Thursday, September 22, 2016

My Latest Mystery--Suspense, Not Cozy


MURDER AT THE EDGE OF NOWHERE, is now available on Amazon Kindle!

Embezzlement, Blackmail and Murder
On the Oklahoma Panhandle!
When Liz O’Brien returns home to make peace with her ailing mother, she expects boredom and monotony. Instead, she finds a morass of secrets that land her in the crosshairs of a killer. Who would have thought that Tumbleweed, an Oklahoma panhandle town so tiny it could disappear as a mirage, would be rift with embezzlement, blackmail and murder?

Plus: The romantic designs of handsome cowboy from her past, really throw Liz for a loop.

Here’s how the story begins:

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Prologue

“Everyone has something they want to hide, but you have more than most.” Christabel Steele flipped her hair backwards, a movement that she knew accentuated her beauty. She pictured her sleek, golden hair fanning in practiced perfection over her right shoulder. The gesture usually mesmerized men and annoyed women. But today her quarry’s eyes glazed with fear. Christabel licked her lips, savoring the moment. Like an antelope caught in underbrush. But instead of blood, I’ll taste money.

Emotional pain radiated from her dupe, and Christabel drew strength from the suffering. Her earliest memory was watching her father suck marrow from a steak bone while he skillfully tormented her pliable mother. Without so much as raising his voice, the man could cause his beautiful, gentle wife to turn pale as moonlight and cry like a baby. Christabel had watched and learned. Daddy had been dead five years now, but she still worshipped him. He had taught her well.

“I still have trouble understanding how you found out.”

“You mention that each time you come, and my answer never changes.” Christabel laughed. “Your tawdry little secret was clear to me from the beginning. I saw and recorded every detail in my journals.” Christabel swirled the half-filled champagne glass, never moving her gaze from her prey. “I’ve kept notes on what I’ve seen for a very long time. I started back in the second grade when I got in trouble for tellin     g people’s secrets.”

“You’ve been a monster since a child! A bad seed.”

“Oh, please.” Christabel licked her lips again, savoring her victim’s pain, which was stronger than she had expected.

“And you think people will continue paying forever?” The prey’s voice tightened and Christabel’s lips curved higher.

“Well you have, haven’t you?” Christabel moved her body sensuously against the sofa. “And not just in cash.” Her enjoyment intensified as the person’s misery grew. “I never tell my victims everything I know about their little indiscretions. A pinch of uncertainty adds excitement to the hunt. Then, the slightest hint of knowledge and you all get the same stricken look on your faces—like an antelope just before a mountain lion pounces. I watched that once on TV.”

The victim flinched and Christabel laughed.

“Growing up, I watched my parents carefully. I inherited Mother’s beauty, and Daddy’s brain. I learned how to get what I wanted by mirroring him.” Christabel smiled. “Knowing is power and power is even better than sex.”

“You’d do this even if cash wasn’t involved, wouldn’t you?”

Christabel arched an eyebrow. This one was smarter than she’d thought. “Perhaps. My family has run Tumbleweed since the late 1800s. We’ve always called the shots here—my father before me and his father before him. I like making people dance to my tune. And I like the money.”

Her life was perfect.

Then she remembered Liz. Why the hell hadn’t her cousin stayed in Tulsa where she belonged? Everyone claimed the bitch had been a huge success. Crashed through the glass ceiling and became VP of some company. Now she’d returned and wanted her house to herself.

She’d hated her cousin forever! It was Liz’s fault she’d gotten pregnant and had that embarrassing baby with his brown skin.

Christabel flicked her tongue across her scarlet lips remembering the night a heartbroken Liz had eloped on the rebound to marry that worthless Danny O’Brien. I thought she was gone forever. Oh, the hell with her.

Christabel took another swallow of the expensive wine. Her victim always brought the finest. She frowned and sniffed the glass. She had left the room for only a moment in order to carry that wretched cat upstairs and lock the beast in Liz’s room. Could there be something in the champagne? Christabel smiled. Impossible. Too much fear. “You brought the money?” She held out a small aristocratic hand. “All of it?”

“Yes.” Her victim sat quietly, and the quietness annoyed Christabel. She sipped the champagne again. Of course, it tasted the same; it was her fourth glass. She drained the flute, then smiled. She’d finish the whole bottle and offer none to her prey. Daddy had taught her how to hold her liquor and how to keep victims in their place.

“You promise not to tell?”

“If you pay, I never tell.” Christabel let contempt curl her lips upward, then enjoyed the resentment mirrored on the victim’s face. Christabel laughed. “At least, I haven’t yet.”

The room grew suddenly warm. The fragile stemmed glass weighed heavily in her hand and her head spun. What was happening to her?

A black pistol appeared from a pocket as if by magic, grasped by the visitor’s white-knuckled fingers. “Sit still.” The voice was hard and angry and not a bit frightened.

“What the hell...?” Christabel asked. It took her a minute to regroup. She narrowed her eyes. “Don’t be an idiot. You shoot me and your sins become public. My cousin Liz will give my journals to the police. You won’t be able to pay her to stay silent. Miss Perfect wouldn’t take a bribe to save her own life.”

“I’m here now, and I’ll find the books before she comes home.”

“Books? I quit writing on paper years ago.” Christabel’s words started to slur. “Even if you find my old journals and smash my iPad, there are tiny things called thumb drives you’ll never find.”

“I’ll take the chance.” Her visitor reached into the same pocket and pulled out a plastic bag, passing it to Christabel. “Put that over your head.”

“You think I’m crazy?” Christabel felt even dizzier. Her eyelids were heavy. If only she could close them for a minute, she’d be all right…back in control.

“If you don’t do what I say, I’m going to shoot off one side of your face.”

Not her face, her beautiful face! This couldn’t be happening. She was the hunter. She had never been prey.

“I won’t kill you. I’ll just take off one cheekbone. I’ll even call 911 before I leave. Only, no man will ever look at you again. Your outside will be as ugly as your inside. That’d be worth going to jail for.”

The image so terrified Christabel that she slipped the bag over her head, leaving the bottom open to breathe through. She’d stall. Keep talking. She’d think of a way to get the edge. She always did, just as Daddy always had.

Her visitor walked behind her and put the barrel of the pistol against her face. Christabel sat still, not daring to move. She felt fingers reach forward and tighten the bag around her neck. The gun seemed like ice against her skin.

Christabel drew in a sharp breath, and then the plastic shrink-wrapped her mouth. She couldn’t raise her hand, and she couldn’t breathe! She might really die! For the first time, she knew what fear meant, then blind terror.

The last sound Christabel heard was glass shattering when the champagne flute slipped from her fingers.
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Print copies will be available soon!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

REACHING THE END

by June Shaw

I'm breathing. Just breathing. And actually moving my fingers over the keyboard right now to pen this blog. The reason I'm allowing myself time to just breathe--actually, relax and do whatever I want to, even if it's nothing--is because I just finished writing my newest book.

I finished writing it!

Okay, not really. What I've done is complete my second book in the upcoming series, and then I rewrote and revised and edited three times. Day before yesterday I sent it to an excellent beta reader, so it's in her hands now. I need to get it to my editor at Kensington by October 1. Soon after that I'll have to start on the third book in the twin-sisters series they want.

Once book number two, called DEAD ON THE BAYOU comes back to me from my sweet beta reader I'll need to revise it again before the 1st. 

And of course once my editor gets the book at the publishing house, I'll need to do bits of revising again.

In the meantime, I'm going to just breathe. Maybe take a nap.

What do you do once you finish a book?

juneshaw.com

Thursday, September 8, 2016

GUEST WRITER—MARY COLEY


Posted by Jackie King

Mary Coley is an Oklahoma writer. During her professional career, she has worked as a journalist, a park planner, an environmental educator and a public relations officer. A native of Enid, Coley lives in Tulsa, where she is an active volunteer for Oxley Nature Center. She holds membership in state and national writers groups, as well as the Tulsa Chapter of the Women in Communications.




Finding a Storyline

by Mary Coley

We've all heard that there are no new story lines, they have all been used before. Not good news, especially for mystery writers. A limited number of motives for murder exist and only a limited number of ways to do the deed. So how do you make your mystery new and relevant? Incorporating a topic of current interest into your story is one way to do it.

For my second mystery, Ant Dens, I found a topic I had seen in the headlines and even on a  billboard with a 1-800 number. But I had never read anything about it and had never attached a human face to it. It was only a phrase; I didn't pay much attention.

While researching, I discovered a shocking issue: the kidnapping of children, young women, young men and even adults for use in the sex trade or servitude. Could I incorporate the issue of human trafficking in a mystery I had just finished drafting?

In the second mystery in my Family Secret Series, Ant Dens, the main character's stepdaughter disappears. Jamie wonders if Rebecca ran away or if she had been kidnapped. Wouldn't the tension be increased if it was possible that her stepdaughter had been trafficked and might be existing in a living hell? That would add a whole new twist to the story, and provide a way to make the mystery current but also timeless.

People have been sold into slavery, or trafficked, throughout the history of mankind. This horrific crime is not new, but most of us don't think much about it. That is, unless we personally have a missing loved one.

I began to delve into the emotions those family members feel when a loved one disappears. What horrible fears and imaginings must go through the minds of those left behind! I can imagine my character wanting to shrug it off, to refuse to believe the worst, but what if it becomes almost a certainty that her worst fear has been realized? And worse yet, what if the disappearance was not random, but might be related to her stepdaughter's father, her deceased second husband?

My character, Jamie, does what I hope I would do. She becomes consumed with finding her stepdaughter. It does not matter that she was not particularly close to the young woman. Rebecca is family -- she is all that remains of the husband she loved and misses horribly.

In Ant Dens I chose the setting of New Mexico, a state well aware of tragic disappearances, as the Hispanic population is often victimized in trafficking crimes. And Rebecca is half Hispanic. I added an additional conflict by including Rebecca's mother, Jamie's husband's first wife, in the mystery. Maria comes to stay with Jamie as they investigate the girl's disappearance.

I hope that the resulting newly crafted mystery, Ant Dens:A Suspense Novel provides a new awareness of this horrifying and prevalent crime as well as a chilling ride for the reader! I hope you'll check out my Amazon Author page too, after you visit my book link.


MARY COLEY'S LATEST MYSTERY:


Learn more about Mary on her website, www.marycoley.com
or at her blog,Blog Site:  http://marycoley.me

Her books are available at Amazon.com.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

BRAINSTORMING AND WRITING TRUTHS


by Jackie King


 Brainstorming for plot points is another of those writing conundrums: I love plotting—I hate plotting.

Friends sometimes help.  In an email to a colleague, I mentioned I was struggling over which type of book to write next, suspense or cozy. This writer/lawyer called me that afternoon and said, “An idea for your next book just came to me, and it's about Grace.” (The protagonist in my cozy series.) My heart sank a bit, because I'd almost decided on writing a suspense novel. 
Then my writing-pal outlined his thoughts. I liked them, but still wasn't sure if that was the route I wanted to take. He added, “Don’t think I’ll feel bad if you don’t use this idea. It just came to me and I wanted to pass it on.”


I don't write religious/inspirational books, but I do believe in prayer and in listening to guidance from God. For this reason, I carefully considered my friend’s suggestion. As he and I talked on the phone, the story began to grow arms and legs, and when I mentioned these. He agreed they were good.

The next morning, when I was my busiest, plot points began coming in a way that doesn’t usually happen to me. Most often I have to struggle, and with much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Great plot ideas, scenes, twists and turns, seem to come at the most inconvenient time for me. (I think this is because my body is busy, and my mind relaxed.) I had just showered and needed to dress, then tidy up my apartment for the cleaner who could come at any minute. If something is cluttered, i.e. the bathroom counter, the kitchen sink counter, areas that need dusting, etc., she won’t clean that spot. House rules.

I’d already spent more time writing than I had available, and the duties of daily living beckoned. So I had the following argument with myself:

“These ideas are so vivid, they’ll stay right here in my head until I tidy up. This apartment must be cleaned if I'm to stay on schedule!” Thus I lectured myself as I finished drying my feet. 

Then a still voice from somewhere deep inside said, "That won't happen. It never does for you." Whether this was my better self, or a higher power, I don't know. But I did know that it would be wise to follow the advice.

So, wearing only my towel, I went to the computer and began to type. (Luckily that was only six steps. I live in one of those apartment complexes for Independent Seniors, and have learned to love simplicity.) I keyed in all of the essentials necessary to capture on paper the ideas that flowed inside my head.


I'm so glad that I listened! I have enough plot points for at least three chapters, and a good start on the new novel.

I’m leaving you with two writing truths:

The law of creativity demands immediate obedience. When ideas come, write them down immediately, or you'll lose them.      

A blank page can only be fixed with words. 
·  When there’s no inspiration, sit down at your computer, put your fingers on the keys, and write anyway. No matter how bad your work seems to you at the time, any prose can be edited and improved.
 
My latest novel set in the Oklahoma Panhandle. Due out soon!


Cheers!


Thursday, August 11, 2016

GUEST AUTHOR DEBORAH CAMP ON WHY WE READ

WHY DO WE READ?


Product Details
INFECTIOUS READING
by Deborah Camp
I recently read an interesting article by the ever-interesting novelist Neil Gaiman about the importance of reading. Often, I see posts on Facebook and other places wherein people fret about the younger generations not appreciating reading and preferring to play video games. This fretting flies in the face of huge sales of Harry Potter books and many other adventure novels aimed at children and teens.
I'm of a mind that there will always be avid readers, just as surely as there will always be those who can't bring themselves to read more than a caption under a photograph or instructions on how to play a new game.
Gaiman quotes Rebecca Solnit, who asserted that "a book is a heart that beats in the chest of another." That's so very true, and it's why many people not only enjoy books, but also films, TV, and video games. A book, however, gives you a wholly different journey because, when done well, it allows you to know someone else's mind, feelings, and experiences. You don't just "watch." You live and breathe with a character or characters.
As Gaiman puts it, "books are the way we communicate with the dead. The way that we learn lessons from those who are no longer with us, that humanity has built on itself, progressed, made knowledge incremental rather than something that has to be relearned, over and over. Fiction is the lie that tells the truth..."
He cautioned against preaching and writing what you wouldn't be that interested in reading. Difficult tasks. That might surprise some, but writers know it's true. The need to "preach" hinders us all. We have beliefs and truths we want to present in every novel, but if we hammer home these "lessons," we risk alienating our readers. Likewise, every writer has written "fluff" to fill out a book. Fluff is usually scenes that go on too long and serve no real purpose other than to add pages, relating information the writer has recently learned and feels compelled to share even it's boring to others, or fascinating facts that end up stopping the book's narrative. To take the editing pen and strike out paragraphs and whole pages takes courage, but is necessary. Like cutting out a cancerous growth.
Lessons or ideas should be sprinkled in, rather than poured into book pages. Otherwise, you will over-season and ruin your original, good recipe for a well-told tale.
In my new novel. SOLITARY HORSEMAN, I dealt with three "lessons." With so many, it was a delicate mission to keep them under rein so they didn't trample my story. Throughout, I had to remind myself why we read -- to immerse ourselves in another place, time, and body, so that we emerge different than when we entered that fictive world. Also, and this is no small thing, to entertain and delight. When I write, I craft scenes that I hope will compel readers to keep turning the pages, but also to elicit smiles, frowns, and maybe even a giggle or longing sigh. This happens when readers "become" the characters; when they forget where they are and what they're doing and take breath for breath with the character in the book.
I recall when I read THE STAND by Stephen King. In it, a deadly disease was killing off most of the population and symptoms started off with people coughing. I had been reading the book during my break at work. When I went back to work, a co-worker walked past me and coughed. My heart froze and my gaze snapped to the person as a sickly fear slithered through my mind with the thought, He's infected! Of course, in the next instant I was back in my own world and laughing at myself even as I marveled at Mr. King's ability to wrap me up so tightly in his fictive world.
That my friends, is talent. And that is also why we read.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Deborah Camp's Newest:

Product Details



Series below features psychic detectives Levi Wolfe and Trudy Tucker:

Mind's Eye (3 Book Series) by  Deborah Camp


From Book 1: Someone is stalking women and murdering them in Key West. 

Psychic Detectives Levi Wolfe and Trudy Tucker join forces to help identify the murderer and stop him. Levi can channel the deceased victims and Trudy can tap into the mind of the killer. As a psychic detective team, they’re formidable. As lovers, they discover that they’re insatiable. 


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Thursday, July 28, 2016

DIALOGUE AND CHARACTERIZATION FROM REAL LIFE

by Jackie King
Realistic dialogue with clear attributions makes the characters in your story come alive. Natural sounding dialogue helps distinguish one character from another. 

The death knell for a writer:
Have you ever been reading, and suddenly wondered which character is speaking? I have, and the experience frustrates me. I'm forced to stop reading and count quotation marks backward to the last attribution, then count forward to learn who’s talking. I’m annoyed right out of the story. I want to throw the book across the room. If I haven’t bonded with the characters in a special way, I might quit and move to another book in my TBR (to be read) stack.

Solution to the problem:
Dialogue confusion occurs when attributions aren’t given or when characters all sound alike. Realistic dialogue makes the people in a story come alive. Natural sounding dialogue can help distinguish one character from another even without names. If there's any doubt about the reader knowing who is speaking, use the simple attribution, said The word, "said," is almost invisible to American readers. Don't be afraid to use it .

 How do we keep the reader turning pages?
Try the following exercise to hone this skill:

Write a scene with three people without using names of characters.

I did this in a class once, and it was so much fun! I chose a high school principal’s office as the setting. The three characters were a teenage boy, his father and the principal. I worked all afternoon on this project, and finally achieved the goal to my satisfaction. I used body language and conversation only. No names.

My challenge:
The boy needed to sound young, and inexperienced. He's embarrassed, and intimidated  by the situation, but trying not to show his feelings to the grownups.

The father channeled a middle aged businessman, highly annoyed and embarrassed by his son’s bad behavior. He snapped at his son, was tersely polite with the principal, and he looked at his watch every couple of minutes.

The principal was professional, but obviously most interested in solving his problem and getting on with running the school. The premise of the scene was to portray a student getting little real guidance from either adult

A stealthy technique:
Good dialogue is not easy to write. Some people seem to have a natural flare for this, and others have to work hard and rewrite a number of times. Both writers create successful novels, and entertain readers.

Eavesdropping is a good tool for improving dialogue. When you’re at a restaurant, listen to the conversations nearby. This works even better, if you can’t see the people who are talking. Picture their appearance, age, color of hair, level of education, and apply that method to your own characters. Is one person from a different part of the country? How does his speech pattern and lingo differ from locals?

Moving on.

None of us, writers and readers alike, graduate from the school of life. We experience either joy or vexation, both through books and in life. We learn continually, and writers record this fine journey. 

Remember:
Everything that’s going on in our seemingly mundane lives, will one day be considered history.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Writing Mistakes

by Jean Henry Mead

It’s often difficult for novices to break the writing habits they've learned in school. Perfect grammar, especially when writing dialogue, is one of the worst mistakes a writer can make. I was in an online critique group a dozen years ago, comprised mainly of unpublished writers. I’ll never forget a critique that said, “You need to clean up your characters’ grammar.” The characters were uneducated farmers.

Author William Noble once said, “The grammar rules we learned in eighth grade should never be followed absolutely. At best they are one choice among several, and at worst, they will dampen our creative instincts.”

The use of clichés is another fledgling blunder. The rule of thumb is: if it sounds familiar, don’t use it. If you can’t come up with something original and your muse is tugging you on, type in a row of Xs and write it later during the second draft. But if you must use a cliché, add the word proverbial as in "as profitable as the proverbial golden goose."

Of course there are rules that must be followed, such as adding commas for clarity and periods at the end of sentences. Some writers have felt that innovative sentence structure signals creativity, but the practice is only acceptable now in poetry. In Ulysses, for example, James Joyce’s last chapter begins with:

Yes, because he never did a thing like that before as ask to get his breakfast in bed with a couple of eggs since the City Arms hotel when he used to be pretending to be laid up with a sick voice doing his highness to make himself interesting to that old faggot Mrs. Riordan that he thought he had a great leg of and she never left us a farthing all for the masses for herself and her soul greatest miser ever. . .

Joyce’s stream of conscience continues for forty pages without a single period. I wonder how many people actually read it to the end. Creative and innovative? In my opinion, anything that slows the reader for even a few words may cause him to abandon the book.

On the opposite end of the sentence spectrum, Hemingway taught novices to write declarative sentences: “The day had been hot.” “The rifle was long and cold and strange.” “She wore black shoes, a red cape and a white tunic. . .” However, short, choppy sentences must be interspersed with longer ones to make them read well. A good practice for beginning writers is to read one’s work aloud to avoid clumsy phrasing. If words don’t flow well together and your reader stumbles over them, you’ve lost her.

Reading the classics doesn't prepare anyone well to write for today’s market. I’ve judged writing contest entries that contain the most formal language I’ve seen since reading War and Peace. Some fledglings avoid contractions entirely, even when writing dialogue. The result is stilted language.

Studying the bestsellers for style, content, description and characterization helps the beginner gain a handhold in the current market. Some writing teachers advise copying your favorite author’s work, as artists have done with the masters—as long as it’s only practice and doesn't result in plagiarism.
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