Monday, February 27, 2017

Living the Life You Write

Don't let the title mislead you.

I'm not saying that I live the life of a murderer, murder suspect, murder investigator, or murder victim. At least, I sincerely hope not! Let's set aside genre for the moment and just talk about characters and settings.

I grew up reading V.C. Andrews novels. Yes, I did! And one thing I noticed is that her characters (at least in her earlier series, such as the Casteel, the Cutler, and the Logan family series) went from one extreme to the other--dirt poor to filthy rich. There didn't seem to be any middle class in her characters. Never having been either extreme, I found it hard to relate to those characters (though the stories were a guilty indulgence, much like watching reality TV is these days!)

I suppose I could write about a wildly rich family and all their trials and tribulations, but I think I'm too practical minded. The very thought of hosting a multi-million dollar wedding for a child of mine makes me physically ill. So does the idea of paying full price for an item at Dress Barn when I have a coupon that will take 10% off. You get the picture.

Poor characters are ones with which I can more readily identify. Not that I've had to worry about starving to death on the streets (thank you, Lord) but I know the hollow feeling that comes with deciding which bill to pay and how to squeeze grocery money out of a squeezed-dry budget. I know what it feels like to skip a simple $1 cup of coffee from McDonald's simply because you need that dollar to pay for bus fare to your next job.

Living the life you write has to do with how the writer--and the characters he or she creates--deal with everyday life. Whether a character is rich or poor or in between doesn't change whether that character is whiny and self-absorbed or feisty and hard-working. It doesn't change how a character views the world around him or her. Either they are eternally optimistic and see beauty in the poorest surroundings or they're clinically depressed pessimists who will always find a flaw, even in Heaven. Either way, the story will be unique to that character.

It's good to have a mixture of characters and settings, but ultimately, it's the author's perceptions that color the characters' world.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Silence--A Writer's Best Friend

There are some folks who can lose themselves in the hustle and bustle of daily life. They can slip away in their minds despite all the noise and busy-ness around them. It's something I've learned to do while at my daily job in retail (Walmart isn't known for being a quiet place!) I can tune out the noise and distractions of dozens of people talking, squawking announcements from the P.A. system, the sounds of carts and racks rolling over tiled floors and the noise from the chicken fryer (which sounds, disconcertingly, like thunderous applause.)

As a writer, though, there are times when the noise just needs to go away. I can usually work with the day-to-day sounds of everyday life at home, including the TV going on while my husband and son discuss the respective merits of the Cowboys and Steelers. I'll usually set my Pandora station to play '80s pop or classic rock from the '70s while I prepare dinner. But when it comes to actually sitting down and writing, that's when I need some silence.

Right now, I've been given the incredible gift of solitude and silence for about ten days. I'm off from work and accompanying my husband on an out-of-town trip while he obtains his contractor's license. Except for the refrigerator humming, the heater clicking on, and traffic passing by on a nearby street, the only sound to be heard is the clicking of my laptop keys. No, not even the sounds of Pandora playing Dan Fogelberg or Pat Benatar.

I have learned to write in the midst of the noisy world. I had to. Moments of silence are rare when one is trying get through an ordinary day's chores and obligations and deadlines don't wait. A writer's thoughts have to shout to be heard and, as almost anyone will tell you, tone of voice conveys a lot. In silence, a writer's thoughts can be heard in the tone in which they're meant to be spoken and the meaning can come through more clearly.

So I will cherish this time and make the most of it. Enjoy your silence when you find it!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Meet Gilian Baker, author of the Jade Blackwell mysteries!

One of the perks of being a cozy mystery author is getting to meet new cozy mystery authors... and new friends! Let me introduce you to Gilian Baker, author of the Jade Blackwell mystery series!

Gilian Baker is a former writing and literature professor who finally threw in the towel and decided to just show ‘em how it’s done. She has gone on to forge a life outside of academia by adding blogger & ghostwriter to her CV. She currently uses her geeky superpowers only for good to entertain cozy mystery readers the world over. When she’s not plotting murder, you can find her puttering in her vegetable garden, knitting in front of the fire, snuggled up with her husband watching British mysteries or discussing literary theory with her daughter.  

In her next life, she fervently hopes to come back as a cat, though she understands that would be going down the karmic ladder. She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona with her family and their three pampered felines. 

The first in the Jade Blackwell cozy mystery series of books about a woman who blogs by day and solves crimes by night, Gilian Baker’s Blogging is Murder is already winning over cozy fans and authors alike.

Gilian Baker is the author of Blogging is Murder, the first in the Jade Blackwell Mystery series. Blogging is Murder will be released on Amazon on February 19, 2017 and is now available for pre-order.

Could you tell us a bit about your most recent book and why it is a must-read?
Sure, Amy. Blogging is Murder introduces readers to Jade Blackwell, a former tenured English professor who left the rat race behind to start a blog. She’s a vivacious reader of classic mysteries and is lovably nosy.:) In the first scene she learns that her friend and fellow blogger, Liz Collins is being cyber-stalked by a crazed fan. Things escalate quickly— the stalker is murdered and Liz is the prime suspect. To help her friend, Jade sets out to prove she didn’t do it. Unfortunately, Jade’s “help” ends up making matters worse, and Liz is thrown in jail. Full of guilt, Jade enlists her friend and lawyer Gabrielle Langdon to take the case. After many false starts, plot twists and mishaps, Jade accidently breaking the case wide open, while putting herself in harm’s way.

What are your writing techniques? For example, do you pants it or plot it?
The first step for me is to come up with a kernel of an idea and then just start writing. I write until I come up against something in the plot I’m not sure how to handle or until I’m out of ideas of what to write next. When that happens I take a break from it for a day or so. I might journal about it too. I find that the answers to the plot problem or where to go from there is inside me. I just have to coax it out.

After the plot and characters have developed enough for me to get a clear picture of where I’m going, I’ll go back and add in clues, red herrings, etc. Sometimes I have to add a new character or change an existing one based on where the plot is going.

I’ve tried to sit down and plot out each chapter, but all I do is stare at the page. I just can’t write fiction that way. Maybe it’s because I do everything else as a plotter—I’m a planner, organizer and list-maker to the extreme. So when it comes to the creative thing in my life, my mind won’t do anything but pants-it.
Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day?
Yes, I do, for now. I taught college English for years, but was able to “turn in my syllabus” over a year ago. Now I have a few different day jobs, including a ghostwriting service. As I’ve written and marketed this first book though, “author-ing” has become a large part of most of my work days. I expect with book two and beyond it will become even more so.

What is the biggest surprise that you experienced after becoming a writer?
The biggest surprise has been that the writing process is the same no matter what you are writing. As I said, I taught college student how to write for years, so I “get” the writing process. But somehow, I thought writing fiction would require a different type of process. But I find myself using the same one that I used when I was writing literary criticism in grad school. I find that concept fascinating and exciting.

Tell us a little about your plans for the future.

I’ve started working on the second book in the Jade Blackwell Mystery series. It will be released in May 2017. I plan on moving further into the world of “author” and moving out of earning my living through the other types of writing I currently do. In addition to the Jade Blackwell mystery series, I have an idea for another cozy mystery series percolating now. I look forward to “authoring” the rest of my life.

Though she was certainly born with all the traits of a world-class private detective, blogger Jade Blackwell believed she would do nothing more than solve the murders in her latest favorite cozy mystery book… All of that changed when her best friend, Liz, is framed for murder. Now it’s up to Jade to help her friend regain her life and get Liz off the hook. What she learns will break the case wide open, while unraveling her faith in humanity and the safety she feels living in the Rocky Mountain hamlet she calls home.

Visit Gilian Baker's website to learn more about her and her book and upcoming news!

The trailer for Blogging is Murder is changing what people think about book trailers. The recently released live action video trailer features real actors, real blogging, and real murder mystery.

View the trailer for Blogging is Murder on YouTube:

Order "Blogging is Murder: A Jade Blackwell Mystery" here!