My Author Interview

My tip for this week appears on another author’s site as my author interview. I met fantasy author Madisyn Carlin online when she agreed to write a guest blog for me. To read her post about advice for beginning writers, click here.

In my author interview, I answer such burning questions as which do I prefer: tea or coffee. But, seriously, Madisyn posed some great questions, like how I incorporate my faith in my writing, what message do I want to tell through my writing, and what advice would I give new writers.

Click here to read the interview and please leave your thoughts in the comments.

Mysteries are a Mystery!

After bringing to you several new authors over the last few months, I’m glad to welcome back an old friend, Carole Brown. Carole relates how mysteries are a mystery to write until you dig into understanding the genre. Welcome back, Carole!

It was a dark and stormy night.

Uh, huh. We’ve heard this one before. But what if you start your novel like this…

Lightning split the coal-black heavens into multiple pieces as the bullet-sized raindrops pounded Jason’s hood-covered head, encouraging a mammoth headache to split his head into confusion. 

Mysteries are said to be the hardest genre to write. I believe it, but I also find it fascinating to attempt it.   A few things you have to remember when attempting this genre are simple enough to explain but harder to do. But effort, study and a determination to succeed will put you in a good place to get that mystery book written. 

Investigate the different sub-genres of mystery diligently. Know what will resound with your writing before you begin, or write a few short stories as practice until you recognize which one fits you– classic/traditional, crime, police procedurals/hard-boiled, noir, gumshoe/private detective, cozies, and capers. 

Remember, you don’t want too write like so and so. You want to stand out on your own merits. Add a new element, that coincides with the mystery genre, but makes readers straighten in their seat. Do your diligent homework, study the genre and what is necessary, find that element that will cause you to stand out from the rest, then proceed (again and again) to write your mystery. 

Here are a few thoughts on what helps:

  • Pose your mystery question at the beginning as quickly as possible.
  • Choose an ordinary character who finds himself in extraordinary circumstances OR an extraordinary character who finds himself in ordinary circumstances. Create your characters to stand out, to be ordinary or not, abled to be labeled as: 
    • a reflection of society
    • someone with a bit of sassiness
    • serious with a bent to boredom and over-thinking
    • one who is callous to murder
  • Research and pick your setting with purpose.
  • Red herrings
  • Suspenseful dialogue
  • Set the mood with descriptive language
  • Chapters that keep your reader turning pages, trying to figure out who is the antagonist, what will happen next..

I have two mystery series I’m working on, although one of them is on hold for awhile:  

  • The Denton and Alex Davies series (cozy). A fun, adventurous married couple (even if Denton is a bit grumpy) who travel the U.S. and constantly find mysteries that seem to pop up everywhere. 
  • The Appleton, WV Romantic Cozies series. (A town filled with colorful characters who find their own mystery in each book.)

There is lots more to learn about mysteries, all of it fascinating and helpful. Do your due diligence in studying about mysteries. And if you proceed, you’ll find it’s one of the hardest but most rewarding genres to write in. 

Wishes for great success to you mystery book authors! 

To read more posts on writing mysteries, click here.

*****

BUY AT AMAZON

Toni DeLuca, the Italian owner of DeLuca Construction, finds herself confronted with doubts about her father and his possible deceptions—all because of the mysterious pink notes she’s been receiving.

Relations with Perrin Douglas who has a troubling history—but the first man in years who’s interested her—is building to a peak. Yet Perrin’s own personal problems and his doubts about women and God, keep getting in the way.

Gossip, a Spanish proposal, an inheritance, and a sabotaged construction business may ruin Christmas for Toni’s employees as well as her own happiness.

Will a mysterious person succeed in pulling off the biggest scam Appleton, West Virginia has ever seen? And will this culprit destroy Toni’s last chance at happiness with the man of her dreams?

*****

Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, Carole Brown enjoys mentoring beginning writers. An author of fourteen, best selling, award-winning books, she loves to weave suspense, mystery and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She’s also published one children’s book and is in two anthologies. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. She has found that the traveling and ministering has served her well in writing her novels. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons?  Connect with Carole on her personal blog, Facebook, FB fan page, Amazon, Bookbub, IG, Pinterest, Twitter, Goodreads, and LinkedIn.

Start with the End: Leaving Clues in a Mystery

So happy to introduce to you, author V.L. Adams! In her guest post “Start with the End: Leaving Clues in a Mystery”, V.L. discusses the topic every mystery writer fears–writing a mystery that isn’t the least mysterious–and a way to tackle this problem. Take it away, V.L!

Anyone who’s read more than a few mysteries has probably read a story where they could tell you “whodunit” before the halfway point. When I started my mystery novel, The Source of Smoke, I was petrified that readers would figure out my ending, so keeping the mystery alive was always at the top of my mind. 

I wish I could say I had a beautiful outline when I wrote the book and worked off it as I made my first draft. Unfortunately, that’s not the way my brain works. I tried to plan but only had a rough idea of the novel’s middle. What I did have going for me, though, was that I knew the end.  

Once I established in my mind how and why the ending happened, I used that knowledge to determine what clues I would leave. When I thought about which hints to drop throughout my novel, I sorted the clues into two categories: motivation and logistics. 

Motivation

Why did they do it? Was it love, money, jealousy? Were they trying to keep a secret? A motive isn’t necessary to prosecute a criminal case, but prosecutors will tell you that it’s crucial to the jury. The same can be said for a mystery novel—if you don’t have it, you’ll leave your reader disappointed. 

Writing a mystery is also much easier when you know the character’s reasoning from the beginning. As you’re putting together your scenes and chapters, find the opportunity to show their motive to the reader. When done right, you can demonstrate motivation with as little as a glance or a few words in a conversation. It’s about dropping breadcrumbs. The reader doesn’t have to look down and see them immediately, but they’ll be disappointed at the end if you never dropped them at all. 

Logistics

Could A kill B? Are they strong enough? Do they have an alibi? Mystery readers are looking at every character asking these questions. There are many different ways to approach these possibilities; how you tackle them will vary with the story and character. You may create an alibi for every character but then drop clues that show how one character could have fabricated their statement. Does the corroborating witness have a reason to lie for this person? Did the person looking into the crime thoroughly check the backup details? 

Logistics is another excellent area to show your reader things. You don’t want to say, “She was so strong she could throw a grown man in the ocean,” but maybe you could show a photo of her winning her state wrestling championship in high school. 

It’s helpful to know not only how your villain committed the act but also where all your other suspects were at the time of the crime. That way, you can not only drop information as to the actual culprit, but you can also sprinkle false breadcrumbs, better known as red herrings. 

Conclusion

It may take a few passes through your manuscript to figure out which clues you want to drop and where, but that’s why you edit. If you know your ending when you begin, you can think about the different ways to leave breadcrumbs on logistics and motivation as you go. Beta readers (people who go through the manuscript prior to publishing for the purpose of giving feedback) are invaluable for testing the number of clues you use and the right places. You’ll know you’re there when your beta reader tells you they didn’t see the ending coming, but it all made sense once they were there. 

For more posts on writing mysteries, click here.

*****

Winner of a 2022 Firebird Book Award in the New Fiction category.

What if a convicted murderer is innocent?

Since Charlie’s sister was killed, Charlie has dedicated herself to being the perfect guardian for her niece — even if it means the painful sacrifice of moving back to the hometown she’d wanted to leave for good. Her sister was murdered by her boyfriend in a crime of passion; case closed — or so Charlie thought.

A series of letters ignites Charlie’s curiosity about the convicted murderer’s innocence. As she digs deeper, she sees things others may have hidden or ignored. She comes to an impasse where she has to decide what, if anything, she’s going to do about it.

Why won’t the universe let Charlie move on? How would someone like her catch a killer anyway?

We often think of heroes as martyrs, but ordinary people can make a huge difference in the lives of others when they’re willing to ask difficult questions. Lovers of small town murder mysteries will find themselves muttering “Just one more chapter, one more chapter…”

V. L. Adams earned her B.A. in photojournalism from the University of Central Oklahoma and her J.D. from the University of Oklahoma College of Law. A life-long lover of fiction, she always dreamed of writing her own book one day. No idea ever felt quite right until her debut novel, The Source of Smoke, a story about a possible wrongful conviction and an ordinary woman asking unordinary questions. She lives outside Dallas, works in non-profit, and spends her days with her best friend and husband, taking care of their three lovely children and nurturing her Harry Potter obsession. Connect with her on her website and on Instagram.

Traveling to New Places Through Setting

“Traveling to New Places Through Setting” comes to JPC Allen Writes from a new author to my site, Judith McNees. Judith uses her own backyard as the setting for her novels and describes her approach to transport readers there. Welcome, Judith!

One of my favorite parts about reading and writing fiction is getting to experience the beauty of nature through the written word. When I began plotting my first series, I had abundant experiences with which to choose a setting. I knew I wanted to take my readers somewhere beautiful. Fortunately, I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Tranquil Shores, Michigan, is a fictional town, but the descriptions of nature throughout the series are primarily drawn from my own experiences while living in Michigan my entire life.

With five of the world’s largest freshwater lakes, which create about 3,200 miles of coastline, over three hundred waterfalls, about five hundred islands, six state forests, four seasons, and more, Michigan has an overwhelming amount of nature to write about.

Part of writing nature is allowing readers to experience the different kinds of weather of each season. For example, my debut novel, A Heart to Cherish, takes place over summer. One scene from that novel describes the heat and humidity of July in vivid detail. If you’ve ever stepped outside your home and experienced humidity that felt like a solid wall, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. I also described the beauty of a Lake Michigan sunrise, the scent of water, sand, and dune grass, and even the breeze carrying the hum of crickets as fireflies blink through flowers and trees during twilight.

In book two of the series, A Heart to Trust, the story picks up in late fall and transitions to winter as the story goes on. My readers experience the cold winds of late fall, the enchantment of the first snow flurries of the season, and the beauty of the first blanket of snow accumulation. Here, when it gets cold enough, we can “see” our breath, and any exposed skin, such as on cheeks and noses, turns red.

I’ve found that engaging as many of the senses as possible makes the setting come alive for readers. They may never come to Michigan, but through my stories, they can experience what it’s like to stroll along Lake Michigan or take a horseback ride through the snow. When you’re in nature, there are always smells, such as the scent of drying leaves in autumn or the earthy smell that comes just after rainfall. There are sounds like the wind sighing through the trees, waves gently crashing along the shore of Lake Michigan, or feet crunching through newly fallen snow. You can feel the heat of the sun or the cold chill of wind whipping through your hair.

I’ve even used beautiful landmarks to acquaint my readers with different feelings my characters might experience. For example, one of my characters describes the feeling of infatuation as similar to standing at the top of a fifty-foot waterfall and looking over. Another character describes the experience of falling in love as similar to standing atop Castle Rock in early spring and watching the large chunks of ice floating along the shore of Lake Superior. Breathtaking but potentially deadly.

Little details like these bring our readers to places they’ve never been to experience the beauty and wonder for themselves. It is always a joy to have readers from Michigan tell other readers that the descriptions of my lovely home state are spot on. If a reader has been bit by the travel bug as I have, it’s one great way to travel without leaving home!

For more guest posts, click here.

*****

Can two broken hearts learn to trust each other…and God?

Grace Morgan has a closely guarded secret. One that also makes her good at guarding her heart. After all, she has what she needs to be content. She won’t make the mistake of falling for another man at work…until the hunky new guy she’s trying not to notice moves in across the hall.

Tyler Danby has a secret, too. Left by his wife, who takes away everything he cares about, he’s nursing his wounds and starting over. When he strikes up a friendship with his quirky neighbor, he wonders whether God might be giving him a second chance at love.

Secrets have a way of coming out. And broken trust is hard to restore.

*****

Contemporary Christian romance author Judith McNees lives in southwestern Michigan with her husband and four of their seven children, along with their three dogs. Her family loves to travel together, but she still believes that her home state is one of the most beautiful states there is. She is a proud stay-at-home mom, stepmom, foster mom, adoptive mom, and grandma, which gives her plenty of fodder for her writing. She holds a B.A. in English from Western Michigan University and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. You can connect with her on her websiteFacebookInstagramGoodreads, and Amazon.

Seasons of Color

Welcome to Kristena Mears, a new guest blogger here at JPC Allen Writes! With fall just around the corner, Kristena writes about the seasons of color and encourages writers to take advantage of colors in their writings.

September is here and with it comes the changing of the seasons. I was never an autumn lover as a child. It signaled the end of summer and the end of fun. Summer had passed and school was back in session. 

I grew up in Northern California. The change of season from summer to autumn didn’t have the beauty I see now in the Mid-West. There are so many colors here in just one leaf. Both areas had the autumn season, both had leaves that turned brown and fall off. In both, flowers die away with the frost. But the colors were different, and this changed the whole flavor of the season.

In the Mid-West, the leaves don’t just turn brown; they turn to crimson, then maroon, then turn into caramel. The dying flowers turn from hot pink to fandango before turning to russet, then ash.

I didn’t appreciate it, but even the slow fade of the seasons in California has worked its way into my writing. Not every scene I write needs these multi-colored descriptions. But it is those that need them I want to focus on today.

When we write, we want to draw our readers in. We want to make them feel the brush of wind blowing through their hair, and feel the need to scratch their arm as we describe the ant crawling its way up over each tiny hair. To do this, we need to draw from each experience and infuse that knowledge into our work. What we see around us, what we feel and experience, these are the images that we put to paper. Both the beauty and the shriveling ugliness.

Then again, is it really ugly? Even the dull and ugly can become beautiful in our words.

Have you ever asked yourself how many colors there are? There are over 18 decillion. Decillion! I didn’t even know that was a number! That’s a one with thirty-three zeros after it.

1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

Scientists have determined that we can see about one thousand different levels of just dark and light and one-hundred levels each of green and red. That’s about ten-million colors just with those two spectrums.

Are we using this kind of description in our writing? When we talk about the evening sky, do we take advantage of all the colors available to us? We can say, 
“The reds and golds blended together and slowly faded to black.” 
Or we can say, 
“Crimson swirled with ruby and violet, painting the sky in beauty, before fading into a smoky gray that was swallowed into charcoal.”

When we write, we have many colors to choose from. We don’t need to go overboard and use a distinct color for everything. Sometimes a red gingham dress, or a faded pair of blue jeans, is just a red gingham dress, and a faded pair of blue jean. But variation of color seems to be especially necessary when we are describing nature and seasons. When we describe the colors in the sky, the mountains or forest, we need to convey the beauty of what we want to reveal to our readers, tingle their senses and transport them into the pages.

I know it takes extra effort for me and it never seems to make it into my first draft. But the effort is worth the outcome. Using descriptive wording is the difference between good writing and great writing. God created amazing splendor for us to enjoy. Each season and each part of the world has its own unique magnificence. There are days and places that seem dull. But even the rainy, overcast days and the bleak wastelands have their own distinctive colors. The words we choose can make them extraordinary and leave our readers hungering for more. 

For more posts on writing about nature, click here.

*****

Today it happened. Keturah became a woman. Her plan to escape an arranged marriage worked. She’s now free to find her brother and live as she chooses. But the lies and deceit catch up with her. If she confesses, will it lead to her death? Is there a path to forgiveness? 
Justus’ devotion to Yeshua results in Abba proclaiming him dead to the family. When Justus rescues a child from slavery, Keturah falls in love with the toddler. But the child’s mother returns, and Justus falls in love. Will Keturah’s jealousy destroy all bonds with her brother? Can they save their relationship?Onesimus, a runaway slave, has a secret. Befriending Keturah, he finds she has a secret of her own. Will the two friends be destroyed by what they hide, or can they learn to give everything to God?
Will running set them free or sentence them to death?

*****

Kristena Mears is an award-winning author, blogger and wife of a C&MA minister. She is an inspirational speaker for both small and large groups of all ages. Kristena is a self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur. She loves history, art, travel, and even research. Out of these, her vivid imagination and inspiring stories flow.
When Kristena’s not busy writing or working her full-time job, you’ll probably find her nose in a book or spending time with her husband and best friend, Mark. She takes frequent trips to the zoo. enjoys cooking and dabbling in photography. Kristena lives in the Cincinnati, OH area with her hubby of 40 years. She has three grown children and three grandchildren.
You can find her books on Amazon or wherever books are sold. 
For more information on Kristena Mears, check out her website, kristenamears.com .

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑