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Wednesday, November 28, 2012



Imagine this. You find a fantastic looking book, selling itself as a mystery. You read the blurb and it sounds like your kind of thing. You are twenty pages in and there is the dead body of the Duchess of Roths lying on the stairs and six suspects standing around it. The police burst through the doors and you think, ‘right, now this is going to get interesting’, and as you turn the page, the butler comes out from the shadows and says, ‘Sorry, it was me. I socked her with this hammer because I love her and my love is totally unrequited’.

As far as any plot line goes, this would just about suck for a mystery novel. It would just about suck for any novel. As writers we all know the beginning is easy. We start chapter one with all the gusto and enthusiasm of a freshly fuelled steam engine, all cogs racing and coals burning. But then we get to the first real challenge, the big middle chunk when it simply feels like hard work and where the coal pile looks to be running a bit low. We may not hit it at page twenty like in the sample above, but I know when I got to thirty thousand words of my last novel I certainly hit the point where I considered typing something like the above just so it would all be over. Through the wilderness of the middle, the scary no-man’s-land with no directions, no map, and sometime as a writer, no idea, it is easy to get lost. So how is it that we keep the suspense and the tension rolling?

There are certain tools that as writer we can utilise in order to keep up the pace and keep the reader engaged. The most important rule, which the writer of the above piece had clearly forgotten is to hold something back. Holding back the identity of the killer is obvious, but what about holding something of the other characters back as well? Keep their motives a secret, and make the reader curious about what comes next. Give them snippets of information that makes them suspect something about a character, but keep the real truth hidden. This can be delivered fantastically as back story, and is the most effective tool as a writer that you have to give explanations for characters' present day behaviour. This can also help you tocreate unanswered questions, but for the characters not just for the reader. Play those characters off against each other and let the reader in on the secrets, but keep the other characters in the dark. It can be devastating to let a character travel down an unsuspecting and incorrect path when as the reader you know from your elevated viewpoint that he is making a terrible mistake.

You also need to make the story mean something. If the character doesn’t care what happens why would he even get involved? Add in danger, but this doesn’t have to be end of the world apocalypse danger. Maybe the world won’t end, but his life, at least as he knows it should be in doubt. Make it believable. We have all seen the horror movie and all rolled our eyes when the blonde woman runs up the stairs instead of out of the door to safety whilst being chased by an axe wielding maniac. Make your characters real people with real brains. You do not want the reader to roll his eyes at your story or characters. Lastly, but by no means conclusively, make sure you write a kick ass plot. Make the story something that the readers cannot put down. Yes, prose is important. But could you really read two hundred pages of poetic prose about a person going to get the bus? No, I think is the answer.

If the author of ‘Murder in Roths’ had come up with some of these ideas, he could have written himself a pretty good who-done-it mystery novel. Only you can know what works for your plot line, and rules in writing are certainly not for me. However, if you keep some of these ideas in mind, you’ll have your readers drooling into page two hundred and fifty before you can say case solved.

Anyone who leaves a comment here will receive a free book token for my first book, The Loss of Deference.

About the Author:
Michelle was born and raised in a small historical town in the heart of England, but is now living in Cyprus and learning as much Greek as possible. She spent many years working in the NHS, doing on call hours that no amount of European laws can protect you against, and is now enjoying the more social and stress free life of the Mediterranean. This has enabled her to (finally) get her first novel, The Loss of Deference, published on the Kindle in June 2012, and be into the editing stage of book two (watch this space!). When she is not writing furiously about the darker side of life, you will find her hiking in the mountains, drinking frappe at the beach, or talking to herself in the kitchen in the style of an American celebrity chef. Just think Ina Garten.

Will Moreton and Daniel Fox have been best friends for almost their entire lives. Bound by a childhood secret, Will believes that he knows everything about his friend, until one winter's day when a devastating discovery leads him into a dark and terrifying conspiracy, where everybody has something to hide. The fight for survival has begun, but whom if anyone's life will be the same at the end. A journey of trust and betrayal, the reader is compelled to experience the limits of true friendship through a web of disturbing lies and truths.

The Loss of Deference is a gripping novel, where the writer carries the audience to an atmospheric climax, and where hope is found not only in the strongest of human bonds, but also the darkest corners of life.

Monday, November 26, 2012

GUEST BLOG and Giveaway: Gledé Browne Kabongo


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Gledé will be awarding an Italian leather journal to a randomly drawn commenter (US/Canada Only) during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

How to handle negative criticism

The question of negative criticism can be quite scary, paralyzing even, especially for new writers. I was petrified of this even before my novel was published, wondering what kind of reception Conspiracy of Silence would get. The self-doubt is always more than happy to express its opinion: What if readers hate it? What if the reviews are bad? How do I overcome the feelings of failure without throwing in the towel?

Criticism is part of life and it’s no different for the writing life. You simply have to accept that no matter how great the writing, plot, characters and dialog are, there will be people who just won’t like your work. It’s an inescapable fact. Sometimes the criticism is legitimate, other times you’re left scratching your head wondering if this person actually read your work or have you confused with another writer or worse yet, you want to scream because they completely missed the point.

Whatever the reason for the criticism, it’s important to remember that there can be hope in criticism. You need to figure out what nuggets of gold you can extract to spur your writing to the next level, and what should be ignored because it’s completely lacking in thoughtfulness, insight or analysis you can learn from. Examine the merits of the criticism, figure out what you would change if you could go back and do so. Look at writers you admire and see how they deal with those elements of your work that could use improvement.

If you’re serious about being a writer, the next book, or the next writing project is an opportunity to improve. Step out of your niche/genre as well. There is something to be learned. The story may not appeal to you but the technique might or the tightness of the prose for example. In the end, you can’t please all the people all the time so you can only hold up your end of the deal by becoming the best writer you possibly can.

About the Author:
Gledé Browne Kabongo began writing at age 14 when she covered soccer matches for her hometown newspaper. She has also written for the Patriot Ledger and Metrowest Daily News, two Massachusetts based newspapers. She earned a master’s degree in communications from Clark University, and once had dreams of winning a Pulitzer Prize for journalism. These days her dreams have shifted to winning the Pulitzer for fiction, and a Best Screenplay Academy Award. For the past decade, Gledé has worked in senior marketing roles for organizations in the Information Technology, publishing and non-profit sectors. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two sons.

Author website:
Twitter: @gkabongo
Buy the books from
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Thursday, November 22, 2012

GUEST BLOG and Giveaway: B.K. Stevens


The Goldilocks Quest
B.K. Stevens

It started as a short story, but it was too long. So I rewrote it as a novel, but it was too short. When I tried adding subplots, it felt padded and heavy. Convinced my idea for a whodunit had promise, I kept struggling with one version after another but couldn’t get the size right. As the stack of unusable manuscripts grew, I felt like Goldilocks wandering through the three bears’ house. Too hot, too cold, too hard, too soft—would I ever find a length that was just right?

Then I heard that Untreed Reads was looking for mystery novellas.

Could that be the solution? I started with the novel version—the short story left crucial plot points murky—and started trimming. Getting rid of the subplots was easy, but I still had cutting to do. My goal was to end up with a novella that could be read in one or two sittings, perhaps by a commuter taking the train home. That meant moving everything along quickly, including character development.

In the novel version, I’d developed characters at a relatively leisurely pace. For example, I’d devoted several scenes to murder suspect Jacqui Liston, a former beauty queen who had an affair with the victim’s husband. From her conversations with my protagonist, Lieutenant Dan Ledger, readers learned about Jacqui’s failed marriage, her string of pathetic affairs, her unsatisfying career, her heavy drinking. From Jacqui’s erratic behavior, readers could see that her early celebrity had damaged her, that it had awakened expectations her life couldn’t meet.

In the novella, I could give Jacqui just one scene. I still wanted to convey the idea that hunger for fame had led her astray—that relates to the book’s themes. How could I get that across quickly?

I decided to use music. When Dan Ledger arrives at Jacqui’s house, he hears the overture to The Sound of Music blaring. Inside, while pouring herself more wine, Jacqui says she played Maria in high school and sang “Climb Every Mountain” at the Miss Ohio pageant. Ledger tries to talk to her about the murder, and about the sex-tape on which she recorded lively moments with her lover. But Jacqui can’t focus on present dangers—she’s too caught up in the music that takes her back to her glory days. (Ledger finds the sex tape later—under Jacqui’s bed, in a box labeled “A Few of My Favorite Things.”)

I still miss the scenes I cut. But I like the juxtaposition of virginal Maria and boozy, promiscuous Jacqui. And I think the new scene creates a strong image of a woman mired in a past that was always more illusion than reality.

Other characters had to be portrayed more concisely, too. The process was challenging but also invigorating, and I think I sharpened some skills I can use when I write short stories. It took months of cutting and rewriting, but I got my whodunit down to novella size. I gave it a new title—One Shot—and sent it off to Untreed Reads.

Fortunately, the editor apparently agreed that the length was, finally, just right.

Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of One Shot.

About the Author:
In addition to One Shot, B.K. Stevens (Bonnie K. Stevens) has published over forty short stories, most in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Some stories have been reprinted in anthologies; another appeared in Family Circle after winning first place in a national suspense-writing contest judged by Mary Higgins Clark. “Interpretation of Murder,” published in Hitchcock in 2010, won a Derringer for Best Long Story from the Short Mystery Fiction Society. B.K. has also published articles in The Writer, college textbooks on composition (Holt) and on literary criticism and research (Holt/ Harcourt), and a book on Jewish education (Behrman House). Forthcoming publications include two more stories for Hitchcock, “All That Glisters” and “Murder Will Speak.” Another story, “No Good Deed,” will appear in To Hell in a Fast Car, which was edited by John L. French and will be published by Dark Quest Books late in 2012.

Find the author online at

To One Shot:
To the B.K. Stevens website:

When rising politician Karen Dodd pushes through the toughest gun-control bill in Ohio’s history, she thinks it’s her ticket to the governor’s office. But soon after she announces her candidacy, on the day she’s slated to receive an award from a gun-control organization, Karen Dodd is found dead in her comfortable Akron home, one bullet through her heart. Plenty of evidence points to her political opponents, but the mutilated family portrait and the scattered rose petals at the murder scene might suggest a more personal motive. Or could someone be trying to exploit the media sensation created by Karen Dodd’s death, using it to take one shot at fortune and celebrity? Police lieutenant Dan Ledger puts his own life in danger as he struggles to uncover the secrets of suspects who at first seem harmlessly eccentric—but who can quickly turn deadly serious.