Virginia Is For Mysteries on a Roll!

The Virginia Festival of the Book Crime Wave just ended, and I am dancing. Five contributors to VIFM presented a panel yesterday. More than 100 people attended, very receptive, good questions. The bookstore serving the Festival sold out of the books they brought AND all the books they could scrounge for consignment. Today we learned that Virginia Is For Mysteries was the best-selling book in the Crime Wave track! Book signings and talks are scheduled through February ’15! I’ll have to get off my duff and post the schedule as these events draw near.


I’d post a picture of me with Lisa Scottoline but my eyelids are at half-mast and I look half-smashed—just a smudge better than my driver’s license photo!

January, 2014, Appearances and Speaking Events

I am pleased to be speaking several times early in 2014!


I will be at the Library of Virginia January 9 at 5:30 p.m. for the launch of the short story anthology, Virginia is for Mysteries.


January 10, 10:00 a.m., The Hermitage at Cedarfield, Richmond, VA. I will be discussing my first Chesapeake Bay Mystery, Dark Harbor. Free and open to the public


January 11, 11:00-1:00, Chesterfield Library, .  I will participate in a panel discussion of Virginia is for Mysteries  for the Central Virginia Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Free ad open to the public.


Jauary 21, 7:00 p.m., Historic Hanover Tavern, Hanover Courthouse, VA.  I will be discussing fact and fiction in my short story “Death Comes to Hollywood Cemetery.” Free and open to the public.

Writing Tip: The Power of Transposition

You may recall that a while back I said that you mustn’t be bound too much by reality–e.g., that just because someone said it that way doesn’t mean it’s a good way to say it, just because it really happened doesn’t mean it’s interesting. This is in the same vein: just because it happened in 1964 doesn’t mean you can’t set it in 1934–and vice versa. Of course, if it is something famous, like the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, you can’t move it around too much unless you are writing sci fi or magical realism. But if you have a story about a great uncle who was married five times that the family knows about, there is no reason you can’t write about such a character in current time.

Similarly–with certain obvious exceptions–just because the actor was a male doesn’t mean you can’t attribute the action to a female. Ditto parents and grandparents, siblings and cousins.

Bottom line: be flexible.

Back From the Dead

Actually, I haven’t been dead, just buried. But after a long stretch when life was on top of me, I am again motivated to try my hand at social media. I’ve recently had a book signing at Sailing Associates, in Georgetown, MD, featuring Tiger Heart, the second Chesapeake Bay Mystery. The next signing scheduled is for the Chestertown Book Festival, Chestertown, MD, on Saturday, Sept. 21. img_7534

Writing Tip: Pay Attention to Your Body

Whether it’s a broken arm or acid reflux, pneumonia or shin splints—whatever your physical ailment—pay attention to your symptoms and sensations. Jot them down in your writing notebook, using language as specific and vivid as you can muster. This sort of detail often comes in handy when a character is suffering, and may work into a plot element.

The same is true of any strong emotions you experience, from euphoria to rage. Don’t just label it and move on. Be as specific as you can be on what the physical sensations and/or signs are—e.g., pounding heart, the heat of a blush, shakey hands, etc. Jot these in your notebook as well. They are great aids when you want to show a character’s emotions rather than summarize them with a label.

Writing Tip: Think Slivers, Not Chunks

“Finding time to write” often feels as though you need a chunk of time—at least an hour, say—or a free weekend. Whatever your definition of a chunk, it may be hard to come by. I suggest that you start thinking in terms of slivers: for example, commit to a hundred words a day. These do not need to be well-polished, sparkling gems. They just need to be words, words you may later use or scrap. But simply doing it builds confidence that you can. Carry a note pad with you so that you can build those one hundred words in five-minute increments, if necessary, during a bus ride or coffee break—whatever. Think slivers.

Writing Tip: Listen, Listen, Listen

One of the very best things a writer can do is listen. Perhaps you are in a restaurant and someone in the booth behind you says, “All she wanted was the dog and the car.” You ave an instant idea for a story, or at least a story element. Or perhaps you catch just a phrase, about someone “down on his hunkers.” It’s a lovely, telling phrase, revealing something about the speaker and/or the someone. So practice being an auditory sponge. And don’t forget to keep your notepad handy!

Writing Workshops

Write Now! a series of three writing workshops, is being offered by Vivian Lawry at the Tuckahoe Library, Henrico County Library System, Virginia, September 8, 15, and 22, 2012.