Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Reading, Writing, and Coincidence


Can a writer really go on vacation? I can’t seem to accomplish that. Characters from both books travel with me, whispering in my ear. Readers send messages asking when the next Caitlyn Jamison mystery will come out. And I thought Caitlyn and Ethan were due a vacation. Wrong.

The suspense story featuring Alaina Carter and Denton Parker is developing nicely, but with interest and encouragement from readers in another Caitlyn Jamison adventure, I’ve started research on that next book.

I’m excited about the plot line I’ve come up with and only hope Caitlyn and Ethan will be as well. It’s fun to see where the characters take my idea. I’ve learned to not try to control the story, just go along for the ride.

I read. A lot. Mostly mysteries, but some non-fiction, and because one of my neighbors, Hope Ramsey, AKA Robin Lanier, is a best selling USA Today author, I am reading and enjoying her romance books.

In a previous blog I wrote about serendipity vs coincidence and how each of my Caitlyn Jamison plot lines just happened to turn into important environmental or social issues. This morning I had chills as I read about the horrible accident at the NASCAR race yesterday that seriously wounded driver Ryan Newman. I got chills because yesterday afternoon when reading Hope Ramsay’s 2011 book, “Home at Last Chance” where on page 227 she wrote a scene that was almost identical to what happened to Mr. Newman yesterday. Her character, Tulane Rhodes is a race car driver, trying for a win when his back bumper was hit and he went flying. As I read the paper this morning, I thought, “Gee, I just read almost the same scene yesterday in a book. Except Ms. Ramsay’s character, Tulane, came out much better than Mr. Newman. 

Coincidence? I have no idea . . . 

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Character Development

West end of Forsyth Park, Savannah, GA  
The setting for my new suspense story is Savannah, Georgia. The protagonist, Alaina Carter lives around the corner from where this photo was taken. Her house is one of the many Victorian "mansions" that line the north side of the street bordering the park. When she gazes out her second story home office window, this is the type of view she has, large trees with clinging Spanish moss. There is one way traffic around the park.

Over the last few days, I've been better developing Alaina's back story as well as that of the antagonist, Peter Doyle. I realized that poor Peter was just a stick figure with no flesh to be seen! I've been giving him a lot of thought and realized that the reason for his actions had to be more than power. There had to be something deeper driving him. And it was personal. I've reworked the first chapter, fleshing Peter out so that readers will be able to connect with him. I learned early on that even "bad" guys can have good attributes.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Serendipity

Each one of my Caitlyn Jamison mysteries has been serendipitous. In An Unexpected Death I wanted environmental issues as my main plot line. At first I hadn’t defined what that issue would be, but as my characters were developed, and the story took shape, I started to see articles about hydraulic fracturing. Since my mystery was set in the Finger Lakes Region of Upstate New York, following this environmental issue was a natural. Between articles in the Economist and the local New York papers, I had plenty of material from which to draw.

Then I embarked on my second book, Fatal Dose. I wanted to do something different. The opioid issue was beginning to be a social issue, so I chose that. Again, as the characters and plot line were developed, the opioid epidemic exploded and was all over the news. Again, a lot of research material.

For the third book, The Death of Cassie White I wanted to deal with a little known topic in which I could educate my readers. I mean, how many people knew about the vast uranium deposit in southwestern Virginia? I thought that would be a unique plot line. And it was. Except. When I was well into the book, an article appeared in our local Fredericksburg, Virginia paper describing how a mining company was trying to get the uranium ore mining moratorium put in place by the Virginia legislature in the 1980s overturned. Yikes!!! Serendipitous.

Well over a year ago I decided to write a suspense story. The setting would be Savannah, Georgia. Maybe I’d work in some ghosts. I needed an interesting, but scary plot line. My mind went back to about 2005 when I attended a library program on pandemics. The presentation was by a local doctor who was part of a team consisting of doctors in Western Connecticut and New York to educate the public and develop plans for - not if but when - a pandemic hits. The talk was fascinating. Dr. Dworkin explained how sickness would be a domino effect as truck drivers fell ill (cutting down on delivery of goods), water treatment plant employees not coming to work, the number of potentially ill people needing hospital beds versus how many actual beds are available in area hospitals. It was eye opening and scary. I went home and started my pandemic pantry, which Dr. Dworkin suggested hold enough food for three months. This, of course, would include all supplies you might need, medicines, pet food, etc. 

Over a year ago I decided this subject would be the plot line for my new book. 

Is it serendipitous that as I am well into my story we are faced with a possible pandemic from the corona virus? 

Lesson learned - be careful of future plot line decisions.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Take the Challenge Take Charge Program

www.takethechallengenow.net

Why am I posting this? As an author of mysteries, I avoid violence in my stories. Although a death has to take place in a murder mystery, it happens off-stage. No shooting scenes, no violence. The result is a great story with red herrings, interesting characters and plot lines.

Since the Sandy Hook Massacre in December 2012, I realized that the violence in our society was like a three legged stool. One of those legs is violent video games/media. It is everywhere. I believed this, but couldn't see that anything was being done. Until now.

A book recently recommended to my husband confirms my beliefs of the last seven years. My husband said I should read it. Since it was the 7th anniversary of Sandy Hook, and I was distraught over the craziness happening in our state of Virginia, I told him I couldn't. I was too emotionally fragile. He said just read the last two chapters. Those chapters cover what we as a society can do to combat the epidemic of violence. Positive steps.

The book is Assassination Generation by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. 

I read the last two chapters plus the appendix and co-author's note. It gave me hope. But only if we all talk to our children, grandchildren about the violence in media and video games. Research has shown it takes up to three days to detox a child from violent media. The SMART Curriculum cited when screen time was reduced, so was student aggression, and obesity/overweight issues.

Take the Challenge Take Charge Program, developed by Kristine Paulsen, educates on the result of excessive media viewing. Let's begin detoxing our nation's children. I know we can do it.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

The Perfect Gift


Looking for gift ideas? A book to curl up with and read during the winter months is the answer. My books are available on Amazon or Barnes and Noble online under author M.E. Maki. 

A question is whether there will be another book available for the next holiday season. I am working right along with my new suspense story that features a new protagonist and a much faster pace. The learning curve is going well. So far the chapters have been well received by my two writing critique groups, an incentive to keep writing.

Already the characters have changed things up. I expect that now and am not surprised. The character that I originally drafted to be a prepper, sort of a sad personality has now shown me that he lives the way he does because he is a survivor. Through the story I hope to capture what is tormenting him and help him find inner peace. 

In the meantime his sister, Alaina, has to alter her life plans for the better good. 

This story is going to be an interesting ride for me as well as the reader. Wish me luck!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Murder Gets Even and Death in the Dune – by John Molino



Similar to my experience – someone who never planned to write and publish a book, one of my neighbors, John Molino, has done just that. He develops the most interesting plot lines and characters. His first book, Murder Gets Even, published in 2018, is a fascinating story set at Cameron Station Military Installation in Alexandria, Virginia in the Summer of 1970. Colonel Fleming Andrews is the kind of character that you love to hate. Mr. Molino crafts this character, as well as the others in the book, so that the reader is drawn into them, and the story line. The story grips the reader and won’t let go until the last word is read. 



When John finished Murder Gets Even, he said that was it. One and done. But a year later he comes out with another cleverly crafted story, Death in the Dune. The story begins in 1617 Virginia Settlement with an unfortunate incident, but by the second chapter it is present time and the Dune, located along the Chesapeake Bay is up to it’s old tricks. The dune is located as a barrier between the bay and a condo complex where retired Commodore Bob keeps a watchful eye from his “lanai.” It is he who notices the change in the dune, and warns his neighbors. They, along with the authorities, listen to Bob with much skepticism and wonder about his mental faculties.

John Molino is a gifted storyteller, and I await his next book – next year, John?

Saturday, November 9, 2019

NANWRIMO

The National Novel Writing Month officially began on November 1, but it is not to late to get started on the book you always wanted to write. 

The goal of NANWRIMO is to get authors in the habit of writing every day. Write a little; write a lot, but just write. Work on your story. 

I'm part of the NANOWRIMO Rebel group. I found that on most days I can't make the 1,167 word limit that would get me over the finish line of 50,000 words for the month. Life interrupts. NANOWRIMO Rebels still write every day, but the goals are much more attainable. We all need that feeling of success.

I'm working on a suspense story now. I am also in a memoir (life stories) group at the library. I have other things I'm involved with. And, I want at the end of each week to not only meet my goal, but exceed it. 

This year for NANOWRIMO I set my weekly word count at a conservative 3,000 words. I barely made it this week. But I did and more. Another goal is to compose a new life story piece, which I have not done. Yet. Maybe I can squeeze that in at the end of the day. 

Good luck with whatever you are writing. And remember, it is important that you get into the habit of writing, get into your project, and in time, finish it.