Thursday, September 9, 2021

What Will Be the Next Big Trend in Fiction Publishing?

A recent article in WRITER’S DIGEST published an agent’s response to this question which I read with interest. Boiled down to basics, the article suggests the best way to write a successful book isn’t by looking to copy the latest trend which will be over by the time you can finish your new book anyway. The answer: write a quality book. The article got me thinking about mystery and crime fiction in particular. Let’s do a bit of examination. 

The traditional mystery features a detective or several detectives who investigate a crime or series of crimes. The amateur sleuths can work in any number of unique and unusual professions which provide interesting background and setting for the story. They can live in any place in the world. They can be nosy spinsters who live in small English villages or gifted professors who investigate bizarre historical crimes. From cozy to thriller, the amateur sleuth fascinates readers. 

The private detective novel is a mystery genre unto itself. In 1887, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes, the most famous of all fictional detectives. Sherlock Holmes was not the first fictional detective. However, his name is one we think of immediately. Conan Doyle stated that the character of Holmes was inspired by Dr. Joseph Bell, for whom Doyle had worked as a clerk at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Like Holmes, Bell was noted for drawing large conclusions from small observations.  The quirky Holmes was renowned for his insights based on skillful use of observation, deduction and forensics to solve puzzling cases. Conan Doyle wrote four novels and fifty-six short stories featuring Holmes, and all but four stories are narrated by Holmes's friend, assistant, and biographer, Dr. John Watson. The Sherlock Holmes mystique is still celebrated today in books, short stories, films and television programs. Holmes, the “consulting detective,” still fascinates a modern audience of devotees. 

The Golden Age of Detective Fiction, the 1920’s and 30’s, brought many writers of detective stories to the forefront. British female authors like Agatha Christie are particularly memorable. Of the four "Queens of Crime" of that era: Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham, all were British except for Marsh who was a New Zealander. 

In the 1930’s, the hard-boiled private eye novels began to evolve with American writers. Over the years, many interesting writers have emerged in this genre. Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Mickey Spillane, Ross Macdonald, and Robert Parker are just a few of the writers who still resonate with readers. P.I. detectives are tough guys dealing with seedy characters on the mean city streets, the so-called underbelly of society. They are professional detectives who live by a code of honor but rarely earn much for their efforts. They generally have antagonistic relationships with the police and, like the amateur detective, tend to be more intelligent than professional law enforcement counterparts. The P.I. novel was male-dominated until the late 1970’s and early 80’s when writers such as Sara Paretsky, Marcia Miller and Sue Grafton began creating women investigators who were as tough as men. These novels offered more in-depth characterization and, in the case of Paretsky, a social agenda.

 

The police procedural provides the reader with a different type of detective story. In reality, most crimes are investigated by police. This type of mystery stresses step-by-step procedures followed by professional detectives such as processing crime scenes to collect physical evidence, canvassing the area for witnesses or suspects, postmortem examination of bodies in the case of murders, identifying a victim if that is not known, and interviewing known friends, co-workers, relatives and associates. The list is often long and tedious. Not generally so in a novel. Although it is agreed that the police procedural should be accurate in portraying what law enforcement officers actually do, it is not necessary to bore readers to death. Like the P.I. novel, this is action-oriented genre fiction. While the plot may be the backbone of a police procedural as O’Neil De Noux, a longtime police officer and homicide detective, observed in an article written for The Writer (“How to Write the Police Procedural Novel,” October, 1992 issue), the novel won’t interest readers unless there are well-developed central characters-- witness the great success of Ed McBain's 87th precinct series in books, film and as a television series.  Much of the appeal of the novels rest with main character Steve Carella and his relationship with Teddy, his deaf-mute wife, as well as his interaction with fellow police detectives such as Meyer. 

Distinctive places also add interest to the modern police procedural. For example, moody Scandinavian settings have provided bleak backgrounds for the investigations of Inspector Martin Beck (Sjöwall and Wahlöö in the 1960’s) or Wallander  (Henning Mankell) and more recently Inspector Tell (Camilla Cedar). 

It goes without saying that all books should be researched for accuracy of detail. However, Eric Wright observes (The Writer, October 1990 issue, p. 9) that writers should do their research last. His reasoning: once a story is written the writer will know what information is actually needed and necessary. Collecting unnecessary facts proves to be a waste of valuable time. I am of the opinion that it also leads to information dumping as many writers then cannot resist the temptation to include material that should be cut and which has no purpose in the book or story. 

Of course, the more traditional view is that authors who write police procedurals must insist on total accuracy. Margaret Maron, for instance, has explained how she used interviews with police detectives and civil service clerks, attended “criminalistics” classes and took notes on the trivia associated with everyday police activities in a station house to depict realism in her police novel series (The Writer, June, 1993 issue). 

Patricia D. Cornwell’s novels have long graced the bestseller lists.  Her Dr. Kay Scarpetta forensic pathologist crime novels are strongly associated with her own career. Cornwell describes herself as having been a crime reporter. The character of Dr. Scarpetta appears to have been initially inspired by an interview she had with a female medical examiner. She went to work for the medical examiners and eventually became their computer analyst. Her opinion: stories that lack credibility and authenticity will be unread (The Writer, December 1991, p. 18-20). 

P. D. James is another author of police procedurals we can describe as the real deal. James held a position as a senior employee in the Criminal Policy Department in England. Joseph Wambaugh has given us some memorable characters who happen to be police officers based on his personal experience and knowledge.  

Cross genre fiction combining elements of romance, the paranormal, and suspense with mystery have become more common in today’s crime fiction. I believe this less traditional approach is becoming a trend in modern mystery fiction. The traditional lines are blurring, and authors are experimenting with a greater variety of style and technique in a genre that is now more dynamic, fluid and exciting. What does remain is the need for a well-developed plot, well-rounded and well-defined characters, and a distinctive setting. 

My last two mystery novels, DEATH PROMISE, a romantic suspense sequel to DEATH LEGACY, and BLOOD FAMILY, my 5th Kim Reynolds mystery, do blur the lines. Kim, for example, is a reluctant sleuth with paranormal abilities.

What trends will the future of fiction hold for readers and writers alike? It remains to be seen. Your thoughts and opinions most welcome.

 

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Summer Viewing: Film and Fiction

 


We’ve made recommendations for summer reading in July 2021. But people enjoy seeing movies in the summer as well. So here are some questions that relate and that you might want to respond to in the comments on this blog:

First, have you seen any films lately that you’d like to recommend to others?

Second, are there some films you consider classics or so great that they make your list of best films ever?

Third, do you think that films based on novels or plays are of better quality than those written as original screenplays?

 

I can’t answer the first question fairly because since COVID hit we haven’t been going out to theatres. I do see a lot of Hallmark movies on TV which are a somewhat pleasant diversion.

 

Second, besides film classics like Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Twelve Angry Men, Inherit the Wind, Pygmalion, Mrs. Miniver, which I have watched on Turner Classic TV, there are some memorable more recent films like October Sky and Hugo which I consider special.

 

Regarding the third question, if I read a book prior to seeing the film version, I am often disappointed by the movie. I believe this is because my imagination envisions differently than the cinematographers. An example of this would be The Godfather, a much-acclaimed film. I still prefer the novel.

 

What are your thoughts? What films do you consider memorable? Were they movie versions of books or short stories? Which did you prefer? Let’s compare.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Summer Reading 2021

It’s that time of year again when every magazine, newspaper and newsletter offer suggestions on summer reading. So why should this blog be any different?

Summer is the perfect time to spend some time vacationing or just relaxing. Sit in the sun, lie on a chaise poolside, rest by the ocean or a lake, or under the shade of a tree, sip a cool drink, and read a book—hard cover, soft cover, audio or digital. 

Mysteries remain one of the most popular genres for summer reading. Why? Because they entertain us. They also engage our intellect in a satisfying manner. Romances provide us with a happy ever after ending, good escape reading. If you like reading for enjoyment, it’s the way to go. 

Lots of good summer reading on the bestseller list.

However, there are excellent authors who write for small independent presses and provide us with quality fiction but don’t get as much publicity because they are not with the big publishers.

For adult readers, I suggest my mystery novel

Death Promise, a romantic mystery thriller published by Encircle and available on Amazon and other booksellers in both print and ebook editions. Also from Encircle is my latest mystery, Blood Family, my 5th Kim Reynolds mystery.

For readers of young adult fiction I suggest WITCH WISH from Black Opal Press, also available from most booksellers.

Intrigue Publishing is offering my adult romantic mystery THE INHERITANCE as a free read on Audible. 

If you enjoy historical romance, I suggest SINFUL SEDUCTION from Luminosity, set during the American Revolution, or HIGHLAND HEART, historical romance set in England and the Scottish Highlands in 1745 at the time of the second Jacobite Rebellion.

 Books I have recently read that I enjoyed and will recommend are:

Helene Wecker’s THE GOLEM AND THE JINNI, a very original historical fantasy set in New York in 1899. A sequel has just been published and I look forward to reading that as well.

For mystery, I can recommend several novels.

 BAIT AND WITCH by Angela M. Sanders features a librarian who comes into her magic abilities. I especially enjoyed the clever humor. A sequel will be published soon. 

THE GHOST AND MRS. McCLURE by Alice Kimberly was the first in a series of haunted bookstore mysteries—also clever and entertaining.

A mystery thriller I just read and consider well-written is
THE QUIET GIRL by S. F. Kosa, a first novel. 

For those who enjoy short story collections, I recommend SMALL CRIMES IN THE BIG CITY by Steve Slavin. If you liked Seinfeld, you’ll love this clever book.

 For romance, I’ve been reading Lisa Kleypas’s Ravenel series and Mary Balogh’s latest Regency romances. Both are excellent writers in this genre.

For non-fiction, I recommend MARCEL’S LETTERS: A FONT AND THE SEARCH FOR ONE MAN’S FATE. This is a powerful and touching real-life book. 

Each of the books I’ve recommended are ones I have read and reviewed in Goodreads. 

There are many fine writers who should be added to this list. As a reader and/or writer are there any authors and/or books you would like to recommend for summer reading? 

You are most welcome to recommend your own books as well so others will become aware of them!

 

 

 


Friday, June 25, 2021

SHORT FICTION MARKETS

Markets for Short Stories: Thoughts, Ideas, and Market Listings

 

By all means, submit your work to the major publications first. If your work is accepted, celebrate! However, we have all experienced rejection at one time or other in our careers. So how do we handle it? First, did the rejection include editorial comments about the work? If so, pay attention. It means the editor took the time to offer constructive criticism because he or she thought your work was special. If there are suggestions for improvement, strongly consider them. Perhaps you should do some rewriting. But don’t give up, not if writing is important to you. You can always set aside a piece that isn’t working for you now and come back to it at a later date to examine it with fresh eyes.

 You may eventually decide to try some of the smaller publications, whether online or print. I suggest that you avoid writing only for “exposure” if possible. There are paying markets that encourage beginners who lack publishing credits. However, two of my close friends who are still university professors have observed that for them non-paying literary publications are perfectly acceptable since they must “publish or perish”. The universities expect their professors to publish regularly. Jobs are sometimes lost otherwise.

 Suppose your work has been rejected by all the traditional publications, should you simply give up? Not if you believe you’ve written a first-rate story. Be aware that there are numerous fiction markets out there. A few changes in your story might make the difference. 

There is a large market for science fiction, fantasy and horror. These speculative markets can and will publish varied stories that meet their guidelines. So if you’ve written a mystery story with speculative overtones a horror publication might suit. The trick is to pay close attention to what they acquire. Read a few issues to get a sense of it. 

You should realize that each genre has its own type of content. Mashups are acceptable, but first you should know the rules of each genre before you attempt to mix them. Do the research before you start to write or change your story to suit a particular set of guidelines. Successful writers are first analytical readers. 

You might consider checking out the markets for fiction I’ve listed here:

 http://shortmystery.blogspot.com/p/markets.html

 

http://ralan.com/  (excellent current market listings for genre short story fiction of all kinds)

 

http://thegrinder.diabolicalplots.com/Default.aspx

(submission database)

 

https://publishedtodeath.blogspot.com/p/calls-for-submissions.html

(Check this out regularly since new market calls are listed every month)

 

Cathy's Comps and Calls – Free-to-enter writing competitions and calls for submissions with electronic entry

(new listing each month as well)

 

https://duotrope.com/ (this one has a fee to join)

 

https://horrortree.com/ (blog keeping up with current calls)

  

Newsletters of value worth signing up for:

  

https://www.erikadreifus.com/blogs/practicing-writing/

(Erika does a monthly and weekly marketing newsletter which is free)

 

Newsletters | FundsforWriters (You can sign up for Hope Clark’s free edition which comes out every Friday and always lists a variety of markets for writers)

 

FLASH FICTION FLASH NEWSLETTER: The Newsletter for Flash Literature Writers

https://groups.io/g/FlashFictionFlash

(lists paying and non-paying markets monthly)

Angela Hoy's weekly newsletter:

https://writersweekly.com/

(full of useful info as well as markets for writers and freelance opportunities)

 

If you have anything to add or can share, please do so in the comments. Let's share info!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

Monday, June 7, 2021

SETTING THE SCENE

 

Setting is an essential element component in fiction writing, whether a novel or a short story. It’s generally indicated early in a novel or short story and usually developed through narrative description, but there are other means as well.  The details of setting help to make the reader accept the reality of the work.

Here are some suggestions for creating a viable setting:

One: Choose a place you know something about. Maybe you’ve lived there. Maybe you only visited.  But it helps if the writer has some sort of association because the place must have an aura of reality to be believable. My Kim Reynolds mysteries are set in Central New Jersey because that’s where I lived for most of my life. The township in BLOOD FAMILY, for example, is based closely on the one I actually lived in.

https://encirclepub.com/product/bloodfamily/

Two: If you are using an historical setting, make certain to do considerable research so that your background descriptions are historically accurate. Consider: how did people dress? How did they travel? What did they eat? What were the social, religious and political conventions and ideas of the period? How did people talk? Conversation and vocabulary differ in different time periods.  Also, check timelines to make certain you don’t have important events occurring in a wrong year.

My published historical romance novels were carefully researched.  For example, HIGHLAND HEART is set in Georgian England and Scotland at the time of the uprising in the Highlands in support of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

https://luminositypublishing.com/book/highland-heart/

SINFUL SEDUCTION is set during the American Revolution in New Jersey. Since I am a life-long NJ resident, I find this time period fascinating and enjoyed doing the research—NJ was described as the cockpit of the Revolution because so many battles were fought here.

https://luminositypublishing.com/book/sinful-seduction/

 I read fiction and nonfiction written in the time periods as well as numerous historical accounts before I began to write the novels. This was something I enjoyed doing since I have degrees in English and history and taught English at both the high school and university levels.

 Three: Choose place names that fit the times. Place names are constantly changing. Decide whether or not you should use real place names or imaginary ones. In DEATH PROMISE, real places were used and described.  Manhattan and Las Vegas are prominently featured, as are actual streets and landmarks, appropriate in this case to lend authenticity to a mystery suspense thriller.

     http://encirclepub.com/product/death-promise/

Four: Consider the weather or climate as a component in setting. For example, winter weather works well for a murder mystery novel. Snow and winter can be used to symbolize death. In my novella THE BURNING, environmental concerns nearly destroy the lives of the family members who are the main characters. The setting is a key, essential element of the plot.

http://annorlundaenterprises.com/books/the-burning/

Weather helps to create tone, mood and atmosphere. For instance, a paranormal novel might be dark and foreboding. Thunder and lightening can create tension. Poe is a great one to study in this regard.

Five: Sense impressions are important in the narrative description of the setting. You need them to create a sense of reality. As they say, the devil is in the details. But balance is needed as well. Writers can overload their writing with too much detail or info dumping. Even some famous authors are guilty of that. Setting details may also be part of characterization, existing in dialogue, action and a character’s thoughts.

 What suggestions would you make in regard to the creation of setting?

Your thoughts and opinions welcome here.

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Review for A Heartbeat and a Guitar Johnny Cash and the Making of Bitter Tears: by Antonino D’Ambrosio



Getting a new computer is daunting but my old reliable XP was no longer supported. So for months during the pandemic I could not blog. But being my husband’s caregiver has left me little time for writing anyway. 

This is my first effort at posting a blog using my new computer. Rather than talk about my current novels and short fiction, I decided to post a review of a book my older son gave me for Mother’s Day. He chose it especially for me and it therefore has real meaning.

 

Review for A Heartbeat and a Guitar Johnny Cash and the Making of Bitter Tears: by Antonino D’Ambrosio

 

This well-researched book follows the little-known making of an album that shows sympathy and connection with the plight of Native Americans or as they prefer to be called: Native people. Cash did several free concerts on reservations for them after his famous Folsom Prison concert. His sympathy and concern were genuine.

Those of us who have had the honor of seeing Johnny Cash, June Carter, and their children in concert know what an amazing experience it was. I personally will never forget the performance I saw in Atlantic City not long before his passing.

The author ends his book with a touching quote. He evokes Anatole France’s eulogy of novelist Emile Zola in comparison to Johnny Cash:

“Let us envy him: he has honored his country and the world with an immense body of work and a noble act…”