Alfred Hitchcock: Master of Suspense

vertigoIn honor of Halloween, I’m spending the day as a couch potato, watching an Alfred Hitchcock marathon. Vertigo is on now. Jimmy Stewart is an actor I never tire of watching, and Hitchcock is a director I never tire of studying.

I’ve studied the craft of writing for years and, as a writer, you’ll find inspiration and nuggets of wisdom flying at you from every direction. I saw an interview with Hitchcock many, many years ago where he described HOW to create suspense. He said imagine you have two men sitting at a table in a cafe. If the writer/director knows there is a bomb under the table, the writer/director feels the suspense, but the key is to show that bomb to the reader/viewer – without showing it to the character sitting at the table. Instant suspense.

I try to follow Hitchcock’s advice. In Fatal Impulse, I wanted the reader to know who the bad guy was, to see where the danger was, but I wanted Andi to miss the clues. She is a broken individual, who doesn’t look at things the way most of us do. She has been abused for so long, she can no longer see things clearly. Relationships are skewed in her mind. But the reader knows she is walking into danger, and wants to scream at her to stop.

The same thing is happening in my new novel. Sophie is totally different from Andi, though. Sophie is a tough survivor, who grew up in foster homes. But the reader sees danger where Sophie does not.

I’m certainly not comparing myself to Alfred Hitchcock, but I hope I’ve learned something from his methods.

Have you ever watched Hitchcock? If so, what’s your favorite movie (or episode)?

Trump . . . and the normalizing of abuse

http://www.amazon.com/Fatal-Impulse-Widows-Web-Novel-ebook/dp/B00UB2U7WS/Don’t worry. I’m not going to get all political. Vote for whoever you want. I won’t judge you. That’s the great thing – we don’t have to agree to be able to get along or have a reasonable conversation. But this election gives us a reason to discuss an important topic.

Trump made news last week for a hot mic video that surfaced of him engaging in what he describes as “locker room talk” about women. When I wrote Fatal Impulse, I did a lot of research about abuse. Here’s the thing about abuse – it isn’t all the Burning Bed kind of abuse (if you haven’t seen that Farrah Fawcett movie, watch it – it’s powerful). Sometimes the abuse is more subtle, emotional abuse, where the woman is put down so much, she starts to believe it. This isn’t something that only affects a certain demographic or economic class. The man has the power in the relationship, and he uses that power to take what he wants, regardless of how it affects the woman, or how she feels about it. She is not an equal partner in the relationship. That use of power is wrong, plain and simple. No means no. Consent is required for any type of sexual contact. If it is not welcomed, if it is not wanted, don’t do it. Plain and simple, but men who think of themselves as powerful see women as objects don’t get it. The way we fix that is to talk about it, to recognize that it happens, and to acknowledge that it is not acceptable.

Though Fatal Impulse is a work of fiction, the abuse it describes was inspired by real events. Though there are some protections in place for women who strike back at their abusers, it isn’t always cut and dried. There are women sitting in jail right now because they fought back, but the system didn’t protect them. Women who are in an abusive relationship don’t always see a way out. It’s not as simple as getting a divorce. The abuser often isolates his victim, and denigrates her to the point that she doesn’t see any option but to stay with him.

If you are in an abusive relationship, reach out for help. Tell someone, call someone, make a plan and get out. Start HERE.

You deserve better.

(By the way – abuse can happen regardless of gender. I use his/her here simply because that is the most common domestic abuse.)

 

Reviews You Want to Respond To . . .

http://www.amazon.com/Fatal-Impulse-Widows-Web-Novel-ebook/dp/B00UB2U7WS/Fatal Impulse got a new review. Yippee, I thought! But, alas, I scrolled down to read the review and . . . it was a 1 star review.

Bad reviews hurt, I’m not gonna lie, but I like the ones that give me feedback I can take action on. This one? Mmmmm, no. This one made me want to stand in my chair, shake my fist in the air and scream, “You missed the point!”

What did she say that frustrated me? “Life with Chad as an abused wife was better than being alone?? Are you kidding me?? Grow a backbone and get a life!” That was exactly that I wanted to draw attention to. Abused women often don’t see a way out. They think staying is better than leaving. The abuser isolates the victim from friends and family to tear down her support system that might enable her to “grow a backbone and get a life.”

Admittedly, Fatal Impulse isn’t a masterpiece of literature. It’s not perfect, nor am I a perfect writer. That said, I hope that it makes people think a bit about abuse, how it damages a woman’s mind, how deep the psychological damage goes, and how often the victim is blinded to the motives of others. Some women want a man, no matter what. They fear being alone above all else. Andi is one of those women.

By the way, Andi was inspired by a woman I knew many years ago. She called me one night from a phone booth after her husband beat her and kicked her out of the car into a ditch alongside a highway. This wasn’t an isolated incident. The guy was a total S.O.B. When she got pregnant, he beat her in the stomach with a broomstick and pushed her down the stairs until she miscarried. The night she called, I got her help, helped her get into a women’s shelter in another state (thinking that would be far enough), gave her clothes and a few other items. Talked to her, encouraged her. Got a call from the Sheriff a couple of days later, looking for her. The woman had been so desperate to NOT be alone, she called her husband and told him where she was. He showed up and she willingly (and happily) went with him. I never saw or heard from her again. I’ve always wondered if she survived.

Abuse is real. If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, get out. Don’t fall into the trap of believing you have no option. Don’t fear being alone.

CLICK HERE FOR HELP

Fatal Impulse: Deleted Scene

http://www.amazon.com/Fatal-Impulse-Widows-Web-Novel-ebook/dp/B00UB2U7WS/I thought you guys might enjoy a peek at a deleted scene from Fatal Impulse. Well, not deleted exactly. Rewritten.

But before I do that, I want to offer you a free ticket to Penned Con, the awesome readers and writers event in St. Louis next month. There are only a few tickets left, so click HERE if you’re interested (the promo code will appear at checkout).

As promised, here is the deleted/rewritten scene. Enjoy!

FATAL IMPULSE / DELETED SCENE 1

Lightning slashed the sky above us, and thunder rolled down the mountains. The wipers slapped furiously at the rain while Chad berated me for the way I had acted that evening. I stared straight ahead into the darkness, for I dared not disagree or correct him.

He started by saying that I had no idea how to act in the social circles he should be moving in, that I should have been more attentive through dinner, and complained that I had laughed too much at the gentleman seated to my left. Of course, he overlooked the fact that he had introduced me to the gentleman and that he had monopolized the gentleman’s time during the cocktail hour. All too often, he accused me of flirting with other men, and that night was no different. It never occurred to him that I found the man’s hobby of gem hunting to be interesting.

His accusations were tiring, and not at all true. We had just celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary, and I doubted that we would make it to our fifth, which caused me great inner conflict. My parents had raised me in central Missouri, where marriage is between a man and a woman, ‘til death do you part. The thought of telling anyone – especially my mother – that I had failed was not something I wanted to do.

His tirade was interrupted by a sharp bang.

I jumped and the SUV swerved on the wet pavement. Highway 50 was a good highway for a mountain road, but not one that you wanted to lose control on. The seatbelt grabbed and held me in place, and I instinctively braced myself against the dash with my hands. He held the steering wheel with an iron grip and kept control, guiding us onto the side of the road by sheer force of will. He slammed the shifter into park and set the emergency brake with a sharp yank, then turned to look at me, his dark eyes narrowed. He looked evil in the amber glow of the instrument panel.

“I had control. There is no need to grab the dash like that, like some idiot school girl. As you may recall, this vehicle is equipped with airbags. Had they deployed, your arms would have been broken. Please handle yourself accordingly in the future.”

I bit my lower lip, angry at the tremble I felt at his sharp words. I watched in his side mirror as the condescending bastard walked around and opened the back hatch. It only took him a moment to push his golf clubs to the side and get the jack out of the back of the Jeep.  I took a deep breath and got out to stand on the narrow graveled shoulder, the rain plastering my hair against my head and the clothes against my back. My light jacket did little to protect me, and the rain was so cold it stung when it hit my exposed skin. I figured I could at least offer to help, in spite of him being an asshole. My heels sank with every step, and the wind pushed me so hard my left leg bumped the steel guardrail. I could hear him cursing under his breath. I moved past him to close the back hatch before everything inside got soaked.

“If you’re going to stand here, at least make yourself useful and hold the damned flashlight for me. There’s one in the emergency kit.”

A dark colored sedan passed us, splashing water as it sped by. I reached in the back and fumbled around, looking for the flashlight. Finally, my fingers closed around the black metal barrel of the Maglite. I flipped it on and took up a position just behind him, shining the light wherever he directed me to. I struggled to hold still as the wind whipped and howled around me. Chills racked my body and my hands shook, which made him madder by the minute. Finally, he yanked the shredded tire off and lifted the spare on. After a few spins of the tire iron, the job was done. He let the jack down with a thump and rolled the old tire past me, and placed the jack and iron back into their places.

He stuck out a hand and demanded my jacket.

“What?” I asked. I blinked as a raindrop struck me in the eye.

“Your jacket. Give it here. I need something to lay the old tire on so the carpet doesn’t get dirty.”

I shivered in the rain while he spread my jacket out and laid the muddy tire on top of it. He slammed the hatch shut, then turned to sneer at me.

“It’s a wonder I was able to get that thing changed with you shaking that light around all over the place.” He poked my chest with his index finger, hard. “It’s a damned good thing you’ve got me around to take care of you – you never could have kept control when that tire blew, and you sure as hell wouldn’t have been able to change a tire in good weather, much less in the driving rain like this.”

He laughed that cruel, mocking laugh of his and rocked back on his heels, his head thrown back. Lightning flashed across the sky, and he looked like a madman. His laugh seemed to echo around me, so that it seemed as though the mountains themselves were mocking me.

It was more than I could take.

I tightened my grip on the Maglight, and swung it like a baseball bat. He blinked and stammered, off-balance. His leg hit the guardrail and he tipped over backwards, his legs flying up in slow motion. He looked at me as he fell back, his eyes wide with surprise, and then he was gone. The ravine was deep. His scream echoed against the walls, his body crashed through the evergreens and then there was silence.

The flashlight felt heavy in my hand.

The emergency flashers continued their steady throb.

Thunder shook the ground beneath me.

I stood there, staring down into the darkness.

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Post Vacation Blues

Rich Mountain RoadWe took a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains last week. We dropped our Miniature Schnauzer and Beagle off at the kennel and headed out. We stopped for the night in Cookeville, Tennessee, then went on the next day to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. That was our home base for trips in our Renegade through Cades Cove, up to Elkmont, over Rich Mountain Road and took a drive to Cataloochee. Though I was disappointed that we didn’t see any wildlife, other than some wild turkeys and deer, it was nice to be out in nature like that. But now that we’re back home, back to work and back to our routine, I’m feeling the post-vacation blues. Sighs escaped my lips too many times today, and my shoulders slump, matching my mood.

One of my most relaxing afternoons of vacation was spent lounging beside the pool, reading Head Games. It was decadent, there under the canopy of trees with the stream gurgling just the other side of the wrought iron fence. While I read, I was transported to the biting cold of St. Louis, hunting a serial killer. I LOVE that feeling – that experience of losing myself in a story, no matter the plot or the setting, whether it be a romantic comedy or a procedural mystery. I’m not sure what it is about reading, but it makes absolutely no difference where I am, I love disappearing into a story. So, that’s what I did at lunch today – I escaped back into Head Games and it was like a mini-vacation.

And that, dear reader, is what I want for you. I want you to join me in that decadent feeling. Curl up in your favorite chair and open a book, take a mini-vacation, and enjoy.

If you want to read a mystery, try Fatal Impulse. If you’d rather read a contemporary Western with a romantic twist, try Diamond in the Rough.

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Year End Review: Is Indie Publishing Worth it?

Credit: Prawny - PhotoMorgue

Credit: Prawny – PhotoMorgue

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the past couple of weeks. I always do that at the end of the year – review what I’ve done, plan for the upcoming year. This year, I did it under the guidance of the Your Best Year 2016 planner by Lisa Jacobs. It has been fantastic – easily the best money I spent this past year.

As part of my year end evaluation, I was curious about my accomplishments. When I bought the 2016 planner, Lisa included the PDF of the 2015 planner, which I began working through in the fall. One of the biggest a-ha moments for me was seeing that I do the same thing every year, and hope for improvement. Hope for success.

I’ve dreamed of being a writer for as long as I can remember, and my first book was published in 2014 by a small press. My second book was published in 2015, by my own micro press, Three Creeks Press (essentially, I’m an indie publisher).  As I worked through Lisa Jacob’s planner and reviewed the numbers and what I had been doing (which was essentially writing and hoping folks would find my books), I decided it was time to change – to treat my publishing as a business.

I was inspired to share my results after reading Lisa Medley’s blog post about her experience this past year. (as an aside, I wish more authors, indie and traditional, would share their results.) I met Lisa at ORACon a couple of years ago and have followed her progress, because I consider her a “real” author (I have always been, oh, so jealous, because she got “the call” from Harlequin! <drooling>). I know traditional authors have sharing restrictions because of their contracts, but am glad to see them at least discussing generalities, like Tawna Fenske did on her blog.

As I mentioned, my first book, Denim &Diamonds, came out in 2014. I’ve made about $200 on it, give or take. Yeah, not going to retire on that. I was so excited to get a publisher, and working with CaryPress has been a good experience, so I still consider it a success. My second book, Fatal Impulse, came out in 2015. At the beginning of 2015, my goal was to make enough to pay one small bill a month (I was thinking the water bill, which runs $20 – $25). (Yeah, I know. Not exactly reaching for the stars.)

20160109_132952_resized

Here’s how Fatal Impulse has done this year – these are my royalties for each month:

March: $48.02

April: $18.36

May: $2.04

June: $22.24

July: $4.08

August: $0 (OUCH. this was my a-ha moment – I need to DO something!)

September: $74.49

October: $131.66

November: $224.64

December:  $2594.95

20160109_134026_resizedI know it’s a bit crass to discuss money, but I have to admit, throughout December, I proudly discussed royalties with anyone and everyone who would listen. I caught myself whispering numbers, prefacing it with “I know this is crass, but get this . . . ” To be fair, that money isn’t all profit. I’ve spent over $700 and 25% of those royalties go to taxes, but I’m damned proud of that book. It isn’t perfect, it has flaws, and it’ll never win any literary awards. It’s simply a story that banged around in my head since my first marriage 25+ years ago that I needed to get out. My hope is that it will entertain some folks, and that it’ll provide a bit of escapism for anyone stuck in a bad relationship.

But the fact that I am able to realize a profit from that is very exciting. And now that my next book is in edits, I find myself confident that indie publishing is for me. As my friends and family will tell you, I’m a bit of a control freak, so being able to change the book description and tags is a huge plus. It makes the book responsive to trends. I write the book, then subcontract the graphic design, editing, promotion. The role of authorpreneur fits me very well.

I’m thinking about putting together resources to share what I’ve learned to help others become successful authorpreneurs. If you’re interested, sign up for my newsletter (see sidebar) so you’ll get the news before anyone else.

And if you have tips, feel free to share them here.

And if you’re brave enough to share your own publishing results, I’d love to hear them. Feel free to email me if you want to remain anonymous and I’ll share those results in an upcoming post.

First Draft DONE: The Ecstacy of The End

Just realized I forgot to update you – I wrote those two magic words on The Danger Within earlier this month. This is the second in the Widow’s Web series, after Fatal Impulse, and takes place in Colorado.

Those of you who have read Fatal Impulse got a sneak peek at the new book. You may have noticed a trend – each of the books in this series begins the same way: with a woman who has been pushed too far by her husband. I wrote each of these books for those women who find themselves in unhealthy, unsatisfying relationships. My first marriage fell in that category. When we’re in bad situations, we sometimes think about doing horrible things . . . that we would never actually do in real life. But my characters do . . .

So, if you’ve ever thought about wanting a second chance, a chance to get out . . . these books were written for you.

The Ecstacy of The End

I finished the rough draft of Diamond in the Rough last week. This is the second in the Diamond J series, set in Missouri, featuring Aidan and Gina. If you haven’t read Denim & Diamonds yet, make sure you do before Rough comes out next year!

http://www.amazon.com/Denim-Diamonds-Lori-Robinett-ebook/dp/B00M8N210Y/It was incredibly exciting and fulfilling . . . an adrenaline fueled push to that last scene. I knew what had to happen, I just had to get there. I took two days off work and PUSHED myself. I wrote over 10,000 words in those two days. Once I got going, the words were flying from my fingers so fast. It was . . . awesome. And I don’t mean that in the overused way that it falls from our tongues these days. I mean it in the true sense of the word. I was in awe of the way the words flowed through my fingers and appeared on the screen, as if I did not actually play any part in the creation of them.

It gives me chills just to think about it.

Now, that manuscript is on the back burner. It needs to rest for a bit. I’m too close to it now. I’d never be able to see the flaws that I know exist, because in my mind, that manuscript is perfect as it is right this moment.

And, in a way, it is.

Simply because it exists.

So, for the month of November, I will escape into another Widow’s Web novel . . . The Danger Within. Sophie Kendrick will be chattering away in my head, as she goes on the run and tries to escape the clutches of Blake Chaney. First, I need to decide . . . will this happen in Maine, Colorado, or Missouri? What’s your vote? Reply to this post (or comment) and let me know where you want it set.

Oh, I can’t wait!

Blank to 50K: How to Plot a Novel

http://lorilrobinett.com

Plotter or Pantser

Writers are generally in one of two camps: Plotters or Pantsers.

Either one is fine. Either one works. But in order to decide what works for you, you need to know a little bit about it.

Think of Plotters as those who create a map before they start along the journey of writing the novel. As you draft your novel, you read your map and follow the directions until you reach your destination: The End.

Pantsers are folks who hop in the car and go, turning right or left on a whim. They may have a general idea of where they want to go, or they may be happy with wherever they end up. Personally, I tend to be a pantser. For me, the true joy of writing is when the characters chatter away in my head and I feel as if I’m channeling them when I sit down at the keyboard. That said, I do more plotting now that I’m more serious about my writing.

Ways to Plot a Novel

  • Outline: You’ve done outlines. Remember those outlines you wrote when you were back in school? Like that. Essentially, think of your novel as a three-part story. I. Beginning – II. Middle – III. End. Simple right? YES! Don’t try to make this too complicated. These are the basics, enough to get you started. Add subsections if you’d like, for the chapters, with scenes under that. My tip? Keep it simple, and don’t get too caught up in this step. You just need a general road map, not a turn by turn with maps. Drawback: this method is a little harder to reorder if you don’t like the way something flows.
  • Sticky Notes: This works especially well if you have a big, blank wall. You can also use the back of a door, or even a big piece of poster board. Think of this as a storyboard for your novel. Again, keep it simple. You don’t need to write a note for every single scene. Just hit the high points. Think about things that move the story along, actions that need to happen to move your story from the beginning to the end. My tip? Use different colored sticky notes to represent different things such as POV.
  • Index Cards: Holly Lisle offers excellent instructions on her website. In short, you will have an index card for each chapter, with different colors representing different POVs. Once you’ve got your index cards, you can move them around and come up with the best chronology to fit your story. My tip? Write how you want the chapter to end. That way, when you pick up an index card to write the chapter, you know where you’re going. See? There’s the map analogy again!
  • PowerPoint: This is the index card method, for those who prefer computers to paper. Each slide will be a chapter. Again, you can move them around to tweak the chronology.
  • Snowflake: This is the brainchild of Randy Ingermanson. The idea is to take the kernel of a story and build upon it, piece by piece, until you have a novel. Take a peek at his instructions and you’ll see that he recommends that you start with pre-writing, in order to lay the groundwork for writing your novel. Though this is technically plotting, it sure makes figuring out your plot a lot easier.

How to Pants a Novel

Okay, technically, if you’re a pantser, you just sit down and write. BUT . . . there are things you can do to make the process go a bit smoother.

Before you begin:

  • Write character sketches
  • Collect inspirational pictures of settings and characters, like this.
  • Know your genre

Once you begin, you need to provide yourself with fuel so you’ll have something to put on the page when you’re able to sit down. Here are a couple of things to try:

  • Talk to yourself. Ask yourself, “What can go wrong today?”
  • Email yourself a few sentences several times throughout the day

Each method, Plotting and Pantsing, has its advantages and disadvantages. Give whatever appeals to you a try, and be willing to trash it and start with a different method if it doesn’t work for you.

If you want to read a book that was done totally by the seat of my pants, check out Denim & Diamonds.

http://carypress.com/denim-diamonds-by-lori-robinett/

Denim & Diamonds by Lori Robinett

Blank to 50K: What if I want to do NaNoWriMo?

http://lorilrobinett.comGreat! Good for you for making the commitment! Participating is easy.

  • Go to www.nanowrimo.org and sign up
  • Look for your local region (I happen to be in NaNoWriMo::Missouri::Fulton – and we have a Facebook page (that is woefully outdated at the moment!)
  • Check with your local library for a kickoff or informational session. If you’re in central Missouri, check the library calendar here.
  • Keep an eye on the regional forums of the NaNo site, check your NaNo mail, and keep an eye on your email so you can stay informed about local events, like write-ins and parties.

And if you decide NOT to participate officially in National Novel Writing Month, no worries. You can still participate in Blank to 50K and learn tips to help you finish your first draft.