Thursday, June 18, 2015

How to Write instruction series coming in July

As many of you are already aware (sickenly so) I am a writer. I write things: stories, poems, novels, blog posts (whew boy) and well, articles etc. If you are reading this - this isn't news to you.

But what you may not know is that every type of writing requires a unique skillset. Yes, it does.

Just because you can write a killer poem does not mean you can pen a full-length novel. It requires a bit more finesse, some moxie, if you will.

And so, just what exactly does a writer of short fiction and/or poetry, articles or anything else really short, do when they get the notion to write something longer?

Well, I am so glad you asked.

First off, they(you) need to understand what makes a good book. What elements are in that thing that will keep a reader turning pages, and how to achieve it. I have been writing fiction professionally since 2008, and STILL learn something new all the time, so don't think you already know. This stuff changes often.

But recently, when I asked my readers what I needed to do to help them out with their writing life, I heard a whole lot of "I need help with writing ___". Help with plot, help with characters, help with setting/description etc.

So, on my blog we are going to begin a series in July called "Writing a book: What I need to know" -- yes, I am going to teach how to write a book start to finish. I am going to actually WRITE a book and post everything on the blog. Uh huh. You heard me. Everything you will need to know about what it is that I am doing, and how you, too, can do it.

WHEW. I think I have lost my mind.

Well, if you think so too, be sure to follow my Kim Smith, Author blog. Get that notice in your inbox that tells you when I have posted something new! You don't want to miss out! AND PLEASE comment. This will be a question and answer sort of deal. I want and invite and beg for input.

Monday, June 8, 2015

An Interview with Ellis Vidler, Suspense Novelist


Dora Machado


Hi Ellis and welcome to MB4. It’s a pleasure to have you here. You are the author of six suspense crime novels. How did you become a writer and why did you decide to write in the crime/suspense genre?

I co-wrote The Peeper with Jim Christopher, a retired law enforcement officer. He was great to work with and I learned a lot—a terrific experience. Then I wrote Tea in the Afternoon, which is three Southern short stories, not crime fiction. They grew out of people I knew and stories I heard growing up. I have more. J Nancy Drew probably influenced my interest. I read (past tense) and read (present tense) many genres, but crime fiction of all sorts is my favorite. It’s what comes to me, so I write it.

In your opinion, what are the cornerstones of a successful crime/suspense novel?

Pacing and heart. I like page-turners with characters who can make my heart pound. If I bite my nails for fear of what will happen to them, if it’s 2 a.m. and my eyes are crossing over the words, I’m a happy reader. Two of my favorite characters are Robert Crais’s Joe Pike and Boyd Crowder from the TV series Justified. Both kept me on the edge of my seat, waiting for the ax to fall—or not.

Many of your novels have a romance component. How do the romance and the crime/suspense genre fit together in your novels? What kind of opportunities does romance bring to the crime story? What kind of challenges?

To me, love adds a human dimension to a story that might otherwise be only a problem to resolve. It seems unrealistic for my characters to live in isolation. I want the human contact for them. Romance also heightens the tension if one of the partners is in danger—our hearts race with theirs.

Since I’m primarily a suspense writer, proportion is important. I don’t want the romance to overwhelm the suspense, but it needs to fit the characters and circumstances.

How has living in the South shaped and/or influenced your stories?

Relationships—the second cousin/great uncle sort—and family are very important in the South. The right connections will help in any situation. Even in college, we’d get grilled by classmates’ parents until they found a connection (“your grandmother lived next door to my mother’s father’s brother”—that sort of thing). My characters have families or close ties that influence them, for good or ill. The characters in my books are all connected, either by blood (the McGuires) or by experience such as the strong bonds formed in war (the Maleantes & More books: Cold Comfort and Prime Target).

Your McGuire women novels feature members of a family with a psychic streak. How do you incorporate the paranormal into your crime plot lines? How many novels are there in the series? Are there other novels to come?

I use the McGuires’ psychic abilities to involve the character in the crime and to give hints and direction, but I don’t want that ability to solve the crime. That’s a bit like waving a magic wand. They have to use their wits and skills to find the bad guys and bring them to justice.

So far there are two books in the series, Haunting Refrain and Time of Death. I started Shallow Grave and completed the cover (I often design the cover very early in the process for inspiration—and it’s fun), but I kept getting caught up in backstory, so I gave in and am working on an earlier McGuire novel, a sort of prequel, tentatively titled Red Mountain Blues, that takes place in 1981. It’s the setup for Shallow Grave, so I have to keep thinking ahead to where this is all going.

I’d like to write one about Isobel, the glamorous aunt in Time of Death, but I’m not there yet. As long as the ideas come and I’m able to type, I’ll keep writing.

Which of your novels is your favorite and why?

It’s always the one I’m working on because I fall in love with the characters. Maybe that’s one reason I’m so slow—it’s hard to let one bunch go (Charlie Dance, from Prime Target, lingers still) and transfer to the next ones. Right now, Aurelia McGuire and Finn from Red Mountain Blues have my attention. It’s often difficult to come back to reality and stop thinking about them.

What kind of reader do you think will enjoy reading your novels?

It’s easier to say who won’t. Genre purists won’t like them: my novels don’t quite fit into suspense because of the love stories, and they don’t fit today’s definition of romantic suspense. More women read them than men, but men enjoy them too, mostly, I think, because of the action. They aren’t hard-boiled, but they’re far from cozy.

What’s next for Ellis Vidler?

I really want to do Will Porter’s story. He’s the owner of Maleantes & More, a former Marine who works with his own “band of brothers.” His character has been with me ever since I saw a beautiful, angry boy, Hispanic-looking but with vivid green eyes, maybe 12 years old, with a school group touring the United Nations building in New York. All the boys wore uniforms with a blazer and tie, and all the others were about 10 and had a similar preppie look. This boy, a head taller and definitely a misfit, was fuming. He seemed embarrassed, as if he wanted to be anywhere but with the group. I imagined him grown and knew I wanted to write about him.

Thank you so much for visiting with us, Ellis. Come back and see us soon.


About Ellis Vidler

Ellis Vidler writes the stories she likes to read--action, adventure, and heart. She falls in love with the characters, flawed but striving to do the right thing, and hates leaving them when the book is finished.

From early childhood she's loved reading and telling stories. She imagined herself as everyone from d’Artagnan to Anne of Green Gables and shared their adventures through long hours of reading by flashlight beneath the covers. Her career began with illustrating, moved into editing, and then writing. She also taught fiction writing.

Ellis’s novels are suspense stories with varying degrees of romance. All contain adult language and situations.


About Dora Machado

Dora Machado is the award-winning author of the epic fantasy Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, available from Twilight Times Books. She is one only a few Hispanic women writing fantasy in the United States today. She grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a fascination for writing and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories.
When she is not writing fiction, Dora also writes features for the award-winning blog Murder By Four and Savvy Authors, where writers help writers. She lives in Florida with her indulgent husband and two very opinionated cats.

To learn more about Dora Machado and her award winning novels, visit her at , email her at, find her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

LIfe and the woes of writing

Like most authors, I work a day job.

It’s not terrible, but it’s not always fun. I’m an accounting clerk/scanner for a large food service company (ie restaurant chain). In the course of a day, I work with accounting and office types (is there any other kind?). They sometimes lack creativity. I mean, not dissing anyone here, but they really don't get anything not associated with numbers. I call them my “work mates” after all, I am with them more than my little hubby. I do a ton of things for them, and with them, and if I am lucky, on some days, the time passes quickly. Ahem. Mostly, it doesn’t. Mostly I wanna be writing and sunning myself on a tropical isle. Oh, if only.

Anyway, most writers run into this situation (work life versus home i.e. writing life), and it’s something to consider, especially if you want to go this thing whole-hog. You know, if you are working on a writing “career”. Heck, quitting the day job, you know what I mean.

You will either be so good at what you do, or so weighed with commitments that you don’t know how you will ever manage to keep working to make that paycheck. Because it ain’t all about the writing sometimes. There is the promo stuff, too. Websites, blogs, and social sites will eat your time away, too. Who can afford to quit a good paying job to write full-time? Where is the benefit package?

But my day job is killing my writing time. That’s it, folks. Bare bottom line. I used to be able to sneak in writing time at work, but that has been killed since forever ago. Scanning docs requires both hands. I actually have written entire short stories at work in the past and now wonder if I ever will be that free again. Dadgumit, if other people can look at the ‘net or play games, I can at least write, right?

I do not know if there is a way out of my certain conundrum but I hope so. I hope maybe I have enough friends and fans to buy books and get me that dream of staying at home one day. Who knows? It could happen!

So, this is my “do ya feel me?” post of the week. I know I am not alone. In fact, all my buds here at MB4 have jobs, too.

Until we all say “I quit” – I hope you have a good one. Keep writing folks!