Bad Moon Rising . . .

I’m thrilled to announce that my story, “Bad Moon Rising,” is available in the July issue of Mystery Weekly Magazine! Mystery Weekly is, in my opinion, the more approachable, hipper, sassier younger cousin of Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazines!

If you like short mystery and crime fiction, you should give this magazine a read. If you’re a short fiction writer, this is a market you need to check out! (FYI – it’s a qualifying market for the Mystery Writers of America – so if you’ve got your eye on active membership or that Edgar Award, definitely consider submitting!)

Thursday’s Thoughts On Writing ~ The Scene Of The Crime

Image result for scene of the crimeWhen writing fiction, how much thought do you put into your setting? Do you craft scenes drenched in atmosphere? Do your places drip with detail, oozing menace, gushing romance, shining with delight? Or is your setting simply the place where your fascinating characters bring your stellar plot to life?

TreeI have to admit that while I occasionally focus on developing an atmospheric setting in my short fiction, in my novels the settings tend to simply be the trunk on which my plot branches and my characters grow their leaves.

My goal this year is to take more care in creating my settings. By skimping, I’m missing out on a vital opportunity to further flesh out my writing. To take my characters to the next level by allowing them to evolve over the course of the story.

Ask yourself – do your characters feel the same way about certain environments at the end of your story as they did at the beginning? Mine certainly don’t, and by sharing this evolution with my readers, I can make my characters more three dimensional.

Seize any opportunity you have to make your readers care for, identify with, and become invested in your characters!

How do you bring your scenes to life?

Back in the Saddle . . . Again

It feels like it’s been forever since I’ve posted, and looking back, I see that it’s been almost three months. In three months, you can hike the Appalachian Trail if you trek fast. A cougar kitten can gestate and be born. Or, like me, you can move across country and acclimate from one extreme (New Hampshire) to another (Florida).

It’s been a happy homecoming, rejoining our family in the land of sun, where feet of snow can be a distant cold fond memory. While I didn’t keep up with my writing as much as I’d have liked during the transition, I have gotten back to work, and am pleased to announce that I’ve had short stories purchased by Mystery Weekly Magazine, to be released later this summer, and Dual Coast Magazine, out this month. I look forward to picking up my discussions on the different aspects of the craft of writing with my Thursday’s Thoughts on Writing series and sharing my experiences of the rejection agent process 😛 . I hope you’ll join me along the way!

 

 

When Your Health Steals Your Words

Several years ago, my writing was going strong. I had a schedule. I wrote most days. I had a couple of completed novels, and was querying agents. I had a dozen requests for  full manuscripts. I was so close to fulfilling my dream as a traditionally published author that I could taste it.

Then, I lost my momentum. I lost my energy. I lost my words. Literally.

I put on almost forty pounds with no explanation. No amount of diet or exercise managed to make the scale budge. I couldn’t keep my train of thought, and oftentimes, in conversation, I simply drew blanks. I couldn’t think of the words I was looking for. Not a great feeling for someone who wants to be a wordsmith.

I’m no stranger to health issues. I was hit by a drunk driver almost twenty years ago, and have a laundry lists of ailments that cause chronic pain. But this time was different. You can force your body to work to some degree. You can’t force your mind.

My acid reflux got so bad that I barely needed to chew my food – it practically dissolved in my mouth my saliva was so acidic. Obviously I was somehow related to that dinosaur in the first Jurassic Park – the one with a frilled collar that spit on the guy from Seinfeld, blinding him with his acid spit. As much as I love dinosaurs, I don’t really want to be one! 🦖🦖🦖

I’m going to take a very long story and make it short.

I was on twice the maximum daily dose of Prevacid. They thought it was Celiac, and although I initially got better on a gluten free diet, the relief was short lived. Multiple invasive, expensive tests revealed no answers.

Then my mom discovered a food sensitivity test you could order online from EverlyWell. I took the test. And while it turns out I do have a mild sensitivity to gluten, I have an extreme sensitivity to yeast – both bakers and brewers – which is still in many gluten free products.

Going yeast free meant saying no to almost all breads. No wine, beer, or alcohol other than vodka, which supposedly uses all the yeast added during the fermentation process. No fruit other than berries. No vinegar, nothing pickled, no fun.

I immediately avoided all foods and drinks with yeast, while still eating some of the ‘by-products’. (Even ranch dressing and mustard have vinegar.) And I dropped over 30 pounds in six weeks. My energy started coming back. My confidence. And then, finally, my words.

It’s been about four months now. I still slip sometimes. Mainly unintentionally, when I eat out. My stomach will blow out to about seven months pregnant, but it goes back down in a day or two. I get foggy, but it clears. I forget the word I’m looking for,  but it comes eventually. When I sit down to write, the page no longer remains blank.

I’ve gone back and forth about writing this post, but sharing is caring, and I hope this helps someone else. Not to mention that I’m so grateful that I’m able to write it – look, words!!! And I wrote them! I feel so much better, and I truly hope this reaches at least one person who benefits from this post.

(I’m not getting any kickbacks for sharing the name of the company that quite literally changed my life. There’s usually coupon codes online if you do a Google search for them.)

(If you or someone you know has a yeast sensitivity, make sure to check vitamins and supplements for the nasty little addition – it’s everywhere!)

Publication Announcement!

Recent cover image or website screenshot for Tough

I’m pleased to announce that my short story, “The Heat”, has been purchased by Tough: Crime Stories.

“The Heat” will appear on the ezine in February 2019, and in their published anthology in April!

This piece is a suspenseful mystery, part police procedural, part something more – I’ll let you decide what! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Click here to join my mailing list and be among the first to learn about events, giveaways, juicy secrets and other useful info!

(I promise I won’t spam you or send updates more that quarterly!)

Thursday’s Thoughts on Writing – Crime Baked

New England Crime Bake

This past weekend I attended the 2018 New England Crime Bake, which was my first writing conference. For a while I’d been reading about how important it is to network with other writers for both support and to establish a writing community, so I decided to give it a try.

I met so many AMAZING people there that it was worth going for that experience alone!

scoreI also met the authors of these three fantastic books and got them signed, which was a major score because they are all wonderful, yet very different, stories, and I cherish the opportunity to let a writer know how much I enjoyed reading their book. The authors are absolutely awesome, too! How awesome? Let me count the ways. . .

Walter Mosley was the guest of honor of this year’s conference. The author of more than 40 book and a multiple award winner, he’s probably best known for his Easy Rawlins mysteries, yet he contributes to many genres and writes for TV and film as well (ever heard of the series Snowfall?).

Mosley is hilarious, but he’s also a very insightful, eloquent speaker who doesn’t mince words when sharing his experiences in the publishing industry. If you get a chance to hear him speak, don’t miss it – you won’t regret it!

As both an agent and a writer, Munier considers herself a “storyteller and storyseller”. She is a huge animal lover, which is all I need to know to turn into a super fan! She is also incredibly nice and friendly, a very genuine person.

Her latest release, “A Borrowing of Bones”, was inspired by the “hero working dogs she met through MissionK9Rescue”. I really enjoyed the mystery and recommend you give it a try!

 

Image result for hank phillippi ryanHank Phillippi Ryan is a firecracker! So much energy and enthusiasm and with personality for days, Ryan knows how to keep an entire room enthralled! I took a master class with her at the conference, and she was definitely one of the major highlights of the weekend!

She may be best known for her day job as an investigative reporter who has won over 34 EMMYs and dozens of other awards, but she hasn’t done too shabby in the writing department. “Ryan’s also an award-winner in her second profession—with five Agathas, three Anthonys, two Macavitys, the Daphne, and for The Other Woman, the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award.” Her schedule is PACKED full of events for her latest release, “Trust Me”. This is an author that you have got to see for yourself! #TrustMe

Was it perfect? No. #CrimeBake wasn’t everything I had imagined or hoped for. I don’t feel like I learned very much, but as an event for both readers and writers, it wasn’t as instructive as conferences that focus exclusively on writing and craft development. (I learned that at the conference!)

I did, however, have a truly memorable and enjoyable time. Talking with other writers, hearing about their experiences, the other conferences and events that they had attended, was truly priceless.

Was it worth it? Yes!

Would I do it again? Absolutely!

The bottom line is that I was there to meet other writers, and that’s exactly what I did. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and most authors don’t get an agent or a publishing contract overnight. (While #CrimeBake does have a pitch option, I did not partake. This time.) To me, the important thing is that I took some time for myself and spent it immersed in my passion. What more can I ask for?!?!

 

Upcoming Publication Announcement!

I’m thrilled to announce that my short story, “Dying Print”, has been purchased and will be appearing in an upcoming issue of Wild Musette Magazine next year!

Image result for detectiveThis is the sixth mystery featuring the character Detective Shaw to see publication. There are several other Shaw stories kicking around the slush piles out there – my plan is to eventually compile a FREE anthology collection of all the “Shades of Shaw”. If you’re interested in receiving a copy, sign up for my newsletter here so you don’t miss out!

(I promise I won’t spam you or flood your inbox – I know how annoying that is! My newsletter is never sent more often than quarterly, and only when there’s enough great new info to make it worthwhile.)

#Thriller in the Woods #Book Signing and #Author Event

thrillerinwoods1-e1539282021408.jpgI’m fortunate enough to live in an area with an incredible indie bookstore and some fantastic local authors who are kind enough to indulge the local readership with awesome events.

When I heard that White Birch Books was sponsoring “Thriller in the Woods: A Night of Conversation with Lisa Gardner and Lisa Unger,” I knew I couldn’t miss it.

Lisa Gardner launches her book tour in North Conway, NH each year. She’s a great speaker, super personable, and pens thrillers guaranteed to keep you on the edge thrillerinwoods.jpgof your seat! I try to attend any event where she’s featured, because it’s sure to be a blast! This time, the event was held at Theater in the Woods, and she brought a friend!!!

Lisa Gardner and Lisa Unger are both internationally best selling authors. They both write suspenseful thrillers. They’re both named Lisa. Put them in a room together and let the adventure begin!

thrillerinwoods2The event was in celebration of the release of Lisa Unger’s newest novel, Under My Skin, and the paperback release of Lisa Gardner’s novel, Look For Me.

The two authors had an incredibly interesting discussion touching on everything from their different writing processes, where they get their ideas, how they perform their research, how they got their start, and so much more!

Both women are wonderfully dynamic, and the conversation flowed with the natural ease of two old friends having a casual chat. I really enjoy attending book signings and author talks, and have met my fair share of bestselling authors in the process – I cannot stress how genuinely friendly and engaging these ladies are! If you get the chance to see either of them speak, do it! You won’t regret it! #TeamLisa

 

 

 

5 Considerations for Your Author Website

Image result for author platformsFor years I’ve kept my author website and my blog separate. I’m not sure why. Maybe I wanted to keep my author identity and blogging persona as two distinct entities. Maybe I wanted different analytics for each one to see which got more traffic. Or maybe I just Image result for author platformslike being difficult.

Regardless of the true reason, I have now merged the two, porting over my author domain to my blog host. AdventuresinThirtysomething the blog can now be found under the ‘posts’ tab on ShannonHollinger.com. 

As I’ve been making the transition, updating and condensing material, I keep asking myself – what, exactly, should an author page entail? There’s so much hype about branding and presence and social media that figuring out what to focus on to streamline the process can be overwhelming.

There are no cut and dry rules. I did a quick study of some other author’s pages, both those well established in their careers and those just starting out, and came up with the following 5 areas of focus:

1) How easy is the site to navigate? Can you easily find what you’re looking for? Is the site sparse, tasteful or cluttered? 

2) How is the author’s “voice” represented? Is the tone casual, professional, personalized? Do you get a sense of the author from their ‘About’ page?

3) How is the author photographed? How are they posed, dressed, smiling? Is it a studio head shot? An outdoor candid? Do they show their personal style, or do they appear conservative for mass appeal?

4) What does the author place emphasis on? Is their site a billboard for their books, or a platform to meet their readers? 

5) How well kept is the site? Are there broken links? Is the information up-to-date? Is the author’s social media presence well represented, or do they suggest you check out their MySpace page?

An author website doesn’t need to be a full-time job. If there’s anything you want to add to the list, any must haves, please don’ts, or random observations, I’d love to hear them!

 

 

 

Writing with Emotional Power

One of the best lessons I’ve learned recently is that good writing is a form of manipulation. When an author manipulates the emotions of both their characters and their readers, the story resonates on a deeper level with the reader. The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass is an excellent resource if you want to learn how to make your writing connect with your readers on a more visceral level. Below are some of the notes I’ve made after reading the book:

28915986* Don’t just write about the emotions your character is experiencing, but about the experience they are having to endure. Make your reader experience their journey, too.

* Pay attention to the details; have your character ruminate about the big impact of small events or the easily overlooked ramifications of major plot twists.

* Your characters’ emotions have more impact when they have personal significance to your readers, something the reader can relate to and understand, which is much more impactful than just the ‘fact’ that your character feels a certain way.

* Have a character become aware of the meaning of something small and common and everyday that they ‘just now realize’.

* “Plot events are what happen. Inner moments give those events meaning. Together they both shelter and lead the reader somewhere new.” ~ Donald Maass

* Pacing involves emotion, not just plot. There need to be emotional shifts, fluctuations, and growth entwined with the story-line and action.

Image result for readre emotions * Stakes should be personal to your character. Increase the emotion by having your character choose between the morally correct choice and the choice that is better for them personally. Make your readers feel the angst of the conflict.

* Your protagonist should discover something unexpected about his/herself over the course of the story, an epiphany about something deep at their core that makes them who they are. They should change and evolve.

* All plot events can be opportunities to manipulate emotions. Use them.

Image result for writing* Make the reader take an active role and get their ‘wheels turning’ – make them develop their own insight into the character, make them consider a moral decision your character has to make, make them think about your character and the character’s choices . . . even when they aren’t reading.

* Characters with good values are more appealing. A character committed to justice, family, self-sacrifice or just ‘doing the right thing’ hooks readers better than a character after fame, fortune, or a self-serving agenda.

* Make your story more compelling by creating a sense of hope. Make your readers fear that the hope won’t be fulfilled.

* After writing your first draft, decide what hurt your protagonist most, then plant seeds throughout the story that suggest that they are particularly vulnerable to the source of that pain.

What I’ve taken away most is that in order to write compelling fiction, you need to find a way to develop a personal connection between your readers and your story and characters. When readers feel invested in the outcome, it becomes harder for them to put the book down. Give them something to root for, something to fear, and above all else, make them feel and care.

If you have any suggestions or tips you’d like to add, I’d love to hear them! 

Please introduce yourself and what you write if you feel so inclined . . . we’re all in this together and I consider you a member of my #writingcommunity! I look forward to connecting with you here and on social media, and am open to guest bloggers who’d like to share their knowledge or experiences!