May meeting: Writing critique

It’s that time of year again.  No, not taxes, baseball season, Cinco de Mayo, National Scurvy Awareness Day (May 2nd, look it up), yadda yadda.  It’s the annual Buckeye Crime Writers writing critique!  Where you submit your work to a bunch of sadistic creeps your fellow writers!  To have them pick it apart and rip it to pieces carefully read it and offer constructive criticism!  So that you can go home and cry yourself to sleep gain useful advice and improve your writing!  Hey, wait!  Hold up!  Where you goin,’ Owen?

No, really, this is what you’ve been waiting for.  One of our biggest and most popular events of the season.  If you’ve been working on a manuscript, novella, short story, rough draft, revision, whatever, this is el momento de la verdad.  The way it works: 

  • Rule #1:  submit up to roughly 10 pages (more or less) of whatever you’re working on.  Send it to buckeyecrimewriters@gmail.com by Wednesday, 5/8/19. 
  • Rule #2:  if you submit, you will then receive copies of everyone else who submits material.  Why?  Because if you want to be reviewed, you also need to review.
  • Rule #3:  meeting is Saturday, 5/11/19, 12:30 – 3:00, at the Northwest Worthington Library (2280 Hard Road).  Show up with printed copies of everything you’ve reviewed, with your comments.  After each submittal is discussed by the group, you’ll give your copy to the particular author.  Hint:  using the ‘comment’ feature in Word and then printing submissions is an easy way of doing things.  Or you can print first and handwrite comments as you read.  Your call.
  • Rule #4:  be cool.  Critique professionally and accept critiques of your work with the same composure.  It’s all good, we’re here to help each other, and then we all go out afterwards to eat, drink and be merry.

Here are the guidelines:

  • Everyone who submits a writing sample will receive all the samples from each participant, and you’re kindly expected to provide feedback for each. 
  • Writing samples should be submitted in Time New Roman or Courier font, 12 pt., with 1″ margins.
  • Your Name and Title should appear in the header.
  • Pages should be numbered and double-spaced.

So that’s it.  Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.  Show your work to your peers, get some good advice and progress as a writer.  And remember:  we’re taking June off (our summer break) so you’ll have you’ll have lots of time to think, ponder and revise as you develop that million-dollar hit with your new-found knowledge.  So come out and waste a Saturday afternoon in the literary arts with us.  And until then?  Keep writing.

BCW board member Connie Berry discusses first novel, ‘A Dream of Death’

Book launch party for Connie Berry's 'A Dream of Death,' to be held from 2-4 p.m. April 13 at Fortin Ironworks, 944 W. 5th Ave., Columbus.

Another one of our members, board member Connie Berry, has her first book, ‘A Dream of Death,’ publishing in April! Find out more in her interview with fellow board member Kandy Williams.

KW: Ms. Connie Berry has done the near-impossible–she’s gotten a book published! Not only that, she has a contract for the sequel and has signed an agent. This is a feat that many writers aspire to, so it makes sense to begin by asking, her: Could you please share the story of your journey? How long did it take you to write your book and find an agent?

CB: I know writers who claim to have dashed off their first novel in three months. My journey took a bit longer—ten years, as a matter of fact, from the moment I first typed Chapter One until the day I signed my publishing contract with Crooked Lane Books.

My initial problem was time. Lecturing on theology by day, writing was relegated to evenings, weekends, and summers. That in itself wasn’t insurmountable. Lots of successful writers have day jobs. My biggest problem (although I didn’t recognize it at the time) was impatience — or maybe stubbornness. I just wanted to write, and worrying about peripheral stuff like story structure and pacing slowed me down. Or so I thought.

I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

One thing I did know: my book wasn’t ready for submission. Once I realized that writing a good book required learning the craft, I began to educate myself. Little by little I learned. Around Christmas of 2017, after many rounds of revision, I decided I’d done everything I knew how to do. The following February I attended Sleuthfest, a writers’ conference in Florida, and met my editor, Faith Black Ross, from Crooked Lane Books. She read my manuscript and offered me a two-book contract. With contract in hand, I contacted my agent, Paula Munier of Talcott Notch Literary, and she took me on.

Book One in the Kate Hamilton Mystery series comes out in April. Book Two will be published the following October.

KW: Now that you’ve gone through the process of writing a book–from idea to finished product–what advice would you give to writers who are still working to make the dream come true?

CB: Learn from my mistakes. Take time to learn the craft of novel writing. Writing to please yourself is a wonderful thing, but if you want to actually sell that book, you must learn what today’s publishers, agents, and readers want. Breaking the rules is okay. Not knowing the rules isn’t. Fortunately this information is readily available. Attend writers’ conferences, take online classes through Sisters in Crime and other writers’ groups. Find out what story structure is all about. Join a critique group. Find a couple of beta readers (not your spouse or your mother) who will tell you the truth. And read, read, read. Notice how authors you admire use setting, character development, point-of-view, dialogue, and description. If you need somewhere to start, I recommend Don’t Sabotage Your Submission by Chris Roerden, and Mastering Suspense, Structure & Plot by Jane K. Cleland.

KW: What can readers expect from the Kate Hamilton Mystery Series?

Well, I hope readers will find an engaging protagonist and a mystery that keeps them guessing until the end. Since Kate is an antiques dealer, antiques will play a role in each book along with a sense of history. Readers who enjoy stories set in the UK will spend time in the Scottish Hebrides and a village in rural Suffolk, England.

KW: Can you share an excerpt from A DREAM OF DEATH?

BC: I never wanted to return to Glenroth.

Three years had passed since Bill’s death, and the veneer of coping I’d laid over my grief was as thin as eggshell porcelain and every bit as breakable. It didn’t take much — the smell of the sea, hearing a snatch of a Scots accent, finding one of Bill’s distinctive doodles on a scrap of paper — and there I was, back in the land of memories and regrets.

That was the problem. On the Isle of Glenroth, memories and regrets lay as thick on the ground as yellow gorse in autumn. Still, a promise was a promise. Even one I’d never intended to keep.

“Going somewhere fun?” my mother had asked.

“Scotland. Glenroth, actually.”

 There’d been a moment of tactful silence. “Sure that’s a good idea, Kate?”

Of course I wasn’t sure. Especially at the moment. Thick curtains of fog swirled across the deck of the car ferry, swallowing the landing ahead. I was the only passenger, and I’d been instructed to set my emergency brake and remain in the driver’s seat for the duration of the twenty-minute voyage. The boat lurched, and I gripped the wheel of the hatchback I’d hired at the train station in Fort William, grateful for the metal railing dividing the deck of the small craft from the icy depths of Cuillin Sound.

With a long blast of the ship’s horn, the fog parted and the Isle of Glenroth rose before me like Brigadoon materializing in the Highland mist. Trees lined the banks, their bare limbs dark and lined with snow. An old movie in black and white. The bell sounded, and I started my engine.

“Take care, lass,” the burly ferryman called through my partially open window. “Roads ’re slick.”

My second warning. The man at the car-hire desk had made a point of telling me about the “wee airly storm” that had blown through the Inner Hebrides the previous night, surprising the islanders with a layer of wet snow.

“Could I talk ye into waitin’ till mornin’?” he’d asked in a wheedling tone. When I explained that I’d learned to drive in snowy Wisconsin, he’d shrugged. “Whit’s fur ye will no go past ye.” What will be, will be.

I closed the window, tasting the salty tang of the sea on my lips. Ahead to the north, I could just make out the rocky peaks of Skye. Behind me, although I couldn’t see them, were the islands of Rúm and Eigg. The car bumped over the ramp onto solid ground.

Twenty-two hours after leaving Cleveland’s airport, I’d arrived—by plane, train, automobile, and ferryboat — on the small Hebridean island where my husband was born. And where he died.

KW: You’ve been hard at work on book 2 in the series. How different was the experience of writing that book compared to writing the first?

CB: Writing Book Two, A Legacy of Murder, took far less time because I didn’t make the mistakes I made with Book One. I plotted out the whole book in advance, so I knew where I was going and how each scene fit into the whole. Nevertheless, my characters sometimes said or did things that surprised me. That made writing an adventure.

KW: Fun question. You’re locked in a castle for an escape room-style adventure. What authors (living or deceased) would you want on your team?

CB: Obviously I’d enlist the help of John Dickson Carr, king of the locked room mystery. If he couldn’t get me out, no one could. And I’d invite Agatha Christie with her well-known eye for details and hidden clues. I’d include James W. Hall, author of the Thorn, P.I. books, would keep us all laughing. And Michael Crichton — just because he’s nice to look at.

Our next event is BYOB!

(You’ll see why in a moment.)

Hi, everyone! Did you enjoy our first winter blast? Ready for the next one? The good thing about all that snow is, it’s a great time to stay at home and get some writing done.

And if you happen to be writing a murder mystery, and someone happens to get, ahem, poisoned, then our next event is right up your alley.

Dan Baker is the Chief Toxicologist at the Franklin County Coroner’s Office. Mr. Baker earned a Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science from Youngstown State University, a Master of Science in Pharmacology & Toxicology and a Graduate Certificate in Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Defense from Wright State University, Boonshoft School of Medicine. Mr. Baker is a Board Certified Fellow in Forensic Toxicology by the American Board of Forensic Toxicology. Mr. Baker has co-authored publications in The Journal of Analytical Toxicology, Case Reports in Medicine, and the journal Clinical Toxicology on subjects such as opioid related deaths, novel psychoactive substances, carbamazepine metabolism, and fentanyl intoxication.  Mr. Baker has 18 years’ experience in various toxicology specialties including postmortem toxicology, human performance toxicology, pre-employment drug screening, probation/parole compliance drug testing, and professional sports doping control.

This event will be held Feb. 16 at the Bexley Library. So please, join us, and… BYOB! 😉 (But seriously, folks – this is a public library, so make sure it’s non-alcoholic. Just in case!)

On March 30, we have Katharine Weber, the Richard Thomas Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at Kenyon College. She’ll be with us on March 30 in the meeting room of the Gahanna Library. And April 20, Linda Kass, founder and owner of Gramercy Books, is coming to visit.

As always, our meetings are from 12:30 to 3 p.m., with a lunch afterward in which we ask our guests all the questions we were afraid to ask them in front of people, but are perfectly fine with discussing over, say, food. Mark your calendars!

Happy New Year!

Okay, okay, as of this writing, it is still 2018, but hey, close enough for horseshoes, hand grenades and crime writers! Thanks to all who came out to our holiday party, and congratulations to Alicia Anthony, who came away with the “top prize” for the flash fiction contest, and Eileen Hammond, who took second! All the contestants read their stories out loud, and fortunately for us, our waiter was intrigued by what we wrote, and did not call 911 as we described in eloquent yet brief detail how various, er, beings were killed. For the winning stories, check out our blog. Please wait at least 10 minutes after the posting of this update! 😉

So, now, on to 2019! We have some good programs already lined up. We’re starting not with our own program, but with our annual appearance at The Write Stuff at the Upper Arlington Library. This is always a great event, and registration is now open, so check it out – and us, while you’re there!

After that, on Feb. 16, we have an actual, bonafide, toxicologist coming to visit! It’s Dan Baker, M.A., Chief Toxicologist at the Franklin County Coroner’s Office. We’re still pinning down the location, so stay tuned to this space for updates!

For March, we have Katharine Weber, the Richard Thomas Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at Kenyon College. She’ll be with us on March 30. The location is pending.

As always, our meetings are from 12:30 to 3 p.m., with a lunch afterward in which we ask our guests all the questions we were afraid to ask them in front of people, but are perfectly fine with discussing over, say, food.

So that’s what’s on tap for the first quarter of 2019! See you soon!

2018 BCW Holiday Writing Contest!

Hear ye, hear ye:  in addition to the 2018 BCW holiday party, which will include all the events in the aforementioned post (see for additional details), there will be a WRITING CONTEST for those interested.  For any who may have followed the infamous Janet Reid site, the rules are surprisingly similar:

  • 200 words maximum.
  • Must involve the following 5 words: 1) regift, 2) batter, 3) pine, 4) sleigh and 5) icicle.  All 5 words must be included in the story, although plurals and transmogrifications are accepted (e.g., ‘batters’ and ‘regifted’).  Words may also have more than one meaning or may be used to substitute for similar-sounding words of different spellings.
  • Participants can be BCW members or interested non-members, but you should plan on attending the holiday party (12/8).  Significant others, relatives and/or friends who also attend may also participate.
  • Keep in mind:  we’re mystery writers, not pastry chefs.  So the more murdery (murderier?  murderiest?), the better.
  • Submit entries to buckeyecrimewriters@gmail.com no later than 11:59 p.m., Thursday, 12/6 (please include the name of the author).  One entry per attendee, please.  Top finishers will be presented at the holiday party Saturday, 12/8, with awards of indeterminate value (i.e., cheap) presented at the holiday party to the top finishers.  And the winner will be published on the BCW website (yeah, baby!).

So on the count of three . . . one.  Two.  Wait for it:  three . . . start scribbling.  See y’all 12/8.

Holiday Party 2018!

That’s right – it’s time to take a break from the wrapping of presents. Or, if you haven’t bought them yet, a break from shopping.

Or, if you aren’t THERE yet, a break from bugging your relatives about what they want for Christmas. You get the idea.

That break comes on Saturday, Dec. 8, from 12:30-3 p.m.! We’ll be at the Rusty Bucket, 180 Market St., New Albany, to commiserate on the sad state of our shopping swap tales of our writing successes and generally have a good time! We have a party room reserved, but you’ll still be responsible for your own lunch.

And, at the risk of giving you one more present to think about, here’s one more! It should be easy, though, and you know going in that you’ll get one in return. Please bring a book to exchange! We have a highly-complicated, ritualized, patent-pending method prepared that will ensure you don’t get the book you brought. Ok, it’s not that complicated, we don’t believe in rituals, and patents are overrated. Other than that, it’s exactly as described. Anyway, bring a book that has some meaning for you – a new author, a great story, whatever works for you. It doesn’t have to be new, as long as it’s in good shape.

And that’s it! Hope to see you there!

Everything you wanted to know about publishing…

. . . and were afraid to ask?  Well, ask away, compadre!  Cuz that is exactly what’s happening at our next monthly meeting.  I know we say this a lot, but this time our next event will be extra, extra special.  An event of biblical proportions and spectacular bandwidth, as it were.  Because, ladies and gents, children and small house pets, for the first time ever Buckeye Crime Writers will be combining with another central OH writing group, the Ohio Writers’ Association (formerly Columbus Creative Cooperative), to form a DUAL MEETING as our speaker will be none other than OWA founder Brad Pauquette, who will be expounding on, wait for it:  publishing.  Among the items he will be discussing:

  • The three primary paths to publishing (self-publishing, small presses and traditional/big 5).
  • The advantages, expectations, costs and compensation of each of the above.
  • Scams, red flags and false promises to avoid.

So where are you going to be Saturday 10/27/18?  Sprawled on your couch watching OSU football?  NO (it’s a bye week anyway).  You’re going to be at the Grandview Library (1685 W. 1st Avenue) from 12:30 – 3:00, learning the process of turning your written words into filthy lucre.  Because if anybody knows a thing or two about publishing, it’s Brad.  Not only has he written a book about self-publishing (The Self-Publishing Handbook), he’s consulted with clients from professional athletes to New York Times bestselling authors, and he’s also the founder of the Columbus Publishing Lab and the Columbus Press.  In addition, Brad has edited several anthologies, authored a book on the water crisis in India (Sejal:  The Walk for Water), and when he’s not doing any of the above he spends his time thinking up stuff to do on a farm in Zanesville with a wife, four children, and several adorable critters.  So block out the aforementioned Saturday and come loaded with questions for an event you don’t want to miss.  Per usual, we will try to corral the speaker at a local restaurant after the meeting for some extra input, so feel free to join if you are able.  And since this is a combined event, two groups will be occupying one space, and the space holds up to 60 people.  Do the math.  In the meantime, keep writing.

The circle of life…

(From Buckeye Crime Writers Board President Patrick Stuart)

A skull!
It’s a skull. This means something.

“The corpse dumps a huge flood of nutrients into the earth—a blend of fats and proteins that stands out among the carbohydrates typically found in leaf litter. Quickly, a dedicated coterie of bacteria, fungi, and nematode worms emerges to dine on this artisanal feast.”

Great… now I’m hungry. BTW, that wasn’t Lee Child or Patricia Cornwell, but Ed Yong, science journalist for The Atlantic magazine. Ed was talking about the “necrobiome,” or the world of microbes that digest a body after death. We’ve all heard about the use of insects in forensics, and how the different bug types and growth stages can help determine the time a corpse has been decomposing. But what if it’s winter? Not so reliable. However, something that wants to eat us 24/7, in any season is, you guessed it:  microbes.

The beautiful thing about microbes is that they work with predictable, clock-like efficiency. How it happens: Dude gets murdered and dumped somewhere (you can work out the how’s and why’s). The ground already has microbes in it, but they’re scattered. Plus, the dead vegetable matter on top is carbohydrate-rich. What microbes love, though, is a nice ooze of fats, proteins and nitrogen, which is just what the body provides. So when those microbes sense food, invade, party and reproduce (kind of like an itty-bitty version of Sixteen Candles), investigators can then determine the time of death. Sometimes within three days, even after several weeks of decomposition.

What’s great is that microbes work the same for virtually any dead thing, any time of year. Once they’re in, they’re in. However, keep in mind factors like antibiotics or drug use that may or may not affect their digestive habits. Which is why experiments continue at places like the Sam Houston State University Outdoor Research Facility (a.k.a., “the body farm”). Note:  this is not the kind of farm where you take your toddlers to see calves and baby goats (I’ll never make that mistake again). Point being that nothing’s perfect, so homicide investigators may include this information with other studies to reinforce their findings. Which means your fictional detective/prosecutor/private investigator now has one more forensic tool in their arsenal.

So, anyone up for some oatmeal?  Fine, more for me… oh, and keep writing.

http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2015/12/meet-the-necrobiome-the-predictable-microbes-that-will-eat-your-dying-corpse/419676/

 

The lawyers are coming! (And that’s a good thing!)

Hi, everybody! We had a great visit last month with Michelle Pretorius; she did a great job of talking us through some writing tips and sharing some of her process. Here’s more about Michelle.

And now we’re looking ahead to our next event! For our next Buckeye Crime Writers meeting, we’re going from writing tips to practical tips on how the criminal justice system works, and we’re hearing from the experts.

Our visitors will be Melanie Tobias, Director of the Criminal Appeals Unit, and Annie Murray, Domestic Violence Director of the Domestic Violence and Stalking Unit, both in the office of Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein. They’ll talk about what they do, share information about interesting cases they’ve handled, and share their perspective on the things that authors get wrong and right about attorneys and legal issues. (We personally can’t imagine anyone would mischaracterize lawyers or the justice system – would they?)

So if you’re involving prosecutors in any way in your next story – and even if you aren’t – you won’t want to miss this! Join us at 12:30 p.m. Aug. 25 at the Old Worthington Library, 820 High St., Worthington. See you there!

We are the Buckeye Crime Writers!

That’s right, you found us! We’re the Columbus chapter of Sisters in Crime, formerly known as Sisters in Crime-Columbus, Ohio. We’re a group of writers from just about every sub-genre – crime noir, cozies, horror, you name it. If it has a body count, it has a place with us! We ranged from published authors to new writers – all experience levels are welcome. We work to help each other out with critique sessions, schedule authors and other experts to come visit us, and even take the occasional field trip. The goal is to help our members become better writers and achieve their dreams of publishing their stories. Please take a few minutes to check out our coming events, some past events for a flavor, and get to know us!