Tuesday, April 15, 2014

At the Blog Hop

"It is hard enough to write books and stories without having to explain them as well."
-Ernest Hemingway

Befriending fellow mystery authors will keep you hopping It can also get you into all kinds of interesting mischief. One of my favorite mischief makers is Barbara Jean Coast. The brainchild of authors Heather Shkuratoff and Andrea Taylor,  BJ is fab social butterfly- about- town and the author of the Poppy Cove Mystery series. The first, Strangled By Silk ( Cozy Cat Press)is now available, and the second Death of A Beauty Queen is coming soon. And since I've had the privilege to read an advance copy I can tell you it's another fabulous 50's mystery, set in the fictional and lovely St. Lucia, California, filled with mysterious twists and turns, all told with BJ's stylish wit and panache.

Anyway, when BJ summoned me to a Blog Hop I had visions of girls in poodle skirts and saddle shoes dancing with boys in varsity jackets, sipping chocolate malts and slipping quarters into the jukebox as Elvis and Chuck Berry rocked on.

But instead of sending me quarters for the juke box, she sent me four questions to answer.  I love shilling for others on the radio and in cross-promotion, but yakking about my own work is not my favorite thing, kids.  But I said I would, so here goes:

Question 1:What am I working on?

I wasn't sure there would be a third, but  fans of the first two cozies in the Eliza Gordon Mystery series Killing Time and Dead Silent are clamoring for what's next. And, frankly, Eliza and her sidekick Midge Sumner have been making so much noise rattling around my brain they simply can't be denied. Their latest adventure -which takes them into the competitive and complicated world of higher education may also unveil details from Eliza' sturdy but tentative love interest Goodship's dishy police chief Tom Santini's past. Will what's revealed nix the romance or finally seal the deal? I can honestly say: I don't know. Eliza hasn't decided yet, or if she has, she has yet to clue me in. Readers love weighing in on Eliza's romantic future, so some may be disappointed. I hope Eliza won't be among them.

Question 2: How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I'm not re-inventing the cozy wheel, just putting my spin on it. My comic sensibilities, love of music, movies and food all play into the mix. And I am as intrigued with the characters' inner lives and delving into their psychology and relationships as the mysteries with which they find themselves embroiled.

Question 3: Why do I write what I do?

It's a mystery! I love the genre, but it's not the only thing I write. I'm also a playwright, whose quirky, serio- comic plays have been produced in festivals in New York City and around the country. After the third installment, I'll be leaving Goodship for a while.I have a few other projects brewing: a psychological thriller, a family saga, and a literary romance. I'm not sure which one I'll tackle first. But you can bet the characters with the loudest voices and most urgent stories will grab my attention next.

Question 4: How does my writing process work?

I show up at the page. What comes out is often a mystery to me. It sounds all airy-fairy and magical and it is--sort of. The truth is: sometimes you have to cajole the muse, sometimes she wakes you up at 3 AM. But you just have to show up. Every day. For me the process is frenetic. I walk around a lot and often read scenes aloud. Most people think I'm nutty, but I write all of my first drafts on a my-pad-which is an old-new fangled thing also known as a yellow legal pad ( in desperation a  spiral notebook will do; but I abhor wide-ruled). I believe in the pen-paper-soul connection. And since I need a Rosetta Stone to read my own writing, it's a great incentive to hit the computer and start in on the second draft. The work itself flows organically, though with mysteries there is more deliberate plotting and strategically planted clues.

Now meet  a pair of  fab authors who will keep this blog thing hopping:

Andrew Cotto is a writer and teacher who lives in Brooklyn, NY. He is the author of two novels: The Domino Effect is a coming-of-age story about a kid from Queens with a damaged past and a complicated present at a boarding school in rural New Jersey; Outerborough Blues: A Brooklyn Mystery is an unconventional noir about a drifter seeking a missing person and a remedy to his family’s curse in the dawn of urban gentrification. His novels are represented by Dunow, Carlson and Lerner Literary Agency. Andrew’s articles have appeared in many national journals, including the New York Times, Men’s Journal, Salon, the Good Men Project and Teachers & Writers Magazine. For the past six years, Andrew has taught composition courses and creative writing workshops in New York City. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School and a BA in Literature from Lynchburg College.

J.P. Choquette: Began her writing career as soon as she could hold a pencil, writing and illustrating "books" that were held together with glue and staples. Like many writers, her career has taken twists and turns. From newspaper reporter to copywriter, J.P. has honed her skills, finally publishing her first novel Epidemic in the spring of 2013. Her second, Dark Circle was recently released. She lives in Vermont with her family and is working on her third suspense novel.

OK, kids, tag, you're it! Oh, thanks again, BJ. But you still owe me a handful of quarters and a chocolate malt.

Cheers and onward,


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Start Me Up Again

Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work. ~ Stephen King

Start with the smell of burnt toast. Or look for a pair of missing earrings. Try falling out of love. Or waiting for an interview for a job you desperately want ( or one you never thought you'd have to get). Start with a line from a song or a classic movie. Look at a snapshot from a family album. Or a photo from the newspaper.

These are all prompts I have used in creative writing workshops to help writers tap into the creative well that is available to every artist. We typically use the first twenty to thirty minutes of each session to just write, write, write. The prompt is merely a suggestion- a jumping off point- which can be used or eschewed in favor of an image or idea rumbling around in a writer's head. The premise: uncensored, uninhabited writing can open the creative passageway often blocked by the raging self-doubt of that pesky inner critic who always seems to tag along for the ride.

After we finish writing, folks can share or pass ( I'm the only one who never passes; I think as the facilitator it is incumbent upon me to share). No one offers criticism. How can we? We know the work can't be very good; it is after all, a very raw, rough draft. People can, however, mention a particular image that stood out, if they are so inclined.

The surprising thing: many of the images, turns of phrase, characters, are often vivid or amusing or touching. Some even serve as starting points for stories and poems, scripts and even books. You'd be amazed at what your inner artist can do when s/he is left to play without fear of recriminations, without that pounding "It's no good," "No one will care," "No one will ever publish this."

These exercises give you permission to try, to play, to experiment. And once you dip into that creative well, you're apt to dip in again and again.

Is something burning? It may be your desire to connect or re-connect with your inner artist. Or it may just be your breakfast. Either way, it's time to get started.

Cheers and onward