Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Take Five With Author Mary Vine

Well, it's supposed to be spring here in the Rockies, but after a snow last week and much cooler weather than I'd like, I decided I'm due for some reading.  And guess what, I find a new-to-me author writing a time travel romantic novella.  Perfect.
Welcome to An Indie Adventure, Mary Vine.  Tell us, what inspired you to write your book, A Nugget of Time?
Hi, L.A., thank for having me as your guest today. I have been in love with the woods of Northeast Oregon for about twenty years now. My husband likes to pan for gold there, but I am more interested in the history of the mining district during the mid to late 1800s. We bought a couple of lots in the ghost town of Bourne (first named Cracker City) and that is where my story came alive. While wondering what it would have been like to live in this town during its heyday, I brought back heroine Dixie Lea, a 21st-century newspaper reporter, to 1870.

If you were not a writer, what vocation would you pursue?

I was blessed to find two jobs I really enjoy. Writing is one of course, and the other is education. I spent 28 years in the field and then retired last summer as a licensed speech and language pathology assistant, teaching k through 12th grades.

Do you prefer to read in the same genre you write in, or do you avoid reading that genre?  Why?

I usually prefer happily ever after romances with mystery and/or suspense and that is what I write. I’ve always liked romantic time travel as well.

How do you create internal and external conflict in your characters?  I find conflict often the hardest to create when I start planning a book.

I don’t know that I have the answer to that specifically. I am the kind of author that doesn’t plan much on paper but lets the story unfold in my head at the computer. But, I usually start the story knowing the setting and the internal struggle of the heroine and hero and go from there.

If you could live during any era of history, which one would you choose?

The 1870s or just after the Civil War. Yet, when I wrote Nugget of Time I had the heroine, Dixie Lea, doing tasks around the house without the use of 21th-century technology and it didn’t seem quite as “romantic” as I once thought. I would like to learn how to wash clothes at the river by hero James Brogan, though.

Give us a brief summary of A Nugget of Time:
A Boise newspaper sends Dixie Lea to interview the owner of the largest gold nugget found in the 21st century. While waiting for him in a mining territory in Northeast Oregon, she walks into a cave. Feeling dizzy, she puts a hand to the wall of the tunnel and wakes up alone on a hill. 

Retired Lieutenant Colonel James Brogan is at a complete loss of what to do with this self-directed woman alone in the woods with no knowledge of how to survive in 1870. His sense of right and wrong gives him no choice but to keep her safe. Yet, someone else is waiting and planning for them to come to a disastrous end.

Buy Links:

Mary Vine is the author of contemporary romantic fiction books MAYA’S GOLD, A PLACE TO LAND, SNAKE RIVER RENDEZVOUS and historical novella WANTING MOORE, published by Black Lyon Publishing. 

Through Melland Publishing, LLC, she has published a romantic mystery, A HAUNTING IN TRILLIUM FALLS, a time travel, A NUGGET OF TIME and an inspirational children’s book, THE BIG GUY UPSTAIRS. 

She has also published two children’s books by author Velma Parker, EMMA COMES THROUGH and MOLLY’S MONKEYSHINES. Mary, and her husband can usually be found in Southwest Idaho or Northeast Oregon.

Find Mary:

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Five Secrets From Author B.K. Stevens

I'm telling you, we're a lucky bunch to find all these new-to-us authors.  Please welcome mystery writer, B.K. Stevens. Her secrets are really cool, read on.

B.K. (Bonnie) Stevens has published over fifty short stories, most of them in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. Eleven of those stories, including Agatha, Macavity, and Derringer finalists, are collected in Her Infinite Variety: Tales of Women and Crime. B.K.’s first novel, Interpretation of Murder, is a whodunit offering readers insights into deaf culture. 

Fighting Chance, a martial arts mystery for teens, was an Agatha and Anthony finalist. B.K. blogs at SleuthSayers and also hosts The First Two Pages. She and her husband, Dennis, live in Virginia with their smug cat. They have two amazing daughters, one amazing son-in-law, and four perfect grandchildren.
Hi, B.K., please tell us Five Secrets we may not know about Her Infinite Variety: Tales of Women and Crime or you, but will after today!

1)   Thanks for having me here today as your guest, L.A. I often have fun with naming characters—I sometimes name them after people I know, sometimes after characters from literature and mythology. And sometimes I get out my book on the origins and meanings of names. “Death in Rehab,” first published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and included in Her Infinite Variety, is set at a clinic for people with unusual addictions—for example, a Jeopardy! fanatic who speaks only in the form of questions, a serial plagiarist who always echoes what other characters say, and a compulsive proofreader who can’t stop correcting other characters’ grammar. The meaning of one name turns out to be an important clue in solving the mystery, so I decided to give all the suspects names that reflect something about their personalities or situations. For example, an angry, resentful character is named Martha (“bitter”), a character who’s eccentric but contented is named Felix (“happy”), and a celebrity who checks into the clinic for court-mandated rehabilitation is named Roland (“famous”).

2)    Here’s a secret that will give you a head start at figuring out what’s going on in one of my stories. Once, when I was teaching Shakespeare’s Othello, I got especially fascinated by Iago. I thought it might be interesting to write a mystery story with a character like Iago in it. So I did. The story got published in a magazine and is now in Her Infinite Variety: Tales of Women and Crime. Which story is it? That’s a secret I’m not sharing—if you read the stories, you’ll know.

3)    Since short story writers don’t have much time to capture the reader’s attention, I always devote special care to my opening sentences. Of all the stories in Her Infinite Variety, I think “Honor among Thieves” has the best opening sentences. Here they are: “The first time it happened, it was just barely a crime. It started as an honest mistake, and she simply didn’t correct it.” Those are the first sentences of “Honor among Thieves.” I think there’s something quietly ominous about those sentences. We don’t know exactly what “she” did (although the title gives us a big hint), but we know it was a crime, even if “just barely.” And “the first time it happened” lets us know it’s going to happen again, and that next time it probably won’t start as “an honest mistake.” So someone who’s generally honest is going to commit a number of crimes. I hope readers will wonder how and why that might happen, and will want to read on.

4)    Sometimes, nasty thoughts can lead to successful stories. For many years, I was an adjunct English professor, following my husband’s career from state to state and patching together any part-time teaching jobs I could find. At one college, the director of the composition program was an unpleasant, obnoxious woman, a gossip and a snoop. She wasn’t qualified for her position, but she’d maneuvered her way into it by playing up to powerful administrators. Adjuncts had no power, so she treated us like dirt. And she found sneaky ways to inflate her paycheck and use college funds for personal purposes. I sometimes fantasized about exposing her and getting her fired, but I never did anything—just fumed. Years later, I decided to write a story called “Adjuncts Anonymous,” about a group of four English adjuncts who fantasize about getting revenge on their despicable director of composition. It starts as a joke, as a way of letting off steam—but then the revenge fantasy seems to be coming true, though none of the four will admit to taking any actions. That story made the cover of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, earned a Derringer nomination, and ended up in Her Infinite Variety. And writing it was good therapy for me.

5)    In “The Shopper,” a young librarian’s house is burglarized while she’s at home, asleep. The police know this burglar’s pattern well: They call him The Shopper because in addition to stealing things with monetary value, he seems to wander through a house picking up anything that appeals to him, whether it can be fenced or not. Then two men the librarian’s never seen before start showing up at the library every day. For various reasons, she suspects one of them is The Shopper, and she fears he’s stalking her. But which man is the one who burglarized her house? Here’s a secret that will help you figure it out. On the second page of the story, a police detective lists all the items stolen from the librarian’s house. Pay careful attention to that list, and keep it in mind as you observe the actions of the two men she suspects. The list offers you valuable insights that should help you zero in on The Shopper. 

Her Infinite Variety: Tales of Women and Crime includes eleven stories of various lengths, types, and tones, from humorous novella-length whodunits to a dark flash fiction suspense story. Most were first published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. The stories include Agatha, Macavity, and Derringer finalists, along with the winner of a national suspense-writing contest judged by Mary Higgins Clark. 

Some of the women featured in these stories are detectives, and some are victims. Some inspire crimes, and some commit them. The women’s ages vary, and so do their professions—librarian, administrative assistant, housewife, trophy wife, personnel director, college professor. Romance is an element in some stories, but never the primary one.

Always, the stories focus sharply on the various entanglements of women and crime. “These finely crafted stories have it all -- psychological heft, suspense, subtle humor -- and the author's notes on each story are especially illuminating. A treat for lovers of the short story form and students of the craft of writing.”--Linda Landrigan, Editor, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine
Find BK:

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mental Can Openers and Writer's Hash ~ Don't Mess Around With An Author's Voice

Brad Leach once again brings us his viewpoint that is both fascinating 
and right-on-point.  

Don’t Mess Around with an Author’s Voice!

     “Agents and editors often say they're looking for a fresh writing voice.  The world needs to honor your voice.  Use the words that come naturally to you and write the stories that haunt you.” Natalie Charles
     What is “Voice” when you write?  Is it another word for your story?  Is it the distinctive way each character speaks?  Is it an ongoing message woven in each story or novel?  I’ve heard it billed as “an author’s style.”  But what is that?
     Voice is one of those confusing writer’s terms kicked around by pipe-puffing, cardigan- clad, sophisticate-writers in loafers, chatting up Susan Sontag wannabes in urban writer’s groups.  He’ll toss it out in reference to his Hemmingway experiment.  She’ll talk about how her younger New York experience formed it.  It’s the je ne sais quoi of the writer’s world.  It’s what you say when you don’t know what to say.
     After exploration and drilling that mandated an OSHA permit, I’ve excavated a definition.  It’s how the author chooses to write something. 
     “What?” I hear you ask, teeth grinding.  “All this fuss and it’s simply what words I choose?”  And at its heart, the answer is “yes.”  But remember, how you choose to write something impacts the reader’s images and moods.  It will appeal to some and put off others.
      Take Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s cliché phrase, “It was a dark and stormy night.” That’s how he decided to open his 1830 Victorian novel, Paul Clifford.  But how many ways can someone open a novel with a storm or bad weather?

     “The storm broke.  Hard.”  Or, “Tidal winds poured even amounts of fury and rain across the alien jungles on the planet’s dark side.”  Or, “Rain for her tears and rents of wild wind for her scratched soul, she was as broken as the sky when lightning tore through it.”  How about, “Rains lashed against umbrellas, black as the clouds, while nasty winds threatened to pluck them from the hands of their proper owners.”
     Each of these choices might illustrate authorial style and could open a story.  The first I was thinking of Louis L'Amore’s style.  The next how Alan Dean Foster might open a fantasy.  The next pulls my mind toward a gothic romance voice; the last I envisioned Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  (Authors/estates forgive me if I’ve missed the mark.)
     My point is the author’s “voice” is simply what you choose to say and how you choose to say it.  Some authors are pithy or laconic; some verbose and labored.  Some love description; some loathe it.  Some want to set the scene then hit the dialogue and action.  Others work the setting into the dialogue or action.  It all creates your unique voice or style, like you can recognize a singer by their voice and how they deliver the song.
     You may have had an article or book writer tell you to pick a favorite author and study his or her voice.  Can an author work on “voice” or is it something you’re born with?  Parallel question: Can I sound like Johnny Cash or am I stuck sounding like a braying mule?  The answer is “Yes.”

     I can train my voice, discipline my breathing, adopt pauses, and work on vibrato.  I can study what allows Cash to put a song across. I can improve all those things.  I still won’t sound like Johnny.  But my braying will sound more cultured.  With enough work, it might even merit a nod or two from fellow mules. 
     Now there is a subtle danger to copying anyone’s voice.  In the movie, Ray (based on Ray Charles), Ray is auditioning in a studio, but he’s intentionally sounding like other artists, hoping to get a contract.  A booth producer complains that nobody wants to hear another Nat King Cole or Charles Brown.  Ray’s agent, Ahmet, wanting to save the deal, tells Ray they don’t want a copy-cat.  Ray says that’s what the people want.  Ahmet suggests Ray do a song Ahmet wrote called “Mess Around.”  Ray asks to hear it.  Ahmet asks if he can play stride piano in a “Pete Johnson” style, then he sings it.  Ray listens.  Ray had already learned to play various styles of piano.  He already knew when to breathe or break his voice for emphasis.  In a magical moment, Ray took the song and added his unique style.  It was a hit, and Ray Charles took off.
     This is what we all are trying to do.  Study techniques.  Analyze successful author’s styles, yes.  Not to copy them but to incorporate what they do well into our own words and sentences.  Read, write, absorb techniques; let them inspire us.  We can even practice short snippets.  But then we step back into our own stories and write our own words.  Form our own sentences.  Try writing an opening two or three ways.
     Master literary techniques.  And if some of the ways you say things sounds a bit more like your favorite authors, great.  But ultimately, strive to be the unique voice other authors will hope to incorporate someday.

~ Brad