I just finished reading “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear,” by Elizabeth Gilbert. She writes as if she’s sitting across the table with the reader, cup of coffee in hand, leaning forward, and you’re having this great discussion, except she supplies both sides of the discussion. In this case, the discussion is about what qualities we need to cultivate in order to live our most creative lives. It’s all very upbeat and encouraging, whether you think of yourself as a creative person or not. As someone who has to admit to some level of creative impulse in her life, I found it very enlightening.
Speaking of creativity, for a while now, I’ve been exploring abstract shapes, colors, textures and designs in my paintings. It’s been a lot of fun, and I’m certainly not done with that aspect of my ‘colorful journey’, but I was inspired recently to return to a genre I painted earlier – landscapes. In ‘Falling Water,’ I used my recently acquired ‘abstract’ skills to try to capture the almost explosive power of water as it thunders and roars its way down a mountain. I hope this painting manages to capture some of the electric energy I felt looking at scenes like this up in Alaska recently.
I spent the last couple of weeks working on the technicalities of my latest mystery novel, the least favorite part of my job. There’s a reason why traditional publishers get paid the big bucks! Book design isn’t a lot of fun, but there’s plenty of help out there, so hopefully, the finished product will look fantastic as well as being a good read. I’m publishing the paperback and Kindle versions simultaneously, and there will be a special offer for Kindle pre-orders, so be on the look-out for that. In the meantime, what do you think of my cover?
This week, I began draft #5 of Death on the Danube. I finished the 4th draft about a month ago and decided to just let it sit for a while. In the meantime, I let my husband read it. He thinks it’s really good, but he had some helpful suggestions, too. I’ve been mulling things around, and now I’m ready to approach the project with a fresh eye.
The story is done. The mystery is solved. (Hint: Bella Sarver provides the key information, though she has a lot of help from the German and Romanian police.) But now it’s time to really whip this book into shape.
This is my fourth novel, and I’ve learned quite a bit about the writing process. It’s all very well to come up with a basic mystery, but fleshing out the characters, letting them tell the story in their own words, and letting the story go its own way is where the work part comes in. It’s fun, too, though, a new adventure every time. So back to work, and I’ll keep you posted on progress.
As any fan of murder mysteries knows, the genre can
encompass all kinds of stories, from English country murders to small hidden
towns in Montreal to intrigue in Washington to …. You name it.
All these novels tell about the murder:
the who, what, where, and why of it.
But the best ones tell another story as well. A murder mystery can serve as a vehicle for
social commentary, for exploring an historical event, for telling a love story,
or any of the many reasons that a writer decides she has something to say.
The nice thing about creating a series in this genre is that
you can have ongoing characters who grow and change over time. They have stories of their own to tell,
alongside the story of the victim and the perp.
Reading a series is like visiting old friends, catching up, finding out
what’s new with them. And writing a
series is much the same. It’s a lot of
fun for me to write about Bella and Art and their friends, to find out things I
didn’t know before, to travel together.
Are murder mysteries in the same class of fiction as great
literature? Maybe not. And yet – Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha
Christie, and Dorothy L. Sayers gather new fans to this day, so if a definition
of literature is something that touches readers of many places and times, has
something to say and something to teach, then maybe murder mysteries are worth
reading after all.
I’ve finally got to the end of my new mystery novel, Death on the Danube, and I found out ‘whodunnit’ and why. Bella Sarver and her new husband, Art Halperin, meet a bunch of interesting people, including at least one with murder in mind. It was a lot of fun to discover who these people are and what makes them tick. As the writer, I set them in motion, but then they take on a life of their own and who knows where that’s going to lead?
The story takes place on a cruise along the Rhine-Main-Danube Rivers, with many stops on the way from Amsterdam to Bucharest. I enjoyed researching the historical backgrounds of my settings and the artists who lived and worked in them. (How did anyone ever write a book before the Internet?) But now comes the hard work of starting at the beginning and revising the entire novel so that it really comes alive.
I mentioned this to a friend the other day and she asked me about the tediousness of the task of revision. Her question took me by surprise, because I don’t think writing is the least bit tedious. Now that I have all my characters in place, I look forward to the chance to flesh them out so they can become living, breathing people. It’s all part of the fun of writing. It’s an adventure for myself as well as for my characters.
I’m hoping to get the final draft in shape by the Fall. Wish me luck!
I’m happy to have two of my most recent pieces on exhibit at the Studio 630 Summer Show. The opening reception is Sunday, June 9th, 1 to 3 pm. The Gallery is located at the National University of Health Sciences, Bldg B, on Roosevelt Rd. at Highland, Lombard. The show will be up for 2 months, and is well worth a visit.
Music inspires me and I always listen to it when I’m working in my studio. I like all different kinds, depending on my mood: Classical, New Age, Broadway show tunes. The music helps the paint flow. Here are a couple of new pieces I finished recently to show you what I mean.
Sonata, mixed media, 30 x 30 and Scherzo, mixed media, 24 x 24
That is the question. Most of my paintings are done on gallery-wrapped canvas (1 1/2 inches thick), so framing is optional. They’re large enough to have a presence all on their own. My smaller paintings, the 10 x 10’s or the 12 x 12’s, are on 3/4 inch canvas and need frames to really set them off properly. Therein lies a dilemma. Do I want to spend the money and put in the work needed to frame the pieces, or should I just leave it to my customers to recognize that the paintings look good as is but will look fantastic in frames?
Since I’m planning to participate in an art fair in July, I decided to invest the time and money. Here’s an example – framed vs. unframed. What do you think?
I think the simple black frame sets off the image nicely and helps the completed painting make a nice statement.
My paintings have been leaning more and more towards the abstract in recent years but now I’ve finally leaped over the edge. It’s amazing what paint can do when you pile it on with palette knives, move it around with brushes, add fiber for texture, and pour it on to a canvas laying flat. I always work to music and this new technique (new to me, anyway) lets me just go with the flow. Time to order some larger canvases and paint in larger quantities. I’m so looking forward to exploring this next step in my artistic adventure!
There’s a line from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I, that goes “… as a teacher you’ll be taught.” I’ve learned that lesson many times as I’ve taught classes in History or various health strategies or painting and drawing. I’m learning it again now that I’m ‘officially’ a writer. I’m in the middle of preparing a PowerPoint presentation for my writing group on how to write a mystery novel, and the process of creating the presentation has forced me to consider all the steps involved withcreating a book.
It’s not that you can follow a recipe and arrive at a novel. No – but there is a structure to a novel. There’s plot and characters and setting and the mysterious connections that mix them all up and result in a story. Hopefully, one that people will want to read! If you understand the elements of a novel you have the tools you need to put it all together, if only you can think of some ideas to set the whole thing in motion.
I hadn’t planned to do anything like this but when the moderator of our writing group asked what sorts of topics we’d like to see presented this year, I raised my hand and said, “How about a discussion on how to write a mystery novel?” He looked at me and said, without missing a beat, “Great. I’ll put you down for May 11th.” That’ll teach me!