So impressed…

3 11 2016

I had the very good fortune to meet Judy Penz Sheluk some years ago at the fabled  (and sadly, deceased) Bloody Words Mystery Writers Conference. We’ve kept in touch since and I always like to hear from her, but lately she has zoomed on, winning all sorts of awards for her second novel, and I just had to mention her here both to say congrats and bask in reflected glory. You see, we once had a discussion over Tim’s oatmeal and she taught me about that, too. (It is surprisingly good.) I’ve learned a lot from Judy.

She’s a powerhouse. Just sitting by her sets your energy to a high vibrate – she is kind and encouraging, but she just goes. It’s like driving on a highway next to a Porsche. You feel the slipstream and you want to go faster, too.

An example is her website: (click on the image)websiteheader3

It’s stunning (as are her awards). In addition to writing two excellent novels and countless short stories, she’s got marketing down, big time (as the evil T would say). I watch from the sidelines, feeling the breeze and appreciating the energy. She is a professional writer. Me, an amateur. I rather suspect it will be ever thus. For one thing, she gets things done. For another, she gets a ton of things done. Me, I dabble. (ergo my Masters degree and no PhD – focus is difficult, and I hate paperwork.)

It’s well worth spending some time on Judy’s website, even now during Nanowrimo. For one thing, you will see how a professional website should be set up. But beyond that, the site is packed full of reviews and interviews with other authors, information on the publishing journey, links to writing associations and groups, even information on antiques.

It’s utterly splendid and can give you hope when you are in deep into your November writing and realize you are hopelessly lost and you will never be good at writing and life sucks and all that – then look at Judy’s website and realize that her first novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose. was published only this year and she has another one out already , Skeletons in the Attic, and who knows where she is headed next!

The website is a motherlode of information. Everything from how to name your characters to how the whole publishing thing works. It’s written in an easy, “you can do it” tone, and I find it cheering to see all the new release reviews.

Of course, I’m still toiling away at my books and stories, being more of a Ford Focus (go fast occasionally, slow right down unexpectedly) kind of writer. I’m glad I get to see Judy whipping past on the left.  I know she’s working hard, doing all the things she should. It is wildly impressive. Check out her site. You’ll be impressed, too.

Better still, read her books. I don’t usually read cozy mysteries as I prefer my mysteries darker and colder, but Judy’s are turny and twisty enough I can’t see what’s happening until the end. I like that. Plus now I want to own an old house and an antique shop and live in a small town. I want to hang out with her characters and slap the bad ones. I can’t wait for novel number THREE!

For now, THREE cheers to you, Judy, for your well-deserved successes. I hope you don’t mind if I look on and maybe learn a few tips!

 

 

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Anger and hostility are good/bad for writing…

22 09 2012

Hey y’all.
Had a terrible week. Pretty bad all over. I hate everyone, even myself, and this Dairy Milk chocolate bar just isn’t doing the cheer-up trick, so I know I’m in deep.
It’s all in my head, though, and I’m feeling vaguely bi-polar – filled with excitement at the thought of Word on the Street tomorrow, racing about for final details for my Bloody Words Mystery Conference table and “the pitch” I’ll be giving for the book I’m writing with the irrepressible Sex Lady Karen K. I’ve got no reason to be angry or hostile or anything except happily typing away here and gazing out into the mood-enhancing fog.

Even my horoscope is telling me that all of my mistakes are my fault and I should just take ownership of them and charge on, focused on the prize.

But I can’t help myself up – all it takes from most anyone today is a sideways glance and I’ll snap…Just in a frumious Bandersnatch mood and so I should stay out of firing range, right?

But no. I keep trying to TALK to people, which is not a good idea.

On the good side, my last attempted conversation lit up an entire line of annoyances and now I am typing madly.
So maybe it will all turn to right.

In Chocolat, by Joanne Harris, she writes marvellously about the west wind, and how it makes her character restless, uneasy. Here in Dartmouth, it’s swampy, hot, gusty. I want nothing more than to walk the beach alone and throw rocks at the helpless ocean. I’ll promise that for myself tomorrow, after my toil.

Today I am getting ready, like a coiled steel spring. It’s truly frightening to behold…





On the HUNT!!! Mystery authors needed…

1 07 2012

I am thrilled to have been made the chair of the 2015 Bloody Words Mystery Conference to be held here in gorgeous Halifax, NS. I think EVERYONE should come. Halifax is a glorious city, the conference is full of surprisingly nice people who have vented their anger at red lights and cell phones and traffic through fictional murdering, and the information and meetings with agents and writers and all is beyond compare.

And did I say how lovely the Halifax area is?

Check out Nova Scotia Webcams and have a look. In the next few weeks the tall ships are coming, so you can see them sailing around. You can see Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse on the cam, the shores all over, resorts and gold courses and ski hills and a lobster cam and a parrot cam.

If you come to the conference, you can even cadge a ride on one of the tall ships. But that’s in the future…

One of the big responsibilities of the chair and his/her bloody gang is lining up the guest speakers – especially the Canadian and International guests of honour. So I’m planning to read mysteries by the zillion, looking for those wonderful souls who write thrilling and day-stealing mysteries and who might be good conference speakers. I need suggestions! We all have favourites and tend to read them most, and I’m working on broadening my reading, but I can use help, guideposts to good places to hunt. Would love your help, dear reader…

Leave me a message with your favourites, or if you are already in Halifax, bring suggestions to our table at Word on the Street in September.

And keep your eyes peeled for Bloody Words 2014 in Toronto. It’ll be fantastic, too.





“We don’t need more writers! We need more readers!”

30 05 2012

Somewhere back in Nanowrimo land, I read a commentary about the piles of dreck being produced through the month. The quote above comes from that commentary, but I can’t find the reference this morning, peering as I am through the slits of eyes produced by profound weeping as I realize another dream is lost, down the drain. That writing dream. You know. THAT one.

I’ve produced a lot of that dreck. I know. People have ever so sanctimoniously, kindly, gently, and viciously told me so. (Just GET all those -ly words in one sentence! That takes skill, that does!)

I’ve been “working on writing”, interspersed with sessions of intense parenting, higher education, day jobs that consume my soul, and fighting the urge to nap, for the past 20 years or so. Should I succeed now, I’d likely kill whoever called me an overnight success. Wait, that’s a good idea for a plot…

And therein lies the rub. Like many people, especially the insufferable woman who sat beside me the other day, plots are a dime a dozen. At least in the idea stage. The stories, the ones that grip your heart and make you sink into an alternate reality – well, those are harder. For me, anyway. I imagine insufferable woman could just whip them off in a second, or so she tells me.

There are hundreds of books produced every year. Many of them are simply awful. (see: 50 Shades of Grey) Some of the really bad ones get made into movies, even, and their authors lie about and eat bon bons forevermore. This leads many of us to think that we, too, could wield that magic.

But like the lion in the Wizard of Oz would say, “Whadda they got that I haven’t got? Courage!” I somehow can’t get myself to offer my dreck to the wider world. I feel I should do better. So I paralyze and refuse to write and don’t. And, quite frankly, my skills get rustier and rustier.

So, a few tips for those who want to do this crazy thing (and by the way, my assembly of writing books is going up for sale on Kijiji in a moment).

1. Write. Yah, you knew this.

2. Learn to touch type. My mother never let me take this class as she thought I’d end up as a secretary or something. She didn’t see the time of keyboards. I still type fast, but my error rate is huge, and my hands get weary using only four fingers total. It wastes time, and frustrates my flow of thoughts.

3. Read. Write reviews of the books you read. This will make you look for the things you read that worked, the things you didn’t like, and, more importantly, will stick those things in your mind for when you write your own stuff.

4. Avoid writing courses. I’ve taken dozens of these. They either tell me what I already know, or decimate my confidence. Free ones are okay. I’ve paid thousands and am genuinely no further ahead. Read instead.

5. If you must take courses, pay attention, participate, suck the pith out of them. Squeeze them dry. Pester the teacher for additional help, especially if they’re good. Find kindred spirits in the class and form a reading/writing group for afterwards. This will be the most useful thing of all.

6. Get a group together to share your writing with. Make sure you are on the same level. This is tougher than you think, and it is terribly irritating to have someone ask you the meaning of words or tell you they haven’t read anything much since the Twilight series when you write historical fiction. Plus it is really really hard to critique really bad writing without being mean-sounding.

7. Read some more. TV or movie renditions of writing do NOT count. It’s not the same. Read widely, outside “your” genre. Well, except romance. Don’t read that if you don’t like it. It will just lead you to think you can write it, and good romance isn’t easy, either. It’s easy to shower scorn on things you don’t understand. I know. Bad romance (writing) isn’t something you want your kids to remember you for.

8. Buy books. Go to readings. Talk to authors. For me, going to the Bloody Words Conference – I plan to kiss their feet. I’ve tried to do what they do, and I can’t. I bow before them, trying to let my envy go and to embrace them with all my heart for the pleasure their books have brought me.

9. If you can, give up. It’s tough out there. It’s lonely. And it can be soul-destroying. After trying for so many years, I feel like a Hollywood starlet, who went west to become a movie star, tried and tried and got some bit parts, a little taste of possible glories, but never a big break. Now she’s old, tired, and wherever she goes, she can hear the whispering, “Of course, she never really WAS anyone…

10. If you can’t give it up, make sure you have other things to fall back on in times of duress. Friends help, but no one can patch the gaping hole in a heart when you’ve very nearly almost made art and have just missed. You need something else that deals with internal trauma. Work out, make something out of clay or cloth or wood or anything tactile that does not involve words. Physicality is key when you’ve been working so hard with the verbal mind. Go punch someone. Maybe the insufferable woman. That would be fun.

Try not to look pathetic.








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