Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Why yWriter?

I'm working on the last story for SHIFTY, the short story collection set in the world of SAGE, my fantasy trilogy. I revised the story before this using Scrivener, so I decided I would revise this one using yWriter5, a free (yes, I said FREE) program from Spacejock.

I like yWriter5 better. How to write and what tools to use will always be idiosyncratic. I know many people who love Scrivener, and others who can't wrap their heads around it.

After having used both programs on real-time projects, I find yWriter5 both simpler and more flexible. yWriter5 lets you list important items and locations as well as characters, sort them. It lets you chart viewpoints for each chapter and scene, date (down to the hour and minute) when each scene happens, and I don't know what all!

You can view a timeline of when each chapter happens with the chapters appearing on each character's timeline.

In each scene, you can note characters, items, locations, scene title (brief description), and a longer description. You can note whether the scene is action or reaction, and other details that it's fashionable these days to call "granular." When you're all granulated up, you can generate an outline using the brief descriptions, the long ones, or both. Instant synopsis!

Hey! Call a theme or a motif or a red herring or a clue an Item or a Location and keep track of it at a glance.

You can export a list of characters and their descriptions. Export locations. Export the whole damn project to a Word doc, rtf, html, or an eBook.

There's even a Linux version and a version for Windows 8 and up. Alas, none for Mac. Sorry Macsters. :(

AA-aa-and, there's a Wiki with all kindsa helpfulness.

yWriter5. I think I'll keep it.

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Opposite of Dark, Second Edition Ebook is Here!

Late this spring, I reached an amicable agreement to obtain all of my rights back to my first four Casey Holland mysteries. While TouchWood Editions was a great publisher to work with, it was time to move on.

I’m delighted to relaunch a second edition, ebook version of first installment, The Opposite of Dark. I’m hoping to release all four books before the year’s over, but I’m working on several new writing projects, and real life commitments swallow up many hours per week, so who knows?

The plan is to release the fifth installment, Knock Knock, in both print and ebook versions next year, which is exciting! More on that over the coming months!

After a lot of pondering and reading all sorts of advice on the subject, I’ve decided to price The Opposite of Dark at $3.99 US, which feels right, but time will tell. Meanwhile, the book’s available at:

And the blurb:

When the police tell transit security cop Casey Holland that her father was murdered the previous night, Casey doesn’t believe them. Why would she, given that she buried her dad three years earlier? Desperate to understand what’s going on and if the man she buried really was Marcus Holland, Casey attempts to unravel the truth about her past.

Filled with twists and turns and the unwelcome help of a persistent stranger, Casey’s quest takes her to Europe where startling revelations place her in danger. An associate of her father believes that Marcus stole three million dollars from him and he wants it back. Convinced that Casey can find the money, the man won’t stop until he either has the cash or she and those she loves die.


“This is truly a fast-moving, action-packed thriller with many twists and turns, many suspects, and many secrets and lies. I would have read this book at one sitting were I able to, I was so involved in the story.” Nightreader

“This is one fast-paced novel filled with characters that will definitely keep the reader wondering just who can Casey trust. This is a definite must read.” Fran Lewis

“This book is a page-turner. Purdy Kong creates rounded, believable characters and the story is complex enough to satisfy but not defeat you. I was never quite sure “who dun it”. Just what I love in a good mystery novel.” – Julie H. Ferguson, Author of Book Magic

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Get Ready for This Year's Word Reading and Writing Festival

Autumn has nearly arrived and with it comes the 22nd annual Word Reading and Writing Festival. I’ve participated at the Vancouver event nearly every year since it began and I can tell you that it’s a terrific experience.

Word has expanded over the years and now runs for five days in Vancouver. This year, events will start on Wed., Sept. 21st and end in the main event on Sunday, Sept. 25th, at Library Square, (at the main library on Georgia Street). You can find a schedule of events and the different venues through the week HERE.

This is a free festival with music, author readings, panel discussions, workshops, and activities for the kids. For those of you who don’t live in Vancouver, Word (also known as Word on the Street) will be held in Halifax (Sept. 17), Saskatoon (Sept. 18), Lethbridge (Sept. 24), and Toronto (Sept. 24). You can find further information about those events HERE.

I’ll be helping out at the Crime Writers of Canada table with other writing colleagues from 1 to 3 pm, but please drop by to visit our table whenever your schedule permits. Fellow crime writers will be there from 11 to 5:00 pm, and they’ll have lots of good information to share about local writers and Crime Writers of Canada.

I’m not sure of the exact location of our table yet, but volunteers give out free programs that allows you to find everyone who’s representing their organization, magazine, publishing house, indie books, and so forth. It really is a paradise for book lovers, so I hope to see you there!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Featuring Guest Blogger, Judy Penz Sheluk

It’s a pleasure to welcome back mystery author, Judy Penz Sheluk. Judy has just released her second mystery, Skeletons in the Attic, which is the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series. Her debut mystery, The Hanged Man’s Noose, was published in July 2015. Judy’s short crime fiction appears in World Enough and Crime, The Whole She-Bang 2, Flash and Bang and Live Free or Tri. She’s a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers and the Short Mystery Fiction Society. Find Judy on her website/blog at, where she interviews other authors and blogs about her writing journey.

Judy’s blog topic is “Don’t Wait for the Muse”

“There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you’re writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.” Agatha Christie.

I spent the better part of my teen years and early twenties reading Agatha Christie; in fact, I’ve read every one of her books, and credit Christie for my desire to write mysteries. But like Christie, for many years I was an amateur. Actually, amateur is overstating it. I was more of a “want-to be” writer. You know the type: the person who says they’re going to write a book “one day.”

For me, “one day” took about three decades from the time I put down Curtain, Hercule Poirot’s final mystery. In between, I worked as a Credit & Collections Manager, a Sales and Marketing Coordinator, and over the past thirteen years, a freelance writer and editor. It wasn’t my fault, you see. I was waiting for the muse to show up. I knew once the muse made an appearance I’d be ready to write that book.

Except the muse never came. I decided to take a creative writing class from Barry Dempster, an award-winning Canadian author and poet. It was Barry who told me, “The muse will never come unless you let her know you’re going to be there. Make time to write every day, even if it’s only for thirty minutes, even if all you’re doing is sitting there, staring at a blank page. One day, the words will come.”

They did. Faced with ten days off of all my freelance gigs, I started writing my first book, The Hanged Man’s Noose, on Christmas Eve 2011. I wrote every day, including Christmas and New Year’s Day. By the end of that ten-day period, I had a few chapters written. It never got easy…but it did get easier, and by February 2013, I’d finished writing and revising the book. Then I tried to find an agent, and when that didn’t work out, I went to work looking for a publisher.

I knew how elusive that muse could be, and I knew I should start another book, but I couldn’t bear to write the sequel to a book I hadn’t sold. I started Skeletons in the Attic, determined to make it as different from Noose as I could: Noose is written in third person, with multiple (primarily two) POVs. Skeletons, on the other hand, is written in first person, and entirely from the POV of the protagonist, Calamity (Callie) Barnstable. But this time, the Christie quote actually applied to me. Somewhere along the line, I’d stopped waiting for the muse to show up and graduated from want-to be writer to amateur writer to professional. Professional writer. Now that has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

Here’s a brief synopsis of Skeletons in the Attic:

What goes on behind closed doors doesn’t always stay there…

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville—a house she didn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.

Callie’s not keen on dredging up a thirty-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to expose the Barnstable family secrets. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic?

Find Judy’s books on Amazon HERE:

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Have Your Book Buying Or Reading Habits Changed?

I’ve been selling my print mystery novels at farmers markets and craft fairs this summer. It’s one of my favorite things to do as I inevitably have interesting conversations with people who stop to chat about books.

I started selling books through different types of craft fairs six years ago, and I’ve noticed an interesting change in book buying and reading habits. Three and four years ago, a small percentage of customers were asking if my books were available as ebooks, which they were at that time. (Not all of them are at the moment, but that’s another story). Happily, I handed out a bookmark or business card with my website or my publishers’ website with ordering information. I don’t know how many sales this generated, but I imagine there were a few.

Since last Christmas, (always a big sales time for me) I’ve noticed a distinct drop in the number of people asking about ebooks. My print sales are as strong as ever, and I’ve also had people ask if my books were available in audio format (not at this time, no.)

A number of folks have told me that they used to read ebooks, but now prefer print again. There’s something about the smell of a new book, the act of turning a page, and of course there’s been lots of media coverage about lousy sleeps if you read a backlit screen before bed.

Ebooks have not only changed book buying habits and the way we read but, in some ways, I think they’ve also had an impact on our commitment to reading. One thing I’ve also noticed in myself, friends, and colleagues, not to mention numerous blogs on the topic, is that the books we download aren’t necessarily read.

One reason might be the sheer volume of inexpensive books we’re downloading. The other reason is that the vast majority of books I download, for example, are by unknown authors. If I don’t like the opening chapter, I’m far less likely to continue reading with a free or inexpensive book than I would have if I’d invested ten bucks or more on a print book.

A recent blog in Digital Book World discusses eight reasons why people by books. And while it doesn’t compare buying habits from earlier years, it does offer several insights. One of these is that there are books that sell well but are not read. Sometimes, the buyer feels social pressure to read, other times they simply want the book around to show that they are well-read people.

These days, I prefer a mix of print and ebooks. I love reading print books before bed, but as someone who also reads a lot away from home, an ebook is simply easier to carry around in my purse. I read many more unknown authors than I used to, thanks to my ebooks, but I also spend less money buying books.

A sign of the times, perhaps? Or just practicality as I approach retirement age and realize that I’ll be downsizing my home sooner rather than later. Habits change. Preferences change. Technology changes, and one’s own needs change. Book buying and reading habits certainly reflect this.

The Trouble With Scrivener

I got stuck on a story I'm working on in Scrivener. Over the years, I've learned that, if I'm stuck, then I'm doing something wrong. That being the case, I let myself stay stuck while I worried the problem like a dog with a bone. And I figured it out.

By breaking the story into scenes, I want to open every scene and make it a little story, but that isn't what I need to be doing. I need to be selecting detail to be important later, expanding meaningful parts and telescoping other things that need to happen but don't need emphasis.

When I write all in a piece, I do that more-or-less automatically, but concentrating scene by scene breaks that flow.

The correct title for this post: The Trouble With ME!  I need to learn how to break my story into scenes and then analyze them, choosing what to put where. Actually, I need to try yWriter5, putting motifs and behaviors and parallels in the Items database. That way, I can more easily track where I place my mirrorings and resonances and echoes.

Now, I need to roll up my sleeves and make some choices and decisions.

Anybody recognize this reference?
"You know what my grandfather says?"
"Get back to work!"
That's what I'm saying to myself. So here I go!
Step 1: Write the climactic scene first. I have the outline, so I know which one.
Step 2: Write the mid-point scene.
Step 3: Write the final falling action / wrap-up scene.
Step 4: Make a note of all the bits I want to salt into the story earlier.
Step 5: Salt 'em in.
Step 6: Trim off the excess.

Yeah, that oughtta do 'er!

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes