This Is Hard by Kait Carson

One of the biggest tenets of mystery writing is playing fair with the reader. That makes this blog hard to write. My first instinct was to write something frothy and fun. Always leave ‘em laughing, right? Then I thought about writing something deep and meaningful. But hey, this is Kait, who would buy that? Mike is the deep one in the group. Me, I’m comic relief.

So, with all of my options foreclosed, I guess I’ll come clean. This is my last blog with MurderMeansOpportunity. Don’t get me wrong, it ain’t that I don’t love you, or blogging here. I do. It has been a great experience and I’ve loved every minute of it, and I fully intend to hang around in the shadows and hold everyone accountable for what happens here. It’s just I realized that no matter how I cut the cake, I couldn’t figure out a way to get more than 24 hours out of a day. I tried, oh how I tried. My own writing was taking a back seat to the fun of blogging. And blogging is a lot of fun. You see, blogging has a start and a finish. That siren song calls loudly when you’re stuck in the middle of a rough plot point. There I would be, trying to get Hayden or Catherine out of the corner and the blog would call, “Kait, come on, you know you want me. Five hundred words, beginning, middle, end. No complications, just in and out.”

Blogging was becoming like crack. The opiate of the stuck writer. Easy to turn to when all else failed and not only that, it was free! With a weekly blog to write, it was too available. I had to take control again. So, a difficult decision was made. The time had come to cut the cord. I had to kill my darling and turn my back on MMO. I’ll be lurking though. You can count on that. And I hope that when my next book releases someone here will invite me back for a guest blog. Mike, please?

I’m going to miss you all, but I’ll still be dropping by to comment. And if anyone wants to drop by Mysteristas, I’m there on the first Tuesday of most months (February 28th this month), and I can usually be found on Writers Who Kill on the fourth Saturday of the month. Hope to catch you all there.

Wish me luck!

Author photos 009Kait Carson lives in an airpark in south central Florida with a pilot husband, eight tropical birds, and six rescue cats. By day, she’s a practicing probate and litigation paralegal, in the evening, legal pads give way to a keyboard, and she spins tales of murder and mayhem set in the tropical heat. Kait writes two series, the Catherine Swope series, set in Miami, and the Hayden Kent series set in the Fabulous Florida Keys.

Kait loves to hear from readers, check out her website at www.kaitcarson.com; follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kaitcarsonauthor, on Twitter at @kaitcarson, or e-mail her at kait.carson@gmail.com.

 

 

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The Year of the Rooster by Kait Carson

I love Chinese food, or at least what passes for Chinese food in this country. Never having been to China, I don’t know if what we have here in the States is even close to the real thing. I suspect it may not be. One thing that seems to be a constant in US Chinese restaurants, at least on the East Coast, are placemats. Placemats depicting the symbols of the Chinese zodiac. I’m a dragon. Frankly, that describes me better than my astrological sign of Cancer.

The traits of the Chinese and astrological overlap and braid together to form character. When I sit down to plot a character, I will often take both their birth date and their birth year into consideration and use the information to chart their salient character traits. The information provides a touchstone for me when I face the inevitable question of what will my character do now. Hayden Kent is an Aquarius born in the year of the Tiger. Her birth sign and birth year share traits. She is truthful, curious, imaginative, and optimistic. She also has a tendency to get off track and to run from emotion. Her color is blue green. Her friends refer to it as Hayden blue.

In much the same way, Catherine Swope is Virgo and a Rooster. This puts her very much at odds with herself. Virgos are reliable, intelligent and overly reserved while roosters are well, cock of the walk. They are brave and hardworking, but also can enjoy the spotlight and be vain. Catherine can get herself in trouble when her Rooster traits come to the fore, and there are other times when she needs those very traits to get her out of trouble. Hers choices are harder than Hayden’s and a good bit of the conflict in the Swope books is internal and more difficult to write.

My current WIP is the next book in the Swope series. In it, everything Catherine believes will be called into question. The foundations of all of her relationships will be shaken. As the turmoil swirls around Catherine something else more timely will be going on. 2017 is the year of the Rooster as well.

Without turning to politics, which have no place in this blog, I can only say that each year seems to have a unique character, both globally, and personally. This is the year that chickens seem to be coming home to roost. Large decisions will be made. Events long forgotten, or long thought forgotten will be brought to mind and things will change. For better, or for worse, that remains to be seen.

The year of the Rooster arrives on January 28th. Are you expecting roosting chickens?

Kait Carson lives in an airpark in south central Florida with a pilot husband, eight tropical birds, and six rescue cats. By day, she’s a practicing probate and litigation paralegal, in the evening, legal pads give way to a keyboard, and she spins tales of murder and mayhem set in the tropical heat. Kait writes two series, the Catherine Swope series, set in Miami, and the Hayden Kent series set in the Fabulous Florida Keys.

Kait loves to hear from readers, check out her website at www.kaitcarson.com; follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kaitcarsonauthor, on Twitter at @kaitcarson, or e-mail her at kait.carson@gmail.com.

 

Seven Deadly Writer Sins by Kait Carson

I may have to borrow from Jimmy Buffett here if I run out of ideas but hey, Jimmy, I remember you at Bubbas, so ‘nuff said. Those of you who did not go to or hang out at the University of Miami in the early 1970s will have to make up your own stories. No, I did not know Jimmy Buffett then, or now, for that matter. But there was that wild night in Sint Maarten when I did tell him not to quit his day job. But that’s not what it sounds like either. And I doubt he’d even remember it. Jimmy, I’m glad you didn’t take my advice, but acapella, you don’t sound like you!

How does that relate to writing? It’s all about the story and not committing the seven deadly writer sins.

#1 Thou shall not head hop.

What is head hopping? Mavis asked herself.

How can she not know, Peter wondered? She does it all the time.

Jack shook his head in amazement and bit his tongue. Those two would argue over which way to screw in a lightbulb. “I have whiplash,” Kait moaned.

#2 Thou shalt not hide clues from your readers.

The key to keeping your books from hitting the wall when readers get to the end is to always play fair. This is harder than it sounds. When the sleuth stumbles across, uncovers, or develops a clue, the reader has to know at precisely the same moment. As a writer, I always feel as if a kick line of Rockettes is surrounding the fireworks shooting neon colored clue. My beta readers generally don’t have the same impression.

#3 Thou shalt not make thy victim a saint.

Everyone has good and bad points. There are few random crimes in the mystery writing world. There are some, but in those books, the perpetrator is known, the story is about something else. While the victim does not have to have a fatal flaw, he or she does need to be flawed. He or she is human, just like the rest of us. Those flaws may or may not have provided a motive.

#4 Thou shalt not make thy criminal Satan.

Even a murderer’s dog loves him. See above for good and bad points. It is essential that your criminal is human, and can hide in plain sight among the suspects which brings me to number 5.

#5. Thou shalt not point thy finger at only one character.

Multiple suspects are essential. Draw them out as if they are each the perpetrator and give every suspect motive, means, and opportunity. No one did this better than the two Dames, Agatha Christie and PD James.

#6 Thou shalt not forget to resolve thy red herrings.

I read a book once that had more loose ends than my first attempt at crochet. Suffice it to say I did not pick up another by that author. So, even if you don’t have a solution for a particular red herring (and there are times when life can imitate art) honor your reader and have your protagonist at least acknowledge it.

#7 Thou shalt not forget that writing is best accomplished when accompanied by chocolate and wine or the libation of your choice!

Your mileage may vary for these very simple seven deadly sins. Writers and authors—do you have a different list?

Kait Carson lives in an airpark in south central Florida with a pilot husband, eight tropical birds, and six rescue cats. By day, she’s a practicing probate and litigation paralegal, in the evening, legal pads give way to a keyboard, and she spins tales of murder and mayhem set in the tropical heat. Kait writes two series, the Catherine Swope series, set in Miami, and the Hayden Kent series set in the Fabulous Florida Keys.

Kait loves to hear from readers, check out her website at www.kaitcarson.com; follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kaitcarsonauthor, on Twitter at @kaitcarson, or e-mail her at kait.carson@gmail.com.

 

 

So Long

My brother’s first father-in-law was a writer and he had a syndicated newspaper column and radio show. He taught me to sign off each story with -30-, and never to say goodbye. “So long sounds like you’ll be back, and you always want to be back. Goodbye, sounds like the end.”

-30-

The -30- thing always confused me. I mean, couldn’t the editors and typesetters figure out that the story ended. No more papers, no more story. What was with that -30- thing. I was too young to know about the journalistic conventions of telegraphs and teletypes and calling in stories.  My world was typewriters and pads of yellow legal papers. I can only imagine how archaic this sounds to children of the computer generation. Someday cursive notes will be the secret code of people of a certain age. Which is an improvement over writing with mayonnaise. Believe me, I know.

The “so long” think made more sense. It did sound more open than goodbye, so I adopted it as my own. Truth be told, I adopted the -30- thing too until I got a call from the editor of a magazine that frequently published my stories. She asked me to stop using it as she had to take it out of the last three final magazine proofs. The person who set the stories and did the flatpan didn’t recognize the symbol and thought it was part of the story.

clock-faceThis is my first blog of 2017 for MMO. It’s time to say so long to the old year and howdy to the new. It’s been a fantastic year for the blog. We went from 0 readers in March to 2,400 as I write this on November 25th. We’ve been lucky enough to play host to some fantastic guests, and have developed a presence as a must-read blog filled with diverse content.

We’ve had some sad moments too. One of our founders, Max Everhart, asked to be removed from the regular blog rotation. Max is the father of a toddler, a Shamus award finalist, and an English professor. His plate was full. We miss him, but we understand. We’re eagerly waiting for a guest post, and hoping it’s an announcement of his newest book.  Hurry up and write the thing, Max.

What’s coming up for 2017? Ah, the future is always a mystery and there’s plenty of motive to give us the means to have a lot of fun. We’re looking for a regular contributor or two or three to blog with Mike and me. We’re also hoping for lots more guests. If you’re interested, e-mail me at kait.carson@gmail.com.

Join me in lifting a glass to the future!

champagneSo long, for now.

Author photos 009Kait Carson lives in an airpark in south central Florida with a pilot husband, eight tropical birds, and six rescue cats. By day, she’s a practicing probate and litigation paralegal, in the evening, legal pads give way to a keyboard, and she spins tales of murder and mayhem set in the tropical heat. Kait writes two series, the Catherine Swope series, set in Miami, and the Hayden Kent series set in the Fabulous Florida Keys.

Kait loves to hear from readers, check out her website at www.kaitcarson.com; follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kaitcarsonauthor, on Twitter at @kaitcarson, or e-mail her at kait.carson@gmail.com.

 

What Doesn’t Kill You… Makes a Great Plot Twist

Writers have noisy minds. They have to. Everything they see, touch, overhear (sometimes by accident), and experience is fodder for the story mill. It goes in, swirls around the sense of possibility and probability like berries in a blender and matches up or rejects a million other experiences. When it comes out, it’s unrecognizable from the original event in form, but not in substance.

A snippet of conversation in a restaurant can give rise to an entire short story. A beat-up shoe spotted in the breakdown lane of a highway tells a tale of heartbreak. A woman in a formal dress on the bandstand at Alabama Jack’s on the Card Sound Road in Florida sparks a million stories. What was that woman doing in a biker restaurant/bar? You can read my version of her story in an old True Romance magazine. A plastic bag floating out of the window of a sunken ship became the inciting incident of one of my books. The bag morphed into a hand. A cold, dead, hand.brainstormer

Some ideas arrive full blown and ready to write. Others take a lot more work. Writer’s these days are lucky. There’s an app for that! A writer friend of mine shared her addiction to two that she uses. Brainstormer and Story Cube. Both are available for iPhone and who knows what all else. Brainstormer looks like a slot machine and sounds like a roulette wheel. There’s a wheel mode too that looks steampunk. Spin the wheels (or shake your phone—more fun) and see what turns up. The categories are combinations of plot/conflict, style/setting, and subject/location. I’ve got vengeance for a crime, animal kingdom, hotel lobby. I think I’ll take another spin. Or write a noir about the Peabody Hotel in Memphis.story-cubes

Story Cube has nine dice that roll with the press of an icon. Each die face shows a random character and voila, a story is created, the one I’m looking at now has a turtle, skydiver, lock (closed), clock, open book, airplane, letter, and a lightning bolt. All I’m saying is so much for that skydiver, his time has run out.

If none of those work, there’s always self-help books. One of my favorites is the Write About series. It’s a book of prompts with space to write. To be honest, the prompts have never sparked much for me in terms of story writing, but the act of writing has served to uncork the genie from the bottle.

Now that we’re hip deep in the holiday season, you might want to check out some of these ideas.

What do you do when you’re running on creative empty?

Author photos 009Kait Carson lives in an airpark in south central Florida with a pilot husband, eight tropical birds, and six rescue cats. By day, she’s a practicing probate and litigation paralegal, in the evening, legal pads give way to a keyboard, and she spins tales of murder and mayhem set in the tropical heat. Kait writes two series, the Catherine Swope series, set in Miami, and the Hayden Kent series set in the Fabulous Florida Keys.

Kait loves to hear from readers, check out her website at www.kaitcarson.com; follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kaitcarsonauthor, on Twitter at @kaitcarson, or e-mail her at kait.carson@gmail.com.

 

 

 

It’s the Five Senses, Cowboy

Writers are often reminded to bring depth to their stories by using the five senses. Characters see, taste, touch, hear, and the oft forgot sense, smell.kid-holding-nose

I know, you’re thinking eww. That’s because you are thinking the word smell, not smelling the smell. Let’s have a quiz. Pine leaves—quick what do you see—a Christmas tree. Roses—Yep, Valentine’s day. Who said funeral? I heard that! Turkey roasting in the oven—got it—Thanksgiving. Roast beef permeating the air in your living room? Sunday roast, holiday, or family event. Fried chicken (I’m a Southron, it might mean more to me than you)—fourth of July picnic. The harsh bite of gun powder? Target practice or the fourth of July—depends on whether you had a misspent youth. Hand raised.

Okay, you get the idea, but there’s more. If the above smells had meaning for you they brought to mind more than a smell. They called up an emotion, and maybe a memory or two. Back in the stone age when I got a degree in psychology, we were taught that scent was more strongly connected to memory than any other of the five senses. Just as the hip bone is connected to the thigh bone, so scent is connected to the limbic system. The old brain.beach

Not only is smell connected to memory, it’s connected to emotion. Do you believe in love at first sight? That potent attractor you’re not aware of is the scent of the other person. Okay, another eww, but it’s true.

How does this relate to writing? Easy. Scent is the perfect writer’s shortcut. With a single smell, you can depict emotion, setting, and memory for your character and your reader. While it’s true not every reader brings the same emotional intensity to the scent, most readers will have some reaction.

fireplaceThe elusive scent of wood smoke wafting on a breeze on a cold winter’s day brings feelings of comfort and camaraderie. The acrid smell of smoke on any day brings feelings of fear and self-preservation. The briny scent of the sea, the earthy scent of the air before a thunderstorm, the loamy smell of fresh turned soil, all of these place your character, and depending on her associations, set the scene for comfort, pain, anticipation, anxiety. No narrative to slow the story, no telling, the scent says it all.

What’s your favorite scent? Mine’s apple wood burning in the woodstove while snow drifts past my windows, and fresh basil mingling with the tangy scent of a fresh tomato in the heat of summer.

Author photos 009Kait Carson lives in an airpark in south central Florida with a pilot husband, eight tropical birds, and six rescue cats. By day, she’s a practicing probate and litigation paralegal, in the evening, legal pads give way to a keyboard, and she spins tales of murder and mayhem set in the tropical heat. Kait writes two series, the Catherine Swope series, set in Miami, and the Hayden Kent series set in the Fabulous Florida Keys.

Kait loves to hear from readers, check out her website at www. kaitcarson.com; follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kaitcarsonauthor, on Twitter at @kaitcarson, or e-mail her at kait.carson@gmail.com.

 

 

 

Cyber Monday Here We Come

If I can’t buy it online, I don’t want it. That’s my motto. I’m sticking to it.  Today is Cyber Monday. What, we needed a special day to surf the web? The reason for that would be…  Does Cyber Monday exist for all those folks who didn’t make it to the store in time to buy the Black Friday specials?welcome-to-cyber-monday

News flash! I was in a store the Monday before Thanksgiving. Boxes containing well-priced computer equipment (yes, it was that kind of store) were stacked in nearly every open space. The stacks were priced, but not displayed. So, me being me; I asked. Here’s the answer, “That’s our Black Friday merchandise, but you can buy it now.” That led to a second question, “Will the prices be the same on Friday?” Response, “Yeah, but we’ll have one on display.”  So, the Monday before Thanksgiving is the training day for the Friday after Thanksgiving. I get it. That solves the eternal Black Friday mystery of why stores run out of Black Friday advertised merchandise. Makes you wonder why folks are in a track stance outside retail shops at four in the morning, doesn’t it? Four in the morning, who am I kidding? Black Friday starts right after the Thanksgiving Day football games.

cyber-treeAs a writer, I’m fascinated by the Cyber Monday philosophy. A lot of stores I’ve recently been to don’t stock a large selection of merchandise anymore. Instead, they offer a few select items, and an order online, pick up in-store feature. Many will even ship to your house for free. Retail no longer requires real estate. Just a computer and a credit card. This gives me a visual of a giant funnel fed by relays of workers pouring boxes and bags into the maw to the consumer. But things are finite. What happens when the Internet runs out of stuff? Will Cyber Monday shoppers be forced to log on ever earlier? Will sites crash under the onslaught? Will the world end? Oh, sorry, wrong blog.

There is one other thing I’ve noticed about Cyber Monday. Retailers play it close to the cyber-mondaychest when it comes to Cyber Monday deals while the Black Friday ads have been running for a week. Shoppers are left to wonder, should I buy now? Wait? Buy for 2016 on Black Friday and 2017 on Cyber Monday? How much stuff do I need?

People have died on Black Friday. Some trampled in the crush. Others murdered for the merchandise. Getting the last one of a hot item can be deadly. Heck, a parking space caused a shootout in a Tallahassee parking lot in 2012. There’s even a death counter keeping track of the Black Friday casualty rate.  I think I feel a holiday short story coming on. No wonder grandma got run over by that reindeer.

Taken from the death and injured toll, Cyber Monday makes perfect sense. Shop online, the life you save may be your own!

How about you? Are you an online shopping fan or do you prefer the up close and personal encounter of brick and mortar shopping?

There’s a party going on at my Facebook author page. Henery Authors are running a giveaway train to celebrate Cyber Monday. Stop by, comment, and move on to the next stop. There are TONS of prizes available. Don’t miss it.

Author photos 009Kait Carson lives in an airpark in south central Florida with a pilot husband, eight tropical birds, and six rescue cats. By day, she’s a practicing probate and litigation paralegal, in the evening, legal pads give way to a keyboard, and she spins tales of murder and mayhem set in the tropical heat. Kait writes two series, the Catherine Swope series, set in Miami, and the Hayden Kent series set in the Fabulous Florida Keys.

Kait loves to hear from readers, check out her website at www.kaitcarson.com; follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kaitcarsonauthor, on Twitter at @kaitcarson, or e-mail her at kait.carson@gmail.com.