Overcoming Blogger’s Block

My first published mystery: Chosen for Death So it’s Kate Flora here, late with my post, because I’m suffering from a case of blogging block. Yes, you heard it first here—this is the newest ailment to strike writers, and something else we have to worry about.

A bit of background: When I sold my first book, back in the early 1990’s, shortly after the Mayflower landed, my far more businesslike husband Ken smiled and said, “Congratulations, dear. Now you have a new job.” That new job, of course, was moving from the long, silent, thoughtful time spent writing my books (and my ten years in the unpublished writer’s corner) to the arena of publicity and promotion.

Had I but known! That was the pre-social media era. The pre-webpage era. It was a time when a writer wasn’t expected to be always on. On tour. On Facebook. On twitter. On message. Taking cute photos for her Pinterest page and generally studying with a bunch of experts about how to perfect the “Buy My Book” dance. Back then, talking about the book was much more about writing and storytelling and not the cult of personality.

Flash forward a couple of decades. I still can’t dance. I still hate having my picture taken. I still cling to the Flaubertian idea that the work should speak for itself and the author should disappear into the woodwork. But now I clash with everything that pundits, experts, friends, neighbors, strangers, and the checkout clerk at the grocery store would say: Authors must have a platform. They must be branded. They must find ways to use publicity, in particular social media, to connect with readers because this where readers, especially younger ones, are finding and buying their books.

It will no longer suffice to say: But I have a book due on July 1st and I’m way behind. Blogs must be written. Promotion must go on. But when I sat down to write my overdue post, I found myself staring at a blank page.

The author doing research in more innocent timesHow to overcome blogging block? There are the obvious things to do. Take a walk. Take another walk. Take a shower. Great ideas always arrive in the shower, don’t they? Perhaps there is that never fail solution—take a drink. But it not yet eight in the morning and we are not Hemingway. Eat chocolate? Drift over to ebay and buy a pair of shoes? Ah, but some of you are guys, and perhaps this won’t work for you.Take a course, class, citizens’ police academy? Then there is surfing the net.

Yup. This is the solution. Lacking clever ideas of my own, and hating self-promotion more than having a root canal, I look to others to see what they’re saying about social media. Today’s fishing expedition yields up some great food for thought.

First, from my friends over at Jungle Red Writers, a fascinating guest post on Branding. I don’t want to do it.

TPAC Authors Logo
TPAC Authors Logo

Maybe you don’t want to do it, but check out Chris Tieri’s great advice here:

http://www.jungleredwriters.com/2015/03/are-you-branded.htmlThen, because controversy is good for all of us first thing in the morning (remember that 8:00 a.m. philosophy class in college?) yesterday my friend Barbara Ross posted a deliciously controversial piece at Maine Crime Writers, about publicists and fiction.

Four Lies that Publicists Will Tell You http://wp.me/p1GTyX-45A

So read these. Ponder on the points they make. Maybe you will be inspired to brand yourself, challenge commonly held beliefs, or just crawl under a chair and moan. And then, get back to writing. Because if you haven’t written anything, you won’t have stuff to brag about, promote, and agonize over. And you won’t have to wonder what is the best way to brand you.

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Kate Juggles Fact and Fiction

Kate Flora
Kate Flora

HALLIE EPHRON INTERVIEWS KATE FLORA ABOUT HER TWO NEW FALL BOOKS

(An interview reprinted from Jungle Red Writers  http://www.jungleredwriters.com/2014/09/kate-flora-juggles-facts-and-fictions.html )

HALLIE EPHRON: The fall harvest of wonderful books includes a bounty from Kate Flora: two new books, one crime fiction and one true crime.

Kate, who struck gold with her Edgar nominated true crime Finding Amy, follows it up this month with Death Dealer. Then next month she follows her third Joe Burgess mystery, Redemption, which won the 2013 Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction, with a new entry in the series, And Grant You Peace.

Crime fiction and true crime. I confess, I can more easily imagine juggling cats. Kate, how do you do it?

KATE FLORA: I can’t juggle. Tried to learn years ago, thinking it might help me draw a crowd at book signings, but every time I introduced the third ball, I hit myself in the head with it. Juggling being out, I went in search of other adventures, and while I was messing around trying to learn to write cops, true crime found me.

My first true crime, Finding Amy, I co-wrote to help out my friend Joe Loughlin, who was the lieutenant Spin.Doctor.inddin charge of CID at the Portland, Maine police department when Amy disappeared. Research led me to meet Lt. Pat Dorian who headed search and rescue for the Maine Warden Service. At the launch party for Finding Amy, Pat said to me, “So, Kate, when you’re ready, I’ve got another one for you.” It turned out to be a murder in Miramachi, New Brunswick.

True crime takes twice as long to write as a novel, and I have to spend years with images of real crime victims in my head. On the flip side, the research gets me away from desk into a world that is fascinating.

The story seemed compelling to me. First, the suspect threatened to harm the investigators’ families when they pressed him about his lies. They hadn’t found the victim’s body, which turned out to have been hidden in the woods. And they had only a small window of opportunity to find it when it had thawed enough to give off scent that the dogs could work on, but before bear emerging from hibernation found the body and consumed it.

It took seven years to get justice for the victim in that case, and for me to have a final ending for Death Dealer.

HALLIE: Tell us about the process you went through to write Death Dealer.

KATE: I started out by getting introduced to investigators who gave me access to the case. I spent hours reading files and doing interviews and watching videos and sitting in courtrooms. I ate a lot of Miramichi salmon, drove an ATV deep into the woods to see where the body was hidden. Learned about training of search and rescue dogs and cadaver dogs. As always, I am amazed at the generosity and openness of the people I interviewed to write this book.

HALLIE: Is there a ‘hero’ of that true story, as there is with your Joe Burgess novels?

KATE: As Joe Burgess likes to say—he doesn’t do it, his team does. In Death Dealer, it was the team of investigators who worked the case; the wardens who organized and participated in that search; and MESARD volunteers.

And then there were the friends of the victim, Maria Tanasichuk, who were terrified of the suspect yet came forward to speak on behalf of their murdered friend. The code of friendship triumphing over any code of silence.

HALLIE: What are the special challenges of making it up versus hewing to the facts?

KATE: Well, I think the challenge of making it up, in a world where our readers are often well-informed by other writers, and real world news stories, is trying to get it right.

AndGrantYouPeace-final-4When I was working on And Grant You Peace, the new Joe Burgess book that’s out next month, Burgess and Terry Kyle watch a young man they recognized walking down the street toward a convenience store with a suspicious bulge in his pocket that tells them he’s got a gun. I knew they were going to be going into that store, and that it was a very dangerous situation, so I e-mailed two police officers I use as resources, and called a third, and had them walk me through the scene.

That’s the challenge. Writing cops who feel credible.

HALLIE: Does one kind of writing enrich the other?

KATE:  Absolutely. What I’ve learned from all of my time with cops informs my writing when I am writing fictional cops.

When you flip that question, all of the time I’ve spent learning to reveal character to a reader, in shaping story so that it has a dramatic arc, in finding the right voice and stance to tell the story—those things have been invaluable when I’m writing a true story.

HALLIE: My hat is off to you, Kate. Years of work and a commitment to justice. And meanwhile you’re spinning out novels.

Kate: Thanks, Hallie. It’s going to be an exciting fall–never more so than when a reviewer reads one of the new books and really “gets” it. Lisa Haselton’s review of And Grant You Peace is amazing–just as breathless to read as the book itself. Here’s the link to that review:  http://lisahaseltonsreviewsandinterviews.blogspot.com/2014/09/review-of-and-grant-you-peace-by-kate.html

Going on Some Artist’s Dates

IMG_2641It’s Kate. It’s August. And I have to keep reminding myself that the Maine summer is short. I need to lift my eyes from the screen and my hands from the keyboard and go out and engage with the world. When my body remains firmly rooted to the seat, I remember what I learned when I read Julia Cameron’s The Artists Way Juliacameronlive.com–that sometimes we need to go out and refill the well. She describes The Artist Date as follows: The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly “artistic” — think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration. When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask yourself, “what sounds fun?” — and then allow yourself to try it. Since my new mantra is “have more fun” I’ve been trying to put Cameron’s words into play. This photo-79week, I left my desk and rejoined an old friend visiting from Texas for a few hours of writing talk, catching up, and fried seafood. To cap the afternoon, we crept through a breech in the fence and went swimming in a forbidden quarry. All alone with the crystal clear water, the arching blue sky, and the glorious sense that we can still break rules. Pay attention. Look up. Notice the world around you. These are things I’m constantly telling my students and forgetting to do myself. So now that it is August, and I’ve passed a significant birthday, I’m trying to take my own advice. Swimming in a summer pond with the friend I’ve been swimming in ponds with for sixty years. Having an ice cream cone on a hot summer afternoon instead of thinking I should abstain. Eating that bowl of glorious dark red cherries, staining my fingers red and spitting the pits out into the yard. Feeling the breathtaking tang of salt as I plunge into the still icy ocean, then floating on my back, watching the clouds take shapes, unform, and reform about me as passing seaweed tickles my neck. IMG_2659I take my camera along. There’s a pothole shaped like the State of Maine. An iconic building at the edge of the cove. And a succession of glorious Maine sunsets. And when I look down to photograph the streaky pink reflection of sunset on the water–there’s the ghostly glove floating in the seaweed that looks like a human hand. I push back my chair and go to the farmer’s market to gaze at the wondrous display of tomatoes, trying to find words for their array of colors and their strange, plump shapes. Striped tomatoes, orange ones, yellow ones, deep tomatoes the color of venous blood. Oh yes, the crime writer is never far away. Though I tend to be a prig about grammar and punctuation and correct usage, and my husband frequently quotes a Calvin and Hobbes observation that “verbing weirds language,” I watch with delight an animated column by Stephen Fry about grammar: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/115817/stephen-fry-responds-grammar-pedants and find myself inspired to take more chances and be more creative. Of course, my version of fun, and what fills the well, might not be yours. I’m likely to take a day off to go to a search and rescue dog training. Hiding in a tick-infested field to be found by a canine in training. Or following Nilla, Gilroy, and Gator the bedbug dogs as they search and clear a college dorm so arriving students won’t be living with bedbugs. When September comes, I’m betting I’ll be back at my desk, not seeing again. Or maybe, as I Gilroy, Nilla & Gatorskitter from library to bookstore to conference, promoting my new fall books, I’ll also be looking around. Going on some inspiring little dates. And coming home richer for the experience.

News Flash from the Muse

 Behold the Thalians!

Summer releases, and fall releases to look forward to, from the Thalia Authors! Happy summer to all, and exciting reading, whatever your inclinations.


In Astonishing Heroes: Shades of Justice from small press iPulp Fiction, Gary Phillps has collected his prose off kilter superheroish stores.  In its pages you’ll find the likes of the Reclaimer, an anonymous city bureaucrat who knows what evil lurks via psychic emanations from tenement walls; Onyx Adams, an Afro wearing, kung fu kicking swinging ’70s female PI, and American Black, an agent provocateur created by shadowy right-wing forces who reveals his own agenda.  In tradepaper and ebook

 

Gary Phillips
Gary Phillips

Shades of early Dos Passos and Jack London, beginning in September, Gary will be writing a weekly serial about the working class members of the Dixon family; handyman Uncle Hank, his niece, Afghanistan war vet Jess, and his nephew, the peripatetic Little Joe.  The Dixon Family Chronicles will combine issues such as efforts to income inequality, gentrification and temp work while their lives unfold.  For the Capital & Main site.


Kate Flora
Kate Flora
GirlsNightOut-2-2
Kate Flora has a new novella out now, from SheBooks! Check out Girls Night Out.
When the man who date-raped their friend is found not guilty, a woman’s book group decides to take their own revenge, with surprising results.
Kate’s new books are coming up this fall. Look for them at booksellers everywhere
Spin.Doctor.indd Death Dealer is the true story of a police investigation in Miramichi, New Brunswick, into a resident’s mysterious disappearance. It pulls readers directly into a tense and complex, real-life search as cops and, ultimately, game wardens from the neighboring state of Maine with cadaver dogs, painstakingly make their way through scarce evidence, frightened witnesses, and forbidding terrain to uncover the victim’s body and bring a killer to justice. ISBN: 978-0-88282-476-5 AndGrantYouPeace-final-4  
This 4th book in the Joe Burgess mystery series, And Grant You Peace, finds Burgess pulled inadvertently into a case rife with religious tensions after finding a young mother and a baby locked in a closet inside a burning mosque. His search for answers leads him to an outlaw motorcycle gang, a fishing boat captain who may be supplementing his income with illegal activities, and an immigrant community suspicious of the police. The professional becomes the personal when his family is threatened and he faces the prospect that the “normal” life he’s begun to establish may be coming to an explosive end. ISBN: 978-1-4328-2939-1


AlixThorssen-Box-Set Lise McClendon has released her first mystery series in a box set. The Alix Thorssen mysteries set in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, feature art dealer Alix in a variety of western and arty dilemmas. They include four complete novels and two bonus short stories in one package. Exclusively on Amazon, and free with Prime or Kindle Unlimited.   crimspreegif

Lise McClendon
Lise McClendon
Lise’s new suspense release, The Girl in the Empty Dress, is garnering good reviews. This sequel to her bestselling women’s novel, Blackbird Fly, features Merle Bennett and her sisters on a walking tour in France. When the annoying “sixth wheel” obsesses about an injured dog they find along a roadside the sisters’ idyllic summer tour turns dark. Find out if Merle settles for her New York boyfriend or takes a chance on Pascal, last summer’s fling, as The Girl in the Empty Dress tests the familial bonds in new and dangerous ways.

Why Stories?

Kate Flora: Recently, at Thalia, we decided to do the occasional group post, and the topic for this round was: Why Stories?

In the new information age, we google everything, so I looked up “Why stories” and got pages and pages of blogs discussing the topic. The quote below is from a New Yorker article by Adam Gopnik, reviewing Gottschall’s book:

“the constant firing of our neurons in response to fictional stimuli strengthens and refines the neural pathways that lead to skillful navigation of life’s problems” and that the studies show that therefore people who read a lot of novels have better social and empathetic abilities, are more skillful navigators, than those who don’t.” Jonathan Gottschall, The Storytelling Animal

Other writers had different takes. They wrote:

Stories give shape to experience

Stories provide rehearsals for life

I posted these quotes to the group, and dark responses began to flow: Continue reading “Why Stories?”

New, Hot, Scary

McBleak-ExtractorsMeet Malcolm Cavanaugh Bleekston, most often called McBleak. He appears to be a one percenter, hobnobbing with other millennials of his ilk; excursions on yachts while extolling the virtues of banksters, and enjoying the fruits of his non-labors while the rest of us hustle to put food on the table and keep the wolf from the door.

In the novella The Extractors by Gary Phillips, he lays plans to take a greedy man’s gain while wondering if his girlfriend, who comes from inherited wealth but is dedicated to using her resources to make a difference, is beginning to see through his façade – and if so, can he bring her to his side or will she turn on him?  But nothing ever goes as planned, and McBleak has to think fast on his feet or his life might be extracted from him.

Available for $2.99 on its own app bookxy across all platforms as well on Kindle, Kobo, etc.

• • • • • • •

Also in Southern California, Taffy Cannon has been lurking at the library.

I was just on a Noir panel for the Oceanside Library’s Big Read program with Lisa Brackmann, Alan Russell, Ken Kuhlken, and Debra Ginsberg. On April 5, I’m moderating a mystery panel at the Carlsbad Library with Denise Hamilton, Vince Aiello, Isla Morley, C.E. Poverman, and Matt Coyle.

• • • • • • •

Blackbird_FLY=ebook-NOOK

It’s back to France this summer for the five Bennett Sisters, last seen in Lise McClendon‘s Blackbird Fly. The new book will be out in May (called The Girl in the Empty Dress) but in the meantime you can read installments of Blackbird Fly for free on Wattpad. Suspense, wine, & intrigue. There’s a snazzy new cover too, redesigned by the amazing Lisa Desimini.

Ready to read it straight through? That can be done!

Kindle Nook KOBO Paperback Audio

• • • • • • •

JD Rhoades reports in with exciting news. Look for his new thriller, Devils and Dust, coming soon.

I’m pleased to announce that Polis Books the digital imprint started by bestselling author and former St. Martin’s Press editor Jason Pinter, will be publishing six of my books this spring: all three books in the Shamus award-nominated Jack Keller series (with spiffy new covers, naturally) , then the thrillers BREAKING COVER and BROKEN SHIELD, all leading up to the release of a brand new Jack Keller novel, DEVILS AND DUST. I’m totally psyched to be working with Jason and Polis.

• • • • • • •

Kate Flora, 2013 Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction winner, has been busy. She reports in on three upcoming book releases.
My crime story, Girl’s Night Out, will be published as an e-book by Shebooks, an exciting new internet publishing venture featuring fiction, memoir and essay, by women and for women, in April, 2014.
My Canadian true crime, Death Dealer, which was five years in the making, will be published by New Horizon Press Books in September. Death Dealer fascinated me because while the killing took place in northeastern New Brunswick, it would involve search and rescue teams and game wardens with trained cadaver dogs from the neighboring state of Maine to locate the victim’s hidden body. Two full first degree murder trials, and many appeals later, the killer was sentenced to life is prison.
The fourth book in my Joe Burgess police procedural quartet, And Grant You Peace, will be published by Five Star in October.