Monday, July 21, 2014

San Antonio Bound....

Each summer, 2000 romance writers invade a different city, a different hotel chain.  This year, our annual get together is on the River Walk in San Antonio.

I've been to 2 Nat'ls. The last one being held in NYC. I loved the energy of being in the city. Since my friend and I stayed off site, we road the subway. Once I navigated it on my own and felt like Mary Tyler Moore in the opening credits when I emerged in the middle of Times Square, totally lost, but loving it.

This year, I've been invited to a dinner, two parties, and a lunch for one of my on line groups. And I'm having breakfast with my editor. The last time I went to a conference, I snuck into my one and only party as a plus one.
Stiletto Gang at NYC - me and Laura Bradford

But it's not all party time. I'll be signing at the Literary Signing and signing MISSION TO MURDER at the Kensington signing. Must order signed by author stickers.

And there's the workshops. And I'll have to hit a few of the signings and drag a new bunch of books home to share with my MIL. And see a few local sites, like the Alamo.
The Dakota

I'll be home soon, tired and back at the day job. But the memories from Nat'ls will bode me over until my next conference in October.


11 days away from release date for the digital version of MISSION TO MURDER! Can't wait? Buy your paper copy here.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Out of Character

by Linda Rodriguez
My husband and I have been binge-watching Prime Suspect on Netflix lately. Helen Mirren is awesome, as always, but the ensemble cast is of extremely high quality, also, and the writing is superb. Until. (You knew there had to be an “until” hanging around there somewhere, didn’t you?)

Suddenly, one episode begins with Mirren’s character DCI Jane Tennison doing something so out of character and just plain stupid (for a very smart, savvy character) that both husband and I are screaming, “What? Jane would never do that!” This out-of-character action she has taken is an obvious set-up to provide lots of conflict later for Jane, but between us, we came up with four different ways the author could have set up the exact same conflict without having Jane commit an action totally wrong for her character.

Normally, I don’t even worry about this in movies or TV shows because I usually simply can’t hold them to as high a standard as I do books, but this series is so well-written that I do expect that kind of intelligent writing. It’s happened before in books by excellent writers, as well. I can understand the impulse behind it because I think there are times we all are frustrated in our plotting and tempted by the lazy way to put our protagonists where they need to be.

The writer of one of the strongest, best-written mystery series around (who shall remain nameless because she’s never done it again) did this in one of her books, causing her protagonist to violate the essence of the character the writer had spent four books building up in order to allow that protagonist to learn something the author needed the protagonist to know and to create conflict for the protagonist. It was darned near a throw-the-book-against-the-wall moment for me, and if this author hadn’t already built up so much respect, I would have.

I finished that book, in which the character went right back to being the person delineated in the previous books, and have continued reading that author. Although we stopped midway in the Prime Suspect episode, the others have been so good that we will probably give it a chance and finish it. But I have stopped reading some less-stellar authors’ series when they’ve pulled that kind of boner. If you can’t believe in a character’s reality, it pretty much blows the whole show, I think.

How do you feel about a major character making a move that’s not just a surprise but completely wrong and out of character? Do you just shrug and move on, or does it bother you as it does me?

REPLIES TO COMMENTS (because Blogger):

Mary, yes, a good editor will catch these moments, so if they show up, they're a failure in editing, as well as in writing. It can be a temptation to force your character to do something s/he's too smart/ethical/whatever to actually do, simply because you need it to happen for plot purposes. But there's no sense in working your butt off to create a realistic character to turn her or him momentarily into a cardboard cutout for convenience's sake. 

I know just what you mean about that itch, Mary S. The right motivation can make anyone do just about anything (Sophie's Choice, anyone?), but you've got to show me the motivation. My Skeet Bannion is not a hot dog/cowboy cop like so many protagonists and wouldn't normally charge in alone after an armed murderer with a child hostage, but in Every Last Secret, she does just that because the antagonist has started hurting the child.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Maybe It Was the Water?

Maybe it Was the Water?
By Laura Bradford

Honestly, I have no idea what's come over me the past two and a half months, but whatever it is, I like it. A lot.

Something about this year's Malice Domestic Conference lit my reserve tanks like no conference has ever done before.

Sure, I'm been "motivated" after other writer events over the last almost 10 (gasp!) years, but it's a fire that usually runs for a week (at best) before procrastination rides to the rescue with its trusty extinguisher.

This year's fire started at the conference (May 1st) and it's still burning bright. In fact, since I rolled my suitcase out of the hotel and hoisted it into my car on the last day of the conference, I've written (and sold!) a new mystery proposal, and typed "The End" on a 75 K because-I-want-to manuscript I started plotting in my head two years ago (yet, prior to May, had only written one chapter).

It's almost like there was something in the water that chased away all signs of anything resembling procrastination lurking inside my brain.

Neat, huh?

In fact, it (whatever "it" is) has worked so well, I almost wish I could bottle it and sell it (you know, in case the 75 K because-I-want-to manuscript turns out to be the what-the-heck-were-you-thinking manuscript during the re-read phase...).

Oh, and in case you think heavy doses of chocolate has had something to do with this 2 1/2 month long phase that just might not be a phase at all...I can honestly say, no.


So hip, hip hooray for the motivation and the added helping (or fifty) I got at this year's Malice Domestic Conference! 

And hip, hip hooray for the upcoming release of TAKEN IN--the 9th book in my Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries--on August 5th. I'm officially excited for my readers to get a hold of this installment. It's a hoot!


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Vampire Lestat’s Mom and Rambo’s Dad

By Kay Kendall

Last week the organization International Thriller Writers (ITW) celebrated its tenth anniversary. The star power of authors present at the celebratory conference, ThrillerFest, ran the gamut from supernova to red dwarf. Last year when I went to my first ThrillerFest as a debut author, I was stunned by the numerous super stars in attendance, and also by how kind and generous they were. This year’s meeting was even more jam-packed with sparkling talent.
Anne Rice is in center, with her son Christopher the tall man over her shoulder. Others left to right are R.L. Stine, David Morrell, and Scott Turow. 
Anne Rice wrote her first novel about the vampire Lestat in 1985—she was present. David Morrell wrote his first Rambo novel in 1972, followed by 28 more novels of various kinds—he was there. Ditto Lee Child, father of Jack Reacher, who first appeared in 1997, with his nineteenth tale out next month. Scott Turow dropped by to pick up his award, Thriller Master 2014. His novel Presumed Innocent put the legal thriller on the map in 2000, and eleven more novels followed. Other luminaries who spoke at ThrillerFest (whose books you no doubt either read or at least recognize) include David Baldacci, Steve Berry, Michael Connelly, Lisa Gardner, Heather Graham, M.J. Rose, and John Sandford.

Here I am with T. Jefferson Parker.
When you’re in such company, you can either feel insignificant—or you can choose to be inspired. I picked the latter. The atmosphere was so supportive, of any writer at any level, that it was easy not to be intimidated. One of the main purposes of the ITW organization is to provide a way for successful, bestselling authors to help debut and midlist authors advance their careers. Judging from the two conferences I’ve attended, the contacts I’ve made, and the networking that is ongoing, I can only conclude that this goal is being met brilliantly.

Ian Rankin with Steve Berry in background
Helping to put the international in the conference was one of my favorite authors, Ian Rankin. He flew in from his home in Edinburgh, Scotland, to participate on several panels. He has written nineteen installments in his bestselling crime series featuring Inspector John Rebus. Another of my favorites is T. Jefferson Parker. His twenty crime novels are set in southern California, and his next book is due this October, called Full Measure.  

I have met Rankin and Parker at previous book events and corresponded with both of them. They recognize me as both a super fan of their work and an aspiring novelist. It is heartwarming and encouraging to be treated nicely by one’s literary heroes. Now I can’t wait to return to ThrillerFest next year.  (By the way, I participated on a panel but forgot to ask one of my pals to shoot the photographic evidence. Darn.) 

Cheers to ThrillerFest!
Kay Kendall set her debut novel, Desolation Row—An Austin Starr Mystery, in 1968. The Vietnam War backdrop illuminates reluctant courage and desperate love when a world teeters on chaos. Kay’s next mystery, Rainy Day Women (2015) finds amateur sleuth Austin Starr trying to prove a friend didn’t murder women’s liberation activists in Seattle and Vancouver. Kay is an award-winning international PR executive living in Texas with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Very allergic to bunnies, she loves them anyway! 
Her book titles show she’s a Bob Dylan buff too.