Category Archives: Authors/Books You Might Like

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?

Can We Have A Peek?

… at your workspace?

Personally, I find it fascinating to poke my nose into the various ways authors have of organizing themselves. So I’ve asked a couple of my writer pals to draw back the curtains on where they make their magic.

First up is Catriona McPherson, who writes the funny Last Ditch Mysteries, the historical Dandy Gilver series, and a whole bunch of other award winning standalone mysteries.

 

Here’s the view from my writing desk. I keep all the mystery fiction in my writing room as inspiration and/or pressure to stick at it when the going gets tough. I’ve also got Stephen King, Jane Austen and Dorothy Whipple in there – my favourite writers of all time, dead or alive.

 

My dad made the shelves. He’s been making bookshelves for his daughters since before I was born and this autumn when he comes “on holiday” there are more in the offing, because we’re out of space again.

The doll/clown collection is definitely towards the Stephen King end.

The view of my desk changes a lot in the course of writing a book. I’m quite tidy as a rule, but first draft production makes a big disgusting mess. When there’s an empty peanut butter jar with a spoon in it, Neil knows I’m getting there. An empty pickle jar with a fork in it usually means I’m on the last chapter.

I had to ask Catriona what was on the plate because it didn’t look like pickles or peanut butter, but rather kiwi peels. Lots and lots of kiwi peels. I was wrong. They were artichoke leaves.

Next is Philip Donlay, who writes some of the most heart-pounding thrillers around. When you crack the spine on one of his Donovan Nash books, make sure you have plenty of time to read because you won’t want to stop! Speed the Dawn is his newest one. One of the many fascinating things about Phil is that he is a vagabond with no fixed address. He’ll spend six months here, six months there, six months some other place.

 

I work on the road and typically commandeer the biggest table in the house. I print everything, and what doesn’t fit in its own folder I stick on the wall. Logistics are a huge part of my books, everything and everyone needs to intersect at the right time and place. Visualization is the key.  

This is from the house I rented in Pebble Beach for the writing of Speed the Dawn.

And here’s where yours truly works.

Yes, I stand on a mini-trampoline while I write and Nala waits somewhat patiently for me to be done. If she’s not up here with me, she comes charging up the stairs when she hears the quiet little click of my laptop. When I’m actively writing, I set my timer and go nonstop for one hour. Then I stop and turn on a song and either dance on the trampoline, or use my pink hula hoop to get the blood flowing. Then I do it again for another hour, and perhaps another, but never more than four.

If I’m editing on paper, I sit at that table on the big blue ball. You can see my current work-in-progress there in the binder. Just next to that table is a big elliptical machine, my arch enemy. When I feel like punishing myself, I get on that for five minutes.

And here’s the view standing on my trampoline …

I gaze at the gorgeous Colorado sky and occasionally watch the heron swoop in and steal fish from my neighbor’s pond. I didn’t get a lot of work done when they had two black lab puppies over there.

So there you have three completely different offices. I don’t think any of us would work well in the others’ space. How ’bout you? Where do you work the best?

DEFENDING JACOB by William Landay

I couldn’t stop reading this, absolutely engrossing.

Written by a former district attorney about a district attorney, it was full of those “telling details” that give weight to fiction.

Literary novel meets legal thriller.

The teenage son of the DA was arrested for the murder of a classmate. Roller coaster plot that you’ll want to strap in for. Double thumbs up.

I also read HUNTING HOUR by my Sisters in Crime pal, Margaret Mizushima, and highly recommend it.

This graphic I made of her Timber Creek K-9 series is not in order. Start with KILLING TRAIL, then STALKING GROUND, then HUNTING HOUR, then BURNING RIDGE. They’re all fantastic.

Margaret writes the Timber Creek K-9 mystery series featuring Deputy Mattie Cobb, her K-9 partner Robo, and Cole Walker, DVM. KILLING TRAIL, book one in the series, was nominated for an RT Reviewer’s Choice award for Best First Mystery, and STALKING GROUND, book two, was named a finalist in the 2017 Colorado Book Awards mystery category.

I find it fascinating that she assists her husband with their veterinary clinic and Angus cattle herd. Writers are just fascinating people, I guess!

Happy Reading!

Conan Doyle For The Defense by Margalit Fox

I just finished this fascinating true crime story involving none other than Arthur Conan Doyle.

Over the years I’d heard that people would write to Conan Doyle and ask his help on various legal or criminal matters but I thought that was anecdotal, since people also thought Sherlock Holmes was a real person.

But this is one of those actual cases.

A man named Oscar Slater was jailed for the murder of an elderly woman in Scotland in 1908. But the investigation was a sham and it was clear that Slater was railroaded. Slater was a convenient person to nab … Jewish, foreign, poor, held dodgy jobs. He checked all the easy boxes and was sent to a brutal place, Peterhead Prison, just north of Aberdeen on the northeast coast of Scotland. He was there for eighteen years.

The author very adeptly travels back and forth between Slater’s case and the investigation, the history of law and police procedures in general and in Scotland in particular, and how Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes. It’s pretty clear Sherlock was based on Joseph Bell who was a doctor at a teaching hospital. As a second year medical student, Conan Doyle was chosen to be his clerk. Bell diagnosed illnesses exactly as Sherlock solved crimes.

The influence of Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle led to new ideas we still use today in police work, but fair warning, the things they did to Oscar Slater will make your blood boil.

This book was a delightful combination of police procedural, biography, history, and plain ‘ol mystery. It also taught me the difference between deductive, inductive, and abductive reasoning.

Sherlock would be proud.

What are you reading?

 

I’m reading Nancy Pickard this week

I’m a proud, dedicated member of Sisters in Crime, an organization whose mission it is to support women mystery writers. (Misters do this too, in case you were wondering!) I helped start our Colorado chapter a few years back. It has been by far one of the best things I’ve ever done, personally and professionally.

Members get lots of benefits from the national organization of SinC, but I’m wiggly with excitement about something coming up in a couple of weeks. National has created a Speaker’s Bureau of prominent and prolific Sisters in Crime members. At no cost to the chapter, they pay for these speakers to come and present workshops and other events for us.

The board of our chapter requested that Nancy Pickard come to speak to us so I’m fully immersing myself in her mysteries.

I started with THE VIRGIN OF SMALL PLAINS, which hooked me from the first few pages.

Here’s the blurb about it…

Small Plains, Kansas, January 23, 1987: In the midst of a deadly blizzard, eighteen-year-old Rex Shellenberger scours his father’s pasture, looking for helpless newborn calves. Then he makes a shocking discovery: the naked, frozen body of a teenage girl, her skin as white as the snow around her. Even dead, she is the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen. It is a moment that will forever change his life and the lives of everyone around him. The mysterious dead girl–the “Virgin of Small Plains”–inspires local reverence. In the two decades following her death, strange miracles visit those who faithfully tend to her grave; some even believe that her spirit can cure deadly illnesses. Slowly, word of the legend spreads.

But what really happened in that snow-covered field? Why did young Mitch Newquist disappear the day after the Virgin’s body was found, leaving behind his distraught girlfriend, Abby Reynolds? Why do the town’s three most powerful men–Dr. Quentin Reynolds, former sheriff Nathan Shellenberger, and Judge, Tom Newquist–all seem to be hiding the details of that night?

Seventeen years later, when Mitch suddenly returns to Small Plains, simmering tensions come to a head, ghosts that had long slumbered whisper anew, and the secrets that some wish would stay buried rise again from the grave of the Virgin. Abby–never having resolved her feelings for Mitch–is now determined to uncover exactly what happened so many years ago to tear their lives apart.

Three families and three friends, their worlds inexorably altered in the course of one night, must confront the ever-unfolding consequences in award-winning author Nancy Pickard’s remarkable novel of suspense. Wonderfully written and utterly absorbing, The Virgin of Small Plains is about the loss of faith, trust, and innocence . . . and the possibility of redemption.

As soon as I finished that one, I cleansed my palate with the last three short stories from an anthology by one author that was disappointing so I won’t mention it. It was touted in a national magazine, and as I’ve been trying to write a short story, I thought it would be wise to read really good ones. Alas, these I did not find “really good.” The search continues, however.

Then I picked up Nancy Pickard’s THE SCENT OF RAIN AND LIGHTNING.

Here’s the blurb for it…

One beautiful summer afternoon, Jody Linder receives shocking news: The man convicted of murdering her father is being released from prison and returning to the small town of Rose, Kansas. It has been twenty-three years since that stormy night when her father was shot and killed and her mother disappeared, presumed dead. Neither the protective embrace of Jody’s three uncles nor the safe haven of her grandparents’ ranch could erase the pain caused by Billy Crosby on that catastrophic night.

Now Billy Crosby is free, thanks to the efforts of his son, Collin, a lawyer who has spent most of his life trying to prove his father’s innocence. Despite their long history of carefully avoiding each other in such an insular community, Jody and Collin find that they share an exclusive sense of loss.

As Jody revisits old wounds, startling truths emerge about her family’s tragic past. But even through struggle and hardship, she still dares to hope for a better future—and maybe even love.

Again, as with Pickard’s other book, I was immediately captivated. She has a distinctive way with language, and her descriptions are so spot-on, you could swear you’ve already been wherever she’s describing.

Here’s how it opens …

Pickard has tantalizing mysteries and story questions that I can’t wait to learn. I raced through 100 pages of it on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I’m only halfway through, but I suspect I’ll continue to be surprised and engrossed through the last word.

Are you a Nancy Pickard fan? In addition to these two books, she has 16 others. Have you read any others?

 

Fiction Can Be Murder

Launch Day is finally here!

In case you haven’t heard enough about FICTION CAN BE MURDER, here’s an interview I did with Deborah Kalb … here’s where the main character Charlee Russo drops in at Dru’s Book Musings for a bit … here’s my book trailer … here are some cool tidbits you might not have known about the book …

And because you’ve been so patient, here is a picture of my adorable dog, Nala eating a MilkBone as big as her head.

And her boudoir shot …

You can buy the book, but not the dog, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and independent bookstores everywhere. And if you don’t want to buy it, ask your favorite librarian to order it. (Because then they’d be MY favorite librarian too!)

And remember … when you subscribe to my “So Seldom It’s Shameful” newsletter, you get the chance to win books and other cool stuff. Do it now because — SURPRISE — this month you can win FICTION CAN BE MURDER!

Good luck!

1,000 True Fans

I first read about the concept of “1,000 True Fans” a long time ago from someone in the music industry. The gist of it, for him, was that if he got 1,000 people to spend $100 every year buying his music, going to his concerts, ordering the t-shirts, or whatever, that would translate to $100,000. A pretty nice yearly income from his art.

I started thinking about this in terms of my writing. I make money on my books, but it’s not my primary source of income, so I defined my idea of success for me.

• I want to have FICTION CAN BE MURDER in every public library district in the United States.

• I want at least 50 Amazon and Goodreads reviews and ratings with at least a 4.0 average.

• And I want True Fans who are excited every time I have a new book or short story out.

So how does that happen?

You.

If you like my writing (or if you just like me!), there are many things you can do to ensure I get to keep writing. (Publishers don’t like it when books don’t sell or when there’s no buzz.) Here are some suggestions. If you can see fit to do one or more of these things, you will have my undying gratitude and find yourself in True Fan territory.

• Pre-order FICTION CAN BE MURDER from your favorite bookseller before it launches in April from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or find an independent bookstore,  and encourage your friends to do the same. When you pre-order, the book gets shipped to you the minute it’s released. The bigger the pre-orders, the higher the rank, the more likely it will get other buzz from Amazon or certain lists, etc. Buzz, buzz, buzz. It grows exponentially.

• Share info about my books on your social media. (Here’s the direct link to my Amazon page you can use.)

• Request that your public library carry FICTION CAN BE MURDER by Becky Clark. They’ll only need the ISBN 978-0-7387-5332-4. This is very important to me. I love libraries and I love the idea of one book being shared multiple times all over the country. Ask your friends to do the same at their library.

• Post photos of my book in the wild — in your hand or at the library or at a bookstore or something uber-creative that I can share. (Be sure to send me a copy!)

• Post Amazon and/or Goodreads reviews and ratings. Honest reviews influence readers and are very important to author rankings. Reviews don’t have to be long to be effective, just a couple of sentences work. Reviews are important all the time over the life of a book, but they’re especially important during the week of its release, April 8, 2018 in my case. Which is also why pre-ordering is so very important.

• Come to my book events and bring your friends. Subscribe to (and read!) my newsletter for all things book-related … sign up here or at BeckyClarkBooks.com

• Ask your book club to read FICTION CAN BE MURDER as one of their monthly selections and ask the members to post their reviews.

• If you’re on Goodreads, add FICTION CAN BE MURDER to their various lists. I’ve seen lots of lists where it would fit, for example — books that make you laugh, woman-authored books, humorous mysteries, beach reads-mystery, best of little-known authors, cozy mystery series-first book of a series, best cozy mystery series, best humorous books, and my favorite list … “If You Like Books by Janet Evanovich, You May also Like…” If FICTION CAN BE MURDER is already listed, then vote on it to raise it higher on the list.

So, those are a few things you can do to help me.

You have all the power.

Writing is a solitary endeavor, and one where it’s too easy to lose perspective. It’s so gratifying when people enjoy what I’ve done and I want to keep doing it as long as I can, so THANK YOU for indulging and encouraging me.

Mwah!

 

 

 

TATTERED LEGACY by Shannon Baker

I’ve known Shannon Baker for several years. In fact, we launched books together, along with another pal, Peg Brantley.

Shannon writes two mystery series.

The Kate Fox mysteries, set in rural Nebraska cattle country are STRIPPED BARE and DARK SIGNAL.

The Nora Abbott series is a fast-paced mix of Hopi Indian mysticism, environmental issues, and murder. The first in the series, TAINTED MOUNTAIN, is set in Flagstaff, AZ, where she lived for several years and worked for The Grand Canyon Trust, a hotbed of environmentalists who, usually, don’t resort to murder. It was a 2013 finalist in the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards. BROKEN TRUST is #2, and the one I’m giving away, TATTERED LEGACY is #3.

It’s a signed copy that one lucky reader will win. You must be a subscriber to my So Seldom It’s Shameful newsletter because that’s where you’ll find instructions about how to enter AND where I post the winner’s name.

Good luck!