Monday, December 27, 2010

Weather and Murder

We have over a foot of fresh snow on the ground, with more falling. We've had blizzard conditions (defined as "Less than 1/4 mile visibility and winds at more than 35 mph for three hours") overnight. It's beautiful, transformative, and dangerous. Later, when the sun comes out and we shovel the walks and driveway, it will invite sledding, snowball fights, cross-country skiing. But for now it's still frigid. The biting wind threatens exposed skin. Wires are at risk of collapsing and leaving people without power.

One of the 'rules' of writing is Don't Begin with the Weather. But conditions like this just beckon for a crime story. I'm particularly in mind of winter murder since finishing Louise Penny's
Dead Cold recently. It takes place in small-town Quebec, a setting I am well familiar with. I have visited my sister Jannie in exactly that setting frequently over the decades. Penny describes the weather and the cold, snowy setting almost as a character. Because she's such a good writer, you don't realize it, but after you finish reading the book, the mind-pictures of the ice and bitter temperatures remain vivid.

I have set stories in every season except deep winter, and I haven't written a murder story involving blizzard conditions yet. This weather just might kick-start a few ideas. How would you stage a snowy murder?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Moving Beyond Rejection

Great news from a couple of fellow writers who have recently landed agents. In particular from Pat Brown, who just posted this on an online group we are both members of:

"So, after sending out 281 queries, getting 185 rejections, sending 17 partials or fulls, leaving 79 who never responded, I have signed with The Literary Group International."

Now that's perserverance! She's a faithful contributor to the group, a fellow member of Sisters in Crime, and a valuable supporter of the rest of who are looking for agents. Plus she writes about Los Angeles, my home town. (This is Pat's picture of the LAPD.)

I'm starting to do avoidance behavior on my Writing Fridays. I'm working on new short stories, and feeling lured back to Book Two (which is about one-fifth written) instead of doing what I need to do first: target agents, find the ones who already represent the kind of writing I do, look up their exact query requirements for what they want to see -- one page, a synopsis, the first chapter, the first five pages, whatever -- and then send the query packet to five or ten agents per week.

After that, sure, I can get back to the fun stuff: writing new material. That certainly isn't fun all the time. It's a lot more fun than the looking-for-an-agent part, though. But part of the draw of of creative writing is wanting to get it out into the reading public's hands. That's called publication. If it also involves a little income and a little fame, well, all good!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Flash fiction

As promised, here's the flash fiction story I wrote for the Crime Bake contest this year. The assignment was to use 10 of the following 20 words from Charlaine Harris' titles:

Bedroom, Bone, Club, Corpse, Counselor, Dark, Dead, Family, Fool, Grave, Heels, Ice, Landlord, Living, Pick, Scene, Secret, Surprise, Trollop, Worse

I used all 20. Enjoy!

A Fool's Grave

His grave still smells of the dead. The family gathers around it. The corpse, my landlord and occasional patient, Pete Hellas, won't give up the secret now. He was a stingy, slovenly, diabetic fool. His stupid son, Spiro, and his trollop of a wife are even worse. The dark-haired son I wouldn't dare pick a fight with. The daughter? President of the Bonehead Club. A pitiful bunch.

I slip away from the scene, careful of my heels on the new ice. They'll be surprised when Counselor Adams reads my name in the will. Seducing Pete in his bedroom and persuading him to leave me the apartment building was worth touching his disgusting body. I'm done working as an underpaid nurse. I'll evict the family and the renters, condo-ize the units, and sell off all but mine. So I gave him a little extra insulin. It's my turn for living.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Author Event Report

We had a great author event the other night. Susan Oleksiw, Leslie Wheeler, Mark Ammons, and I talked about short-story writing, answered questions, and read the first page of our stories from the Thin Ice anthology. We had a good turnout, good snacks, and great hosts at Rivers Edge Gifts and Books in Ipswich.

If you missed the event, Rivers Edge has some signed copies on the shelf for sale, and Level Best Books has free shipping for another week or too. And I am the featured author there this week.

This is exciting stuff, and I was grateful for the chance to be the "featured author, Ipswich's own," as our host Meg kept saying. And I felt blessed to have so many friends and family members show up in support and interest.

Now it's time to get writing again. Final revisions are still demanding attention, and then I need to immerse myself in the agent-query process. But what I really want to do is start a new short story and continue on beyond the 12000 words I already wrote in book Two of the Speaking of Mystery series.