Guest post: Point of view by Rosemary McCracken

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of point of view is brought to you by journalist, short story author and mystery novelist Rosemary McCracken.

Before you keyboard your opening sentence, you will need to decide on what point of view your novel will take. I didn’t do this when I began Safe Harbor. I plunged into the story, writing it down from the POV of a third-person narrator. For some vague reason, I felt that the use of a first person narrator was way too prevalent in mystery novels, especially those by North American writers. The late Robert B. Parker used it in his Spenser series. Janet Evanovich, Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky use it. I must say that I like the works of Parker, Evanovich, Grafton and Paretsky, but I was determined to be different.

I completed the first drafts of Safe Harbor in third person, and early in 2009 I entered the manuscript in Britain’s Crime Writers’ Association’s Debut Dagger competition, a contest open to English-language writers around the world who haven’t had a novel published. The CWA never got back to me, which meant, in a competition that attracts hundreds of entries, that I hadn’t made its shortlist.

I went back to Safe Harbor and applied more polish. Later that year, veteran Canadian crime writer Gail Bowen was writer-in-residence at the Toronto Reference Library and she read the first part of the manuscript. “This book needs to be written in the first person,” she said when we met for our discussion. “We need to know what Pat Tierney is thinking and feeling every step along the way.”

I felt like the carpet had been pulled out from under my feet. Safe Harbor is a murder mystery, but it’s also the story of Pat’s personal journey of coming to terms with her husband’s infidelity and getting on with her life. The story’s major events – Jude’s murder and the danger Tommy is in – affect Pat deeply because of her personal involvement in them. Jude was Michael’s mistress. Tommy is Michael’s son and a living reminder of his affair. I needed to get deeper into Pat’s head. And the best way to do that was to let her tell the story.

I rewrote the book in the first person. I knew Pat intimately, so I felt completely comfortable jumping into her shoes. And right from the start, I knew I’d made right choice. I felt an energy emanating from the story that hadn’t been there before. I showed several chapters to members of my writers’ group, and they agreed.

Safe Harbor had been written in the limited third person, a form of narration that lets the reader see events from the POV of a single character or of a few characters at the most. The focal characters in the original drafts were Pat and, to a lesser extent, Farah Alwan, her young housekeeper. Now with Pat as the book’s narrator, Farah’s role is much diminished. It’s limited to what Pat can tell us about her.

Early the next year, I entered the rewrite in the 2010 Debut Dagger competition. Same title (at that time it was Safe Harbour, with the Canadian and British spelling of Harbour; it was changed to the American spelling when the novel was released by Imajin Books), same story line as my previous submission, but this time told in the first person. That year Safe Harbor emerged as one of 11 novels – out of about 1,100 submissions from around the world – that were shortlisted for the award. I was astonished…and overjoyed. Being on that shortlist has been one of the highlights of my life.

I believe the intimacy created by the first-person narrator made all the difference in attracting the judges’ attention. I’ve learned that every standalone novel and every series demands a certain point of view, depending how far the writer needs to get inside certain characters’ heads. If you’re uncertain which to use at the outset, I suggest you write versions of your opening chapters from different points of view and settle on the one that is most comfortable for you as a writer and the most effective for your story.

Thank you, Rosemary, and congratulations!

Born and raised in Montreal, Rosemary McCracken has worked on newspapers across Canada as a reporter, arts writer and reviewer, and editor. She is now a Toronto-based freelance journalist, specializing in personal finance and the financial services industry.

Rosemary’s short fiction has been published by Room of One’s Own Press and Kaleidoscope Books. Her first mystery novel, Safe Harbor, was shortlisted for Britain’s Crime Writers’ Association’s Debut Dagger Award in 2010. It was released by Imajin Books this spring, and is available as an ebook and a paperback on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. Visit Rosemary on her website and her blog.

Synopsis, Safe Harbor

Safe Harbor opens when a frightened woman barges into financial planner Pat Tierney’s office with a shocking request: “Look after my boy; he’s your late husband’s son.” The next day the woman is murdered and police say the seven-year-old may be the killer’s next target. In a desperate race to protect Tommy, Pat’s searches for the truth and uncovers a deadly scheme involving illegal immigrants, trafficking in human body parts and money laundering.

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If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with non-fiction author Marlene Caroselli – the four hundred and seventy-sixth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me. I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Guest post: Self-Publishing is No Longer a Dirty Word by Jean Henry Mead

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of self-publishing is brought to you by mystery writer Jean Henry Mead.

Self-Publishing is No Longer a Dirty Word

Not everyone agrees that independent publishing is the key to writing success, but a growing number of authors are proving the naysayers wrong. More and more writers are leaving their publishers to strike out on their own, some with unparelled success, such as Robert Walker, who has repeatedly said that the secret to success is to consistently turn out quality work on a regular basis.

But even Rob will admit that there’s more to it than that. We’ve all heard that writers need a platform and a fan base of readers who trust the author to turn out quality work. But how does one acquire a fan base? Not by hermitting him or herself at the computer without making contact with the outside world. Those days are over.

When I put together my second volume of mystery writer interviews, I met some successful new writers, among them Canadian bestselling author Cheryl Kaye Tardif, who publishes not only her own work but others with her Imajin Press from Alberta.

She says in The Mystery Writers: “In 2010 Amazon opened KDP to Canadian authors and I went back to my roots—to indie publishing. For me it’s probably the best fit. I am by nature very independent and a strong marketer. Plus I’m ‘an idea person’. Even my old publisher saw this in me and often called me a “guru” or “marketing genius”. While I don’t consider myself a ‘genius’ I do know that I’m a risk-taker.”

Independent publishing isn’t for everyone. It requires not only writing talent but good marketing skills and industry know-how to succeed. A number of other self-publishers are included in The Mystery Writers as well as bestselling traditionally published novelists such as Sue Grafton, Lawrence Block, J.A. Jance, Vicki Hinze and James Scott Bell (former Writer’s Digest fiction columnist).

Tim Hallinan, award-winning author of the traditionally published Poke Rafferty mystery/thriller series, decided to self-publish his Junior Bender series—humorous stories of a burglar with a “moral code who works as a private eye for crooks”.  Tim’s earlier novels earned him critical acclaim but not enough money to retire from his day job. He now earns thousands of dollars a month with his self-published ebooks.

He said the reason he decided to leave his agent and publisher is because “the money we were offered by the publishers wasn’t very good. I looked at the offers and thought, ‘I’d rather own my books”.

Rebecca Dahlke once managed her father’s crop dusting service in Modesto, California, and decided that her protagonist—a beautiful former model—should also be a crop duster. She then decided to independently publish her novels, with successful results. Rebecca, like Cheryl, is a promoter and a humorous one at that. She says, “Self-publishing is no longer a dirty word. Eons ago, back in the dark ages (of publishing)—was it really only five years ago?—all we authors could hope for was a good agent, a decent publisher, a slowly growing fan base, and a list of book stores that might, or might not, keep our books on their shelves for three to six months before returning the unsold copies to the publisher. We could send in Advanced Reader Copies to prestigious reviewers or magazines and hope they would say nice things about our books, or pay a publicist to tout it, take our dog and pony show on the road, eat bad food, stay in crappy hotels, be at that next book store, book fair, conference, and smile till our cheeks ached.

“The changes have been exciting, and for this author, validation that I too can write books that readers enjoy. So, for all the august veterans who see the Internet as an encroachment onto their hard-won personal turf, let me paraphrase one of my favorite movie lines: ‘Saddle up boys and girls, it’s going to be a bumpy ride’!” You can read how Rebecca accomplished her success in The Mystery Writers.

And, after ten publishers of my own over the years, I decided to independently publish The Mystery Writers with my own small press. The 406-page book is featured on Createspace and is available on Amazon.com, Kindle and Nook.

The 406-page book is a veritable bible for fledgling writers because the advice offered by 58 bestselling, award-winning and midlist writers is invaluable for any genre. Twelve subgenres are represented and the authors write from as far away as South Africa, Brazil, Thailand, the U.S. and England.

To promote the book, I’ll be blog touring from April 16-28 with the Mystery We Write blog group and my schedule is up at: http://jeansblogtour.blogspot.com. I’ll be giving away a print copy of the 406-page book and an e-book copy in a drawing at the conclusion of the tour to visitors who leave comments with their email addresses.

Thank you, Jean!

Jean Henry Mead is a mystery / suspense and western historical novelist as well as an award-winning photojournalist. She’s published 17 books, half of them novels, and served as a newsreporter; news, magazine and small press editor in California and Wyoming. She was also a correspondent for the Denver Post. Her website is http://www.jeanhenrymead.com.

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with fantasy and science-fiction author Rachel Cooper – the three hundred and twenty-ninth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords, Sony Reader Store, Barnes & Noble, iTunes Bookstore and Kobo. My eBooks are now on Amazon, with more to follow, and I also have a quirky second-person viewpoint story in charity anthology Telling Tales.

I have a new forum and you can follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email meI am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for my Post-weekend Poetry page.