Wickeds on a Stick at Bouchercon!

As we said on Wednesday, Jessie, Liz, and Barb couldn’t make it to Bouchercon this year, so the other Wickeds oh-so-graciously, took them on a stick.

Wickeds, what did Jessie, Liz, and Barb get up to at Bouchercon?

Answer: A lot! 

The Wickeds set off from Northern Virginia with Barb Goffman behind the wheel, Donna Andrews riding shotgun, and Shari Randall and Sherry Harris as backseat drivers.

Check out the rearview mirror!

Check out the rear view mirror!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shari Randall is happy the Wickeds are on our road trip.

Shari Randall is happy the Wickeds are on our road trip.

Art Taylor who is also from Northern Virginia is the first person the Wickeds run into after check in!

Art Taylor who is also from Northern Virginia is the first person the Wickeds run into after check in!

 

Dinner with reviewer and author Patti Phillips!

Dinner with reviewer and author Patti Phillips!

 

Walking the mean (okay really nice) streets of Raleigh and meet fan Karen Palmer.

Walking the mean (okay really nice) streets of Raleigh and meet fan Karen Palmer.

A beer and barbecue nachos hit the spot.

A beer and barbecue nachos hit the spot.

Lunch time for the Wickeds.

Lunch time for the Wickeds.

 

The Wickeds go to a panel moderated by Catronia McPherson and panelists Kaitlyn Dunnett and Leslie Budewitz.

The Wickeds go to a panel moderated by Catronia McPherson and panelists Kaitlyn Dunnett and Leslie Budewitz.

 

Authors Matthew Clemens and Catriona McPherson.

Authors Matthew Clemens and Catriona McPherson.

 

 

The Wickeds are always happy to see Hank Phillippi Ryan.

The Wickeds are always happy to see Hank Phillippi Ryan.

 

Liz, Barb, Jessie, and Sherry go to see how the silent auction for the Wicked items is going!

Liz, Barb, Jessie, and Sherry go to see how the silent auction for the Wicked items is going!

 

Reader Risa Rispoli and the Wickeds.

Reader Risa Rispoli and the Wickeds.

 

Toasting Julie Hennrikus's debut book Just Killing Time.

Toasting Julie Hennrikus’s debut book Just Killing Time.

Liz, Barb, and Jessie are so happy to run into Dorothy Cannell.

Liz, Barb, and Jessie are so happy to run into Dorothy Cannell.

 

Happy to run into authors Julie Hennrikus, Leslie Budewitz, Kathryn O'Sullivan, and Nancy Herriman!

Happy to run into authors Julie Hennrikus, Leslie Budewitz, Kathryn O’Sullivan, and Nancy Herriman!

 

A panel with debut author C. Michelle Dorsey. She talks about her book No Virgin Island.

A panel with debut author C. Michelle Dorsey. She talks about her book No Virgin Island.

Dinner with one editor and two thriller writers.

Dinner with one editor and two thriller writers.

Look! It's author Alan Orloff and his wife Janet.

Look! It’s author Alan Orloff and his wife Janet.

The Wickeds wouldn't miss Hank Phillippi Ryan moderating a panel.

The Wickeds wouldn’t miss Hank Phillippi Ryan moderating a panel.

 

Lunch -- more Southern ood! Grits, barbecue, charred carrots, and sweet potatoes!

Lunch — more Southern food! Grits, barbecue, charred carrots, and sweet potatoes!

 

New England authors Kate Flora, Kathy Lee Emerson, and Edith.

New England authors Kate Flora, Kathy Lee Emerson, and Edith.

Leslie Budewitz and Cheryl Hollon love Liz, Barb, and Jessie.

Leslie Budewitz and Cheryl Hollon love Liz, Barb, and Jessie.

 

Attending the panel Julie Hennrikus was on. Debra Goldstein was the moderator.

Attending the panel Julie Hennrikus was on. Debra Goldstein was the moderator.

The Wickeds once again run into Karen Palmer who they met the very first night. She won their basket at the silent auction!

The Wickeds once again run into Karen Palmer who they met the very first night. She won our basket at the silent auction!

They are really excited to see Molly Weston who is on the board of Sisters in Crime and does the wicked awesome newsletter.

They are really excited to see Molly Weston who is on the board of Sisters in Crime and does the wicked awesome newsletter.

 

And last but definitely not least they run into Sarah Glass the amazing webmaster for Sisters in Crime.

And last but definitely not least they run into Sarah Glass the amazing webmaster for Sisters in Crime.

 

 

 

 

All in all there was lots of food, friends and fun but Liz, Barb, and Jessie are wicked tired!

Readers: Do you have a favorite moment from a conference you attended?

Wrestling

By Sherry who is so happy to see blooms on the hydrangeas this year!

I confess, writing book three in the Sarah Winston Garage Sale mysteries was more like wrestling a greased pig, than writing a novel. I’ve tried to figure out why and boiled it down to three things.

1. Major change in the plot. When I wrote the proposal for the series the synopsis for book three was this:

Winter in New England means no more yard sales and Sarah Winston had to find a way to keep her fledgling business afloat. Sarah decides to expand her business to include estate sales but her lack of experience makes finding jobs tough. Sarah has to team up with Lexington antique dealer Barney Hightown because competition is stiff. But not as stiff as Barney Hightown’s body when Sarah stumbles over it in a remote barn when she’s bidding on a project. Sarah must find the killer before he finds her.

IMG_3569When it came time to start writing All Murders Final last fall, I felt like there were other books out there about estate sales and wanted to try something different. Two years ago my friend’s daughter, Amanda, told me about a virtual garage sale in her town. It was a site for re-selling high-end clothing that was in good condition. Amanda told me when people posted clothes that weren’t nice enough, comments got catty. That intrigued me. Around the same time a new neighbor, Ashley, moved in across the street from me. She is the administrator of a local virtual garage sale site that has 6,000 members. Her stories went beyond catty to actual threats. Be still my fiction writing heart.

So I wrote a new synopsis. Sarah still has the same problem with what to do in a New England winter but this time her solution is a virtual garage sale site. Problem solved, right? No, of course not (otherwise there wouldn’t be three things on the list.)

2. Book launch. Several authors, including Jan Burke and Ellen Crosby, told me: You are only a new author once. I pondered what they meant but didn’t really understand until recently. The weeks leading up to a launch are filled with emotional ups and downs. I couldn’t wait to see Tagged for Death on the shelves, but I also dreaded being reviewed. In a panicked moment I wondered if it was possible for me to buy every copy and keep them for myself. It almost felt like I was taking my beautiful baby out in public for the first time and complete strangers could come up and criticize her: that nose is really big, why doesn’t she have more hair, that outfit is awful. You get the picture.

IMG_2460

Tagged for Death book launch.

And in the midst of all that anxiety and joy, you have blog posts to write, appearances, and books to sale. Fortunately, all the good things: the book is on shelves across the country! People showed up to the launch party! Strangers bought my books at signings! Tagged was nominated for an Agatha! outweighed the stupid anxieties. But all of it takes time away from writing especially if you are a pantster with procrastination tendencies like I am. (I don’t know what I’d do if I had a day job like Liz and Julie do!)

3. Is this it? syndrome. My contract is for three books. Of course I hope my contract will be extended but I won’t know until after book three is done and turned in. So just in case the contract isn’t extended, this book, book three, has to be the best book I’ve ever written (not that I wouldn’t want it to be even if I knew I was writing ten more). It has to wrap up the story arc but at the same time it has to leave room for future stories. There are relationship decisions to be made. There are people to kill and mysteries to solve. There’s the launch of the second book and the continuing promotion of the first. No pressure. (Wickeds and other authors out there with more than one series, I don’t know how you do it.)

Before and after  Barb Goffman's editing!

Before and after Barb Goffman’s editing!

Last Friday morning around 11:02 the wrestling match with book three was over and I won — with a ton of help from freelance editor Barb Goffman. Oh, it still needs to be read through by my beta readers and polished so Sarah isn’t shuddering or shivering every other sentence. But I finally felt like I wrapped my arms around that greased pig and lifted her triumphantly into the air. I spent Friday afternoon reading for pleasure. I had dinner with a couple of friends, went to a book signing for Kathryn O’Sullivan, and did a Skype meeting with a book club in Illinois. And all I can think today is I am one lucky lady!

Readers: Have you ever had a hard time with a project that you thought might be easier the third time around?

Web Series vs Mystery Novel Writing — Collaboration and Craft

Sherry Harris in sunny Northern Virginia

Kathryn_O_headshotI met Kathryn O’Sullivan the day I went to my first Chesapeake Chapter meeting of Sisters in Crime. Kathryn’s most recent book, Murder on the Hoof, came out last week. Thanks so much for joining us today, Kathryn!

Thanks, Sherry Harris, for inviting me to do a guest blog! Since I write THURSTON, a Western web series, and the Colleen McCabe mystery series, Sherry thought it might be fun for me to compare writing a web series with writing novels.  I quickly realized that I could write an entire chapter!  However, I finally settled on two areas – collaboration and craft.

Collaboration
Writing a web series (think online television with shorter episodes) and writing a novel both involve collaboration, and this collaboration influences my writing.  The script for a web series is the beginning of the creation of the final product (the episode that airs) – it is not the final product.  My script for an episode is not fully realized until actors, directors,costumers, designers, editors, etc. have brought their unique creative talents to the story.  When I see an actor do something interesting with a character while working with the director, I make a note to incorporate that into future scripts.  In the editing room, lines or scenes are cut because they’re no longer necessary or serve the story.  A score can add tension or lighten the mood.  The story evolves as each person contributes to the process.  When writing a web series, you shouldn’t expect your script to turn out exactly as you wrote it.  You must be willing to give up the idea of controlling everything.  If you’re open to collaboration, you’ll discover that your story often ends up better than you had initially written.

Kathryn with the cast and crew of Thurston.

Kathryn with the cast and crew of Thurston.

Writing a novel also involves collaboration.  For my web series it is script first, collaboration second.  For my novel it is collaboration first, book second.  The book sitting on the shelf is the final product. Whether it’s your writing group, a close friend, your husband or a neighbor you begged to read early drafts, when you invite people to give you feedback on your work they are collaborating.  Add your editor’s, agent’s, and copyeditor’s input and you quickly appreciate how many collaborators you have.  Yes, I’m still the one writing the book; but many people along the way influenced how it turned out.  They may not be collaborators as obvious as actors and directors but they are just as crucial to my final product.

Craft
Murder_on_the_Hoof_-_final_coverNow let’s talk about the technical aspects of writing.  Both the web series and books let me tell an ongoing story that allows my characters to evolve and change; both force me to think visually in terms of how I describe the action; and both should have tight dialogue that reveals something about character or moves the plot forward.
So what’s different?  One of the things I can’t do when writing a web series script is write a character’s thoughts – anything “in the head.”  Why?  Because an audience can’t see a thought while watching the show.  If I want an audience to know what a character is thinking or feeling I need to reveal that by describing what the character does (an action/behavior) or says (dialogue).

Another difference is the verb tense.  Screenplays are written in the present tense.  I write the action as if it is happening right now.  Most books, however, are written in past tense. This was a definite adjustment for me.  The length of sentences is also different.  Screenplays tend to have terse sentences.  It helps them “read” faster.  I was so used to writing short sentences that my book editor had to tell me to vary my sentence length and structure!  Also, with the THURSTON scripts, I’m appealing to two senses – sight and sound – since that’s how an audience will experience the show (unless, of course, they have a scratch-n-sniff card).  When writing fiction I can also explore smell, touch, and taste.  The final difference is the consideration of cost.  Most writers don’t have to think about this but, because I’m also a producer of THURSTON, when I’m writing I’m always thinking about the budget.  If I write a horse into a scene, that costs money.  If I write a lot of locations or additional characters or effects, that costs money.  But with a novel, I have incredible freedom.  I can have a house explode, car chases, and as many characters – and horses – as I want, and they’re all free!

The bottom line is whether you’re writing a web series, novel, short story, screenplay or play, storytelling is storytelling.  No matter the form or genre, we’re all interested in stories that have a main character we can root for as she or he struggles to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles in pursuit of a goal.  We writers do this with collaboration, an understanding of the craft, and so much more.  Happy reading and writing!

Kathryn O’Sullivan’s debut FOAL PLAY, a cozy set in North Carolina’s Outer Banks featuring feisty Fire Chief Colleen McCabe, won the 2012 Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition.  MURDER ON THE HOOF is the second book in the series.  She is a playwright, co-executive producer/creator/writer of the Western web series THURSTON, and a theatre professor at Northern Virginia Community College.  Kathryn lives in Virginia with her husband, an award-winning director and cinematographer, and their rescue cat, Oscar.

Websites:  www.kathrynosullivan.com, www.thurston-series.com

Manuscript Sent — What’s Next?

By Sherry Harris

Last week the Wickeds and I had a conversation about what they did the day after hitting the send button. I’m looking forward (in November) to my “day after” submission and asked some fellow authors what they did after hitting send.

Sheila Connolly: Start the next book? Kidding, I think. My editor is usually so backed up that I know I won’t see edits for months, so I can stop thinking about that book for a while. I guess the next step is to purge the finished book from my mind to make room for whatever the next one is—and there usually is one. So I have to forcibly evict one set of characters to let the others in for their time on stage.

I don’t seem to know what to do with down time. Something physical. I’ve re-caned four chairs, and I’m currently stripping a side table to refinish. It’s nice to switch gears and do something that has a physical result. Mind you, it took me ten years to get those chairs done, and I’m a year into the stripping process now!

il_fullxfull.2283478601Barb Goffman: It’s exciting to reach the point of submitting a short story. By that point I’ve plugged any plot holes. I’ve added description (something I tend to forget during the first draft). I’ve polished the writing and have reached the point where I’m happy—perhaps delighted—with the story. I’m hopeful, every hopeful, that the editor will like it, too. So I hit send (or, in some cases, mail the story at the post office) and then…I obsess about the story.

Yep. For a day or two at least, my mind will return to the story over and over. Has the editor read it yet? (Hardly likely.) Is she reading it right now? Maybe this will be an unusual case and I’ll hear a glowing “I love it” right away. (Dare to dream.) At the same time, I’ll be mentally slapping my cheek, telling myself to stop obsessing; I won’t hear for a while so I should think about something else. Anything else.

Sometimes that something else will be another story. Coming up with an idea, making notes, (cleaning up my desk’s notes from the prior story to make room for the new notes), and writing. Blessed writing. It helps if I have a deadline approaching, as I work well under pressure.

11040535-bucket-and-window-cleaning-equipment-over-white-backgroundRoberta Isleib (aka Lucy Burdette): Unbelievable as it might sound, I’ve been saving the job of rooting through my closet and throwing out clothes for after the manuscript was turned in J. So I headed there as soon as I hit send. In the pile: long underwear for skiing (I haven’t been 8iin ten years and can’t imagine going again. Besides, there’s not much call for long underwear in Key West! Also going to get a pedicure. And tackle the long “to-do” list on my desk. And make almond cloud cookies. And go to the library tomorrow to look at children’s picture books—might be my next project. And of course, immediately thought of some ideas that might make the book stronger—restrained myself from emailing editor and asking for it back. I’ll see it again soon anyway…

Toni L.P. Kelner: Panic is definitely on the list, but the major steps are: 1) Do the happy dance 2) Play a computer game or two or three 3) Start obsessively watching email from my editor to see if she likes it.

Edith Maxwell: I felt like a weight was lifted the day after I submitted my second Local Foods mystery. I set up Scrivener and went through the tutorial. I spent some time in the historical archives of my town library, researching for another series. I brainstormed Book Three! I wanted to go to the beach, but those pesky rainstorms and threatened tornadoes kept me away. I fully intended to open the bottle of chilled champagne but settled for a nice G&T instead.

Liz Mugavero: Ugh, my day after was spent in an 8 hour class studying for my Series 6 license. Yep, I sure know how to party! In the evening I went to my Chinese healer for some Tong Ren therapy. And of course, I worried about both the last one and the next one!

mixed-drinkKathryn O’Sullivan:  The first thing I do, since I’ve usually been in my writer’s cave as a deadline approaches, is take a shower. Then I go out to eat with my husband and have a key lime or lemon drop martini (or some other tasty concoction) to celebrate. The next day I tackle cleaning my office and, inevitably, my mind drifts back to the manuscript or play that I sent off and I panic about something I’d already like to rewrite or change.

Sara Rosett: After I send the manuscript off, I usually do something to celebrate. Go see a movie, dinner at my favorite Mexican food restaurant, something like that. I always say I’m going to take a day to relax, but I’m always thinking about the next book–plotting and planning in my head even when I’m “off.”

Barbara Ross: The day after I handed book one in, I also took a class. It was the last day of the Grub Street Launch Lab, and I was desperate to go, to the point I handed in the book a day early. This time I’m supposed to be going to Ecuador (to join Julian Assange and Ed Snowden?) the day after I hand my book in. Oy.

What do you do after submitting your manuscript? Celebrate? Panic? Or plot– there seems to be a lot of plotting going on!