Guest Post: Michele Drier

Why I Write What I Know

In the scheme of things, when I watch Neil Degrasse Tyson talk about the universe, I realize that I don’t know anything.

In my small sphere of experience, though, I do know some things, and these are part of my DeltaForDeath_A1mystery series. I know how newspapers work and I know the state of California, both of which underpin the mysteries that suck Amy Hobbes in.

Plus, her incurable need for adrenaline.

In the upcoming (soon, soon, before May) third in the series, Delta for Death, managing editor Amy and her cops reporter Clarice Stamms at the Monroe Press are intrigued with two bodies found near the small Delta town of Freeland.

Set against California’s severe drought and on-going water problems, Delta for Death uses Gov. Jerry Brown’s concept of digging huge (and deep) tunnels under the Delta to ship Sacramento River water south to set up political tension.

Water has always been the bane of California. An old state saying is “Whisky is for drinking, water is for fighting,” and this continues. The water-rich far north of the state has fewer people—and votes—than the southern part with about 25 million of the state’s residents. Add in the billions of dollars made from the agricultural lands of the San Joaquin Valley, heavily dependent on plentiful and cheap water, and the fight over water rights is on.

The tensions created by this look like fodder for murder to Amy and Clarice.

For some reason, this book has had a longer gestation period than when I was pregnant with my daughter. Maybe it’s that this time I’m writing current events and think about Amy every time I water my plants or take a shower.

I like writing what I know. I feel safe describing Clarice and Amy’s relationship. I understand how the newsroom works and like writing about the interaction of the editors and reporters with the police.

There’s so much anger and distrust portrayed about this relationship that doesn’t exist in the real world of law enforcement and print journalism that I base Amy’s interaction on my relationships with local sheriffs and police departments.

Writing what you know also lets accuracy creep in. I just read a romance set in L.A. that has the main characters taking a red-eye to San Francisco! Not.

Los Angeles and San Francisco are an hour apart by air. And they’re in the same time zone. If you leave L.A. at midnight, you arrive in San Francisco at one a.m. A red-eye is only a flight that originates on the West Coast around midnight and lands on the East Coast in the morning, in time for a full business day.

This was by a NYT bestselling author…someone I’ll never read again.

Whether you know astrophysics or how to make fudge, basing your writing on what you know means you’ll develop a plot you understand, create characters who interact well with each other and include accurate facts and descriptions.

Besides, it’s fun to make incidents in your past turn out right this time!

***

Michele Drier was born in Santa Cruz and is a fifth generation Californian. She’s lived and worked all over the state, calling both Southern and Northern California home. During her career in journalism—as a reporter and editor at daily newspapers—she won awards for producing investigative series.

SNAP: All That Jazz, Book Eight of The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles, was awarded second place by the Paranormal Romance Guild’s reviewers for best paranormal vampire book of 2014. The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles also won for best series in 2014. The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles include SNAP: The World Unfolds, SNAP: New Talent, Plague: A Love Story, DANUBE: A Tale of Murder, SNAP: Love for Blood, SNAP: Happily Ever After?, SNAP: White Night and SNAP: All That Jazz. SNAP: I, Vampire, Book Nine in the Kandesky Vampire Chronicles is scheduled for publication in 2015. She also writes the Amy Hobbes Newspaper mysteries, Edited for Death and Labeled for Death. A third book, Delta for Death, is coming in 2015.

Fiction is my mask

Sometimes, the universe, via the Internet, sends me something that is equivalent to being hit in the head with a two-by-four. We’ve been talking masks here this month. We’ve talked about characters wearing masks and pen names providing masks. But when my Facebook feed last week showcased this poetic gem from Shel Silverstein, I sat up and took notice.

Underneath my outside face

There’s a face that none can see.

A little less smiley,

A little less sure,

But a whole lot more like me.

Wow.

We all–every one of us–wear masks. Every day. There have been stories and studies on it. Social media promotes it. We only post the delicious meals, the perfect crafts, the projects that go right, the accomplishments of our kids and the success stories. In this fashion, social media lets us paint the mask of real life. Some have accused social media of whitewashing life, making it seem like we have to be perfect to “keep up with the Joneses.”

We don’t post pictures of the cake we burned. The cookies that didn’t quite turn out the way that picture on Pinterest looked. The fact that school called–again–to say our child was not performing to expectations. The fact that we received yet another rejection from a literary agent or a magazine (the first rule of publishing seems to be don’t talk about the rejections).

The underlying, implicit message is we must be positive and hopeful at all times no matter what. And that, my friends, is impossible.

Why? Because life is not hopeful and positive all the time. But since we’re told that no one wants to be around Debbie Downer, and bad stories are best told face to face (maybe over an adult beverage), we plaster on our masks. Our smiles and laughter.

It occurs to me that fiction is both my mask and the means of stripping off that mask. Joss Whedon said:

I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters I am not. I write to explore all the things I am afraid of.

I’m not a police officer. I’m not an attorney. I can’t crusade against injustice. If I tell the person who let the elevator door shut in my face when he saw me rushing to catch it, or who didn’t hold the door when he saw me hobbling toward him on crutches, what I was really thinking, well, it wouldn’t really be socially appropriate. I was never the person who could fling back a zippy one-line retort when someone cut into me. No, I thought of what I wanted to say five minutes later. When the other person was long gone.

But in my fiction… ahhh…

I do all the things I want to do. I take the stands I’m too afraid to take in real life. I challenge the bullies. I can snap off the zippy one-liners. I can read the story in the paper of a social injustice and write the story where everyone gets what’s coming to him or her. That person who really made me angry? I can put him in a story and make him the villain. Or the victim (if I’m feeling particularly vengeful).

And it works as a reader, too. Raise your hand if you’ve ever imagined yourself in a favorite book (come on, ‘fess up). Want to be brave? Pick up a book. Want to right a wrong? Pick up a book. Want to drown your sorrows? Pick up a book.

Fiction might be the best mask of all. Why? Well first, you don’t have to wear anything on your face. Second, the same mask fits dozens of people–and it might be a different mask for all of them. In that way, they are infinitely flexible. And for the time you are reading–or writing–you can be anything. All you need is a little imagination.

Now that’s a great mask.

Tell me, how does fiction work for you as a mask?

Mary Sutton | @mary_sutton73

The Mask of Doris Day

When I first had the idea for the Mad for Mod mysteries, I knew Doris Day would be the main inspiration for the protagonist Madison Night. Madison shares Ms. Day’s birthday (April 3), has blonde hair, dresses in vintage from the fifties and sixties, and owns her own mid-century modern interior decorating business. To the rest of the world, she’s an oddball, as if delivered from a time warp. In a world of slogan T-shirts, jeans, and yoga clothes, Madison stands out like a sore thumb.

So, why would I choose to create an amateur sleuth who has virtually no ability to blend into the woodwork? Because Doris Day is her mask.

Like Madison, Doris Day has always been an independent woman. While she’s celebrated professional successes like being the number one  box office draw in the late fifties into the sixties, starred in movies that are the cinematic version of comfort food, recorded chart topper after chart topper, and founded her own non-profit animal care foundation, she has not lived a charmed life. A leg injury early in her career removed professional dancer from her future resume. Three failed marriages, bankruptcy, and the loss of both her son and of many close personal friends.

That’s the mask that Madison understands.

Doris Day has a lot of die-hard fans. I’m one of them. But outside of that group, a lot of people think that she is synonymous with the fun romantic comedies she starred in, most famously with Rock Hudson. They see the actress as sunshine and daisies. They don’t stop to think about the darkness that also was a part of her life.

That’s the mask that Madison wears. People will see her—blond hair, blue eyes, vintage clothing with whimsical hats and flower pins, and think she’s a novelty. She has become comfortable in her own personal isolation—her business and her dog—and lets the rest of the world write her off. But she finds herself making connections with people who see past her mask. She wants to know if the connection are real.

Madison may drop the figurative mask, but she’ll never stop modeling her life and her appearance after Doris Day. The lady makes a heck of a role model.

Diane Vallere | @dianevallere

Who are you–today?

This month’s topic of masks really resonates with me. My first post related to the masks of writing under a pen name. This post will relate to the many masks of modern life.

We all wear masks, not to hide behind, but to cope with the demands we put ourselves through on a daily basis.

This has been a bad year for my cats. My eldest, Starlight, died in my arms on New Year’s Day. Fred hadn’t been quite right, but we thought he was in mourning. Cats do that. Just like humans. And Fred had been close to Star. In February, we took him to the vet who discovered he was in the terminal stages of kidney failure. His only hope, daily subcutaneous hydration and EPO injections (the stuff that disqualified Lance Armstrong) given every other day. Home Health Care mask firmly in place, I made sure Fred had what he needed. While that was going on, I had minor surgery. Patient mask enter, stage left.

Last week started as usual. Sunday was devoted to final edits of my newest book Death by Doubloons. Have you heard about those edits before? They do seem endless, but really, I am almost through and ready to send the baby off to the publisher. Wish me luck. That was my writer mask. Which manages to switch seamlessly with my wife/cook/housekeeper masks.

On Monday, Fred wanted to spend the day out walking. My husband took him out on his leash (see photo – he loved to walk on a leash) at least seven or eight times. I spent the day working at my day job and thinking we were making real progress and would have him for a while longer. That was my self-deception mask, but I didn’t know it then.Fred on the leash

On Tuesday, Fred let us know that he was ready to leave us for the Rainbow Bridge and we took him to the vet. I can’t lie. I spent the day in tears. No matter how prepared you think you are you are never prepared enough. I was heartbroken, and it wasn’t a mask.Fred at the fireplace

Wednesday, I had to work all day and then leave home to travel to Miami to spend two days working in the office there. My day job is paralegal, and spending the next two days in tears was not an option so I hid behind my cheerful professional mask. I am lucky to work with a great bunch of people. My co-workers knew of my loss, and they were sensitive to it.

Friday saw me leaving my office and making the two and a half hour drive home. Being tired to the bone was not a mask either.

Saturday was amazing. I took part in Beach Reads in Clearwater, Florida. The Clearwater Library hosted us. The day started bright and sunny, which was good since I had a three-hour drive ahead of me. Clearwater is a wonderful town. It’s celebrating its 100th anniversary and is very quaint. To celebrate the anniversary, the town has commissioned dolphin statues and they turn up everywhere. Best of all I was on a panel with Katheryn J. Bain, Susan Santangelo, and Wendy Dingwall. Three of the best mystery writers in Florida. The turnout was fantastic. It is always an honor to meet readers. We had a great time. Then it was off to drive home.Clearwater Beach Reads 2015-4-11 005

Sunday completed the week, but this time, I was too tired to put on my writer mask. Instead, I indulged in my laze about the house in jammies mask and took the time to recuperate from the emotional turmoil of the week.

How about you, readers. What masks do you wear?

Interview: Warren Adler

Please welcome Warren Adler, author of Treadmill, The War of the Roses, and numerous other works, including psychological thrillers, political thrillers, and the Fiona Fitzgerald mystery series.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
My idea of a perfect day is getting five pages of an original novel completed.

TreadmillDo you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
I often say ”Time is my most precious commodity”

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
My mother was an avid reader which probably subconsciously gave me the idea that writing was an important vocation. But my real inspiration was my freshman English teacher at NYU. Don M. Wolfe. He was truly the one who put the idea in my head that I might have the talent to pursue a career in the writing game.

Do you listen to music when you write? 
Come to think of it, I never do!

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
I don’t eat chocolate. It interferes with my digestion ;-)

What made you interested in writing TREADMILL?
Honestly, my frequent visits to the gym. I think I did a good job at capturing certain peculiar aspects of the gym experience but I’ll let readers be the judge of that.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
Love, relationships in general, the spectre of death, integrity, and idealism.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led him to be the person he is today?
He is defeated and depressed. He wants to find a human connection and has not been able to. He reaches out, tries to find that connection, and discovers that because of this impulse, he is in danger.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
I do not create characters that are mash-ups. In my view they are original and organic to the story I am telling. Famous is an implication that never enters my mind.

If you could host an author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Shakespeare, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Simenon, Balzac, and Dickens

What’s next for you?
It’s a continuous process. In recent development are the Broadway Production of The War of the Roses, to be produced by Jay and Cindy Gutterman, “The War of the Roses – The Children” (Grey Eagle Films and Permut Presentations), a feature film adaptation of the sequel to “The War of the Roses,” “Target Churchill” (Grey Eagle Films and Solution Entertainment), “Mourning Glory,” to be adapted by Karen Leigh Hopkins, and “Capitol Crimes” (Grey Eagle Films and Sennet Entertainment), a television series based on my Fiona Fitzgerald mystery series. My newest thriller, Treadmill, is now officially available. You can keep up to date with what I have going on at Warrenadler.com and of course my official Facebook page.

***

Warren Adler is best known for The War of the Roses, his masterpiece fictionalization of a macabre divorce turned into the Golden Globe and BAFTA nominated dark comedy hit starring Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito. In recent development are the Broadway Production of The War of the Roses, to be produced by Jay and Cindy Gutterman, The War of the Roses – The Children (Grey Eagle Films and Permut Presentations), a feature film adaptation of the sequel to Adler’s iconic divorce story, Target Churchill (Grey Eagle Films and Solution Entertainment), Mourning Glory, to be adapted by Karen Leigh Hopkins, and Capitol Crimes (Grey Eagle Films and Sennet Entertainment), a television series based on his Fiona Fitzgerald mystery series. Warren Adler’s newest thriller, Treadmill, is officially available.

Masks—Drawing Down the Gods

As far back as ancient Egypt, masks were worn by priests and priestesses as part of their invocation of the god or goddess they embodied during a particular ritual. The ability to allow the energy of a particular Neter, force of nature or consciousness, to flow through one was part of the belief system and temple trainings of these civilizations. During the ritual, each participant would enact the part of that particular god or goddess that related to the myth or rite they were performing. The Greeks continued this.

anubis mask

Soon the rituals became associated with drama, so the practice continued in the Greek theatre. Actors wore the mask to show what character they were portraying. Many actors feel that their craft enables them to move beyond their own personality and explore human natures that are quite different from anything they’d normally experience in their own life. And yet, they say they do draw on an experience or feeling that is their own to move sympathetically toward the character they are developing. Even the word personality, coming from persona, suggests a mask.

When we write, we are close to acting. We open ourselves to our characters and allow them to flow through us and onto the page. We move beyond the limitations of our own personality and embrace people very different from us. Not a one of us is a murderer, but we can put on the mask of one, or the mask of a hero of vast proportions, or the mask of an amateur sleuth who is suddenly in over her head—all to allow our readers to experience a catharsis, according to Aristotle. Carl Jung would say we allow the archetypes of the collective unconscious to express themselves through us to galvanize human consciousness to change—to move toward self-actualization. Perhaps just a trace of those Egyptian priests and priestesses remains in our everyday, hum-drum writing. Just maybe.