Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Second Chance for the Written Word

Joyce Yarrow is an amazingly talented woman. Not only is she a writer of considerable ability, but she is a singer-songwriter, screenwriter, multi-media performance artist and member of the world vocal ensemble, AbrĂ¡ce

She is also an adventurous traveler having done research for her book  
Code of Thieves (previously published as The Last Matryoshka) in Moscow and getting to know the local police (no, she wasn't arrested, but did get to tour a prison). India was one of her more recent destinations, where she was asked to lecture on "The Place of Place in Mystery Writing" at the University of Allahabad. Pretty impressive stuff for a girl raised in the south east Bronx, New York!

Not surprisingly, the accomplishments of other talented individuals interest her. With the Olympics in full swing just this past few weeks, Joyce found herself drawn into a kind of kinship with figure skaters. Writing and skating ... so different, yet -- well, I'll let Joyce explain. In her well-chosen words, the writer in you will likely find some inspiration and the reader in you will gain appreciation.


Recently I posted the following status on Facebook:

As a novelist, no wonder I love the idea of figure skating so much – you start off with a jump that propels the storyline, lead into some fast fancy footwork accompanied by longer arcs of character development, finish with a giant leap into the unknown and a dizzying spin - and then you’re judged!

Fact is, I’ve got structure on my brain due to a rewrite I’m doing of a literary/crime novel.  A feeling of barely controlled chaos is inevitable when approaching a task like this and questions abound: – What plot points do I change and why? Are some of these characters I worked so hard to create actually expendable?  Is pace more important than lyricism? Why is this SO hard?

In the midst of this angst, clarity has gradually emerged. In a work of fiction, the author continually makes choices that change what happens next. As I slowed down and examined the important crossroads in my protagonist’s story, I began to see that I could actually enjoy this! I mean, how many second chances do we get in ‘real life’ – here was an opportunity to open some doors that had been left closed, to confront an adversary more forcefully, to take a few more risks than before in the endeavor to end up in a better place. Who wouldn’t want to do this if given a choice?

The most unexpected arrival has been a new adversary who will keep my protagonist on her toes. He scares me – a good sign – but my heroine will rise to the occasion. I’m happy to say I’ve made  some ‘clean jumps’ and will skate to the finish in spite of a few slips on the ice.

I’d better get back to it – since I have a deadline. To my writer friends – happy revising. To my reader friends – enjoy the results!


Joyce's published novels include Ask the Dead (Martin Brown Publishers) and Code of Thieves, Istoria Books e-book edition (published as The Last Matryoshka by Five Star Mysteries in hardcover). She is a Pushcart Nominee whose stories have appeared in Inkwell Journal, Whistling Shade, Descant, Arabesques, and Weber: The Contemporary West. You can find her at . Her books can be found online and in book stores everywhere. Her newest book, a romantic suspense co-authored with Indian writer Arindam Roy, is awaiting a title. Keep your ear to the ground -- you wont want to miss it.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Look! Up in the sky ... or right in front of you

Kait in the cockpit 
Kait Carson is another wonderfully talented author I have known for years and consider a good friend. However, because about 3,000 miles separate us, we have never had the pleasure of hacking out plot lines over coffee at the local Starbucks. Nevertheless, I often pick her brain knowing she has the ability to see an array of story possibilities in any given situation. She pushes and prods and coaxes the writer's standard "What if" question into giving up the details. 

Take it away, Kait! Let us in on your secret!


Ideas are everywhere

Driving down the road a few weeks ago, I saw a young man on a bicycle. Not unusual. He turned to look over his shoulder at the car approaching and I saw the most spectacular jaw line I have ever seen. Strong, chiseled. He is clearly someone you can lean on in an emergency. I knew instantly that he’s a character in my next book. I also know he’s got piercing blue eyes. A muscle in his jaw jumps when he’s angry. He’s a lawyer and he has a secret that he guards with his life. The same secret that can cost him his life and that my sleuth, Hayden Kent, must uncover. All that from a glimpse of a jaw.  Go figure!

My first book, Zoned for Murder came from a real life incident. It was 2005, the height of the housing boom in South Florida and one of my friends was the local zoning officer. She had the thankless job of citing the folks doing below standard work on homes to insure quick sales. She also needed to ride herd on the rest of the community for more typical zoning violations. One day she mentioned receiving death threats. Both against herself and her dogs. Zoned for Murder was born from that comment. I wondered what if. What if someone did try to murder a zoning official? What would push someone over the edge from disgruntled citizen to murderer? It didn’t take long before I had the answers to the questions and my sleuth, Catherine Swope was caught up in a murder investigation that threatened her own life.

Murder in the Multiples, the second in the Swope series, sprang from a photo of a mansion up for auction.
The home was gorgeous. It was confiscated by federal agents as spoils of drug profits. That’s all it took to play the “what if” game. What would happen if a Realtor bought the house for re-sale? What would happen if the re-sale buyer of the house were the rival bidder’s husband? A doting and well-meaning man who was blind to his wife’s secrets? What would happen when Catherine found her rival dead in the bathtub on the day of the closing? Who gains, who loses?  My husband created a dummy cover for Murder in the Multiples to help me visualize the house and the day of the murder. He drew his inspiration from what I told him of the story.

Death by Blue Water, the first in the Hayden Kent series, sprang from one of my passions. Scuba diving. I am a rabid wreck diver. One day, at 120 feet, a plastic bag floated out of a cabin and past my face. What if the bag was a hand, floating up to a window from the cabin floor attached to a very dead man? What if I had an appointment to meet this man? What if this man was the brother of the man who recently jilted me? What if, what if, what if. My husband created a dummy cover for Death by Blue Water based on how he sees the inciting incident.

So, where do my ideas come from? Everywhere. Sometimes it’s something as concrete as a news story, other times it can be as nebulous as a glimpse of a biker’s jaw. The most important part of the process for me is the what if question, and how my imagination answers that. Things are never what they seem to be.


Kait Carson currently lives in an airpark in Florida, where she mixes scuba diving, flying and a day job in with her writing. Her work has appeared in "Chicken Soup For The Soul" (writing as Kim A. Hoyo), "Cup Of Comfort" (writing as Kim H. Striker ), "True Confessions", "True Romance", "True Stories" and "Women's World". Zoned For Murder is her first full length mystery. Death by Blue Water and Murder in the Multiples will be available soon.

You can catch Kait any time at