Showing posts with label Fran Rizer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fran Rizer. Show all posts

24 November 2014

USC Scores


By Fran Rizer


The University of South Carolina scored big in October, 2014.  No, I'm not talking about the football team.  I'm referring to 150 boxes containing 2,400 linear feet of documents, a couple of typewriters, and some other writing equipment.

What makes this special?  The fact that the documents belonged to Leonard Elmore.

The following article appeared in Columbia, SC, weekly newspaper Free Times:


USC Scores Collection of Crime Writer Elmore Leonard
By Rodney Welch 

Elmore "Dutch" Leonard was a true son of Detroit, but this week Columbia became the eternal resting place for his literary legacy. At a Wednesday ceremony at Hollings Library, USC President Harris Pastides announced that the university had acquired the complete archive of Leonard, who died in August of last year at 87. The university would not disclose the cost of the acquisition.

Besides all of his published work, the collection includes over 450 drafts of Leonard's novels, short stories and screenplays. The collection also includes appointment books, research files, letters, photographs, director's chairs from movie sets, many awards, his desk, typewriters--and even some Hawaiian shirts and a pair of sneakers.

The collection covers a 60-year writing career that spans Westerns--including the screenplays for films like Hombre, 3:10 to Yuma and Joe Kidd--to crime fiction, where he made his name with novels such as Swag, LaBrava, Get Shorty, Rum Punch and Maximum Bob, among many others. Many of these drafts can be seen under glass at the Hollings Library, such as the handwritten draft on yellow legal paper of his oft-quoted "Ten Rules of Writing."  (Rule One:  Never open a book with weather.)

Elmore Leonard
1925-2013
"Each page is unique primary research material that will bring researchers from around the world," said Pastides. The acquisition is a considerable boost for the university's research collection, which also holds the papers of F. Scott Fitzgerald, and in recent years has acquired both a significant Hemingway collection as well as the Pat Conroy archive.

"Certainly, he's one of the most significant and influential writers of the second half of the twentieth century," said longtime crime and mystery editor Otto Penzler, who was at Wednesday's ceremony. "The number of very accomplished mystery writers who have tried, to some degree, to emulate Duch's style--in terms of quick, punchy dialogue, leaving out the parts people tend to skip, and that sort of thing, is enormous," Penzler said. "Almost everybody now, to some degree, has been influenced by Elmore Leonard and his style of writing."

One such devotee is writer-director Daniel Schechter, who found Leonard a deeply cinematic writer, which proved beneficial when Schechter made the recent Life of Crime, starring Jennifer Aniston, based on Leonard's novel The Switch. "It felt like I was given not just a good book, but a great script by Elmore Leonard.:

So just how did the university snag the collection? Because USC Dean of Libraries Tom McNally went after it, and Leonard liked what the university had to offer. When McNally first made inquiries, he half-expected that the well-heeled Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin--which has the manuscripts of everyone from James Joyce to David Foster Wallace--had already snapped up the rights.

Called "Dutch," Leonard
had his own
director's chair at filmings
"It came about as a surprise," said McNally, to discover that Leonard's collection was still in play.

"Elmore's big statement was 'I don't care about posterity, I care about now," said his longtime researcher Greg Sutter.  Sutter, who has been putting the archive into shape for some time, said there were extensive talks with Michigan State Univesity in Lansing.  But while Sutter was thinking Michigan, Leonard started getting calls from McNally.

"I called him every other week," McNally said. "I got to know him, started talking to him about his collection coming, asked him to come down as a speaker. I told him we wanted to give him the Thomas Cooper Society Medal."

Sutter was already familiar with USC.  He had visited in 2006 for the university's exhibit in honor of crime writer George V. Higgins, and thought of it as a model for a future Leonard retrospective. While the Higgings collection would turn out to have a major impact on Leonard's decision to leave his papers with USC, Leonard's son Peter said Wednesday that his father was a little leery of the award.

"I said 'Do you know who has received this award?" Peter recalls asking. "John Updike, Norman Mailer, William Styron." Elmore said 'I don't write like them.' I said, 'It doesn't matter. This is a prestigious thing.' " Elmore and Peter Leonard and Sutter arrived for the ceremony in May of last year, and the writer liked both USC and Columbia--especially the restaurant Saluda's.

"He loved the fact that they had grits and pork belly on the menu," Peter Leonard said.  His father, who was born in New Orleans, grew up on Southern cooking  What really sealed the deal, though, was Leonard's tour of the Irvin Rare Book Library, when Leonard saw that the university housed the works of the two writers who influenced him more than anyone else:  Ernest Hemingway and Higgins.

Hemingway collector Edgar Grissom, who donated his archive to the university in 2012, showed Leonard the first editions of Hemingway.  "Then Edgar pulled out a manuscript of For Whom the Bell Tolls," Peter Leonard said, "and I could see my dad's eyes light up."

Yes, I know smoking is harmful,
but I had to share this author
photo of Elmore Leonard.
Then there was the Higgins archive, and Leonard got a look at the manuscript of The Friends of Eddie Coyle.  That was the very novel, back in the 1970's that Leonard's agent had insisted that he read. "Elmore said it really influenced him," Peter Leonard said.  "He saw how Higgins was writing, and that book set him free, he said."

The destination of his archive was now clear.  "There was Hemingway, there was Higgins, and I think all of these things just had an impact," Peter Leonard said.

"He was swept away," McNally said, "by the collections, and what we're trying to do here in this library.  We don't have all the money that the Ransom Center has, but we take a real personal approach with our writers.  We make a real commitment to them, that we're not just going to take the collections and put them on a dusty shelf and forget about them."

On the plane back home, Peter Leonard asked his father what he thought of South Carolina.  "That's where I want my papers to go," he said.

Some of Elmore Leonard's works

Peter Leonard, who is also a novelist, admits South Carolina is not the first place you think of a writer whose novels are neck-deep in the crime and corruption of inner-city Detroit.  "Friends of mine have said, 'Why South Carolina?' Because it doesn't really make a lot of sense until you know everything."

"It's kind of hard, when you're a favorite son of Michigan, to leave it," Sutter said.  "It's not that they didn't have the facilities or the energy to do it.  This university is dedicated to creating multiple collections in crime fiction and this acquisition is only going to help them get more."

"I didn't know he had any particular connection to the University of South Carolina," said Penzler. "But I couldn't think of a greater library for those papers to go to. The fact he's associated with Hemingway and Fitzgerald and other significant American writers, I think really does show the level of respect and admiration that Elmore Leonard is getting and richly deserves."


The above is printed in full with permission.
www.free-times.com/blogs/usc-scores-collection-of-crime-writer-elmore-leonard-101614

For more, go to:

www.elmoreleonard.com

I wanted to share this with SS readers, but please don't think I "copped out" by simply copying and pasting Mr. Welch's feature story.  Since that frequently distorts format on SleuthSayers, I typed it out word-by-word.  I tried to remain true to the article, but if there are any typos, please be assured they are mine, not Mr. Welch's.  Since I live very near Columbia, SC, if any of you come to SC to see the collection, let me know and I'll take you out to eat some grits and pork belly.

Until we meet again, take care of . . . you.

10 November 2014

Shameless


by Fran Rizer

Part One:


Santa isn't checking his list--not even once, certainly not twice.  He doesn't care who's naughty or nice until he finds out what happens to Callie Parrish in Fran Rizer's A Corpse Under the Christmas Tree, available now from Bella Rosa Books and Amazon in print and ebook.

Part Two:


Don't worry about the difference between Lowcountry, Beaufort, and Frogmore Stew.  As Callie Parrish's gorgeous Gullah friend Rizzie Profit explains, "They're all the same thing."

Here's Rizzie's recipe:

Ingredients

Water to fill great big pot half full
3 cans of your favorite beer
1 bag Old Bay Seafood Seasoning or 1/4 cup other commercial seafood boil seasoning
4-5 pounds small red potatoes or quartered larger potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
2 pounds smoked sausage, cut into 2-inch pieces
(use Andouille if you love Cajun spice)
6 ears fresh corn cut into halves
4 pounds medium or large shrimp with heads removed, but not peeled
Optional:
4 pounds whole crabs, cleaned and broken into quarters
(soft shell crabs are fantastic when in season)
Rizzie's Directions

Just like many things (I won't embarrass myself or you by naming them), timing is everything.  Bring water to low boil.  Add beer and seafood seasoning.  Add potatoes and cook 10 minutes.  Add sausage and cook 5 more minutes.  Add corn and crab.  Cook another 5 minutes.  Remove one potato and one piece each of sausage, corn, and crab.  Check for doneness.  Return to pot.  Add shrimp and leave everything together for 3 more minutes.  Drain the water and discard it or scoop ingredients out with a slotted spoon.

In summertime, dump drained food in center of paper-covered picnic table for guests to serve themselves.  In cooler weather, serve in large restaurant style pans.  Most folks like cocktail sauce and lots of beer or sweet iced tea with this dish.

Callie's Brother Frankie's Comments

Rizzie's stew is different from lots of others because she uses beer in the water and she likes to add crab to the original recipe.  In the Lowcountry (coastal South Carolina), some people use shrimp with the heads on while others prefer cleaned, deveined shrimp. Rizzie removes the heads because she thinks some tourists might object to them, but she prefers to cook the shrimp in shell because she says it preserves the texture of the meat. This recipe is how Rizzie makes the stew at Gastric Gullah Grill, but at home, she sometimes adds whole crawfish.  She also claims that the next time someone insists on calling it "Frogmore Stew," she will add frog legs to the pot.

This is only one of Rizzie's Gullah and Pa's southern recipes found in Fran Rizer's A Corpse Under the Christmas Tree, a Callie Parrish holiday whodunit now available from Bella Rosa Books and Amazon in print and ebook.

Part Three:

Why did I title this with a Garth Brooks song title?  Because I'm shameless about my subject today. Garth sang about shameless love.  I'm referring to shameless self-promotion.  An old adage tells us that any publicity is good publicity, and I'm beginning to believe it.  I'm also having a great amount of fun coming up with methods and places to post self-promotion for my books.

Now, we'll switch from Garth's song reference to one from James Brown (yes, the same one who sings from Callie's bra when she tucks her cell phone in there to keep from losing it).

"Please, Please, Please," check out my newest self-promotion effort:



What about you? If you're a writer, how much do you self-promote your writings and how do you do it?  If you're primarily a reader, give suggestions and tell us what you think is most effective. Please share your ideas as well as what you think of my very first book trailer.  I can hardly wait to show you what's coming in January, 2015.

Until we meet again, take care of . . . you!

27 October 2014

An Honest Rejection Letter


by Fran Rizer

Carla Damron
A Caleb Knowles Mystery
SleuthSayer readers and writers, please allow me to introduce a superb South Carolina mystery writer– Carla Damron. I've known Carla since we met at the SC Book Festival years ago, and our paths have crossed numerous times since then. Damron blogs on Writers Who Kill and in September she posted about rejection– not the usual "oh, woe is me, I got another one," but a piece she called "An Honest Rejection Letter." I thought those of you who have ever received a rejection (and I'm told that even the most successful writers have been on the receiving end of those little letters that tear our hearts out) would enjoy reading her blog. I'm going to share it with you, but, first, here's a little more about Carla.

Described as a "writer of social issues mysteries," Carla is a licensed clinical social worker and, like me, she's a true southerner born and raised in South Carolina. Her counselor experiences resonate in her three mystery novels: Keeping Silent (2001, mass market 2002), Spider Blue, (2005 trade paper 2006) and Death in Zooville (2010).

Caleb Knowles, a social worker who was described in a Charlotte Observer review as "a social worker with a delightfully dry sense of humor" is the protagonist in these first three novels. In Death in Zooville, Caleb and his deaf brother Sam become entangled in the world of poverty, addiction, and homelessness.

Some SSers may have met Carla Damron as she has been a featured speaker and panel member at many writers' conferences and will be at Murder in the Magic City, Birmingham, Alabama, in February, 2015. For more about her, check out her webpage www.carladamron.com


I am just back from a wonderful writing retreat among some very creative women. Part of our weekend included writing exercises. The following is one I completed—a story in a letter. Sort of. My fellow wild women writers suggested I share it, so here goes!
Dear Author,

Thank you for submitting your novel, A Long Road to Nowhere, to Acme Publishing. Unfortunately we do not feel it is a good fit for our company. It may have been a good fit, had I read it before lunch, and if lunch hadn't included two glasses of a very nice chardonnay.

Or maybe it would have fit if I hadn’t just read five chapters of someone’s else’s work, an Apocalyptic YA novel about transgendered vampires, that had an opening which I loved, but completely fell apart at chapter two. (Seriously? A transgendered vampire would not convert to Buddhism.)

And, you may not want to hear that we just accepted someone else’s work, a coming of age graphic novel, reminiscent of To Kill A Mockingbird, except that it’s set on planet Zargon and the protagonist has tentacled arms and drives a moon-ship. Graphic novels are all the rage this week.

And perhaps your work would have fit with Acme Publishing, if my boss, the assistant acquisitions editor, hadn't just handed me the novella written by our editor-in-chief’s thirteen-year-old niece, with orders that I find something in it that’s salvageable. “She did a nice job with her margins” was not, apparently, strong enough praise.

Your manuscript aside, I found your query letter striking. Interesting that you mentioned sending it to forty other publishing companies. Were we supposed to be flattered to be number forty-one? And, while I’m very glad that your mother loved the work and your writer’s group thinks it’s as good or better than Joyce Carol Oates, these opinions are likely biased. (My mother loved my high school performance of Anne Frank but you don’t see me on Broadway, do you?)

The inclusion of a bottle of scotch with your manuscript was a nice addition. Perhaps it would have scored more points with me if the editorial committee hadn’t snagged it before I saw the label. They’re in the board room right now singing Abba tunes.

As you know, author, the selection process is a subjective one, and you may find another publishing house that is eager to accept your work.

Best wishes,
Intern to the assistant acquisitions editor


PS. What's the most interesting or fun or depressing rejection you've ever received?
This has nothing to do with today's topic.  Melodie and Eve
wanted to see me in my clown costume.  Here it is.  I'm second
from left (as though you couldn't tell!) Hate I can't find a full-
length picture because my hot pink and purple cowboy boots
were magnificent both in Nashville and as a clown.

Until we meet again, take care of . . . you!

13 October 2014

"Rules" and Comments


by Fran Rizer 

In 2010, a bargain-loving friend of mine found Stephen King's memoir/writing guide On Writing in a clearance bin at a dollar store. She bought every one of them and sent them all to me.  The problem was  that there were over twenty-five copies.  I sent one to almost every writer I knew personally.

Recently I introduced a young sci fi writer to the realm of Stephen King--not the movie or television version, but the world found in his written words.  As my friend read It, I wished I had one more copy of On Writing to share with him what King said about writing and the story about the baby sitter. I bought one for him, but I was also fortunate enough to locate a list of King's "rules" on writing.

I grew up a rebel child who hated "rules," so I'll call these suggestions. You've probably seen most of them before along with those that overlap Elmore Leonard's, but I found these gentle reminders worthwhile. I couldn't resist the color red for my comments though I graded papers in purple when I taught school. (Some of you may recall that I did, however, write "Dear John, go to hell" letters in red.)

Today, I share twenty suggestions from Stephen King.


1. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience. “When you write a story,you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”  My next two books are a thriller in January and a horror in June, 2015.  I think I'm writing for myself these days and I have no idea what story is going to insist on being told next.

2. Don’t use passive voice. “Timid writers like passive verbs for the same reason that timid lovers like passive partners. The passive voice is safe.” And for heaven's sake, learn what the passive voice is.  I've dealt with too many young writers who think linking verbs are passive voice.  No comment on the timid lovers.

3. Avoid adverbs. “The adverb is not your friend.” I add "most of the time" to this or maybe "usually" is a better choice.

4. Avoid adverbs, especially after “he said” and “she said.”  See number three.

5. But don’t obsess over perfect grammar. “The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story.” I always told students they needed to learn the rules as well as when to break them.  Sometimes those grammar rules are necessary.



6. The magic is in you. “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.”  Here I differ with Mr. King.  Years ago, when I attended a large writers' group, we encountered several truly horrendous writers who positively knew they were fantastic and tried to justify why they shouldn't follow any suggestions.  It's not surprising that those folks still aren't published.

7. Read, read, read. ”If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” Amen!

8. Don’t worry about making other people happy. “If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”  I'm struggling with this right now.

9. Turn off the TV. “TV really is about the last thing an aspiring writer needs.”  Why do we need television when we have shows in our minds?

10. You have three months. “The first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season.”  This is no problem for me since the Callie books averaged six weeks for the first drafts, but I don't see how King does it with some books over a thousand pages.  How about you?  How long does it take to get that first draft written or do you have some that "wrote themselves" in a short time and some that take forever?  

11. There are two secrets to success. “I stayed physically healthy, and I stayed married.”  Too late for me to accomplish either of those.

12. Write one word at a time. “Whether it’s a vignette of a single page or an epic trilogy like ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ the work is always accomplished one word at a time.”  I would add that commercial success is accomplished one reader at a time.

13. Eliminate distraction. “There should be no telephone in your writing room, certainly no TV or videogames for you to fool around with.” There should also be no family members who constantly interrupt writing with insignificant questions and comments having nothing to do with the story (unless they are grandchildren).

14. Stick to your own style. “One cannot imitate a writer’s approach to a particular genre, no matter how simple what that writer is doing may seem.”  "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," but does flattery have any place in creative writing?

15. Dig. “Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible.  I like King's reference to the writer's toolbox.  The goal is to fill that toolbox with all possible skills and ideas and then develop the craft of knowing what to use where.

16. Take a break. “You’ll find reading your book over after a six-week layoff to be a strange, often exhilarating experience.” And sometimes, going back and reading it after a layoff enables a writer to think, "Dang!  That's pretty good!"  (Okay, I know Elmore said no exclamation marks, but I love them so long as there aren't more than two per page. I began this by mentioning my dislike of rules from a young age.  What really p-o's me is when participants aren't given the rules until they are reprimanded for breaking them.) Back to the subject:  Sometimes after that six-week rest of a manuscript, a writer goes back, reads it, and says, "Oh, s- -t.  I can't believe I wrote that."

17. Leave out the boring parts and kill your darlings. “(kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.)” Writing is also an excellent way to kill some people who are not your darlings.

18. The research shouldn’t overshadow the story.“Remember that word back. That’s where the research belongs: as far in the background and the back story as you can get it.”  I try to avoid this in writing and hate big info dump/back stories when I'm reading.  I don't like to read fiction that is obviously an effort to teach me a skill or history. (Janice Law provides an excellent example of writing historical novels that don't shove lessons down the reader's throat.)

19. You become a writer simply by reading and writing.“You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself.”  I once knew a poet who refused to read other poets' works because he didn't want his "talent to be influenced by others."  He gave me a sincerely blank look when I mentioned "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening," and the last time I saw him, he was coming out of a local pawn shop.  

20. Writing is about getting happy. “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid or making friends. Writing is magic, as much as the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.”  How about you?  I personally get a lot of happiness and pleasure from "falling into the page," but greater commercial success would take me closer to a happy ending.


See a fuller exposition of King’s writing wisdom at Barnes & Noble’s blog.




Your task for today is to let me know if you have a favorite among these twenty or if you have a suggestion you'd add to the list or if you flat out disagree with one of King's suggestions.

Until we meet again, take care of … you.

29 September 2014

Genre-Jump


By Fran Rizer

Back in the '60s (when I was young, dumb, and having fun), youth of America followed Holden Caulfield's early '50s search for life's meaning and found themselves in fields of flowers and hippies. Now that I'm in a different kind of '60s, I seem to be seeking myself in other ways.

Some of you (hopefully most of you) are familiar with my six Callie Parrish cozeysque novels.  Fewer people have read my first two books.  Aeden's Two Homes is a children's picture book, and Familiar Faces & Curious Characters is a collection of dramatic monologues for intermediate-age drama students.  Both are out-of-print, but a new regional publisher has agreed to take a look at them.

What does this have to do with my search for self now that I'm entitled to the senior citizen discount where I shop?   I'm changing genres. (Not genders, genres!) I will now reference a few of the many others who have done this:

Lawrence Block - Crime fiction author, including Matt Scudder novels and the Bernie Rhodenbarr novels.  Quite successful in this genre, but back in the '60s and '70s, he wrote more than a hundred books of soft-core erotica, including seven "sensitive evocations of lesbianism" written as Jill Emerson.

Roald Dahl - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (aka Willie Wonka), Fantastic Mr. Fox, and The BFG (Stephen Spielberg is filming this favorite of mine for release in 2015.) are examples of his fantastically successful children's books.  "Lamb to the Slaughter" (woman beats her husband to death with a frozen leg of lamb, then cooks the murder weapon and serves it to the policemen who investigate the killing) is an example of his classic crime stories.  Macabre stories in Kiss, Kiss and salacious ones in Switch Bitch and the novel My Uncle Oswald (about "the greatest fornicator of all time") illustrate Dahl's versatility and comfort in many genres.

Ian Fleming - Author of both the James Bond spy series and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - nothing else needs to be said.

Stephen King - Best known as a writer of horror and sci fi, King's recognition as MWA's Grandmaster in 2007 was based on his crime fiction, including "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" and The Green Mile.

A. A. Milne - Creator of the Winnie-the-Pooh books, he also wrote The Red House Mystery, proclaimed by critic Alexander Woolcott as "one of the three best mystery stories of all time."  This classic English country house "locked room" tale of murder has been in print continuously since its first publication.

Philip Roth - Portnoy's Complaint and two dozen other literary novels won him numerous awards. In 2004, he took his first stab at the branch of sci fi called "alternate history," about the fictional results of anti-Semitic American hero Charles Lindbergh being elected president.

E.B. White - Successful and memorable for an unusual combination:  Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web, both widely beloved children's books, and the classic reference work on the subject of clear writing - The Elements of Style.  Written by William Strunk, Jr., one of White's college professors, this style guide was edited and revised by White.  His publisher released it as by "Strunk and White."  E.B. White is as well known for this handbook of grammar and style as he is for that spider and pig.

Please note that I listed these gentlemen in alphabetical order. (I promise I'm not compulsive, but I tend to alphabetize all lists except for groceries.  I think it's my way of not showing favoritism as well as a hold-over from my days in the classroom.) I am not comparing myself or my writing to any of those writers, but they do demonstrate that authors aren't limited to one genre, and I am using them as an introduction to my own genre-jump.

Joanne Fluke, author of more than twenty highly successful Hannah Swenson cozy mysteries about a lady baker, has had five suspense novels released by her publisher, which happens to be Kensington. I've long admired Ms. Fluke as having reached my idea of the height of accomplishment. Though I've had the pleasure of book talks, readings, and signings in Borders, BAM, B&N, and Indies as well as libraries and book clubs, Callie never achieved my goal.  Those Hannah Swenson books get displayed right there on the book racks I yearn to occupy:  Publix and BiLo.

When I bought Fluke's The Other Child, I found "A Letter from Joanne Fluke" explaining her venture into this new genre on the very first page. (My apologies for putting that heading in quotes but not printing it exactly as it is in the book:  All caps.)  At the risk of being called a copy cat (I've been called worse), I borrowed that idea, and the very first page of my soon-to-be-released new book appears below:


A Note from Fran Rizer

A very  special thanks to all the readers of my previous books, the Callie Parrish mysteries, which are cozyesque---not quite cozies, but no overt sex, profanity, or described brutality.  For this reason, Callie has had some youthful readers, whom I appreciate.

KUDZU  RIVER is different.

It’s a much grittier book about three women whose lives become entangled as a serial killer leaves a trail of murdered teachers up and down the coast of South Carolina.  At times the writing goes beyond gritty to raw. It is not meant for children.  This is a tale that could not be told in cozy style, but it’s a story that I feel compelled to share.

I cannot think of better words to describe the differences between  Callie’s books and KUDZU RIVER than these:

KUDZU RIVER is to cozies what a great white shark is to a guppy.
                                                         -------Richard D. Laudenslager
                                                                      Author of Wounded


I'll be back in two weeks and tell you more about KUDZU RIVER. Meanwhile, if you have the time and are interested in reading and reviewing this for SSers, email me.

Until we meet again, take care of … you.

08 September 2014

Introducing Callie Parrish


by Fran Rizer

Last Monday, Jan Grape wrote about the Meet My Character Blog Tour.  Tagged authors write about their main characters by answering questions on their blogs.  The writers then invite one to five other authors to join. Jan tagged me, so here goes:

1.  What is the name of your character?  Is he or she fictional or a historic person?
At the launch for TWINKLE, TWINKLE, LITTLE STAR,
THERE'S A BODY IN THE CAR, these Callie fans showed
up dressed as Callie on the left and Jane on the right. They
definitely matched the way I see these characters as I write
about them although Callie is known to dye her hair 
frequently so is occasionally blond.
The main character of my first six books is fictional Callie Parrish. Her full name is Calamine Lotion Parrish.  When her mother died giving birth to their sixth child, Callie's father got drunk--really drunk. This was his first daughter and the only thing female he could think of was the color pink.  The only pink that came to mind was Calamine Lotion.  Callie frequently thanks heaven that Pa didn't think of Pepto Bismol.  If you don't recognize the particular shade of pink in front of me in the above picture, it's a Victoria's Secret pink bag which contained a gift from Jane.  

2.  When and where is the story set? 

Callie's adventures are set in contemporary times and primarily in the fictional town of St. Mary located near coastal Beaufort, SC. In the series, Callie and her BFF, visually handicapped Jane Baker, have encountered murders in other places such as a bluegrass festival on Surcie Island and a casket manufacturer in North Carolina.

4.  What should we know about him/her?

Callie works as a cosmetician/Girl Friday at Middleton's Mortuary for her twin bosses, Otis and Odell Middleton.  After graduating from St. Mary High School, she left St. Mary to attend the university in Columbia, SC, where she married and worked for several years as a kindergarten teacher. After her husband "did what he did" to make her divorce him, she returned to St. Mary where she spends time with Jane, her daddy, her five brothers, and whoever she's dating. She likes working at the funeral home better than teaching kindergarten because the people she works with at Middleton's lie still instead of jumping around all the time, don't yell or cry, and don't have to tee-tee every five minutes.

Callie's time teaching five-year-olds led her to stop using some of the language she grew up with living in a house with only her father and five older brothers.  Instead, she "kindergarten cusses," which consists of "Dalmation!" when she's irritated and "Shih tzu!" when she's extremely annoyed. She has a Harlequin Great Dane dog who's named Big Boy though he acts more like a girl dog. Callie is a talented banjo player and vocalist, but she's not perfect. She can't cook, and she's flat-chested which led her to wear inflatable bras because she's scared of breast-augmentation surgery.

5.  What is the personal goal of this character?

In the first books, Callie's goals (besides solving murders and her own personal survival as well as Jane's) were to convince Jane to stop shoplifting and to comfort families by providing peaceful memory pictures of their deceased relatives. She also wanted a closer relationship with her redneck father and to meet a romantic interest as unlike her ex-husband as possible.  She achieved these goals except finding the right romantic interest, but she's still looking.

6.  Can we read about this character yet? 


The top three Callies were published by Berkley Prime Crime, and the
first three on the bottom row were published by Bella Rosa Books.  
 Kudzu River is not a Callie Parrish mystery.  In fact, it's as far from cozy
as possible.  Kudzu River is a novel of abuse, murder, and retribution 
that's scheduled for release by Odyssey South Publishing in November.  
The six Callie Parrish mysteries are all available electronically. The first three are out-of-print, but used copies can sometimes be found on Amazon.  Callie books four through six are available in print and electronically from Bella Rosa Books and on Amazon.

7.  Who do you tag?

I've tagged Janice Law, and her Character Blog will appear right here on Monday, September 22, 2014.  A surprise Character Blog is scheduled for my first Monday in November.  If you're interested in participating in the Meet Your Character Blog Tour, let me know. 

Until we meet again, take care of . . . you. 

25 August 2014

Zero Tolerance or Zero Intelligence?


by Fran Rizer

I've often laughed at some of the "crimes" in Florida that Leigh writes about, but last week has made me as embarrassed by South Carolina as much as Florida should make Leigh and some others.
The Big Bang Theory characters– all above
average intelligence except Penny
It happened in Summerville, SC, a small town not too far from the coast.  I spent a wonderful summer there years ago as a drama consultant when their Talented and Gifted summer program produced a musical I'd written.  At that time, the people seemed friendly and though they weren't of The Big Bang Theory intelligence, they didn't seem to be idiots either.

Alex Stone
Imagine my surprise when the news plastered pictures of a sixteen-year-old Summerville student locally, regionally, and nationally.  The young man, Alex Stone, was assigned to write a few sentences about himself and a status as though he were posting on Facebook. In the status, Stone wrote a fictional story stating that he'd killed his neighbor's "pet dinosaur" with a gun.

As soon as the teacher saw the word, "gun," she reported it to school officials who called law enforcement to search Stone's locker and book bag.  No guns or weapons of any kind were located, but Stone was handcuffed and arrested for arguing that he meant the whole thing to be funny.  This was interpreted as "being disruptive." He was suspended for the rest of the week during the first few days of the school term.

Could this be the dinosaur Alex wrote about?
Having taught in an inner-city school where I once took a straight-edged razor from a ten-year-old, I'm pretty much in favor of zero tolerance, but I am also in favor of student creativity and a little common sense on the part of authorities.

Alex Stone's mother has hired a lawyer and states that the school didn't call her and tell her what was happening. If they had, she would have gone there and suggested they simply make Alex write a different paper for the assignment. In fact, the school didn't contact her at all.  She first learned about her son's difficulties that day from law enforcement after his arrest.
I'm not saying Pop Tarts are good for your health,
but should this be cause for suspension?

To me, this incident bumps the Pop Tart gun suspension from the throne as most absurd zero tolerance suspension.  If you've forgotten about that event, an eight-year-old was suspended in May, 2013, for chewing his Pop Tart into a gun shape. Thank heaven that one wasn't in South Carolina.

I have a major problem with the fact that the arrest and suspension are going into Alex Stone's permanent records and his photo has been shown all over news media.  In no report did I see the name or photo of the teacher who reacted to this paper as "a threat" because she saw the word 'gun.'  

Personally, if I were his teacher, I would have told Alex how creative and imaginative his assignment was, but cautioned him about the extremes to which some people take zero tolerance.  The only way I would have seen his assignment as "threatening" was if the he'd called me a dinosaur before writing the paper or if students were specifically given a list of "forbidden words" for writing prior to the assignment. (Just think about what could have been on that list.)

My teen-aged grandson and I discussed the numerous news reports about this incident. His response:  "Using a dinosaur as the victim made it obvious his paper was creative fiction." He paused, thought a minute, and then added, "If zero tolerance means the word 'gun' can't be included in anything in schools, they need to throw away the dictionaries and severely censor school computers and I-pads."

Once again, I'm left wondering how and why fiction sells so well when real life is sometimes far more absurd.

Until we meet again, take care of … you.

11 August 2014

G-Mama and the Mafia


by Fran Rizer


My post for today has been ready for weeks, so I felt pretty good when I arose yesterday and, coffee cup in hand, went to the computer to see what Leigh had to say.  I confess I wasn't expecting to read about one of his exes being formerly a mob moll.  This was especially amusing since last week, my grandson told me, "Dad says you used to date someone who was in the Mafia."

Dilemma: Is that a story I really want to share with SSers?
  
Answer:  Yep, I think I will.  Note that my author photo today is from the time in my life that this occurred.  

It happened like this:

My older son was sixteen; the younger, eleven. They'd been taking karate lessons across town, so when a dojo opened near our townhouse, we visited.  The tall, good-looking sensei/proprietor was very convincing, and I moved the boys' lessons to his studio. Unlike Leigh, I'm not using real names, so I'll just call him John.


A few weeks later, John began joining me on the bleachers after my sons' lessons. He spoke glowingly of their progress and we discussed life as single parents. We also talked about how to build his business through a promotional campaign for the karate lessons and the aerobics classes upstairs.  

Next came an invitation to dinner, which I thought was a business meeting to discuss the PR plan. During the evening, I wasn't quite sure what to think. He acted more like we were having a date than a business meeting, but the conversation kept going back to plans for the dojo. At the end of the night, when he went for the inevitable goodnight kiss, I was still confused.

John was handsome. He was charming.  He took up a lot of time with my sons. In June, he confessed to me that he was having a hard time with the dojo rent, but that he would be receiving a substantial financial settlement from an accident in just a few weeks.

Can you believe that I was dumb enough to lend him a thousand dollars? The only reason I had a thousand to spare was that I drew three months' pay as a lump sum at the beginning of the summer.

Weeks rolled by and I saw more and more things about John that I disliked. For one, he had my sixteen-year-old son teaching younger students. It began with his just doing warm-up exercises with them. Soon he was teaching the entire class time. John told the kids' parents that my son was a black belt, which he was not. I've never liked liars.  

Every time I asked about his "settlement," John told me he would be getting it soon. Now, I've never liked liars, but I didn't say I'd never lied. After all, I was essentially in training to become a fiction writer later in life.

On a Monday afternoon in August, I told John that he had to return my money by Friday because I'd borrowed it from someone who was becoming very impatient causing me to be frightened. I never said it, but I implied that I'd gotten the thousand from a loan shark. Tuesday afternoon, John told me that he didn't think he'd be able to pay me anytime soon.  He didn't seem overly concerned. He acted like it was my problem, and I'd have to deal with it.

Wednesday afternoon, the owner of a deli that I did bookkeeping for called John. He was a big Greek man from somewhere up North, had the lowest voice of anyone I ever knew, and said the following, word for word: 

I have a problem, John. I loaned some money to a young woman who can't pay it back  It turns out she got that money for you. I'll be taking care of this matter this weekend unless she puts that money in my hand Friday at lunchtime. You need to understand that I'm not going after her. I'll be settling up with you. I don't like men who take advantage of women.

Those are the exact words that were spoken. I know because my Greek friend read them exactly as I'd written them on an index card for him. John spluttered around trying to negotiate, but the phone line went dead. The big, bad karate master dang near wet his gi.

Rain was pouring mid-morning Friday, but John came running out to my car when I pulled up in front of the dojo. He couldn't put the money in my hand fast enough. I even asked him if he'd like to ride with me, but he was adamant that he had too much to do. I killed a few hours at the library and then stopped at a florist before heading back to the dojo.

My drama skills were in full play when I returned.  I motioned for John to join me in the office.  

Closing the door behind us frantically, John asked, "Is it okay? He's not coming here, is he?"

I handed John a single red rose and said, "He said to give you this, and you'd better be damn glad it's red and not white."

That's the end of the story if I rewrite and try to sell it, but since we're friends, I'll tell you the rest.

My sons returned to lessons at their original karate location. Neither objected. They even said, "We were learning more there."

John called a few times, and I always made some excuse not to see him.  Three months later, his business closed. Six months later, I ran into the former aerobics instructor from John's studio at the mall. She told me that he'd disappeared while owing her husband several thousand dollars including their last loan to him when he swore the Mafia was after him. 

End of story?  Not yet.

A few years later, I'm in the kitchen preparing dinner when my younger son calls, "Hey, Mom, come here. John's on the news."

He'd been arrested for conning several women out of money by setting up a photography studio and advertising for models, who were then giving him their student loan money to advance their careers. I think there was probably more to the story than that, but I changed the channel.

Now, how does this relate to writing fiction? I hadn't thought about that crazy summer for years until my grandson said his dad told him I dated someone in the Mafia.

I questioned my son about it and he said that John had told him, "Your mom has a boyfriend in the Mafia."
My grandson and his dad, my older son


When I told them the entire story, both my son and grandson had a big laugh over G-Mama conning a con man. Leigh's column yesterday inspired me to begin writing this tale as a short story.  Of course, I always "embroider" real events, so the protagonist might become the aerobics teacher (change aerobics to zumba to update it) and the older Greek man could be her grandfather.   

What about you?  Are some of your stories semi-autobiographical?

Until we meet again, take care of … you.

28 July 2014

Moon Over Tangier


by Fran Rizer

Thanks to Janice Law and Leigh Lundin, I spent Friday suffering from self-induced sleep deprivation. When Leigh asked if anyone would like to review Janice Law’s newest novel, I volunteered. It arrived Thursday afternoon, and I didn’t stop reading until I completed it Friday morning. The official release date is the end of August, but I can’t wait to tell you about it. Here’s my review:

Moon Over Tangier


Janice Law
Janice Law
    Author Janice Law opens Moon Over Tangier with protagonist/narrator Francis Bacon bruised, bleeding, and wearing little more than fishnet stockings in the muddy Berkshire countryside. David, his partner, has once again erupted into a rage that the artist escaped only by running outside after a well-placed kick forced David to release the knife he held at Bacon’s throat.

    Third in the Francis Bacon trilogy following The Fires of London, a finalist in the 2012 Lambda Award for Gay Mysteries; and The Prisoner of the Riviera, winner of the 2013 Lambda Award Best Gay Mystery, Moon Over Tangier will impress many readers as even better than the first two.

    Eager to escape his situation and obsessed with David, Bacon follows him to Tangier. David—charming when he’s relaxed and mellowed with a happy level of alcohol intake—invites Bacon to a party where he introduces Bacon to his friend Richard who shows them a Picasso he has purchased. Unfortunately, Bacon realizes the painting is a copy, possibly an outright forgery. His telling Richard this leads to Bacon becoming an unwilling undercover agent for the police and barely escaping with his life after being locked in a closet while another man is killed.

    Caught up in murders, art forgery, and espionage, Bacon is captured and tortured physically by foreign agents and mentally by his love for David and David’s treatment of him, which he sums up in the words, “David liked me, but he didn’t love me.”

    This reader especially liked Francis Bacon’s witty narrator’s voice and appreciated Law’s treatment of David, “a brave, twisted man, half-ruined by the war and busy completing the destruction.” Law’s word choices are consistent with the post-war forties, and at no place do we see the term PTSD, but David is clearly a victim of that condition. In keeping with the time of the setting, Bacon and David do not flaunt their homosexuality, but they do “cavort,” the narrator’s term for their attraction to handsome beach boys and casual sexual encounters, which are not described in detail.

    Janice Law's Francis Bacon, the main character, is based on the real Francis Bacon, an Irish-born British bon vivant known for raw emotional imagery in his paintings. Throughout Moon Over Tangier the fictional character's references to his art are consistent with the real Bacon's isolated male heads of the 1940s and screaming popes of the 1950s. In previous Francis Bacon mysteries, his earlier life and close relationship with his nanny are historically accurate as are the descriptions of locations during the designated time periods in all three books.

    It is not, however, necessary to know anything about the real Francis Bacon to appreciate reading about Law's fictional version, nor is it necessary to read the first two novels before Moon Over Tangier. This book works just as well as a stand-alone, though anyone who reads this third in the trilogy first will probably then read The Fires of London and The Prisoner of the Riviera.

    Historical fiction has not been my favorite genre, but in Moon Over Tangier, Janice Law weaves in the historical facts so skillfully that I am not distracted from the adventure and mystery of the story. With the talent and expertise that Law has displayed in previous works, her writing captures me and takes me into a less than familiar world where the setting and characters become real and exciting. I read Moon Over Tangier for entertainment, and Janice Law's Francis Bacon entertains me five stars.

Moon Over Tangier
Author: Janice Law
Publisher: Mysterious Press.com/Open Road
ISBN: 978-1-4976-4199-5

Until we meet again, take care of … you  (and read this great new book by Janice!)

14 July 2014

Places I Have Lived


by Fran Rizer

Last Tuesday, Stephen Ross posted "Friends and Influences" which began with a description of a time he spent living with several friends in an interesting farm house.

For some reason, my mind immediately traveled back to the year I was ten when my dad took a six-month leave from his job as an electrical engineer to write a book.  He'd saved for this and was joyfully enthusiastic to put one of his dreams into action.  As part of his plan, he rented out our home and we became tenants in a more rural, less expensive house.

The reason the rent was so cheap is because that house was so old.

It looked okay from the outside– a large building with a porch across the front with a swing. The small yard in front of the porch was fenced, but the driveway on the left was not enclosed. That drive led to the door into the kitchen at the back of the house and to what seemed tremendous to a ten year old, but was probably no more than an acre of land planted with grape arbors and fruit trees--lots of pear trees, apple trees, and peach trees. 


How Daddy probably saw the same house.
Add a fence, trees, and a driveway on
the left and this is similar to how I
remember that house.

Every room had a fire-place, the only form of heat available and of course, there was no air conditioning. We had to go out the back door to a porch to use the bathroom because it had been added and opened to the porch and not to the inside of the house.

My favorite room was the kitchen because that's where Mama usually could be found. There was a round, pot-bellied stove in there, and the room was always warm.It also smelled good. When I awoke in the morning, the scent of bacon and eggs wafted into my room.  When I got off the school bus, I could smell dinner cooking before I even reached the house.

Thinking back, those must have been very hard times on my mother.  She spent those months hauling wood into the house and keeping those fires burning. Daddy had made a budget and it didn't allow for the same kind of groceries we'd been accustomed to. Mama had to learn to cook less expensive foods, which was great with me because what's known as "soul food" evolved from making the best of limited resources in the South, and to this day, I love that kind of food.

The front room was Daddy's work room.  Now, I confess that I was totally spoiled as a child, but the rules were firm:  Don't make loud noises that would disturb him and don't go in that room.  He wrote from 8:00 AM until 6:00 PM and then we had supper.

I have some happy memories from that house and the trees out back.  There was one that was perfect to climb and sit in.  I spent many weekend hours and time between school and supper sitting in my favorite tree and reading.  Perched atop my favorite limb, I met Oliver Twist and became an avid Charles Dickens fan. I'm sure my mother was far less happy than I was because of the extra work and because when the writing didn't go well, my father was capable of extreme irritability.

However, my most vivid memory is fear.  We moved into the house in the fall.  I was terrified of the front yard. The only trees in that small fenced yard were deciduous and all the leaves fell off leaving naked branches.

There were bare trees in the back yard, but they didn't scare me. When I got off the school bus, I ran as fast as I could down the drive to get past the fenced area. I always arrived at the back door breathless and rushed inside to my mother and the warmth and good smells. I don't know what I thought might get me in the front yard, but I don't recall ever going across from the gate to the front door by myself, and I don't remember ever using that swing.  

What does all this have to do with writing?  Stephen Ross's jogging of my memory of living there brought two facts about writing to mind.

FACT 1:  It is most helpful, perhaps even necessary, to have a designated, private place to write. Stephen King recommends this and adds that it should be a space with no distractions. 

FACT 2:  We, both as writers and readers, react to how a place makes us feel from its "aura" more than from the reality of the site. This was vital in my writing of The True Haunting of Julia Bates, my horror novel that is now seeking a publisher. I tried to make the reader feel what I felt as a small child dashing past that scary place that I knew in my heart was fenced to keep the monsters within its borders.



Postscript One: That was my father's first book, and it was published by the University of Texas at Austin.

Postscript Two: I've wanted to try one of those houses where authors live together and write since I first read Frankenstein and the story of its creation.  That's not what Ross wrote about, but his description of that week dampens that idea a little.

Until we meet again, take care of … you!

30 June 2014

Twenty-Four, Maybe Forty-Eight Hours


by Fran Rizer

A few weeks ago, I shared some of John Floyd's hints and tips about writing for Woman's World. Today I'm adding one of my own tips, not just for WW, but for all creative writing.  First, please travel back in time with me.

Many, many years ago, not long after my divorce, I fell madly in love with a smooth-talking charmer. He said he'd been divorced once and had custody of his two teen-aged sons.  My boys were five and ten at the time, and a man with custody of his kids fit right into my ideal–someone who was family oriented. He was financially secure and lived in a beautiful home right on the lake. We went to his older son's football games.  We took all four boys places as well as having romantic weekends when both sets of sons were with their non-custodial parents.  Head over heels, gloriously in love, I accepted an engagement ring and his marriage proposal which came one night on the dock fairly quickly after we began dating.

Six months later, I learned that not only was he seeing someone on the side, he had lied about almost everything.  To sum it up, he'd been divorced six times, always on grounds of adultery.  Being a natural redhead at the time, I reacted in red–a fine point red-tipped pen.  I told him what I thought of him, called him a few nasty names, and shouted in red ink where he could go and what to do when he got there.  Then I dropped that ring in the envelope with my letter and drove forty miles in a blinding rainstorm to put it in his mailbox before he got home from work.

He called me when he read the letter and began with how shocked he was because he didn't know I knew such words.  When that didn't elicit a response from me, he apologized for the lies about his past but denied seeing anyone else.  When he said, "I love you," I hung up on him and didn't answer any more of his calls. (Thank heaven for caller ID even back then.) He began waiting for me outside the school where I taught, but I turned my back to him, got in my car, and drove away.  Don't know what I would have done if he'd followed me--probably driven straight to the police station.

No, I'm not writing for True Romance.  I'm headed toward a lesson learned, and yes, it has to do with both personal and professional writing.

Five years later, I ran into that first love after my divorce and being far beyond any caring or hurt or anger, I had a cup of coffee with him.  We talked about our children and shared a friendly conversation.

As we stood to leave, he pulled his wallet from his pocket and along with money to pay, he took out a folded piece of paper--a piece of paper with angry red words.  He'd saved that letter. At that moment, I vowed to never again send anyone anything I'd written before holding it twenty-four hours.

Here's the tip:  Like a good steak, writing benefits from a rest period.

From the time I finish what I consider the final rewrite, I don't send out anything I've written until I've waited at least twenty-four hours. At that time, I read it again.  Inevitably, I'll find at least one thing that can still be improved. Frequently, what I change is simply one word, but last week, I let one of those solve-it-yourself mysteries rest and when I went back to it, I realized that the protagonist's name was wrong.  I'd needed a name that began with the letter D and called her Deborah when she was actually a Delores.

We teach that stories need conclusions, so here's the conclusion to my opening tale.  The last I heard about him, he was on his tenth marriage and his older son was creating a track record very much like his dad's. Children learn what they live (and so do writers).

Until we meet again, take care of … you.

16 June 2014

Those Quickie Mysteries


by Fran Rizer
How true.  It's addictive!

Several weeks have passed since I last joined you on this side of SleuthSayers.  My mini-vacation wasn't planned, but it worked out well for me because I haven't had much to say beyond an occasional comment along with moans and cries of pain caused by Shingles. Unlike Leigh, who can write humor inspired by his kidney stones and uninvited guests on his dock, I can't think of anything amusing to say about shingles except they hurt far more than I ever expected. Before anyone tells me I should have taken the immunization shot, let me explain that I'm violently allergic to neomycin which makes me ineligible for the vaccination.

Some of you may recall that I recently made the decision to stop writing, but, as has happened before, that resolution didn't last. What I'm experiencing is a spell when my muse has abandoned me.  I need to write something different, at least for me. I've had six Callie Parrish mysteries published under my name and a few best forgotten thrillers under a pen name. I have no desire to begin another of either.  My horror novel doesn't have a publisher yet, and I'm not interested in writing paranormal romance. So, what should I do? 


I started out in this business writing feature magazine articles.  I've gone back to that and have sent out three. We'll see if those maintain my old track record which was 100% acceptance, certainly far better than I do with fiction.  I've also been writing press releases for the charity concert my friends and I in SC Screams Team are sponsoring in July. 

It would be nice to say that press releases and magazine features are satisfying my addiction to fiction, but I'd be lying. Though being a fiction writer is a license to lie, I don't feel right lying to you, the readers and writers of SleuthSayers. I've begun some co-writing with fellow songwriter, Gene Holdway, but I want to write fiction. Not motivated to begin another novel, I decided to go to the other extreme and tackle John M. Floyd's market--those solve-it-yourself mysteries for Woman's World. For any newcomers among us, Woman's World features one mystery and one romance story every week. The pay is good, but the word limits are restrictive.  Maximum for mysteries is 700; for romances, 800.

This isn't exactly my first rodeo with WW. I've had two romances that they suggested changes and invited me to resubmit, but I hadn't tried mysteries previously.

I pick up WW each week to see if John has a story in it, so I was fairly familiar with what they print.  I feel the need to warn everyone though that if you read those short, short mysteries constantly, you reach the point that you can spot the important clue as you read, so the solution is hardly ever a surprise with some of the authors, but not with John M. Floyd.  

No problem with characters, crimes, and knowing who's guilty, but coming up with those clues required in the solve-it-yourself mysteries was leaving me clueless. I don't want clues to jump off the page at the reader, but I don't want them so elusive that after reading the ending, the reader has to go back searching to see if the author actually included them.

I shared my first solve-it-yourself mystery effort with my friend, Richard D. Laudenslager, who helped me out with some great suggestions.  I returned the favor by inspiring him to try one of his own. His first solve-it-yourself seems absolutely perfect.  I questioned how he'd zeroed in on the style.  His answer:
"I read John Floyd's blog about Woman's World fiction on SleuthSayers."

Now, the truth is that I probably did read that blog back in 2012, but since I was concentrating on book-length manuscripts at that time, I didn't remember it in detail until I went back and read it again a week ago.

I highly recommend reading John's blog before writing one of those quickie mysteries. John M. Floyd's A Woman's World Survival Guide.

John gives personal statistics for his sales to WW as well as a brief history of how their fiction has changed since his first mini-mystery appeared in WW in 1999. He also shares hints and tips for the mysteries which I'll repeat here: 
  1. Make the good guys win.
  2. Include humor if possible.
  3. Use a lot of dialogue.
  4. Include a female protagonist.
  5. Include a real crime, not a situation that appears to be crime, but is revealed not to be.
  6. Keep it fairly clean and fairly simple.  Avoid extreme violence, explicit sex, strong language, technical jargon, characters with physical or mental disabilities, overly complex plots, and exotic locations.  (John, I have to say this sounds a lot like the "cozy formula.")
  7. Don't jeopardize babies or pets. (Another cozy rule.)
  8. Stay below the 700 word count.  (John says his run between 680 and 690.)

After reading John's hints and tips, I knew immediately that my second try would be rejected and had to be revised before submitting it.  

Of course, Richard and I both hope to have stories accepted, but even if we don't, writing for this market is great exercise.  We have become far more conscientious about unnecessary words and tightening up expressions. The restrictions also encourage writers to jump right in with the action instead of spending a lot of words on set-up.  John suggests that his repeated characters of bossy retired teacher Angela Potts and her ex-student lawman alleviate the need for a lot of set up.  To that, I say, "But John, we have to sell the first story before we can repeat the characters."

How did I know WW wouldn't accept my second mystery?

As a retired teacher of disabled and visually handicapped children, I frequently include challenged or visually handicapped adults living fairly normal lives in my writing. (Example: Jane in the Callie Parrish books) The protagonist in the story was blind. See Tip 6 above.

I'd like to hear from the rest of you. Have you submitted fiction to Woman's World? What were your experiences in dealing with the restrictions?  John, how about some current statistics?
    
On the left, my partner in crime, Richard D. Laudenslager.
On the right, my partner in rhyme, Gene Holdway.
I'm 5'3", but I think this photo demonstrates that
I should be able to write short.
Until we meet again, take care of … you.