Tuesday, February 12, 2013

In Defense of Good, Old-Fashioned Commercialism

by Colby Marshall
Disclaimer: I’ve read a lot of very good literary novels.  I’m a fan of a lot of literary writers, and I’m also a fan of a lot of authors who write “quiet” novels.  I love them.  Period.  Now, on to the post!

I’ve noticed during my recent hunt for an agent that an overwhelming number of agents had in common one thing: they like looking for literary.  Even when many represented thrillers, their submission requirements would come with a real bummer for someone like me, which was that the tiny word “literary” would appear before the word “thrillers.”  I’m not even entirely sure what a literary thriller is, except I know I don’t write it.

They’re not the only ones.  Breakout Great American Novels are the books most often touted by popular book clubs, talked about on TV talk shows, and making the rounds as favorite staff selections at Barnes and Noble.  And while this is great for the folks chomping at the bit to sell their piece of literary genius with writing more beautiful than the silence you hear after being forced to watch four hours of Jersey Shore against your will, for a commercial thriller writer like me, I get confused and sometimes irrationally defensive of my genre.

Are thrillers ever going to be required reading in high school classes across the nation?  Of course not.  Will books with high body counts and dozens of explosions ever be chosen as Oprah’s next Book Club selection?  I doubt it.  But, while some people argue that “loud” commercial books are simple pandering to their audiences rather than showing finesse and expertise, I say move over on that talk show couch, Literary Lou, because there’s room for both of us.

After all, what’s so wrong with pandering to audiences?  Literary novels will always have their place as classics—that beautiful prose woven together with symbolism and rich characters that will become parts of English classes everywhere.  That said, some of the kids in those English classes will never pick up a book again to read for pleasure.  They have no idea books exist that don’t contain five dollar words every other sentence so they won’t spend the few hours they have to read after school with their dictionary, trying to figure out what one paragraph means.  In other words, some people love literary, but others don’t.  Some people profess to "hate reading" at an early age because they have no idea there are books that feature a bullet every ten pages and a car chase every twenty.  It's time to let them know.  There’s something to be said for pure, solid entertainment value, and I won’t be ashamed that when I write, I don’t go for a masterpiece.  I go for a production, one with so much flash and bang that you have to hold onto the edge of the mattress to keep from falling out of bed.

So, no matter how much publicity those large advance-earning, critically acclaimed novels may garner, I’ll stay in my little corner of the universe, proud to send out books that may never have any historical significance whatsoever and may not change the world, but that will take the reader for a ride for a short while.  In the meantime, I’ll keep hoping a talk show will make some room on that couch for the likes of R.L. Stine, Lisa Gardner, Jon Land, Tess Gerritsen, and the many other great thriller authors of our time.  Because in a world where writing outside the box can sometimes seem like the new inside the box, these folks have been sending out thrills and chills for decades, consistently selling book after book to a rabid group of fans lucky enough to learn about them in avenues other than People magazine.  After all, only one out of every God-knows-how-many literary novels will break out and win the Pulitzer, but The Silence of the Lambs?  The Silence of the Lambs may never win a Pulitzer, but it will sti

What’s your favorite classic? What’s the last book you read for pure entertainment value?

BIO: Writer by day, ballroom dancer and choreographer by night, Colby has a tendency to turn every hobby she has into a job, thus ensuring that she is a perpetual workaholic. In addition to her 9,502 regular jobs, she is also a contributing columnist for M Food and Culture magazine and is a proud member of International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime. She is actively involved in local theatres as a choreographer as well as sometimes indulges her prima donna side by taking the stage as an actress. She lives in Georgia with her family, two mutts, and an array of cats that, if she were a bit older, would qualify her immediately for crazy cat lady status. Her debut thriller, Chain of Command is now available, and the second book in her McKenzie McClendon series, The Trade, is due for publication by Stairway Press in June 2013. 

 CHAIN OF COMMAND is about a reporter who discovers the simultaneous assassinations of the President and Vice President may have been a plot to rocket the very first woman—the Speaker of the House—into the presidency.last forever.        

Colby's website: www.colbymarshall.com
You can follow her on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/colbymarshall
and like her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorcolbymarshall

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Guest Blog by Anne K. Albert

Anne K. Albert’s award winning mystery and romantic suspense stories chill the spine, warm the heart and soothe the soul…all with a delightful touch of humor. When not at the keyboard she loves to travel, walk on a beach, visit friends and family, and of course, read using ‘Threegio,’ her beloved and much cherished Kindle 3G.

Welcome to Mysterious Writers, Anne. It's good to have you join us here.

Thanks for featuring me today, Jean. You requested an article about how I plot. Well, the truth is, I don’t! Every one of my stories, however, begins with a kernel of an idea. Then, I creep forward. S-L-O-W-L-Y. Very slowly, scribbling my thoughts down on paper. The catalyst for the story ranges from a blurred image to a crime or snippet of conversation. Like the story, it’s like a mirage--never really crystal clear inside my head. It’s more of a feeling.

As you might well imagine, I’m envious of writers who are able to plot out their stories beforehand. I listen and stare in amazement when a fellow writer says they have such and such a scene to write and then they proceed with in-depth and often layered details.

How do they do that? How can they possibly know these things? Am I doing it all wrong? Do I dare admit I never know from one sentence to the next what will happen?

As you may have already guessed, I’m a ‘pantser’, or ‘organic’ writer.

It took me a very long time to accept this haphazard approach. It took even longer to embrace it as my own. Why? I wanted to find an easier way to write. I wanted to get the story down as quickly and painlessly as possible. Anything seemed preferable to standing in the fog and inching one step forward and then taking two steps back. Besides, when it came to revisions, I’d revise until my eyes bled!

Surely there was an easier way.

I read how-to write articles that advocated plotting a story before committing it to paper. It was the method of choice for countless bestselling authors, I was told. So, I tried to follow the instructions. I tried outlining. I diligently plotted two complete manuscripts, and wrote page after page of detail, dialogue, and description.

Great, I thought! I’ve done it. From here on in it'll be easy, peasy! When it came time to actually commit those weeks and plotting notes to writing those stories, however, I couldn’t do it. I’d start, write a few words, and then suddenly decide the bathroom needed cleaning. (Which is very odd, considering how much I detest housework!)

It took years for me to figure out why I procrastination flowered into writer’s block. The answer? Plotting took the fun out of writing. What was the point of telling the story when I already knew how it would unfold and end?

I came to realize I’m my first reader. I write to find out what happens next.

The same holds true for character development. I learn a little about my characters each time I meet with them on the page. It’s a process similar to meeting a real person for the first time. You’re introduced, and in those few brief seconds, you make a snap impression of who you think they are. With each additional encounter, those notions are either proven or discarded until a clear picture of who they really are emerges. Even more fascinating (at least from a writer’s point of view) is when a person lowers their mask and shows you who they really are! In real life, as in fiction, that makes for a great story.

To wrap this all up, every writer needs to understand there is no correct way to write. All that really matters is getting the story written. How that’s accomplished is up to the individual. What works, works. End of story!
Speaking of story, here’s the blurb for Frank, Incense and Muriel. The story takes place the week before Christmas when the stress of the holidays is enough to frazzle anyone’s nerves. Tensions increase when a friend begs Muriel to team up with a sexy private investigator to find a missing woman. Forced to deal with an embezzler, kidnapper, and femme fatale is bad enough, but add Muriel’s zany yet lovable family to the mix and their desire to win the coveted D-DAY (Death Defying Act of the Year) Award, and the situation can only get worse. This story, book one of the Muriel Reeves Mysteries, is recipient of the prestigious 2011 Holt Medallion Award of Merit.

I’d like to encourage readers to enter my giveaway contest. Up for grabs is an e-copy of Frank, Incense and Muriel. Leave a comment and you're automatically entered. The winner will be chosen at random and announced on my blog on December 12, 2012. Good luck!

Thanks for the good article, Anne.

You can learn more about Anne K. Albert at her Website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Pinterest and Amazon.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Connecting with Agents, Editors and Publishers by Jean Lauzier

Jean Lauzier has always been a writer but life only recently allowed her the time she desisred at the keyboard with her characters. She writes mainly mystery and fantasy but enjoys "playing with romance and western genres." When not writing, she spends  time keeping her Bonsai alive, learning Spanish and training her cat. Her short story collection, Six Pack of Murder is available on Amazon.

Jean is president of the East Texas Writer’s Association. During the tour, she'll be giving away at least three copies of Six Pack of Murder and three copies of the soon to be released Dark Descent. Be sure to leave a comment with your email address to be entered in the drawing.

Welcome to Mysterious Writers, Jean. It's good to have you join us here on the second day of the Mystery We Write blog tour. Tell us about connecting with agents, editors and publishers.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog today, Jean. I’m so excited to be here. And as I thought of what I’d like to share with your readers, I thought about something that meant a lot to me as a beginner writer, something that still is very much applicable today. Something a wise writer/mentor told me years ago.

It’s like selling apples and oranges. You have a basket of apples. They are beautiful, red apples. You polished them; made sure they had no worms. Perfect in every way. So naturally, you take your apples to the market.  Only thing…no one wants your apples. They all want and buy oranges. But just because those at the market are buying oranges, it doesn’t mean anything is wrong with your apples. It just means they want oranges that day.

Here’s how this applies to us as writers. Our writing is apples. The market is agents, editors and  publishers. And the reason they sent that rejection letter, they want oranges that day. Again, it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with what you were offering, it just wasn’t what the person wanted at that time.(Of course, you polished your prose, made sure it was as perfect as you could get it.)
I once heard rejection letters referred to as Negative Marketing Statements. And honestly, I like that term better. If you have done the work required to have a great product (story, novel, article) and the needed market research, then a rejection letter isn’t a terrible thing. It just means not here, not today, try somewhere else.
Sure we may get discouraged, but just realize, someone out there loves apples and can’t wait for you to meet them.

Thanks, Jean. You can learn more about Jean Lauzier at
her blogsite: http://underthetrollsbridge.blogspot.com
Twitter: @JeanLauzier
Facebook: jeanlauzier2319
Email: jeanlauzier@gmail.com

For the complete Mysterious Writers' tour schedule go to http://jeansblogtour.blogspot.com/