Monday, July 26, 2010

A Parody That's Good For The Heart

Time for a break from my usual yawp about writing.

My protagonist, Pat Montella, loves to cook. Since so many other authors have food-related blogs, I feel obligated to add my voice to the cacophony.

Here's something Miss Maggie likes to sing while Pat's whipping up a batch of fagiole. The song is from that famous movie Gentlemen Prefer Beans:

A beet in the pan may be quite continental
But legumes are a cook's best friend.
A beet may be canned but it won't taste like lentil
in a three-bean soup,
Or navies in brown sugar goop.

Meat goes cold and meals grow old,
Even cheese will grow mold in the end.
But lima or kidney, from Stockholm to Sydney,
Legumes are a cook's best friend.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Last question:

4. Any advice for someone wanting to write a mystery for today's market.

My advice is DON'T. Never, ever, ever, ever write for today's market. Chances are good that today's market will change long before you're done your first draft. Maybe even before you're done your first chapter.

Instead, write something you're passionate about. Tell whatever story is in your heart and soul. Write the kind of mystery you love to read.

Writing for the market is like being a cubicle slave for a mega-corporation who doesn't know your name and doesn't care. And writing pays worse, with no benefits and no 401k. Writing for the market will never bring you job satisfaction.

If you hone your craft until you can communicate well, and if you believe wholeheartedly in the story you want to tell, you have all you need to produce a book people will want to read.

You're a writer. Be your own boss. Don't let anyone else try to tell you what to write. Writers and readers ought to shape the market, not vise versa.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

For the Insomniac

As stated in the last 2 posts, this month I'm answering a friend's questions:

3. If you couldn't sleep, which author's books would you read and why?

Actually, when I can't sleep, I read non-fiction. Something like Science News magazine. It puts interesting facts into my brain while lulling me into slumber. I don't read exciting fiction or I'll be up all night.

If I can change the question to, what author do I enjoy reading at bedtime? I can't pick just one. I almost never read two books in a row by the same author. But if I could pick a few, I'd say Dorothy Gilman, Agatha Christie, Barbara Michaels, Alan Bradley, Robin Hathaway, Polly Whitney, Gillian Roberts, Irene Fleming, Dianne Day...Have I gone over my "few" allotment? I could name at least a dozen more.

Why? These authors write well. They're great storytellers. They're entertaining. They're intelligent and so are their characters. They don't waste my time.

Right now I'm reading Mrs. Pollifax and the Hong Kong Buddha by Dorothy Gilman. I should also add that I'm a very poor bedtime reader. A couple paragraphs and I'm out. I'm more of an afternoon reader.

The only fiction I won't read at bedtime is horror and ghost stories. Then I REALLY wouldn't be able to sleep.

Sweet dreams,

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Let Me Check My Crystal Ball

As I said last week, I'm answering some questions from a friend of mine. Here's her second question:

2. If you could see into the future, where do you see women's mysteries going in the next 10/20 years?

Depends where the mystery book industry goes. Technology and buying habits are changing so fast, it's anyone's guess. The cost of traditional publishing is skyrocketing. Probably less people are buying paper books. I say probably because some folks vehemently deny this is true. The publishing industry is more secretive about their business than the Pentagon. My opinion? I see less people in bookstores. And less mysteries on the shelves.

More people have electronic readers like Kindle and the prices of those are expected to come down until electronic readers are as ubiquitous as cell phones. That said, if you go anywhere people are waiting (train terminal, doctor's office) or relaxing (beach, cruise ship, lunch hour), books made of paper are still the pastime of choice.

Given the pace of Western society these days, readers may very well move toward shorter novels. More and more writers will likely jump on the self-publishing bandwagon, though probably only for a book or two before they find out how hard it is and how fast it drains their bank accounts. The more the big publishers merge and remain rooted in their 19th century ways, the more small presses will spring up to siphon their markets. A fraction of those small presses will avoid bankruptcy and they'll print some truly great mysteries.

I'd love to see more authors take their out-of-print short stories and put them up on the Internet in Kindle format for downloading. Maybe we can start a short mystery Renaissance.

If you mean content, my answer is "Who knows?" Ten years ago, no one was publishing vampire mysteries, now they're everywhere. New York will barely touch a cozy mystery these days, but at least 50% of mystery readers actively seek them out. When my novel BY BLOOD POSSESSED came out in 1999, no one heard of a cross-genre mystery, combining paranormal, history, or what have you. Now they're the big thing. (Note: I did it first. HA!)

My opinion? Predicting trends 10-20 years out is impossible. Trends can change every 6 months. If you're a writer, trends should be the last thing you think about. Writers ought to concentrate on writing good stories and nothing else.



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