Distraction Free Writing Tip #1: Turn off Electronic Devices!

focus poster-of-weapons-of-mass-distractionHow many times have you headed to your writing nook to start writing when after a few minutes of writing (or good gravy, before you even begin!) you check your email? And then you decide to pop on over to check your Facebook? And then why not peep at Twitter? And by that time you’re all in, so why not all of your social media sites? In order to write serenely, smoothly and swiftly one must avoid distractions.

I understand we all have responsibilities and since we may not be able to completely “go off the grid” to evade interruptions we can at least minimize them.

Distraction Free Writing Tip #1: Turn off Electronic Devices!

To avoid electronic diversions simply unplug! If you want to make the most out of your writing session you have to disengage from your Wi-Fi and begin writing. You simply cannot write well if you’re constantly flipping between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and your email accounts.

Copyright © 2016 by Diane Morasco

Upcoming Releases: Stranded by Diane Morasco

DM Stranded cvr
Buried secrets kill . . .

I know who you are. I know what you did. I know where they are. When Avery Daniels reads these words carved into her garage door, her universe smashes to bits. Ten years ago, she was lauded bestselling mystery writer Melanie Clark—until a psychotic stalker turned her life into a terrifying nightmare. Now ensconced in the seaside town of Stranded, New Hampshire, living in terror, constantly triple checking the doors, windows and alarm system.

The doorbell chimes, and no one is there. The tea kettle shrieks every morning at 3:33 a.m., and the attic door is left unhinged.

Then her cottage is vandalized… Shortly Avery realizes she’s being targeted again.

Copyright © 2016 by Diane Morasco

3 Quick Timesaving Tips for Social Media

Social-Media-Advertising-Opinion We all know social media delivers an unlimited opportunity to devour information, to engage and to reach others more than ever before; however, it can also consume your life if you allow it. If you allow it that is. A successful media presence is a constructive and fundamental instrument for your business. But if you succumb to the time parasite social media is, all your industrious efforts will be detrimental and ineffective. As someone who is afflicted with social media angst and antipathy, I am thrilled to share 3 quick timesaving tips to make your social media experience more effective and proficient. Enjoy!

Quick Tip #1. Schedule your updates using Hootsuite.

Quick Tip #2. Share the same updates on all of your platforms.

Quick Tip #3. Keep it simple.

Copyright © 2016 by Diane Morasco

Interview: Winter Holiday Fireside Moments with Witch City Mystery Writer Carol J. Perry

Carol Perry, Gulfport

Carol Perry, Gulfport

Carol J. Perry knew as a child that she wanted to be a writer. A voracious reader, whose list for Santa consisted mostly of book titles, she never lost sight of that goal. While living in Florida, Carol was on assignment for Southern Travel Magazine, preparing an article on the world’s largest sand castle which was being built near her home. That combination of events inspired her first young adult novel, Sand Castle Summer. That book was soon followed by half a dozen more.

Carol has always been an avid reader of mysteries. Her debut mystery novel is set in Salem and involves O’Ryan, a most mysterious cat, several witches and some strange Halloween happenings. Appropriately enough, this Salem-born author celebrates her birthday on Halloween Eve! Carol and her husband Dan live in the Tampa Bay area of Florida with two cats and a Black Lab.

It’s that time of year when the chill in the frosty air brings us indoors to hunker down with thick comforters and mugs of steaming hot chocolate overflowing with fluffy marshmallows. When holiday music and movies become the soundtrack to our everyday home lives. When we gather ‘round the fire for company, drink, food and love. When we are celebrating and remembering those we treasure and hold near and dear. When the real meaning of the season is family – by our DNA or by our heart. When we reflect and give thanks for all we have. In a nutshell, unconditional love.

I’d like to welcome Carol J Perry to share the beauty of the season with us.Caught Dead Handed Mech.indd

Favorite Holiday tradition?

A favorite holiday tradition at our house is setting up the Christmas Village. Some of the little figures in the scene were the same ones I helped to arrange when I was a little girl! Now my grandkids get to determine where to put the (mirror) ice skating pond, the (white flannel) snow covered ski slopes, the houses and shops and churches—some new, some very old.

Favorite childhood toy?

My favorite toys through the childhood years were a series of teddy bears. All named “Boffin.”

Favorite childhood game?

I had a great range of childhood games to choose from. My daddy worked at the Parker Brothers game factory in Salem! I think my favorites were “Flinch,” and “Sorry.” I was very good at both!

Snow ball fight or making snow families?

I live in Florida now so I don’t have to choose between snow ball fights or snow families. Can I make sand angels on the beach?

Sleigh rides, sledding or skiing?

Sleigh rides are wonderful. We do hayrides here down paths full of Christmas lights.

Favorite holiday song?

There are so many wonderful holiday songs aren’t there? Right now, Winter Wonderland is stuck in my head, so I’ll choose that one, subject to change without notice.

Favorite holiday movie?

Favorite holiday movie is an oldie. The Bishop’s Wife. Cary Grant and Loretta Young. Oh, that ice skating scene!

Favorite holiday story to read?

The best holiday story ever is The Gift of the Magi.

Snow on holiday eve, day or just a chill in the air?

On Christmas Eve a slight chill in the air is just fine for me!

Most memorable holiday memory?

I’ve been blessed with many wonderful holiday memories. One of the best was a nighttime boat ride with my husband Dan on a cool, starry night, with carols playing full blast on the radio as we rode up and down the waterways.

Did you eat popcorn balls as a kid? If you did, do you still?

Don’t really love popcorn balls!

Real tree or artificial? Green or white?

We have a real tree.

What do you holiday eve?

We usually have a fire in the outdoor fireplace, play some music, and maybe sip some wine. If there are grandkids around there’ll probably be s’mores!Tails You Lose Mech.indd

What are your holiday plans this year?

Our holiday plans are pretty simple. Dan prepares and cooks the turkey on the Weber grill. I do veggies and maybe a pie or two. Kids and grandkids come over for present exchanging and food grazing. A wonderful low key, full of family day.

What’s the one holiday dish your family can’t go without?

I don’t know about everybody else, but I look forward to granddaughter-in-law Amanda’s mashed potatoes!

Please share a Holiday recipe.

I’m sharing my recipe for chocolate fruitcake. Even people who hate fruitcake will like this one!
Chocolate Fruit Cake

2 ½ cups unsifted flour

1 tsp. baking soda

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 28-ounce jar of ready-to-use mincemeat (plain or brandied)

1 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)

2 cups (1 pound) mixed candied fruit

1 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans if you prefer)

3 one-ounce squares of unsweetened chocolate,, melted

Chocolate glaze (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Generously grease and flour 10-inch Bundt or tube pan. Combine flour and baking soda; set aside. In large bowl combine remaining ingredients. Blend in dry ingredients. Turn into prepared pan. Bake one hour and fifteen to 30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes. Remove from pan. Spoon chocolate glaze over cake.

Chocolate Glaze

In small saucepan melt three 1-ounce squares of semi-sweet chocolate and two tbsp. margarine or butter. Makes about 1/3 cup.

Holiday party tip?

If it’s one of those parties where everybody stands around a lot, wear comfortable shoes.

Favorite holiday decoration?

Favorite holiday decorations are the old ones, which bring happy memories of holidays past.

Please share some magical holiday memories?

I like to think about childhood holidays in Salem with my parents, of course. Happy days. The growing up years with my own kids, walking to church through the snow on Christmas Eve, the year my youngest son Larry used the money he was saving for a car to buy a beautiful piece of sculpture for me.Look Both Ways

Wrap, gift bag or bow & go?

I like wrapping lots of stuff!

Gifts or gift cards?

Gift cards for the teenagers though. I don’t want to hear “Nana, what were you thinking!”

Cyber-shop or head out into the trenches?

I tend to shop all through the year and squirrel things away for December. (Of course, like the squirrels, sometimes I forget where I put some of them and find them in June!)

Do you eat fruitcake?

The fruitcake question. See recipe.

Do you head to the movies on the 25th?

No. I rarely go to the movies.

What’s in your stocking? *wink*

Funny you should ask about what’s in my stocking! Just this morning I went to my local Brighton store and filled out a “wish list” for Dan. So I kind of know what’s going to be in my stocking! (wink!)

Do you head out on the 26th into the madness to exchange or shop for anything?

I don’t do the store thing on the 26Th. Ever! Don’t do “Black Friday either.

Thank you so much, Carol. Happy Holidays from our home to yours!

Thanks for spending this time with me! Now I’ll get back to work on book four of my Witch City Mystery series. The name of it is Murder Go Round. Look for it in the fall of 2016. Meanwhile please check out Caught Dead Handed, Tails, You Lose and Look Both Ways in bookstores everywhere and online! Happy holidays to all!

Visit Carol’s website for the latest news.

Copyright © 2016 by Diane Morasco

Interview first appeared on Blogcritics.

Interview: Author Tiffany Quay Tyson

AuthorPhotoTQT_Credit Cat Hope PhotographyHi Tiffany! I want to thank you for taking the time for this interview. I’m so excited! It is an absolute delight to interview you on your evocative page-turning debut novel “Three Rivers”. I must say, Tiffany, your riveting tome is definitely a must-read for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0. Hint. Hint.

DM: When you first started writing, Tiffany, who were your influences?

TQT: I’m influenced by nearly everything I read. When I was in high school, a wonderful librarian introduced me to Ellen Gilchrist. Her stories about southern families are a definite influence. I also love Elizabeth Spencer, Ellen Douglas, Beth Henley, and, of course, Eudora Welty. Reading work by women who grew up in the same region where I grew up inspired me and gave me confidence.

DM: When you first started on your writing journey was there anyone in the writing world that you aspired to be like?

TQT: I can’t say there was any particular writer I aspired to be like when I was starting out, but I’ve learned to admire the writers who work hard and are generous with their knowledge. I aspire to emulate those writers. There are too many to name.

DM: Was there an author who encouraged you or guided you along with the writing process?

TQT: Yes. I am a longtime member of Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver. Several of the authors on their faculty have been very generous with me. William Haywood Henderson, author of Augusta Locke and other novels, has served as a strong mentor for my writing. I’m very grateful.

DM: What type of support system did you have when you started penning Three Rivers? How has your support system changed or shifted since publication?

TQT: I have a very supportive husband and a wonderfully active writing community. That was true when I started writing this novel and it’s still true today.

DM: Who gave you words of encouragement when you needed it?

TQT: My fellow writers at Lighthouse have been unflagging in their encouragement. I also meet monthly with a group of writers to share work and swap stories about our writing lives. Sometimes it’s not the encouragement that keeps me going, but the shared frustration.
 Three Rivers
DM: What sparked the idea for Three Rivers?

TQT: I like to read newspapers for story ideas. I read them when I travel and I read them online. About 10 years ago, there was a story about a pastor who was electrocuted while performing a baptism at a church in Waco, Texas. While the death of the pastor was terrible, I was more struck by what the congregation must have felt witnessing such a thing. And what about the person being baptized? Did she feel responsible? Did she ever actually get baptized? I couldn’t stop thinking about it. That was what led me to start writing this novel.

DM: Tiffany, what would you say is the essence of your novel?

TQT: Oh, that’s a tough question. I think it’s ultimately about faith, though not necessarily a religious faith. I set out to explore the thin line between religion and superstition. My characters really just want to believe in something. They want their lives to have meaning. That seems a universal wish, and I hope it resonates with readers.

DM: What are you hoping that readers will come away with?

TQT: Honestly, I hope readers come away thinking it was a good story. I’m all for finding greater meaning in books, but the story comes first. I hope it’s the kind of story they want to recommend to their friends. I think the highest compliment a book can receive is when one reader says to another: read this.

DM: Please describe your writing space.

TQT: I have a small office space in our home. It’s very cozy. My husband and I put in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves along one wall. The rest of the walls are hung with artwork from Mississippi, mostly Walter Anderson watercolors. My father built the desk I use, though I often end up sitting cross-legged in an upholstered chair rather than upright at a desk.

DM: Please share what you’re writing day is like.

TQT: I’m a morning writer. I like to get started first thing, before the rest of the world has a chance to get my attention. I rise early, usually around 5 a.m., and spend a few hours writing. I drink a lot of coffee. Around 9 or 10 a.m., I like to head out for a run or a yoga class, something physical. Often I’ll be hit with ideas or solutions to problems while I’m exercising. If so, I’ll come home and make some notes. I might tackle revision later in the day, but all the writing happens in the morning.

DM: How much does social media come into play when writing? Does it help or hinder your writing zone? Do you ever find yourself procrastinating on a project and getting lost in social media to escape what you need to get done?

TQT: It certainly can be a tremendous tool for procrastination. I have an app on my computer that shuts down social media access for a prescribed amount of time. I usually set it for at least two hours when I sit down to write. It takes away the temptation, which is very helpful.

DM: Are you a morning, afternoon or evening writer?

TQT: Morning, definitely.

DM: Do you outline?

TQT: Never.

DM: Did you know the ending of Three Rivers before you started writing it?

TQT: No. I’m definitely not a plotter. I discover the story as I write it. It’s not very efficient as I end up writing an awful lot of scenes that never make it into the final manuscript, but I don’t know another way. Too much planning makes my writing feel flat and uninspired.

DM: How did the writing process for Three Rivers start out? Did you start with the characters or research?

TQT: I start with the characters and with a basic idea for a scent.

DM: Are any of the characters based on real people in your life?

TQT: No.

DM: Did you research torrential rain and flooding across the globe or strictly focus on the Mississippi Delta?

TQT: I focused on the south, and mostly the Delta.

DM: Did you feel a connection between yourself and Melody? If so, was there a period in Melody’s life or scene that stands out as the a-ha moment where you were both in sync?

TQT: I feel some connection with all my characters. Melody is really trying to figure out what to do with her life. She’s disillusioned and disappointed. There was definitely a time in my twenties when I felt the same way. I used that to inform her character.

DM: What do you like the most about Melody?

TQT: She wants to do the right thing. She isn’t always sure what that is, but she tries to do right by the people who really matter to her. That’s a good quality, I think.

DM: Tiffany, are you happy with the way Three Rivers turned out?

TQT: Yes. It’s not perfect, but it’s the story I wanted to tell. I’m thrilled that people will be able to read it.

DM: What is the best part of writing and worse part of writing for you?

TQT: I like the process of discovery that comes with writing. I’m constantly learning new things. The worst part is that there’s no immediate gratification. It takes years to write a novel and the publishing process is long. That leaves a lot of room for self-doubt and insecurity to creep in, and those things can be debilitating.

DM: What is your favorite part of being a writer?

TQT: Telling stories.

DM: What three goals do you wish to accomplish with your writing career?

TQT: 1. Write another book. 2. Publish another book.

  1. Repeat.

DM: What is the one piece of advice you would give a budding writer on the road to publication?

TQT: It will be harder than you imagine, but it will be worth it.

DM: What do you think is the source of your own inspiration and energy?

TQT: Coffee and a strong will.

DM: Do you have any plans for another book? If so, what will it be about?

TQT: I’m working on another book now, but it’s still too soon for me to discuss what it’s about. I don’t like to talk too much about the details until the story is solid on the page.

DM: How do you handle your editing process?

TQT: Patiently.

DM: What was your inspiration for Three Rivers?

TQT: The idea began with the newspaper article I mentioned earlier. I’m not sure there was any one thing that inspired me. I’m a writer. This is the story I had to tell.

DM: How did your Mississippian culture Influence this book?

TQT: It influenced every part of this book. I am a Mississippian, even though I don’t live there anymore. I couldn’t have written this book if that weren’t true.

DM: Do you have a spiritual philosophy or a way of viewing life that guides you?

TQT: Not really. I work hard. I don’t give up. I try to keep learning new things. I keep an open mind. That’s how I get through life. It works for me.

DM: What do you do to pamper yourself?

TQT: Get a massage.

DM: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

TQT: Staying in my pajamas all day long on a Sunday and doing nothing more strenuous than the crossword puzzle. I don’t feel guilty about it, though.

DM: Salty or sweet?

TQT: Both. Think sea salt caramels and dark chocolate.

DM: Which season do you identify with the most and why?

TQT: Fall. I like the cooler days and the changing leaves. Also I get to wear boots. I love boots.

DM: Beach or mountain?

TQT: Mountain.

DM: Walking or cycling?

TQT: Walking

DM: What three novels are on your nightstand?

TQT: My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, The Harder They Come by T.C. Boyle and Contenders by Erika Krouse.

Again, thank you so much, Tiffany.

Visit Tiffany’s website for the latest news.

Copyright © 2015 by Diane Morasco

Interview first appeared on Blogcritics.

Writers on Writing: An Interview with Florida Mystery Writer Cheryl Hollon

CH Author photoCheryl Hollon writes full time after leaving an engineering career of designing and building military flight simulators in amazing countries such as England, Wales, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan and India. Fulfilling the dream of a lifetime, she combines her love of writing with a passion for creating glass art. In the small glass studio behind the house, Cheryl and her husband design, create, and produce fused glass, stained glass and painted glass artworks.

She is a member of Sisters in Crime, the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and Romance Writers of America. A mystery conference addict, she regularly attends SleuthFest in Florida, Malice Domestic in Washington, DC, and New England Crime Bake in Dedham, MA.

Cheryl and her husband live in St. Petersburg, FL in a 1920’s Craftsman Bungalow.

Cheryl, your story from engineer to writer is absolutely amazing. Would you please share your journey with us? How did you get from engineer to writer?

As a flight simulation engineer, or any engineer really, there is a tremendous amount of writing that accompanies both the delivered simulator and also in proposing new projects for the Government. On one of those really long haul flights to foreign parts, I began to write poetry to pass the time. After that I moved on to fiction. The feeling of satisfaction I enjoyed when crafting my own stories has driven me to continue. That I now write full-time is a dream come true. I don’t think I’ll ever stop.

Cheryl, can you take us back to the moment when the character Savannah Webb first appeared in your mind?

Actually, Savannah first popped into my mind as Charlotte Webb about three years ago. I know, I know – whopper of an homage to E. B. White. Luckily, clearer heads prevailed and I renamed her after my favorite walking city. It took me almost a year to think of her as Savannah as I wrote the Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery Series.

Please share about your experiences with Donald Maass’ Break-Out Novel Workshop. How did you get involved with it, Cheryl? What was your initial visit like? Please give us the scoop.

I heard about the Donald Maass’ Break-Out Novel Workshop from a new author who had won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel. She thanked Donald in her acceptance speech and I gathered up my pennies and went to the San Antonio workshop in 2009. It turned out that the organizer, Lorin Oberweger of free-expressions.com, lives right across the bay in Tampa. What a happy coincidence. I attended the workshop, met Lorin and Don, and learned more in that week than I had in the prior five years. My writing and revising skills advanced dramatically. In 2010, I attended another workshop in Charlotte and I again felt I had fast forwarded as a writer. I’m not saying that I would not have learned these skills on my own, but I met some live-long friends and shortened the journey to publication.

Let us talk about your inspiration for Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery Series. It is based on an actual shop in St. Pete, Grand Central Stained Glass. How did it all come together?

My husband and I have been working with glass for a number of years. He started in stained glass, but as he is color blind in the blue-green range, I have always picked out the glass, so we’re basically a team. When he moved into fused glass in about 2006, we found a new glass shop near us owned by Eloyne and Bradley Ericson. Over the years, we became friends and when I was looking for a new idea for a cozy mystery series, I looked around at their thriving shop filled with happy crafters and inspiration struck like a thunderbolt. Grand Central Stained Glass & Graphics (www.grandcentralstainedglass.com) has been an enthusiastic supporter of my books. We held the launch party for Pain and Suffering in their shop.

How did you get involved with your critique group? What has been your most uncomfortable moment upon first joining? What has been the most appreciated lesson you have learned so far from being part of a critique group?

The Tampa Writers Association is an organization to encourage people to write. I stumbled across them just after I had completed my first novel. They offer critique groups at a Barnes & Noble near my job, so I joined. The first few sessions were brutal. The group was large and I was so inexperienced, it seemed like everyone hated everything. But, I persevered and began to pay attention to the comments that made sense to me and I ignored the rest. That was the most important lesson – know your work and know what will make it better – than do that. After a few months, I realized that I was one of a very few working on a novel while the majority were submitting short stories. We split off into a group that concentrated on long works in progress. Eventually three of us formed our own critique group that has been meeting since 2009. We added a fourth five years ago. I have learned so much about pacing, voice, tension and plot from my critique group.

How has Sisters in Crime been an integral part of your writing journey? How has their online chapter, The Guppies been influential to your career as a mystery writer?

I joined Sisters in Crime in 2007, just after I decided that writing would be my next career. Of all the organizations I investigated, they seemed to support my goals with support and resources. I don’t remember how I discovered the Guppies online chapter, but no other group has been as helpful, informative and giving as the mind hive of The Great Unpublished. I found my agent through the referral of a published Guppy – how cool is that? I have followed in the tradition of those before me and remain a Guppy to pass along my experiences and give advice to those that follow.

 ShardsCoverLoRes-183x300

What is the most important thing you’ve learned about writing?

Writing takes an enormous amount of time.

How has this helped you as a writer?

I set a daily word target. If I make the target, I have a novel.

Mac or PC?

I use a PC.

Do you use Word or Scrivener?

I use Word, but am going to give Scrivener a trial run in 2016.

Do you write or take notes with an iPad or tablet?

I use a Surface tablet with a keyboard when I’m traveling.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Coffee! I must have coffee first.

Do you start by writing or researching first?

I write a bit first, then research a bit, then repeat.

Favorite spot to write in the winter?

My free-standing writing shed has a ceramic heater.

Favorite spot to write in the summer?

My free-standing writing shed has an air conditioner.

Visit Cheryl’s website for the latest news.

Copyright © 2016 by Diane Morasco

Interview first appeared on Blogcritics.

Writers on Writing: Interview with Parris Afton Bonds – Co-founder and First Vice President of Romance Writers of America

Parris-230x300Parris Afton Bonds is the mother of five sons and the author of forty published novels. She is the co-founder and first vice president of Romance Writers of America as well as the cofounder of Southwest Writers Workshop, all of which jolted her closer to being committed to Bedlam, which she has managed to avoid so far by a pretense at sanity.

Declared by ABC’s Nightline as one of the three-best-selling authors of romantic fiction, the award winning Parris Afton Bonds has been interviewed by such luminaries as Charlie Rose and featured in leading newspapers and magazines as well as published in more than a dozen languages. A New York Times best seller, she provides her time to teaching creative writing to both grade school children and female inmates both of which are captive audiences.

The Parris Award was established in her name by the Southwest Writers Workshop to honor a published writer who has given exceptionally of time and talent to other writers. Prestigious recipients of the Parris Award include Tony Hillerman and the Pulitzer nominee Norman Zollinger.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned about writing?

The most important thing I have learned is that I must permit myself to write wrong; that I must not sweat and angst over this first draft.  By doing this, worry-free, I both increase my daily output and enhance it.

How has this helped you as a writer?

You know, Diane, this method of writing, permitting myself to make mistakes, has been most invaluable not just as a writer but as a human being.  Life flows much more effortlessly.  Not saying that I still don’t angst a little.

PAB Stardust

Mac or PC?

I use a PC.  I know, I know ~ Macs are supposed to be so much better, but I typed my first book when I was five-years-old on a Royal manual typewriter, so when it comes to making changes in the name of progress, I wail and stomp about and take years to come around to succumbing to change.

Do you use Word or Scrivener?

Word–for the same reason as the “Mac or PC” question.

Do you write or take notes with an iPad or tablet?

Neither.  Aren’t I a pathetic professional?

Do you have any writing rituals?

Yes, I spend the first hour or so each morning tending to the business/marketing/promotional side of writing ~ answering emails, etc.; then the switch to the creative side of writing flows more smoothly.

Do you start by writing or researching first?

I used to research first, because it required checking out many books from the library, and I would try to accomplish this in as few trips as possible.  Now, I just write first, then if I need to check a fact, I switch my screen to the Internet and voila in a matter of seconds or minutes, I find out what I need to know.

 PAB dust-devil-final

Favorite spot to write in the winter?

In a cubbyhole with no view.

Favorite spot to write in the summer?

Same as the above question.

 

Diane, thank you for giving me the opportunity to connect with your legion of readers!

Thank you so much, Parris, for your kind words. Most of all, thank you for giving me many, many full-circle moments. I remember curling up on my bed reading your books as a teen while escaping from an extremely chaotic and excruciating childhood. Reading is one of my most treasured childhood memories. I am grateful to you and all the phenomenal writers who have guided me through and continue to navigate me today with such magnificent stories. It is a gift I cherish.

 

Visit Parris’s website for all the latest news.

Copyright © 2016 by Diane Morasco

Review first appeared in Blogcritics.

Writers on Writing: Mystery Scribe Ellen Byerrum

eb_website_november_15_2015001026Ellen Byerrum has always been drawn to the profession of writing, as a reporter, a playwright, a media professional, and a mystery writer. She earned her journalism degree at a major public university, which has since scuttled its once-prestigious School of Journalism and folded the mighty journalism program into a mere “Department of Communications.” (Journalists everywhere were saddened.) Luckily, she’d built a successful career as a working journalist before her degree in this rapidly changing profession could be used against her.

Ellen has worked at a number of reporting jobs, beginning her career at small newspapers in small towns in the West — including one particular town she has fictionalized as “Sagebrush, Colorado.” Later she found her way into the Big Leagues of journalism: Washington, D.C., a city rich in history, culture, political drama, and crimes of fashion. Our Nation’s Capital is a fertile source of inspiration for her Crime of Fashion Mystery series.

In researching her mystery novels, she’s earned her private investigator’s registration in Virginia, interviewed innumerable fascinating sources, and toured such varied scenes as a velvet factory in its last days, abandoned cowboy campsites in backwoods Colorado, and the immense costume collections behind the scenes at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. She also researches and collects vintage clothing, like Lacey Smithsonian, the heroine of her Crime of Fashion Mysteries.

However, Ellen notes ruefully, the fictional Lacey seems to have more clothes and a larger closet. (And of course Lacey has her Aunt Mimi’s magical bottomless trunk, filled with fabulous vintage clothes, fabrics, patterns and fashion memorabilia.)

EBDollhouse

What is the most important thing you’ve learned about writing?

Writing is difficult. It takes discipline, talent, and perseverance.

How has this helped you as a writer?

If you’re not willing to put in the work, you’re unlikely to succeed.

Mac or PC?

A PC desktop and a laptop

Do you use Word or Scrivener?

I use Word. The world is complicated enough. Scrivener looks overly complicated, but you never know. I might need to learn it one day.

Do you write or take notes with an iPad or tablet?

I don’t have an iPad and my Android tablet is annoying. I think notes come more easily to me via pen and paper. But that might have something to do with the fact I was a reporter for many years.EB Lethal

Do you have any writing rituals?

Does procrastination count? When the story isn’t coming easily, I tend to take showers or long walks. Something to get the thoughts flowing.

Do you start by writing or researching first?

Writing always starts by mulling over the storyline and characters in my head. Researching comes first, but it’s organic. It usually involves something I’m interested in that sparks an idea or character. For instance, I took a private investigation course knowing I would sometime write about it, but I didn’t know exactly how it would develop. I toured the last velvet factory in Virginia, knowing there was a story there that I would discover later. That tour resulted in Shot Through Velvet. My research always continues during the writing.

Favorite spot to write in the winter?

It’s nice to write in front of the fireplace, which I am doing right now.

Favorite spot to write in the summer?

I used to love writing with pen and paper at the swimming pool where we lived in Virginia. I had a lovely view of the Potomac River. I could swim and feel productive in between laps.

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Ellen Byerrum photographs © Joe Henson

Copyright © 2015 by Diane Morasco

Review first appeared in Blogcritics.