Guest Blog: Mystery Author Victoria Thompson

Today’s post is, as promised, by a former professor, current bestselling author Victoria Thompson. She is writing a series of cozy mysteries called the Gaslight Mystery Series. This is the 15th, wow, 15th novel in that series. Check out the first one here.

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Gaslight Mystery Series

MURDER IN CHELSEA, Berkley Prime Crime, May 7, 2013 release.

WRITER TO THE RESCUE

So what does an author do when she’s written herself into a corner and can’t for the life of her figure out how to get out of it—all while thousands of fans are clamoring for her blood?  That’s the situation in which I found myself last year at this time.

If you are a fan of the Gaslight Mystery Series (Berkley Prime Crime), you know that Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy of the New York City Police and Midwife Sarah Brandt have been solving mysteries and gradually falling in love over the first 14 books in the series.  Unfortunately, I had started the series by creating insurmountable barriers to their ever getting together, never realizing that the series would become so successful or that readers would become so invested in Frank and Sarah’s lives.

Now let’s face it, how many mystery writers are lucky enough to have a series that runs for 14 books? I count my blessings every day. But in the spring of 2012, I realized that if I didn’t take care of Frank and Sarah’s relationship, readers probably would not keep reading. But how to do it without ruining the dynamics of the series? I was getting desperate, so I vented to my classmates.

Classmates?  Yes, I was just finishing up my master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University.  One of my classmates, David Wilbanks, who writes Science Fiction and had at that time never read anything I’d ever written, took my challenge and sent me a list of about 20 things that could happen.  Unlike me and my fans, Dave was unencumbered by knowledge of the characters involved, so his solutions didn’t have to be feasible or even sensible.  His ideas were outside the box.  Some of them were even outside the Universe.  But one of them was the perfect solution to Frank and Sarah’s problems!

If you’re expecting me to tell you what that solution is right here, I’m sorry.  I write mysteries, so I’m not giving away anything that might  spoil the book for you.  I will say that in MURDER IN CHELSEA you will finally get to see Frank Malloy propose to Sarah Brandt. Of course they also solve a couple murders and locate the birth parents of Sarah’s foster daughter into the bargain.  This is a mystery series after all! And to thank Dave for his help, I named a major character after him in MURDER IN CHELSEA.

So this is how a fellow writer rescued me, saving me from the wrath of frustrated readers!  You can see how he did it by reading MURDER IN CHELSEA, a May 2013 hardcover release from Berkley Prime Crime.  It’s also available in all electronic formats. Please let me know if you like the solution by contacting me though my website, www.victoriathompson.com or liking me on Facebook at Victoria Thompson Author or following me on Twitter @gaslightvt.

MurderInChelsea

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It’s been a while

Well, it has been a while since I posted a blog. That is my fault. I have been busier recently than I have been in a long time. I wanted to blog, I really did but with work, being a family man, getting my house ready to sell, and studying for an exam, I really haven’t had time.

I wanted to post this introduction a little earlier, but again, time has not been on my side. This is an introduction to a blog that will be coming later today. I have a guest blogger, Bestselling Mystery author Victoria Thompson. Maybe you have heard of her, maybe not. She was one of my professors when I got my Masters in Writing Popular Fiction. I studied mysteries and suspense mainly and I couldn’t think of someone better to help me learn about this than someone who has their 15th novel in a series coming out soon.

This is a cozy mystery but it also has some romantic intermingling between the characters. I highly recommend this series. Anyway, here is her cover, for a little taste of what’s to come.MurderInChelsea

New Superman Trailer

I have always been a Superman fan. I think he’s a great hero. Conversely, I have never been a fan of the movies. The Superman movie that came out a few years ago was pretty bad. So I am leery of this one. But who knows. It may be good. I usually don’t wait to hear what others say about movies and I don’t usually care what they have to say, but I have been burned by Superman movies in the past. Should I wait or line up for release day?

Are you going to watch this?

A place for cheap and free books

As a writer, one of the most important things I must do is encourage others to read. I find that getting new people to read is more important than anything. Sure you can be a writer without having readers, but what is the fun in that? Along with being a reader and writer, I find that I am also in need of saving some money. So, with that, I offer you this. It is called ebookbargins. It is a place to find discounted books, sometimes free.

I have no personal stake in this website. I just want to pass it on to you. http://www.emysterybargains.com/?ref=GRRdJ

What I wish I’d known (Part 5)

Here is the final installment of my posts on what I wish I had known as a beginning writer. You can read the other installments by beginning here, then part 2, part 3, part 4.This one is a little different than the others. It doesn’t have to do with writing techniques specifically. This is something you may not think about in your writing at all. As a writer, you need to:

5.    Figure out your audience
One of the major things that you need to figure out when you are writing is who you are writing for. This is your intended audience. Are you writing primarily for readers of science fiction or romance? You need to write with those readers in mind. For instance in general, science fiction should have some element of the fantastic that is futuristic or involves technology at least. For a general romance, you need to make sure you have a couple that will fall in love gradually throughout the book. Yes, I am painting with a broad brush here but I hope you get the point. With that being said, there are rules you must follow to provide your readers with the enjoyment they expect from your genre.
If you, as a writer, fail to follow the genre rules, you will lose your readers. Think about mysteries for a moment. Mystery readers expect, well a mystery. Readers must, and this is important, be able to figure out the puzzle either right before or at the same time as the main character. Writers must follow rules and share the clues with the audience. If they don’t and the mystery is unsolvable, you will have unsatisfied readers.
Recently, my wife and I were watching a mystery themed television show. Right on cue, there was a murder, the detectives show and they collect clues. Soon they were doing interviews and the story was moving right along. The net was getting tighter as certain clues were reevaluated and suspects were accused and released. I usually have some sort of idea as to who the murder is because, let’s face it, there is a typical flow that many mystery shows follow. With this one, I had no idea. I felt left out.
Well, when it came to the reveal at the end, it was not who I expected. The murder was a random character that was introduced at the beginning of the episode and then shuffled off screen. Viewers were given no clues that she was involved and as a viewer I felt cheated. Now, this particular instance will not make me stop watching the show, but if it continues, I may stop watching.
For those interested, the show is Castle. I am a big fan, not only because of the writing but because the main character is a writer. The writers of the episodes usually play fair with the audience and my wife and I always place accusations during the episode of who the murderer is. Most of the time we are right, but with this one recent episode, we were unfortunately way off. When the credits rolled, we both felt unsatisfied. Personally, I wasn’t as gung-ho to watch the next episode the next week. Although I will.
Now, if you do not write genre fiction there may not be many specific rules to follow. One thing you can do is pick a single person you would hope would love your writing. If only one person was going to read your work, it would be this person. Some people write for themselves and are pleased with not sharing a single word with others. Others want the world to read their work and enjoy it. So I say find that person but be sure you choose the right person as your intended reader. Think about how they would react to certain scenes. Would they be excited, would they feel cheated? These are important to figure out. Have this person in mind as you write. Then when you write, write your story as a love letter to their imagination.

I hope you enjoyed this series. I know I enjoyed writing it. I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject or maybe something you would like to read about.  Thanks for coming along with me.

What I wish I’d known (Part 4)

Here is my continuing series on the five things that I wish I’d known when I started out writing. Check out the other parts one, two, and three.

4.    Research is useful (write what you don’t know)
I am sure you have heard somewhere that you should write what you know. Yes, that is good. You can do that and produce writing that you may feel is important. But if you write what you don’t know, you can really grow as a writer. Writing about what you don’t know can open your eyes to new things. I am not saying you should wing it. No, do your research.
One of my favorite authors, David Morrell, (He wrote First Blood and many great novels since then)  is an avid researcher. He has gone to classes to learn about hand-to-hand combat, knife fighting, and weapons training just to name a few. He became a pilot so one of the characters in his recent novels, The Shimmer, would be a realist pilot. Sure he could have read about these things, but reading about them wouldn’t have given him the same experiences as going out and learning them firsthand. Firsthand experience is a great way to make those scenes real.
When I was writing my unpublished novel, my main character drove a very expensive car that I could never afford. But there was a car dealer in town and I used the words that you may find useful in the future: “Hi, I’m an author and I’m doing research for my next novel. I’d like to…” When I used those words, I was handed the keys to a car I would never be able to afford. Better yet, I didn’t have the hassle of dealing with a car salesman. He was more than happy to help. Better still, by getting to experience the car firsthand, I was able to understand its limitations. I knew how I realistically could use it in the plot and even how it felt sitting behind the wheel. I was able to write it and know my stuff in a manner that was realistic and believable.
When you do solid research and put in the time to really know your subject, you will finally be able to write what you know. And because you started out writing what you didn’t know, your new piece will not be tired and boring.

What I wish I’d known (Part 3)

This is my continuation series on what I wish I’d known when I began writing. You can check out parts 1 and part 2.

3. Study Writing to be a better writer

When I was starting out as a writer in middle school and high school no one really told me that I had to study writing to be a better writer. I didn’t like to read, I didn’t like to study, so I did neither. Because of that, my writing never grew as it should have. Once I discovered reading and how I can learn from my favorite authors I got better.

Additionally, I find it best to study what I want to write. I am a big fan of Patricia Highsmith and her suspense. So when I am writing suspense, I always read some of her works. When I want to write great characters, I read Stephen King and study his character arcs. I can emulate their styles to make my writing better.

One way that I have studied writing was to have a book by an author I want to write like open on my desk. I did this with Dave Barry’s fantastic, first novel, Big Trouble. I have read it many times. It is hilarious and a quick read. When I decided I wanted to write a comedy novel I opened his book. I studied the structure, I analyzed how he unfolded the jokes and I did my best to emulate that. When I actually sat down to write my comedy novel, I had his book open on my writing desk and introduced characters in much the same way. I read a page and structured my writing like his. I went as far as analyzing the jokes per page and did my best to have the same amount. My characters were introduced much like his and got into situations that were similar. I will say that I didn’t copy his characters, but I followed the structure so closely that I hoped my book would be taken as another book written by him.

In the end, I had only one problem and it was a major one. I can’t write anything that anyone would consider funny. I did make a pretty good story but the characters were closer to Dumb and Dumber without the hilarity.

Am I the only one that has done this type of thing or am I alone. Comment below.

What I Wish I’d Known (Part 2)

This is a continuation of my series of five things I wish I knew when I started writing. If you have just begun please see the first entry here.

2. Rewriting your work is a chore

One of the things that makes a writer a writer is rewriting. This is where the real work takes place. This is how a story molds into its final form. When writing, you can sit and put words down and worry about them later. Rewriting is the later you had to worry about. When I write I can create a page of text in a half hour or less if I am going at a good clip. When I am rewriting, there are times when I will meticulously scour every line or word of my writing just trying to get it right. It can take at least an hour or more to get a single page to the way I really want it. To steal a phrase from Hemingway, the hardest part of writing is “getting the words right.”

Just because rewriting is a chore, it doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. I love rewriting. I have already done the hard part of making up the story that I am trying to get out there. When I rewrite I get to revisit scenes that I was excited to write and now I can make them better. I can tie everything together in that one little way that needs to exist so the story is whole.

When I rewrite I can add those transition scenes and take out the useless portions.

When I rewrote my novel, I started with 500 pages. When I was done, I whittled it down to just over 300. It was a chore, but those 300 pages are so much better than the original 500.

Come back tomorrow and see what number 3 is. Do you have  any experiences with rewriting? What do you think about it?