The Detective’s Daughter – Hollywood Glamour

Good morning – we interrupt our regularly scheduled programming with a special announcement!

The winners of the Jess Lourey and Shannon Baker contests are:

Gail Arnold (Shannon’s winner)
Ann Mason (Jess’s winner)

Gail and Ann, message us your emails on the WCA Facebook page and we’ll put you in touch.

Now, over to Kim!


Kim in Baltimore melting from the intense heat.

A few months ago I read a book called Design for Dying by Renee Patrick which I highly recommend. I love reading about old Hollywood and show business, in fact I’m a bit obsessed with it. I blame my grandmother. She had subscriptions to Photoplay magazine and Rona Barrett’s Hollywood. We spent hours – and I do mean hours – flipping through the glossy pages covered with updates on everyone from Elizabeth Taylor to Paul Newman. While other girls on my block were dreaming of Robby Benson and Parker Stevenson, I was setting my alarm to get up at 3am to see a Robert Mitchum movie. The best nights were the ones where a Barbara Stanwyck film followed.
As much as I enjoyed the movies and magazines, what I really loved were imageNana’s stories of her older brother Al. Al was a bandleader who had his own club in the D. C. area in the 1940’s. I was fascinated with the photos of his orchestra and the many acts that had performed in his club. I could picture William Powell and Myrna Loy sipping martinis and watching as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers glided around the dance floor.image
Just like all good Hollywood pictures, Al Norton’s life had a dramatic end. Nana told me many times how her brother, dejected by the woman he loved, died of a broken heart in his kitchen. Many years later I found a newspaper clipping about his death that revealed the truth; it wasn’t so much his broken heart that killed him as it was the gas on his stove he had purposefully turned on. Nana would never admit to that, but would tell me two notes were left. She burned hers after reading it.image
Though I never met this man, he has been a great influence on my life; from the books I read to the cocktails I drink. When I find a delightful book like Design for Dying or watch I Love Lucy reruns, I can’t help wishing to be sent back to that glamorous era.

If you could be transported back in time, where would you want to go? Would you want to meet one of your ancestors or a famous historical figure?

The Five Definitions of Scene


Hi. Kim Gray here. Today we welcome Stuart Horwitz the founder and principal of Book Architecture. He is the author of three books, the latest being Finish Your Book in Three Drafts: How to Write a Book, Revise a Book, and Complete a Book While You Still Love It. He joins us today to discuss The Five Definitions of Scene.

imageTake it away, Stuart!

What’s the big deal about scene? Well, as a group of self-contained passages within your narrative, they are nothing less than the building blocks of your work. Finding the places where your scenes break and separating them into discrete units can help you move scenes around, divide and combine them, and eliminate them when necessary.

The most commonly heard expression in writing circles is probably “Show, don’t tell,” which means you must put us in the scene. Don’t tell us about it, don’t tell us that it happened, don’t tell us that your characters—or you as the narrator—had a certain set of feelings about it; make it happen for us as readers, as viewers.

From this we get the first definition of scene:

#1. A scene is where something happens.image

If you are working in non-fiction, consider a scene to be the material that is grouped under a subhead where you have demonstrated your point, which is the same thing as making things happen. Now that you have introduced new material into the discourse, the discourse has shifted. Which is what our second definition of scene is getting at:

#2. A scene is where because something happens, something changes.

As I said above, a scene is the basic measuring unit by which you will construct your manuscript. Once you have identified these units, you can determine if each scene is weak or strong, a hopeless aside, or the climactic scene, in large part by whether or not any given scene belongs to a recognizable series.

#3. A scene has to be capable of series.

You would be surprised by the number of scenes that are written which contain nothing that is repeated—not the characters, not the place, not the ideas. Readers have a limited ability to track information, so unless you are intentionally presenting a red herring, what are these one-iteration series doing, just hanging out? The vibrant cafe owner with caustic wit but a heart of gold: Where did he go? That cabin that seemed so mysterious: How come we never went back there?

Series is a complicated concept that I explore at length in my books, but the heart of it is: If you get a great character, object, setting, or concept—it has to repeat. When you repeat and vary your narrative elements, they each become a strand; brand enough strands together and you can fashion a strong rope which is your theme. Because your theme is strengthened by each and every one of your series threads, which in turn spool out of your scenes, it makes sense that,

#4. A scene has to be in the service of the one central theme.

If all of your scenes serve the one central theme, you almost can’t miss at that point. But if you do have a scene that is not related to the one thing your book is about (because your book can only be about one thing, that is the very definition of theme), it either has to be expandable, or it is expendable.
Finally, the fifth definition of scene is this:

#5. A scene has to have “it.”

That’s it; just “it.” I, for one, don’t think we should be above talking about things in this way. Each scene must carry with it a sense of excitement, for both the writer and the reader. A bad or forgotten scene that you decide to keep while putting together your provisional scenic order might have “it.” That might be why you haven’t dropped it yet. You may not know what “it” is, but you can still detect it; it resonates, you can’t quite shake it. This scene has “it”—not that it’s perfect.

So, that’s it: five criteria for a scene to meet for you to feel good about what it does and get information about where it goes. And then get on to writing the next one.image

Stuart Horwitz is also a ghostwriter, independent developmental editor. He developed the Book Architecture Method ( over fifteen years of helping writers get from first draft to final draft. His first book, Blueprint Your Best Seller: Organize and Revise Any Manuscript with the Book Architecture Method (Penguin/Perigee) was named one of the best books about writing by The Writer magazine.

Readers: Do you recognize these building blocks while you read? Do you feel “it” and notice scenes moving the story forward? Writers: Do you employ these criteria?


Wicked Busy Authors Who Write Multiple Series

razing-dead-200The Wickeds continue to celebrate Sheila Connolly’s book birthday for Razing the Dead. Today, we are going to talk about authors who write multiple series. As readers of this blog know, Sheila writes the Orchard Mysteries and the County Cork Mysteries in addition to the Fundraising Mysteries. Who else wears a few hats?

Julie: Well, historically, I need to give a hat tip to Dame Agatha Christie. Most people only think of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot when they think of her. But she also wrote Tommy and Tuppence mysteries, a couple of books that featured Inspector Battle, and a number of stand alones. She also had characters visit each other–Inspector Battle does some cross overs.

Jessie: I love all the series by Charlotte MacLeod. She wrote the Peter Shandy Mysteries, the Sarah Kelling Mysteries and the Grub and Stakers Mysteries. Charlotte wrote a lot of other things besides series though. She also wrote short stories, young adult mysteries and Had She but Known: A Biography of Mary Roberts Rinehart. She even wrote a book entitled Astrology for Skeptics.

Barb: I’ve often written here of my love for Ruth Rendell. Under her own name she’s written the twenty-four books in the Inspector Wexford series and  twenty-seven stand-alone novels of psychological suspense, plus countless short stories and three works of nonfiction. As Barbara Vine, she’s written fourteen additional novels. While the Wexford series has my undying love and devotion, one of the Barbara Vine’s, Asta’s Book (published here as Anna’s Book), is on my short, short list of desert island books.

Edith: I’m not ashamed to say that Sheila is my favorite multi-series author. I guess there are different ways to look at multi-series authors. Roberta Islieb had two series, her golf lover’s mysteries and her psychologist advice column series, before becoming Lucy Burdette and writing the delicious Key West Food Critic series. But those are sequential, not concurrent like Sheila’s. Catriona McPherson has an ongoing historical series featuring Dandy Gilver, and she’s concurrently writing standalone suspense novels, starting with As She Left It, and continuing with The Day She Died. But they aren’t actually series! Leslie Budewitz has the new Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries coming out to keep her fabulous (and Agatha-winning) Food Lovers’ Village series, so she’ll have two concurrent before long. And of course, Daryl Wood Gerber/Avery Aames has the ongoing Cookbook Nook Mysteries (as Gerber) and the Cheese Shop Mysteries (as Aames). So much reading to do, so little time…

Oh – and I write two concurrent series. Ha – kind of forgot about that. My next Lauren Rousseau mystery, Bluffing is Murder, will be out under my Tace Baker hat in November!

allFudgeUP308_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srzSherry: I met Nancy J. Parra at Malice this year when she was on a panel I moderated. For the panel I read Engaged in Murder which is the first in her Perfect Proposals Series. I also just read All Fudged Up the first in her Candy Coated Mystery Series. I’m looking forward to reading Gluten for Punishment the first in the Baker’s Treats Mysteries which she writes at Nancy Coco. Her protagonists have great voices and I love her settings!

Readers: Who is your favorite multi-series author?

Four-legged Fun: Our Favorite Animal Mysteries

A Biscuit, A casket.inddHi! Liz here, still floating over the release of A Biscuit, A Casket this week! In the spirit of the Pawsitively Organic Mysteries, which star a fair number of feline and canine characters, we’re talking our favorite animal cozies today.

I love any book that has an animal in it. A cat on the cover pretty much ensures I’ll read it. I totally love Spencer Quinn‘s Chet and Bernie Mysteries. Reading from Chet (the dog’s) point of view is hilarious, heartbreaking and completely amazing.

Clea Simon‘s books are fabulous too, most recently the Pru Marlowe Pet Noir series. And I have so many more in my TBR pile: Leann Sweeney’s Cats in Trouble series, Ali Brandon’s Black Cat Bookshop Mysteries…the list goes on!

Jessie: My absolute favorite animal mystery is a book I read as a child and then read to each of my own children. A Summer in the South by James Marshall makes for a silly and endearing read.

cat-whoSherry: The first series I read with cats in them was The Cat Who mysteries by Lilian Jackson Braun. I loved Moose County, Minnesota, retired newspaperman Jim Qwilleran and his smart Siamese cat, Koko.

bitter-harvest-200Edith: I know they aren’t house pets, but I really like Sheila Connolly’s goats, Dorcas and Isabel, in the Orchard Mysteries. They haven’t gotten up to too much mischief yet, but they sure could if they get loose. Their picture is on the cover of Bitter Harvest, too.

thefourthbearBarb: Hmm. I’m thinking my favorite animal mystery is Jasper Fforde’s The Fourth Bear, in which Detective Jack Spratt and Sergeant Mary Mary attempt to solve the mystery of the disparate temperatures of the porridge while looking for missing person Goldy Hatchett, investigative reporter. The plot is complicated by Porribition and of course, the right to arm bears.

Julie: My sister Caroline would want me to plug Rita Mae Brown’s Sneaky Pie Brown series, which she loves. My choices for pet sidekicks? Spencer’s Pearl in Robert B. Parker’s books. And I like Miss Marple in Lorna Barrett’s Booktown mysteries. I haven’t read Krista Davis’s Paws and Claws series, but her Domestic Diva series featured some great pet sidekicks.

Wicked Good Gift Reads

Here are the reads the Wickeds are leaving under the tree this year for family and friends:

Liz: Through the Evil Days, Julia Spencer FlemingBillionaire Blend, Cleo Coyle; Excuses Begone, Dr. Wayne Dyer.

Sherry: Really? You want me to list what books I’m giving for Christmas? My mom reads this everyday. Shoot now she knows she’s going to get a book. However my husband doesn’t read this everyday so I’ll tell you what he’s getting. King and Maxwell by David Baldacci and The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly. I love both of these authors so it’s a win-win for me.

Edith: For the little kids in my life, The Magic Hat by Mem Fox and The Frog Wore Red Suspenders, a book of poems by Jack Prelutsky. Someone might get The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin. And I’m not sure what else!

Jessie: Since the people to whom I would give books have mentioned lately that they read this blog I think I’d be better off sharing books I’d like to receive! It may seem selfish but it will preserve the mystery and isn’t that what we’re all about here on the Wickeds? As an enthusiastic knitter I would adore a copy of both 150 Scandinavian Motifs by Mary Jane Mucklestone or Knitter’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters: Basic Designs in Multiple Sizes and Gauges by Ann Budd. As a reader I would love to receive Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield.

Barb: Since I’m pretty sure my brother doesn’t read the blog, I’ll disclose that he’s getting The Doors Unhinged, by John Densmore. Ditto for my mother-in-law, who is getting The Aviator’s Wife, by Melanie Benjamin. If anyone out there happens to be shopping for me, I could go for No Man’s Nightingale by Ruth Rendell, The All Girl’s Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg, or Just One Evil Act, by Elizabeth George.

Readers: What are you giving? What’s on your list for Santa to get you?

Favorite New Hampshire Authors

granite stateAs we continue to celebrate Jessie’s book release week, today we’re talking about our favorite New Hampshire authors.

Jessie: My favorite, hands down, is John Irving. When I read A Prayer for Owen Meany I couldn’t bring myself to communicate with my family until I had finished it. I sat secreted away in the laundry room or a closet hoping no one would find me and break the spell. I vaguely remember, several days in a row, making dinner with the book open in front of me and then not eating any of it myself because I couldn’t be bothered.

Edith: I’d like to recommend an up-and-coming author from the Granite State: J.E. Seymour. Her first crime novel, Lead Poisoning, is being rereleased by Barking Rain Press, who is also publishing her second novel, Stress Fractures. J.E. and I were in the same writing group for a while, and I love her spare prose and Granite State noir. She writes about fugitive mob troubleshooter Kevin Markinson who thinks New Hampshire is the perfect place to retire with his family … but his family doesn’t want to see him. It turns out that it’s not that easy to retire from his profession. Check her out!

Liz: I’ve always been a huge fan of Jodi Picoult, one of today’s biggest New Hampshire authors. My favorite books of hers are Second Glance, a mix of historical, paranormal and family drama, and Nineteen Minutes, a chilling tale of a school shooting and the teenaged angst surrounding it. She has such a knack for taking top-of-mind issues straight from the headlines and humanizing them, shedding them in a whole new light.

Barb: In terms of straight out influence on my life, I have to go with Robert Frost. His was the first book of poetry ever given to me as a child. (I mean after A.A. Milne and Dr. Suess.) His work was so beautiful, spare and accessible. I could still probably recite all the verses of Stopping by the Wood on a Snowy Evening, if pressed.

Julie: I am a HUGE John Irving fan, and also love Robert Frost. But since they’ve been mentioned, let me sing the praises of William Tapply. His Brady Coyne mysteries are a wonderful series. And his The Elements of Mystery Fiction is a good read for the aspiring mystery writer. He was also a wonderful member of the mystery community here in New England.

DrizzledCoverSherry: My favorite New Hampshire author is Jessie Crockett. Okay, so I maybe a little be prejudiced but I can’t wait to read Drizzled with Death! And I love Robert Frost too. Although I don’t think I can recite all the verses of Stopping by the Wood on a Snowy Evening. I can recite the first and last. And miles to go before I sleep…who doesn’t feel like that?

Readers: What’s your recommendation for a New Hampshire author?

Wicked Good Reads- Maine Writers

Clammed Up: A Maine Clambake Mystery

Clammed Up: A Maine Clambake Mystery

In celebration of the release of Barb’s first book in her Maine Clambake Mysteries series we are chiming in with favorite Maine authors this week.

Julie: The Dead Cat Bounce by Sarah Graves

Liz: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Jessie: I love anything by Charlotte MacLeod. It would be impossible for me to choose a favorite book or even a favorite series by this charming and delightful author.

Barb: Redemption by Kate Flora

Edith: Final Settlement by Vicki Doudera

Sherry: I’m so excited to read Clammed Up by Barbara Ross this week!!!