My job as a thriller writer is to keep the reader on the edge of her seat, but when it comes to jump-out-of-your-skin storytelling horror is the cardio workout for the imagination. The writer in me is in awe of the imaginative details; the reader (movie-goer) is in love with the unpredictability of the genre.Here are three of my favorites.
FINAL DESTINATION – MOVIE FRANCHISE
The premise is basic, the acting just decent, but the writing was so darn inventive. Just when I thought the writers couldn’t surprise me again, scenes became more elaborate, unpredictable, and downright delightfully terrifying. This is a great lesson in taking the time to kick your writing up a notch.
MISERY – STEPHEN KING
We’re all suckers for a good plot, especially when it pumps with plausibility. An obsessed fan, a writer who is her captive, and the life and death struggle between them makes this a great look at how a writer can create a nail biter when the characters are locked into a single location.
NEEDFUL THINGS – STEPHEN KING (again)
The slow burn makes the horrific climax in this book incredibly satisfying. King uses multiple characters and their motivations to keep the reader off base. This technique creates a literary funnel that feeds into the one person the reader should have been paying attention to from the beginning. Psychological horror becomes physical and the swiftness of the climax is chilling, and the reader doesn’t even know they are being led down a path until it’s too late.
So, I’ve got the pumpkin carved, the candy bowl is on the table, I’m waiting for the doorbell to ring and before those trick-or-treaters descend I’ve got just enough time to open my book and scare myself silly. What about you? What’s your favorite Halloween-horror page turner?
Manager, Educator, and former High School Social Studies teacher, Veronica credits her love of history to the potpourri of cultures that make up her own life and to her upbringing in diverse Brooklyn, New York.
Her Work in Progress is a Young Adult Novel based on a search into her ethnic roots that explores identity, belonging, and self-discovery. Her genres of choice are historical fiction, where she always makes new discoveries, literary works because she loves beautiful writing, and children’s picture books because there are so many wonderful worlds yet to be imagined and visited.
She currently resides in Macungie, PA., but she’s still a Brooklyn girl at heart. How sweet it is!
Veronica’s story “Fiona Malone’s Fesh,” is featured in the Fall 2021 Issue of Bethlehem Writers Roundtable.
In addition to her fiction, she has a monthly column, Write from the Heart, here on A Slice of Orange where she writes about writing, life and does book reviews.
Connect with her on Facebook @VeronicaJorgeauthor
When one writes a series, no matter what the genre, which repeatedly uses the same community or town as its setting, readers eventually begin to fear for the lives of anyone visiting or living there. Their fear makes them question the reality of the world the writer is creating. This problem is often referred to as Cabot Cove Syndrome. The fictional syndrome, whose name was coined from the television show, Murder She Wrote, is attributed to the finding of bodies repeatedly in the small town of Cabot Cove, Maine. After running for twelve years, not to mention the books and movies the show spawned, the BBC calculated Cabot Cove’s murder rate at 1490 per million, which translated to about two percent of its residents.
Number like that, if the town existed, would definitely make one leery of spending time in Cabot Cove. Readers feel the same way when reading a series. They want a cast of repeated characters who become like family, but they also want the character roster expanded enough that the dead victim(s) and the guilty party aren’t always characters introduced for the first time in that book. Consequently, to keep readers attracted to a series, authors must employ different methods to vary their stories.
Obviously, the town can easily be avoided by having the protagonist take a trip. That may work well in a thriller or suspense novel, but not in a cozy where the small town setting itself becomes a character. Neither Murder She Wrote nor Louise Penney’s books would be the same if they weren’t repeatedly set in Cabot Cove or Three Pines.
Another method is to introduce characters in minor roles and let them evolve in subsequent books in the series. For example, in One Taste Too Many, the first book in my Sarah Blair series, I introduced Grace Winston as a culinary student interning with Sarah’s sister, Chef Emily. Grace has several scenes in One Taste where readers learn about her personality, health, and history. Because Grace is referenced again in Two Bites Too Many, she remains one of many familiar characters in the reader’s mind. Her scenes become important in Three Treats Too Many, where Grace is now the sous chef for Emily’s restaurant. In fact, the title of the book comes from an idea she raises with Emily, Sarah, and Emily’s boyfriend, Marcus, during a menu brainstorming session. Although she still is a secondary character, the reader learns about Grace’s partner and sees Grace caught in a culinary job dilemma between restaurant rivals.
Four Cuts Too Many begins a few days after Three Treats Too Many ends. Grace’s dilemma is the impetus for a meeting between Sarah and Grace. Within pages, the reader sees Grace’s role expand as now, besides being a sous chef for Emily, Grace is teaching a knife skills course at the community college. After she has a run-in with her department head and he is found dead with one of her knives protruding from his neck, Grace becomes the primary suspect.
The importance of Grace taking a major role in Four Cuts Too Many is that her character is known and liked by readers. Consequently, they want Sarah to help vindicate Grace. Although the corpse may be someone new to the community, there is enough familiarity for the story to feel like a continuous extension of a discussion between friends. This developed continuity and affection for the characters is what lets readers suspend the impact Cabot Cove Syndrome might have.
For a chance to win a print or e-book copy of Four Cuts Too Many (U.S. only), tell me, how do you feel about Cabot Cove Syndrome in the books you read?
Four Cuts Too Many
Sarah Blair, who finds kitchens more frightening than murder, gets an education in slicing and dicing when someone in her friend’s culinary school serves up a main corpse. Sarah soon finds that there’s no time to mince words when it comes to finding the real killer.
Includes quick and easy recipes!
Judge Debra H. Goldstein writes Kensington’s Sarah Blair mystery series. Her short stories and novels have been Agatha, Anthony, Derringer, and Silver Falchion finalists. Debra is on the national board of MWA and is president of SEMWA. She previously was on Sisters in Crime’s national board and was the Guppy Chapter president.
Learn more about Debra at https://www.DebraHGoldstein.com .
I wanted to write something encouraging this month and decided to repost one of my earliest posts from this blog titled Face Your Fear, which I wrote in 2017. I have found throughout my writing journey, I’ve had some type of fear hold me back, which manifests itself in taking a hit on my productivity and confidence in my writing. So I thought I would repost and share the four steps to help face your fears.
Because I truly believe taking time to understand your fears each time they rear their ugly heads, can help you overcome them.
And I need the reminder myself these days.
So without further ado, here is the post.
What’s your biggest fear as a writer? For some of you, it might be putting the ideas swirling in your mind into actual words on the paper. For others, it might be pitching your manuscript or creating social media posts. Whatever it is, we all have them. And all that fear causes anxiety, worry, tension, panic, despair…you get the idea (we all write characters who struggle with these, right?). If you’re anything like me, my fears prevent me from accomplishing or completing some of my writing goals.
First, you must identify it. Write it down. What’s your biggest fear? Stare it straight in the face. It’s not so scary once you look at it written out.
Second, define it a bit more. Add another layer of thought to it. What specifically about it makes you have fear. Is it the entire thing or just a part or two. And then ask yourself, why is it scary for you?
Third, debunk it. Discover counter arguments to your fear. Find out from other authors if they have experienced the same fear. Soon you might realize this is a normal reaction to the process and you might even learn ideas to overcome your fear.
Fourth, push through it. Do one task which causes fear. Ask yourself —what’s the worst that can happen? Find a writing partner who can encourage you and help challenge you to follow through. Note: You may have to do this part more than once.
I decided to take a 4 x 6 index card and ask myself what my greatest fear was. What I wrote surprised me. In my mind, I had a general overall fear, but when I wrote it down I saw something more specific.
I don’t always sit my butt in the chair and on the surface I tell myself it’s because I don’t have time, but deep down I’m seeing now it might be because I’m afraid. What if I sit down for an hour session and it isn’t any better than when I started? What if I only edit through a 600 word block in that time? I will never finish. And so on and so on….
So, for me, my fear is getting it wrong. I want to hit the mark and soar with my writing. I’ve entered a lot of contests and shown my work, and although I get encouraging feedback, I’m still missing the mark. And I’m afraid it will always be that way.
I had to ask myself what specifically about getting it wrong meant. Was it failure? Afraid of what people think?
I don’t think I’m afraid of what people think so much (although I want people to like my work), as I am wondering if what I write will ever be ready to publish. I have lots of ideas, but when I write them down, they don’t sound as great as I thought they were. And I’m afraid no matter how much time I put in, I may never achieve my goal of getting published.
All this fear and doubt affects what I do day to day. How I spend my time. My mental state when I’m writing. And I don’t want it to.
Fight back. Who decides if it’s wrong anyway? And how do they decide? Look at how many published authors sent in their manuscript numerous times before it was accepted. It’s just part of the process.
See, by writing it down, I can find counter arguments to what my fear is telling me. And it helps calm down the panic that wants to creep in. It keeps me from letting my fear stop me completely.
Step four says to do something to face your fear, so I need to take risks and not be so afraid of doing so. Write a blog post even if it’s not perfect and post it. Write a new scene and show someone. Get feedback and keep trying. If I don’t do any of these things, I let the fear win. There is always going to be more I can add, more to improve, so why am I waiting to hit send? Waiting doesn’t do anything but feed my fear.
For fun, I came up with this acronym. As we know, fear is an emotional response. We need to stop reacting to our fear and work on ways to work through it. So, FACE your FEAR. Fix And Change Every Fear from Emotional to an Analytical Response.
All so we can meet our goals. We all have goals we want to achieve, right?
So take some time and write down what your fear is and then face it. You just might work through that writer’s block you’ve been struggling with.
Hugs & Blessings,
Denise M. Colby loves to write words that encourage, enrich, & engage. Every year, she chooses a word to focus on. This year her word is Wisdom. If you’d like to see more of Denise’s posts on this blog, you can check out her archives.
I’ve had a zillion jobs in my career.
US Army rec specialist in Europe, AM/FM radio commercial artist, traveling cosmetic saleslady for a French company, club dancer, soap opera player, writer for kids’ TV…
And perfume model.
So, what does a perfume model do?
The gig started when I got a call from the modeling agency I worked for asking me if I was available to introduce a new perfume. Since I was freelancing for a travel magazine company in Beverly Hills back then, I jumped every time the agency called me with a perfume job.
The pay was good. The hours ranged from four to six hours a day. The location was always a posh department store (remember Bullocks, I Magnin’s?), and occasionally, I’d get to wear wardrobe from the couture department to complement the color scheme and theme of the perfume.
I felt like a film star.
After a session with the perfume rep explaining their marketing campaign, off I went. Sashaying around the store like I was walking on the red carpet. I’d engage customers in small talk and introduce them to the perfume.
I’d spray it on their wrist – or mine if they preferred – and then gave them a sample. It wasn’t easy. I was snubbed by snooty women, hit on by male customers, and constantly asked, ‘Where is the ladies room?’
By the end of my shift – toes squashed in three-inch heels – my feet were killing me.
But I loved it. The customers were enchanted by the quick whiff of a new fragrance and loved being whisked away for a moment of glamour. I’d regale them with my stories about Paris and the Belle Époque department stores I visited along with the history of perfume.
And the different notes of the perfume. Top, heart, base.
I soon discovered you didn’t sell the steak… perfume, that is… but the sizzle. The mystique, the mood. I had to evoke an emotional response in the customer and I did it by storytelling and learning as much as I could about perfume. How it’s manufactured, the ingredients, what that perfume can do for that customer to make her happy, feel sexy. Powerful. Loved. I became an amateur ‘nose’, learning about the different scents and essences and how they configure in varying ratios to make up a lovely new fragrance.
I used that perfume experience to create parfumier Angéline de Cadieux when I wrote ‘The Lost Girl in Paris’.
How a girl from a controversial upbringing becomes a famous perfumer during the war when she comes to Paris in 1940 to escape the Gestapo. Then how she uses perfume to do her part to win the war…
THE LOST GIRL IN PARIS is up for pre-order – and my just-revealed cover is on Amazon!
Release date: November 30, 2021
Jina Bacarr: Laura Burke Photography
Background: ID 137251284
Nearly 500 ratings on Amazon UK!
The Resistance Girl
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