Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mystery We Write Blog Tour with Sharon Ervin

We’ve come to the 12th and final week of our Mystery We Write Blog Tour. For the last three months top notch authors have shared writing tips, personal glimpses into their lives, and fascinating information on how each crafted her stories.
A million thanks to each writer who has shared her life, books and talent with my readers and me. It's been a fun ride and I've learned to admire and love these talented artists.

Sharon Ervin

I first came to know Sharon when we worked together on an anthology CHIK~LIT FOR FOXY HENS. This was my first published work, but Sharon had already been selling for some time. We learned that we shared a love of mystery and all things mysterious.
By Sharon Ervin
A writer’s voice is her writing style.
Individual writers have a rhythm, a cadence. Some are jolting, startling, stimulating. Others lull and are recommended as bedtime reads.
Currently, I enjoy books by David McCullough. His voice works for me, and for millions of others. Also, I love Dorothy Sayers mysteries, written in the 1930s. Her cadence and her word choices massage my brain. Oddly, when I refer others to these two great, very different writers, their work does not appeal to everyone. What is that about? I came up with an analogy to explain differences in voice.
Imagine you are the passenger in a large luxury car traveling with friends along a smooth interstate highway. The car is the story’s plot, expansive, comfortable. The friends are the story’s characters. The roadway is the voice, smooth, rhythmic.
The car turns onto a rutted gravel road. You brace yourself, resisting the bumps and jolts. You are still in the same vehicle with the same charming company, but you are ill-at-ease. The surface (voice) is a rub board that steals the enjoyment from the trip for you. Others in the car either don’t notice or enjoy––are even stimulated–by the rougher ride.
I read a romance novel once by a well-known writer. The premise (plot) was really good, the characters well-developed and compelling. But the writer’s voice lurched, tossing me one way, then another. The story was so good that I slogged through to the end, annoyed with myself and with the author the entire time. Relieved to be finished, I felt as if I had been roughly treated by the erratic voice. But the characters haunted me.
Two weeks later, certain that my disregard for the author had more to do with me and my attitude, I read the book again. It was as ragged as I thought, yet I still loved the plot, the pace and the characters.
Three weeks later, unable to stop thinking about it, I picked up the book again, this time to edit the pages, to mark the awkward places in the jolting text. There was too much.
I stewed some more, then, Eureka! I decided to rewrite the book the way it should have been written in the first place. It didn’t matter if I plagiarized because no one else would see my version. Maybe rewriting would allow me to come to terms and let it go. 
As the story reeled onto the pages, however, it was not a copy of the original, but my own. I gave the motivations more substance and realized the characters’ responses to weak provocation was part of my annoyance. My concerns about plagiarism vanished with the realization that, like writers through history, I had breathed in an idea––a premise––and exhaled a brand new work.
COUNTERFEIT COWBOY became my third published book. I no longer had concerns about similarities. Even the author of the other book would not have seen a resemblance.
COWBOY won fourth place in the First North American Fiction Contest that year. A New York Editor called after she read three chapters thinking it could fill a slot that had suddenly opened up in her schedule. I didn’t believe the manuscript was polished enough for her. Three weeks later, when I thought it was, the slot was filled. COWBOY, however, did get published eventually.
Not long ago, I reread the other book. I still have it, of course. As before, I stumbled along, skimming over the especially tedious places. The author is well-known and well-liked. 
Some readers like my work, too.
The cadence of my own writing voice suits me. The talent, inborn, has been shaped and polished by critique groups, creative writing classes, workshops, conferences, and editors. Some of those like my voice; others, not so much. I enjoy what I write, so I’ll keep on keeping on. That’s what I recommend to all writers.

Listen to that unique voice within you. Savor it. Develop it. And enjoy the ride.


CANDLESTICKS is Sharon Ervin’s ninth published novel, the third in the three-book Jancy Dewhurst series. Seven of her early books are now available on Amazon Kindle.

Product Details

Sharon’s website:
Thanks a million Sharon!

Readers, let's hear your comments.

Cyber hugs,

Jackie King

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Mystery We Write Blog Tour with Pat Browning


The following article by Pat Browning, gives us an in-depth view of this top-notch storyteller’s struggle to create her books, including ABSINTHE OF MALICE. I found “Two and a Half Books,” fascinating, and I think that you will, too.

Two And A Half Books

by Pat Browning

“My novel was stuck on page 70. I was in a rut, out of juice, badly in need of a change of scenery. I didn’t need a complete break, just a little variation in the routine, something more than a brisk walk around the block, something less than a climb up the Matterhorn.

“The perfect retreat turned out to be the Irwin Street Inn, a bed-and-breakfast across the street from the post office in Hanford, the small Central California town where I lived. The inn had new owners, a new brunch menu and a new cream tea service. I didn’t have to pack a suitcase. I could go home to check my answering machine and read my mail any time I felt the need. The inn was only two miles away from my computer.”

So began my article “White Noise,” published in the SouthWest Sage of June 2007 and reprinted in The Report (OWFI) of September 2007.

Irwin Street Inn
It’s something most writers experience from time to time. Without some kind of break, that weariness can lead to a real burnout. My few days at the Irwin Street Inn not only revived my flagging spirits, but the photos I took are tacked up where I can see them every day. I use the inn as a model in METAPHOR FOR MURDER, the further adventures of a small-town reporter named Penny Mackenzie, and a work still in progress these several years later.

Work in progress. There’s so much history in those words maybe I should write a book about it. Maybe I will, but another time. Right now I have a book and a half, one already in print – twice – and one half-finished, in progress.

What I’m writing is a limited series, three or four books. After all, the setting is a very small town and there’s only so much that can happen in a very small town. I’m even thinking of whisking my main characters off to Santa Fe, New Mexico for Book #3. The only thing standing in my way is Book #2.

Let’s start at the beginning. Here’s the logline for Book #1, originally called
: “It’s just another Labor Day weekend in a small California town until discovery of a skeleton in a cotton field leads to murder—and romance.”

When it comes to that book I always quote The Grateful Dead: “What a long strange trip it’s been.” I self-published it as
in 2001. Sold maybe 100 copies before I got tired of promoting it. In 2008, an online friend started a new press, read my book and made me an offer: a new title, a new cover, a few revisions, a two-year contract and an advance.

After I stopped laughing I thought, why not? And we went to work. A couple of months later I had a brand new book titled ABSINTHE OF MALICE and it’s racking up sales as an e-book in Amazon’s Kindle Store. You can still buy
. It’s lurking around out there, rattling its chains like The Ghost of Christmas Past. If I could afford it I’d buy up all the copies just to get rid of it. I’ve heard of people who have a split personality, but a book?

So now I have two versions of Book #1 and half a version of Book #2, working title METAPHOR FOR MURDER. Here’s the logline for Book #2: “Small town reporter Penny Mackenzie tracks an offbeat Christmas story and finds herself in the middle of a murder and the mysterious desecration of an old Chinese cemetery.”

Which brings us back to “White Noise” and my retreat at the Irwin Street Inn.

From Chapter 3 of my WIP, here’s my description of a fictional version of the inn: “… a pale gray house with a skirted wraparound porch, dark blue trim, second floor balconies, assorted wings and several outbuildings. In the gloom of fog, with Christmas lights twinkling inside and out, the place looked like an old-fashioned snow globe.”

One of the photos I snapped during my retreat became a fictional apartment for Watt, my protagonist’s first and only love. In real life it’s a separate house. In my novel I make it part of the main house, with an inside staircase leading down to the parlor. I also added another window to the bayed window so I could place Watt there, looking down on the street.

That’s the great thing about writing a novel. You can rearrange the facts to suit your fiction. To set a key scene in Chapter 15, I used the photo I call “Watt’s apartment.” In this scene, Penny accidentally learns that Watt paid a visit to an old girl friend while on a business trip. She gives him what-for and ends up throwing her shoe at him, while he looks out the window and wonders how many bones he would break if he jumped.

Every once in a while writing should be fun, and this scene was fun to write. Who has more fun that than writers? Nobody I know.

Several years ago I made a story board. It has been leaning against a wall all this time, with yellow sticky notes stuck in the squares I marked off to represent chapters. Lucky for me, too, because it has kept the story alive while I was doing a million things besides finishing my book.

But the fun’s over for now. It’s time for a close encounter with my story board. Stay tuned!

Jackie, thanks for inviting me to do a guest blog today. I hope your readers enjoy it.
Pat Browning

Pat, I’m sure they did! I certainly found your tale riveting. I’m envious, I want to take a break from writing and visit this wonderful sounding Irwin Street Inn. My mouth is watering to try their cream tea.

Pat Browning

More about Pat, plus some of her websites::

Pat Browning is a native Okie and also a veteran traveler. Her globetrotting led her into the travel business as a correspondent for TravelAge West, a trade journal published in San Francisco. In the 1990s, she signed on fulltime as a newspaper reporter and columnist, first at The Selma Enterprise and then at The Hanford Sentinel. (under construction)

Readers, If you have questions or comments for Pat, I’m sure she would be delighted to respond.

Happy reading to all!