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

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 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. :)

~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


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 - 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

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 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 It has been selected as an Editor's Picks.


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