(Janet Elizabeth Lynn & Will Zeilinger)
My husband, Will Zeilinger, and I co-write the thrillers of INTERNATIONAL MYSTERY SERIES, as E. J. Williams. Our tales transport the reader from 1962 southern California to various international locales. In the first new book of the series, STONE PUB, we find ourselves in County Cork, Ireland.
The first book sets the tone and is the foundation of all future books in a series. The main characters will appear over and over again. They have to be strong and memorable. The character must be able to grow and change through several books while remaining exciting and unpredictable. Keep in mind that you, too, will be living with them for some time, so you, as the author, must like them also.
As a couple, we often think back to people we’ve met or know, then we kick it up a little…or a lot. At first, it wasn’t easy to choose. We had so many. Then we realized we didn’t have to choose…we could combine, which made for powerful, strong, funny, and capable characters that can sustain the reader’s interest over the course of the series.
Supporting each other and valuing the ideas we each bring to the table make for great characters. Remember, the crucial thing is to write a good story. So stay tuned. There is more to come.
STONE PUB is the first in the series, and yes…we are still married!
Website: Janet Elizabeth Lynn
Website: Will Zeilinger
(Hover over the covers for buy links. Click on the cover for more information.)
I was going through my travel pictures – some as close as another town in Southern California, others as exotic as China and Albania – and was reminded that my writing was richer for each experience. But it wasn’t just the places that fired up my imagination. By far, it was the people I met that made the journey unforgettable. Here are the five groups I seek out on every trip because meeting them always inspires my work.
Keepers of the Keys: A hotel maid, a waiter, a shopkeeper. The interaction with these people might be fleeting, but they know what goes on behind closed doors. Sometimes the small details, the seemingly most insignificant secondary character, can make a good story great.
Merry Makers: Festivals, a local pub, a county fair are where people let their guard down. Join in. Experience the sights and sounds to enrich your descriptions. Festivals are especially fertile ground for romance writers.
Wise old Sages: A simple hello, an offer to help carry a package, a greeting in their language, will make an instant friend of the elderly. From them you will learn the history of the country and the person. Seeing through their eyes enhances the pacing of your work and the backstory of your character.
The Village People: No, not the singing group. These are the folks outside the mainstream. They are a wonderful contrast to city dwellers. Taking the time to go off the beaten path to meet them is invaluable to those who write family sagas or historical fiction.
Fellow Travelers: Some people travel out of necessity, others are running away from something and some running to their destiny. The traveler you think most humble might be a titan of industry. One of my favorite encounters ended up as a major character in one of my books. He literally inspired a complete novel because he was not what he seemed.
When the pandemic comes to an end, travel. Near or far, it doesn’t matter. Meet one or all of these five people. They will be an inspiration. If you take the time to truly connect, you will inspire them too.
Today I heard from a fan who, after having finished The Finn O’Brien Thrillers and the Witness Series, tackled my standalone books. Her comments have ranged from ‘wow, where did that come from‘ to ‘that was pretty dark‘. I admit it, before I started my series I was inspired by life experiences that were a little raw, so her comments didn’t surprise me. What did surprise me was what she said next.
“I love that your characters are so flawed, and you never wrap an ending up in a bow.”
Beyond Malice’s Amanda annoyed her at first, but the character brought back childhood memories that made the story more compelling. She understood and appreciated where the character was coming from because I had touched on something personal. Amanda ceased to be annoying and became a character to root for. Tara in Keeping Counsel had tons of baggage but she carried that weight and more. She agonized to the bitter end whether to sacrifice her own life or her best friend’s future. Character Witness, Before Her Eyes, and The Mentor explore flawed characters and their gut wrenching choices. This reader’s appreciation of imperfection is the mark of a true thriller lover.
My genre does not lend itself to bow endings. I write about the law and justice, about individuals against the system, about people who try to do the right thing but sometimes fail. A thriller ending must always be a draw. If I write about divorce, it is realistic that each character will lose family, assets, and stability, but will gain freedom, relief, and self-determination. Neither will be perfectly happy, one might be hurt more than the other, but the story can end no other way. Happiness is still a promise down the road. Will that be perfect? Probably not, and that will be another story. A happy ending for me is when my characters keep trying despite the roadblocks. That determination makes them heroic, and that’s why I love them.
For me an many thriller readers a happy ending is only satisfying when it is a little messy.
My messy, almost-happy ending, thrillers are FREE for Kindle Unlimited- $.99 to buy. Click a cover to read more.
Greetings! I’m back for my quarterly post about various and sundry things related to writing historical fiction.
In my last post I talked about the delights of playing with words and creating Tom Swifties.
Today I’m talking about the difference between English and English, as in American vs. British.
Is it fall? Or is it autumn? More on that later.
Words are the building blocks we writers and speakers use to create story. We start hoarding those blocks early, and the resulting vocabulary says much about our own personal settings—where we grew up, what our social milieu is, what our family is like.
A case in point—my grandkids’ first words. We waited with bated breath for each munchkin’s first spoken vocabulary word. I coached them repeatedly (and unsuccessfully) to say “mama”.
But for both of them the first word was… DOG! (Yes, we do love our dogs.)
are taught “write what you know”. I wonder why? It’s a lot more fun to step outside the known world. But it does lead to challenges.
The biggest challenge: You don’t know what you don’t know.
For a 21st century American like me trying to set a story in Georgian England, there are a million opportunities to err.
First there’s the issue of etymology. Was a word used during this story’s time period?
A couple of examples from a Regency first draft I was beta reading for a friend:
And a couple from my own first drafts:
Which brings up another potential pitfall for the fledgling Regency Romance author.
Americans and Brits may speak the same language, but we use different words.
I’m fortunate to work often with an editor in England, and so I’ve compiled my own list of Americanisms for my own pre-editing purging.
Some more examples:
This very funny post from a British writer complete with illustrations.
And a list of 60 American English words translated into British English.
Once, long ago, while reading one of Georgette Heyer’s books, I wondered why they kept writing “cosy” instead of “cozy”. Why had so many misspellings slipped past the editor?
The British spelling was different enough to make it a jarring read for this ignorant and unaware American who happens to be a good speller. Fortunately, I’m wise to them now.
There are also punctuation differences. Here’s a short post about some of those.
I don’t believe Regency readers will pillory an author over this issue, so I’ve settled on using American spelling and punctuation in my stories.
One might say, in this area at least, I’m writing what I know!
Do you suppose we’ll ever go “one-world” on the spelling and punctuation rules?
Happy fall (and autumn) to everyone, and I’ll be back in December!
Images credits: autumn leaves and dog are from Stencil (I’d happily claim that dog though!); image of words is from Wikimedia Commons.
Writing a book is a work of love. However, things get in the way, i.e. work. We all dream of the day when we can make enough money to survive by writing. Until that day comes (if it ever does), we need to keep our full time jobs. We wrote and published our first five books working full time.
When do you write? This is a common question people always ask us. And it all comes down to time management and what you can do working around your family and work schedule.
Both of us use to go into work 1-2 hours early each morning just to write. We brought our lap tops and clicked away until it was time to start work. Egg timers are great for working an hour at a time. Don’t forget to bring your breakfast. Some people prefer to stay later at work which may work better for you. Be sure to plan at least an hour or more at a time.
Look for gaps in your day, including breaks, waiting for the mail, or meetings. Basically anytime you may have a few minutes, i.e., typing, or writing a note for characterization, dialogue or sub plot in a writing notebook, on a napkin/piece or scrap paper/paper towel and pocket it. You never know when inspiration will hit. Nothing is more frustrating than coming up with a fantastic idea, telling yourself you’ll remember and when it comes down to writing…forgetting.
Keep up the good writing.
Published authors Will Zeilinger and Janet Lynn had been writing individually until they got together and wrote the Skylar Drake Mystery Series. These hard-boiled tales are based in old Hollywood of 1955. Janet has published seven mystery novels, and Will has three plus a couple of short stories. Their world travels have sparked several ideas for murder and crime stories. This creative couple is married and lives in Southern California.
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