Monday, 30 October 2017

Unhanged, Debut Dagger, and Canadian mystery writing

At a recent crime writing workshop with Vancouver mystery author Merrilee Robson, she told us about some mystery writing places you might like to look at if you're a Canadian writing in that genre.

1)  Unhanged Arthur Ellis Award: for Best Unpublished First Crime Novel
("You have not had a novel, or novel-length work of fiction (50,000+ words), of any kind published commercially, whether: in print or electronically (i.e., e-book or published on the Internet) or selfpublished in any genre, including literary fiction under your given name or a pseudonym, and/or written alone or jointly with another author"). 

Info about it is here. Note: there are various Arthur Ellis competitions and the deadlines are different. Be sure to read the several pages of submission guidelines.

2) The Debut Dagger Award (UK) here.

3) Organizations Canadian crime writers should know about:
  • Crime Writers of Canada - here. They have a free newsletter you can subscribe to. 
  • Sisters in Crime (SINC) - Canada West - here.

Merrilee Robson is the author of 
Murder Uncooperative, (North Star Press 2016), set in co-operative housing in Vancouver, BC.

She's currently working on a historical mystery. This work in progress--Summer Smoke--was a finalist in the Freddie Award for Writing Excellence, sponsored by the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America.

I asked Merrilee which mystery writers she reads:    
There are so many good mysteries around these days; it's hard to choose.
  • For Canadian authors,  I love what Louise Penny has done with her series set in Three Pines. I bought Deadly Appearances, Gail Bowen's first novel, on the recommendation of staff at People's Co-op Bookstore on Commercial Drive and I thought her description of political events was dead on (so to speak.)  I've read every one of her books.
  • Iona Whishaw is a local writer who writes a series set in BC in the period following WWII. 
  • Among British mysteries, I've enjoyed Elly Griffiths Ruth Galloway series, set in Norfolk, Jacqueline Winspear's Misie Dobbs historical series, and Anne Cleeves' books set in the Shetland Isles.
  • Of course there are the classics, Dame Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, and a number of Golden Age Mysteries are being re-released in print and e-books. I just found out that Mary Stewart's romantic suspense novels are now available as e-books, many for only 99 cents.”

Margo Lamont

Monday, 16 October 2017

Books You Wish You’d Written

I’ve been listening to the audiobook of Elizabeth Gilbert’s BIG MAGIC, a captivating and useful book. It's read by EG, so listening to the audiobook is almost like having a one to one workshop with her, and it's illustrative to hear the book in her voice as well. 

One thing she talks about is how ideas are “out there” in the ether, in the recesses of the mass consciousness.  And, that if you have a creative idea, and you don’t get on with it, the Idea offers itself up to someone else.  Gilbert has a wonderful true story she relates about how that happened to her. She waited and lost her idea.  So if you have an idea and you’re procrastinating on it, her advice is: get on with it.

I didn’t have the idea for this series of books, but I wish I had.  

Written by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, so far the series includes:
  • The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Flaws
  • The Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Attributes 
  • The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide To Character Expression 
  • The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma. 
  • The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to City Spaces 
  • The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Personal and Natural Place 
Any of them would be a practical tool to have at hand for those times when you get stuck visualizing or creating characters, and invaluable for those of us whose characters all tend to be too Nice, especially when your plot calls for some stinkers. 

For example, in The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws, you discover “a vast collection of flaws to explore when building a character’s personality.  Each entry includes possible causes, attitudes, behaviors, thoughts, and related emotions.” 

And there’s its companion volume, The Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Attributes: 
“Real character examples from literature, film, or television to show how an attribute drives actions and decisions, influences goals, and steers relationships.”

Each admirable trait has information under these headings:
1.  Definition of the trait;
2.  Similar Flaws; 
3.  Possible Causes; 
4.  Associated Behaviours and Attitudes; 
5.  Associated Thoughts; 
6.  Positive Aspects; 
7.  Negative Aspects; 
8.  Overcoming This Trait as a Major Flaw; 
9.  Traits in Supporting Characters That May Cause Conflict; and my favourite shortcut section:
10.  Examples from Film, sometimes Examples from Literature.
(In Positive Traits, for "Spoiled," it was Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory; Scarlett O’Hara from Gone With the Wind; Dudley Dursley from the Harry Potter series; and Eric Bates from The Toy.

This is my favourite section because I can pretend I'm doing research and go watch the films "for reference." La!).
hey do that for each trait – in Negative Traits, from Abrasive right through the alphabet to Worrywart.  I leave you to go and see what they did with Nagging. 

QUIZ:  See if you can figure out which characters in literature or movies  the authors chose for these three negative traits (115 traits are dissected in the book). I'll put the answers in the Comments below. 
  • Gossipy
  • Forgetful
  • Self-destructive
No peeking before you've brainstormed a little, because recalling characters representing these three negative traits before you look, will be good neuroexercise!

©2017Margo Lamont