Showing posts with label Kris Nelscott. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kris Nelscott. Show all posts

11 July 2017

Criminal success: Success and/or Challenges You've Faced in Writing Crime


Kris Nelscott: I’m amazed at how easy it is to find information that I shouldn't be able to find. In my Smokey Dalton series, the books are set in the late 1960s. One book, The War At Home, deals with bomb-making. I found, in a memoir by a former member of the Weathermen, the recipe for their bombs. I used a part of it, but left out several ingredients on purpose. My NY copy editor added them back in. No, nope. No. I'm not going to give anyone a roadmap into bomb-making. Or other crimes, for that matter.

Rebecca Cantrell: I love meeting readers, although I once had a reader come up to me and say: "Your mystery is so good! I bet you could even write a real book!"

Annie Reed: The challenges for me pretty much all stem from having to step inside the head of a truly bad person in order to write from their point of view. Basically putting myself inside the head of a psychopath to write from that person's perspective.  Oogy stuff. The successes come from writing something that forces me to write outside my normal comfort zone.

O’Neil de Noux: The greatest challenge was learning my craft. No one can teach you how to write. You can learn the basics, the ‘how to’, but you have to do it yourself to get it done.
Successes are few. Sales have never been big. A little recognition in the media at the start of my career was nice. The awards are certainly nice. Being recognized by my peers. My writing has been awarded a SHAMUS Award, a DERRINGER Award, the UNITED KINGDOM SHORT STORY PRIZE. Two of my mystery stories have appeared in the BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES and my novel JOHN RAVEN BEAU was named Police Book of the Year by police-writers.com.

Dean Wesley Smith: I suppose that at first I thought it would be too complex for me to figure out. Turns out, for me and how my mind works with puzzles, they are the easiest books to write.

Melissa YiMy definition of success keeps changing.

First, I desperately wanted a professional publication, because it meant that I was a “real writer” in my mind. I was good enough that someone wanted to pay me for my words.

Then I was anxious to sell repeatedly, for more money, in more magazines. 

My next skill leap was jumping from short stories to novels. I had to talk myself into it by saying, “Look, novels are just connected short stories … “

So then the next rung was selling my novels and making some money.

In 2010, my collection of light-hearted medical essays, The Most Unfeeling Doctor in the World and Other True Tales From the Emergency Room, hit the Amazon bestseller lists. For the first time in my life, I was reaching lots of readers, and money hit so quickly that I ended up with a bunch of cheques in British pounds that I didn’t even have a bank account to accommodate.

Now I was ringing the money bell, certainly not to the tune of six figures a month, the way some writers seemed to, but way beyond anything I’d accomplished before or since. But it didn’t make me as happy as I thought it would. My fiction wasn’t getting the same audience, and I got a lot of blowback in the form of hate mail and vigorous one-star reviews. So I made up a new definition of success: Writing connects me with people, places, and things that excite me.

You can see my evolving definition of success here, which is sort of a writing bucket list. When I look back at it, I realize that in 2010, writing was giving me money, but no fun. Once the critics came out with their knives, I froze up a bit at writing non-fiction. 

Since then, I’ve made a point of having fun. Or at least trying new things. Probably the most bizarre thing I did was a two-day Ido Portal handstand workshop when I’ve got minimal upper body strength and rarely hang out upside down. But I also went to Los Angeles twice as a finalist for the Roswell Award, and I headed down to New York and Boston for the Jewish Noir book tour. All awesome.

However, now that I’ve had some fun and can no longer crack Amazon’s algorithms, I’d like to make a living with my writing. Or, as I put it on my bucket list, I want to be able to say, I could quit my day job and write full-time, whether or not I choose to do this.

 Click here if you want a link to all platforms.And for success, I’m thrilled to report that Canada’s national book show, CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter, chose Human Remains as one of the great summer must-reads of 2017!

(If you’d like to join the Human Remains party, the e-book's only $3.99 on all platforms. You can download it for free on Kobo with the code HRemains. This code only works on Kobo, not Amazon, and will only last until July 31st.)

Looking at my fellow writers' opinions, I see that a lot of my writing goals and dreams are very external. I don’t have a lot of control over which editors publish my work, how much money flows to me every year, or how my books are reviewed. 

I should set some writing goals that I can control, like how many words I write per week, or how many stories I submit to magazines, or craft goals, like improving my setting.

What about you? How do you define writing success and/or challenges?

03 November 2015

Do you like to read, but you're leery of buying bad books? I can help.

by Melissa Yi


Q. What the heck is a StoryBundle?

A. Jason Chen, founder:
I started StoryBundle because back in 2012, video game bundles and app bundles were extremely popular, and no one had yet applied the same idea to ebooks. When I looked around (because I’m a reader myself) to try and find a way to discover lots of new-to-me authors in genres I already like, it was pretty difficult without spending hours reading reviews and trudging through sales lists. Plus, since these are authors I haven’t tried before, I may be left with hit-or-miss quality. Having curated bundles where quality is guaranteed AND readers can set the price solves both these issues.

Q. Okay. Why should I buy this StoryBundle?

A. Kristine Kathryn Rusch, editor:
The Dark Justice bundle comes as close to crime fiction perfection as possible.
It boasts one Grand Master, several award-winners, bestsellers who've hit lists like the New York Times and USA Today with multiple books, household names, and writers who've just entered the mystery field—sometimes with a bang.

We also have a lot of diversity here. Our investigators include an African American detective, a Canadian doctor of Asian extraction, a disabled stockbroker and a group of retired cold case detectives. Throw in a few amateur detectives, a disgraced ex-cop, a female bounty hunter, and the famous Matthew Scudder, who has appeared in film (most recently A Walk Among The Tombstones), and you'll encounter the full range of characters the mystery genre has to offer.
I've read and loved the work of each and every one of these writers. Some of them I've read since I started reading mystery and some I've read since before they ever had a book published. In one of my other incarnations, I'm an award-winning editor, so believe me when I tell you that if there were some kind of Kristine Kathryn Rusch Gold Seal of Approval, the books in this bundle would receive it.
Q. Hmm. Well, I'm cheap. I don't know if I should buy it.
A. Kris: For those of you who have never purchased a bundle from StoryBundle before, welcome! StoryBundle makes ordering and downloading these books spectacularly easy.
The initial titles in the Dark Justice Bundle (minimum $5 to purchase) are:
If you pay more than the bonus price of just $15, you get all five of the regular titles, plus these outstanding books:
Q. I'm REALLY cheap. What if I don't want to spend $5?

A. Win the Dark Justice StoryBundle just by commenting on this blog. One winner will be selected tomorrow. To multiply your chances, subscribe to Melissa Yi's newsletter and comment on her related blog and Facebook post. Quadruple your chances by doing all four!

Q. I want to hear from the authors themselves. Why do you write mysteries?

Julie Hyzy: I know this isn’t an original answer, but I have to credit Nancy Drew. She was my gateway to mystery reading and also – in many respects – to writing. My first novel (at about age 10) was The Case of the Whispering Hills. I illustrated the book myself, too (natch).

Melissa Yi: As an emergency doctor, I occasionally confront evil. Mystery allows me to fictionalize it and deliver some form of justice in the end.

Patrice Greenwood: I like reading them, so I thought I'd give writing them a try. Turns out that's fun, so I've kept at it.

David DeLee: First of all, mysteries are what I grew up on. From the Hardy Boys to Ross MacDonald’s Lew Archer to today’s masters like Michael Connelly and Robert Crais. It’s a genre I’ve always adored. The other reason is that mysteries try to make sense of what in real life is often senseless. Violence. Murder. Serial killers. Mysteries are about a larger than life character who will risk it all to seek answer, to explain the unexplainable, to get justice for these horrible acts. What’s not to love?

Kris Nelscott: I love mysteries. I think they're my favorite genre. I put mystery—crime, really—in almost every genre I write.

Rebecca Cantrell: Because I am fascinated by worlds where characters wrestle with the question of what’s right and what’s wrong. My characters like to see justice done, but justice is never as simple and straightforward as I would like, so my books spend a lot of time looking at shades of gray.
As a kid my family referred to this as my “overblown sense of justice” and “belief that, all evidence to the contrary, the world should be fair.” Guilty.

Q. Hmm. Well, what's so great about your bundle book?

Rebecca Cantrell: The World Beneath introduces Joe Tesla. He’s a complicated guy—a brilliant software engineer who started a multimillion dollar company but is struck by agoraphobia on the day he’s supposed to ring the bell on Wall Street to take his company public. The agoraphobia is so extreme that he can’t go outside at all, and he spends the series trying to determine what caused it while exploring the tunnels under New York City. Since he can’t go outside, he makes the inside bigger. Since he can’t find justice for himself, he starts to search for justice for others. The book also won the International Thriller Writers award for Best Ebook Original. Oh, and he has a service dog named Edison who steals every scene he’s in (note: the dog does not die in the books).

Julie Hyzy: My bundle book, Playing With Matches, is very special to me because it’s not the least bit cozy. For the past seven years or so, I’ve had some success [Editor: NYT-bestselling success] writing cozy mysteries. I love them, I truly do, but I started out with edgier themes, and Playing With Matches brings me back to my writing roots. Riley Drake (my protagonist) is a female PI in Chicago. She swears, she drinks, and she beats up a troublemaker by page 2.

Melissa Yi: CODE BLUES introduces the world to Dr. Hope Sze, my alter ego who discovers murderers within the decaying medical system of Montreal, Canada. When I was a resident doctor, I barely had time to tie my shoes, let alone solve crimes and romance two different guys, but that’s the beauty of fiction.

Patrice Greenwood: It's set in Santa Fe, New Mexico, one of my favorite places in the world. The main character is just opening a tearoom in a Victorian house there, so there's lots of history, tea and its rituals, and of course a dash of murder.

David DeLee: FATAL DESTINY features a strong half-Latina, half-Irish female bounty hunter who takes on the world in her own way, and with a pretty cynical attitude toward people and the criminal justice system—with good reason. In FATAL DESTINY Grace faces a defining question: Are people, including herself, defined by their past or can they escape who they were and what they’ve done and become something better?

Kris Nelscott: The book I've contributed to the bundle is the very first Smokey Dalton novel. Honestly, I wrote the novel as a classic mystery—a rich blond walks into a detective's office with a strange problem that needs investigating. The detective, Smokey Dalton, is an African American who grew up with Martin Luther King. I thought the setting was the unusual bit—Memphis in 1968, just before King's assassination. Imagine my surprise when everyone decided the entire story was unusual. I bow to readers. Apparently I hit something with this series, which explores American history from a perspective not seen often enough in fiction—that of the African American community. The series has hit bestseller lists, won awards, hit recommended lists from libraries all over the country (including the New York Public Library) and has a rabid following.

Q. I might take a look. How do I get it?
A. https://storybundle.com/crime until November 19th.
Plus, one lucky winner will be chosen from each of the following lists on Wednesday, Nov. 4th:
1. One Sleuthsayer. Comment now, on this post, to win.
2. One subscriber to Melissa Yi's newsletter. Just sign up on her website landing page--link at the top & form at the bottom.
3. One commenter on Melissa Yi's Dark Justice blog post.
4. One participant on Melissa Yi's Dark Justice Facebook post.
5. Audience member at Vanier College. Claimed!

Happy reading!


22 September 2015

Envy and Writing: Real-Life Noir

by Melissa Yi


On September 10th, Sleuthsayer Eve Fisher described her story “Presumed Guilty,” published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. Detective that I am, I deduced that it was the cover story.

I thought, Hmm. Not only have I never cracked the pages of AHMM, I’ve only received one slightly personalized rejection to date. Usually it’s just a straight bounce.

I could’ve gotten envious of Eve. Seethed about Eve. In fact, years ago, I might have done exactly that.

At my book club last month, we did a round table and each picked which deadly sin personified us. I chose both anger and envy. I’m also an enormous glutton—people are always astonished how much I eat, and ask where I pack it away—but I don’t feel guilty about loving food. I have, however, blown up at people and swallowed a lot of bile and worked hard to change both these traits.

First, dictionary time. Envy means you want what someone else has, whether it’s a fat bank account or the perfect family.
Jealousy means you’re afraid of losing what you’ve got, so you monitor your pretty young mistress to make sure she doesn’t take up with her dashing co-worker.

I bring this up for two reasons. I think writers are particularly susceptible to envy because there’s no clear path, so it feels like everyone else is always getting ahead.
“[A] woman with three poems in [Poetry Magazine] had been born two years after me, which was enough to ruin my day—and I didn’t even desire to write poetry. The notion of people my age or younger having written books, some of them quite good books, was more than upsetting. I did not precisely want them to die, but, wondering why they hadn’t the simple courtesy to allow my achievements to be recognized first, I wanted them, somehow, stopped. The moral of this little story, I believe, is that it is difficult to be ambitious without also being envious.”—Joseph Epstin, Envy

Edgar-nominated writer Kris Rusch/Nelscott told me, "In writing, there is no hierarchy, which is really strange.  It's the only profession I know where we don't compete against each other. We compete against ourselves--trying to outdo ourselves.  That's because each writers' career is different.  No one career is the same as another.  So we're always comparing apples and broccoli."

Still, when Kris asked for suggestions about topics for her Freelancer’s Survival Guide, I asked her to write about jealousy. She initially said no. But eventually she did write about it, and it was so popular that it became a two-part article.

“First, let me be clear about the reasons I initially declined to cover this topic.  I think jealousy is one of the most destructive emotions in the world.  I think you can attribute more horrible things to jealousy than you can to most other emotions, including anger. I see nothing positive about jealousy. I’ve watched it ruin friendships, marriages, and professional relationships. I’ve watched it destroy careers.  I know of cases where jealousy has led to actual physical harm, including murder.” http://kriswrites.com/2010/01/14/freelancers-survival-guide-professional-jealousy/

To my surprise, the follow-up article was called “Surviving Other People’s Jealousy.” 
I don’t think I ever harmed anyone, just gnashed my teeth a bit. And no one had envied me, as far as I knew, since I was such a newbie.

I needed more advice. Luckily, bestselling author Jennifer Crusie had me in mind for this: http://jennycrusie.com/for-writers/essays/green-is-not-your-color-professional-jealousy-and-the-professional-writer/

You’re human….Wallow in it....For five minutes. That’s all you get, five minutes to be seethingly, teeth-achingly bitter.….
Then think about what the person did to get what she got….
Then take that analysis of what she did and see if you can apply it to your career. Whatever it was that she did, it obviously worked. 

I noticed a common recipe for success: hard work. I could do that.

Jennifer Crusie again:
Bette Midler said, “The hardest thing about being successful is finding somebody to be happy for you.” The one thing that I have noticed about all the successful people I know is that their circle of friends gets smaller and smaller…..

Well, that’s no good.
While I threw myself into writing, mostly toiling in isolation but occasionally selling a story, I slowly, slowly relinquished my grip on envy and admired my writing friends.

Here’s one Cinderella ending. My name appears in the latest AHMM. No, I didn’t get to write the cover story. But Ken Wishnia’s Trace Evidence guest editorial appears on the cover, and the entire third paragraph describes my appearance in Jewish Noir

And thanks to our generous “You don’t have to be Jewish to write Jewish Noir” policy, I also got to collaborate with writers like Canadian author Melissa Yi, who was a joy to work with. She sent me two stories for consideration, and I ended up replying with a carefully worded email explaining that I liked the first half of the first story and the second half of the second story, and asked if she would be willing to combine the two stories along these lines to create a totally new story. That’s asking a lot, but not only was she willing to do it, after revising the two stories into one, she ended up adding a new section that gave her story “Blood Diamonds” a crack-of-the-whip sting of an ending that will linger in your mind for long after you’ve read it.

May we all live and write happily ever after.