There’s a Crime Fiction Writers group on LinkedIn that I belong to. Recently, this question was posed: what’s the difference between crime fiction, thrillers, and mysteries? I thought about it and responded:
Crime fiction: the party’s going to happen Thrillers: the party’s happening Mystery: the party’s over. Who drank all the beer?
I can say that, after a short trip to Key West, Florida, I’m more interested than ever in the concept of “setting as character”. Key West is so rich in history, personalities, and opportunities that you’d have to be made of wood not to see the story-telling potential in the place.
After walking around the streets and docks of the small island, story ideas and plot lines just started sprouting. I’ve already got a heist-caper halfway planned out in my head, thanks to the rich environment.
Robin Sullivan over at Write to Publish has a nice post about how, as an indie author, you can keep from being left in the cold as Amazon–love ’em or hate ’em–goes about its quest to retain market leadership in publishing (c.f., KDP Select exclusivity, flexing contract muscles on Independent Publishers Group, etc.).
It would be foolish to forget that authors’ interests and Amazon’s interests are often ALIGNED, but they are not IDENTICAL. I waxed poetic about this when Amazon announced KDP Select.
Diversification isn’t just a good word for crossword puzzles. Whether we’re talking financial investments or outlets for your writing, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Amazon is the biggest basket, but not the only one.
I find those who boycott or hate on Amazon without referring to history or the bigger picture irritating. This is hopping on a bandwagon. Where were those people when traditional publishers kept the majority of authors under their thumb and allowed publishing as an industry to stagnate for the last thirty years? You can recognize Amazon for what it is (a corporate entity running a tight P&L sheet) without pillorying it or hopping into bed with it. Celebrate them when they do good, chastise them (or even fight them) when they do bad. Extremists make life hard.
At a certain point when you’re writing, no matter what the subject matter or how excited you are about a plot–often when you’re ready to revise or rewrite–there’s a moment when you’ll feel like you’re being pushed around by the words on the page.
And that’s the wrong relationship to have with a manuscript.
This is an original fantasy of about 4,000 words and includes–as all my stories do–a Story Notes section that details the background and motivations for how I created the tale.
King Andreas was confident, bold, courageous…until his sword–the living symbol of his power–began to die. With his brother Jon by his side, Andreas has little time to find out why the sword, passed down through a hundred generations, is failing now.
Had you been a courtier or a guard or a supplicant that day at the first court of the Harvest in the Kingdom of Mercia, with a sharp eye and a clear view, and had you been watching the young King Andreas Thad as he moved to end the assembly by lifting the sword of his ancestors from its black iron rack and placing it across his knees to signal that the justice dealt that day had the strength and power of the throne behind it…
You would’ve been witness to history.
. . .
The burnt gold of autumn was rolling across the land and plaintiffs filled the King’s Hall, eager to make good on claims before the snows of a harsh winter buried villages and crimes alike. King Andreas, in the second year of his reign, dispensed justice from his throne while his sword, the symbol of his right to rule, lay in its rack within arm’s reach. His brother Jon–named to the office of King’s Sword, his most trusted advisor for life–stood to his left. Three steps lower on the dais stooped the aged Chancellor Tallus, councilor to Andreas’s father and grandfather before him. A crowd filled the hall with a steady buzz which had, in turns, swelled and faded as the audience dragged on.
When the God’s Bell finally tolled three times to signal the end of court, Andreas gratefully stood to draw his blade and lay it across his knees. The court had lasted for hours and the entire hall was drowsy and bored, as was its young and impatient monarch. Andreas was a man of action, not thought, and he’d already been through more courts, audiences, and balls in his young reign than he could stand. Each interminable function seemed to require the ceremonial flourishing of the king’s sword, so it was with near boredom that he reached over, put his hand on the hilt of the weapon, and pulled.
He gasped as he nearly dropped it.
“Andreas?” Jon asked, taking a half-step towards his brother.
“Don’t,” Andreas said, gritting his teeth as he tried to lift the sword. A King of Mercia could not be seen receiving aid in his own court, but the surprise had made him clumsy. The sword clashed against the iron rack like a scullery’s pots being dropped. The buzz of the hall took on an edge as the crowd watched the King’s discomfort; heads turned to watch what was normally an unremarkable part of the court ritual turn into a struggle. Tallus turned to look over his shoulder at his liege, his sleepy eyes widening.
The blade was a deadweight. It took both hands and all of Andreas’s strength to lift it, stagger to his throne, and place the bared blade on his thighs. It required the rest of his composure to dismiss the assembly calmly. Tallus, sensing a crisis to be avoided, herded the crowd along, waving impatiently at the guards to chase the stragglers craning their heads to see what had left their liege shaking with effort. The court melted away, glancing back at the King’s pale face and sweat-slicked brow as they left.
“Andreas,” Jon said once they were alone. “What’s wrong?”
Andreas said nothing, instead running his hands over the sword that was his birthright. The blade, wider than a big man’s palm, was corroded and pitted; the day before it had been as brilliant and sharp as a barber’s razor. Andreas had been able to see his reflection in it—a young king in his prime looking back from the mirror-like steel. Now he saw nothing but a pocked and frowning monarch late in years and he was frightened. He tried lifting the sword again, swinging it as he had a thousand times, but even with his veins standing out in his neck and his arms straining with the effort, the blade rose no more than a foot off the floor. He let the point sink to the ground, panting and staring at it as a sick realization washed over him.
The sword was dying.