Monthly Archives: November 2013

Binge reading Robert Crais

Everyone once in a while, I’ll discover a new author, and love the first couple of books so much that I have to have them all. My most recent “discovery” is Robert Crais, a mystery writer recommended by my friend Marilyn. He’s a bestseller, and I’d seen his name before, but never read anything by him.

And now I can’t stop.

Most of his books revolve around a private investigator, Elvis Cole, and his partner and best friend, ex-cop Joe Pike. The books are tightly plotted and beautifully written. Elvis is funny, softhearted when he needs to be, and screws up sometimes. Joe is big, silent, and dangerous. Together they’re a great team.

Best of all, the books take place in LA. I’ll be referring back to them again and again, I’m sure, for atmosphere and street names for Jamie Brodie’s adventures.

If you like mysteries, and you haven’t tried Robert Crais yet, do. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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NaNo update

Whew! I was too busy writing to blog for the past three weeks. But, as you can see from the NaNo widget, I reached the 50,000 mark, and the first draft of the novel is done. It actually came in at about 46,000 words, but rather than try to stretch it, I decided to write a Christmas story that wraps up one of the threads in the novel. It won’t come out this Christmas, because it happens after Psyched to Death, so it can’t be published until after Psyched to Death is published. Probably next fall – then the Christmas story will be right on time.

Researched to Death will be the next book published, and I just sent it to the beta readers yesterday. We have nearly three weeks off over Christmas (the joys of working in academia) and they’ll have time to read it then. I hope to have it published by mid-January. I started looking at images for the cover today and think I found a couple of good ones – but I want to get some other opinions before I decide for certain.

Now that NaNo is over (for me), I’ll take a break for the rest of November and just READ. Other than, you know, maybe writing a short scene here or there for upcoming stories, if they come to me. 😀 This morning I wrote a scene which will appear in a much later book – a couple of Jamie’s old boyfriends meet, with interesting consequences. And no, I’m not going to say which two.

Once I get back from Thanksgiving vacation, I’ll pick up Encountered to Death and start working on it again.

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Plotting on the fly

As you can see from the icon to the right, I’m chugging right along with my NaNoWriMo novel, Psyched to Death…in spite of changing the dead guy AND the killer along the way. 🙂 Sometimes these things just have to be done. Today at lunch, talking with my writing partner, I worked out the ending. It’s always good to know how it’s going to wrap up.

We had a discussion in our writing group yesterday about plot vs. character, and how writing each of those works for each of us. We all write such different things – one writes superhero novels, one writes sci-fi screenplays, one writes literary fiction, one writes (and produces) short films that are slice-of-life stories, one writes erotic romance, one writes vampire stories – and then there’s me and my Jamie stories. Because we were talking about the subject, I did some thinking about the way I plot my stories.

I start with a concept. What would happen if Jamie stumbled across a case of murder connected with academic plagiarism? What would happen if a medieval book was stolen and a blackmailer was murdered? What would happen if the body of a dead student was found in Pete’s department? I usually write the first few scenes first. After that, I may jump around some. Sometimes I know that a particular thing has to happen at some point, and I’ll write that scene, but I’m not sure yet what happens just before that. I don’t always write in order, although I try to maintain some semblance of it.

I need to know pretty early on who the murderer is (or, in the case of Burdened to Death, why Mark killed himself), and what the motive is. That makes it much easier to figure out how to catch the murderer, and before that, how Jamie is going to figure out who the murderer is. It also makes it easier to choose red herrings.

I also need to know what aspect of Pete and Jamie’s relationship I’m going to explore. I don’t need to know how that will unfold, because – this may sound crazy – but Pete and Jamie will tell me that along the way.

I don’t outline. I do sometimes use timelines to figure out on which day something has to happen, especially if the action has to all take place in a week or some other short period of time. I’ve tried to outline, though, and the books usually change so much as I go that I don’t find an outline useful.

For the book I’m writing now, the victim has changed (not a student, but a professor’s boyfriend), the crime scene has changed (not the psych department, but the professor’s home), and the killer has changed (not saying any more about that!). Each time that happens it means that I have to go back through and make sure what I’ve already written matches the new victim/location/killer. Sometimes I’ve thrown out whole scenes. Fortunately I haven’t had to do that during Nano. That’s not good for the word count.

So that’s how I do it. But what works for me doesn’t work for everyone. Each of us sitting around our discussion table yesterday handles plot differently. I expect that there are as many ways to plot as there are writers.

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Guest Post at Whitley Gray’s blog!

Whitley Gray is the very talented writer of the latest m/m book I read, High Concept, and she’ll be doing an author interview here before long. In the meantime, she has graciously allowed me to take over her blog for a day! Here’s the link:

It’s an interview with Jamie. 🙂 Enjoy!

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Role playing a scene

I have a great writing partner. His name is Chris and he’s a writing specialist and the coordinator of our college writing center, which is conveniently downstairs from my office. We try to meet every day at lunch (schedules permitting) to talk about what we’re currently working on. Chris writes screenplays in the Star Trek universe, and since I’m a Trekker of sorts, I know enough about the species and backstory to help him. He’s read every word I’ve written so far, and knows Pete and Jamie as well as I do.

In Psyched to Death, the book I’m writing during NaNoWriMo (i.e. the book I’m writing NOW), Jamie’s boyfriend Pete has to make a decision. His evil mother has contacted his sister, asking all three children to come to her deathbed. She won’t say why. I knew I wanted this to happen, but I wasn’t sure whether I would have Pete go to see his mother or not. He has every reason not to – but I wasn’t sure what he would decide to do.

Until the other day.

We were talking about planning and plot for Psyched to Death, and I told Chris about Pete’s dilemma. He said, “Why don’t we role play it?” So we did. He played Pete, and I played the sister and then Jamie. We recorded it with his iPad, so I wouldn’t have to take notes while we were doing it or try to remember it to write down afterward.

And now I know what Pete will do. Because Jamie (me) asked Pete (Chris), and Pete answered. And it was the right answer.

It was so cool. And all I have to do is transcribe the recording, and I’ve got my scene.

So cool. 🙂

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