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

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

What I wish I’d known (Part 1)

Over the next few days I am going to introduce the five things I wish I’d known as a beginning writer. My draft got a little long-winded so I will present it in five installments. Check back over the next few days.

I am not one to create lists. I don’t like to do things in any sort of order or to check things off the list. That’s just one of the things that makes me, me. With that being written, I do have a list of five things I wish I’d known when I was starting out writing.

This list isn’t comprehensive to every experience, but it covers what I wish I knew when I was starting out. I am not saying it would have changed my mind and I would not have become a writer. No, on the contrary, I would have been a better writer sooner.

1. Writing is hard

This is something that many writers will not tell you. Writing is hard. That’s right. You read it here. Writing is hard. At times, it is downright impossible. I never knew how difficult it would be to sit down at the computer or my writing desk and put pen to paper. Making things up can be easy and fun, at least it should be, but for the most part it is not. It takes work, dedication and a schedule. It is hard to be a dedicated writer in the hustle and bustle of today. But if you really want to be a better writer, you have to understand that it takes time.

Writing for long periods of time can also make you tired, anxious, and irritable. Writing takes a toll on your body. I slouch when I write so many times I have a sore back when I am done. Sometimes I write until my hands ache and my wrists are sore. I guess you can say that I suffer for my art.

Many authors that are famous today took time to write. They showed dedication to their task. One of my favorite authors, William Goldman, hates writing. He has produced great works, but because the task takes so long, he doesn’t do it any longer. I really wish he would. I have loved almost every novel and movie he has been a part of.

Come back tomorrow to see number two (rewriting)

“Never Prosper” excerpt

Ethan leaned forward to survey the street like a spy checking for a tail. When Jenny had early morning meetings, sometimes she came home early. It was rare, but his naked guest in their bedroom was a good reason to be cautious.

The road was empty and he was glad, though the possibility of Jenny’s early arrival did add to the excitement.

He took the steaming cup upstairs and placed it on the nightstand next to Rebecca. She did not stir. Ethan looked at his watch again, checked the front window. “I have a feeling Jenny’s gonna come home any second now.”

Rebecca made a grunting sound that Ethan took for an acknowledgement.

Ethan patted her butt. “Come on. Get dressed. I’ll be right back.” Ethan headed down to the living room. They had started in there. Ethan straightened the skewed leather couch, repositioned the white shag area rug, and fluffed the multicolored accent pillows, to give him something to do while Rebecca was getting dressed.

A door slammed outside. Right then, he knew they should not have done this today. Work was too busy for them both to be away for this long. If he were gone any longer people would certainly be suspicious, especially with Rebecca out now too.  He could already hear “Mary the Gossip” whispering into Angela’s ear, “You know about Ethan and Rebecca, right.”

He went to the bottom of the stairs. “Rebecca, you ready?”

When there was no response, he headed upstairs. She could have been in the bathroom and did not hear or she could have been asleep again. He chewed on his fingernail as he listened. Come on.

“Rebecca, we gotta go now.” At the top of the stairs he turned toward his room, Rebecca still lay under the covers, sleeping.

He could feel the red rage building in his face. Ethan stormed into the room, kicked the four-poster bed. “Get up.”

Nothing.

He yanked the dark sheet from the bed. She did not budge. He smacked her on the leg, shook it, and yelled, “Rebecca!”

Nothing.

(Read more here)

Putting the Fun in “The Funeral” by Richard Matheson

Right now, short stories are my passion. I’ve read more short stories over the past few months than I have in a long time. For the most part, I’ve enjoyed all of the short stories and have been able to learn a lot from them. Sometimes I learn how to create a character in a short period of time. Some stories helped me learn how to use minimal elements to tell a complete story. But none have done what “The Funeral” by Richard Matheson was able to do. This story, to me at least, put the fun in funeral. Every movie monster shows up in this short, fun ride and I think you would enjoy it.

The story begins with a somber mood of a character planning a funeral. Funeral planning is never good. To compound this, we discover the character on the page is planning their own funeral. Interestingly enough, because this character is a vampire, he’s been dead for years. The funeral director is very nervous and is trying to be accommodating but things go terribly wrong and it seems as though he doesn’t know what to do.

I thought the story was funny, quick paced, and could be seen as the start of a short story series. I would have liked to story to be a little longer, but I honestly don’t know what could have been added to make it a little longer.

There were a few things I did learn from this story. First, when you are tackling a well-used and well-worn set of characters, you don’t need to go overboard with the descriptions. We, as readers, have seen Count Dracula so many times that all we need to be shown are his pointy teeth and know what he looks like. Likewise, we can see the witch with her cat and don’t need a picture laid out in excessive detail to know who they are and how they act.

Second, I learned that less is more in this story. Over the course of the story we are able to understand that one of the main characters, Skyline, was having a terrible time sleeping. But I didn’t read about the week of sleepless nights. I didn’t see the main character tossing and turning over the course of a week, all I was shown was the bags under Skyline’s eyes. This tells a lot without telling too much. Fantastic.

Thirdly, I learned that sometimes you need to surprise your audience by turning the common tropes on their side and look at them differently to keep them interested. Because this was undoubtedly a monster story, I as a reader knew what was about to happen. So, what happens in all monster stories? Someone gets maimed, eaten, murdered. In short, something brutal happens. If it’s a monster movie, there are gallons of blood. Anyway, this had none of that. There was not a single death and it played well. The main monster, a vampire, was the most cordial of all monsters I’ve ever seen. My favorite moment in the story was when he was asking his “mourners” to be polite and respect the funeral. This was hilarious.

Lastly, I learned that monsters can have a soft side and can be funny and they don’t have to sparkle to draw laughs. That was refreshing.

I was a little disappointed when the story ended and would have liked to see a few more monsters coming through the doors. I wondered if this would become Skyline’s real business instead of burying the dead, he just had funerals for the undead.

If you have read “The Funeral” by Matheson, I would love to hear your thoughts. If you haven’t, I suggest you pick up I am Legend and read it.