Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Dreaded Back Cover Blurb: My Progress So Far

Members of my critique group have witnessed my struggle to write a compelling back cover blurb for my 5th Casey Holland mystery, Knock Knock. Soon, my editor will be working with it and chiming in. Anyone who’s attempted to write a back cover blurb knows how daunting this vital process is. Many readers make decisions on whether to buy a book or not based on that blurb.

So, it was timely to come across a how-to blog about writing a back cover blurb, and for different genres. For my genre, mystery and suspense, author Marilynn Byerly provides a four paragraph process, but she also provides tips for paring it down.

Essentially, she says that the back cover blurb should set up the plot and the protagonist’s emotional investment in the first paragraph. Paragraph two should elaborate on more plot set up and emotional involvement, or more information about the victim. The next two paragraphs focus on the stakes and the obstacles the protagonist must overcome. What is the interior conflict?

Here’s the tentative draft, version no. 342, or thereabouts. I lost count...

The latest attack in a string of violent Vancouver home invasions kills senior Elsie Englehart. Security officer Casey Holland is devastated. She’s let Elsie down. Casey’s supposed to be watching over elderly bus riders in an affluent, high-risk area.

Determined to keep others safe, Casey escorts an elderly man home one afternoon, but an armed intruder forces his way in and attacks them both. Hospitalized and frustrated, Casey struggles to regain control of her life, despite interference from family and colleagues.

Her fiancĂ© wants to postpone their wedding, and Casey’s boss cuts her out of the loop. Another violent home invasion compels Casey to take action, but at what cost to her health, her relationship, and her career?

Find out in Debra Purdy Kong’s fifth installment, Knock Knock, where the risks have never been higher, or the consequences more deadly.

I think it’s almost there. But I certainly welcome input. For those who want to read blurb suggestions for other genres, check out Marilynn’s suggestions HERE.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Mystery and Fantasy Story Arcs: A Big Difference

Before I get into today’s topic, please note that my books are now listed on the popular BookBub site. I’ve belonged to BookBub a while, and whenever an author I’m following releases a new title, I receive notification. If you’d like to follow me, you can do so HERE.

I first learned about story arcs at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference years ago, and also from an agent I was working with at that time. For new writers, or readers of books, a story arc is an overview of the beginning, middle, and end of a story.

While writing mysteries, I’ve learned that dividing my story arc into three acts works well for me. The first act sets up the murder, suspects, protagonist, and sidekicks. The second act presents, obstacles, danger, clues, setbacks and twists. The final act supplies the final pieces of the puzzle and leads to resolution.

Some authors prefer a story arc in four acts, and others even uses a more detailed seven step approach that includes defining a big event, raising the stakes and action, creating an exceptional event, a big dark moment, and finally the conclusion.

While working on my first urban fantasy, it’s become obvious that my story arc is far more intricate than the straightforward three-act narrative I’ve been using. The book is divided into five sections right now, and each section requires its own story arc.

Chapters also require their own story arc—a point and a purpose that move the plot along, even if it’s all told through backstory. The trick will be not to become overly repetitive, as each of the main characters’ sections might overlap with the others. We’ll see how it goes.

I’m still in the early stages of the second rewrite, but am finding that it’ll soon be necessary to plot each chapter and section on an Excel sheet. This will help remind me of the purpose of each chapter while staying focused on the story arc in each section, and the overall big picture. It’s a daunting task, but one that I’m really enjoying.

Another Use For Interviews

Did you ever hit a point where you wonder why you do what you do, how you got started in it, how you got where you are (wherever that is), what's holding you back, and what's pulling you on?
I don't, but maybe you do.
ANYWAY, whether you do or you don't, those aren't bad questions to ask. And here's an idea for coming up with questions: Go to interview sites. Copy the questions. Then answer them.
I'm thinking of author interviews, naturally; I'm pretty sure there are actor interviews galore; for all I know, there are sites that interview dog-catchers, trash collectors, cat-toy designers, and goat breeders. But I'm talking about authors.


Hard one. "All of them" isn't really useful. See if you can pin it down. If you're struggling with your voice, maybe you haven't fully integrated your influences into yourself. Maybe you're trying a voice that doesn't work well with the kind of story you're working on. Maybe a little smoothing, tweaking, or adjusting the mix will help.


Well, when did you? Did you have an imaginary friend and suddenly realize you had made it up, like a character in a book? Did you have a school assignment that clicked? Did you read a novel and think, "Geez -- I could do better than that!"?


"Because it made a billion bucks" doesn't count. What is it about that book that connects with you as a writer? What did the author accomplish that you want to accomplish?
You get the picture. By finding and answering interview questions, we might get in touch with all that mess in there that makes us the writers we are. If we do the interview for ourselves alone, we just might find out something about "the man behind the curtain" we'd just as soon not share, but can benefit (as writers and as people) from knowing.
I'm participating in Story A Day May again this year. If you want 31 dashed-off stories to beguile your time, hop on over to my Story A Day May category and help yourself to some free reading!
Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Books That Changed You

I have to say upfront that this blog is inspired by two events. One is that today is Mother’s Day, and I’m planning to spend a relaxing day both writing and reading. These are among two of my favorite things in life.

The second inspiration comes from an insightful discussion in my writers’ group yesterday about books we’ve been reading. That discussion evolved into a conversation about books that really changed our thinking about all the world, or ourselves, or even inspired us to write.

One of the most influential books I read way back when I was in my 20’s was Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. If you haven’t read the novel, it’s a dark, compelling exploration at what quality and integrity really means, and how some people are truly threatened and/or challenged by these concepts. In some ways, I now find it a prophetic book.

I was also greatly influenced in childhood by Nancy Drew mysteries. The thought of solving a puzzle, of an independent teenager sleuthing her way through life to help others, appealed to me. I remember wondering, could I do that? Could I be as confident and smart and compassionate as that girl? A few years later, I wondered if I could be a writer of mysteries.

Agatha Christie novels changed me again. As I struggled to write my first mystery, I was reading Agatha Christie novels and learning a little about Christie’s life. Here was a successful author who assisted her husband on his archeological digs, and incorporated their work into her stories. Christie’s books taught me how to weave my own work and volunteer experiences into fiction.

To Kill a Mockingbird showed me what good storytelling can be, as did The Color Purple. As a Canadian girl growing up in the 60’s we were taught almost nothing about slavery and the tortuous hardships people suffered. Alice Walker revealed the faces, emotions, trauma, and scars of a part of American history I knew nothing about.

Here’s one I’d forgotten about but really shouldn’t have. Someone on a FB book reading group asked if any of us had read The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. Oh, my god! If there was ever a book that began to change my thinking about my place in the world, and how I didn’t have to settle for the roles expected of me, it was that book. Thank you Betty Friedan.

Are there books that changed you? If so, let me know. I’d love to hear what they were. And Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms out there!

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Contract Signed, Novella Coming Soon!

I’m delighted to announce that I’ve just signed a contract with Imajin Books to publish my second Evan Dunstan novella, A TOXIC CRAFT, later this year. It’s a pleasure to be working with such a terrific, marketing-savvy publisher again.

Set during a Christmas craft fair, A TOXIC CRAFT was great fun to write. Those of you who read the first Evan novella, DEAD MAN FLOATING, might remember Evan’s spunky grandmother and her two cronies, Flo and Agnes. Those three are at the center of the trouble in this story, and provide never-ending problems for Evan.

I’ll post more and reveal the cover once we get closer to publication date. Meanwhile, I’m sure there will be more editing to do over the coming weeks, but honestly, I’m looking forward to it.

If you haven’t read DEAD MAN FLOATING and are curious, free samples can be downloaded at