Author Archives: Becky

March Murder Madness

How to play March Murder Madness

  1. To begin, download the March Murder Madness form here.
  2. Choose your winner in the 1 and 2 face-off and type the number in the red box.
  3. Do the same for 3 and 4 all the way through 15 and 16
  4. Then choose your winner in the next round of face-offs until you end up with your final choice in the WINNER square
  5. Save it
  6. Email Becky@BeckyClarkBooks.com. Attach your saved bracket with all the squares filled in. Put “March Murder Madness” in the subject line.
  7. The official winning brackets will be determined randomly

Fine, Becky, but what might I win??

If you’re one of the first three entries emailed that match the winning individual brackets, you will receive a coveted fab and funny BeckyClarkBooks pen!

If you are the first entry emailed that matches ALL the brackets, you are the Grand Prize Winner! You will receive two coveted fab and funny BeckyClarkBooks pens AND a copy of FOUL PLAY ON WORDS!

In the event nobody matches ALL the brackets, the Grand Prize will go to the first entry emailed with the most matching brackets.

So, get those brackets filled out and emailed PRONTO! The time stamp on my receipt of your email could determine whether you win or lose.

Contest runs March 16, 2019 to March 23, 2019. Winners will be notified soon after that at the email you used for entry.

Here’s the metaphorical small print … contest is open to U.S. residents only, 21 years or older. This is just a fun way to interact with my readers and offer some small tokens of my esteem. Regardless of how you heard about it, this contest is in no way affiliated with WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, or any other platform. It’s just me being me.

So if you’re down with all that … download this interactive PDF, fill out your brackets and get it emailed to me ASAP!

* * * * *

In the event you can’t make the PDF work, print it out, fill it out by hand, take a photo of it and email the photo back to me. (And don’t even consider contacting me with technical questions, because I won’t be able to answer them. The only advice I’d have for you is to go eat some chocolate then try again, however many times feels right.)

* * * * *

Have fun!

Becky’s Big Bodacious Box O’Books and Purse Giveaway

Win fabulous signed books from

PLUS one of my handmade book purses!

The more actions you complete, the more entries you earn. A few of them you can do every day to rack up points!

I’m editing this on March 7th to add that due to oh, about forty-leven gazillion emails from people about how much they love those purses, I’ve made an executive decision to add more winners!

If at least 50 people share this post before the contest ends, I’ll offer a SECOND prize of one purse to a random winner. And if I get 100 shares, I’ll offer a THIRD prize of another purse to yet another random winner! So share away … even if you don’t want to win, you have a friend who does!

Ends on March 30 … Good Luck!

 

Becky’s Big Bodacious Box O’ Books and Purse Giveaway

Tap Dancing Fool

I’ve wanted to tap dance forever, it seems.

Musicals make me swoon with joy at the dance numbers. Those flying feet, the percussion, the precision. I wanted to do it so bad.

As a kid, though, I don’t remember even asking if I could take lessons. Maybe I didn’t even realize that was a thing. Maybe I knew there was no money for that. Or maybe I was afraid to find out I was no good at it and would never be another Shirley Temple.

But I’m old now, and have my own money and a car to get myself to lessons. I also try to do things that scare me these days.

As the Ghost of Christmas Present says to Ebenezer Scrooge, “There is never enough time to do or say all the things that we would wish. The thing is to try to do as much as you can in the time that you have. Remember, time is short, and suddenly, you’re not here anymore.”

In early summer of 2016, I was at a party and a friend of mine mentioned that she had been taking beginning tap lessons at our local arts center. I perked up immediately. The more she talked, and the more I drank, the more eager I became.

I bought some black lace-up taps shoes and registered for the next 6-week session. I wasn’t very good and the class wasn’t really a start-at-the-beginning kinda thing. The same people (mostly middle-aged women like me) just kept signing up and so the instructor just moved ’em all along and tried to drag the rest of us newbies with them.

The few sessions I took were hella fun, though, and I learned lots of basic steps. We did some routines that I could mostly follow along with, as long as I stood in the back where I could see someone who could actually remember all the steps. After a time, I even managed a passable time step!

But in the autumn, I started having weird pains in my back, which, long story short, turned out to be that pesky tumor in my spine. I went under the knife almost exactly two years ago today.

Cut to — I can say that because I watch movies — a couple of weeks ago. I’m still feeling the effects of surgery, which mainly manifests as numbness in my left leg. I thought it would be gone by now (heck, I thought it would be gone about ten minutes after surgery because I’m delusional like that!), but it’s not. So I thought, “Screw it. That ghost is right. Time IS short.”

The arts center still offers adult tap lessons, but they are at a completely inconvenient time for me, so I started searching for online resources. Lo and behold, I found one!

For the cost of two sessions at the arts center, I bought this online tutorial package. I can do the lessons in my basement whenever it works for me and go back over the stuff I find difficult.

There’s also a Facebook group for the subscribers of the class and it’s inspiring and encouraging to see the videos they post, and to hear their stories.

So far, I’ve only been doing the warm-up, which I can alllllmost do — *shakes fist at paradiddles* — and the first lesson, which was a breeze up until the end. And then the delightfully optimistic Aussie instructor told me to go faster. Which is hilarious. Partly because I’m not that graceful, partly because my numb foot doesn’t always do what I say, and partly because my balance is iffy sometimes.

But guess what? I’m tapping! And it’s fun. Maybe there will be videos of my progress, yanno, when I progress!

What have you always wanted to do? What’s stopping you? Can you tap dance? Any tips to help me speed up?

The Journey of FOUL PLAY ON WORDS

I finished copyedits for FOUL PLAY ON WORDS 10 days before the deadline … yay, me!

funny mysteriesNormally I work on a mini-trampoline at a stand-up desk, but as you can see here, I needed to spread out for the task at hand.

My production editor mailed me a paper copy of my manuscript that she already triaged for the most egregious mistakes I made. (She also emailed me this as a PDF so I could see what she corrected. I should use this as a learning tool, but I prefer to live in a world of denial.)

She also emailed me a Word document with her comments highlighted. Most of these were questions and clarifications, places where I might have contradicted myself, instances where she was confused by something I said.

In the photo, you can see the page proofs in front of my computer. Each page is set up like how it will look in the actual book. On the screen is the Word Doc with her comments.

I noted where her first comment was, then read on my paper copy from page one up to that comment. If I had any changes I wanted to make (typos or changing a word or phrase), I wrote them in pencil on my paper copy. When I got to her comment, I dealt with it, again, writing any changes on my paper copy.

This time I was smart. I also wrote the online page number on my paper copy because it’s never the same, a problem I grappled with during copyedits for FICTION CAN BE MURDER. Often, she’ll have the same continuity issue in several places in the Word doc. If I make the change on page 47, but it also comes up on page 112 and 163, I will have to search and search for that change. This time, I was working on the paper copy so I could fix all three pages up front. This was a little flash of brilliance on my part. (It would really be something to brag about if I’d remembered to note in her comments on pages 112 and 163 that I’d already taken care of them so when I got there I wouldn’t be, you know, searching and searching. We live. We learn. Hopefully.)

So I did that all the way through; reading the paper copy, responding to the online notes and making other changes along the way.

This took me 14 hours and 40 minutes, over 5 days from December 17 – December 27, 2018.

Then I typed all the changes from my paper copy into the Word doc with her notes, again, making tweaks as I went. I’m sure I made new and exciting mistakes as well.

This took me 3 hours and 30 minutes, on December 27th and 28th.

Then I let it sit for a couple of days while I drank heavily.

On December 31, 2018 I started early and read the whole thing on my laptop while sitting in my living room. That’s really the only way to catch flow, pacing, continuity, and echo problems. Again, I made some minor changes as I read.

This took me 6 hours and 20 minutes. Because it’s careful reading that requires a lot of concentration, and because my butt goes numb, I got up and moved around every hour when my timer dinged.

I wrote the dedication and the acknowledgments, checked the bio they already had, and then sent it off.

In a couple of weeks my production editor will look at all the new brilliance and harm I’ve done to the manuscript, deal with everything she needs to, and then send me a new copy. I’ll have a chance to read it over one last time, but I’ll only have a few days to do so before it goes into production.

For those of you keeping score at home, here’s the timeline for FOUL PLAY ON WORDS —

The first draft was written in 20 days between October 3 – November 4, 2016.

  • 163 pages
  • 43,907 words
  • 41.25 hours
  • 1,065 words per hour, average
  • 2 hours per day

The first edit was done in 6 days between November 7 – 29, 2016.

  • 12 hours
  • 2 hours per day

I typed in all the changes over 4 days (7 hours total) between November 29 – December 2, 2016.

I let it rest, then re-read it and made more changes over 3 days (6 hours total) between December 7 – December 9, 2016.

Then I really let it rest while I recovered from spinal surgery and got FICTION CAN BE MURDER ready to launch (April 2018).

I picked it up again on January 8, 2018 and did another revision over 13.5 hours and called it done on January 12, 2018.

“Done,” of course, being an ambiguous term in the writing world. It’s also why I always laugh when people ask, “How long did it take to write your book?”

But it’s up for pre-order now and will be published on April 8, 2019!

mystery with humor

 

 

Money and Funny

I had two books going recently, one nonfiction and one fiction.

the business of writing

SCRATCH was a mostly fascinating collection of essays from writers of all stripes talking about the money part of writing. You know, making a living.

As Vladimir Nabokov said, “I write for my pleasure, but publish for money.” As J. Robert Lennon remarks in his essay, “this philosophy seems unambiguously useful: fiscally pragmatic and mojo-positive.”

Money is something we don’t really discuss, which in her essay Choire Sicha might be because “writers cleave off from the real world, where math actually exists. Many of us gleefully profess an incompetence with all kinds of numeric systems, up to and including taxes. If you ever want to see something sad, ask a room full of freelance writers about their tax strategies. It’s like asking a pack of baby kittens about space travel.”

But the most illuminating one for me was the interview with Cheryl Strayed in which she speaks very candidly about her money issues. She describes being on tour promoting her wildly successful bestseller, WILD, and having her rent check bounce.

I don’t think most writers understand the money part of publishing, and I’m sure non-writers don’t. This book can fix that.

The second book I just finished was from my friend Gretchen Archer.

funny mysteries

She writes an absolutely hilarious series of capers set in the world of casinos. DOUBLE DOG DARE is her latest, but I suggest you begin with her first and savor your way through.

Crossword Cozies

I’m cogitating over a new cozy mystery series set in the world of crossword puzzles so I’ve started learning how to make them.

Guess what?

It’s haaaard!

I complete the easy King crossword and the progressively harder NYT puzzle printed every day in the Denver Post. Well, not every day. I haven’t attempted the Sunday NYT and I cheat my way through the one on Saturday.

I’m pretty good at solving the puzzles, so I assumed (yeah, I know) that it wouldn’t be a huge leap to flip it and start creating them.

I begin with a 15×15 blank grid. There are rules you have to abide by. You can only have a maximum of 38 black squares and a maximum of 78 words, only 20 of which can be 3-letter words.

Crossword puzzles must have rotational symmetry, meaning that you can turn the page upside down and the puzzle grid looks exactly the same. Luckily, the software takes care of this chore for me. So if I put a black space in the top row, the fourth from the left, there will also be one in the bottom row the fourth from the right.

The “entries” are the words in the puzzle. The “slots” are where those words go. The “clues” are the hints you give so the solvers can put the right entries into the right slots.

Puzzles usually have themes, whether you see them or not, and they also need symmetry. Say my theme is “Murder.” There are a lot of words for murder: slaughter, assassinate, run through, decapitate, asphyxiate, disembowel, exterminate, pump full of lead. But I can’t use them all. First, because that’s too many and I wouldn’t be able to find entries for the rest of the grid. But also because of symmetry.

“Slaughter” has 9 letters, “pump full of lead” has 14, “assassinate” and “exterminate” both have 11 and the rest all have 10.

Right off the bat I know I can’t use “slaughter” because it has no corresponding length word. You must have a black square after each of your theme words, so here’s what would happen if I tried to pair these two.

And I can’t use “pump full of lead” because it has 14 letters, problematic in a 15×15 grid.

Seems okay …. until you add the black space at the end. No symmetry!

So I’ll choose assassinate, exterminate, run through, and disembowel as my theme words.

That’s the beginning of my puzzle. And my headache. Next I have to start placing more black squares to break up long slots and to make the puzzle look pretty. Then comes the filling of the grid, which takes a lot of trial and error. Mostly error for me. I’ll talk about that more when I get better at it. When you have real words in all the slots, then you write the clues. Punnier, more obscure clues make for a more difficult puzzle, but I don’t know how to gauge the difficulty level yet.

Did I mention this was haaaaard??

How ’bout you? Do you like to solve crossword puzzles? Would you read a mystery series set in the world of puzzling? What clever name would you bestow upon said crossword series?

I’m Hearing Voices

I rarely re-read books.

The exceptions are

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

… because I love her with my whole heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

… because The SantaLand Diaries is pretty close to perfect writing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

… because I read this book as a young teenager and it cast a spell on me that appears to be unbreakable.

And now I can add

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

to my list.

I read it when it came out in 2017 and a member of my book club chose it for our December 2018 read. The second time through I was able to savor it, letting the prose weave through my thoughts, finding new nooks and crannies to settle in.

Eleanor Oliphant gives new meaning to the term “socially awkward.” She’s a mulligan stew of hilarity, practicality, and heartbreak … and so much more.

I love the story, but it’s on my list to re-read because of a couple of things the author, Gail Honeyman, does really well.

The first thing is backstory. I won’t give anything away, but Eleanor has a secret. Honeyman dribbles just the right amount of information the reader needs at just the right time. ‘Nuff said about that, lest I spoil it. You’ll see when you read it.

But the second thing the author does is much more difficult. And that is capturing Eleanor’s voice.

Talking about voice in writing can be nebulous. Like art or pornography, you can’t define it precisely, but you know it when you see it.

Voice has different levels and different meanings.

First, there’s the writer’s voice. The writing of Ernest Hemingway doesn’t sound anything like F. Scott Fitzgerald. Janet Evanovich doesn’t sound anything like John Grisham. Dr Seuss doesn’t sound anything like Emily Dickinson.

Each author chooses certain words and rhythms to their writings. I bet you can search the depth and breadth of Fitzgerald’s works and never find him describing anyone as a “mulligan stew.” Nor will I ever write anything resembling, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” I use a lot of sentence fragments when I write, anathema to some. Hemingway rarely varies his sentence pattern, anathema to me. But that’s an entirely different blog post. Fight me later.

Second, there’s the actual voice of the character. Some people have foreign or regional accents. Some drop the G at the end of a word. Some speak fast, some s l o w. Some have a squeaky soprano, some a basso profundo. Eleanor Oliphant is Scottish and that creeps in every so often. The first time I heard The SantaLand Diaries was on NPR, read by the author, David Sedaris. He has a very distinctive voice and I haven’t read anything of his since without hearing his words in his voice.

Then, the heart of a character, who they are. And that is shown by everything they say, how they say it, what they don’t say.

This is the voice that Gail Honeyman excels at with Eleanor Oliphant.

 

 

 

 

It doesn’t take long to get a sense of Eleanor, does it? While it might be infuriating to hang out with her as a real person, I love spending time with fictional Eleanor.

I could listen to her voice for hours.

What are some other voices that have stuck with you over the years?

I Need Your Opinion

I need your opinion.

pre-orders available now – just click the beautiful cover!

I’m gearing up for the release of FOUL PLAY ON WORDS in April 2019 but I’m not sure what kind of publicity events I should do. They’re all fun for me, but a girl only has so much time!

What kind of book events do you like?

  • Launch parties
  • Readings
  • Panel presentations at libraries or bookstores
  • Facebook parties
  • None of the above
  • Something else?

Tell you what … if you comment on this post and tell me what kind of events you like and what you like to hear authors talk about, when I get my Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) of FOUL PLAY ON WORDS, I’ll pick a lucky commenter (maybe more) to get a copy hot off the press!

Also …. I’m contemplating a southern California book tour, maybe in June. If I was in the vicinity of The Book Carnival in Orange, would you come see me?

Comment below! And thanks … you’re the BEST!