What could be better than matching wits with other detectives while trying to solve crimes? In this case, my husband and I competed to see who could unravel several mysteries first.
We embarked on a road trip last weekend. I brought along a copy of R. T. Lawton's newly released 31 Mini Mysteries (solve it yourself). This was a smart move, as the book provided hours of entertainment.
I labored to solve the first case. My husband worked out the solution to the second. By the third mini mystery, we were getting the hang of it. Some clues were obvious. Others were red herrings, distracting the reader from the real evidence.
With a few stories, we were blurting out the solution half way through. Others had us discussing and re-reading, even arguing about the significance of a bit of evidence. Fortunately, the solution is at the end of each story. But don't peek! The fun is in trying to puzzle through the clues.
I plan to keep a copy of this handy for those times when party conversation stalls. It would be a great focus for a mystery party, perhaps offering prizes to guests who solve the crime first. Ideal for travel. You can find it on Smashwords and Amazon.
I'm outlining book four in the Rock Shop Mystery series, tentatively titled Stone Cold Pressed. At the center of this novel will be an Ultra Marathon race.
An Ultra is anything beyond the marathon distance of 26.2 miles. In this case, the Desert Rat Ultra this weekend was 50K - fifty kilometers, or 31 miles.
Originally, the idea to feature in my novel a ridiculously long foot race through the mountains came from crewing for a runner a few years ago. Lee Burton accomplished multiple Leadville 100 races. Yes - 100, as in miles. My husband and I served as crew and pacers, assisting Sharon Burton in shuttling food and clothing to aid stations. It was an amazing experience.
Then our oldest daughter took an interest in running. Interest? More like obsession. She quickly had a couple half marathons under her belt. Starting last fall, she began training for a marathon. Scratch that. As she gained strength and confidence, she decided only an Ultra would do. My husband and I, as experienced Ultra crew, offered to come along to watch.
Her husband provided the main support, giving her the time and encouragement to train all those months. He met her at two aid stations during the race, which can be an incredible boost for a tired runner. She made it in better time than she expected.
I was happy to participate, in a peripheral way, in the Desert Rat Ultra near Fruita Colorado. With my memory refreshed on what is involved in a mega-race, I'll be ready to finish that novel first draft. More importantly, I am very proud of our daughter, who has become an adventurous athlete.
I judge the value of a workshop by how many notes I take. At Writing Commercial Fiction, with Jeffery Deaver, I scribbled page after page. I have attended one hour talks by Deaver at writing conferences, but this was my first opportunity to hear the famous, best-selling author for an entire day-long workshop.
Three main points impressed me.
Rule Number One: Define Your Goal as a Writer
Jeffery Deaver writes full time. Before I was published, my goal was to make my living off fiction writing, earning buy-an-island money. Later, two realities crept in. One was that I enjoy reading and writing cozy and gentler amateur sleuth tales, which rarely hit best-seller lists. The other was that I like my job, and the benefits are great.
Deaver told the audience the downsides of writing full time. He works six to seven days a week. His personal life has suffered. Writing is a solitary profession. Yet he also loves his career. The universal goals of the commercial fiction writer he defined as a) tell stories, b) make money, and c) gain notoriety.
My goals, five years after my first paid publication, have been revised as I've learned the publishing business, but still cover the three universal goals. Many of us reach a "why am I doing this" point at least once a year. Deaver's reminder to define our goals is definitely good advice.
Rule Number Two: Remember Your Mission
"Yes, you have a mission - to tell the most emotionally engaging story you possibly can." This applies to all genres, whether you're writing a thriller, cozy, or family saga. Deaver emphasized that emotions can be just as powerful whether a character is defusing a ticking bomb or dealing with family relationships.
Rule Number Six: Plan Your Book or Story Ahead of Time
Deaver spends eight months creating his outline, then spends six weeks writing the book. If you have read his thrillers, you can understand the need to heavily outline the complex plots. I adopted a scaled down version of his technique when I received a contract for a book with a deadline. I knew I'd never make it to my destination of a finished manuscript without a roadmap.
Deaver detailed how he outlines, and then incorporates research notes. A new idea I will try is that he goes back when he's finished, and creates a shorter outline to tie in all the changes. My stories always deviate from the original outline, so revisiting the process briefly at the end would certainly help with revisions and creating a synopsis or even the story blurb.
Writing Commercial Fiction was a day well spent. I have pages of notes to refresh my memory about dozens of topics like Rejection is a Speed Bump, Not a Brick Wall. As an added bonus, I got to spend time with Sisters in Crime Colorado, and Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America.
The legalization of marijuana still amazes me. I'm of the age that remembers when people went to prison for possession of marijuana. In Colorado now, there are shops on nearly every corner sporting the telltale green cross. I am all for legal medical marijuana, but beyond that, I'll stay out of the controversy. An undeniable benefit of the federal versus state dilemma on marijuana is the plethora of plots it provides to fiction authors.
One contribution to marijuana literature come from David M. Hamlin, in the April 2018 Mystery Weekly Magazine. Hamlin's story opens in California with a police detective giving helpful advice to a new marijuana shop owner. There are plenty of issues with running a business that is legal according to state law, but illegal on the federal level. Hamlin presents the issues as part of an entertaining plot.
Two weeks ago, I reviewed Michael Bracken's story in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine (March/April 2018), where a reluctant getaway driver is forced back into service. The target of the heist is a marijuana dispensary. While this plays as a subplot, it demonstrates how authors are finding new ideas for stories based on the issues surrounding the legalization of marijuana.
We've come a long way from Reefer Madness, the over-the-top propaganda movie presenting the dangers of marijuana smoking. Many short story and novel authors have explored the interesting plot twists the quasi-legal condition of marijuana provides. If you've written, or enjoyed reading, a marijuana-themed mystery, leave a comment!
I received the good news that my short story Real Cowgirls Don't Cry sold to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Writers know how slow news of acceptance or rejection for this market can be, but the magazine is one of a rare few premier paying markets for mystery short fiction. It is worth the wait. This will be my 7th story in AHMM. I am beyond thrilled!
For the record, I waited over eleven months for this acceptance, from date of submission to the email offering to buy the story. The last two stories I submitted to AHMM were rejected. It may be several months before the story makes its appearance in the magazine. I will repeat: it's worth the wait.
Real Cowgirls Don't Cry involves characters from my story The Last Real Cowboy, published by AHMM in September 2014.
The photo: I did not hit a bull's-eye during target practice last month. My husband did - 4 times. He's had lots more practice than me. That's what it takes, in target shooting or writing - lots and lots of practice, resulting in those moments of success. My sale of Real Cowgirls Don't Cry was a writerly bull's-eye!
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