For You: Snippets

Here are a few scenes from the new book for your amusement!

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Our heroes have reached New York City and are taking an afternoon walk:

There is nothing quite so certain to attract the attention as a promenade in the proper section of town. Music filled the air as street musicians plied their trade along the sidewalks. Sidewalk vendors hawked their wares: hot chestnuts, neckties, jewelry, newspapers and magazines, and, of course, toys. Many of the department stores were already decorating for Christmas, and we stopped to admire their windows in the gaslight. We were forced to skip and dodge around the masses of children, all struggling for a glimpse of a mannequin dressed as Santa Claus, his trusty spyglass in hand, with which he keeps a sharp lookout for good little boys and girls.

“We shall have to purchase some token gifts for our friends back home,” Emily mused as a trio of women hustled past us, their servants close behind, laden with boxes and bags. 

“Let’s make a day of it once we’ve solved this case of ours,” I said, leading the way into a nearby restaurant. Snow, in my opinion, is far better viewed from behind a thick glass window. “We can buy up the town if you want.”

Chance decides to infiltrate a gentleman’s club:

At the door of what looked like a fairly typical mansion, I was examined minutely for evidence of substandard dress, and eventually allowed to set foot in the foyer. The man didn’t even take my coat and hat, but asked my business in a voice that would have made the stuffiest English butler proud.

“I’ll be in town for a few weeks,” I replied, putting on my best Old Money Face and ignoring the marble staircase and velvet curtains. I was fairly certain that the hat stand had cost more than our parlor sofa. I proffered my own gentleman’s club card, printed on the finest ivory paper and gilt-edged. “I’ve been told the Knickerbocker Club is a fine establishment.”

“May I ask which of our members was so indiscreet as to mention this fact?”

and Chance’s opinions on his home city:

San Francisco never ceases to enthrall me. We passed through her streets, busy even in the middle of the afternoon, and between her grand buildings. The horses strained at the steep hills, and I could hear them blowing as they hauled us upward at a steady walk. The tang of smoke filled the air, and fine ash drifted down from the chimneys of the houses and offices. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

Stone was still sulking when we alit at the Old Poodle Dog. We’d be lunching in the restaurant, not in the second-floor banquet halls, so we strolled in via the front door. The waiters knew us, of course, and whisked us quickly to a table near one of the windows. I pretended not to know that this was more to show off who was dining with them than to provide me an uninterrupted view of the never-ending parade on the city streets.

Kye and I ate at the Old Poodle Dog fairly often, and had even made use of the private suites upstairs, along with Emily. Somehow, the owners avoided scandal, though the suites included a bed and bathroom along with the dining area. Stone admitted that this was his first visit, so Kye proceeded to educate the man on the intricacies of the menu, recommending this fish and that meat. I left them to their culinary discussion and resumed my favorite activity: people-watching. At this hour of the day, most of the folks bustling along were deliverymen or servants, sprinkled with the odd businessman on a late lunch hour. I amused myself by figuring out which was which without looking at their hands, which would provide a dead giveaway.

Conflict 101

Conflict and tension can be difficult to create and maintain. You don’t need an all-powerful super villain to oppose your character, but you do need some sort of believable conflict if the reader is going to enjoy your stories.

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Laurie Johnson says, “The best way to create internal conflict is to really dig deep into the character. Think about what’s driving them, what their motivations are, what their background is, what has happened in the past to make them who they are. From this, think about the emotions they would experience when placed in situations that tap into their conflict and bring these out on the page

The most believable conflicts are the ones that grow naturally out of your characters and their situation. Drop your people into the middle of the action and see how they react. Their feelings, their hopes and dreams, their fears — all these will create the conflicts and tension you need to keep your readers hooked.

You don’t need world-shattering conflicts to have a good story. You just need characters who want things.

Cut to the Chase

Ever pick up what looks like a good read, only to drop it after the first couple of pages?

You’ve probably encountered a weak opening – something even an experienced writer can fall prey to. Sometimes it’s hard to decide just where the action really starts, or just how much backstory the reader is going to need.

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Just how do you tell when you’ve been trapped by a weak opening anyway? It’s not as easy as spotting a typo. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to figure it out:

  • When does the tension start? Most of the time, you can skip everything you think you need to add in order to “build up” to the tension. Just start when the main action starts and fill things in later.
  • Does this advance the plot? No matter how much you like a passage, if it’s not absolutely necessary to move the story forward, cut it. If it’s really needed, you’ll find a way to work it in later.
  • Does the reader need this now? Always keep this in mind. Anything the reader doesn’t totally need to know should be saved for later in the story.

The important thing is to hook your audience into the tale. You can amaze them with your eloquence and backstory after you’ve gotten them involved in your characters’ lives.