Excerpt from Chapter 1 of “Beware the Sleeping Dog” by k.a. libby.

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When I moved back to mid-coast Maine, my life seemed perfect. I’d slammed the door on my not-so-recent past and left my troubles behind. Or so I thought until my mechanic shattered that illusion. She told me there was a global positioning device mounted inside my Jeep’s left front wheel well. Apparently someone was tracking me.

Suddenly the strange things that had happened to me over the past few days—and that I’d dismissed as coincidence or just plain bad luck—didn’t seem so random. The GPS was intentional and personal.

4.0 out of 5 stars on amazon.com worthwhile read January 5, 2015 By Ilona McGogney Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Ms. Libby … record(s), through all her senses, a thoroughly realistic sense of place, and she quite capably delivers that same depth and detail to her reader from beginning to end. The whole story unfolds in a single small town where the tranquilizing rhythms of nature and provincial social commerce are repeatedly disrupted by the ominous intrusion of an unidentified stalker. The natural imagery isn’t just background or geographic location, it immediately becomes an intricate part of the web of plot as well as the emotional landscape of her strong but frightened female protagonist, Mavis. …

Writing Is an Obsession

My posting today is about the guest column for the May 21st issue of The Writer’s Dig by Brian Klems. The column is written by Frederick Pinto and he calls it “5 Tips on Making You a Tough (& Better) Writer”. His words resonated with me and herewith is my interpretation of Pinto’s message:

1. My first drafts will be embarrassing. And they are!
2. If I particularly love a sentence or paragraph that I’ve written, delete it. It probably doesn’t belong.
3. Writing is cathartic. Indeed.
4. Good writing is equal parts obsession and technique.
5. I write because I must. I am driven by my obsession to write.

To read Frederick Pinto’s column, go to http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/5-tips-on-making-you-a-tough-better-writer?et_mid=753324&rid=

Walk a Mile in Your Character’s Shoes

Mavis Walker struggled with the question of whether or not she would actually pull the trigger on a living target, but after today, not using the pistol would be a conscious choice. She realized with a twinge of regret that she’d blurred a line in her ethical thinking.

When I was writing the chapter for Mavis at the firing range, my husband bought me a Model 39 Smith & Wesson like the one I gave Mavis in “Beware the Sleeping Dog”. He packed me, the S&W, and a magazine of nine millimeter Luger cartridges into his Montero and drove me to the Game Lands for a lesson on handling and firing a gun. (Rule #1: Become your character.)(Rule #2: write authentically.)

That’s what I call spousal support! (Thank you, Wayne.) After the hands-on lesson, I wrote the chapter with a truer sense of realism and confidence in its accuracy. (Rule #3: consult an expert.)

Mavis  didn’t even like the idea of handling a gun. Actually, she was afraid of guns. And she had no interest in shifting her anti-gun philosophy at all. Or it least she hadn’t until Thursday evening. Finding a rogue GPS unit attached to her bumper was changing her ideas about a lot of things.

(Rule #4: write what you feel.) Her heart thudded against her ribs, and a door slammed on an old attitude. The slight kick was immediately followed by a faint puff of smoke. She imagined drawing the muzzle up to blow the smoke away. The spent brass tinkled on the gravel.

A Dick Frances quote came to mind, “Never attack anyone unless you have counted the cost of winning.”

Excerpted from “The Top 10 Elements of a Book People Want to Read” by Helga Schier, PhD

From the Writer’s Digs by Brian Klems, Guest Column | March 16, 2015, Helga Schier, PhD: So you’ve got a great idea and you want to write a book. Go for it, I say, because these days, anyone can publish a book. Self-publishing empowers the writer in all of us. Nonetheless, quality still matters. Why? Because we don’t just want to publish, we want to publish successfully; we want to publish books people want to read. And that takes more than a good idea. That takes craft.


I’ve listed the headings of her ten elements below and offered my interpretation of how to apply them to my writing. If you are reading this, your input is welcome. How would you apply her 10 elements to your writing?
Dr. Schier says: Aim for High Readability (i.e. High readability books are “polished, refined, sophisticated, and mature” in “surface structure, style and voice, and content.”

[Did you know there are 7 reasons writing a novel makes you a badass? Read about them here.]

I haven’t reached my hoped for sales levels on my kindle book offering of “Beware the Sleeping Dog”. Cassandra Becker in Goodreads wrote of my mystery: “Really liked the character development as well as the writer’s descriptions of scenery, conflicted emotions, and untangling of old business.” I loved her comment but her 3 stars out of 5 tell me I have work to do on my current manuscript. But where do I focus? How do I apply the unspoken? Continue reading

Stoking the Suspense

goodreads.author.widgetToday is the vernal equinox. The first day of spring, 2015. It’s snowing outside my window. But inside at my computer the sun suddenly bursts forth when I discover the January 12, 2015 “Writer’s Digs”. Somehow I missed that email in January and February and much of March. Its timing today is auspicious. I’ve been mired in that much-bemoaned author’s slump. Now Brian Klems’ guest columnist Elizabeth Sims has energized my writing with her 21 Fast Hacks to Fuel Your Story with Suspense.

I’ve identified 16 of her tips that I can apply to my plot thus far. Some of the threads already exist in my manuscript “Unbearable”, but her catchy phrases in this column reveal ways to enhance and intensify the effect. Thank you, Elizabeth Sims and Brian Klems, for rescuing my manuscript.

Several of the highlights for me:

1. Ms. Sims says ‘build an oubliette’ and ‘plant a hazard, then wait’. Early in my book the chasm introduces itself as ‘the forgotten place’ and continues to tease characters to the brink of disaster right up to the final twist of plot.
2. She says ‘pull a false alarm’ and ‘fake ‘em out’, squeezing out suspense through the ‘rules of three’ philosophy. My character-a teeters on the brink of disaster, then character-b is jerked back from death’s door at the last instant, and finally character-c screams a revelation all the way to the depths.
3. ‘Stash someone’ and ‘put a mask on it’ per Elizabeth Sims. Is my character-b really who he purports to be? Is character-d a red herring or the perp? Or is it perhaps character-e?
4. ‘Put a symbol to work’. She says look to nature for ways to incorporate this technique. Thank you, Ms. Sims, for validating significance behind my symbol. I can’t tell you how I use this because that might reveal too much.
5. ‘Isolate ‘em.’ She says characters in close proximity will fight eventually. In my case the ‘stuck elevator’ is a cabin in the middle of Northern Maine’s One-hundred Mile Woods; a campsite in the shadow of Mt. Katahdin; and cliff-side in the Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness.
6. And finally she says ‘get your head into it’ … you must live and breath your writing if you want your reader to stick it out to the end of the story. I feel like a stage actor as I write my 70,000 word mystery. I get into the head of each of my characters—to become them—to fabricate what they do and understand why they do it.

The prize at the end of today’s snow bow: Inspired writing thanks to Elizabeth Sims and Brian Klems. To risk a cliché: Let it snow. Let it snow. Let it snow. But please don’t squelch the daffodil sprouts.

Kudoes to Brian Marggraf

I am sharing a posting I just read on Brian’s Indie Hero blog. He captures Kurt Vonnegut’s philosophy on writing a book worth reading. I’ve read various forms and parts of this elsewhere, but Vonnegut captures it succinctly and with humor. Thank you, Brian for sharing this with your followers.

Kurt Vonnegut: Creative Writing 101

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Snow-shoeing or Writing or Writing about Snow-shoeing?

There must be some way I can write my snow-shoeing expeditions into my current book. But I think not. My plot takes place in Maine’s One-hundred Mile Woods. In May. Simply does not compute. But at least the adventure serves as a few minutes of comic relief from sitting at my computer and creating a novel word-by-word. (And really that’s not some alien life-form in this picture. It’s just me.Truly.)

An Afternoon of Conviviality

Question: With an investigative reporter’s flair, Peggy opened the discussion by asking, “Was ‘Beware the Sleeping Dog’ about you?”
Answer: I tap-danced around that a little. I said writing fiction is much like acting on a stage. In order to capture responses and emotions, I become each of the characters. And the characters become me. Fiction is a combination of what the author has heard, experienced, read, and imagined. To take it one step further, I think many authors write their debut novel because they are driven to do so by some life event. They write the next book simply for the love of writing. Continue reading

Back to the U.S.A. and writing!

Great Exuma … grand experience. Gracious people. Azure water. Exotic blooms. Eight days of respite from writing “the great American novel”. Now I’m back to Leather Corner Post’s shades of gray-and-white and immersion in word play. There’s beauty in both the Bahaman Caribbean blues and the Northeastern winter whites. A bonus gift: The college is closed today due to weather and I have an additional day of vacation … and time to write. Write. Write. Write.

Building Suspense

I just read an article in “The Writer’s Dig” by Brian Klems that particularly tweaked my interest. It was an interview of Elizabeth Simms, the author of The Lillian Byrd Crime and the Rita Farmer Mysteries series, on how to build suspense in your writing. There were actually twenty-one points of value, several of which I highlight here.

Fray an end. … On the page, little odd things that are not quite in order can create a subtle sense of tension in any scene. Think dangling apron strings, a guttering candle, a loose window latch, a jammed copy machine.

To me Louise Penny does that masterfully in Still Life. The example I’ve chosen is not subtle like a guttering candle but yet is an oddity that fueled my imagination: “Gamanche wondered about this woman who had chosen to live with so many secrets for so long, then chosen to let them all out. And died because of it? That was the question.”

In my mystery Beware the Sleeping Dog, I used it (hopefully with success). I.e. “Velcro peeked at me through the slit (in the box springs). I pulled her out and held her close. Her ears twitched and she swallowed a few times before she relaxed into my arms. She’d never behaved like this before. Had something frightened her?” and “It seemed strange that nothing else but the picture of the three of us was disturbed. Premonition pricked at me, but I shook it off.” Continue reading

There are goals and then there are commitments.

In October I posted my sort-of intent to participate in the NaNoWriMo madness. (National Novel Writing Month for those of you not yet tuned into this annual event.) And because it wasn’t an actual commitment, I of course fell well short of my pseudo goals. The reality behind those goals?

1. Write. I did not write every day. I enjoyed the spring-like weather of the Lehigh Valley with hikes and gardening and perhaps simply basking in the sunshine. I wrote sometimes because that’s what I do—but not prolifically.
2. Finish. I do have a beginning, a middle, and an end. But only 26,000 words. And even now at 77 days, my first draft is not even close to completion. But I am persevering.
3. Focus. Writing my mystery was constantly—well, almost constantly—on my mind. But it was not even in the race for being my primary job for the 30 days of November. Or the 31 days of December. Or the 16 days thus far of January. But I am tracking my progress.
4. Caveat. It’s not likely that I will have a completed manuscript–not even in the rough–by July as I had kind of aspired to.

But I will keep moving ahead and finish this first painful draft.

Then I will submit my manuscript for developmental editing. I will restructure the plot and character development based on the recommendations.

Then I will submit it for copy editing and adjust my formatting and style–and accuracy–accordingly.

And I will then submit my improved manuscript for line editing. I will tweak my grammar, punctuation, spelling, consistency and word usage based on my editor’s input.

Then I will read the manuscript aloud, mark it up, and edit again.

And yet again.

These are commitments.

All good things each in their own time. Perhaps I will be like Aesop’s famed tortoise and win the race through perseverance. In that case, of course, the hare is the part of me who fails to meet my NaNoWriMo half-hearted goals, stopping to smell the roses along the way. Or dropping whatever I’m doing for a spontaneous outing. Or whatever. The tortoise is the part of me that will keep crawling slowly but steadily toward the goal post and finish the race.  With finesse, of course! Eventually.

How did you fare with NaNoWriMo?