Monday, February 18, 2013

Guest Blogger Alison Bruce visits Jamie Tremain


After a pulse racing afternoon at the movies watching Daniel Craig as 007 in SkyFall, I came home to watch two hours of Downton Abbey. Both have a cult following but are completely different as a form of entertainment.

Skyfall's stunts and visual effects had me sitting on the edge of my seat. I was exhausted after ten minutes and was sure Bond would not survive the thirty or more cars that were demolished along with a train; the bodies were countless. But he prevailed. We all want a hero.

Downton Abbey by comparison is another ‘kettle of fish’. A different fantasy world; at least for the aristocracy who live in a perpetual state of ignorance of how the other half live. The drama has more plot lines than any ‘Licence to Kill’ movie, but I'm drawn to both and they’re hugely entertaining. As a writer I learn much from my people watching both in real life or through the eyes of other writers both for television and the big screen.

Today I want to share with you an interview I did with author Alison Bruce. On this (Family Day in Ontario) sit back and read what Alison tells us what makes her tick.

Pam: As a recent recipient of the Liebster award for ‘cutting edge’ blogging, how do you see the role of a blogger?  Is it entertainment, general information or one’s own view of the world?

Alison: All of the above. I use my blog to promote my work and share my ideas. For the first, I need to be entertaining. After all, the idea is for readers to think, “I like reading her stuff. I think I’ll buy her book.”Sharing my ideas includes imparting information. If in doubt, ask my children. I’m a little like Dr. Mallard in NCIS. I have a story or bit of trivia for almost every occasion.  

Pam: Alison, you wear many hats. Mom, writer/author, editor, Publication Manager of Crime Writers of Canada, blogger. Did I mention crossing guard and now mentor to Jamie Tremain.  Did I miss something?

Alison: I’m also the Arthur Ellis Awards Administrator.

Pam: You must prioritize but do you have a favourite occupation- and what about your least favourite?

Alison: I love the creative process and most of my jobs involve that in some way. Obviously, I love to write stories. But I also love to turn dry facts into readable prose for clients or share ideas and vignettes with readers on my blog. I like the design work I do for CWC.

Every job also has certain housekeeping aspects. I hate housekeeping.

The work I do for the Arthur Ellis Awards has the most housekeeping chores (next to my own house that is), but they're offset by getting to interact with so many interesting people in the process. (I don’t get that kind of benefit doing the dishes.)

1     Pam:  Liz and I met you in a local Starbucks last week and you mentioned it was a good place to work. Do you just tune out the noise and rely on the caffeine to fuel your writing? Or do you just stay for the free fill-ups!

 Alison: The baristas at Starbucks in Guelph, especially the one at Stone Road Mall, know me well. I’ll work through a coffee and a refill a couple of times a week. I go in the morning when they play light jazz and rock. The music and the buzz of conversations blend into the background and I have no trouble concentrating on my work.

At home, I have a dozen other things demanding my attention… paperwork, email, those damned dishes… In a cafĂ©, I can focus.

Someone else making the coffee also helps.

 Pam:  Many writers will tell you they are inspired by different types of music. Do you have a particular playlist to listen to when writing?

I      Alison: I have different playlists for different genres. I have one called “Crime Pays” that kicks off with the Tommy Dorsey version of “Sing Sing Sing” and continues with music that brings to mind the classic mysteries of the 30’s and 40’s.  I have other playlists that are like soundtracks to my novels. They outline the broad strokes of my plots. Thank heavens they’re easy to change.


 Pam: You have a degree in history and philosophy.Which of these subjects influence your writing the most? If neither then what does?

Alison: Both influence my writing but not directly in most cases… at least not my fiction writing. Listening to people has the biggest influence on me. Growing up with stories about my mothers’ family experiences in WWII had a big impact on me. My mother’s stories from work inspired me in writing DEADLY LEGACY.  The whole near future setting on the story came out of an interview with a chief of police. Conversations with cops and detectives and a police academy drop-out, helped shape the world and the story.This pretty much holds true for all my stories. Of course, with the historical stuff, my “listening” has to be reading narratives backed up with research.

Pam: Writers generally are considered, if not eccentric then definitely different.Do you consider yourself eccentric? And is this a good thing?

Alison: Eccentric? Me?
I can be a bit of a space cadet sometimes. My mother blamed my loss of hearing.  I’ve been completely deaf in my right ear since age nine. I think it’s more the case that the stories in my head drown out the rest of the world sometimes.  Long before my hearing problems, I could get totally focussed on a thought and be oblivious to important details, like where I was walking or where my friend’s finger was in relationship to the stapler I was using. (Oops!)

 Pam:  What does Alison do for Alison on a regular basis? Spa/mani/pedi, a weekend with the girls, chocolate and a good book or all of the above? ... Tell us a secret your willing to share- we won’t tell anyone.

 Alison: Ha! I don’t believe you for an instant.
Going out for coffee is my big not-so-secret vice. Playing Animal Crossing  on my kids’ Wii is another. Reading is both a pleasure and a necessity. Chocolate doesn’t count because I only take it medicinally. Really. 

       Pam: How important is having a sense of humour to a writer?

       Alison: How important is having a sense of humour to live? It’s essential. First of all, I ascribe to the Shakespearean model that all tragedy must have comic relief and vice versa. The series M*A*S*H exemplified this. Experience with the terminal illness of my sister and my father’s strokes proved out the theory in life. We could not have survived as a family; I couldn’t have held it together as a person, without a sense of humour.

      Now, add it the petty nuisances of dealing with publisher rejections, frustrating edits when you do get a publisher, and snarky reviews once your book is out there, and you can see that the business end of writing also  requires a sense of humour.

      Pam: Character or plot driven? What is important to you when starting a new book?

      Alison: I almost always start with a character or set of characters imind, then I think about what trouble I can get them into. After that, the broad strokes of my plot create the route from point A to point B, but the characters may take the story off–road.

       Pam:  For aspiring writers like Jamie Tremain, which route is the most benificial to publication. Agent or publisher?

Alison: I lean towards going after both at the same time. The big trick is to get your work noticed by someone who will care about it, at a time when they can do something about it. That takes research and networking and luck. Why limit an already small field by concentrating on one or the other?

Thanks Alison for being our first guest blogger on Jamie Tremain-Remember the Name. We're both excited to work with you as our mentor and we'll put all your good advice to use in our publishing quest.

Stay tuned for our next mystery guest.

Talk soon,

Slainte,
Pam




Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Willing Heart.....



….is the title of a short Valentine themed story submitted for inclusion in Alison Bruce’s blog this week.  When I logged on to my computer this morning I was tickled to see it had been posted as one of her Valentine Shorts.

Pam has mentioned that Alison, incredibly busy lady that she is, has agreed to mentor Jamie Tremain during this process to become publisher worthy. The first few pages of Body Perfect have been reviewed, with some agreed upon changes.  Pam has been busy this week –amidst bedroom calamities – adding her thoughts to those pages and now they’re in my court.

On another note, I’ve now had a week with my new sleeping partner – a CPAP machine. Still getting adjusted to the apparatus around my face, although compared to some models I’ve looked at this is one of the least obtrusive.  Apparently there is no snoring to be heard from anywhere in the house while I’m hooked up and while I still haven’t slept all through the night, I’ve been really happy to note I’m not yawning my way to work each morning (a 40 minute commute).  Another sleep study is booked for next Friday, this time using the CPAP machine for comparison.  Results of my first study showed that I was not breathing anywhere from 60 – 80 times an hour!  Any wonder exhaustion was my middle name for so long?

Before you go, please take a moment to check out Alison's web site and her blog.  Jamie Tremain is pleased to add Alison to our list of favourite links.

Cheers! and belated Happy Valentine's Day

Liz

ps...Watch this space for the first Jamie Tremain interview.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Best of Intentions



After burrowing in when 30 cm of the lovely white stuff was coming down on Friday I had the notion to cancel my trip to Guelph to visit with Liz on the Saturday. We were meeting with Alison Bruce who has very kindly agreed to be our mentor in this journey of ours to have our book published. (I’ll tell you more of Alison later.)

Saturday morning  dawned with brilliant sunshine; the Weather Network said no precipitation and all roads were now cleared. That didn't stop me getting lost. I forgot my directions, no GPS and I never carry a phone. The one person I spoke to for directions had an accent I couldn't understand. But I did have a lovely tour of the University town of Guelph. I eventually recognized Edinburgh Road and I was on my way. Ironic as Edinburgh is my home town.  Serendipity. I love that word.

Liz and I had a fruitful morning working on some edited pages from Alison. We met at Starbucks getting to know her and visa versa. Two hours later I was all pumped to write the novel of the century. Liz felt the same way and it feels like a good fit.

I made it home by 5.30pm. Roads were dry and still the sun was shining. I was raring to get home and write this post when my sunshiny day turned to gloom. A large leak in the roof had water pouring into my bedroom. Have you ever tried getting construction people out on a Saturday night? All my towels and absorbent clothes my husband had in the basement for .. wait for it... a rainy day! Well we sure needed them.

Did I mention my office is in a corner of the bedroom? Thankfully the water has not crept to that part but when I am not wringing out towels I’m moving my desk and office stuff before it does. And where are the!@#$% workmen.

It’s now Monday and the freezing rain has descended just to get my blood pressure up. The workmen or should I say workman is here taking out large amounts of drywall and soaking wet insulation.Industrial sized dehumidifiers are set to dry things out. The water has gone through to the living room and another machine is there also. "Its like being in a wind tunnel" said my nervous wreck of a husband. Not very many times I say I’m thankful to be hard of hearing. A contractor is coming this afternoon to clear away the foot of snow from the roof and fix the leak. The machines will be here until Wednesday!!

I've been busy to say the least but we’ll come through it. People have it far worse than us. I’m pretty resilient so I’m off to shore up my husband and his nervous breakdown and wring a few more clothes.

One of the things we did discuss with Alison Bruce was to have a guest blogger. Liz and I are grateful to the writing community for all the help we get. So for our inaugural guest blogger we have asked Alison and she has agreed. As soon as my new office/spare room is set up I’ll compose some scintillating! questions to ask our new friend and mentor.

Gotta go. There’s a man on the roof.
Talk soon,
Slainte,
Pam

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Character Building


Not mine – but rather, how do the characters that Jamie Tremain have created change and evolve.  Regular readers know that Pam and I have now spent countless hours and discussions on revising, correcting, polishing and general tidying up of Body Perfect.   With the last ‘adjustment’ we focused on an aspect of Dorothy’s character that up until now had not been recognized.  Dorothy was easy, for me, to ‘get’ – perhaps more than just a little alter ego at work.   And while I'm far from perfect, Dorothy seemed to be heading towards being too easy going and agreeable – just not realistic.  So we devised a small dust-up between her and Paul over his assumption she’d be willing to partner with him in business.  As well, she is keeping a secret from Paul – a secret carried forward into their next adventure.  Sometimes secrets need the right timing to be revealed, but the longer its delayed, the harder it becomes.  The potential for an easily avoided strained relationship looms. Especially after Paul reveals the skeleton in his closet.  But is it the only one?

As we move them into a second book and a new crime to test their fledgling partnership upon, we wonder whether the foundation they've built so quickly will be able to withstand day-to-day stresses of working together.  Just as any new relationship takes time to develop, so we plan likewise for our heroes. 

We've read differing perspectives on how authors create their work – from detailed outlining and planning to flying by the seat of your pants – what works well for one may not be so successful for another.   At this stage of our writing, I think Pam and I agree that our characters are going to grow and develop as we, and you the reader, get to know them better.  I think as we write, we are also in the ‘getting to know you’ stage of the protagonists in our story and are eager to learn more about them, too. 

As with any ongoing series, more and more of a central character is revealed, little by little.  Settings, plot, and other characters, new and familiar, all lend to the personality tapestry being developed.  Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta, Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache, for example show us more of what makes them tick with each story.  And isn’t that true of we ‘real’ humans?   Those who know and love us are always discovering something new about us – sometimes not always a good thing!

So we hope you will continue to bear with us as our quest to bring Body Perfect to the publishing world moves on.  And that you will enjoy getting to know Dorothy and Paul, as we get to know them better, too!

Cheers!

Liz

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Collaboration

These handsome guys are four of my five grandsons. They were visiting on the w/e. Left to right is Westyn, Riley, Ryan and Aidan. Missing in action is Damian. Hope to have them all together soon.


 I've tried everything. I’m up to date with my filing. Well, sort of. Laundry’s done. I know what we’re having for supper. I've answered all my email and sent off some pictures to family. I’m doing my best to stay off face book so I have closed it for today. I've read all the blogs I follow and forwarded pertinent articles to Liz. What I’m finding out is that there’s a theme here.

I am definitely not alone when it comes to procrastination. I have written on the subject before and I blame ... the weather, my family, my friends, my desks a mess .I can’t possibly write when it’s like this. So I spend the next hour cleaning and filing. Last week I was without my computer for two days. TWO DAYS! Can you imagine the withdrawal I had? My husband, who does not use the computer sarcastically said, ‘Never heard of pen and paper’?
But the biggest tragedy was forgetting to save my contact list. So that gave me something else to do instead of writing I actually spoke to some real live people to ask them their email address. So if I’ve not contacted you yet please send me your address to pblance@cogeco.ca .
                                                                                ~~~~~~~~~~~~


A question Liz and I are often asked is; ‘How do you work together to write a mystery/crime novel?’
We've been writing together for over five years as Jamie Tremain and we've tried every arrangement to make it work.  It did not take us long to find our roles as Liz is a whiz at the computer stuff (she would never have lost her contacts) and I do research and work on query letters and editing. The writing of course is in the rewriting and revisions. Our books are character not plot driven. We prefer the characters to lead us through the story line.

 So who creates a character? We both do and yes, we have our favourites but we have to agree on the final version of the character. If in the course of a storyline that character gets nasty or nice (out of character) we thrash it out until we have an agreement.We try and meet at least once a month face to face and that’s when we brainstorm and do major revisions. Everything else is done be email, I Google where we chat and work our way through a scene
.
Do you agree on each other’s writing style? Mostly. When we are editing or revising its great to have a fresh pair of eyes. It’s seldom we say.. ‘No, I want to keep that’ but it does happen. We pick up on the others spelling, grammar or overuse or words.

Is writing not a lonely pursuit? The actual writing can be but when you co-author it’s great to have a partner I can ask a question in the middle of a scene. Some scenes are written by one person and some chapters also but we both have to agree to the direction its going.
Most of all we have a great deal of fun and we’re looking forward to sharing our baby with the world.

I’ve been researching others that collaborate. A friend from the Ottawa area, Mary Jane Maffini, the prolific writer of  three mystery series has ventured into a co-authorship with her daughter Victoria Maffini who is a short story writer. The first in the series is
 ‘The Christie Curse’ by Victoria Abbott . Check it out.

There are a few others and one of the most successful duos in the thriller field is Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. I was given their latest for Christmas called ‘Two Graves’ and was about to read when I noticed  the blurb inside said I’d be better to read the first two. Back to the book store; never have a problem with that and now I’m started ‘Fever Dream’. Preston and Child are the authors of twenty novels and each writes in their own name as well. I’ll let you know what I think of them soon.


Talk soon,
Slainte,
Pam