“Pink Elephant,” an Eli Sharpe mystery is FREE!

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Hello, all. Great news. On the eve of the launch of Ed, Not Eddie (Eli Sharpe #3), my publisher Camel Press has made “Pink Elephant,”a fast-paced mystery, FREE on Kindle. You heard me. Free! Pretty excited as it has already landed at #4 on one of Amazon’s Top 100 Lists.

Synopsis

Former pitcher Darren “Duck” Williams hires ex-ball player/present private detective Eli Sharpe to make a delivery—a stuffed pink elephant to Duck’s daughter. Stuffed with what? Drugs, that’s what, unbeknownst to Eli, and the girl isn’t related to Duck at all. Eli owes Duck bigtime for bailing him out once, or he’d never try to save his ass after being played—taken for a drug mule. The bad guy he’s up against, Mr. Spoon, is one stone cold killer. But Eli always has a card or two up his sleeve. Introducing Eli Sharpe, PI extraordinaire of the Eli Sharpe Mysteries, set in Asheville, NC. Full-length novel adventures include Go Go Gato, Split to Splinters, and the upcoming Ed, Not Eddie.

 

 

 

Crash Course: E. Michael Helms on Improving Dialogue in Your Writing

helmsOn writing dialogue:Dialogue is an invented language (not a reproduction of how people actually speak; it’s the writer’s job to create effective, believable dialogue for the reader).

By E. Michael Helms

He said, She said: Tagverbs, Adverbs, and other Miscreant Uses of Dialogue
 
It’s ’fess up time. All writers are guilty of it. No matter how experienced a writer one may be, it’s a pitfall we must always be vigilant to avoid. So, at the risk of offending writers everywhere, I present a brief refresher course on dialogue.  
 
Overusing colorful verbs (or “tagverbs,” as I like to call them) as dialogue tags
 
In dialogue, the overuse of strong verbs used as tags tends to draw attention to the words themselves and become distracting to the reader. It’s an easy trap to fall into. Here’s what The New York Times Book Review had to say about best-selling author Robert Ludlum’s, The Bourne Ultimatum (yes, that Robert Ludlum):
 
bourne“Mr. Ludlum has other peculiarities.  For example, he hates . . . “he said” . . . and avoids it as much as possible. Characters in The Bourne Ultimatum seldom “say” anything. Instead, they cry, interject, interrupt, muse, state, counter, conclude, mumble, whisper . . . intone, roar, exclaim, fume, explode, mutter. There is one especially unforgettable (one): ‘I repeat,’ repeated Alex.”
 
Another common fault is using adverbs to describe how a character speaks. It’s so much easier to “tell” the reader how the character said something than “show” how it was said. Here are a few examples from McNally’s Secret, by Lawrence Sanders (yes, that Lawrence Sanders):
 
I said resignedly; father asked idly; I said heartily; I said hastily; he inquired anxiously; she said darkly; she said lightly; she said cheerily; I said cheerfully; he cried with unexpected fury; she said fondly; I said politely; he said proudly; he said with unnecessary vehemence; he said coldly; he said hotly; she said faintly; she said bitterly; she said crisply; I asked eagerly; she said doubtfully; he said grudgingly; he said mournfully; I added earnestly; she said hesitantly; I said gratefully; she said in a doleful voice; and my two personal favorites: someone remarked sententiously; I caroled as melodiously as I could.
                                
*Examples for Your Perusal—which sounds better to your ear?*
           
“You’re fired!” Fred blurted hotly. (Tagverb and adverb)
“You’re fired,” Fred said, slamming the folder on the desk. (“said” is hardly noticed)
Fred slammed the folder on his desk. “You’re fired.” (action denotes speaker’s temperament)
 
            “You always manage to spoil the evening,” Mary sobbed pitifully.
            “You always manage to spoil the evening,” Mary said, bursting into tears.
            Mary turned away to hide her tears. “You always manage to spoil the evening.”
 
A good rule: When a tag is needed, “he said/she said” works just fine in most situations. Use more colorful tags occasionally if you must. Always try to “show” how something was said rather than “telling” how it was said. 
 
 
Loaded dialogue (or, lazily packing dialogue with information)
           
*Do people really talk like this?*
 
“I suppose we could ask our son, Joe, to handle the lawsuit,” Mr. Jones suggested. “After all, he is one of the best attorneys in town, and we did put him through law school.”
 
“I know, dear,” Mrs. Jones replied, “but he is already representing his sister, the Harvard professor, with her slander case against the university newspaper.”
 
*Well no, but they might reasonably say something like this:*
           
“Let’s ask Joe to handle the lawsuit,” Mr. Jones said. “There’s no conflict of interest for an attorney to represent his parents.  Besides, it’s about time he did something for us. If he can afford to drive a Ferrari, he can afford to pay us back something for five years of law school.”    
           
“I know, dear,” Mrs. Jones said, “but I’m afraid it will conflict with his handling of Susan’s case.  If she doesn’t get tenure because of those lies the Harvard Herald printed, she’ll be devastated.  Joe won’t let that happen. You know what a protective big brother he’s always been.”  
 
The lesson?  If needed, you can impart information to the reader if you word the dialogue carefully.
 
word countDispensable dialogue (or, empty, wordcount-building dialogue)
           
“Good morning, Joe,” Sharon said, seeing her friend approaching down the hallway. “How are you today?”
“Fine, Sharon, and you?”
Sharon smiled warmly. “I couldn’t be better. Nice weather we’re having, isn’t it?”
“Sure is. Couldn’t ask for better. Makes you want to skip work and go on a picnic.”
“It sure does,” she said, glancing at her watch. “Oh, well, back to the grindstone. Nice seeing you, Joe.”
“Nice seeing you, too, Sharon. Tell Steve ‘hello’ for me, would you?”
“I sure will, and please give Tammy my best.”
“I will. Well, have a nice day.”
“You, too. Bye-bye.”
 
(While the above exchange is technically okay, it’s boring and does absolutely nothing to reveal character, show conflict, or propel the plot.)
writing image 
 
 
A Reminder
 
Dialogue is an invented language (not a reproduction of how people actually speak; it’s the writer’s job to create effective, believable dialogue for the reader).
 
Dialogue is action and conflict (characters interacting with one another).        
           
Dialogue is drama (the story is unfolding, or moving forward by what the characters say).
           
Dialogue is immediate scene (characters are on-stage, acting out scenes before the reader’s eyes).
 
Closing Words from author P.G. Wodehouse
 
“[A]lways get to the dialogue as soon as possible. I always feel the thing to go for is speed. Nothing puts the reader off more than a big slab of prose at the start.”

 

Guest Blog: “Writing the Story” by Jack Hammond, Jr.

 jack hammondOn developing characters: Characters must become real people. They exist in a real world, and for me, the real world is Man in Nature.

by Jack Hammond Jr

Writing the Story

The birth of my stories begins with a single image that grows in my imagination. When I put the story on paper, it is a living part of my thinking. The story begins to tell itself. I am simply the messenger using characters, conflicts, imagery and dialogue to weave a story from that image. If I am successful, the story breathes, takes on a life of its own. After The Last Hanging in Scots Bend, I began three very different stories; before long, one story began to live and tell itself. That story is my next novel.

character mattersPlot does not drive my writing. I don’t do plot outlines, because I never know where the story is going. In my first novel, Stash Harris faces a sentence of hanging for the revenge murder of two men, but he is so likeable, the problem was how to save him. How to save Stash became conflict and complication for the sheriff, his uncle. In the historical story, the Stash character escaped to Virginia. It seemed too weak for fiction, so my own conflict was hang Stash in spite of how likeable he was, or, find a way to save him. Happily, the solution revealed itself to me. From there, it was a simple puzzle.

In the same way that good figurative language and detail allow every reader to develop a personal image of the setting, not using direct characterization allows every reader to create a personal image of the characters. Indirect characterization is key for me. Each reader should have a visceral connection to the characters. I prefer multiple first person narration for that reason. Each character’s own words should connect them with the reader.

Characters must become real people. They exist in a real world, and for me, the real world is Man in Nature. I write detail that attempts to place characters firmly in the natural world. The sheriff’s first words in the novel are an example:

jack's book “I am up to watch the sunrise every morning. Heavy rain clouds lumber out of the southwest, covering the sky, leaving a thin slice of blue along the eastern horizon,   allowing the sun’s first rays to weave into the cloud bottoms. A light, steady rain is falling, a rain that promises more. Seven evening grosbeaks cross the yard in front of me, lighting in the willow oak, chittering their antediluvian song to the rain. They wait for the scattering of oats, rye, and sorghum I sow into the yard every morning, and when I reach into the grain barrel, they flash and whirl about the yard excitedly.”

My goal is to cement a character firmly in the natural world. I want the reader connected to the character as someone who is as real as they are themselves.

I don’t like revisionist fiction. I am a realist. I want my readers to ride an emotional roller coaster with the characters.  I want accurate historical context in my stories, so the story must be both real and accurate even if the reality of a particular place and time was extremely difficult. When I read my work in public, I have to stay away from some passages because of my own emotional connection. If I am good enough as a writer, every reader will find passages like that in my work. That is the goal.

goal

 

Bio

Jack Hammond Jr. is a lifelong resident of South Carolina, growing up during the Cold War and the Civil Rights era. He holds a BA in English from Coker College and an MBA from Wingate University. After a long career managing municipal and county utilities, Hammond left the business world and began teaching high school English. Teaching reignited his love for literature and writing. The Last Hanging in Scots Bend is his first novel. It draws historical images and individuals from the Reconstruction era into the intensely personal drama of two families locked in a bitter generational conflict. It is an examination of man’s place in the natural world, the randomness of fate, and man’s relationship to God.

Whom Do You Kill: How Kait Carson Constructs a Murder Mystery

Author photos 009On constructing a murder mystery: In the case of a deliberate murder, I look to the victim. Somewhere in his life lie the seeds of his destruction. There was a moment in time when that person set his fate into motion.

Most of my books are murder mysteries. Although some don’t appear to be about murder at first. The general topic includes something timely, human smuggling, drug dealing, corruption, general malfeasance, and then the dead guy shows up. The villains are usually folks you would have to dinner, and the victims could be your best friend. That brings up a problem. How does a writer decide who needs killin’?

The process is different for every writer. I’ve been told that some writers find someone they really, really, really don’t like, and they gleefully kill them off on their pages. Others base their selection on an evildoer they’ve read or heard about and let their imagination take over. Some stream of consciousness writers (a/k/a pantsers) just start the book and wait to see who dies. It’s as good a way as any other is.

female private eyeOn solving the murder mystery: I don’t know why the victim died. To discover that, I write, page after page of profile. The notes talk about the victim’s life, who his friends are, his childhood, what he did for a living, for recreation, his politics, his business associates, and his beliefs

My way is a little different. One of my majors in college was psychology. The study fascinated me, especially the part that dealt with human interactions and how we are the masters of our own destiny and the authors of our own downfall. The concept is like catnip to my creative mind. In the case of a deliberate murder, I look to the victim. Somewhere in his life lie the seeds of his destruction. There was a moment in time when that person set his fate into motion. It’s a time when a choice had to be made, and the victim, knowingly or unknowingly, made one that would have fatal consequences.

I can see you thinking back on your own life…. Have you taken that one turn? Made that simple choice? Of course you have, you’re human. So many possibilities will your choices bear good or evil fruit.

Before I start a book, I know my victim and my protagonist. I don’t know why the victim died. To discover that, I write, page after page of profile. The notes talk about the victim’s life, who his friends are, his childhood, what he did for a living, for recreation, his politics, his business associates, and his beliefs. Somewhere in the middle of all of this free form writing, a pattern begins to appear. Victims at this stage develop the desire for pets, social symbols, spouses, families. They also develop behavior patterns. These behavior patterns become organic. No other person in the book could possibly react in the same way as the victim. How he rationalizes that a particular wrong is right. These reactions and rationalizations tell me why he needs killin’.

Can you identify these seeds in your life? Do you believe that victims are everyman?

(Confession of a killer writer, I’m using the pronoun “he” in these paragraphs. I’ve killed women too. He is nothing more than a convenience of convention, not a definitive identifier.)

 

It’s the Characters, Stupid: Creating Memorable Heroes and Villains

maltese falcon“You’ll never understand me, but I’ll try once and then give it up.”

By Max Everhart

It’s the economy, stupid.

That’s an old joke about the most important aspect of politics, and it’s a joke that I, as a committed, but albeit unsuccessful capitalist, happen to agree with wholeheartedly. (Alas, mystery writers, even damn good ones like me, don’t earn a ton of bread. C’est la vie).

Really, I couldn’t give a toss about politics. Don’t have time to care. Plus, liberals and conservatives alike make my scalp itch, which is just as well as I have a toddler to potty-train and English classes to teach and long walks to go on and Earl Grey to drink. In short, I’m busy. I mean, windows don’t just stare out of themselves, do they? And who if not me is going to organize my Netflix queue? Water my garden? Nuke more Pop Tarts? (Seriously, somebody get on that; I’m hungry.)

Enough foreplay.

To my thesis (drumroll, please): when it comes to mystery novels, it’s the characters, stupid. Characters, particularly the protagonist and the antagonist, trump all. I, like a lot of readers, enjoy an ingenious plot (The ABC Murders and The Maltese Falcon spring to mind), and a strong sense of place (think James Ellroy’s depiction of 1950s L.A. in The Big Nowhere). But what’s more important is the presence of strong characters, especially the hero who should be formidable, and flawed, and resourceful, and dynamic, and. . .you get the idea. Tall order, eh?

Maybe. But here are some quick and easy tips for creating memorable characters, along with some examples to check out.

 

TIP #1: always make sure that characters are driving the plot, not the other way around.

As readers, we are going to gravitate toward interesting, complex, flawed, likable characters, and if those are present in a book, the pages will turn themselves. Too, if the writer has created an interesting character, said character will naturally get involved in interesting situations, and there’s your plot. So, writers, if you’re writing scene after scene with a character, it’s just not working, chances are it is the character’s fault.

EXAMPLE: C.W. Sugrue, a hard-as-nails private eye in The Last Good Kiss. Talk about interesting characters. Hired to track down an alcoholic poet, Sugrue ends up bouncing from bar to bar, state to state, and never mind. Just read the opening of this book, and you’ll see what I mean:

last good kissWhen I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.

TIP #2: reveal something good about your villain and something bad about your hero. 

Why? People are flawed and complex, and your characters should be, too. If ever you’re stuck, ask yourself the ultimate characterization question: what (or who) does my character want, and what (or who) is standing in the way?

Example: Chili Palmer, a shylock in Get ShortyNotice how Elmore Leonard reveals not only the origin of Palmer’s nickname, but he also adds a new layer of characterization to the protagonist.

get shortyErnesto Palmer got the name Chili originally because he was hot-tempered as a kid…Now he was Chili, Tommy Carlo said, because he had chilled down and didn’t need the hot temper. All he had to do was turn his eyes dead when he looked at a slow pay, not say more than three words, and the guy would sell his wife’s car to make the payment.

TIP #3: begin and end chapters with your characters doing (or saying) something interesting. 

This could be a provocative image or a bit of snappy dialogue. Readers want to be pulled into the story, particularly at the start and end of a new chapter, so make sure to keep them turning pages.  The best mystery and crime writers are adept at this, especially Daniel Woodrell, one of my favorites.

Example: Sammy Barlach, an ex-con in Tomato Red. Here is one of the the best openings of a crime novel ever.

tomato redYOU’RE NO ANGEL, you know how this stuff comes to happen: Friday is payday and it’s been a gray day sogged by a slow ugly rain and you seek company in your gloom, and since you’re fresh to West Table, Mo., and a new hand at the dog-food factory, your choices for company are narrow but you find some finally in a trailer court on East Main, and the coed circle of bums gathered there spot you a beer, then a jug of tequila starts to rotate and the rain keeps comin’ down with a miserable bluesy beat. . .

If you’ve got more tips for creating memorable characters, or you have a favorite character you want to mention, leave us a comment.

 

 

Introducing Mac McClellan, P.I.

character mattersMcClellan’s biggest fear: Letting someone down.

Today we are pleased to welcome retired U.S. Marine-turned-private investigator Mac McClellan to #MotiveMeansOpportunity. Mac retired from the Marines a few years ago after a twenty-four year career. He has graciously agreed to answer a few questions that might be of interest to the readers of MMO and his Mac McClellan Mystery series.
MMO: Welcome to our humble blog, Mac.
Mac: Thanks for having me. Good to be here.
MMO: Tell us a little about your background. When and where you were born, your education, military service, what brought you to the Florida panhandle after your retirement, etc.
Mac: There’s not a whole lot to tell. I was born and raised in Brevard , North Carolina . I played baseball and football, and loved to go camping and hiking in the mountains around there. After graduating high school I joined the Marine Corps on my 18th birthday, August 8, 1990. My training ended just in time for me to participate as a rifleman in Operation Desert Storm. My unit was involved in taking the airfield at Kuwait City in late February of ’91. The Iraqis put up quite a fight and it took us several hours to secure the area. I took a round through and through the left thigh during the battle and earned my first purple heart. Nothing bad, just some bleeding.
After the First Gulf War I did a two-year stint with Division Recon until I blew out a knee during a training op. After rehab I was transferred back to a rifle company. By the time President Bush Two decided to invade Iraq , I was a staff NCO. I served as Platoon Sergeant on my first deployment. Later I was promoted to Gunnery Sergeant and served as company gunny during my next two deployments. My last deployment to Iraq was in 2004. It included the Second Battle of Fallujah in November. Fallujah was a bitch. Enough said.
What brought me to the panhandle? A good buddy of mine used to brag about this area all the time. We made plans for a fishing trip after Fallujah, but he was KIA. When I got home my wife told me she was tired of playing father and mother, and wanted out of the marriage. I knew she was seeing someone, but we agreed to stay together a few more years until our twins, Mike and Megan, finished high school. They left for college shortly after I retired. Jill presented me with the divorce papers. I signed them before a judge, bought a camper and headed for Florida .
MMO: So, your Marine Corps friend and your divorce brought you to the panhandle; what made you stay?
Mac: It’s complicated. The Corps had been my home for twenty-four years. I was newly divorced. My wife was living in “our” dream retirement home with her Navy pilot boyfriend. The kids had flown the nest. I came here to fish, relax, and think about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
deadly catch
One morning I snagged a badly decomposed body while fishing near Five Mile Island . The body was that of a popular local young woman who was supposed to be honeymooning with her husband in the mountains of Georgia or North Carolina . She also happened to be the niece of the local sheriff. We butted heads, and I was warned not to leave Dodge. Then a baggie of marijuana was found stashed aboard my rental boat. Just so happens a bale of the same strain of pot had washed ashore near where I discovered the body. I knew then somebody was setting me up to take the fall. One thing led to another and I was able to solve the murder and bust up a connected drug-smuggling ring. Oh, and Kate Bell had a little something to do with my staying. She works at the local marina. We hit it off right away, and she was a big help in helping me solve the case.
MMO: Interesting. You enjoyed the “thrill of the hunt” so much that you decided to take it up as a vocation and become a licensed private investigator?
Mac: (Laughs.) Not exactly. You can thank Kate and her “Uncle” Frank for that. I’m an old movie buff. One night Kate and I were coming out of the theater when she saw who she claimed was her former boyfriend. Problem was, the guy had been dead for over ten years. I tried to get her to listen to reason, but she kept insisting it was the same person. I went with Kate to see Frank Hightower. Frank’s a very close friend of the Bells, a retired cop who now runs his own private investigative company in Destin, Kate’s hometown. Kate had kept Frank informed about the murder and drug case I’d solved. Frank thought I had the makings of a decent PI. Together they conspired to get me to snoop into Kate’s old circle of friends and find out if there was anything to the boyfriend’s reappearance or not. In exchange for my time, Frank offered to pay all fees while I worked on becoming a bona fide investigator and Kate’s case. Voila!—Mac McClellan, PI.
MMO: What makes Mac McClellan “tick?”
Mac: I’d say a strong sense of duty, dependability, and responsibility.
MMO: Those are certainly admirable traits. What about faults?
bud
Mac: (Laughs again; pauses … thinking.) I’ve put on a few pounds. I need to drop about ten to get back to my fighting weight. And Kate thinks I drink too much. I guess she’s right. Maybe.
MMO: Moving along, are you a religious person?
Mac: No, not really. My parents took me to church and Sunday school when I was a kid. I don’t think it did me much good. I’ve seen too much crap to believe in a loving and benevolent God. How many times have you seen some natural disaster on television, like a tornado. They interview some guy standing outside his demolished house and he’s saying, “The good Lord was really watching out for us today.” And down the street a mother and her two young kids were crushed to death or sucked out of the house and killed. Where was “the good Lord” when that was happening? Life is a crapshoot. Call me agnostic. I’m not saying there isn’t a god, but if he/she/it exists, he/she/it doesn’t give a crap about the human race.
MMO: What does combat-hardened former Marine Mac McClellan fear most?
Mac: Letting someone down.
MMO: Short and succinct. I like that. Favorite food?
Mac: Steak and shrimp. And BLTs.
MMO: Drink?
Mac: Yes. (Laughs.) Water, Scotch, and beer.
MMO: Tell me the first word that comes to mind when I say: women.
Mac: Pedestal.
MMO: War.
Mac: Peace.
MMO: Surrender.
Mac: No.
MMO: Very good. What are you especially proud of in your life?
Mac: My kids. They’re both good people. Kate Bell. I’m a better man for knowing her. And I like to think I’ve done my best, or given my all when it comes to interacting with people in general. The Marine Corps had a lot to do with molding me into who I am today.
MMO: A commendable answer. One last question: is there a code or creed that you live by?
Mac: Absolutely—Semper Fidelis. Always faithful. To me, that says it all.
MMO: Thanks for being with us today, Mac. It’s been a pleasure having you.
Mac: Thank you. It’s a pleasure being had.
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Interview with Kait Carson, author of DEATH BY SUNKEN TRAESURE

death by sunken treasureOn writing mystery books: I’m a pantser who is trying to be a plotter and finding that it does not work for me.  I keep telling myself that outlining is the way to go. Then all I have to do is connect the dots. Buzzer noise here – wrong answer!

Be sure to go pick up Death By Sunken Treasure, an action-packed mystery featuring Hayden Kent, today! Only $2.99 on Kindle, $15.95 for a paperback, or $31.95 for a hardcover.

writing image

What do you write?

Oh, pretty much everything. Although a life-long mystery reader (even before I discovered Nancy Drew) I started my writing life with poetry and romance.  The poetry has long since fallen by the wayside, but the romance is my guilty little secret. I write for the Trues. Yep, True Confessions and True  Story are the only ones left now, but my stories appear from time to time. Then there’s my mystery gig. Novels only. I haven’t yet figured out the formula for mystery shorts.  I’m hoping with enough practice, I’ll get there.   Either that, or I’ll paper my house with the rejections.

I currently have two mystery series, the Hayden Kent series published by Henery Press.  Newest edition out on March 22nd titled Death by Sunken Treasure. Is that today? YIPPEE! Those are cozies, but on the traditional end of the spectrum. My self-published series features Catherine Swope, a woman with a past. They are definitely traditional mysteries with dark overtones. Knocking around in the back of my head are some very dark noir books that I’m going to have to attend too soon. They are getting too noisy clanking around back there.

Why do you write?

No choice in the matter. Started at an early age and kept on going. When I was a kid, I would occasionally speak tag lines, an early indication that I was doomed to slave over a typewriter. The fact of the matter, I love to entertain. My favorite form of entertainment is reading, so it seemed like a natural progression. 

When and where do you write?

The when is always difficult. My day job consumes anywhere from ten to twelve hours a day, sometimes six days a week. I try to write (or do writing related “stuff”) for four hours a day. Usually an hour or so in the morning and then again for three hours after work.  My husband and I joke that we have the world’s only long distance relationship separated by a hallway.  My thought processes work best in the dark of night. If I’m really stuck on something, I either set an alarm to get up at 2 AM or take a nap and start writing when I wake up. It’s lucky I don’t need much sleep. Where I write is far more regular. I have a student’s desk in my office (I work my day job from home at the “real” desk) that sports my laptop, probably 20 notebooks variously color coded, a few inches of sticky notes, note paper pages, napkins, matchbooks, receipts, etc. scribbled with great ideas that may or may not trigger the original thought process, and a ton of books pertaining to the work at hand.   I like order, which explains the color coding.  The mess belongs to the other Kait.

Stephen-King-Quotes-Theses

How do you write?

Oh, this is a great question. So many different answers flood my mind. First off, I’m a pantser who is trying to be a plotter and finding that it does not work for me.  I keep telling myself that outlining is the way to go. Then all I have to do is connect the dots. Buzzer noise here – wrong answer! For me at least, I need to be surprised, to follow the story arc wherever it goes. The one book I wrote from an outline is the one I like the least. Sad, but true. I have been able to develop a kind of hybrid version that does suit me. I know my victim and my protagonist when I start a book. So the first chapter is usually backstory, and I accept that. It’s what it takes to get me up and running and it never sees the light of day. After that I let the hook of one chapter lead me to the opening of the next

What do you read?

Everything. I have multiple degrees in useless majors, history, sociology, psychology, minored in philosophy. So I love biography, history, raving sociopath stories, noir, thrillers, even cereal boxes have appeal if nothing else is available. My core reading is mystery, with a minor in historical romances, and a subset of biographies. The only thing I won’t read is sci fi. Which is odd, I devoured it in college.

Why do you read?

Two reasons, I don’t get enough vacation time any other way, and since I started writing, as research. I can tell a book is good if I forget the research part and have to remind myself that I’m supposed to enjoy this, but also observe the craft.

Who do you read?

Besides my blog partners? Right now I’m working my way through Margaret Maron’s Deborah Knott series. Hank Phillippi Ryan, Polly Iyer, Sasccer Hill. These are people I preorder when I hear a book is coming out.  My history concentration was civil war. I’ll read any primary source biography  or social historical account.  Had enough of the battles getting my major. Victorian era history if written by a Brit. I’m a snob that way.  Then there are the books I’ll read over and over again because the writing sings. Dominick  Dunne’s The Two Mrs. Grenvilles.  James Clavel’s Noble House.  Cereal boxes. Oh, I said that.

Tell me something funny.

Humor for me is in the situation. For example, my college roommate and I went out to one of those barbecue places where everyone sits at long picnic tables and you find and grab a seat as they become available. We were gnawing on our ribs when a woman three people down stood up, shouted out the name of a social disease, sat back down, and went back to eating. A hush settled over the entire restaurant. Then everyone went back to their dinner, a bit more subdued. My roommate and I started giggling, and ended up laughing so hard our stomachs hurt. It wasn’t funny in and of itself, but the entire situation was absurd. OK, you had to be there.

Author photos 009

Hey, want more Kait Carson? Stop by her website.  Follow her on twitter and Facebook.