Blind Spots

blind spot

We all have them in our relationships, in how we recall incidents from our histories, and I have also learned, in our novel drafts.

Believing that I’d taken Close Up on Murder, the second in my Spirit Lake Mystery series as far as I could, I sent the draft out to my beta readers a couple of months ago, and I’m a lucky writer because each one came back to me with comments and suggestions that helped make it a stronger manuscript.

Their generous gifts of time, expertise, attention to detail and willingness to point out blind spots filled me with gratitude at the start of this new year. Their comments opened my mind to alternative ways of looking at some of the elements in my story, even though it meant going through the painful process of writing new scenes and scrapping others.

It’s been a year since Focused on Murder, the first in the series, was published and that’s also been a lesson in what readers see when they read a book. Every reader comes away with his or her own personal reactions based on their unique interests, history and temperament. Writers and readers are collaborators. That’s an exciting and liberating concept. The only control I have is in the words I choose to put on the page to communicate my vision of the story. After that, it belongs to you, the reader.

As a long-time book lover, I’ve experienced that symbiotic relationship between reader and writer countless times. Writing my own books has been more of a shift in perspective than a huge change. I continue to read as much as always, and read a little differently now because of my experiences writing my own books.

In my next post, I’ll highlight some of the interesting books I’ve read this year, and my reaction to how the writers went about constructing and telling their stories.

Happy reading and writing in 2015!

Forward! But not just yet.

photo (9)

I don’t spend much time looking back. I’m too busy working through each item on my “to do” list, adding a new task as each one is completed. But this past week I’ve been circling, not quite ready to move forward.

I’d thought that after the whirlwind of October and November book panels, a book fest, speaking at the giant Bouchercon conference in Long Beach, and sending my second mystery to my beta readers, I would tackle all the marketing projects I’d put on hold. But that wasn’t working.

What I really needed to do was fill the well, and celebrate my achievements over the past two years. When Focused on Murder came out, I hardly had time to enjoy the moment because I was moving full speed ahead to promote it, and starting the second book in the series.

This week, I’m feeling grateful for the people who continue to support me, and I’m reflecting on all the times I moved through fear to do one more thing that was new and uncomfortable. It was worth it.

To those of you who might have forgotten to congratulate yourselves on your progress great and small this year, I hope you, too, will take a moment to be pleased about what you’ve accomplished.

New Book Cover!

CloseUp_110214 (2)

In Close Up on Murder, Britt’s back in Spirit Lake recharging before her next assignment in South Sudan, when two murders and a string of threats against her brother set her in action. Are they hate crimes or a long-buried act of revenge?

Coming March 2015!

I’d love to hear what you think of this draft cover for the second book in my Spirit Lake Mystery Series.

 

The Truth about Halloween: Origin, Symbolism, and Evolution of a Timeless Festival

ltownsdin:

I’ve been following Luccia Gray’s blog and always enjoy it. Here’s her timely post on Halloween and the interesting history and evolution of this celebration.

Originally posted on Rereading Jane Eyre :

Although many people think Halloween is a modern, commercial invention, it is in fact one of the most ancient, mysterious, and persistent traditions in the British Isles, which has naturally undergone many changes through the ages, and spread to other parts of the world.

Jack-o'-Lantern_2003-10-31

Originally called Samhain, later All Hallows Eve, and finally Halloween, the festivity originated in pre-Christian, Celtic Britain.

The Celts, who are believed to have originated in central Europe, probably around present-day Austria, eventually inhabited most of central and Western Europe, including the British Isles.

Orirgin (yellow) and distribution of Celtic peoples. Areas where Celtic languages remain spoken today (darker green).

The Celts observed only two seasons of the year: summer and winter. Samhain was an important day, because the 31st of October was the last day of summer, and 1st of November marked the first day of winter. Therefore midnight of…

View original 1,111 more words

I’m Ready

For me, this song is about letting go. It’s time to send my second mystery to my beta readers—a huge place of resistance for me. I could easily work on it forever, and almost did that with my first book, just to avoid this step.

For inspiration this morning, I read a chapter about the Inner Censor in Dani Shapiro’s wonderful book, Still Writing, The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life. Her words didn’t derail me, but their effect was probably the opposite of what she intended.

Shapiro said that when her inner censor wants to shut down her creativity, she says things like: “Maybe you should try writing something more commercial. You know, thrillers are hot. Why not write a thriller? Or at least a mystery? ……Why not write a book with a strong female protagonist, for a change? You know, a superheroine.”

Her statement assumes that the reason those of us who write thrillers or mysteries do it because they are commercial, and that those works are somehow less worthy.

I can’t speak for other mystery writers, but I didn’t do it expecting to sell lots of books. These days, especially starting out, it’s a rare writer who does.

I did it because my main character Britt spoke to me. How would a female photojournalist with a strong sense of justice and responsibility reconcile her personal desire to be home and surrounded by her loved ones, with her professional calling—to document the suffering of the vulnerable of the world, usually women and children?

And how would that conflict come into play as she navigates a deadly encounter with an avenging killer stalking her and her brother over a decades-old crime—the core of the mystery. The character-driven puzzle drove me.

In writing a series with a “strong female, almost a superheroine,” I have been challenged and my protagonist has changed me. She’s made me a stronger person, and a better writer as I struggle to find the right combinations of words, setting, characters and situations to understand her and show who she is and how she affects and is affected by her world. She’s drawn things from me I didn’t know were there.

When you place characters in life-changing or life-threatening situations, you learn what they’re made of.

Life is a mystery. We’re all navigating it the best we can, and sometimes our inner (and outer) censors can be motivating.

What songs, mantras or books inspire you to move forward with your creative projects? What steps block you and how do you overcome them?