DOGMA FOR WRITERS: Unleash the Author in You, by Sue Owens Wright

Gustav Flaubert said, “A writer’s life is a dog’s life, but it’s the only life worth living.”  If you write about dogs, as I do, this statement is especially true. My books feature a canine companion or two, including my latest stand-alone novel, “The Secret of Bramble Hill.” I don’t know whether Monsieur Flaubert had dogs of his own. If so, he must have known that they have much to teach us about the writing life if we observe their behavior. In my experience, there’s no breed better suited to be a writer’s role model than the persistent, determined basset hound, which is as French as Flaubert. 

thesecretofbramblehillI’ve been owned by eight bassets, which inspired me to create the long-eared sleuths in my Beanie and Cruiser Mystery Series for dog lovers (book #5, “Ears for Murder” will be released in 2017 from Black Opal Books). Knowing these dogs as well as I do, I have come to understand that in order to lead the pack in pursuit of success in the literary field, a writer must emulate many of the same traits that make a scent hound so good at tracking hares in the field.

 I have observed basset behavior within drool-slinging range for many years and have become well versed in the history of the breed. During that time I have also come to understand that they are the perfect barketype for the writer’s life.

As comical as these dogs may look, with their sausage bodies, stubby, crooked legs and Dumbo ears, they also possess the same inner qualities every serious writer must develop or nurture in the pursuit of publication: tenacity, stubbornness, unflappable focus, and persistence. It’s not so much a matter of talent—although, it’s certainly a bonus—that helps a writer succeed, but the daily practice of those same dogged traits of the basset that will unleash the author and set him firmly on the trail to success.

I’d like to share with you what I have learned from my dogs about how to achieve success in a writing career. Here are some tricks they’ve taught me that can be applied to the writer’s life. I hope you’ll find them as useful as I have.

  1. Pick up the Scent—Every writer begins with the same question: What shall I write? A basset ranges in the field, searching for the scent of game. Then suddenly he picks up a hot scent and it’s tally-ho! The joy is no less great for a writer who has found the thing she loves to write about.
  2. Stay on Track—Dogged determination is key to success in the field or on the page. A basset hound is stubborn, tenacious, and persistent. The only difference between a published writer and an unpublished one is that the unpublished one gave up too soon.
  3. Follow Where the Path Leads You—Heed the signs and stay true to your goal. Like a hound, the writer may also stray off the path now and then and be distracted by any number of things, but if you keep your goal in mind, you’ll get back on track.
  4. Find your Voice—Every dog has a different bark: the mailman bark; the all paws on deck, there’s a prowler bark; the neighbor’s cat on the fence bark; the squirrel in the tree bark. Similarly, each writer has a distinctive voice. Writing, writing, and more writing will help the writer discover that voice.
  5. Use your Ears (and all your senses)—Dogs have a keen sense of hearing. Writers have good ears, too. They are always listening, eavesdropping. Like dogs, they use all their senses to experience the big, wonderful world around them.
  6. Slow and Steady Wins the Race—Have you ever tried to hurry a basset hound? The same is true of writing. There are no shortcuts. You have to do the work and take time to edit and improve your writing.
  7. Enjoy the Journey—A basset hound knows how to enjoy life. He eats, he chases cats and squirrels, plays with other dogs, follows his nose, naps. He naps a lot. He constantly conserves his energy and recharges his batteries. So should you. All work and no play make for dull, uninspired writing.
  8. Leave Your Mark Along the Way—When I walk my dogs around the neighborhood, they leave pee-mails for other dogs that say, “Hey I was here! Writers write partly because we want to leave something behind that says we were here. We’re still reading the words of writers who are now dust, but as long as we read their words, they never die. Do some good where you can. Mentor other writers. Teach.
  9. Hang with the Pack—Bassets work best in packs. So do writers. Writing can be a very lonely profession. Be with other writers, read other writers’ work, learn from other writers, and you can’t help but become a better writer.
  10. Bark up the Right Tree—A scent hound doesn’t waste time following a trail that will not lead him to his quarry. A writer must not waste time and energy sending out material incorrectly to the wrong markets.
  11. Take the Bite out of Rejection—If a dog gets rejected or pushed aside because his master can’t give him what he wants right then, he doesn’t give up. He doesn’t sulk or whine but comes back and tries again and again. With persistence, he eventually gets his reward.  

     12. Share the Rewards of the Hunt—At the end of a successful hunt, the hunter        always rewards his hounds. When you finally attain your literary goal and enjoy the fruits of your labors, give something back to show your gratitude. Be gracious. Share your reward with others. And reward yourself for a job well done.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASue Owens Wright is an award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction. She is an eleven-time finalist for the Maxwell, awarded annually by the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) to the best writer on the subject of dogs. She has twice won the Maxwell Award and earned special recognition from the Humane Society of the United States for her writing. She writes the acclaimed Beanie and Cruiser Mystery Series, including Howling Bloody Murder, Sirius About Murder, Embarking On Murder and Braced For Murder, which is recommended on the American Kennel Club’s list of Best Dog Books.

Her nonfiction books include What’s Your Dog’s IQ?, 150 Activities for Bored Dogs, and People’s Guide to Pets. She has been published in numerous magazines, including Dog Fancy, Mystery Scene, AKC GAZETTE, Fido Friendly, The Bark, and Animal Fair. Her work also appears in several anthologies, including PEN Oakland’s “Fightin’ Words,” along with Norman Mailer and other literary notables. Her newest novel is The Secret of Bramble Hill.

Website URL: http://www.sueowenswright.com

Blog URL: http://dogearedbooks.blogspot.com/

Facebook URL: https://www.facebook.com/sue.o.wright

The Secret of Bramble Hill buy link:

https://www.amazon.com/Secret-Bramble-Hill-Owens-Wright/dp/1626945861/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1485128293&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=the+secret+of+bramble+hill+weight

E. Michael Helms’ Author Interview With LYRICAL PENS’ Cj Petterson

LYRICAL PENS Spotlights author E. Michael Helms!

Cj Sez: Lyrical Pens’ guest today is Mystery Thriller Week author E. Michael Helms, who writes the popular Mac McClellan mystery series. The latest in the series from Coffeetown/Camel Press is the brand-new DEADLY SPIRITS (#4), which launched on Jan 15, 2017. (Congratulations, Michael.)

This busy author graciously stopped by for a few minutes and answered some questions for us. Let’s get right to it…

Lyrical Pens: Where did you get the inspiration for your Mac McClellan series?

hardy-boys-1E. Michael Helms: My previous books had all dealt with war, mostly drawn from my own experiences. It was draining and I knew I needed a change. I grew up reading and loving the Hardy Boys books, and had recently renewed my interest in mysteries. One day I thought: Why not try my hand at writing a mystery? It took off from there.

LP: What kind of research did you have to do to make the character authentic?

EMH: In order to get inside my protagonist’s head and know what made him tick, I knew I would have to closely identify with him. Having served in combat as a U.S. Marine during the Vietnam War, I decided that Mac McClellan would be a recently retired Marine with extensive combat service in Iraq. With that connection, we “clicked” right away. I grew up in the Florida panhandle on the beautiful beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. Knowing the area, its history, culture, and people, made the setting of the series a logical choice.

LP: Tell us a bit about Mac. Any part of him resemble you?

EMH: Mac and I share a lot in common; athletics, our military backgrounds, morals, likes and dislikes, sense of humor, and loyalty to others. A handshake should be as binding as a signed contract. Physically, we have similar traits. Mac’s a couple inches taller and a few pounds lighter, but when I was his age we were pretty darn close. We can both be pushed, but only so far. But we are both cuddly teddy bears in the right arms. <<Smile>>!

LP: What are your protagonist’s strengths and flaws?

semper-fi-1EMH: First and foremost, Mac lives by the code of the Marine Corps motto:
Semper Fidelis—Always Faithful. His word is his bond. Loyalty and trust are everything to him. He can be your greatest friend, or your worst enemy. He’s kind and gentle, yet isn’t afraid to get down and dirty if the situation calls for it. He fancies himself a “Southern gentleman,” and has an eye for the ladies. Yet he’s trustworthy, so his girlfriend Kate Bell has nothing to worry about. He can be impulsive and sometimes his mouth jumps ahead of his mind. Mac has a tendency to drink too much, and though he doesn’t yet realize it, it’s his way of coping with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). When he takes on a case he’s tenacious in searching out the truth. He also has a short fuse and has come close to “losing it” at times when push comes to shove. If you prove yourself a friend, Mac will always have your back. He’d rather die in place than desert or betray a friend.

LP: Are you a plotter or a pantser? Or like me, a pathfinder? (I have an idea of where I’m going but kind of bounce off the walls getting there.)

EMH: I’m definitely a pantser. I come up with an idea for a book, an opening scene, and usually have an ending in mind. But when I sit down to write, the characters take over. I know to some that’s hard to believe, but it’s what works for me. I’ve tried outlining, but the results have been dismal. I’m a very unorganized person. The characters must be free to “do their thing.” I’ll jot down ideas when they come to me, and I keep a calendar of the daily action of the storyline from beginning to end. That helps, but it’s usually after the fact. But it does enable me to see where I’ve been, and the ideas (almost always character-inspired) show me where I’m going.

LP: Keeping your daily action storyline is a neat way to move right into a synopsis. Great idea. How do you determine that all-important first sentence of your novels? And how often does it change before you’re ready to send it off?

firstsentencecartoonEMH: I believe the opening is very important, although I don’t hold hard and fast that it has to be the very first sentence of the book. As long as you grab the reader’s attention and hold her/him with anticipation for the first two or three pages, you’ll be okay. Boring narrative won’t cut it. A writer has to hook the reader through lively dialogue or narrative that causes her/him to read on. Ideally, that can be accomplished with a “wowing” first sentence. But as long as you can hold the reader for a couple of pages and then drop the hammer, that’s fine. I strive for a strong opening before I move on with the story. It might take several days of trial and error, but until I get it “right” I don’t advance the plot.

LP: What do you consider the most important element of any story?

EMH: Strong, believable characters. If you can succeed in making the reader identify with and care about your characters, good and bad, you’ve got ’em hooked. And there is no “cardboard” allowed, except for book covers. It’s vital that your main characters are well-rounded, with good and bad traits. No one wants a “goody-two shoes.” Even secondary characters should have appeal, whether positive or negative. If a character is worthy of a name, that character had better be fleshed out at least minimally. Ideally, stereotypical and one-dimensional characters have no place in good writing.

LP: Everyone’s road to publication is different—traditional, indie, a bit of both. Take us down yours.

proud-bastards-hc-1EMH: My combat experiences during the Vietnam War had a profound impact on my becoming a writer, although it was a long, drawn-out journey. I returned home wounded in body and mind. For several years I lived in a “fog” of sorts due to PTSD, although I wasn’t aware of it at the time. Someone finally steered me to group counseling and it was a tremendous help. One of our assignments was to begin a journal of our wartime experiences. Mine began to take the form of a book. I had done some freelance writing for various magazines, and sent a couple of chapters as standalones to an editor who had published my work in “Vietnam Combat” magazine. He liked what I sent, but told me to wait and send the entire manuscript when completed. I didn’t know it at the time, but he also moonlighted as a literary agent for a few clients. I sent the manuscript to him and he made a quick sale to a New York publisher. The Proud Bastards became my first published book; I’m pleased to report it’s still in print after twenty-six years (currently with Simon & Schuster/Pocket). So far all my books have been traditionally published, but I’m not averse to trying the self-publishing route, not at all, as long as it’s done professionally.

LP: Marketing a book takes an enormous amount of an author’s time and energy. What kind of marketing plan works for you?

book-review-clipart-best-ggsghy-clipartEMH: In this day and age, that’s almost an understatement. Unless you’re a “name” author or celebrity, a writer has to bust her/his butt getting the word out. While most reputable mid-sized or small publishers will send review copies to the “big” reviewers (Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus, etc.), it’s mainly up to the author to contact book blogs and other review venues. Like most authors, I depend mainly on social media to promote my work. I’ve worked hard to compile a list of trustworthy reviewers who will give their honest opinion on any book that comes their way. No sugar-coating allowed. I’ve also attended book conventions in the past. Those can also be good opportunities to garner attention, but social media remains at the top of my marketing list.

LP: In the midst of all this scrambling to market Deadly Spirits, are you working on anything new?

EMH: I’m currently working on my fifth Mac McClellan Mystery, Deadly Verse. It is tentatively scheduled for a November 2017 release. In addition, I’ve also been working on a series of short stories featuring “Dinger, P.I.” Dinger is a private eye who saw extensive combat experience during World War Two with the Marines. After the war he found himself in Las Vegas and set up shop. My publisher has expressed interest in a novella-sized collection of the stories. Someday I hope to give Dinger his own full-length novel, and possibly a series.

LP: Where can readers find out about you and your events online?

Website: www.emichaelhelms.com
Amazon author page: http://amzn.to/2jgoaoc
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EMichaelHelms/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/183472.E_Michael_Helms
Twitter: https://twitter.com/emichaelhelms

e-michael-helms-headshotA native of Georgia, Michael Helms grew up in Panama City, FL, home of “The World’s Most Beautiful Beaches.” His tour of duty with the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War led to his first book, The Proud Bastards: One Marine’s Journey from Parris Island through the Hell of Vietnam. He has since written novels in various genres, and currently writes the Mac McClellan Mystery series for Coffeetown/Camel Press. With his wife Karen, Helms now resides in the Upstate region of South Carolina in the shadows of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. He enjoys fishing, camping, bird watching, and playing guitar. He continues to be harassed by Mac, Kate, and other recurring characters in his mystery series.

cj Sez: Michael provided Lyrical Pens with a great book cover blurb, but you can read that when you buy the book. I think the 5-star review that follows is the perfect invitation into the world of private investigator Mac McClellan:

Deadly Spirits is a haunting mystery with an ingenious plot, vivid setting and memorable characters, chief among them the incomparable Mac McClellan, who is easily one of my favorite PIs out there. This latest installment will satisfy fans of the series while sending newcomers scrambling to catch up. If you like Robert Crais and Harlan Coben, you’ll surely dig Deadly Spirits. I know I did. Highly recommended.”
–Max Everhart, author of the Eli Sharpe Mystery series; SHAMUS Award finalist, Split to Splinters

marilyn-johnsoncj Sez: Thanks, Michael, for stopping by. I have to say Mac McClellan sounds like a character I’d like to meet in real life. At five books into the series, I think you have a winner. Best wishes for great successes with your writing.

Visit Cj Petterson at her blog: http://www.lyricalpens.com/

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.

 

 

John Beyer on Motivation for Writing

Motivation for writing should be the writing itself. But that is not always the case – theoperationscorpion true motivator for this Wordsmith, is to be read.

I’m not a diarist, keeping my inner thoughts inside the covers of a notebook not to be seen by the outside world. No, to be read by complete strangers is the motivation which prompts one to spend hours upon hours in the make believe world of fiction (or nonfiction for that matter).

Then again, why write? Why not paint? Construct beautiful pieces of sculpture? All are worthy for the creative mind but why do so many of us put pen to paper or fingers to keypads?

Seems simple enough – to tell a story. Be that a short story or a novel – a story needs to be told and the one with the imagination to express the prose must be the one to share it. And most importantly a story needs to be read.

Thus a writer is born.

Then again, opportunity is a great happenstance to motivate the mind.

When I was younger, an opportunity presented itself to me and I met it head on. Writing for a local monthly magazine gave me the chance to meet some incredibly interesting people, and one of those was Ray Bradbury. Yes, the magical story teller of such international fame as Fahrenheit 451, All Summer in a Day, and The Martian Chronicles just to name a few. He was a guest speaker at a local library and I wandered in to hear from the master himself. Forty minutes later I knew I wanted to be a fiction writer. The pieces I had written up to that point were non-fiction for both the magazine I wrote for and the occasional newspaper articles.

The way Ray brought to life his love of storytelling was so impressive that I jotted as fast as I could into a small 5 x 7 spiral notebook. Everything was golden to the ears of this very young and impressionable journalist. At the end of his lecture – yes, the professor was speaking to his student, I realized two things.

First, I would interview Ray Bradbury for the magazine, and secondly I would someday be both a novelist and short story author.

Approached and approved for a phone interview the following week I was giddy with anticipation and scared at ‘screwing’ up my first real opportunity at interviewing a ‘celebrity.’

I was nervous but it was all for naught. Ray Bradbury immediately put me at ease and soon the interview turned into a true conversation between two writers. A world famous legend and a struggling one who now had dreams of fame and fortune.

Article written and published – so my job was done.

Two weeks later the phone rang and it was Ray. “Good job on the article. You made me sound as though I know a thing or two about writing.”

Wow, Ray Bradbury calling me to congratulate me on an article. He had actually read it!

From then on we’d speak once or twice per year via phone or snail mail. To this day, especially after his passing in 2012 I believe he was part of my personal motivation to keep writing.

Did it work? Three novels and numerous stories –both non-fiction and fiction in the last decade – it seems to this writer that Bradbury had a major influence to keep that once young student’s fingers pecking away at the keyboard as part of an almost daily routine.

Of course, I had been writing prior to this meeting with Bradbury, but there was something there which was inspirational.

With that and the support of a loving family, if one is so lucky to have that, would be another wonderful factor in becoming successful in this world of storytelling. The hours locked away in the study with the understanding from loved ones that the door would open when certain events occurred.

That would be when dialogue flowed smoothly, the action took place, tears fell on characters faces, or the other one hundred things which have to happen to make a story a story.

Stories must be told and that should be enough to make a person have the desire to write but often it is not enough.

Opportunity will often give birth to motivation – it did for this writer.

doing-researchFormer street cop, training officer and member of SWAT John Beyer has been writing most of his life. He’s traveled to at least 23 countries (and was actually shot in the head in Spain in 2000 during a march between Neo Nazis and Communists two days after running with the bulls in Pamplona). He was caught in a hurricane off the coast of east Baja (Bahia de los Angeles) while kayaking and lived to tell about it. Essentially, it’s hard to tell where experience leaves off and fiction takes over. You’ll want to read his books.

Website URL: http://johnrobertbeyer.weebly.com/

Blog URL: http://jandlresearchandexploration.blogspot.com/

Twitter: @Drjohnrbeyer

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-john-r-beyer

Operation Scorpion buy link:

https://www.amazon.com/Operation-Scorpion-John-R-Beyer/dp/1626945969/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1485558943&sr=8-1

 

 

Review Madness! by E. Michael Helms

My latest Mac McClellan Mystery (#4) was launched January 15 by Camel Press (as most of you followers of MMO already know). With this book, I dared to do things a little differently than I’ve done with the previous books in the series. Namely, I purposely didn’t seek out as many pre-pub reviews as I’ve done for the previous three books. Results? I’m so glad you asked! 

Although Deadly Spirits is (in my honest, humble opinion) the most complex and interesting mystery thus far in the series, it has garnered the LEAST  reviews (so far) of all previous books thus far in its brief release history. I probably sent under 50% ARCs to reviewers than I’ve done in the past. The results speak for themselves.

The few reviews I’ve received from reviewers (fellow writers & review blogs) have been very encouraging. To whit:

Deadly Spirits is a haunting mystery with an ingenious plot, vivid setting and memorable characters, chief among them the incomparable Mac McClellan, who is easily one of my favorite PIs out there. This latest installment will satisfy fans of the series while sending newcomers scrambling to catch up. If you like Robert Crais and Harlan Coben, you’ll surely dig Deadly Spirits. I know I did. Highly recommended.”

–Max Everhart, author of the Eli Sharpe Mystery series; SHAMUS Award finalist, Split to Splinters

“I loved everything about Deadly Spirits by E Michael Helms. He has included a lot of extras besides the mystery… a critter to fall in love with, a dash of the psychotic and a pinch of the paranormal…a recipe for success. I love Mac and this is my favorite adventure … so far. Michael has brought him a long way, making him more complex in his simplicity. I can hardly wait for more!”

–Sherry @ http://www.fundinmental.com/

All the above to say this: is busting your butt (all authors out there in publishing land, excepting those few “big name” authors), and taking so much very valuable time away from your writing, worth the results? However meager or worthwhile they might be?

proud bastards
Military memoir

My answer, truthfully, is no. It pains me to say it. I’ve worked my proverbial ass off promoting my books. My first book was published over 26 years ago by a “big” publisher, and remains in print today. I still receive royalty checks twice a year; and they are much more than I ever dreamed about when I first sold the manuscript through my first agent. (Note: I’ve never done anything to promote the book, beyond local book fairs, signings, etc.) Yes, the monetary amount has diminished in the past couple of years, but it’s been a GREAT run!

of blood brothers
Historical fiction

However, to bring things into perspective: I spent a decade researching and writing a historical saga about a real family/events during the Civil War/Reconstruction era. I consider it the best work I’ve ever written. However, it was a total flop when published. I’ve since received all rights back for the work, and my agent is shopping it around. Perhaps it’s the dumbing down of our school system that’s the culprit. Or, maybe my self-vaunted work sucks–who knows for sure?

Which brings me back to my original premise (which I probably failed to bring to the forefront of this missive): is it worth all the time, effort, and expense for authors to present their work to the (very limited) public? Are thirty reviews at Amazon worth more than ten or fifteen? Does it really matter one way or another? Inquiring minds want to know.

What are YOUR thoughts about it, as a reader, writer, or both? I would truly relish hearing YOUR viewpoint!

e-michael-helms-headshotMichael Helms is the author of several novels, and one non-fiction work, The Proud Bastard, a memoir of the author’s service in Vietnam as a combat Marine. He currently writes the Mac McClellan Mystery series, published by Camel Press. Visit him at his website:

http://www.emichaelhelms.com

or at his Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/E.-Michael-Helms/e/B001K90FSM/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1446520523&sr=1-2-ent

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Author Appearances by Carl Brookins

Dark. Night. Moon up there somewhere. Temperature in the low teens and the raw windinsidepassage numbed my nose. We stumbled across an ice-rutted parking area in the industrial heart of a suburb somewhere on the northern fringe of the city. Box trucks, vans. Shiny automobiles. Harsh floods bolted high on the concrete walls of the narrow parking space sent needle-sharp shadows caroming off dingy windshields. Behind me a faulty compressor rattled in its cage against the concrete block wall. The wind moaned low.

I slowed and scanned the area, noting two small huddled clusters of figures. Male or female it was impossible to tell. They were plotting a move or sharing a joint. The lone point of color was a garish red orange sign, OPEN, over a glass door. Behind the door, a raucous crowd sampled beer from Bent Brewstillery, ate Jimmy John sandwiches, told each other jokes and lies.

I pushed my way through the tables, heading to the bar. Behind a tall iron-barred barrier, two-story fermenting tanks stood silent sentry duty. Overhead, set against the ribbed ceiling, big televisions sprayed silent electrons of colorful light from sports competitions that the crowd mostly seemed to ignore.

brookins-signingThe trim bartender in a tight t-shirt raised her plucked eyebrows at me. I pointed at the menu and gestured for a small glass of beer. We were checking out an event hosted by a microbrewery. The server poured a glass of rich amber fluid and took my money. My companion and I eeled through the press to the middle of the room where we found a table and two empty chairs. The crowd, a mixed range of ages, got louder and bigger. In another time the atmosphere would have been thick with cigarette smoke. People shifted and surged around the room. I glanced around again slowly, wondering how many were carrying.

A large bearded fellow in a dark woven stocking cap aslaunch on his forehead picked up a wand and cleared his throat into the sound system. He looked like he could handle himself. He looked like he could be competently employed at any of a dozen downtown bars as door minder or bouncer. He muttered an expletive and welcomed the crowd. The beer was excellent. Applause rattled the pile of old board games. Another Noir at the Bar evening of dark readings by local crime writers about nasty, violent crimes, was about to begin. There were a few minor celebrities from the local crime scene in the audience.

The mob organizer of the evening, dressed in in a long dark floor-length gown took the brookins-costumemike. She stared malevolently at us until the restive crowd subsided. Her reading was followed by excerpts read by several local authors. In between readings we all had a few drinks. I read a few paragraphs, a teaser, from my latest detective story, “The Case of the Stolen Case.” There were few questions. I thought it was well received. We drank a little more and I contemplated the sometimes doleful role of the author. Did we sell any books? I can’t say for sure. Later, a short indie film was projected on the painted block wall. We escaped with our lives into the cold and windy winter night.

Authors find themselves promoting their books in some surprising circumstances. The cliché that we lead solitary and lonely lives is just that—a cliché. And even those of us who concentrate at the darker end of the writerly spectrum, often enjoy a relatively normal life with friends, lovers and other writers

brookinsBefore he became a mystery writer and reviewer, Carl Brookins was a counselor and faculty member at Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Brookins and his wife are avid recreational sailors. He is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Private Eye Writers of America. He can frequently be found touring bookstores and libraries with his companions-in-crime, The Minnesota Crime Wave.
He writes the sailing adventure series featuring Michael Tanner and Mary Whitney. The third novel is Old Silver. His new private investigator series features Sean NMI Sean, a short P.I. The first is titled The Case of the Greedy Lawyers. Brookins received a liberal arts degree from the University of Minnesota and studied for a MA in Communications at Michigan State University.

http://www.carlbrookins.com/

https://www.facebook.com/carl.brookins?fref=ts

@carlbrookins

Buy links:

The Case of the Yellow Diamond http://www.amazon.com/Case-Yellow-Diamond-Sean-Mystery/dp/0878398163/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1448218939&sr=8-1&keywords=the+case+of+the+yellow+diamond

Come and enjoy a time of conversation with author Carl Brookins as he talks about translating his sailing adventures to fiction and creating fictional characters that feel like old friends. Brookins is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Private Eye Writers of America. He can frequently be found touring bookstores and libraries with his companions-in-crime, The Minnesota Crime Wave.