New Title Poll Results

The results of the poll for a title for my Dangerous Journeys sequel are a dead heat between Eighteen Days and The Child on the Terrace. Just to remind you:

Anne McPhail, doctor and genealogist vacationing in the Spanish village of Setenil, risks her life to save a child. An arms cartel kidnapped Naomi to pressure her grandfather, an Israeli cabinet minister, into voting to extend the settlements. The cartel’s goal: to foment war and increase the sales of its arms to both sides.
The story begins 16 days before the vote and 18 days until Anne leaves Spain.

Vote below for your choice!

 

 

Titles for my latest Dangerous Journey novel.

Over the last few months, I’ve worked on the 4th book in my Dangerous Journeys series. The title? None as yet.

Anne McPhail, doctor and genealogist vacationing in the Spanish village of Setenil, risks her life to save a child. An arms cartel kidnapped Naomi to pressure her grandfather, an Israeli cabinet minister, into voting to extend the settlements. The cartel’s goal: to foment war and increase the sales of its arms to both sides.
The story begins 16 days before the vote and 18 days until Anne leaves Spain.

Titles

1.The Child in the Plaza
2.Running
3.The Ransom
4.The Child on the Terrace
5.Naomi’s Donkey
6.Saving Naomi
7.Journey with Naomi
8.Rescuing Naomi
9.18 Days
10.Eighteen Days
11.Sixteen Days to the Vote
12.Sixteen Days
13.A Child as Pawn
14.The Red-haired Girl
15.Race to Italy

16.Abduction from Spain
17.Abduction from Setenil
18.The Spanish Rescue

Which title would you prefer? You can vote below.

A May Morning

Spring: the leaves popped on the Manitoba Maples along the creek back; serviceberry bushes bloomed white together with the spirea;  daffodils, mine at any rate, ended yesterday; the hummingbird returned last weekend, a few days early; the red-breasted grosbeaks returned to the feeder.

A long, harsh winter left some ornamental bushes bereft of leaves. My gorgeous Vibernum “Shasta” has growth only at the base, but the branches are green when I scrape them so I have hope. No hope for the Purple Smokebush and the Blue Mallow, I’m afraid.

Most of the roses and clematis have survived except for a little beauty—Blue Sprite clematis—that appears to be gone. But one’s never sure with clematis and it was buried deep so it may come along.

At the local nursery—Hills—I found two hybrid tea roses on their own root! I couldn’t resist and bought four: 2 dark red Royal William and  2 pink Royal Kate. They are supposed to be disease resistant and have a strong fragrance.

Writing: I’m within sight of the end of my first draft of my new Dangerous Journeys mystery with Anne McPail. This time she’s in Spain, her life endangered by her concern for a mysterious little girl.

Ontario is in the midst of an election. I see the Conservative Party is trying to position itself as the party of hope. Hope, as demonstrated by planning to eliminate 100,000 civil service jobs. A mythical number, neatly dissected by an editorial in the Globe and Mail. Hudak appears to pull these numbers from an imaginary hat. How many civil servants do you know? I can count at least three, not including the teachers, hospital workers, doctors, nurses, firefighters, police and whomever else the party fears to cut. That leaves social service, and labour and the environment, all unnecessary from its collective point of view. The ones I know are not at the top, not even managers, but workers who are on the wrong side of senior and likely to be cut first. Hope? Not too much. Read the editorial here. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/editorials/can-tim-hudak-win-election-by-100000-job-cuts/article18629579/#dashboard/follows

That’s about it for this Sunday in May.

 

 

Stone Patrick author interview

What inspired you to write your first book?
I initially thought of writing as a way to make money, and lots of it, but as I did more research, I read time and time again that most writers will never be able to support themselves with their writing alone. That was a sobering thought, but I didn’t want that to stop me from at least trying. I continued to read books about how to write — I bought at least 20-25 books, some of which I have read multiple times — and when I tried it for myself, I felt a real sense of accomplishment when I wrote something that moved people emotionally. It’s that acclamation from other people that motivates me to continue writing.
Do you have a specific writing style?
Yes, I try to write simple sentences, changing the structure to make it easy to follow, and I don’t use big words that most people won’t know the meaning of. I like to think that my dialogue is full of conflict and reflects the characters’ traits and biases. When I write, I try not to create word combinations that would sound foreign if they were spoken out loud. I believe my style of writing is conversational and smooth, and that it conjures up images in the reader’s mind that are specific to that individual, instead of being so descriptive that there is only one possible image that can be thought of.
How did you come up with the title?
In coming up with the title, I wanted something simple that would be easy to say, not easily misunderstood, and was based on the crime that needed to be solved. It started out as a working title, and by the time the book was completed, I couldn’t think of anything else that personified both the crime and the one responsible for what happened.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The book starts out focusing on the death of Neil Baines, and how a small-town lawyer, Taylour Dixxon, found herself defending his wife, who is the one accused of perpetrating the crime. I chose a small-town lawyer because I wanted to highlight the challenges that these sole practitioners face, day in and day out, as they try to practice law outside of the big city. The message that I want the reader to come away with is that the job of a lawyer, especially in a small town, is vitally important to the sustainability of order in society. It can sometimes be a thankless job, but in the end, Taylour knows that this is where she belongs.
How much of the book is realistic?
I took bits and pieces of places and buildings that I know and made a fictitious town of Marlinsville, TX. Some of the pieces were patterned after where I live, with certain names of restaurants and streets and festivals that are similar, and I chose a central county in Texas (Falls) and the county seat (Marlin) for the actual spot on the map, but the description of the town itself is made up and has no similarities to the actual town of Marlin, TX.
Are the experiences in the book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Not at all. I did reach out to a small town attorney named J. Burton Hunter, III who helped me with some of the legal questions that I had, but the characters and experiences are not based on any actual events.
What books have most influenced your life the most?
The books that have influenced me the most are the scriptures of my church, including the Holy Bible and The Book of Mormon, as well as the books that I have read of several mystery authors, John Grisham, Dick Francis, Jeffrey Archer, just to name a few.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
My biggest challenge is finding the time to do everything that I need to do with the limited resources that I have. Between writing, spending time with my family, working my day job, fulfilling my church responsibilities, marketing my book, and a thousand other things, I never seem to have enough time to do everything that I want. I am not good at prioritizing my time, and I do like to watch certain TV shows that I can’t seem to give up.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The hardest part was trying to tie everything together. I wanted to use most of what I wrote, but some of the scenes didn’t always fit, so I either had to adapt the scene or cut it all together if it didn’t move the story along. Also, there were times when I was simply too exhausted to type any further, but I needed to complete the scene so that I wasn’t falling behind schedule. I had to push through that more than once.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write what you know, and don’t be afraid to create characters that have flaws. No one likes a perfect protagonist or someone who is always happy. Inject humor when possible, but don’t overdo it. Decide early on if you want to write for the sheer joy of writing, or if you want an audience. If you want to write for an audience, then know who that audience is and write as much as you can.

Also, you need to read about the art of writing! Study and see examples of different points of view, learn how to develop plot and characters, and understand the underlying structure of a great story.

And finally, tell everyone that you are writing a book because 1) people think it’s cool that you are a future author, 2) it will motivate you to keep writing when your friends and family constantly ask about your book, and 3) it will help you to sell more books because you are creating buzz, and buzz sells.

This interview first appeared on Smashwords.

Debut Suspense Novel from Stone Patrick

Stone Patrick’s debut novel, The Fallen Body, takes us to the heartland of Texas, to the fictional small town of Marlinsville, and young lawyer Taylour Dixxon. She focuses her practice on civil law but yearns for the big case. No one tells her to be careful what she wishes for.

One day, she meets Sarah Baines, a woman from New Jersey, befriends her and invites her to dinner. This is Taylour’s last peaceful moment for many weeks. The Texas Rangers burst in and arrest Sarah for the murder of her husband.

Taylour takes the case and before the murder is solved, finds herself saddled with a charming nephew, Spencer, almost loses her home and her life at the hands of the Russian mobster, Roman Danshov, and falls in love with Texas Ranger Philip Davidson. A wild ride, to be sure.

 

I enjoyed this densely-plotted debut novel, with its varied cast of characters.

Taylour, a feisty young woman at the beginning of her career, struggling with aggressive clients, and a Texas Ranger who distracts her from her work, deserves another outing. I hope Patrick has something more planned for her.

Spencer, my favorite 23 year-old going on 17, arrives with a show of adolescent bravado, but grows up during the novel time, and demonstrates his bravery at the conclusion.

Like many debut novels, The Fallen Body would benefit from a professional edit. However, if you enjoy romantic suspense and don’t demand foul language, explicit sex scenes or gratuitous violence, but want a book to keep you turning the pages, try The Fallen Body.

Watch for an interview with Stone Patrick on Wednesday, May 7.

The Fallen Body is available from Smashwords at the following link:

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/402747?ref=tayman0522

 

James Scott Bell and the Magical Mirror Moment

Storytelling has a rhythm, a structure based on centuries of tales recounted wherever people sat together, around a fire, or a table, at a bedside or in a classroom. Three acts, a middle turning point, a crisis and a denouement comprise most. Simple enough, I hear someone say. Not at all.

Countless books on writing have dealt with the structure of novels, and now websites devoted to writing and bloggers eager to help other writers, do the same.

Until my current WIP(work-in-progress), I’d been a pantster, getting on with writing and worrying about structure later. This time, I plotted and outlined and followed my work count, making sure that the ends of the acts fell where they should, that there was a middle turning point, that a hook moment existed, not too far into the first act and so on, and so on. All great, until James Scott Bell wrote Write Your Novel from the Middle, a terrific(and short) book that defines a mirror moment, at the exact middle of the book, in which the protagonist assesses herself, and makes a decision based on her own psychology, what sort of person she is going to be, or assesses the forces against her and the certainty of her death, whether physical, psychological, or professional. From that, the writer develops the pre-psychology and post-psychology. So far so good. Then he writes about the two pillars, or doorways of no return. I was familiar with those. I’d read his excellent book Plot and Structure. So now the novel has three points: a first doorway at about 20% in, the mirror moment and 50% and the final act, again shorter at 20%. Other writers suggest longer first and final acts.

His description of the method is clear and freeing. Writing the mirror moment, the point of realization, means the first half must lead to this moment and the second half lead to the crisis and transformation.

My personal problem with this is that the WIP was more than half done when I read about the mirror moment. It turns out that this is not the problem, but part of the solution. I found my mirror moment, tucked into the middle of the book, where it belonged, and now I’m revising with a surer grasp of where I need to strengthen the plot or make the psychologic pressures clearer.

So yet again, I’m grateful to James Scott Bell, for his concise, entertaining and useful books about writing. I buy them on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/James-Scott-Bell/e/B000APSY8A or at Writers Digest Shops http://www.writersdigestshop.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=james+scott+bell

Disclaimer: No connection whatsoever with James Scott Bell, except that of reader and student.

A Community of Writers


I spent three days at Elmhirst’s Resort on Rice Lake with the group attending Writescape’s Spring Thaw. The purpose of the retreat is to allow time for writing without the distractions of every-day life: no meals to make, laundry to do, groceries to buy, questions to answer. Peace and time. I wrote 3000 words of my next Anne McPhail, Dangerous Journeys adventure! Productive days for me.
But that isn’t why I go as often as I can to Writescape’s retreats. I find a community of writers there, women who are open, supportive, affectionate and non-judgemental. Writing is a solitary occupation, but anyone who has worked without a community as I did as a solo paediatrician in a small town, knows that support from others  is invaluable.
Most of the women, except for one stalwart who flies in from the west, live and write in the communities to the south of mine—Ajax, Whitby, Pickering—but come together at the Writers Community of Durham Region. Time, perhaps for me to join them and grow my personal circle.

Below is a photo of a lovely morning on Rice Lake

Elrmhirst's Resort, Rice Lake

Eight signs of spring

Signs of spring.

1. A miniature iris is blooming, freckled purple beside the brown sticks of a miniature rose

2. Our landscaper dropped by.

3.The lawn has reappeared sporting mounds and trails created by moles, the entrances to their tunnels as big as holes at the golf course.

4.The river below our house, a stopping-off spot for migrating birds, has welcomed baffle-head ducks, loons, Canada geese, a Great Blue Heron, the returning ospreys and many gulls.

5. Returnees to the feeder include blue jays, cardinals, finches-yellow, purple and the orange variety of house finch, chickadees, woodpeckers.

6. Dogs of all descriptions and their humans have taken to slow ambles along the streets, instead of the head-long rush to get the business done before noses and tails freeze.

7. Ice has left the river.

8 The wild turkeys have left for their home in the bush.Image

 

Writing and reading and more writing

What with one thing and another, it’s been a while since a new blog appeared in this space. I haven’t been slacking but focussing on three projects.

Revision of A Child for the Taking for the tenth or eleventh time. I’m using AutoCrit to revise this time. The software’s frequency of words feature allows me to rework phrases and sentences, one scene at a time.

Reading Saving Fillide, my work-in-progress up until Christmas. I sent it to my Kindle and reading in book-format allows me to catch and mark errors.

Writing The Spanish Connection(tentative title)  my latest Anne McPhail mystery.

In between I read Will Ferguson’s 419, a brilliant novel until the ending. Although the ending is dramatic and memorable, I didn’t believe it as I had the rest of the novel. The character as I understood her was too clever to make the decisions Ferguson detailed.

Fun reads over this time have been the latest Penny Brannigan mystery set in Wales: Never Laugh As a Hearse Goes By by Elizabeth J. Duncan and a series by Susan Shaber—The Louise Pearlie Mysteries. The latest is Louise’s Dilemma. Great period detail of WWII Washington.  Her Majesty’s Hope , the latest in Susan Elia MacNeal’s Maggie Hope Mysteries is set in Britain during the same time period.

I’m looking forward to attending Writescape’s Spring Thaw with Ruth Walker and Gwynn Scheltema in April at Elmhirst on Rice Lake: great company, opportunities to learn about the craft and free, uninterrupted time to write.

Queen’s Quarterly

Queen’s Quarterly, the magazine of Queen’s University Alumni Association, was established in 1927 and continues publishing today, articles of interest both to alumni/alumnae and to the general public. The current issue includes

Eight years after his first visit to China, PROF. JOHN P. SMOL, PHD’82, one of the world’s foremost environmental scientists,returned to that country to deliver a series of lectures. The Review invited him to report his impressions of China.”

The principal purpose of the Quarterly is to keep alumni up-to-date with the news from the university and each other.

Brian McFadzen an alumnus and friend wrote an article about me and my books that appeared in the latest issue as well.

You can find it here: http://tinyurl.com/qhsxorq