Interrogation: Paul D. Marks

You don’t want to miss this smoking’ hot interview folks!
Crime fiction author and blogger S.W. Lauden interviews Paul D. Marks, a Shamus Award-Winning mystery-thriller author, also short listed for 2015’s best Short Story Anthony and Macavity Awards. Marks gets down to the wire here, weighing in with strong words for new writers looking to dive into the market, especially noir:
Short stories offer you a way to try out ideas or characters that can later be expanded into novels. Chandler did this with Marlowe who, though he first appeared… in The Big Sleep, sort of originated in short stories, though under different names. Short stories can be seen as the out-of-town Broadway tryouts, or Off Broadway shows, or a farm club for baseball.” (Marks)

S.W. Lauden

Paul_D_Marks_bio_pic -- CCWCWho: Paul D. Marks

What: Author of the Shamus Award-Winning mystery-thriller WHITE HEAT. His story HOWLING AT THE MOON is short listed for both 2015’s Anthony and Macavity Awards for Best Short Story. VORTEX, a noir-thriller, is Paul’s latest release.

Where: Los Angeles

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

I just read your next novel VORTEX. I loved how the action bounced around Southern California, almost as if the region was one of the main characters. Was that your intention when you set out to write it?

Thanks for having me, Steve, and I’m glad you picked up on that. To me the location of my stories or novels are characters in and of themselves. They inform the stories, they mold the characters. Often the people are who they are not only because of their background in terms of upbringing or what they’ve done or…

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Itchy finger.

Strong read along here folks, from the renowned Paul White. Goes down quick and dirty. Just the way I like em’!!!  Itchy finger.  by Paul white.  

Re-bloggeg from: his site at: .

“It was a strange sensation to be pointing my gun at the old man. I should have simply pulled the trigger as I normally do, but something made me hesitate and now I was looking at him, looking at him as a person.
That was a mistake…”

Does Paul Brazill ever Get Serious??

World famous crime fiction writer Paul Brazill carves out the low-down on his hardboiled, Brit Grit style, along with some savvy advice on the author social media front.
Enjoy this all!

AshEdit—News About Books & Writers


Elaine: What amazes me is the fact that you’re everywhere. In a few short years you’ve built this amazing profile online, your stories are here there and everywhere, and you even attracted all these writers to give you stories for an anthology. How do you do it???

Paul: Sitting on you arse and messing about on the internet isn’t exactly the most demanding of tasks, Elaine!

Elaine: Very funny, now let’s get serious. Lots of writers are burning their brain cells up trying to figure this stuff out.

Paul: I use Facebook most because it links me to the widest range of people — family, old school mates, friends from the music days, musical heroes, models, people who work in film, journalists, film critics, artists, people I’ve worked with, people I’ve boozed with … There’s a greater variety of banter there.

I’ll link to my own stuff – loads, sometimes! But…

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Here’s some terrific advice for fledgeling mystery writers from a Mystery writers of America top author, Edgar winner, and educator:

Straight talk and sound writing advice from Reed Farrel Coleman, a former executive vice president of Mystery Writers of America, who’s published sixteen novels, short stories, poems, and essays, and is also a three-time recipient of the Shamus Award for Best PI Novel of the Year, as well as three-time Edgar winner! 

I’d say all that qualifies him pretty darn well. So lean in, and listen in well folks, as he offers up his sound advice for all us fledgling, and not so fledgling, mystery writers:

Hope you enjoy!

(Originally found on the Mystery Writers of America website at:

Fall in love with writing, not with what you’ve written,  

By Reed Farrel Coleman

It’s been said that Mozart could simply jot down whole pieces of music without going back over his score to correct and refine it.

Well, I’ve met a lot of writers in my time — many of them supremely talented and disciplined — but none of them had Mozart’s knack. As an editor, “I have my work and I have my children. I try never to get them confused.” Words are not your darlings or your babies. They are just words.

Editing makes weak writing stronger, fair writing good, and good writing great.

That’s pretty self-explanatory, no?

Spewer vs. Write-itor

Just as writers usually break down into two categories — Pantzers (writers who work without an outline) and Outliners — there is a similar phenomenon when it comes to editing.

There are Spewers (writers who must get the entire manuscript written before looking back to edit) and Write-itors (writers who write-edit-write-edit-write and so on). Just as with the Outliner/Pantzer dichotomy, there are advantages to both the Spewer and Write-itor approaches. Spewing allows the writer to get his or work out there and done with. In other words, they don’t let roadblocks or bad days or anything else get in their way. They feel compelled to move forward with their project. This makes for great momentum and helps the writer avoid all those nasty mental games we play with ourselves.

I’m a Write-itor. I write a certain number of pages in the morning, reread and edit them in the afternoon, and do the same thing in the evening. The next day, I begin the day by rereading the edited work from the previous day. It’s like getting a running start. It helps with continuity and to establish a very strong base for the project I’m working on. It is said that Hemingway reread whatever he was working on from page one every single day. I know that Daniel Woodrell (Winter’s Bone) does this as well. It helps the writer become extremely familiar with his or her work. Not only does it help with continuity, but it helps with pacing, and rhythm as well. I do a limited version of the Hemingway/ Woodrell method. Until I get to page fifty, I reread the project from page one every day. Once I get to page fifty, I feel I have a solid base. Then I reread only the previous day’s edited writing. I have published fourteen novels and usually do one draft. Of course, the catch is that one draft has been edited hundreds of times.

Whatever method you choose, whatever process or routine, the important thing is that editing and rewriting must be an important part of it.

Editorial Aids

1) Read the work aloud to yourself. Moving your lips while you read and listening to your internal voice does not count. Aloud means aloud. You will spot all awkward, arrhythmic, and clunky language. You will spot grammatical mistakes, incorrect punctuation, and sentence fragments.

2) Read aloud to someone else. Dogs, cats, iguanas and other household pets do not count. It is preferable that this other person have some familiarity with the genre or sub genre you are working in. If you can’t find someone, record yourself reading your work and listen to the playback.

3) Find two or three trusted readers. In this case, trust does not mean someone you trust with your kids. It means someone you trust to tell you the truth or to give their opinion honestly. You mom should not be one of your readers. It will help you learn to deal with criticism and to learn how to listen to what kernels of wisdom come within these criticisms. No one likes it, but it’s part of the process.

4) Don’t be so quick to change a manuscript based upon a single criticism. Follow my Rule of Threes. If you get the same specific criticism — Your protagonist isn’t likeable. The plot doesn’t hang together. The villain is one-dimensional — from three people, you might then consider revisiting an issue. If you change your manuscript every time someone has a complaint, you’ll never get it done.

If editing and rewriting was good enough for William Shakespeare, Dante, T.S. Eliot, the Bronte sisters, Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler et al., it is good enough for you. In fact, editing, rewriting, and tweaking are often the things that salvage a manuscript from the slush pile.

In my writing classes at Hofstra University and during my class at MWA-U, I put a lot of emphasis on the importance of editing. Why? I’ve found that the biggest problem new or inexperienced writers have is that they are too wedded to what they have written. They cling too dearly to the words they have put to paper.

What I try to get across to my students is that what they have written are just words on a page or on a screen, not revealed knowledge from the gods. To this end, I’ve come up with some basic mantras they can repeat to themselves when they get tense about rewriting.

The Three Mantras

There is no such thing as wasted writing.

The only way to get better at anything is to do a lot of it. So even when your work isn’t great, it helps you to get to where you want to go. Besides, you can always save what you’ve done and cannibalize it for later use. Some hold that you have to write 1,000,000 words before you really get good. Others, like Malcolm Gladwell, believe you have to put 10,000 hours into something before you are competent.

Fall in love with writing, not with what you’ve written.

If you’re waiting to spend your millions or to have roses thrown at your feet, pick a different profession. Writing
is difficult, isolating, and tiring. If you expect the rewards to be the reinforcement, you’re in for disappointment. However, if you learn to let the process of writing be your reinforcement, you have a chance at success. In any case, never become too attached to your work. As I once said to an editor, “I have my work and I have my children. I try never to get them confused.” Words are not your darlings or your babies. They are just words.

 What To Edit For

1) Entertainment Value

Genre writing means you are in the storytelling and entertainment business. Anything that keeps the reader from turning the pages or makes the reader stop and turn back is a bad for business.

2) Clunky and Awkward Language

Not all writing has to be poetry, but it shouldn’t be so jumbled that it slows down or confuses the reader. Short declarative sentences are usually best. When in doubt, choose comprehension over art.

3) Confusing Plot Twists

It is one thing to mislead the reader, but never mistake misleading for confusing. No plot twist is so clever that it is worth making the reader put the book down.

4) Run-on Sentences and Fragments, Punctuation

Particularly important for new and/or unpublished writers. Agents and editors are overwhelmed with submissions. There are many more people empowered to say no than yes. A manuscript full of grammatical errors is more likely to get the boot.

5) Overwriting

It is one thing to try to write the great American novel. It is another to try to write the great American sentence … every sentence. Limit your imagery, metaphors, similes, descriptions, and uses of adverbs. Less is more.

6) Inconsistencies in Plot and Character

Not a good idea to have contradictions about events in the novel. If on page 2, X happens on Tuesday, March 1st, but on page 252 X happens on Wednesday, March 2nd, that’s a problem. The same is true for characters. Your protagonist cannot have blue eyes on page 20 and green eyes on page 200. He or she cannot act consistently one way for most of the book and then have them do a complete about-face near the end unless you’ve set the stage for such a shift.

7) Inconsistencies in Setting

Please, don’t set a novel in 2011 and have the plot turn on finding a payphone. Setting is more than time and place. It includes the clothing worn, the technology, the language.

8) Inconsistencies in Tone

There’s a reason there are no pie fights in Heart of Darkness. Mood, tone, atmosphere must always be taken into account along with what is unfolding within the novel.

9) Dialogue

Make sure your characters don’t all sound alike or like the author. Check for attribution and try not to use synonyms for he said or she answered. Avoid adverbs. Beware of using dialogue for info dumps.

10) Beware of Slow Pacing

Make sure to include action and movement. Too many scenes and/or chapters with characters internal musings, exposition, or pure dialogue can be death to a manuscript.

11) Research

Make sure of your facts. Is the building where you say it is? Does the gun your murderer uses shoot five or six bullets? It is important for the author to know more than the reader about his research. Avoid the temptation to dump all you’ve researched into the manuscript.

12) Emotional and Thematic Resonance.

Is the book about what you wanted it to be about when you began? Does it have the emotional impact you intended it to have?

If you take some or all of the steps I have outlined above, it cannot help but make you a better, more polished writer.

Reed Farrel Coleman is the author of 14 novels, and a former Executive Vice President of MWA. He has won Macavity, Barry, and Anthony Awards, is a three-time winner of the Shamus Award, and has twice been nominated for an Edgar® Award.

The muse needs exercise as much as the body

Having Trouble with your writing muse?
Author/blogger Lisa L Jackson shares her tips for re-generating those ideas, and getting them down on the paper. In spite of feeling stymied. Read on for some great ideas:

Live to Write - Write to Live

We all know that it’s important to exercise our bodies. But it’s also as important to exercise the muse.

Without exercise, the body can waste away, get used to inactivity to the point where it doesn’t want to do anything, or even stop working all together.

The writing muse is similar — without regular activity, the muse will get bored, turn its back on you when you call, or not respond at all.Exercise the muse (1)

As with physical exercise, you want to start slow and build up. With a sudden burst of I’m-getting-in-shape-once-and-for-all, you can head off to the gym and lift weights and get an hour of cardio in and feel fabulous, and then be so sore you can barely move the next few days.

Likewise, if writing inspiration hits and 7,000 words pour onto a page in a day, you can feel quite energized, maybe even imagine your worldwide book…

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To MFA or Not to MFA—STEVE WEDDLE Part 3

Ok All, so here’s part two of our series on the MFA vs MA degrees.
In the first part, I played devils advocate for the MFA. This time, I get to play detective, and do the interviewing instead, while successful author, and former MFA’r himself, Steve Weddle, weighs in on the matter at hand. To all you aspiring authors, who may be considering a higher degree, this should be interesting reading!


AshEdit—News About Books & Writers

rsz_steve_weddle_became_known_to_me_in_2009_via_his_story_called_missed_flight_which_i_editedSONY DSC

Lisa headline

Lisa headshot

LISA CIARFELLA: How did you decide upon an MFA degree and then how did you choose your program?

STEVE WEDDLE: I was completing my master’s degree in English literature at a graudate school in Kansas.I had been writing poetry, as we all do, for years. I’d been the editor of the literary magazine at my undergraduate school and continuted to send out poems, having a few poems published in magazines that probably no longer exist. As I finished my master’s degree, I knew I wanted to go on and had a choice whether to pursue a PhD or MFA. I picked poetry because I liked the idea of making the thing people talked about instead of talking about something other people made. Seems a silly notion now, but there it is.

My two top choices were the MFA program at University of Memphis and the one at Louisiana…

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Interrogation: Anonymous-9

Terrific Interview here with acclaimed crime fiction author, Anonymous 9. Her advice to budding crime fiction writers, and writers in general, is spot on, about finding a like-minded community of writers to conspire with!

S.W. Lauden

A-9Cactus 2Who: Anonymous-9

What: Anonymous-9’s work has won awards from The House of Crime and Mystery, Spinetingler Magazine, and has been publisher-nominated for Thriller and Derringer Awards. Her hardboiled short story TRIANGULATION appeared in the debut issue of THE BIG CLICK alongside Tom Piccirilli and Ken Bruen. She has book deals with Blasted Heath (Scotland), New Pulp Press, Down & Out Books, and Uncanny Books. Anonymous-9 is the pen name of book editor Elaine Ash, who has no affiliation with the “Anonymous” group. Elaine’s latest book project is the untold story of legendary playwright Tennessee Williams and Mia Phoebus (now 93 years old), who shared a house the summer of 1940. The work of Elaine Ash and Anonymous-9 is almost schizophrenically different.

Where: Los Angeles

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

Your novel, HARD BITE, was recommended to me by several different writers and I…

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To MFA or Not to MFA—Part 2 by Lisa Ciarfella

TO MFA or not?

Uncover the burning answers here folks!

Renowned crime fiction author, Elaine Ash, (Anonymous9)  and editor at large, comes to me for my thoughts on the matter. And, not surprisingly, as a current MFA student, my musings on the subject were plenty! Read on friends,  for an insider’s take on the topic:

AshEdit—News About Books & Writers

Lisa headshotMA crop Lisa

As a first year university Grad student, I had a choice to make. I qualified for both avenues in the English department; the MA, (Masters of Art) as well as the MFA, (Master of Fine Arts) degree. It was up to me to decide which way to go. So I had to ask myself; did I really want to spend the next two plus years buried up to my eyeballs in the library’s dungeon-like cubicles, researching and writing about what others who came before me wrote, and who some in the industry affectionately call those “dead white guys.” Or, did I want to try and flex my own, original and budding creative writing talents, and maybe even become one of their contemporaries in the process, putting my own work out there for others to read and enjoy?English crop

The answer didn’t come easily. As everyone in academia knows, the MA seems…

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Short and Sweet Advice For Writers – Have a Point (plus WIIFM)

Suddenly Jamie expands here on the point, of having a point!
To be direct, she’s right on point!

Live to Write - Write to Live

hand drawn mind mapIf you want your writing to be effective, you need to have a point: a purpose, something specific you’re trying to say, a “Why” behind the writing. This rule applies no matter what you’re crafting – novel, short story, poem, personal essay, op-ed, sales page, website, flash fiction, screenplay. Having a point is what stokes your creative fire, and it’s what gives you the ability to write something that will make people care.

I have written in the past about the magic of clarity:

Clarity brings focus and purpose to your writing. It illuminates the ultimate reason you’re driven to write a thing and it helps you make critical decisions about what to include and what to leave out. Clarity is like a pair of enchanted glasses that filters out everything extraneous so you can hone in on exactly the things you need to tell your story. When you have clarity…

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Author Steve Weddle knows what he’s talking about….

Read on, as Steve Weddlle gives us all great words of wisdom here, on what not to do as an author trying to market oneself. Not sure, but think the moral of the story is…stick to the writing. Make it good, and the rest just might take care of itself, for the most part. 

Re-blogged, straight from his site, Do Some Damage, at:

 Thursday, May 14, 2015:  Are You Authorpanuring Yourself Enough

By Steve Weddle

So folks are the internet out there are working to help authors --
I mean, I like the idea of helping. I really do. I don’t know what an “AUTHORPRENEUR” is, but it sounds cool. Maybe it’s an author who does nails and hair styling during writer’s block.
AUTHORPRENEUR. Rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?
According to the article about being an AUTHORPRENEUR, you need an email list for a few reasons. Honestly, I don’t know how I’ve gotten by without an email list myself. I get up each morning before sunrise, brew some coffee, open the moleskine, and write. (Proof is here,)
A pen, a notebook, and a novelty mug of coffee. I have one from the Big Lebowski. I have one of banned books. I have one from a real car dealership that exists in the county I’m writing pretend stories about. I have so many mugs. I’ve gone to so much trouble with the thinking and the writing and the buying 100-year-old high school yearbooks and rare government pamphlets and all sorts of stuff. You’d think I’d have enough sense to have exported my friends and family into a database I can use.
The experts, and the AUTHORPRENEUR in particular, say I need to have an email list so that I can reach my “target audience.”
Not only will I have readers who are “anxious” for my next book, but I have a “pool” of people waiting to beta-read my next book. So, with this list, I have a group of people I can send my book to so that they’ll read it and tell me what they think of it? Don’t I already know these people? Don’t I email with them anyway? I need people who are kind of interested in what I do, but not so interested that I chat with them regularly? Isn’t that called “family”? I don’t know.
Do people use beta-readers? Do they hyphenate themselves? I guess the idea is that you would spam, er, launch an email campaign asking your prospective consumers if they’d be interested in serving as your focus group? Then what happens? A couple dozen people email you back — or complete a Survey Monkey form — telling you the strengths and flaws of your book? That does not sound like something I would enjoy.
Keep in mind that the internet has, at my latest Googling, just over 1,837,119 posts about how to market yourself as an author. Which is good news if you enjoy reading posts about how to market yourself as an author. Oh, my bad. I meant to say, “as an Author.” Or AUTHORPRENEUR.
According to one of the posts — which I am certain is sincere and meant to be helpful somehow — the key to being a successful AUTHORPRENEUR is “building relationships.” That makes sense to me. In my favorite short story, “Hills Like White Elephants,” the relationship between the man and the woman is key. What does he want? What does she want? Where’s the conflict between them? Excellent.
Oh, wait. There was more to the post.
Building a relationship with your readers, where they can respond to you and communicate with you as an author, is advertising you can’t buy.
Oh, sweet lord. I can’t unread that sentence. A relationship with readers is great advertising? What in the name of Frank friggin Norris does that even mean?
Let me tell you who these people are. Ugh. I’ve been trying to be generous here. But that sentence. I just can’t go on like this. Look, these are the people who talk to you at parties until they realize that someone on the other side of the room can better help their career. Then they flitter off to that person. These are the people who post sticky notes on their MacBookPros telling them the proper ratios of marketing tweets to personal tweets. (They say 1:10. I say they’re dopes.)
A relationship with your readers isn’t advertising. Are these the people who say the penultimate chapter in this book satisfies the reader for THIS book, but the last chapter makes them hungry for the next one? I can’t keep up with the helpful formulas on being a writer.
Yes, building involves marketing. I have business cards with my book cover on it, so that when people ask about my book, I can hand them a card. I think taking the card helps them feel as if they’ve done something, some transaction with me, so that they don’t have to ever buy the book or read it. I don’t know. I should probably do a better job networking through my LinkedIn page if I want to be a real AUTHORPRENEUR. After all, I want to build that relationship with readers, don’t I?
Are your readers your customers? I don’t know. I’m not writing for my customers. I’m writing to make this paragraph sing. I’m writing to tie these threads together. I’m writing because I’m kinda interested to see what the heck happens with these people in this cabin.
According to the people who read “the experts” in the field, “the experts” estimate that “readers need to be exposed to your product up to seven times” before they consider completing a “transaction.”

If you’re attempting to complete a transaction by exposing your audience to your product over and over, then you’re at the wrong damn blog, pal.

I’ve subscribed to many author newsletters, I don’t always read them. I read some of them, but I don’t always have time. I’m interested in seeing where my favorite authors are signing or hearing about upcoming projects. I like “keeping up with” the authors I enjoy reading, as well as the authors I personally know and like. That’s cool. But I’ve never, ever bought a book because an author emailed me a newsletter.

Think about the last book you bought, the last novel you enjoyed. Did you complete the transaction because of marketing tweets and email newsletters?

I’m no stranger to spreading myself around the internet from MySpace to Reverb Nation. And maybe I could do a better job marketing my writing via newsletters and cleverly using the hashbrown symbol on Twitter. If you’re on the internet off and on all day and you’re reading posts at Medium about seven things you need to do to be a better Author, and all seven are how to sell your book, well, I don’t know, I think you could get lost in that.
My guess is that people like to feel as if they’re in control. What have you done today as an Author? I sent out an email thing to people. I updated my website. I had an author photo taken. I gave a reading. I joined a Twitter promotion hashbrown thing to expand my reach. Yeah, that feels like doing stuff. I’ve done that stuff. Those are things you can write down in your calendar. That’s great. Those things are comforting because they feel like accomplishments. They feel active.
Writing is hard. You get 20,000 words into a novel and realize only the last 1,000 are useful. You get done with your 100,000-word story and it dawns on you that you should combine two of the characters. That’s you and your story. That’s tough. You can write all day for three weeks and then, on Day 22, notice a gaping plot hole you’ll never fix. There’s no real checklist for writing a good book. Each book is a damn snowflake, ain’t it? You can write three novels that are huge successes and sit down to write the fourth and feel as if you’ve forgotten how to be a writer.
But you know what? If I’ve read and enjoyed your book, then you’re a writer. I have a relationship with your book. I’ve put it on my shelf. I’ve gotten you to sign it. I’ve bought copies of your book for friends. You worked your tail off on the book, and it shows. Your book is great and, honestly, you’re pretty awesome. Because you know how to write a damn book, you know? Heck, I might kick back with your book this weekend and read parts of it again. Especially that chapter where he’s having the dream about the bird with the broken wing. Damn, that’s beautiful.
If you’re an AUTHORPRENEUR, then I saw the E-blast (the subject line, at least) that you sent out about the Twitter campaign you’re holding next Tuesday. Good luck with it. Hope you’re able to move some product.

Being True to Yourself – Part 1 – Authenticity

This a great piece on staying true to oneself Michelle.

Having Just finished the first year of an MFA program, this is something our professors keep reminding us to do. And when we write outside of what they might consider our own authenticity, or true voice, they make sure we know it every time. It can be difficult to hear, at times, but it’s true.

The best writing comes from inside. From the places we sometimes, don’t want to go. Not when we are trying to emulate another writers style or  tone, even if it’s one we have long admired!

Michelle Hanton OAM - Dragon Sisters

The Being True to Yourself Series, is a result of personal observations and experiences. I’ll also be featuring guest bloggers to share their perspectives and experiences.

Authentic means being true to who you are. Genuine. It means not allowing a spin doctor, campaign manager, copywriter or another well-meaning advisor to change your way of speaking or behaving. Certainly there is a need to gain poise and polish, but this does not need to mean a loss of authenticity.

g you go through grows youThat is not to say we don’t evolve and change over time. Of course, we do! It’s part of life and the experiences we go through shape us as individuals. Some of us are very fortunate to have great role models and mentors come into our lives naturally. They help us evolve. I am lucky to have had some wonderful influences, from a range of professional and cultural backgrounds in both my…

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What Do Agents and Publishers Really Want? – Free public event

Going to be a great event…and super helpful!
Go if you can Friday night!

AshEdit—News About Books & Writers


I’m going to speak in Claremont, CA July 10th at 6:30PM. Hosted by Coffee House Writers Group​, the talk is titled, What Do Agents and Publishers Really Want? Here’s the promo:


Elaine Ash leads this illuminating workshop that gives insight into how literary agents and publishers select material and talent. What is the first thing an agent does after reading a query? (The answer may surprise you.) Why is it critical that proofreading and grammar are ignored until a story is “locked?” (Reeealllly surprising answer!) What are the pros and cons of writers’ groups and how do you get the best out of them?

Elaine Ash edits, ghostwrites, and produces books for a living. She has signed book deals with four different publishers and
writes crime and horror under the pen-name “Anonymous-9.” Thirty-one thousand copies of her series debut novel HARD BITE sold…

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To MFA or not to MFA—That is the Question

Established crime fiction author and editor Elaine Ashe, recently interviewed both myself, a current MFA student, and  several other previous MFA’rs  on the value of the degree, one way or the other.

Being part of this interview was illuminating, to say the least. And as the debate rages on,  I don’t think there are any easy answers to be found. Read on, to uncover the mystery!

AshEdit—News About Books & Writers

University of Toronto (in good weather) University of Toronto (in good weather)

“To be, or not to be, that is the question,” Shakespeare posed back in early 1600 when his play, HAMLET, first appeared. Borrowing from the bard, I  applied that question to the MFA program, the Masters of Fine Arts degree, which many accomplished writers have obtained, and many more accomplished writers have not. Considering the pros and cons of the MFA came to me via Lisa Ciarfella, an MFA student I met in Long Beach, California, at the Coffee House Writers’ Group. Lisa was interested in my opinion of the

MFA degree and I honestly didn’t have one. My own higher education was a Bachelor of Applied Arts in radio and television writing, and then I went on to dabble in political science and economics while I debated competitively and wrote my first bestselling novel, on the


side. (I flunked out of…

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To structure or not? That is the question here, and Jim tackles it well. He says
” For me the experience is intuitive, as if storytelling is archetypal in nature. The story seems to want to be discovered. It unfolds on its own. Then, in order to keep it from turning into an unmanageable mess, rather than impose the structure of timeline, plot line, or synopsis, I take a more distant view. ”
What do you think? Do you work best with a self imposed structure, or does your best work come from winging it? Weigh in with your thoughts here.