March 29, 2009

H. Terrell Griffin, Author of the Matt Royal Mystery Series

Please welcome, guest blogger H. Terrill Griffin, author of the Matt Royal Mystery Series.

It is my good fortune to live on Longboat Key, an island off the southwest coast of Florida about half-way down the peninsula. It is a small place anchored in the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The island itself is about ten miles long and a quarter-mile wide. During the off-season, that is the months from May to November, it is a very small town of about 2,500 people.

It is this island and its people that give me the ideas for stories. The people are an eclectic bunch, hailing from every part of the U.S., with a sprinkling of Canadians and Europeans. It is a stew in which many stories germinate, some true tales of former lives in far off places, and others only fables told over a beer, perhaps the lives that the fabulists wished they had lived.

It is during the hot summers, when the Gulf breezes barely cool the island, that the locals gather in the bars, laugh a lot, tell their tales to the local author, and enjoy the friendship that attaches in small towns the world over. The islanders are my muses and my most extravagant supporters. It is from this milieu that I draw inspiration, solace when needed, and so many wonderful characters to grace the pages of my novels.

My books are centered on Longboat Key, but the mystery always takes the protagonist Matt Royal to other places. I try to bring a sense of our island in all its wonder and beauty to the printed page. There is almost no crime on the key, so I have to manufacture murders and the bad guys who commit them. I try to weave the fictional crime into stories that include the islanders as characters, most thinly disguised. My friends enjoy trying to figure out which one of them is the character with a different name.

Writing is a joy for me, a joy that is enhanced by writing about the things I love, my island and my friends. I hope that I do both justice, that the island is described so that the reader will fall in love too, and that the characters give the reader a true flavor of my part of the world. And if the mystery is one that the reader can’t put down until finished, then I’ve done my job.

For more information about Terry Griffin and his books, visit his website at

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March 22, 2009

The Learning Curve

I’ve been a new wife, a new mom and now a new writer. Each time, I had the bone-headed idea learning curves didn‘t apply to me.

Although my days as a “new” wife are long gone, my husband won’t let me forget the horrid Three Mustard Chicken I cooked our dog even refused to eat. Lucky for me, he didn’t channel the male species’ innate sense of self-preservation. Had he declared me the next Paula Deen, I wouldn’t have forced myself to open Betty Crocker’s Bridal Edition Cookbook. Obviously, Betty knew husbands were out there starving to death.

Now, I can cook most anything. I’ve yet to see him take a bite and go running for the sink with his hand over his mouth!

When I had kids … well, let’s just say I’m flabbergasted the nurse let me leave the hospital, much less, waved as I drove off with a defenseless baby. I’m sure every time I called the pediatrician, his nurses fought over who’d have to take the “Crazy Lady’s” call . Yet after three years, I feel confident, safe even, being locked inside a house ALONE with three toddlers.

Then I decided to write a romance novel. I’ve read the darn books for years, which is the same as experience, right? I even practiced my signature in preparation for my future book signings. Wanting an adoring fan club, I joined a writer’s group, knowing I’d be hailed a literary genius.

I’m fairly certain my face mirrored the same look of shocked horror I wore when I saw my hubby gagging on his mustard chicken. Yikes! My pages bled! I was afraid I’d leave a trail of red ink out the door.

Was I shocked? Yes.

Did my disappointment keep me from moving forward? No.

Instead, I refused to give up. I asked questions and took notes. I latched on like a barnacle to writers who were willing to show me the ropes. Now 7months later, I no longer write with my head in the clouds or in the 1980’s.

I’ve learned things like: the importance of word choice and sentence structure. By not giving in to my fears, I’m a lot closer to achieving my goals. I belong to two writer’s groups and can’t believe how much my writing has improved. My continued progress keeps me motivated. I’m going to savor the feeling of writing “The End” as much as the day I got my son to sleep through the night.

So join a group- get out there!

I’ll be just as grateful to the woman who told me my son’s desire to eat dirt was just a phase as I’ll be to the people who said stop worrying and just write the book.

Yes, I’m still learning, but I’m enjoying the ride a lot more, because I’m surrounded by people who have the same desires. The only way I can fail is if I were to throw in the towel. I didn’t then and I won’t now.

So ask yourself, how bad do you want to succeed and what are you willing to do to achieve your goals?

For me, it was simple- I took a chance. Will you?

March 15, 2009

Approaching the Different

At our little Friday Night Soiree, I brought a new species of writing to the table. Taking my seat in front of a plate of decadent brownies, I awaited the critiquing of my new contest offering. It was a Narrative.
There was no protagonist, no antagonist. There was definitely no seductive man riding in on a large stallion, there was just a remembrance of a small girl about the shooting of JFK.
For this contest I am writing about what the experience of JFK's assassination was like for myself from the perspective of being seven and in class when our teacher made the announcement.
Most of us at the table never critiqued narratives. It was a challenge. They peered at it like it were some sort of odd vegetable one's mother might place on your plate. "Try it, you'll like it." I admit being a little uncomfortable. Might this paper I brought, lull my beloved co-writers into a dangerous dimension? Would they be eaten before my eyes?
Well, writers are a brave lot. (After all, we create whole worlds) They each did a wonderful job, and helped guide me (like they do every time) toward making my piece its best. The reason is that no matter what style of writing one uses, there are rules that always apply. Not too many this, that's, hads, and the other, show, (even a narrative needs draw a picture) make each word count, and the rest clip like bad hair.
Our evening ended much like it always does. Each of us left better writers, and each of us had work to do..and the tools to do it well.

March 8, 2009

Measure of Success

I would like to introduce our guest blogger for today. Welcome Karyne Corum. She is from New Jersey. Writing is her passion and she would like to share that passion with other writers. Thank you, Karyne, for stopping by.

Many writers measure success with big sales, contracts and six figure advances. But if you take it down a notch, into the sphere of the average writer, those who are neither here nor there yet, it should have a different meaning. Success is when you set a goal, whether it be writing 250 words on your manuscript or networking at a local book conference, doing two things to help your career, and you reach it. I imagine many writers would rather set the bar so high that it’s almost impossible to reach and therefore they feel comfortable in their cocoon of inertia. "I would have been a great writer if only…. ".“If only” is the anathema of every writer, everywhere. It is the penultimate cop-out. If only I wasn’t busy with kids, husband, job, the noisy neighbors, the dog, the dust bunnies and so on and so on.
One of the most important tricks I learned was to stop trying to fit my life to my writing and rather fit my writing to my life. If I had ten minutes between my son’s lunch and playtime, I took it. The idealistic vision of the artist having all night or hours upon hours to create is a mirage. And just like a mirage, you need to dispel it with, even if it takes some cold water to the brain.People are so afraid of failure they would rather dream than do because in our dreams we never fail. I like to live by the philosophy that, we learn nothing from success and everything from failure.
It is not a reflection of our inadequacy but rather a demonstration of our ability to adapt and overcome.Even failure takes work. If my life was a string of failures then at least I would have the satisfaction of knowing I tried and tried really hard. But, I don’t have a string of failures, I have constant daily successes. Whether it be finishing a scene or finding the universal truth in my story, writing 50 words or even just getting out and doing a blog that I left for almost two months because life got really busy and chaotic. I’m not going to beat myself up for not getting to my blog for two months, rather I’m just going to get back to it and get it done.So, the choice to be a doer or a dreamer, remains in the writers hands, just like the success of your career. Start with the small and the big will follow.

Karyne Corum

March 1, 2009

Short Stories

By: Dorinda Ohnstad

Until recently, I have vehemently pronounced that I am not a short story writer. In fact I hadn’t written a single short story since graduating from high school thirty years ago. Periodically I would be encouraged by critique partners to tackle short stories and seek out contests and publishing opportunities as a way of building my resume. Each time I dug in my heels and declared “I am not a short story writer!”

Sometimes I would consider writing a short story, but just thinking about it made my head throb. Bottom line, I realized short stories are extremely hard to write. Telling a complete story with less than 5,000 words seemed to me a near impossible feat—only mastered by those with far greater talent than I could ever hope to develop. In my book, the best thing to do was not to try at all. You can’t fail if you never try.

I lived blissfully with my short story aversion until I read a Murderati blog posting by Toni McGee Causey. The blog’s content about the power of writing elicited visceral emotions in me that plagued me nightly. Over the next few weeks these emotions morphed into a clear story in my head that screamed to be released onto the pages of my computer screen. Believe me I tried to push the story to the back of my psyche so I could move forward with my novel, but the story gave me no choice.

I had to write the story to clear the path for returning to my novel, so I relented. In fact, I spent more than a month editing and refining the story, with the help of my invaluable critique partners, until it was ready for submission. This week I sent it off. When, if, or where the story may be published or recognized I don’t know. That’s not the important outcome of my short story foray. What’s important is what I learned in the process. I was right; short stories are a beast not easily conquered. What I didn’t realize however, was how tackling the task would make me a better novelist.

In writing a short story, every word counts. You must search your vocabulary for the one perfect word, rather than make do with two or three mediocre ones. Words with double meanings within the story become gems, like a Scrabble triple word score. Each sentence has to move the story forward or it needs to go. Repetition and lazy writing can’t be tolerated. In other words, to write a good short story, a writer has to use the tools of the craft to their umpteenth degree, and in the process it taxes your skills and makes you a better writer.

I look forward to translating my newfound skills to my long-fiction writing, and have no doubt that it will make my writing pop and sizzle in a way I never before dreamed possible.