All About Haiku Poetry

By Joanne Guidoccio

Today is National Haiku Poetry Day, a day aside to encourage everyone to try his/her hand at poetry.

Haiku poetry is a classical form of Japanese poetry that is non-rhyming and consists of three lines with the following syllable pattern:

First Line – 5 syllables
Second Line – 7 syllables
Third Lines – 5 syllables

These poems are usually inspired by nature, abstract subjects, and individual experiences or events.

Here are six examples:

Some tips to consider:

  1. Create a list of possible subjects. You could consider traditional subjects like nature and animals or a current event (Easter, birthday, COVID-19).
  2. Make a list of words that relate to the subject you have selected. Be as descriptive as possible.
  3. Words and sounds can be repeated.
  4. Feel free to experiment with punctuation and capitalization. Don’t feel bound by any rigid rules.
  5. The last line is used to make an observation about your subject. It can be an expected or unexpected relationship between the first two lines.

Note: While some contemporary poets have gone free-form and broken these rules, they have still preserved the philosophy of haiku: “the focus on a brief moment in time; a use of provocative, colorful images; an ability to be read in one breath; and a sense of sudden enlightenment and illumination.” (The Academy of American Poets)

Do you write Haiku poetry? Please share in the comments below.

A Tale of Two Trailers

While querying A Season for Killing Blondes, I started another writing project, one that I hoped would distract me from the seemingly endless process of trying to find a home for my first novel.

The words flowed quickly and, in less than one year’s time, I had written, edited, and polished Between Land and Sea, the first book in the Mediterranean Trilogy. And I quickly found a home for my second novel.

After signing the contract for Between Land and Sea with Soul Mate Publishing, I started brainstorming about different marketing tools. One idea that popped in my head was a trailer. In my research, I had discovered mixed messages regarding the effectiveness of trailers. Some authors and publicists were wildly enthusiastic while others suggested that trailers did not necessarily lead to more sales.

Weighing both sets of opinions, I reached the conclusion that it wasn’t just about sales. I wanted to celebrate the launch of my debut novel with a trailer. And to make the prospect of a trailer even more exciting, I could call upon the expertise of my musically-talented brothers.

I had envisioned my brothers collaborating and composing one theme song, but that’s not how their muses worked. Each brother had his own unique interpretation of the middle-aged mermaid who was aged beyond recognition and then dumped on the fog-drenched shores of southwest England. Unable to choose between them, I decided to use both versions and hired Erin Kelly to produce the trailers.

Ernie G came up with the Yin version. Aptly titled, “It’s Your Time,” the soft, contemplative music gently skims over the heartbreak, encouraging Isabella to imagine a happier future.

Augy G delivered the Yang version in “Father Time Blinked.” Very different music with several pointed comments and questions sprinkled throughout the lyrics. Is Augy taking Isabella to task?

Two years later,  The Coming of Arabella, Book 2 in the Mediterranean Trilogy, was released.

***This week, both ebooks are on sale for $0.99***

Blurb – Between Land and Sea

After giving up her tail for an international banker, Isabella of the Mediterranean kingdom is aged, weathered, and abandoned on the fog-drenched shores of southwest England. She faces her human journey as a plain and practically destitute fifty-three-year-old woman.

With the help of a magic tablet and online mermaid support, she reinvents herself as a career counselor, motivational speaker, and writer of self-help books. Along the way, she encounters a cast of unforgettable characters, among them former mermaids, supportive and not-so-supportive women, deserving and undeserving men, and several New Agers. As Isabella evolves into Barbara Davies, she embraces her middle-aged body, heals her bruised heart, and learns to love again.

This contemporary version of The Little Mermaid offers hope and inspiration to anyone who has been dumped, deceived, or demoted. It will also appeal to mermaid enthusiasts.

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK)

Blurb – The Coming of Arabella

On the day of her engagement party, an ex-mermaid’s life is disrupted by the unexpected arrival of another mermaid—a sister she has never known. Under normal circumstances, Barbara Davies would be overjoyed, but her special day is already wrought with tension. While Barbara is not the first mermaid from the Mediterranean kingdom to settle in small town Ontario, she has yet to reveal her origins to her fiancé. So, when Arabella, the gorgeous sister whose disturbing black eyes banished her to the island of Crete, saunters into her life, clutching the arm of Barbara’s discarded lover, a powder keg of emotion is released.

Relationships falter and careers stall as envy stirs in the hearts of the sisters. On the verge of meltdown after her fiancé leaves Canada for a teaching job in Vermont, Barbara flees to Arizona hoping for a reprieve. There, she finds solace at a retreat for ex-mermaids and a second chance at love with a charismatic preacher. As she contemplates a new life in the desert paradise of Sedona, shocking secrets emerge and tragedy strikes. A stronger and wiser Barbara rises up to face these new challenges and embrace the best parts of her mermaid heritage.

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK)

Where to find Joanne Guidoccio…

Website | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Goodreads | Pinterest

 

In Praise of Quotes

In my late teens, I started a quote collection. I would underline sentences (and sometimes entire paragraphs) in books and jot down inspiring thoughts from other print media. I would then copy these words of wisdom into a journal. When I joined Pinterest, I set aside a page—Words I Love— where I recopied these quotes.

Maintaining a personal collection of quotes has helped me immensely. Here are some of the benefits I have discovered:

  • Quotes have the power to transform moods. While books and movies can accomplish the same goal, quotes do it faster. I don’t have to invest hours of my time to experience the same effects. Whenever I need a quick jolt of inspiration, I click on my Pinterest page or visit one of many twitter hashtags devoted to quotes, among them #Quoteoftheday, #Inspirationalquotes, and #quotes.
  • Quotes have introduced me to new authors, poets, and other creatives. After hearing Oprah and other celebrities quote from Maya Angelou’s poems, I picked up several of Maya’s books. My favorite poems include Phenomenal Woman, Still I Rise, and Amazing Peace.
  • Quotes provide excellent starting points for essays and articles. During my Toastmaster years, I would start my speeches with an appropriate quote. A seasoned toastmaster advised me to memorize quotes and weave them into the Table Topics segments of each meeting. Being able to quote from past (and present) wisdom supports and enhances all forms of communication. Or to quote W. Somerset Maugham: “The ability to quote is a serviceable substitute to wit.”
  • Quote collections can help friends and future generations. If a friend is experiencing a difficult season, a tweet or text of daily encouragement in the form of a quote can uplift them. Children and grandchildren can learn more about you by reading your favorite quotes. Consider passing on your collection.
  • Quotes provide different perspectives. In addition to validating my feelings, quotes gently steer me in new directions. One quote that continues to resonate with me is the following from best-selling author and speaker Brené Brown: “You can choose courage or you can choose comfort, but you cannot choose both.”

Here are five more favorite quotes:

“The question is not how to survive, but how to thrive with passion, compassion, humor, and style.” Maya Angelou

“Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.” Coco Chanel

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” C.S. Lewis

“Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith.” Margaret Shepard

“Every great comeback first requires a setback. What you’re going through is a season of your life, not the end of your life.” Pastor Rick Warren

Do you have a favorite quote? Please share in the comments.

 

Where to find Joanne Guidoccio…

Website | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Goodreads | Pinterest

On Writing Romantic Suspense

Writing romantic suspense involves the skillful juggling of romantic elements and nail-biting suspense. A daunting task but so rewarding when all the essential ingredients come together in a well-crafted, character-driven novel.

Here are eight tips:

  1. Ask yourself: what is intriguing about the premise? What will attract readers to the book? In Sue Grafton’s Alphabet Series, protagonist Kinsey Millhone is a twice-divorced private investigator who is permanently stuck in the 1980s. In the Gilda Greco Mystery Series, the protagonist is a teacher turned lottery winner who moves back to her hometown and then finds herself embroiled in murder investigations.

2. Grab the reader’s attention with a hook. Bestselling author Louise Penny offers the following advice: “If you’re writing your first work of crime fiction, place the body near the beginning of the book–preferably on the first page, perhaps the first sentence. In later books, this won’t be necessary, but agents and editors like it established early, so readers know what they’re getting.” In Book 2, Too Many Women in the Room, I used a three-page prologue to introduce the crime. In Book 3, A Different Kind of Reunion, a reference to the murder is made in the first paragraph.

3. Create believable characters. It is tempting to endow protagonists with beauty, intelligence, and other positive traits and then pit them against unattractive villains. Too many or too few strengths are unrealistic. To avoid contrived tension and conflict, evenly balance the characters and have them show vulnerability. The reader must care about the characters, even the secondary characters. When a character dies, it should matter.

4. Get into the heads of your killers. When you have insight into their motivations and behaviors, even if they are twisted, they will seem more real to readers. You don’t have to be in their POV; you can understand them by their actions and dialogue. If you choose to be in the killer’s POV, be very careful you don’t reveal his/her identity.

5. Escalate the tension. After starting with a bang, build tension, offer a few resting moments, and then throw in complications. Have strategies in place to help with the murky middle, that nebulous place around page 80, where it becomes difficult to continue or sustain the tension. You may have to set the manuscript aside and take a breather, work on a shorter piece, or reread craft books. Return to the manuscript with fresh eyes and a firm resolve to successfully navigate the murky middle.

6. Drop enough clues to keep the reader engaged but be careful not to overwhelm the reader. Used effectively, red herrings will maintain reader interest until the end. Many of the plots in Agatha Christie’s novels contain red herrings. In And Then There Were None, we assume a character who goes missing is the killer. Later, when his body is washed up on shore, we realize that his absence was a red herring that misled the other characters and the readers.

7. Come up with a tantalizing title. If you’re writing a series, consider using the same basic pattern for titles. Janet Evanovich uses numbers: One for the Money, Two for the Dough, Three to Get Deadly…I have used longer titles–A Season for Killing Blondes, Too Many Women in the Room, A Different Kind of Reunion–for the Gilda Greco Mystery Series. Regardless of the method used, one fact is clear: The right title (and cover) will catch the reader’s eye in an overcrowded market.

8. End on the right note. Romance readers expect an HEA (Happily ever after) or HFN (Happily for now) ending. Mystery readers (in particular cozy mystery readers) want to experience closure: the sleuth solves the case, justice is served, and all loose ends are tied. But only for a short time…Another murder to solve is just around the corner.

Any other tips to share?

About the Gilda Greco Mystery Series

A cross between Miss Marple, Jessica Fletcher, and Cher (Moonstruck), protagonist Gilda Greco brings a unique perspective to the amateur female sleuth.

The teacher-turned-lottery winner returns to her hometown, only to find herself embroiled in a series of murder investigations. Before you start imaging thrillers with high stakes and police chases, pause and take a yoga breath. The three novels in the series—A Season for Killing Blondes, Too Many Women in the Room,  A Different Kind of Reunion—are cozy mysteries, written in the Agatha Christie tradition. All the crimes take place “off stage” with very few graphic details provided.

While the pace may be more relaxed than that of thrillers and police procedurals, there are no steaming cups of herbal teas, overstuffed chairs, or purring cats in these contemporary cozies. Prepare yourself for interfering relatives who don’t always respect boundaries, adult mean girls, deserving and undeserving men, multiple suspects, and lots of Italian food.

Where to find Joanne Guidoccio

Website | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Goodreads | Pinterest

In Praise of Series Bibles

I never intended to write a series.

Fifteen years ago, I couldn’t imagine anything beyond a novella, possibly a novel, about the following What-If scenario that had invaded my daily thoughts:

What if a teacher-turned-lottery winner returns to her hometown, only to find herself the primary suspect in the murders of four blondes? Can she prove her innocence and solve this case before it’s too late?

I even had a title—A Season for Killing Blondes—for what I thought would be my one and only foray into the world of publishing.

All that changed once the book was accepted and published by The Wild Rose Press. My editor, writer friends, and readers asked about the next book in the series.

Their questions and observations about the protagonist (Gilda Greco), love interest (Carlo Fantin), and several of the minor characters challenged me to come up with more What-If scenarios. I also needed a title for my series.

After toying with several possibilities, I settled on the Gilda Greco Mystery Series. I intended to keep Gilda as the protagonist and vary the secondary characters in subsequent books.

I assumed it would be easy to write the second book. I had a title—Too Many Women in the Room—and a rough scenario about a Greek restaurant, a charismatic chef, two murders, and eight women who didn’t always get along.

A linear pantser, I can start writing with even a “micro germ” of an idea. But partway through Chapter 3, I found myself at a standstill. I couldn’t recall the eye colors of two characters from A Season for Killing Blondes, an essential fact that would later identify the murderer. I had also forgotten several details about the ReCareering office, the yoga instructor’s early family life, and the victim’s past peccadilloes. I had to reread most of A Season for Killing Blondes, searching for the answers to these questions.

When I shared my frustrations about interrupting the creative flow of ideas, I discovered that many of my writer friends had series bibles.

What is a series bible?

A compilation of all the background information—character sketches, settings, plots, subplots, important dates, maps—that can be organized into a collection of handwritten notes, a three-ring binder, or electronic files.

I was impressed and a bit overwhelmed by some of the series bibles that other authors were using.

One writer friend has a bank of 50 questions that she answers for each of the main characters and some secondary characters she plans to include in future books. She covers everything from physical and personality traits to phobias to family backgrounds to hobbies to political and religious beliefs.

Another writer, who is artistically inclined, uses Corel Draw software to create a comprehensive map of the fictional town for her series.

In my research, I also discovered that some writers use series bibles to keep track of acknowledgments, contact information, and marketing efforts for each book.

I used a combination of formats in my series bible. I collected bits and pieces of handwritten character sketches and copied and pasted information about the city of Sudbury and the ReCareering office into Word documents. I then printed and inserted these documents into a three-ring binder.

Before writing A Different Kind of Reunion (Book 3), I updated the information and added details about the new characters and a new setting (Parry Sound). Feeling confident, I signed up for NaNoWriMo 2016 and completed the first draft of the novel within thirty days.

Any other thoughts about series bibles?

About the Gilda Greco Mystery Series

A cross between Miss Marple, Jessica Fletcher, and Cher (Moonstruck), protagonist Gilda Greco brings a unique perspective to the amateur female sleuth.

The teacher-turned-lottery winner returns to her hometown, only to find herself embroiled in a series of murder investigations. Before you start imaging thrillers with high stakes and police chases, pause and take a yoga breath. The three novels in the series—A Season for Killing Blondes, Too Many Women in the Room,  A Different Kind of Reunion—are cozy mysteries, written in the Agatha Christie tradition. All the crimes take place “off stage” with very few graphic details provided.

While the pace may be more relaxed than that of thrillers and police procedurals, there are no steaming cups of herbal teas, overstuffed chairs, or purring cats in these contemporary cozies. Prepare yourself for interfering relatives who don’t always respect boundaries, adult mean girls, deserving and undeserving men, multiple suspects, and lots of Italian food.

Where to find Joanne Guidoccio…

Website | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Goodreads | Pinterest

On Navigating the Murky Middle

By Joanne Guidoccio

I love beginnings—in life and on the page. Anything and everything is possible whenever a blank slate appears before me. That momentum can last for days, weeks, months, and sometimes even longer.

At least, that’s what I like to think whenever I begin a new writing project.

A linear pantser, I write brief character sketches, plot the first three chapters and the last, and then let the words flow. At some point, usually around Page 80, I encounter the murky middle, that nebulous place where I find it difficult to continue or sustain the tension of the novel. In short, I’m lost with no clear trail or direction in sight.

In the early days of my writing career, I struggled to regain my motivation, wondering if I should abandon the novel. Thankfully, I have discovered three strategies that have lifted me out of the abyss.

Professional Development

During my teaching years, I would sign up for summer in-service at different universities throughout the province of Ontario. These courses would last anywhere from three days to four weeks. Afterward, I would feel refreshed and ready to tackle a new semester in the fall.

While experiencing my second prolonged drought, I searched for the right course/workshop that could propel me over the writing hump. Online courses offered through Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America, Savvy Authors, Women on Writing (WOW), and Ed2Go have worked best for me. Lasting anywhere from one to four weeks, these courses succeed in inspiring and motivating me to return to the page. The key is to complete all the recommended exercises and actively participate in discussions.

Cross-Reading

In Think, legal analyst and author Lisa Bloom urges us to select books that challenge our points of view. Her argument: Our brains need a varied diet of books to stay sharp.

An avid reader of mysteries and women’s fiction, I decided to explore historical fiction written by a male author. During a cold, blustery winter, I spent the entire month of February reading the Century Trilogy by Ken Follett.

The three tomes—Fall of Giants, Winter of the World, Edge of Eternity—follow dramatic events in the lives of five interrelated families (American, Russian, German, English, and Welsh) and sprawl over nearly 3,000 pages. After that month-long reading marathon, I was ready to return to the calmer, less complicated world of my WIP.

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)

This is the Red Bull solution that has helped me avoid three murky middles. In 2016, 2017, and 2018,  I joined millions of authors worldwide and made the commitment to write 50K words during November.

Inspired and motivated by the online community and local meet-ups, I wrote at least 1,667 words each day and completed very rough first drafts of A Different Kind of Reunion, No More Secrets, and When It Comes Out of Nowhere. Whenever I encountered a roadblock, I typed INSERT CHAPTER and continued writing.

Any other tips to share?

Where to find Joanne Guidoccio…

Website | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Goodreads | Pinterest

The Right Character Names

By Joanne Guidoccio

“How attached are you to the name Anna May?”

Sandy Isaac’s question took me and six other members of the critique group by surprise. While I appreciated most of the suggestions I had received, I wondered about Sandy’s question. Anna May Godfrey is one of the villains in A Season for Killing Blondes. Having spent several years in Anna May’s company, I wasn’t prepared to change her name.

Sandy noticed my hesitation and explained her resistance to the name. Said quickly, Anna May becomes “anime,” a style of animation often featuring themes intended for an adult audience. Two of the other members nodded while five of us merely shrugged. But Sandy’s concern raised several questions in my mind.

How would my readers respond?

Would they make the same connection as Sandy?

Would Anna May’s name suit or hinder her villain status?

A well-chosen name sets the right tone for the character and, in some cases, may even suggest certain physical, emotional, or psychological characteristics. James Bond flows well and suggests excitement and wealth while Scarlett O’Hara conjures up images of plantations and Southern belles. Short one-syllable names like Jane Eyre suggest direct and well-grounded personalities while longer, multi-syllabic names like Anna Karenina and Armand Gamache are often associated with more complex personalities.

I have a preference for certain names, in particular, the apostle names, Luke and Paul. Patricia Anderson, one of my beta readers, pointed out that I had used Paolo, Paula and Pauline for three different characters in the novel. Definitely overkill. I had no problems changing the names of these secondary characters: Paula → Belinda and Pauline → Karen.

While researching, I discovered the following tips:

  • Avoid names that end in “s.” If you give a character a name like Gladys or James, you will have an awkward time when you write the possessive form.
  • Use names to fit the period or ethnic group. I had no problems coming up with Italian names. For the older characters, I borrowed from my mother’s circle of friends. And for the younger crowd, I flipped through my yearbooks.
  • Limit the use of weird or exotic names. Many science fiction and historical romance writers spend considerable time finding unusual names that jump off the pages of their novels. When they indulge their creative freedom and create names, they run the risk of introducing names that are awkward and unpronounceable.
  • Watch the flow with first names and surnames. The first name should not end with the same sound as the last name. For example: Nelson Neufeld. But combining common first names with unusual surnames (or vice versa) can be very effective. Examples: Victor Frankenstein and Sirius Black.
  • Don’t worry too much about the meanings behind names, especially if you have become overly attached to your characters. Lesson learned: Research the names before investing too much time and energy in the manuscript.

BTW…I decided to stick with Anna May.

Hours before the opening of her career counseling practice, Gilda Greco discovers the dead body of golden girl Carrie Ann Godfrey, neatly arranged in the dumpster outside her office. Gilda’s life and budding career are stalled as Detective Carlo Fantin, her former high school crush, conducts the investigation.

When three more dead blondes turn up all brutally strangled and deposited near Gilda’s favorite haunts, she is pegged as a prime suspect for the murders. Frustrated by Carlo’s chilly detective persona and the mean girl antics of Carrie Ann’s meddling relatives, Gilda decides to launch her own investigation. She discovers a gaggle of suspects, among them a yoga instructor in need of anger management training, a lecherous photographer, and fourteen ex-boyfriends.

As the puzzle pieces fall into place, shocking revelations emerge, forcing Gilda to confront the envy and deceit she has long overlooked.

On sale for 99 cents … September 13 – September 27

From Rejection to Spectacular Success

By Joanne Guidoccio

While querying the Gilda Greco Mystery Series, I kept myself motivated by reading the success stories that started with stacks of rejection slips.

Here is one of my favorite success stories:

In 1992, teacher and motivational speaker Jack Canfield decided to compile all the stories he had shared on the self-help circuit. Intrigued, promoter and salesman Mark Victor Hansen joined this venture.

While culling his stories, Jack searched for narratives that were “inspiring, healing, motivational, and transformational.” Jack wanted to include 70 stories but was persuaded to increase the number to 101. During his years as a student ambassador in India, Mark had learned that 101 is the number of completion.

The title “Chicken Soup” appeared to Jack in a dream: The hand of God scrawled these words across a chalkboard.

Once the first volume was completed, Jack and Mark found an agent and flew to New York to meet with publishers.

They struck out.

None of the publishers could relate to these “positive yarns.”

Their agent suggested they obtain guarantees that at least 20,000 copies of the book would sell. A daunting task but one that the two men were able to accomplish within months. They placed “Commitment to Buy” forms on the chairs of every motivational conference they attended.

These inked promises from audience members persuaded Peter Vegso at HCI (a publishing house in Florida) to release the first anthology in the summer of 1993.

Since that time, more than 250 books have been published and over 500 million copies sold. In 1999, the series made its way into the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most books on the New York Times Best-Sellers List at one time.This past Tuesday, Chicken Soup for the Soul released Angels All Around: 101 Inspirational Stories of Miracles, Divine Intervention, and Answered Prayers. My essay, “Prayers and Positive Thoughts,” was selected as one of the 101 stories for this anthology.

Blurb

In this book of 101 inspirational stories, contributors share their personal angel experiences of faith, miracles, and answered prayers, which will amaze and inspire you.

More than what we experience, it’s often the memory of who we experience that lasts. And sometimes, we experience an angel. You will be awed and inspired by these true personal stories from people who are certain that there are angels right here on earth. They know this, because they’ve met them, and if you open your eyes, and your heart, you may find that angels don’t live too far away after all.

Excerpt from Prayers and Positive Thoughts

“Are you praying?”

In many circumstances, this question would be deemed intrusive and inappropriate. But considering the source—my mother—I didn’t take offense. If anything, I was embarrassed to admit that prayer was the furthest thing from my mind.

Over a month had passed since the specialist oncologist had delivered the diagnosis: Inflammatory Breast Cancer, Stage IIIB. While I had shared the stage, I had kept those first three words to myself. I didn’t want family and friends Googling IBC and discovering the seriousness of the diagnosis. In 2004, the five-year survival rate for IBC was 30 percent. As for the ten- and fifteen-year survival rates, the percentages were in the single digits and not even worth considering

Buy Links

Amazon (Canada) | Amazon (US) | Indigo | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

To Prologue or Not to Prologue

Whenever I’ve asked a writing instructor or workshop facilitator about prologues, I’ve encountered a variety of negative facial expressions—everything from a wince to a frown to a quick shake of the head. And the following responses:

Agents hate prologues.

Readers will skip to the first chapter.

Prologues = Information Dumps.

One instructor offered a ray of hope: Use only if the prologue adds an interesting and integral layer to the narrative.

Interesting and Integral…Definitely a challenge and one I decided to tackle in Too Many Women in the Room, Book 2 of the Gilda Greco Mystery Series.

But first, I needed to get more information about the Uses and Misuses of Prologues. Here’s what I discovered:

Use a Prologue to…

• Provide information that is crucial to understanding the rest of the story. In Too Many Women in the Room, I needed to introduce the victim’s voice. Having written the rest of the novel in the first-person POV, I wanted the reader to be privy to the thoughts and feelings of the victim in his final hour.

• Provide clues. Red herrings are an important component of cozy mysteries. In Too Many Women in the Room, the initial crime scene contains vital details that form the basis for these red herrings.

• Hook the reader. If the actual crime doesn’t occur for several chapters, it is a good idea to whet the reader’s appetite with a prologue. But—and a big but—the interim chapters also need hooks to keep the reader engaged.

Don’t Use a Prologue to…

• Introduce a voice or tone that is not as engaging as the rest of the novel.

• Dispose of the entire back story. Much better to incorporate bits and pieces throughout the novel.

• Introduce an overly-dramatic voice and then switch to a much quieter voice.

From Too Many Women in the Room…

He couldn’t believe he was following his wife’s advice. After twelve years of paying lip service to deep yoga breaths, mindfulness, and all the other New Age crap she espoused, he had finally found a use for it. His midnight run usually sorted out all the stress, but tonight was different. He still couldn’t shake the venom that had been directed his way.

To make matters worse, it had come from eight women, eight very different and very annoying women. He had bedded four, but right now he couldn’t imagine having sex with any of them. As for the untouched four, well, only one interested him, and it had nothing to do with her feminine wiles and everything to do with her healthy bank account.

He would have to take something to get through the night, something a lot stronger than his wife’s herbal teas. The remnants of an old Percocet prescription came to mind. Two capsules might do the trick. The thought of a panacea, albeit a chemical one, calmed his racing thoughts.

A good night’s sleep would make a world of difference. And tomorrow, he would sort it out.

The light patter of feet distracted him. Definitely a woman’s gait. Her breath was even, neither shallow nor panting. Younger, maybe in her thirties. His pulse quickened, and a smile spread over his features. A welcome distraction. Just what he needed to erase the built-up stress. To hell with deep breathing, affirmations, and Percocet.

Any other thoughts on prologues?

 

Where to find Joanne Guidoccio…

Website | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Goodreads | Pinterest

 

On Planting Red Herrings

When I shared an early draft of A Season for Killing Blondes, a beta reader complimented me on my use of red herrings and suggested the title could also be considered a red herring.

Puzzled, I asked for clarification.

She explained, “A red herring is a literary device that leads readers toward a false conclusion. Glancing at the title, I expected to read a thriller about a serial killer who had designated a specific time period for the Rampage.” She winked. “That’s definitely not the case here.”

A bit worried, I wondered if I was misleading my readers. Would they expect a thriller and be disappointed when my novel turned out to be a cozy?

She assured me that the title was well-suited to a cozy mystery that featured a brunette lottery winner as the primary suspect and four dead blondes killed during a two-week period. And she doubted that anyone would be disappointed at the end.

After our conversation, I decided to do more research into red herrings.

Several theories exist regarding the origin of the expression. Some believe that it refers to the use of a kipper (strong-smelling smoked fish) to train hounds to follow a scent. Another theory points to escaping convicts who used red herrings to throw off hounds in pursuit.

Many of the plots in Agatha Christie’s novels contain red herrings. In And Then There Were None, we assume a character who goes missing is the killer. Later, when his body is washed up onshore, we realize that his absence was a red herring that misled the other characters and the readers.

In The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown expertly uses the character of Bishop Aringarosa as a red herring throughout the novel. While reading, we can easily imagine him as the mastermind of the church conspiracy and are surprised when the real culprit is revealed. Intrigued by the bishop’s unusual surname, I probed further and learned that “Aringarosa” translates into English as “red herring.”

Another famous red herring example appears in The Final Problem by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. While walking through the Swiss mountains with Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson receives a message that an Englishwoman at their hotel is in urgent need of health care. He rushes back to the hotel and discovers there is no Englishwoman. The message was a red herring sent by the villain Professor James Moriarty as a ruse to isolate Sherlock Holmes at the edge of a cliff.

To keep my readers guessing while reading A Season for Killing Blondes, I introduced a gaggle of suspects, among them a yoga teacher with anger management issues, a lecherous photographer, two “50something” mean girls, and fourteen ex-boyfriends.

From the reviews, I gathered that I had succeeded in maintaining the readers’ interest until the final chapters. My favorite comes from The Romance Reviews: “A well-written, character-driven murder mystery that genuinely had me scratching my head until the very end wondering who dun’ it!?”

Do you have a favorite red herring to share?

 

Where to find Joanne Guidoccio…

Website | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Goodreads | Pinterest