Interview: Yawatta Hosby

yawatta

I am pleased to present an interview with Yawatta Hosby, who writes because it’s all about the mind games…

Describe yourself in 5 words:

YH: Quirky, INTJ, Laidback, Creative, Mysterious.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your latest book:

EXCERPT: “Where do you think they are?” Logan asked.

Kenan sat on top of a rotted tree stump. He rubbed his forehead. “I have no idea. If I did, we’d already be there.”

Logan sighed. He had no choice but to follow Kenan’s lead because he knew the area more than Logan did.

He wanted to ask Kenan a more personal question, like did he think something awful happened to them? Kenan was quiet during their search and had calmly taken over this morning that Logan couldn’t tell if his friend was freaking out.

If a tragedy happened ten years ago, it could occur again.

BLURB: Alone in the woods, the weekend turns into a deadly game when a killer hunts Rae and her friends. They struggle to stay alive and discover the truth. Is someone stalking them, or is there a killer among the group?

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

YH: I’m sharing Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. My novel was inspired by this book:

What was the name? The signature was rather difficult to read. Emily Brent thought patiently: “So many people write their signatures quite illegibly.”

She let her mind run back over the people at Belhaven. She had been there two summers running.

What do you enjoy about the genre in which you write?:

YH: It’s all about the mind games for me. Who’s mentally stronger to win in the end? The fear is entertaining as well. I love creating situations that have readers afraid. That have them jump out of their seat or force them to sleep with the light on.

I love creating the bad guys and the good guys. And the twists and turns will always be my favorite part of a book. I want readers to think they know the outcome, only to be surprised by the ending. My biggest fear—being boring.

What is your definition of “good writing”?

YH: Good writing focuses on description in a scene. Readers should be able to vividly see, hear, taste, and feel everything as though they’re taking the journey with your characters, not just reading about them.

Good writing consists of understanding the genre you write for and applying the formula. Don’t mislead readers and tell them it’s a horror story when it’s really a paranormal love story. Don’t tell them it’s a contemporary drama when it keeps them laughing instead of crying.

Please share your #1 tip for writers in the mystery/suspense/thriller genre:

YH: Stephen King says it best: “Don’t write in fear.” Don’t be afraid to make your story go there. Don’t be afraid of controversy or edgy topics. I think readers will respect you for it. Write the story that speaks to you, not the one you’re unmotivated to write but think it’ll be a bestseller. If you’re not really feeling the story, the readers will be able to tell.

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With a desire to escape every day life, YAWATTA HOSBY creates stories. She’s always had a fascination with psychology, so she likes to focus on the inner-struggles within her characters. Her short story “Room For Two” is published in the online literary magazine The Write Place At the Write Time (Spring/Summer 2013 edition).

Yawatta Hosby Online: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon | Goodreads | Guest Post

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Write About What You Know

WRITE ABOUT WHAT YOU KNOW
Guest Post by Benjamin King

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Image by Frank Miller

I wrote about angels. I wrote about the Roman Empire. I wrote about hoboes riding trains. No one understood what I was trying to say. Then I remembered a Mark Twain essay I had read long ago and dug it out and studied it again. It’s a convincing argument that William Shakespeare never wrote the masterful dramas attributed to his name. He couldn’t have written them, and Mark Twain explained why.

A short paraphrase of what he said is, “A butcher can’t talk lawyer talk and make it sound convincing.” Whoever wrote the plays was intimately familiar with the inner workings of the royal courts of Europe, and that didn’t mean butchering calves by the Thames River or holding horses outside a London theatre that catered to rabble, which were William Shakespeare’s only qualifications.

Twain was right you know. And I realized he was right and started writing about what I knew – really knew – and it paid off. I was fortunate in that respect, because the things I knew best were exciting things and things that a lot of authors write about anyway. And yet, many of them get it wrong.

You see I was raised on a small mountain farm that might better be described as a mini-ranch. Horses, ponies, mules, cows, pigs, rabbits, chickens, squirrels – every animal, tame or wild – was either a playmate or a possible target. I had two other lucky circumstances that influenced me from the age of three. My parents were musicians and readers. My father read strictly westerns because he also loved guns.

Everyone has absorbing interests – things we are deeply involved in – and those are the things we learn the most about. For me it was horses, guns, and guitars, in that exact order. As an adult I’ve loaded, shot, and cleaned hundreds of firearms.

It’s hard for me to accept an author of Larry McMurtry’s caliber allowing one of his principle protagonists to carry a Colt’s Dragoon revolver for 800 pages without ever having him load it with the necessary black powder, lead balls, and percussion caps. I don’t think Larry knew the difference between that particular weapon and one that shoots pre-packaged metallic cartridges, or maybe he thought no one else did.

In the first book of my series about a young country singer and guitar player, When a Lady Lies, I use a symbol that enhances the mystery – a collection of old pistols. Those guns are in my mother-in-law’s gun cabinet. I’ve cleaned them and shot them and can describe one so accurately you feel it in your hand. In the sequel, I switch to percussion pistols and have both the victim and the falsely accused protagonist portrayed as Civil War era gun enthusiasts. I own one of those, too.

I was lucky. I absorbed volumes of exciting material without really trying. It was part of my environment. If you want to write murder mysteries or psychological thrillers about guns and the way they operate and feel and have no real experience to draw on, there is a ton of online material you could read. But I suggest you take the time to go to a gun store, explain your situation to the owner, and have him let you hold a real one in your hand. It’s a powerful feeling. Who knows? You may end up on the firing range, which would enhance your writing to the Nth power.

* * *

BENJAMIN KING is a writer, world traveler, sculptor, and professional musician. He had his first country song published in 1971 and followed that with numerous magazine articles, a volume of short stories, and a future-fantasy novel. His colorful characters are drawn from the eventful life he has pursued.

Benjamin King Online: Website | SW | FacebookAmazon | Goodreads | Interview

Interview: Benjamin King

benjamin_king

I am pleased to present Author Interview #3 with Benjamin King: a writer, world traveler, sculptor, and professional musician!

Describe yourself in 5 words:

BK: A thousand lives in one.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your latest book:

lady_lies

Excerpt: With the window sash scraping the skin off my back I finally wiggled my upper body through the small window and lay half­in and half­out of the house and sucked oxygen into my burning lungs.  And then, in the ghostly, musky quiet of the attic, I heard the heavy crunch of tires on gravel from the driveway in front of the house.  That’s when the stupidity that had brought me here to die like a criminal loomed like a billboard in my mind.  If they caught me, I had no doubt they would kill me.  How I wished I could go back to that night when I should have quit my job and left town.
When a Lady Lies, by Benjamin King

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

“Every man has a religion or totems of some kind.  Even the atheist displays an enormous act of faith in his belief that the universe created itself, and the subsequent creation of intelligent life was merely a biological accident.”
— James Lee Burke

What do you enjoy about the genre in which you write?:

BK: Mystery/murder thrillers give an author the best chance to utilize the only two real plots for the genre: chase and capture and delayed revelation.  A good one is about a hundred chases and captures capped off with a surprise, delayed revelation.  It’s also a very inventive genre – you can get away with unusual characters – in fact they make for a better story.  My hero in my series is a young country singer who overcomes defeat and depression in each volume by losing himself in the soulful process of writing a new hit song.  I record the song in my studio and put a link at the end of the book to the MP3 file on a website.  When the mystery is solved and the heroine is rescued, the reader gets to hear the hit song inspired by the adventure.  I think I’m onto something unique.

What is your definition of “good writing”?

BK: The highest quality of any art form is its believability.  The best writers make the reader forget he is looking at a page filled with words and convince him he is part of the action.

Please share your #1 tip for writers in the mystery/suspense/thriller genre:

BK: Don’t give away your secrets too easily.  Don’t make your characters blabbermouths.  Make the reader follow your hero through hell to find the real answer to the puzzle.

* * *

BENJAMIN KING is a writer, world traveler, sculptor, and professional musician. He had his first country song published in 1971 and followed that with numerous magazine articles, a volume of short stories, and a future-fantasy novel. His colorful characters are drawn from the eventful life he has pursued.

Benjamin King Online: Website | SW | FacebookAmazon | Goodreads | Guest Post

Writing about Guns in Fiction

START WITH HAND SIZE (for Matching Handguns to Characters)
Guest Post by Ben Sobieck

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Image by Andy Warhol (1981-2982)

My father in-law bought a .40 caliber Smith & Wesson semi-automatic pistol the other day. It’s a nice handgun for sure. It fits comfortably into his holster. The lightweight design makes it a breeze to wear. The caliber is exactly the one he wanted. Even better, he bought it at a terrific price. So why does he hate it?

As it turns out, my father in-law didn’t shoot the pistol before putting down the dough. He pulled the trigger for the first time at our recent trip to the gun range. Thing is, his hands are too large for the grip. This made it difficult to shoot, and his accuracy suffered as a result. (Although, hey, I’m no dead-eye myself.)

What does this have to do with writing fiction? It highlights an important point about matching handguns to characters. Some writers get caught up in gender, caliber, availability, gun type or looks when selecting a handgun for a character. While those are important factors, I wouldn’t recommend starting with those things.

Instead, start with hand size. How small or large are the character’s hands? Smaller hands should go with smaller handguns. Larger hands would go with larger handguns.

By “small” and “large,” I mean the physical dimensions, not the caliber. There are small handguns that fire large calibers, and vice versa.

Most handgun manufacturers seem to agree with this approach. They break product lines down by size first, then address the other features. Smith & Wesson, for example, offers small, medium, large and extra large lines of revolvers (called J, K, N and X). Each of those sizes (called “frames,” as in “J-frame” or “K-frame”) comes in small and large calibers.

With the hand size identified, start picking out similarly-sized handguns suited for those other important factors, such as caliber.

There’s plenty to consider. That’s why I developed a step-by-step process to making the right match in my book, “The Weapons for Writers: A Practical Reference for Writing Firearms and Knives in Fiction.” It’ll hit shelves in late 2014 from Writer’s Digest. Pre-orders are available at Amazon now if you feel like saving a buck ahead of time. (http://www.amazon.com/The-Weapons-Writers-Practical-Reference/dp/1599638150)

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BENJAMIN SOBIECK is the author of “The Weapons for Writers” (Writer’s Digest, late 2014), the Maynard Soloman detective series and numerous short stories graffitied throughout the Internet and crime anthologies. His website is CrimeFictionBook.com.

Benjamin Sobieck Online: WebsiteAmazon | TwitterGoodreads | Interview

My Take on Horror

* Note from Jess: The Horror Writers Association has a great page that seeks to define horror fiction. In this post, author Michael Robertson Jr. — who writes horror and suspense novels — shares his thoughts on what the genre means to him.

MY TAKE ON HORROR
Guest Post by Michael Robertson Jr.

horror

Image from eBooks @ Adelaide

Let’s examine some things I’ve written about. Ready? Here goes: Grief-driven Serial Killer alter egos, snow monsters, lost identity, dueling spirits deep in the mountains, alien-possessed children, phones that ring to the past and expose gruesome murders, playing poker for your life, carnival games that’ll make you lose your lunch—these are just a few.

Now, think hard. What do all these things have in common? Anybody?

Hint: Nothing at all.

That’s just it: I don’t have regular central themes, I don’t have a formulaic approach to my new projects.

My catalog is a mosaic of ideas, a splattering of genre-crossing plots that all have been derived from one simple thought: What if?

That’s where nearly every story I’ve started (and not always finished) begins. I see something, hear something, read something, and then think to myself “What if X happened instead?” or “What’s the most unexpected thing that could happen now?”—and if the resulting idea would be a worst-case scenario for most anybody, something that might make somebody’s skin crawl or make them pray it never happens to them, I start to build on it, see If I can get a full story out of it.

This can be as simple as an argument between spouses resulting in death, or as random as bringing your kid home from day care and an hour later he eats the cat.

What if you went to the dentist and when the hygienist accidentally nicks you with the sharp thing she bends over and sucks the blood out of your mouth with her own two lips?

I just thought of that. Hmm, might have something there…

Face it. What-If’s are the root of all of YOUR fears. Think about it. What if you lose your job? What if your burglar alarm goes off in the middle of the night? What if there’s a strange person hanging out by your car in the parking lot when you get off work late? What if you fail that big test? What if the plane crashes? What if the doctor calls to discuss your test results? What if your credit card gets declined?

See? All what-if’s.

Now, I write fiction, so yes, my what-if’s are a little far-fetched, a little (okay, often times a lot) exaggerated and ridiculous. I thrive off the uncertain and unpredictable, but the opening question is still there, the basis for the horrific events I write down.

What If?

What if I never get another story idea? That scares the hell out of me.

* * *

MICHAEL ROBERTSON JR.’s books have been downloaded over 80,000 times on Amazon.com. Rough Draft, a horror novel and newest release, has been in the Top 100 horror rankings. He lives in Virginia where he’s currently working on a new novel and trying to keep himself from thinking his next idea is a better one.

Michael Robertson Jr. Online: Website | Blog | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Crime and The Art World

CRIME AND THE ART WORLD
Guest Post by Russell James

artcrime
Image by Ikono

Art is fertile ground for crime writers. Huge sums are paid for a single item, a work that can be relatively small and transportable. In the first of my novels to revolve around the theft of an old master (Daylight, now out of print and hard to find) part of the fun lay in how the stolen masterpiece would be smuggled out of what was then the Soviet Union. The story included an art tutorial on the differences between copies, fakes and restoration – distinctions not as clear as you might hope. Great for complicating the plot.

In my most successful novel, Painting In The Dark, the art world underpinned the plot – yet it frightened some potential publishers who saw it as politically dangerous. I guess it was controversial: set in 1997 but looking back to the 1930s and 40s, it suggested that Tony Blair’s New Labour Party had bewitched a nation and swept to power much as Hitler’s New Socialists had in Germany. But the book’s main theme was art and the mania of art collectors motivated by more than money, more than sex, by an obsession to acquire and own a unique fetishistic object. They’ll stop at nothing to achieve their ends, making them ideal characters for a crime story. They are driven, they want ‘a brush with genius’. We readers understand and sympathise – even if we wouldn’t kill to gain our ends.

Plenty of crime novels allow wrongdoers to achieve their ends, and we law-abiding readers sometimes cheer – though when villains are motivated by cash alone the odds are they won’t get away. But an art fanatic? Why shouldn’t such a so-called villain keep the prize?

Remember: these are crime novels, not moral tracts.

* * *

British writer RUSSELL JAMES is the author of ten crime novels (and other books) and is a past chairman of the Crime Writers Association. Check out his website at http://russelljamesbooks.wordpress.com

Russell James Online: Website | Amazon | Twitter

Differences: Mystery vs. Thriller

1. INTRODUCTION:

Nathan Bransford, a former literary agent, summarizes the differences between “thrillers, suspense, and mysteries” in a 2008 blog post:

Thrillers have action.
Suspense has danger, but not necessarily action.
Mysteries have mysteries, i.e., something you don’t know until the end.

2. KNOWING YOUR GENRE

* This article originally appeared at Folio Lit.

By John C. Ford
Author of The Morgue and Me (Viking)

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Image © Royalty-Free/Corbis

If you want to travel to a nice place, the first step is finding it on the map. And so it is with writing a novel: if you want to get a novel up on the bookstore shelves, the first step is finding the shelf that you’re aiming for.

You’ve got a great idea, say, for a story about a young actress in turn-of-the-century Chicago, haunted by ghosts of the characters she plays on stage. A fine start (okay, just go with it for a second anyway). But if you start writing without a clear notion of whether your novel is a horror story, a young adult tale, or a historical romance, you are putting yourself in a hole — and probably a lot of reject piles. Why? Well, if you don’t know what shelf your book should be on, then agents, editors, and booksellers probably won’t either, and that will make them reluctant to invest in your manuscript.

If you are writing a crime story, this lesson applies to you. About thirty percent of novels purchased in the U.S. are mysteries or thrillers, and your first step as a crime writer should be knowing which of those two types of books — a mystery or a thriller — you are delivering to your readers.

And in order to take that step, you need to know what a mystery is, what a thriller is, and the differences between them. Relax… we’re here to help.

Mysteries begin with a murder. The major question is whodunit, and the novel answers that question. Thrillers begin with a situation that portends a catastrophe of some sort (an assassination, a bank robbery, a nuclear explosion, etc.) The major question is whether or not our hero will be able to prevent that catastrophe from occurring. This, in a nutshell, describes the difference between a mystery and a thriller.

The two genres have a number of deeper differences — in tone, point of view, and appeal — which writers should also know in order to understand the expectations that readers bring to each type of story. Some of those differences are as follows:

  • The Identity of the Antagonist: In a mystery, readers do not know who committed the murder (until the end); they try to figure it out along the way. In a thriller, readers often knows who the bad guy is, and hope that the hero can stop him.
  • Appeal to Readers: Mysteries readers take pleasure in the intellectual exercise of puzzling out a crime. Thriller readers enjoy the emotional aspect — riding out the highs and lows of the charged storyline.
  • Point of View: Mysteries tend to be written in the first person, while thrillers more often are written in the third person, and from multiple points of view.
  • Stakes: While solving a murder is by no means a “low stakes” endeavor, thrillers tend to have “higher” stakes that imperil larger numbers of people.
  • Pace: Mysteries usually have a slower pace than the fast-and-furious plotting of a thriller.
  • Action: Mysteries often have fewer action sequences than thrillers, in which the characters regularly find themselves in great danger.
  • Plot complexity: Mystery plots tend to be less complex than thrillers, which rely on a constant flow of events to provide a sense of immediacy.
  • Character depth: The slower pace of mysteries allows for greater depth of character than the thriller form.
  • Sub-genres: Mysteries tend to get sub-divided based on the identity of their protagonists: “amateur sleuth” mysteries feature a main character whose main occupation is not crime-solving; “police procedurals” often follow a police detective; “private investigator” novels, naturally, star private detectives. Thrillers get sub-divided based on the cultural or professional world in which the threat arises. Thus you have “medical thrillers,” “spy thrillers,” “financial/corporate thrillers,” and many others.

Based on the above, you should be able to tell whether your story, at its core, is a mystery or a thriller. Knowing the characteristics of your genre (and sub-genre) should inform the story choices you make, help you to identify authors of similar works to read for inspiration, and to know how your novel fits into the publishing picture when you address agents and editors. In short, it should help you see more clearly where your novel will end up in the bookstore — and that’s a very good thing.

To be clear, though, the qualities of mysteries and thrillers described above are by no means absolute. They should not be taken as hard-and-fast “rules” to follow, and indeed, many successful mysteries and thrillers deviate in ways large and small from the descriptions above. The thrillers of Harlan Coben, to give just one example, tend to revolve around complicated family histories — a personal type of storyline more expected in a mystery — rather than preventing a “high stakes” threat like terrorists poisoning a water system.

Writers should not fear to tread where others in the genre haven’t, either. Many of the thriller sub-genres began with authors exploring subject matter that had not been tackled yet in their genre. Scott Turow virtually invented the legal thriller with “Presumed Innocent.” Joseph Finder has set a number of thrillers in the corporate world, and with his success the sub-genre of corporate thrillers has flowered.

If you have your own story, certain aspects of it probably do not fit neatly into the generalized descriptions above. That’s okay. Better than okay — within the terrain of your genre, you want to find a fresh spot to claim as your own.

Indeed… breaking the “rules” can be great. But the first step, even in doing that, is knowing your genre well.