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.

 

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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.

 

I’m Thankful

My first thought for a blog today was to post an “I’m On Vacation” picture. You know, the classic chair on the beach, tropical drink on the table. I am on vacation, and it’s Thanksgiving week. Two perfect excuses for taking a day off. That’s when inspiration hit.

happy-thanksgiving

This is Thanksgiving, and I’m thankful for a lot of things.

I’m thankful for E. Michael Helms and Max Everhart the founders of this blog who shanghaied me into writing a weekly blog. (“Oh,” wrote Max, “only 250 words on so, or writing.”) FLW (famous last words – I love acronyms. Makes me think I could actually IM someone). We miss you Max, but wish you the best. And really, I can’t say hello in 250 words. But I guess you’ve noticed.

I’m thankful for the blog. It makes me focus at least once a week on the writing life, and expressing it. I’m thankful for the commenters when I do post. You make me think, and often give me new ideas.

I’m thankful for the vast number of writers who have been willing to guest on MotiveMeansOpportunity. We were a new blog when we first reached out and the response has been impressive. I confess to having more than one personal fan moment. Our guests have introduced us to new books, writing tips, new concepts, and expanded our reach to new readers on a variety of topics. We love them for that—and are inviting each back when it suits them.

Most of all, I’m thankful for our readers. It takes an internet to make a blog successful. Without a regular readership, a blog withers on the vine and dies. Thank you, each of you, who read us and/or comment on a regular basis. Know that this blog belongs to you as well.

What am I grateful for this Thanksgiving? Each and every person reading this blog, and those willing to guest with us, and my blog partners. Write On!

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Author photos 009Kait Carson lives in an airpark in south central Florida with a pilot husband, seven 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.

 

NaNo No No By Kait Carson

 

Oops, I confess. I am a NaNo No No.nano

For those who don’t know, NaNo (a/k/a NaNoWriMo), is the National Novel Writing Month. There are numerous stories behind the creation of NaNo. If the narrative provided by Chris Baty in his NaNo handbook No Plot? No Problem! can be believed, NaNo started out as, a type of post college drinking game on July 1, 1999. Yes. July.  And about the drinking thing? I made that up. Almost.

no-plotOn July 1, 1999 twenty-one writer friends decided to write a novel. Nothing surprising there, they were each writing their own novel. It wasn’t a group effort. To sweeten the pot, they added a ticking clock. They would do it in a month. No Plot? No Problem! is essentially the story of that first NaNo, and a handbook of how to avoid their pitfalls. I highly recommend it. Even in non-NaNo months. My dogeared edition, paged foxed and yellowing, dates from 2004. They say there is a revised one, I’m not sure how you improve on perfection so I’ve skipped it.

My first traditionally published book, Death by Blue Water, was a product of NaNo. I don’t

death by blue water

claim perfection at the end of that November, but I had words on the page. 50,000 of them. Something I could work with. And work with them I did. By the way, the original title of Death by Blue Water was Diving Diva. Which explains my NaNo name… Mystery Diva.

So, why am I a NaNo No No?  That long ago NaNo was my first and my last. Since then I have always had a book in final edits, due for release, in final draft, or another writerly commitment that made attending NaNo an exercise in futility. I signed up every year, but never even cracked the webpage. It wasn’t so bad, I was writing, but I missed the camaraderie that NaNo engenders. The creative synergy that develops when writers beat their heads against the wall in unison.

This year I was in final edits for the third book in the Hayden Kent series, tentatively titled Death Dive. Fingers crossed, in late October I signed on for NaNo. This isn’t my first book, it’s my fifth. I understand how long it takes me to edit. Right? Right. I realize it always takes longer than I think it will and this book was no exception. On November 9th, I sent Death Dive off to my editor, and flopped, exhausted, into bed vowing to write no more until the weekend. Here we are at the weekend. Saturday, I caught up on sleep. Seriously, a four-hour nap should help settle any sleep deprivation. Then today, blog writing day.

I will visit NaNo for the first time tomorrow. November 14th, and I will try to plow through my 50,000 words by the end of the month.  Will I make it? I’ll tell you next month. It’s only 3,333.333 words a day, but whose counting!

Author photos 009Kait Carson lives in an airpark in south central Florida with a pilot husband, seven 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.

 

 

Deception

A blog I contribute to recently used deception for its October theme. What better topic for October? The month of trick…or treat.untitled-design-1

Which will it be? A trick or a treat? Writers specialize in sleight of hand. Mystery writers in particular. We plant clues in plain sight. Playing fair is part of the canon of mystery-writing. We give the readers all the tools to solve the mystery, but we don’t paint them neon orange. Even if it is Halloween.

How do we do it? Sometimes better than others.

In a perfect book, all the clues are carefully laid out. Often beginning on page one. Gotta watch those writers, they’re a tricky bunch. But the clues are disguised as ordinary dialogue, or mixed into a list of items too commonplace to stand out. The clue has been dropped, a few pages later, the red herring usually follows. Red herrings are clues used to take the protagonist, and the reader on a chase to a dead end. So, if the complainant tells you it was a silent night on the moors (red herring), and you happen to be Sherlock Holmes, that’s a huge clue, eventually. In the meantime, the reader, Holmes, and Watson are led on a merry chase considering and discarding suspects until the red herring is revealed as a clue.

How do writers make that work? I have no idea how Conon Doyle did it, but I’d love to ask. If you Google him and look at his picture, you’ll note he has an amused glint in his eye. I’m betting he’s not talking.

How do I do it? Well, first let me warn you. I have never known who done it until the second draft. Sure, I’ve finished the books in the first draft, but the endings never satisfied. During the editing process, I discovered that my clues let not to x but to y. Stop the presses. Red herrings fool authors and readers. That’s a good thing. It tells me my clues are properly planted. So are my red herrings.

halloween-blogBack to the process. I start each book with the victim. I learn all I can about him—or her. In the process of dissecting a life cut short too soon, I uncover clues. I make a list of those clues. Why did that person need killing? Why did the villain think the victim needed killing? Then I decide where in the book those clues will have the most impact, and how to hide them. At the same time, I work up three (or more) alternate scenarios. Who else has motive, means, opportunity? Then I bullet point outline three (or more) different stories, each with a different ending.

Once all the background work is done, I write my book. The book is not outlined. I’m a pantser in that regard. Instead, I write from chapter to chapter letting the characters tell me the story arc. In the end, I have a beginning, middle, and end that work. But usually points me, and often the reader, to the wrong character. In the editing process, I follow the clues again and finally discover who really done it.

It’s all about the deception. The characters always control the story, and they do not play fair. Not with this writer!

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.