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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Writing Habits


I hope everyone is enjoying our "meet the members" posts. I thought we would take a break before our next interview and talk about writing habits.

I have yet to meet any two writers who approach the process the same way. And if you are enjoying our interviews, you see what I'm talking about.

Like in this picture, some enjoy writing in a public place such as a coffee shop. While others prefer the solitude of home.

Coffee, tea or soda? Many writers need some sort of caffeine boost. Or, perhaps, like Hemingway, they require something with a bit more punch to get those creative juices flowing.

Pen and paper, or computer? Of course a computer is much easier to edit on, but some writers find the flow of words comes easier while writing long hand.

Music or not? Some writers create play lists and listen with ear buds or head phones. Others find music a bit too distracting.

The time of day we write differs for everyone. Just like some of us are morning people, others are night owls. The thing is to realize when you are the most creative and try to block off that time.

Share with us your writing habits. I bet no two will be alike.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Member Interview

Please welcome Sleuths' member Sharon Smith to our blog
"Thanks for this opportunity!"
You're more than welcome. Let's get started. By the way, I love your picture!
When did you first get the writing bug?

This may seem like a stretch, but it began when I went away to college. The day I was dropped off, I began worrying something bad would happen to one of my loved ones, while I was gone. Yes, I’m the worrier in the family. :-(
For that reason, and also because I loved receiving mail, I sent letters to both of my grandmas at least twice each month.

Here's where the relevance begins to appear. My mom's mother often told me how much she enjoyed my letters. She was the initial stimulus. Second was the fact that early on I was a voracious reader. In grade school, I spent my summer vacations devouring books.

Third, my career required a lot of technical writing. I decided to see whether I could also write the stuff I loved to read. I wrote my first novel in 1996 and shelved it. It remains there.

In 2001, I began working on my second novel and signed a contract with an agent in 2002. Nothing happened.

In early 2003, I was diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer. My life expectancy was 28 months. Suddenly, family memoirs took precedence. I knew my family, and I knew if memoirs were to be written I had to write them. Remember the grandma who loved my letters? She was a truly memorable person, and I wanted to preserve memories of her for future generations. I spent every available moment writing and researching. Through research, I met family members who added much to the memoirs and to my life. They remain dear friends.

I completed the memoirs in 2007 and returned to fiction. By then, the motive for murder in the book I completed in 2002 was no longer in the forefront. I did a complete rewrite. Then I paid an instructor from The Loft Literary Society in Minneapolis to critique this book. Bottom line: before I did anything else, I wanted to know if this novel merited additional attention or if I should find another diversion. I guess her response is evident. I’m still writing . . . whenever possible

I love writing and find it exhilarating. However, for the last 15 months life has thrown some roadblocks in my path. Even so, I'm still hoping to complete book four . . . and five . . . and six. (No, gratefully, it isn’t another bout with cancer.)
Wow, that's quite a story. Nothing like a health challenge to get us motivated.
What genre do you prefer in your writing and reading?

I love reading mysteries and spend most of my reading time enjoying that genre. Mysteries run the gamut from cozies to the graphic. I enjoy the former much more than the latter. Although my novels are police procedurals, they're as close as they can get to being cozies. Each contains a touch of romance, and humor often enters into the exchanges between my two protagonists.

If you could pick anywhere in the world to write, where would that be and why?

Right now, since I'm rarely at my home in St. Paul, Minnesota, I'd choose to write there. There are so many interesting locations, and many of the people actually are "Minnesota nice."

I do a lot of research for each of my novels. Fellow Minnesotans have supported those efforts. The lead investigator from the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office was a wonderful resource for my first mystery, and the second, third and fourth. He has also become one of my biggest fans.

My third book, Murder on a Stick, centers around the Minnesota State Fair, also known as the great Minnesota get together. A person who worked in the information booth gave me all kinds of interesting facts about the fair. Law enforcement and fire officials answered a plethora of questions, as did operators of the food booths. Because I love to learn things while I read, I always include opportunities for my readers to do likewise.

Morning, afternoon or night writer?

All of the above. When I'm writing, I'm totally engrossed. I write from the time I get up, until I go to bed. I eat breakfast, lunch and supper, while staring at my monitor. Prior to getting ready for bed, the only real break comes when I exercise for an hour on my Nordic Track cross-country ski machine. Yes, I actually have one and actually use it. But you already know I have OCD, correct?  :-)

Pantser or Plotter?

I'm definitely a pantser. When I begin writing a book, I start with my two protagonists and the victim. I don't know how or why the person was victimized.

I believe there's some magical connection between my fingertips, while they’re in contact with the keyboard, and the storytelling center in my brain. I sit at my computer, and the story develops. While working on the first draft, I hate to stop. I want to know what's going to happen. The guilty party is rarely the person I first suspected. While writing the first draft of my second book, tears streamed down my cheeks when the guilty party was revealed. I wanted that person to be innocent. My protagonists had the same reaction. Coincidence?

Thanks so much for sharing a bit of your life with us.

Please support this talented writer. Here are her links.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Why Writer's Groups Are Important


Do you belong to a writer's group? If not -- why not?

Maybe you don't know of any in your area. Maybe you think you don't need it. Or, perhaps you are an introvert and meeting new people gives you hives.

Here are a few reasons I love my writer's group.

  1. Writing is a solitary endeavor. And let's face it, no matter how much you enjoy your own company, it's important to interact with others. If only to get a fresh perspective on your current work or get ideas for future stories. And although the local coffee shop's barista has a lovely smile, she probably can't tell you the difference between a simile and a metaphor.  
  2. Some groups have really great speakers. Just this year at Sleuths' meetings we've heard from a court recorder, a Karate expert, an arson investigator, and a newsroom producer. That's just a partial list. In short, I've learned how to start a fire, report the fire, defend myself at the fire and how the court will keep a record of my trial. Or, ummm, how my characters could all do these things. 
  3. Advice, feedback, and encouragement. Not sure how to write that query letter? I bet somebody in the group could help. Not sure the last passage you wrote is worth keeping? Ask that person next to you if they would mind giving you an opinion. Just got another rejection letter? "Great, at least you're trying. Keep sending it out there. You never know."

Still not convinced? Just come to one of our meetings and then decide. Don't write mysteries? We don't care. Our members write in all genres. Or if you don't live nearby, find a group close to you. I guarantee there is at least one. Just check online. Or maybe that nice barista can steer you in the right direction. Because we all know how much writers love coffee shops.  

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Meet Our President


This is the first interview with one of our members. There will be many more to follow. So grab a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy getting to know Susan Keene. She is a very talented story teller, published author, and currently serves as president of our group.

First tell us a little about yourself. 

My education is in the medical field. I went to school at Deaconess Hospital in St. Louis to be an X-Ray technician. The only reason I chose that field was because my dad didn't think girls should go to college and I was able to get a full paid scholarship.

I didn't like the work and after several years I went into sales for Sears Contract Sales and did some of their sales training.

I live in the country with lots of animals including sheep, horses, cows, mules, donkeys, cats and dogs. We have over three hundred fruit trees.

Sometimes, when I make the thirty-five mile drive to Springfield, I think it would be nice to live closer. When I come home to the quiet and beauty of it all, I change my mind.

What draws you to mystery/crime writing?

The world intrigues me, everything is a mystery. I think that is why I like to write them. My goal is to keep you guessing and hope you won't figure out who did it. I want each book to be a surprise. Nothing brings a smile to my face faster than the words, "Wow, I didn't expect that."

If you could have lunch with any author dead or alive, who would it be?

It would be fun to share a pint with Hemingway, but my favorite contemporary author is Harlen Cobin

Favorite food?

Boy, I love to eat so that is a tough one. It would be a toss-up between crab and pasta with white sauce.

What does your writing schedule look like?

I get up, grab a cup of coffee and go straight into my office. I write until my  particular train of thought is done and then go on with my day. Occasionally I write at the end of the day, but I am not as productive.

I am and have always been a creature of habit. Mess up my routine and it messes up my day.

You are the current president for Sleuths' Ink. What do you find enjoyable about the job and what bothers you? 

It is always fun to be the leader. I spend a lot of time thinking about the plot of the story I am writing. Presiding over the meetings keeps my mind in the present. The women and men who belong to Sleuths' are so talented, I am in awe to be around them.

I guess the downside is the preparation outside the meetings, like reserving the meeting room. I really do need a secretary.
Thanks Susan for sharing.
Please check out her links below.

http://amzn.to/1JURH0C   Link to Diggitty the Dog Saves Christmas

https://tinyurl.com//lxc5ngl    Link to Diggitty the Dog Finds A Friend

 http://amzn.to/1b3BuDL      Link to The Adventures of Diggitty the Dog

http://amzn.to/19IVg9H     Link to Tattered Wings

Monday, August 10, 2015



It was recently brought to our attention that our web site is sorely lacking in updated content. Unfortunately, this is quite true. Here is a brief explanation.

We are a group of writers who enjoy getting together once a month to support each other and learn something new from guest speakers. We run a yearly challenge called JANO - more on that later - and a mystery writing contest in the Spring. Usually the people in charge of those events post the info on here once and then forget it. Since none of us are getting paid and participation is voluntary, sometimes things slip through the cracks. Understandable right?

Well, that's changing. I foolishly volunteered to keep this blog up to date. I really need to learn to keep my hand down at meetings. ;-)   My plan is to post at least once a week. There will be author interviews, notice about upcoming events and speakers and interesting tidbits about writing. Our hope is this will be a place people will want to visit.

If you'd like notification of new posts, please sign up with your e-mail to the right.

And to the person that brought this to our attention, thank you.