Sunday, May 18, 2014

My Top Five Favorite True Crime Shows

True Crime shows have exploded in the last few years – so much so, there’s now a whole network devoted to them (thank you, Investigation Discovery). Lots of other cable and broadcast networks are starting to incorporate more true crime-based shows into their lineups. I guess in the case of TV (and books), crime does pay.

I’ve always had a fascination with true crime. Being a child of the 80s, I grew up watching every TV movie/miniseries imaginable “based on a true story,” and for whatever reason, my favorites were always the ones chronicling crime.

It’s only fitting that I write suspense novels.

These days, I tend to watch a lot of true crime cable shows, and find there are certain ones I’ve really cottoned to. So, here are my Top Five Favorite True Crime Shows:

Scorned: Love Kills (Investigation Discovery)
Maybe it’s because I write about love gone wrong that I like this show so much. There’s usually a love triangle, lots of illicit sex and a fatal ending. And that theme song is just beyond.

Snapped (Oxygen)
“Snapped” debuted in 2004 and I’ll go out on a limb by saying it probably birthed 90 percent of the true crime shows out there today. “Snapped” usually features a woman “snapping” and murdering someone; her boyfriend, husband, girlfriend, romantic rivals, even co-workers. The motives range from greed to jealousy.  True story; the murder of my father’s former grad school professor was featured on an episode. Read about it here.  


Forensic Files (Court TV/TRU TV, et al.)
Admittedly, I’m not really a forensics geek, but there’s something about this show that I find utterly fascinating. It details how forensic science is used to solve crimes – even ice-cold cases. The DNA on the back of a postage stamp can convict a killer 30 years after the crime. Unreal. Peter Thomas’ frenetic narration towards the end of the show when they depict how the crime occurred always gets my heart racing.

Happily Never After (Investigation Discovery)
Much like “Scorned: Love Kills,” this series details how love can go horribly, horribly wrong, typically between a married couple. Marlo Thomas is such a warm and fuzzy narrator, you almost forget a spouse is about to meet a grizzly end.

City Confidential (A&E)
Paul Winfield’s conspiratorial narration style is probably the No. 1 reason I dig this show, which examines the impact of crimes on a community. Winfield makes you feel as though you’re having a secret gossip session over a three-martini lunch at 21 (the late Dominick Dunne had this same effect). Although “City Confidential” ended its run in 2006, I can’t help firing up the martini shaker anytime there’s a rerun.


 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Tag — You’re it! Blog Hop: How I Write

I’m it! I’ve been tagged in the “How I Write” blog hop so here goes!

I was tagged by M.L. LeGette, author of several Fantasy books for kids, including The Orphan and the Thief and the TheTale of Mally Biddle. I met M.L. last year when she hosted me at her blog via her “Be My Guest” feature, where she interviews fellow Indie authors. Her blogs are always so fun and creative. And… I also love following her on Pinterest!  She has some of the most amazing images on her boards.  Follow her here to see what I mean.

Okay, onto my writing process.

What am I working on?
Two things: after getting some feedback from my First Reader, I’m finishing up what turned out to be a near total rewrite for Every Breath You Take.  I think I needed her to tell me how off base it was (even though, deep down, I knew.  You always know.) before I put on my surgical scrubs and took a scalpel to it. I’m finally falling in love with it, which is a wonderful feeling.

Work on my other book, Live to Tell is going much better. It’s in beta reading at the moment and so far comments haven’t been horrible, so I’m hopeful J.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
What a great question.  Well, I write suspense novels about the dark side of love, so I like to think if a Lifetime movie and the Investigation Discovery channel had a baby, my books would be the resulting bouncing bundle of joy. 

In terms of how my books may differ from others in my genre, I don’t feature detectives or serial killers – my books are more about how love gone wrong can drive people to murderous extremes.

Why do I write what I write?
I’ve always loved reading mystery and suspense books because I like the puzzle aspect of those types of stories.  I love trying to figure out whodunit, why they done it, etc., so I was just naturally drawn towards telling those types of stories.

And probably because I watch too much Investigation Discovery. ;)

How does my writing process work?
It usually starts with my characters talking to me (no, really). Other times, a first line will pop into my head out of nowhere.  And of course there are those times when I have no idea how I came up with the idea, but I run with it.

I’ve always done plot points scribbled in random notebooks and more recently, I’ve started doing more narrative outlines. Even with an outline, I don’t let that stop me from taking a different exit off the expressway. It’s all very intuitive with me; if what I initially thought would work doesn’t, I feel my way around until I get it right (see Every Breath You Take example above).

And now, I turn it over to some of my fellow writers.

Katie Oliver
I met Katie through the #MondayBlogs meme on Twitter, where I became a great admirer of her witty and spot-on blogs.  I later discovered that like me, she was a General Hospital fan and it wasn’t long before we were gabbing about that all day.  Katie writes comedy with a bit of romance and kicked off her Dating Mr. Darcy series earlier this year with Prada and Prejudice.

Nancy Wood
I first became aware of Nancy because her book, Due Date, is always in the “Also Boughts” on Amazon for my book, Sweet Little Lies.  Then, when I decided to host the “Tales from the Dark Side…of Love” giveaway this past February, Nancy was one of the first suspense authors I reached out to. Not only did she jump in with both feet (check out her awesome post on Dark TV Shows We Love to Love), she pointed me to tons of other suspense authors that she thought might want to participate.

Awesome.

Thanks again to M.L. LeGette for tagging me.  This was fun! J

 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Quirks of a Writer

Quirks.  Every writer’s got them, some of us more than others (raises hand). 

As both a writer and a reader, I’m always interested to learn more about how writers write (LOVE the “How I Write” feature over at “Daily Beast”).  It’s fascinating to see how much the process can vary from writer to writer.  For example, some people like to write longhand or can only write on a typewriter. 

Like I said, everyone’s different.

So, in the spirit of sharing, here are a few of my writing quirks.

 I  Don’t Always Know the Ending
There are a lot of writers who say they can’t begin to write a book unless they know how the book will end.  Not so with me.  It makes no difference to me whatsoever if I know the ending or not.

The manuscript I’m working on now has gone through three endings, but I think I’ve finally found the right one (fingers crossed).
 
 
Of course, sometimes, I do know the ending.  It’s just that nine times out of ten, it changes—radically.  The endings for both “Live and Let Die” and “Sweet Little Lies,” are quite different from what I originally thought they’d be.  With the former, I had a vague notion of the end.  After I wrote it, I realized it just didn’t work.  It was only when I asked myself, “what’s the craziest thing that could happen to tie this all together?” that I came up with an alternate ending that I think works quite well and is one readers have really responded to.  Same with “Sweet Little Lies.”  It was nice, but didn’t pack the punch I was looking for, so I changed it. 

 I Don’t Label My Chapters Until the End
It’s too distracting for me during the writing process to try and figure out the chapters.  What’s on page 50 now, might wind up on page 100.  Then back to page 50.  I also don’t know if the chapters will be numbers or titles—I like the story to dictate which way to go.  I use a pound sign for scene breaks until I know how the pieces fit, then at the very end, I go back and label the chapters.

 I Always Insert My Page Numbers First
 
I think I must be afraid I’ll forget to do it, but it is always the first thing I do when I start a new manuscript.

I Use a Baby Name Book to Name My Characters
I have a little $1.99 baby name book that I picked up at the supermarket checkout a million years ago.  Sometimes, naming the characters is easy and other times, I need a little help, which is where the baby name book comes in.  For example, I might want a name to have a certain connotation and looking at the meanings can help me figure out what to call a character.  For example, Kelly, my protagonist in “Sweet Little Lies,” her name means, “female warrior,” and she’s definitely doing battle to try and figure out her husband’s secrets. 

So far, I haven’t named characters after family or friends and don’t plan to. It would be too weird for me, especially if the character is an asshole or I have to kill them (in which case, perhaps I can make an exception for ex-boyfriends).

My Characters Give Me The Ideas for My Books
A question all writers get is, “where do you come up with your ideas?”  The truth is, inspiration strikes differently for everyone. 

Sometimes, I have no clue where the idea came from.

However, more often than not, I hear the characters talking (yeah, I know, sounds crazy, but it’s true) and I have to write down the conversation right at that moment until I can figure out who they are and what they’re talking about.  Sometimes, it takes me a few years, but I get there eventually.

The second most common way ideas come to me is that the first line of the book will pop into my head (such was the case with “Sweet Little Lies.”).  From there, it just flows.

Reading newspaper and magazine articles or watching crime shows often help me add layers to the story that I hadn’t thought of (happened with “Live and Let Die”) or they attach themselves to an existing fuzzy idea, then I’m able to crystallize it.  I keep an accordion file folder of stories that I tear out of magazines and newspapers and go through it a couple of times a year to see if anything jumps out at me.  PEOPLE magazine articles are a GREAT resource for crime and suspense ideas. 


 I Can Write with the TV On
I can do most anything with the TV on; read, talk on the phone, clean the house—whatever—doesn’t bother me in the slightest.  When I’m writing on the weekends, I usually have Investigation Discovery or some marathon of “Law and Order: Criminal Intent/SVU,” on in the background.
 
The first draft of “Sweet Little Lies” was composed over four months, every night after work from 9 p.m. – 11 p.m. with reruns of “The Cosby Show,” in the background.  True story.

Occasionally, I’ll switch it up and put on music when I’m writing.  My go-to is anything 80’s.

I Can’t Write Anywhere but at a Desk or a Table
I can’t sit under a tree, lounge on a sofa or stand up to write.  I need to be upright, sitting in a chair, at a desk (or table, as the case may be), typing away.

I Make Notes to Myself in the Manuscript
During the first draft stage, I make notes to myself in the manuscript as I write; I put an “XX,” for something I need to research later.  I will also highlight a section in yellow and depending on the issue will either write, “MOVE” or “FLESH OUT” or “REVISE,” in big bold letters.  That way I don’t get bogged down by something I can’t figure out at that moment and can keep writing.

I Revise at the End
When writing the first draft, I just write.  I’ll put the first draft aside for a few weeks (sometimes longer) before I come back and take a hatchet to everything.  It’s during this stage that I read the entire manuscript from start to finish and make a typewritten log of everything I need to address; research, name a character, add a detail, delete a scene, move a chapter, etc. I print that log out and keep it next to my computer, crossing items off as I go.  And I just keep reviewing and revising in order to plug up all the holes.  By the time my First Reader sees my manuscript, I’ve gone through it at least 50 times (not exaggerating).

I Keep Notebooks Everywhere
You never know when an idea will strike or when you’ll finally figure out how to fix a troubling scene and you’re not in front of your computer.  Hence, you need notebooks.  I keep a notebook next to my laptop, on the nightstand and in my purse.  If for some reason I’m out and my pen is dry or I’ve used up all the pages in my purse notebook, I use the memo function on my phone to make notes for later. 

I still have the notebooks for when I came up with the original ideas for both of my books and it’s kind of fun to look back at how close (or far away) the final products are to my original scribbles.