Tuesday, December 9, 2014

It’s All About That Bass, i.e. Great Writing

bass 2The truth is when you write, it’s all about that bass, too. How so? Well, first, let’s look at the song. I’d guess many who listen to it initially think it’s all about the physical. However, there’s figurative meaning in the message, too. Right? That bass, deep and substantive, it’s part of who we are. In fact, it’s the importance of who we are. Beauty is nice, but it’s the personality, the heart, all the “bass stuff” that keeps people coming back for more and it's the glue to sustain relationships.

So, what about in writing? How does an author sustain reader relationships? I’d like to think in a huge way it is all about that bass – the plot with its twists and turns, and its complexity; those dynamic characters with layers and layers to make them a challenge to figure out; the setting descriptions meant to pop with every one of the five senses; the dialog, authentic and purposeful. Writing with anything less is a half-hearted effort.

I say, don’t kid yourself. Readers know. They are an intelligent species whose demands should never be ignored. Otherwise, it can be a painful death to an author’s career. As I’ve stated countless times: writing is hard ... very hard work. There’s a reason for revision. Your story in its initial stage might have all the “surface beauty”. It looks pretty and shiny at a glance, but then … Did I mention that readers have demands? Yes. You must edit, revise, layer upon layer, and repeat. Add that bass. Your writing deserves the best effort. Your readers do, too!

Happy Holidays!


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Writing, and Then There's Patience

I finished the first book in a new mystery series -- Grave Maker Blues. Satisfying as it seems, at least for a brief time, I queried it to a handful of agents. That quenched my productive, creative urges. For a brief time. So, I outlined the next story in the series. Just last week I started writing book 2. I figure it will take me two or three months to finish a rough draft. That should satisfy me ... for a brief time. 

Admittedly, the little voice in my head won't let me stop. I have to keep going, moving on to something new, while I wait for whatever I hope to accomplish. I'd like to stop. Give a brief, restful pause to enjoy those things that tend to be overlooked or ignored while I'm busy producing, achieving, waiting. Ah ... it's just that little voice, the cheerleader in my head ... it won't let me stop.

Could it be the mentality of all those great minds throughout the course of history? Could they possess that voice? Am I like that, included with those great minds? .... Nah, it's just me, like anyone trying to satisfy the productive, creative urges, just one in a gazillion. Yep, that's who I am. 

Still, I think I will try to stop, at least for the holidays. It's only fair, to me, to my family, friends ... now, where was I? Oh. Yeah. Book 2. And then, more letters to agents. And how about promotion ideas for A Deadly Deed Grows? It's coming out in a couple of months. I'm hopeless!

Happy Holidays to all!

And If You Like Mysteries, Click on This!

Monday, October 13, 2014

It's Not Real ... Oh Yes It Is!

Ever have that moment ... you know ... the one where you've been waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and ... then it comes? But you think it's a dream because of all that waiting and after all, you've convinced yourself that maybe it's not going to ever happen. Yeah, that kind of moment? Well, I heard from the editor and she emailed me the galley of A DEADLY DEED GROWS to review. How about that? I think my arm is black and blue from pinching. Yes, I guess we're moving along ... Just two more steps to go!

To be continued ....

Saturday, October 11, 2014

It's In The Details

Whenever I look at the cover of a book, I like to search for the tiniest details. Reminds me of that online mystery game. You know the one where you have to find the hidden objects in the picture, which of course are clues to solving the mystery? I love reading mysteries as well as writing them. I figure the details in a book cover may be clues to the story. I know when I give a publisher's cover artist my ideas for the covers, I think of that. For instance, in DYING TO DREAM, the grave marker's dates are backwards. And no, it's not a typo! There's a very good reason for this detail. And no, again. I'm not going to tell you what it means and spoil the fun, if you decide to read my work. :-)

Take the cover for Grisham's SYCAMORE ROW. How perfect to have the tree as the focal point. But the fogginess in the background sends a message to me as well. When I first looked at the cover -- and you should know I highly recommend the book -- I wondered if the fog is meant to imply the answers to the mystery are behind it, literally and figuratively. Or maybe it's there to make the other trees seem insignificant compared to the one at the forefront. Of course, I guessed the tree would play an important role as the story unfolded. It made me curious, as all covers should do, enough to read the book.

I have noticed that some covers intentionally lack detail. Though not as interesting, they're usually done with books by brand name authors. Let's face it. If I see Stephen King's name plastered across a blank background I'm hooked -- and most likely the print size will be larger than the title's because, yes, he's a brand that sells. Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series always have a colorful solid background with her name and the title on the cover. Nothing more. It works. However, it's just not as much fun. I like the idea of a puzzling cover with its suggestive details. In teaching, it's what we call making predictions. I used to ask my students prediction questions all the time in literature class. What do you think the title implies? How about the cover? Can you make predictions on what the story will involve? Something to get the readers interested. If you think about it, by answering these questions, in an indirect way they've helped to write the story. 

So, next time you search for something to read, check out those covers. The tiny details are full of enticing tidbits, beckoning to you, teasing you with predictions of what's inside. Don't ignore them, or else you may miss out on a pretty good read!

Enjoy your next great reading adventure :-)




Friday, September 5, 2014

Character Blogging … Pass It On!

First, I want to shout out a big thanks to my friend and fellow author, Jo Chumas, for giving me this blog challenge. I have the utmost respect for her and her work.

Though I’ve mostly written cozy mysteries, I’ve taken a departure in my latest creation. It’s a bit more serious, but still focused on entertaining, rich characters who drive the story. Now, the task at hand is to answer questions about a character from one of my books – WIP or already published. I’ve chosen the female heroine in my recent WIP mystery, Grave Maker Blues. This is the first novel in an anticipated series that takes place in the Alleghenies of northwestern Pennsylvania. I chose this setting because it’s where our family has a cabin and I have many special memories of this beautiful country -- covering sixty-some years in my lifetime. It’s rich with history and scenery. Anyway, here goes …


Sarah Blue Mackenzie, known to friends as Mac, is a young woman who by the age of eighteen had lost both her parents. It forced her to become strong and independent. With tending the bar, Moe’s Deja Blue Bar and Grill, inherited from her father, Mac’s life is busy enough. However, she’s been given the added role of caregiver to her Uncle Chaz who is crippled and partially blind due to diabetes. His career as a writer of historical books and articles would be over if it weren’t for Mac. She’s become his research assistant, or fact finder as she likes to call herself.
Sarah is a loyal, hard working, and loving woman, yet there is a part of her that always looks for more. Love evades her, or so she thinks. And mystery seems to surround her.


The Allegheny Forest of northwestern Pennsylvania is picturesque to say the least. But it’s also a place of adventure, rich culture with the Seneca and Iroquois people and their history, and lots of wildlife. Mac’s home is located on Roper Hollow Road, close to the Kinzua Reservoir, and not coincidently, the place you would find our family cabin! The story is in the present, though there are references to the past, which play a significant part in the mystery.


As I mentioned, one of the roles Mac takes on in this story is that of researcher or fact finder. In the opening scene Mac visits a cemetery to collect birth and death data for Uncle Chaz’ latest book on the history of local Native American families. Rather than having a routine day of tedious data collecting, Mac discovers a body lying in an open grave. The problem? The face is familiar and that person was assumed to have died over ten years ago. Matters get more complicated when Mac becomes suspected of murder. Finding out the true identities of the victim and the murderer becomes a priority in Mac’s life. Throw the challenge of impending romance into the mix and you have a quite entertaining tale. Nash Redwing has been her friend since their youth, but could this be changing? Mac has her doubts, but also hopeful expectations.


I’ve titled the book Grave Maker Blues. It’s intended as part of a series called Shades of Blue. There are many references both literal and figurative which led me to the titles. Sarah’s middle name is Blue, as are all the family members on her father’s side. There’s a story behind that, and it’s explained in the book. Wouldn’t want to spoil the fun! The bar Mac owns, which she inherited from her father, Moe, is called Moe’s Deja Blue Bar and Grill. And last but not least, Nash Redwing plays guitar and sings blues music. I think you can guess the figurative reference to Shades of Blue.


Once I’ve polished the work to its shiny best Smile I will start the process of pedaling it off to an agent. (Fingers, toes, and eyes crossed!) Be waiting and watching for news about this.

I guess that’s about it. Thanks again to Jo Chumas. You’ll find anything and everything about her and her work at her website/blog: 
http://www.jochumas.com/blog and Twitter: @JoChumas . Her award winning novel, The Hidden, is available through such online retailers as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

**Now, for the not so great news Sad smile I won’t be passing the baton, so to speak, to move this along to future blogs. I wasn’t able to persuade anyone to take on the task, but we all have super busy lives! Right? I wasn’t even sure if I’d get this out in time. Still, it’s all good. Cheers! And happy writing, everyone!

Kathryn Long
Mystery Writer -- Lilly M Series
Dying to Dream
A Deadly Deed Grows
 (soon to be released)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Beaches and Summer Reading

IMG_1371It’s that time again … the temps are hot, the skies are brightly lit with abundant sunshine, the beach and ocean waves are calling. And so is your latest, hottest beach read! So, what do you choose?

Well, I guess that depends on what you enjoy reading – thrillers, dramatic tales of tragedy and success, steamy romance, complex mysteries to really make you exercise your brain, … you might have some idea, but it doesn’t hurt to find recommendations. They are out there, trust me. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, bloggers, Goodreads, and on and on. You Google the topic and you’ll get scads of hits.

Personally, I love mystery, romance, drama and especially those where the beach and the ocean are part of the setting. Right now I’m reading the second in a new series by Julie Lindsey titled Murder Comes Ashore, part of her Patience Price mysteries. It takes place on the island – off the shore of Virginia – called Chincoteague. It exists and now I want to go there!

Seriously, there is something compelling about an ocean shore setting. It relaxes me, makes me feel like I’ve escaped the rat race, which is my main reason for reading, i.e. escapism. That most likely is the reason four of my novels take place in coastal towns. Dying to Dream is along the Louisiana Gulf, Devilish, Devious, and Deadly with One Bite and A Deadly Deed Grows (soon to be released) you’ll find along the Florida Panhandle in such quaint towns as Cape San Blas. Those are all mysteries, but recently I ventured into romance and have a series where the setting is on the Georgia coastline, starting with Catalina’s Spring. Some settings I’ve been to, but some I just choose because it makes me feel good writing about places like that. Much as I enjoy in reading about them, I guess.

In any case, I thought I would help those readers trying to decide by posting a couple of links. One is from Goodreads with a list of summer reads that do take place on the beach. The other comes from the Huffington Post. That one is loaded with suggestions in all areas of interest. So, happy reading to all! And enjoy your summer!

Goodreads Summer List

The Huffington Post Recommends ...

Monday, June 2, 2014

As Edison's saying goes ... "Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration."

Apply that to writing? Well, read what Winston Churchill had to say ... "You should go to your room every day at nine o'clock ... and say to yourself, 'I'm going to sit here for four hours and write!' ... if you sit waiting for inspiration, you will sit there till you are an old man."

Happy writing! And here's to lots of perspiration :-) 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

One Year Anniversary ... Happy Birthday!

On May 14th, 2013 my first traditionally published novel, Dying to Dream, made its debut. I must say -- and I imagine many authors can relate -- I felt a strange mix of emotions that day. From utter joy to extreme fear, the range was enough to send me into the closet or where ever I could hide from the world and its critics. And then I would... what? I suddenly realized I had to face it. If readers liked it, hated it, or maybe even worse, felt indifferent about it, I would accept and deal with the worst. 

Now, a year later, I am still here, still writing, still experiencing those emotions. Every time I find my book's ranking boost, or receive my very meager royalty check in the mail, or read a pleasant book review from an appreciative fan, I get that tingly feeling inside, that glow which tells me maybe this isn't such a bad gig. I could do worse in this late stage of my life. 

Then from time to time, I wonder if the apprehension, the fear of failure or rejection, will go away with the next book release. Probably not. However, if I honestly admit it, what's important is that there IS another book release. I can't let the fear of rejection, criticism, indifference, or any of those negative vibes stop me from writing. 

Now, let's say instead that Dying to Dream is an experience. It's a step along a path I've chosen to take. If talent and perseverance are willing to stick it out, there might be many more steps along that path. So, whether or not the book has made its mark isn't something I like to dwell on. It definitely won't be dictating my decision to write. I have to believe that. 

To me, writing is a gift. And that's really enough for me. Of course, I'm not going to lie. Having that best seller some day wouldn't be so bad either :-) Trust me. Realistic or not, it's on my wishlist!

So, happy birthday, my paranormal baby! May you be the first of many to come.

Cheers, all. Happy writing and reading!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Just Spring It!

IMG_1246I can’t think of a better way to welcome Spring than to clean out my closets and flowerbeds. But add to that, how about cleaning out my file of writing project ideas? Sounds like a reasonable plan.

I have a few ideas, some good, some really dumb ones, and one that even after letting it simmer for awhile I still think is fantastic! Guess that’s a keeper. Now, when I decide to work on it is one question. The other is how do I start?

Ideas are just that. Have you ever met someone who says, “I’m an idea person.” Yeah, that’s great. You come up with the idea and somebody else will do all the work, sweat and toil through the details. Don’t misunderstand me. You have to start somewhere and an idea, a premise for a story, is a really great place.

And what’s my idea? Well there’s the other thing. Call me superstitious, but I don’t really want to talk about it because then if it doesn't work or I won’t start on it … I guess it makes me a bit nervous. So, I don’t talk about it.

The same thing happens to me at times when I make an outline for a book. I place a lot of details into it, which you’d think would be a good thing, right? Have your trip agenda, your road map all set for you to hit the road. No worries. Who knew such a plan could give me claustrophobia? Yep. I feel constricted with limited creativity, like an artist who has his arms tied and told to go ahead, paint the darn picture!

So, change it, you say. Well, duh. I know that, too. But at the same time, I’m thinking, “what if I hadn’t written the stupid outline in the first place? Maybe my creative juices would have been awesome and I might have come up with a really, really great story, but now it’s just this oh-so great story.” Or something like that.

Just Spring it? That’s the great thing about Spring. It’s rebirth, it’s opportunity to start again and come up with new and wonderful things, like my story ideas. Yep, it’s time to clean out that file and start anew.

Happy Spring and enjoy reading and writing, all!

P.S. Happy Birthday, Mom! You would have been 106 today Smile

Sunday, February 23, 2014

On My Mind's Way to ...

"It came to me when" ... At book signings, one of the most often asked question is how do I come up with my ideas for writing. I have to pause and think about it because there really isn't just one way or place or method that inspires me with what to write. It's not that easy. 

I'd guess that most every author has those moments, totally unexpected, when a creative notion pops into his head. I know I have. I might be watching a program on television, listening to a song, walking through the mall, playing with my dog, talking on the phone, or just daydreaming, and it will hit me, an epiphany, that seed of an idea that will root and sprout into a story.

Of course, it can't always be explained. Sometimes I don't even remember how the idea started. Maybe it comes in my dreams! But as I found, many authors have acquired their inspiration in various ways. Did you know that A. A. Milne used his son's name to create the main character of his books -- Christopher Robin, and the Hundred Acre Woods was part of his childhood imaginings with his father? Sherlock Holmes was based on Conan Doyle's medical professor in college.

Inspiration may come quickly and easily for some, but then pull to a halt. I've had great ideas, ideas I believed would turn into a bestseller novel. I'd get the story going, and then ... nothing. Glad to know I am not alone. Frank Baum did the same with The Wizard of Oz. He hit a road bump, stuck in a rut. Fortunately, he found his inspiration again and finished it. 

And the absolute worst? Doubt. When I write what I had thought was a fantastic story, but somewhere along the way, I start feeling this self doubt, a lack in confidence thinking that I haven't any talent, that all I come up with is crap. It's a scary feeling. Perhaps you've heard the story about Harper Lee. She wrote and rewrote her masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird. And the evil master of doubt started creeping inside. She even threw the manuscript out in the snow one day. Aren't we glad she regained her confidence? 

Last of all, and maybe most important to remember, is that even the best idea means nothing if you don't have the talent to carry it out and create a story. And once a writer begins the journey, it's painfully hard, it's messy, it's always an uphill climb to the finish. In other words, it's work. Remember that the next time you read a book. Several hours to finish reading it? Think about several months, maybe several years, to write it. Yes, it takes inspiration, imagination, creativity, and endless hours of dedicated writing. And it's a truly great thing. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Another Blow ... and Yet Who Profits?!

In an article by Scott Turow in the NY Times readers learn of yet another event in the publishing market that chips away at the author income. It shouldn't surprise anyone, really. After all, as long as the powers-that-be profit from such a move, that makes it somehow okay. They must think that authors somehow won't care about it. Right? Yeah, sure. Midlist authors, ingenue authors ... all those struggling to make a name for themselves ... they don't need money. They are only writing for the pure art of it. Uh huh. That's one way to appease guilt and greedy acts.

Seriously though, I personally don't do this for the money. I enjoy writing and sharing my stories with readers. However, that's not the point. The point is that some very greedy people are profiting off of each and every writer's work, the work that may have taken him/her years to finish. I look at it this way. If I choose to give away my work, that's my right and my business. If somebody else is doing this and profiting from it, that's copyright infringement. And I realize there are fine lines to this. For instance, we purchase an item, any item and may turn around and sell it on Amazon, eBay, or even a garage sale. But the point is we purchased it in the first place. That seems perfectly fine to me. 

Anyway, read the article for yourself. In this age of digital products, purchasing online, and such easy access to most everything makes life indeed a tempting playground to do things not so very ethical or fair. I guess when it comes down to it, I'll keep on writing because I love to and keep on publishing because I want others to enjoy. And I'll have to accept the bad along with the good. Such is life ... cheers, all. Enjoy reading!

The Slow Death of the American Author  by Scott Turow