Friday, August 23, 2013

I read short stories. Lots of short stories. And learn something new from every one of them.

Dear friends,

Since I've decided to focus on writing short stories, I've been reading a lot.  Yesterday I made a trip to the library and came home with 13 collections of stories---some old, some new. Every time I read a short story, whether it's fantasy, science fiction, supernatural, mystery, crime---I learn something new. 

Last night I raced through most of the stories in Joe R. Lansdale's BUMPER CROP collection.  His short story "Chompers" was hilarious, twisty (and chilling), and reminded me of those old science fiction shows I used to watch on TV when I was a kid. It taught me that *anything* can be the subject of a short story. Joe is one of my favorite writers because he really GETS that East Texas thing---the language, mannerisms and quirks of the people who live there---and the settings in his stories live and breathe like characters. Each of his stories teaches me something new about writing.

Later, I read from a completely different collection, BLOOD LITE II: OVERBITE (edited by Kevin J. Anderson), humorous horror short stories by HWA members. The "Dead Clown Seance" story, by Christopher Welch, taught me that there's a place for ALL kinds of stories, no matter how crazy. Since my stories tend toward the comedic, I love seeing how horror and comedy can be combined.

I'm also a big fan of Henry Slesar, the author who penned many of the short stories that eventually became Alfred Hitchcock TV episodes. In HAUNTED AMERICA: Star-Spangled Supernatural Stories (selected by Marvin Kaye), I read "The Return of the Moresbys" which was fun and twisty (Slesar was a king of the twisty story). From it, I learned that a crime story can be funny, ironic, and based on an interesting idea like transmigration (where the soul passes from one body or being to another at death).

Reading these stories confirmed to me that there's a place for humor in mysteries and horror and that any subject can be turned into a great short story. And not only that, but after reading these, so many new ideas for stories came to me. 

I hope that you'll take time to read some short stories.  The cool thing about short stories?  They're short.  LOL.  They don't take a lot of time to read, can be inhaled on a break, or during lunch, or right before bed just before dozing off. There are many authors these days writing lots of excellent short stories--seek them out, read them.  And have fun!

Mysteriously yours,

bobbi c.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

When an author hits a snag...

What does an author do when we hit a snag in our projects?  Some of us might take a vacation, some might moan and pitch a fit about being blocked, and some might do other things to take their minds off their stories for a while. 

That's me.  I find something completely different to do.  Like decloaking a 1930s cottage.  Read all about that here, on my Earthly Gardener garden blog.  Enjoy!

Removing the 1950s aluminum siding from our 1930s cottage
Happy trails,

bobbi c.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Oh my gosh! It IS a murder mystery. And a bit of a western romance! And suspense. And action-adventure!

On finding the right audience for our books. . .

Dear friends,

Authors around the ‘nethood are conversing daily about how we can get our books into the hands of those readers who’ll love them and hopefully recommend them to their friends (no matter how they do that-—by tweeting, Facebooking, Goodreading, Google+ing, blogging or whatever.)

Did you think we just sit down, open up the laptop, and go?  Afraid not. I WISH we had the luxury of doing that. Writing is a business, and increasingly, a lot of our time is taken up with the promotional aspects of being an author. One thing we talk about a lot is finding the perfect audience for our book. The problem with that is that many of us write books that can be categorized in more than one genre.

My novel, Lone Star Death, for example, is basically a historical murder mystery, set in central Texas in the 1880s.

There is a murdered man (victim), a murderer, lots of suspects, a sleuth (Samantha Slater, the editor of the local newspaper), a method of murder (no spoilers!) and a sidekick (Tom Hill, her printer’s assistant).  I include several real places and people that lived in Austin during that time period, and researched the book for a year before sitting down to begin writing it. 
So, it’s a murder mystery, right? Well, yes, BUT, there’s also a whole lotta action/adventure. Think bush-whackings, a runaway horse, an overturned buggy,shootings—-you get the picture. So, my book is a murder mystery/action-adventure novel.
Most readers assume that anything written about Texas in the 1880s is a western. I have a wonderful, high-spirited horse, I have cowboys, a train station, a beautiful ranch, a rural small town outside Austin, a “house of ill repute” and the women who live there, market days, a school teacher with a great Victorian wardrobe, a general store, a great pearl-handled pistol, etc. And I’m eligible to join Western Writers of America based on this book. So, my book is a murder mystery, action adventure AND western.

And last, but not least, I have a love interest for Samantha—-Tom--who is plumb smitten with her, an older lady (mentor) who tries to nudge them into a relationship--and a handsome rival! (Ah yes, the doctor!) Not to mention the cowboy who’s impressed with Samantha’s horse riding ability. And, finally, there’s one of those happily-ever-after-moments (after the murder mystery is solved, of course). And there's the promise of a stronger future relationship.

Not to mention the nail-biting suspense. :-)

So—if you’re mostly a western romance book reader, would you give this book a chance?  If you like historical mysteries, would the fact that there’s also a bit of light romance turn you off?

Why all this analysis, you might ask?  Because, if I write another book in this series, it will be very important for me to position it for the right market.  And yes, some of those decisions come during the writing.

For now, I’m calling the book a historical murder mystery/western romance. And I hope readers who like "all of the above" will enjoy it.

Happy trails, and happy reading!