Crime and the Mysterious Bookshop. If you visit Mystery Net.com you will find a list of mystery bookstores across the country and the world.*

The popularity of crime fiction is a fairly recent phenomenon. 20 or 30 years ago, you didn’t see crime novels on the bestseller list. Today they regularly account for half of it. But what accounts for this love of mystery fiction?

At my book signings people tell me they love mystery novels because they tell real stories. Mainstream fiction, if there is such a thing, often has no real conflict and no resolution. More and more self indulgence, with less and less plot - that’s literary fiction. But mysteries always give you a story, and the satisfying conclusion we don’t often get in real life. You can’t do this if you haven’t mastered the basic mechanics of storytelling – a beginning, middle and end, heroes and villains. There’s a definite form. Harlan Coben who writes the Myron Bolitar series says it’s like writing a sonata or haiku. But within that form you can do almost anything. Pick up anything by Baltimore detective writer Laura Lippman. She says that the best books are at war with themselves. The reader is dying to get to the end of the story, but she’s also dying to make the book last forever. People read mysteries to find out what happens.

Mysteries also take us where we want to go, or sometimes they just show us the places we already know. My detective, Hannibal Jones , lives and works in Washington. He shares the city with James Patterson’s Alex Cross and George Pelecanos’ marvelously hard-boiled Derek Strange. Of course Laura Lippman’s Tess Monahan rules Baltimore, Robert B. Parker's Spencer owns Boston, and Paula Woods redefines L.A. urban noir with Charlotte Justice. Elmore Leonard, one of my favorites, shows you a gritty side of Detroit. Janet Evanovich takes a rather satirical look at New Jersey. Want to get a bit farther away? Read Alexander McCall Smith’s books about the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency in Botswana.

You can also travel through time in mysteries. I’ve read them set in Ancient Egypt, China and Japan, Victorian England, WWI and the roaring 20’s. In the Middle Ages, nuns and monks solved a lot of crimes. And I read in Pages magazine that the best selling post-Communist Russian author is Alexandra Marinina – a mystery novelist.

You can hear more of my reasons why people love crime fiction on Saturday, October 11 at 2:00 p.m. at the Canton Library, 1030 S. Ellwood Avenue and O'Donnell Street in Baltimore. Meanwhile, tell me why YOU think people love mysteries so much. In a couple of weeks I’ll gather your comments and post an update on the topic.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Title


I've got the feeling that once I blow this blog box open I'll really be able to run with it; so far I'm only peeking out through the cracks. An experiment or two or three or many more is what is required here.

Too busy writing my book to write about writing my book
- just wait till it's done though
- you'll be hearing alot more from me.

Oh, yeah, after that book is written I have five scripts to do for our new website; Mystery Factory or mysteryfactory.com, as the case may be. And the case will be. The case for kids mysteries, the case for professional mysteries and the case for cluetrail capers. I get so excited about this stuff. I'd love to tell you about it but I think it's a bad idea to talk about things still in process, before they are ready to be released. The whole Chinese law of secrecy and all that.

Entertainment is suppose to thrive in tough economic times and it feels like those are upon us. Book sales should go up - if the books are not to expensive. Distraction at any cost is probably not true but distraction will be the attraction for sure.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Remote Control, a suspenseful serialized work-in-progress, is updated


If you've been following Remote Control, my suspenseful novelette that is based on a short story I wrote back in 1987, it has been updated and a new scene has been added.

Harry Fielding has just discovered that he has a strange power. And he's ready and willing to use it. No matter the consequences.

“Be careful what you wish for,” they say, but for forty-four-year-old Harold Fielding, who unfortunately isn’t one to listen to such good advice, those words will come back to haunt him...


~Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author of Whale Song, The River and Divine Intervention

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Blurb Me!

By attending writers’ conventions and being personable I've been able to get some pretty nice folks to write blurbs for some of my books. Warren Murphy and Ken Bruen have blurbs on my published works, and people like Libby Fisher Hellman and David Hagberg have given me blurbs on manuscripts that are still making the rounds. In the same vein, I've written blurbs for other authors whose work impressed me. I always thought this was simply one good way to give a book s little more credibility, but now I'm no longer so sure.

I recently learned about a company called Blurbings LLC that offers writers the chance to buy and sell book endorsements. In other words, they traffic in blurbs. Blurbs for cash? From who? After all, getting one unknown writer to endorse another unknown writer probably doesn’t do much for either one. On the other hand, some might say that this company has simply put a price on what mainstream publishers and agents ask authors to do all the time. Yes, most of my blurbs have come from writers with whom I have made friends, and that may make them seem less impartial. I got David Hagburg’s kind words only because we share the same agent, although he assured me face to face that he would never give a blurb for a book he didn’t think was very good. But it’s fair to wonder to what extent all these blurbs represent friends being nice or favors being traded.

In any case it sure can’t hurt to have a published author praise your work - although before you plunk down your $19.95 you should clearly understand that there’s no real evidence that blurbs actually help sell books.

I must admit that when I pick up a piece of fiction I may be swayed by whose blurb is present. If a writer whose work I love praises a book I am more likely to buy it. But I wish there was a way to know if the author landed the blurb himself or if his publisher requested it. One seems somehow more valuable than the other to me.

The bottom line is that I feel as if blurbs are worth less now that you can buy them, much like reviews which can also be purchased. I will still offer this favor for authors who really impress me, and still ask it of my heroes, but that’s more for my ego than with the thought that it will help my book sales.

But I’m curious. What do you think of blurbs on books? Do you ignore them, or do they help you make the purchase decision?

Friday, September 19, 2008

3 cool sites for writers and readers

1. Author Joshua Palmatier has put together The Query Project where he asked a handful of writers to share their specific tips and advice on how they crafted THE query letter that landed them an agent. Visit the site and scroll down for the links to the various authors. Taken together, this is a good primer for any new writer.

2. Ever wonder what rejection does to the aspiring writer? It inspires, of course. Author Keith Cronin has combined his angst and considerable talent to create The Adventures of Comma Boy offering some hilarious commentary on writers trying to get their words read.


3. And last, I have discovered another scobberlotcher's dream website called StoryCasting. Simply, this is a site where YOU can go and cast the celebrities you'd love to see in the film adaptation of your favorite books. I just had fun casting my novel JANEOLOGY with Ashley Judd and Mark Ruffalo in the leads. Wouldn't I be so lucky!

--

Stop by my blog to say hello : http://www.scobberlotch.blogspot.com/


K. Harrington

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Review Review

If you use reviews to decide what to read next, it’s not a good time for you. The Hartford Courant laid off its books editor. The Los Angeles Times no longer publishes a freestanding Sunday book review. It’s been more than a year since the Atlanta Journal-Constitution lost book reviews.

Losing newspaper review sections is bad news for authors, but it’s worse news for the newspaper business and beyond that, for our whole culture. The fact is, newspapers are shrinking because fewer and fewer people are reading them. There’s no good side to that.

But don’t despair. Review-loving readers do have options, because many of your peers write excellent reviews. Check out the top 100 reviewers on Amazon.com. Some of them specialize in a particular genre. And authors often recommend fellow writers’ work on some of the best, award-winning blogs (like, ahem… THIS one.) Elsewhere on line I'd recommend:

BookReviews.com - which features more than 100 qualified book reviewers and over 15,000 book reviews.

allreaders.com -Featuring detailed book reviews from all genres, and readers can enter book reviews and get listed as reviewers.

powells.com - Collects reviews from well-known sources like The Atlantic Online, Esquire, The New Republic, Salon.com, and Powell's own staff.

dannyreviews.com - Danny Yee has posted over 1000 book reviews covering almost everything - history, literature, popular science, computing, sf + fantasy, biology, historical fiction, anthropology...

And you can bet that we authors will be stepping into the 21st century too. We’ll be sending more and more review copies to Amazon reviewers and to influential bloggers. So even if newspapers are struggling and fading away, book reviews will move very smoothly to the internet.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

5 things you didn't know about me...


Today I tried to challenge myself to come up with 5 things that most of my readers wouldn't know about me.

And here they are:

1. I was a teacher (informally) - When I was an older teen, I substituted for Kindergarten and Grade 1 teachers in a small BC school. Years later, I taught my daughter to read and by 3 and a half, she was reading sentences. I then went on to homeschool her for 4 years, after which she decided to try public school. She just graduated from high school.

2. I sold Pampered Chef kitchen items for about 2 years and loved going to people's homes and showing them new tools and recipes. I quit Pampered Chef about 6 months after the original Whale Song came out because I wanted to dedicate myself to my passion--writing.

3. I hate bugs, especially spiders. I can't stand the idea of bugs on me. I was once bitten by an unknown type of black bulbous arachnid. Its venom bleached out an area below my neck, removing all my freckles. It didn't hurt, but it took years for the white patch to go away.

4. I've survived flying over the Bermuda Triangle 4 times. At least, I think I have. Perhaps I'm in an alternate universe...

5. I've had a number of premonitory dreams since I was a teenager. In one dream I saw my mother with a baby in a green pink and white blanket. Later, my mother told me she was pregnant. My baby brother Jason was brought home in a green, pink and white blanket knitted by my grandmother. The most horrific dream happened one night when I dreamt of a massive explosion that gutted a huge government building and killed many people, including children. I saw scorched remains, smoke and ash...and skulls. The following day brought with it the Oklahoma bombing. One could say that it's because of my own paranormal experiences that I am drawn to the characters in my Divine series.

So now you know a bit more about me, that I am more than just an author who hopes to entertain you. If you haven't read all of my novels, I hope you'll check them out now--Whale Song, The River and Divine Intervention.

~Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Why Child 44 should be on your to-read list


It has been a LONG time since I was bowled over by a book for both its story, characters and writing. But as soon as I purchased Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith, the wait for this kind of story was over.
Child 44, a thriller about a Stalinist era MGB agent who begins to lose faith in the system after he begins investigating a series of child murders, was inspired by a real Soviet serial killer, Andrei Chikatilo.
The way Smith writes has been described by many as "propulsive" and I agree. Once you start reading, you are drawn in at once and it never lets up. One of the story features not often elaborated on by other reviewers of this tale is the heart-aching love story that churns beneath the thriller plot. It is astonishing how contemporary, how real, Smith portrays the bittersweet marriage underneath the political struggles in paranoid, Stalinist Russia, making it one of the most satisfying elements of the book for me. It made me care about the characters personal - and political - plights. And that's the true mastery of this author - he gives you unforgettable characters in the midst of both thriller and history lesson. Most authors settle for merely the later two elements. I suspect this will be one of the grounding elements of the film, set to begin production in 2009. Who to cast? I envisioned the latest Bond actor - Daniel Craig as Leo Demidov and Rachel Wiesz as his wife, Raisa.
Here's a clip about the story from the author himself.



Visit www.karenharringtonbooks.com to read a chapter of Janeology, a psychological thriller exploring the intersection of nature and nurture in one Jane Nelson: wife, mother and murderess.

Killer Instincts...

No fiction written beats real life. I know because my mind churns all the time. Stories swirl and twirl in my brain often distracting me from mundane chores and absolute necessities. The other day I had to deal with one such chore, an ongoing, now chronic situation with the brakes on my car. Since May I've spent more money than I care to think about on righting the wrongs done to my disks, linings, rotors and pads. Last Friday on yet another visit to my car dealership I passed the time waiting in the customer lounge reading the newspaper. Their television was on with a newscast station reporting late breaking grim news.

I looked up from the political headlines to see the face of a sweet child about two or three years old. Her mother charged with her disappearance and possible death was now, out of jail on a generous bail. As she was being led into a car for the drive to momentary freedom, DNA samples were being taken to a crime lab in another part of the city. These samples came from the trunk of this woman's car, the place where authorities believe this little girl was stowed for an undisclosed time. An expert in forensics was being interviewed on his opinion of how the child was killed. Traces of chloroform along with decomposition were found through tests in the trunk and this doctor seemed confident that someone had given the child a form of a drug that would put the child to sleep so the parent could go out without paying a babysitter. Perhaps not meaning to, but without using any common sense this woman had killed her own child to save a few dollars an hour.

Killers come in all sizes and all descriptions and so do victims.

Blog what you see, hear, think and feel.

Linda Merlino

Criminal Minds at Work wins 'Best Blog of the Day' award

Blog Awards Winner


Bill Austin at Blog of the Day Awards announced that Criminal Minds at Work is being awarded the 'Best Blog of the Day' award, on Sunday, September 7th.
"Blog of the Day Awards offers the best selection of weblogs and famous blogs on a variety of topics. Selection of Best Blogs of the Day is usually done a few days ahead of time based on nominations up to that point. Criteria include content, quality, creativity, and the personal opinion of the judges.

Judges grant up to four awards each day in recognition of outstanding nominees who are recommended by visitors to the site and by a panel of judges who bestow the honor of a Daily Blog Award upon the recipients. Being named a Blog of the Day Awards Winner can be the crowning achievement of a lifetime of work or it can be the beginning of a new chapter in the life of a blogger. Presentation of these awards can bring acclaim and notoriety beyond their wildest imaginings. The accolades and praise heaped upon winners of these prestigious awards can be best described as fabulous and the stuff of legends."
On behalf of all the "criminal minds" here at Criminal Minds at Work, I'd like to thank Bill, the judges and anyone who may have nominated us. We sincerely thank you and we'll do our best to keep our posts provocative, controversial, interesting and at times criminally insane.

~Cheryl Kaye Tardif, on behalf of all Criminal Minds at Work authors

Monday, September 01, 2008

Happy Labor Day - and a scholarly book


Labor Day is here, and not only am I not working - I’m not writing! I’ve come to believe the words of Elbert Hubbard who said that the man who doesn't relax and hoot a few hoots voluntarily now and then, is in great danger of hooting hoots and standing on his head for the edification of the pathologist and trained nurse, a little later on.

Besides, I hope that my mind will be like the fertile field that, after it has been rested, gives a more bountiful crop.

But I WILL be on BlogTalk Radio tonight, talking about a worthy additions to your library: African American Mystery Writers: A Historical and Thematic Study. I’ve met the author, Frankie Y. Bailey, at a number of writing events and she is one of the sweetest ladies who ever killed off an innocent victim - in fiction of course, in her Lizzie Stuart mystery series of course.

Frankie is both a successful crime fiction writer and a serious scholar of the subject. As a criminal justice professor at the University at Albany she has a keen insight into both true crime and the people who write about it. Oh, and yours truly might have gotten a small mention in this volume.

“African American Mystery Writers: A Historical and Thematic Study” is available for pre-order now at Amazon.com, and you can learn a lot more about it tonight, because Frankie I my guest on my BlogTalkRadio show Book Bridge: from Authors to Writers at 8:30 pm Eastern Time on your computer. Join us if you can.


And Happy Labor Day, everyone!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Cozy - defined


Many years ago, every Tuesday night, my parents would go to the Legion to play darts, leaving my sister and me alone with the monopoly board, a bowl of pop corn and the TV. We always watched The Avengers, while engaging in the high finance and real estate board game. Diana Rigg was awesome and the series a classic. I'm glad she maintained a presence in the mystery scene over the years. The following definition is one that she gives during the intro to a Masterpiece Theatre show:

"A cozy mystery refers to stories that take place in closed, often serene settings. An unexpected act of violence shatters the peace. A small group of characters falls under suspicion and a heroic detective arrives to solve the crime. Are usually solved within a short period of time, a week or two at the most. In general the solution is usually in plain sight from start to finish. And the killer has been onstage throughout. Motives are clear and simple. Somebody hates fears or envies somebody else or else stands to inherits a lot of money. One by one suspects are considered and eliminated, although the detective will occasionally find himself in a blind alley."

Diana Rigg / Masterpiece Theatre

Saturday, August 16, 2008

How to Hear about How to Write a Mystery


Last month, NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” aired a great double interview entitled How to Write a Mystery. What made the show great, IMHO, is that instead of spending an hour with James Patterson or Stephen King, they enlisted a pair of what I consider journeyman authors. Tana French, author of In The Woods and The Likeness, and Louis Bayard, author of Mr. Timothy and The Pale Blue Eye, are not celebrity authors just hard-working folks who make their living turning out tightly-plotted, character-driven stories that are fun to read. NPR gave us a chance to listen to them talk about how to create the perfect whodunit, and to give their idea of the most important elements in a page-turning thriller. The show is still on their site and well worth listening to.

But even more fun for me was the interactive side. When I returned to the interview for a second listen I saw that people had posted comments on the NPR site. I found many of them interesting, as a fan and as a writer. Consider these snippets:

“RE: Series mystery novels. I find it absolutely maddening to read series mysteries which rehash the same characters - if the books are well written in the first place we should know everything we need to know about these characters. It seems that authors who use the same characters over and over again do backbends to make their characters SEEM fresh.”

“I have enjoyed all of the modern weapons put into government/crime mystery novels, such as the FBI and LAPD in Michael Connelly's books. It becomes a game of outsmarting the machines man created to have justice and peace.”


“One thing I do NOT enjoy about series of novels is when the author tries to teach a moral lesson, or life lesson, in a mystery, of all places. I hate when I notice five books later that the author must have had an eye opening life experience, because there are "tender moments" thrown into the plot that didn't happen in the first four.”

“As owner of the San Francisco Mystery Bookstore I can tell you what my customers think make a good mystery. Mysteries that take you to another place where you can learn about the culture, the society and the people.”

Yep, I learn as much from fans as I do from other authors. One thing seems clear, though. There’s something for everyone to love in a good mystery!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

If you're a Canadian author, please join the Canadian Authors Network


Visit Canadian Authors Network

This network is ONLY for Canadian authors* and for fans of Canadian authors. Please do not join this group if you are neither.

International authors should not join unless they are serious fans of Canadian books/authors and posts should be relevant and not self-promotion.

Canadian authors can discuss their works, events, news, etc, and fans can discuss their favorite Canadian authors and Canadian books.

*You are a CANADIAN author if you currently live in Canada or were born in Canada.

Canadian Authors Network - Helping CANADIAN AUTHORS connect to fans worldwide!

Dusty drawer


Technology can not stop the dust bunnies. An electronic drawer is no different from a dresser drawer for yielding surprises upon opening a compartment you haven't been in for a while and blow the dust aside. Clicking randomly on files while my attention was elsewhere, I discovered an unknown document appear on my screen. Who wrote that I wondered? The first paragraphs intriqued me:

WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

"John Jacob Johnson was born during an electrical storm on July 11th, 1934 as the first fat blops of rain hit the dusty ground and the wind whipped the trees into pendulums. When Mr. Johnson was calling relatives with news of John Jacob’s arrival, a bolt of lightning struck the pole, traveled through the telephone wires, out the earpiece and landed John Senior across the room. Mrs. Johnson hugged her new son to her bosom, stared at her motionless husband and wondered, “What does it mean?”

That night Betty Johnson had a dream. A path lay before her. Immediately in front of her, snarling and clawing, were a pair of mating tigers. Behind them a dismembered body spilled over the path. At the end of the travel stood the radiant Mother, in front of a large wooden box. Inside the box was Betty Johnson’s answer.

That morning Betty Johnson woke and called her sister Alice, who knew about dreams and such things. Before night fell, John Jacob’s crib was turned in a north south direction, cinnamon was sprinkled around his tiny room and Goldenrod guarded the windowsill. After a year, two years, five years had passed, the vigilant mother was satisfied that she had tricked destiny."

Well I wanted to know more and when the author was revealed to be myself - I felt a little pleased and a little cheated. Apparently my judgements were asleep when I didn't know the writer but now I have to take it somewhere if I want to know 'what it means.'

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

You TubesDay: Ray Bradbury on writing

Simply, a wonderful example of persistence and belief in oneself as told by the incredible Ray Bradbury. Enjoy!





Happy writing!

Karen Harrington
author, Janeology
http://www.scobberlotch.blogspot.com

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Tips for Plotting Your Novel - Percolate & Ferment


Fiction authors are often asked, “How do you come up with your novel plots? Where do you find these ideas?” As a Canadian suspense author, I am often asked these questions, and my answers will usually include something about letting ideas percolate and ferment.


Read Part 1: Percolate Your Ideas

Read Part 2: Ferment the Plot


~Cheryl Kaye Tardif is a bestselling author of 3 Canadian suspense novels (Whale Song (published by award-winning Kunati Books), The River and Divine Intervention). She is also a freelance journalist and popular speaker at writers groups, conferences and book clubs. Her specialty topics are: book publishing options; book marketing (online and offline) and writing advice. Cheryl currently resides in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.


Visit her website:
http://www.cherylktardif.com, or her blog: http://www.cherylktardif.blogspot.com

Saturday, August 02, 2008

All Crime is Local

The most common question I hear at conferences is, “Where do you get your ideas?” Despite my stock answers (aisle 6 at Sam’s Club or www.author-ideas.com) The truth is, most crime writers work from real life crimes they see or read about in the news.

Then of coures I hear how lucky I am that my private detective, Hannibal Jones, lives in crime-ridden Washington DC. “But I live in a peaceful little town,” they say. “Where can I get ideas?”

That made me wonder about my real home in Northern Virginia, where Hannibal Jones often strays in the course of an adventure. And guess what? I live in a crime-ridden area too. A little research showed me that recently several gangs surfaced, leaving graffiti that police at first thought was just random vandalism. A girl who had been relocated to the Shanendoah Valley area for protection was murdered by a group called the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13. Police say this Latino based gang is following the growth of drug use in small towns. Then I read that groups of farmers banded together to fight their growing influence and to maintain the peace of their rural life. Is there a novel hidden in there someplace? You betcha!

There’s an FBI taskforce now because several people have been brutally murdered in Northern Virginia. Newsweek called MS-13 ...the fastest-growing, most violent and least understood of the nation’s street gangs.”

So shootings, burglaries and drug use plague my area, and it’s certainly more pronounced than it was five years ago. Maybe it’s not more important than in Washington DC, but in an area proud of its rural heritage and peaceful lifestyle it sure can destroy peoples’ peace of mind. And THAT sounds like the theme for a series of novels. And consider these news clips I found on the “Hello, Alexandria” website:

Sat, 26 Jul 2008 06:50:54 GMT - SF Man Gets 23 Years For Trafficking Cocaine (CBS 5 Bay Area)A 34-year-old San Francisco man was sentenced in Eastern District of Virginia court Friday to 23 years in prison on cocaine trafficking and tax evasion charges in Alexandria, Virginia.

Hmmm... How’d he end up here?

Chinese national sentenced for aiding spy (The Post-Standard) Fri, 01 Aug 2008 14:42:16 GMTALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A woman who helped a Chinese spy obtain U.S. military secrets has been sentenced in Virginia to a year and a half in prison. Thirty-three-year old Yu Xin Kang is a Chinese national who had been living in New Orleans with furniture salesman Tai Shen Kuo.


Wow! I don’t have time to write all the story ideas that came into my head when I read those, so you can have them. But then, I bet there's a similar web site in your community. The point is, crime is everywhere, and so are great ideas for crime stories. Plug into your local reality and write one!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Want to review books for WritersReaders.com?

Do you like to read? Want some free books in exchange for writing a review?

WritersReaders.com is looking for people who love reading to review the stacks of books that are pouring in to a new book review program.

If you enjoy reading, don't mind getting a free book (or 2...or 5) and like to write reviews, then this is for you!

From the newsletter TIPS for WRITERS:
We have tons of books and not enough readers to review them...if you know someone that would love to read and review books please send them my way. It’s easy, they can pick what they want, there is no timeline, the book is free, all we need are interested readers. Your help is appreciated.

For more information, please contact Jerry D. Simmons.

~Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
Canadian suspense author

True Crime, True Balls


This little tidbit served up from National Lampoon’s Big Book of TRUE FACTS

TRUE BALLS – A man wearing a ski mask entered a 7-11 market in Miami, Florida, and ordered the clerk to give him everything in the cash register. When the clerk produced only fifty dollars, the robber forced all of the store’s employees into a walk-in cooler, then removed his mask and manned the checkout area for three hours to increase the take. Two local policemen were among his customers. The malefactor escaped. AP

Now that's a cool character.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Writing. Editing. Deleting.




Tell me if this is true for you - does the level of your writing progress directly correlate to the cleanliness of your house?

This week, I am happy to report that dust bunnies abound, the floor needs mopping and the place could use a general tidying. Yay! This means I’ve been writing. A lot. So much so that I have arrived at that golden moment on a project where it is actually acceptable to print it out and begin editing on paper. This is a piece that's been in progress on the computer for a full year. Time will tell if this is a gross misuse of paper and ink. Right now, it just feels good. And I do look forward to reading the novel as a reader – which is, as they say in Texas, a whole nuther process.

Also this week, I’ve discovered something decidedly quirky. The Delete Key Awards These awards, brought to us by the fine One Minute Book Reviews Blog, are given to published books whose writers and editors did not make good use of the delete key. Ah, we are all guilty of this at times. But this is just downright funny. (Unless this writer ever wins one. Then, it will not be so funny, eh?)

I offer into evidence, the runner’s up for the 2008 Delete Key Awards contest:

“And there it was, the hole that had given birth to me.…This was not the first time I’d been face-to-face with my mother’s genitalia.” - From Alice Sebold’s The Almost Moon (Little, Brown)

Seriously?


From Holly Peterson’s The Manny:
“We’re in the modern era, baby, you spoiled, Jurassic, archaic, Waspy piece of petrified wood!”

“He was munching furiously on his prey, like an African lion with a freshly caught zebra.”

Not the WORST string of words I've ever read. Still quite worthy of this award.

The grand prize winner in the 2008 Delete Key Awards contest

“A new species is arising on the planet. It is arising now, and you are it!"

“We are in the midst of a momentous event in the evolution of human consciousness. But they won’t be talking about it in the news tonight. On our planet, and perhaps simultaneously in many parts of our galaxy and beyond, consciousness is awakening from the dream of form. This does not mean all forms (the world) are going to dissolve, although quite a few almost certainly will. It means consciousness can now begin to create form without losing itself in it. It can remain conscious of itself, even while it creates and experiences form.”

Both of these sentences came from Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose (Plume)


Also offered into consideration was this line from Barbara Walters' memoir Audition

“Just before the ax fell, lightning struck and my life changed, never to be the same again.”

Barbara! How could you? How could your editor? Oy!

Time to get my manuscript off my printer and start looking for places where my characters are face to face with nether regions of their mothers while munching petrified wood like an African lion that is arising like a new species on the planet right before lightning strikes. Surely, I will never be the same again!!!!

Whaddya think. Should I just clean the house first?

--

Author, Janeology
www.karenharringtonbooks.com
Check out my daily blog - www.scobberlotch.blogspot.com

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Update #5 on the suspenseful work-in-progress Remote Control


“Be careful what you wish for,” they say, but for forty-four-year-old Harold Fielding, who unfortunately isn’t one to listen to such good advice, those words will come back to haunt him.

Harold―Harry―always rebels against the norm. In fact, he says, “Wishes are like saying grace―something to be said before every meal.” So he wishes at least five times a day, while growing exceedingly fat.

However, good ole Harry has an excuse.

“If I wish hard enough,” he tells his wife Beatrice, “my wishes will eventually come true.”

Harry’s a TV fanatic and, surprisingly, very intelligent. He spends about ten hours a day parked in front of his ten-year-old Sanyo television with the remote control in hand, while watching shows on just about everything. The next day, he can tell you all about it; his recall is nearly perfect.

He never once contemplates actually working a forty-hour week and earning money. He’s already maxed out the VISA and MasterCard, plus a small bank loan that Beatrice knows nothing about. And now he’s waiting for his fortune to fall in his lap. Sadly, there’s no room there, so whatever good luck finds him usually ends up in a puddle on the floor.

Harry’s good with puddles. He’s a plumber by trade, when he bothers to do a job. The truth is, he’s been having trouble maneuvering under kitchen sinks; his stomach keeps getting in the way. Six months ago, he was depressed, which made him eat more. He’d almost lost faith that there is something better for him…somewhere…out there, and then fate stepped in. After a chance run-in with an old classmate (Harry nearly knocked him down a flight of stairs when they passed on a landing), who happens to be very wealthy and who recommends one book, Harry’s life changes forever.

The Secret sits on the shelf behind the toilet. Harry reads it every day while relieving himself of the pounds of food he’s eaten that day. Since he’s always there a while, he can usually get through five or six pages a visit.

“I’ve read it now from beginning to end at least five times,” he boasts to his friends.

Of course, he hasn’t quite figured out that one must work towards receiving the good things in life, whether by deed or thought. He just figures that if he wishes for something, he’ll attract it. Eventually.

Be careful what you wish for, Harry.

...

Read the work-in-progress so far.

~Cheryl Kaye Tardif, Canadian suspense author

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Men are from Nick, Women are from Nora

I’m about to embark on an exciting writing adventure - collaborating on an urban fantasy novel with a female writer. As our lead characters evolve we are exploring the differences between male and female protagonists. In doing my research I’ve learned there are many good reasons why a man and woman together make the perfect detective team. Their brains really do work differently.

There is a good deal of solid scientific evidence to support women's intuition. No, I’m not talking about psychic powers, but rather a highly developed ability to read body language, facial expressions and emotional responses that men simply don’t seem to have. It doesn’t appear to be environmental but actually hard wired into your brains. (Don’t believe me? Check, for example, the neat book Why Men Don't Listen and Why Women Can't Read Maps or the more technical The Female Brain. )

I can hear you snickering already. “See, we told you,” you’re saying. “Men just don’t pay attention.” Well, not really true. We’re just paying attention to different stuff.

If women were always more attentive there wouldn’t be a cliché about woman drivers. Men aren’t better drivers and carpenters because we’re smarter. It’s because we’re hard-wired to be spatial thinkers. We can estimate speed and distance better. We’re hunters, and our perception is 360 degrees when we’re on the move, but we have tunnel vision for problem solving.

I’m married to a professional facility manager. Denise can solve complex personnel and supply problems talking on the phone set to speaker, while doing her make-up and making a grocery list. She got mad skills with the multi-tasking, but she can’t read a map to save her life. She can distinguish 18 colors that I’d call “blue” but can't tell which connection will let her plug her ipod into the stereo. And she can TELL time, but she can’t tell how much time has passed. "Dinner’s ready" means I have a good 6 minutes to get downstairs, and "I’M ready" means I can read 4 more pages of the book I’m holding.

And men are born to defend. Conflict is our business. Women are born to nurture. Getting along is your stock in trade. Again, don’t blame me. It’s hard-wired in our brains. And it’s great stuff to use in fiction. Detectives need to be able to read people and negotiate. They also need to be able to spot the bad guy and put him down hard before he hurts somebody.

This is what makes the male/female detective team perfect. When they walk into a room, the woman is focused on the people: what are they wearing, who’s happy or sad or nervous. The man is checking for ways in and out, who might be a useful ally or dangerous enemy, what’s broken, what could be an improvised weapon.

Woman detectives are great to write too, because they talk thru their problems. Guys tend to turn off talking and listening when we’re thinking.

BTW, if you watch women and men in groups you’ll notice that women are wired to listen and talk at the same time. It’s white noise to us guys. We tend to take turns because we’re wired like CB radios. Can’t hear when I’m in transmit mode. Want me to really listen to you? Schedule a meeting and give me the agenda.