New Book Cover!

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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…

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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?

SinC-Up Blog Hop

I’m a member of the national mystery writers’ organization, Sisters in Crime (SinC), and was happily tagged by the delightful author and blogger Joyce Mason, to join the September Sisters in Crime SinC-Up for Bloggers. We’re invited to answer questions about ourselves as an author. Here are mine:

What books are on your nightstand right now?

  • Still Writing, The Perils and Pleasures of the Writing Life by Dani Shapiro. I’ve read it and reread it—always inspiring.
  • A Story Larger than My Own—women writers look back on their lives and careers, Edited by Janet Burroway. I’m enjoying reading these women writers as they look back at their long and successful careers. Their perspective is a contrast to my own life. I’m now fulfilling a dream, writing mysteries full time after decades of writing and editing for corporations and nonprofits. I’m excited to wake up every morning and dip into that fictional world I’ve created, and I’m learning more every day about publishing and promoting.
  • The Red Convertible, Selected and New Stories by Louise Erdrich. Many of the stories in this collection have appeared in the New Yorker and other publications. I’m a long-time fan and was thrilled when a dear friend gave this book to me.
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I recently read The Goldfinch, and loved the lyrical writing and wonderful characters, and now I want to read her other work.
  • The Passionate, Accurate Story by Carol Bly. Another old standby, I pick up this book to be reminded of my responsibility to the reader, the story, and to myself.
  • Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I often blog about how my journey through the writing, publishing and promoting process affects me as an introvert—my challenges, milestones and achievements. I watched Cain’s TED talk before picking up the book, and am enjoying delving deeper into her experiences and insights.

In my Kindle queue:

  • The Long Way Home by Louise Penny
  • The Crystal Ball by Joyce Mason
  • All Hallows at Eyre Hall by Luccia Gray
  • House of Dads by June Gillam
  • Too many books to name about writing, publishing and social media.

If someone said “Nothing against women writers, but all of my favorite crime fiction authors happen to be men,” how would you respond?

I would reply, “Nothing against people whose favorite crime fiction authors happen to be men,” but you’re missing out on some of the best writing in the genre.

For me, it’s about the story and the storytelling, and what I’m in the mood to read at a specific time. That works out to be about equal female and male writers.

A good mystery—with psychological depth, interesting setting, flawed and unusual characters, wit and humor, gritty, and a little romance—could be written by a triple-gender space alien and I wouldn’t care as long as it was a well-written story with a few surprises.

If you were to mentor a new writer, what would you tell her about the writing business?

I wouldn’t talk to a new writer about the business of writing. I wouldn’t give advice on what, when, how to or how much to write, and I wouldn’t ever discourage a new writer, because life can get in the way of our best intentions.

I’d say, if you want to write, never let that fire burn out, no matter what it takes. If you’re a mother with a full-time job, elderly parents, sick kids, sick pets, a demanding husband, or you’re barely making ends meet, keep that ember alive, blow gentle breaths into it whenever you can, and when you’re ready it will be waiting for you.

Blog Recommendations 

Part of the SinC-Up blogfest is sharing other blogs readers might enjoy. Please check out these wonderful authors:

Susan Spann, author of the Shinobi mysteries, set in Japan.

June Gillam, author of the Hillary Broome mysteries, poetry and nonfiction.

Julie Williams, author of young adult novels and poetry; mixed media artist.

If It Doesn’t Challenge You, It Doesn’t Change You

photo (15)My daughter owns a women’s fitness gym in Oahu, and these words are printed on the wall: “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”

Recently, I was one of four mystery authors on a panel at a local library. As a debut author, and an introvert with a past history of freezing when all eyes are on me, I was nervous. In fact, my stomach was upset the day before, and I hoped I had the flu so I could cancel.

I used to feel shame about this physical and psychological reaction, but having read Susan Cain’s New York Times bestseller, Quiet, about introverts, blogged about her TED talk (see my March 6, 2012 post) and listened to many others who’ve experienced similar fears, I’ve realized it’s a common occurrence. And I wanted to change.

I’d memorized a short intro about my mystery in case I panicked and forgot what the book I’d been working on for two years was about. The moderator asked me to speak first. Approximately thirty people turned expectant gazes on me.

I spoke through a dry mouth, rushed my intro, mentioned that I was an introvert hoping the audience wouldn’t judge me too harshly, and handed the mic to the moderator as if it were on fire. The group turned their faces to the next speaker.

After those first few moments, I relaxed and eagerly answered the moderator’s questions. After all, the subject of writing and publishing mysteries is what I live day in and day out. I’m passionate about it.

Then the moderator asked me to talk about my biggest challenge in writing and publishing my book—a great question and not so easy to answer because there were many, but the life-changing challenge for me was when I finally let go and published it. Because that meant I was committed to speaking on panels and at conferences, talking to book clubs and saying yes to social events. I didn’t want to be limited anymore because of an old fear of being in the spotlight.

When we were finished, the audience asked lots of questions and stayed to buy our books and chat. I met interesting and engaging people, who were also passionate about books. It was a library after all. The highlight was when one gentleman came up to me and said, “You’re no introvert.”

Maybe not anymore, or at least not all the time. IMG_20140906_152633126 (2)