GUESTS

03-30 - Diana McCollum, Covering the Cover

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Write What You Know?

Every writer knows the old adage “ Write what you know.” 
My father used to ask me “How can you write this stuff?”  You see I had intended to right sweet romances but the universe had other ideas for me. Dead bodies kept showing up. He couldn’t understand how his only daughter, who dreamed of knights and princeses, was writing about killers.

Actually how could I not. I’m the granddaughter and niece of a police man. Growing up I watched, police and cowboy shows. Yes there was murder and death but there was something else, there was honorable men, men of principle who treated their women right. These are the men I use as model for my heroes.

A few years back, I was invited by my then publisher to be part of a paranormal series. She wanted me to do one particular story but then I got a look at the bible for the series.
One story line in particular caught my attention and it wasn’t the one she wanted me to do. Luckily I knew just where I was going to set the story and  Murder on Dark Fort Isle was born.

Up until then, I had set all but one of my books in New England, where I grew up. This would follow that but go one better. I set it in the part of town I grew up. There was one problem, I hadn’t lived there in over twenty years. Luckily I still had family there and was able to double check everything.  When the book came out I put chapter one on my website.  I had changed the names of places but anyone who  lived there for anylength of time knew where I was talking about. One day my dad called. “You’re brother showed me your website and I read your pages.  I knew right where you were.” That was almost as good as making a bestseller list.

Someone is killing the teenagers of South Boston. Detective Allison Wynn and her partner are assigned the case. Working with Orlando Valentine, college professor, psychic and so called vampire expert, they race the clock to find the killer. Before they become the next victims. 
Murder on Dark Fort Isle (ISBN-13: 978-1468144086) available on Amazon.com and on Smashwords

Friday, August 24, 2012

Authors: Unorganized Labor

Unions—organized labor—championed the creation of Labor Day and its celebration of workers. While authors are workers, too, we’re a pretty unorganized labor force. We spend most of our days staring at computer screens in self-imposed solitary confinement—a definite hurdle to organizing fellow wordsmiths to bargain for improved pay (advances and royalties) or contract terms. As a result, we either sign with an agent or become our own negotiators or publishers, for better or worse. 

Yet we do join professional organizations, often flocking with other authors who share our interests. We become members to network, improve craft, gain/share publishing industry information, and, to a limited degree, to use our organizations’ clout to impact the marketplace. For instance, the founding of Sisters in Crime was driven, in large part, by the desire of women mystery authors to ban together and push for book review equality and visibility.  

Here are just a few of the dozens of genre-oriented organizations available to authors. Where I could find current membership statistics, I included them:
·        Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI): 22,000 members worldwide
·        Romance Writers of America® (RWA®): 10,250 members worldwide
·        Sisters in Crime (SinC): 3,000 members worldwide
·        Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA): 1,800 members worldwide
·        International Thriller Writers (ITW): 1,300 members worldwide
·        Historical Novel Society (HNS): 985 members
·        Mystery Writers of America (MWA): couldn’t find membership stats
·        Association of Christian Writers (ACW): couldn’t find membership stats

I’ve been a member of SinC since 2003 and RWA since 2005. I just joined ITW. While I have no first-hand knowledge of the other groups listed, it’s probably fair to say the Boards of all these organizations are struggling to adapt to dramatic industry changes—e-books, new distribution channels, self-publishing options, small press growth, and bookstore declines to name a few. In addition, a trend toward genre blending makes it difficult to say whether someone writes romance, mystery, paranormal, suspense or thriller novels.  

Some organizations have long based membership eligibility (or status within the group) on traditional publishing criteria, e.g. the author had to sell to a “recognized” publisher and needed to earn a set dollar amount as an advance and/or in combination with royalties for full “professional” membership status. Selection by a “recognized” publisher implied the work met professional standards. Many groups are backing away from such criteria as more and more talented authors choose to self-publish or sign with e-book or niche publishers to reach their goals. I’m all for this move toward more egalitarian membership standards. In fact, I love the fact that SinC membership is open to readers as well as authors. Our local SinC chapter certainly benefits from this membership mix.

Then there’s the matter of defining genre. A current controversy within RWA relates to a decision to eliminate the Novel with Strong Romantic Elements (NSRE) from its two premiere contests—the Golden Heart® for unpublished authors and the RITA® for published authors. Many members of RWA’s Kiss of Death chapter (to which I belong) have expressed dismay at this decision, especially given that so many of today’s best-selling novels combine romance with other genres from paranormal and mystery to inspirational and young adult. Why exclude members from key recognition opportunities if romance is an important element in their craft and their novels might encourage others to read books with romance?

Do you belong to a genre-oriented writing organization? If so, what kind of membership standards do you want it to adopt? What kind of support do you look for from your writing groups--craft, marketing, legal/contract expertise, other?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

FELON'S APPREHENSION ACT 1878 - MARGARET TANNER

In colonial Australia the families of ex-convicts and poor Irish immigrants were often on the receiving end of an unfair English justice system, which favoured the rich and powerful.

Against this background, Ned Kelly, his brother Dan and their friends Steve Hart and Joe Byrne formed a gang and became bushrangers (outlaws). They were hated by the authorities but revered and aided by many ordinary folk who thought Ned Kelly had been persecuted and forced into crime.

On the 26th October 1878 at Stringybark Creek, the Kelly gang stumbled into a police ambush. They ended up shooting and killing three police troopers and wounding a fourth. After this there was a price on Ned Kelly’s head.

Desperate to catch the bushrangers the government of the time revived a medieval law that had been obsolete in England for centuries.  They called it the Felon’s Apprehension Act of 1878.

This Act enabled the Kelly gang to be proclaimed as outlaws.  It was one of the most serious laws parliament could evoke.  It authorized any person to shoot the proclaimed dead like wild beasts, without demand for surrender, or any process of arrest or trial.
 On the ninth of December 1878, the Kelly gang came out of hiding in the ranges to hold up the bank in Euroa, their first public appearance since the Stringybark Creek murders.  They made their way to a sheep station on the Faithful Creek to spend the night, having first locked up the manager and his men in the storeroom.  The next day after a hearty meal they rode away.

On the day of the tenth, at the exact time the Licensing Court was in session and the town's only policeman otherwise occupied, the Kelly gang robbed the bank. They got away with more than nineteen hundred pounds as well as thirty or so ounces of gold. 

After a siege at the Glenrowan hotel, Dan Kelly, Steve Hart and Joe Byrne were killed when the hotel was set alight. Ned, who had escaped, returned to save his brother. By this time he had donned a heavy suit of armour made from sheets of iron. The only part of his body exposed were his arms and legs. Because the armour was so heavy, although it repelled bullets, it restricted his movements and the police were able to bring him down when they shot at his legs.

Ned Kelly was subsequently put on trial, found guilty and hanged in what is now known as the Old Melbourne Jail.

There are many myths and legends about Ned Kelly and his gang. For years it was whispered that Dan Kelly actually escaped the hotel at the height of the siege, before the hotel was set alight. Even though three charred bodies were later found in the ruins, one did not belong to Dan. Rumour has it that a catholic priest who went into the hotel before it was sent on fire, to give the men the last rites, discovered that Dan wasn’t there, and that Joe Byrne and Steve Hart were already dead. Fact or fiction, the priest would never confirm it one way or the other.

The Old Melbourne Jail is now a tourist attraction and is open to the public and what a spooky place it is even in daylight.  Ned Kelly’s death mask is out on display and the scaffold still stands with the rope swinging over the trapdoor.

I visited there one day when I was researching one of my books.  The stone cells are small and icy cold, and there is an aura there that chilled me to the bone. At night time not a skerrick of light would come in through the tiny window up near the roof. Once the door of the cell was shut, I swear, you would have felt as if you had been entombed.

My novel, Savage Possession, is set during this period of time, and the Kelly gang have a cameo role in it.
A sweeping tale of love's triumph over tragedy and treachery in frontier Australia.
A mistaken identity opens the door for Martin Mulvaney to take his revenge on the granddaughter of his mortal enemy.
An old Scottish feud, a love that should never have happened, and a series of extraordinary coincidences traps two lovers in a family vendetta that threatens to destroy their love, if not their lives.




Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My Favorite Labor Day Story

The pains were coming every 5 minutes, strong and hard, so of course we left for the hospital. I was 9 months, 2 weeks, and 3 days pregnant and ready to deliver this baby. I'd read every book, taken classes, toughened by nipples in preparation for nursing, painted a mural on the nursery wall, and answered the phone for 17 straight days to let my husband's grandmother know that I hadn't given birth yet. Tomorrow she would finally stop calling. Thank God.

So after waiting for my husband to take a shower (he wanted to be fresh for the delivery), replacing the light bulb in the front porch light (so we wouldn't come home to a dark house), and grabbing the bag that had been packed for four weeks (in case the baby was early...fat chance) we were finally off to the hospital.

My water hadn't broke and my breathing routine was keeping the pain in check. The hospital staff was friendly and efficient, getting me checked in and hooked up to every machine imaginable in no time at all. Then came the examination and the announcement...1 centimeter and the long face. Was that bad? No, it just meant we were in for a long night and they might need to send me home if I didn't progress.

Send me home? No way. I couldn't bear to hear the phone ring and the disappointed voice of Grandma Costanzo when I answered, signifying I was still at home. In week two past the due date, she wouldn't even say hi. She'd hear my voice, grunt, and hang up.

So I willed my body and the baby to get their acts together and get this show on the road. Hour after hour I'd dilate one more centimeter until five hours later I was at 5 and holding. I held and held and held. The baby was turned around backwards causing back labor. My husband had to massage my back with a tennis ball until HIS wrists could take it no more. They finally broke my water to try and speed things up. Tuesday turned into Wednesday and still no baby but things were starting to move. Contractions got progressively stronger and the baby finally turned around. Yeah.

In the meantime, a wing of the hospital caught on fire and we were told we might have to evacuate. No way, I said. I'm having this baby here and now. Luckily the fire department came to my aid, putting out the fire and letting me continue my labor in peace. Finally 16 hours from the time we arrived, I gave birth to my first child, Erica Ann Costanzo, 8 lbs, 12 oz., 21 inches long. I was on cloud 12, because cloud nine isn't even close to how amazing I felt.

The picture of me coming out of labor with my baby on the gurney is one of my favorites: I'm glowing; my smile reflected in the faces of both my mother and mother-in-law on either side of me, my baby in my arms. My husband, on the other hand, looks like he'd run a triathlon. He hadn't slept all night, had blood-shot eyes, and a 3 pm shadow. He looks haggard, tired and grumpy, as if HE was the one who had just given birth.

So that's my favorite labor day story.

Oh wait, what's that you say? You wanted a "Labor Day" as in the first weekend in September celebrating Laboring people in the U.S. story, not a labor day as in giving birth story?

Opps. My bad.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Everyone loves a long weekend, or what is this Labor Day thing for anyhow?


Labor Day is one of those holidays that we celebrate without really thinking about what it means. Everyone loves a long weekend! And in the US, it's the end of summer, that last weekend of fun before the kids go back to school and parents return to sanity, at least for a while.

Where I come from, in southern Australia, Labour Day is on a Monday in March. We used it to hold the Aussie Formula One grand prix. In other parts of Australia, it's in October. As fitting for a holiday celebrating the eight-hour working day, everyone gets the day off…

But they don't, do they? Not really. Great if you're a schoolteacher, or work in a bank or a government office. But retail workers must snigger at the idea of a 'public holiday' – when are the stores and supermarkets ever closed? People who run their own businesses – writers, for example – know that the eight-hour working day is a misty-eyed myth. Same with corporate minions who bill clients by the hour. Even a 'lowly' admin worker takes calls after hours and sends emails from home. Do you even know a single person who truly works only eight hours per day?

All these decades later, have we lost sight of what Labour Day is celebrating? Those in charge would like us to go on believing we still enjoy the freedoms won by our forebears, and we're happy to go along with it, so long as we think we're getting rewards in return. Plenty of people celebrate other holidays they don't really believe in. Why not this one?

Which leads me to my obligatory segue into the paranormal. Urban fantasy, including steampunk, is often concerned with class divides. Vampire aristocrats, a seedy fairy subculture, the alpha-beta-gamma dynamics of a werewolf pack. Our heroes and heroines are revolutionaries and troublemakers, or, if they do work for the Man, they usually uncover some conspiracy that threatens to topple the regime. But even the most law-abiding UF protagonists have a cynical streak. The apple's rotten to the core, and we get the idea that they kind of knew it all along—but hey, a girl's gotta eat. They might be toppling the regime in their spare time, but they're also perpetuating it.

It's a bit like Labour Day: we all know we're being conned, right? The eight-hour day is gone, probably forever. We've traded it for more money, globalisation, 24/7 connectivity, and the Good Old Cause of making profits for other people. We may not be groaning through 18-hour shifts down a filthy coal mine, but we're sure as hell not getting 8 hours of work-free recreation before bed.

But we celebrate Labo(u)r Day anyway. Because hey, it's a day off. Might as well enjoy it!

So what's your favourite holiday? Do you like your holidays to mean something significant? Or would you rather go the way of Great Britain, where they just have random 'bank holidays'?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Gratitude and Labor Day


by Christy Carlyle

Like most writers with a full-time job doing something other than writing, I long for the day when I can devote myself exclusively to telling great stories. I grouse about how much my day job tires me out and prevents me from doing what I’m truly called to do. During a recent writer’s meeting, we discussed our motivations and goals as writers. I didn’t have to think twice about the fact that one of my main motivations is to quit my day job.

What does that have to do with Labor Day and gratitude, you might ask. Well, I don’t necessarily remember Labor Day as a reason for family get-togethers. In the Midwest where I grew up, Labor Day usually marks the beginning of cooler weather and the start of the rich, stunning array of colors that autumn puts on for the season. By the first of September, our family cookouts were a summer memory and everyone was getting ready for fall, winter, and the start of the new school year.

As an admitted history geek, I usually seek to understand the history and meaning behind a given holiday or event. The history behind Labor Day has to do with something I often bemoan: my eight hour workday. In the U.S., the holiday was proposed as a day to honor workers. However, its origins are tied up with the Haymarket Affair, a tragic event in Gilded Age Chicago that I recently researched for an historical mystery I’m writing. During the event, workers rallied in support of an eight hour workday. The assembly was mostly peaceful, but when a bomb was thrown at police, the ensuing riot resulted in police and civilian deaths and many injuries.
Just a little over a century ago, the notion of an eight workday was controversial. Most workers could expected to work ten hours per day, twelve hour days, or perhaps more. The work week was often six days long, not five, and children were often working such grueling hours right alongside adult co-workers.

Around Labor Day, I try to complain less about my day job and take a moment to remember how lucky I am to work an eight hour workday. Yes, I’d rather be writing, but, truth be told, those eight hours do still allow me enough time to write. I just need to be self-disciplined enough to get up early or take my laptop and write during my lunch break. Then again, and perhaps contradicting everything I’ve just said, I do love that I get Labor Day holiday off at my day job. More time to write!