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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

#WednesdayWordswithFriends welcomes Karen McCullough!

Good Morning!

Looks like Spring and Winter are fighting for supremacy here in SW Louisiana. We're turning our AC on during the day and heater at night and Mother Nature is arguing with Father Sun because we get rain and clouds and sunshine all mixed up LOL! But God is good ALL the Time!

Today's guest has been here before so please settle in and enjoy Karen McCullough's post about Playing with Story....

For half of the month of December, my daughter, son-in-law, and their four sons isolated themselves for two weeks so that they could safely visit us for the Christmas holiday. Even though, we didn’t see many of the friends and other family we normally would, we did have a wonderful time with them.

The four boys range from nine down to three and all have very different personalities. But a couple of things they have in common: they all have vivid imaginations and no fear in setting them loose.

The picture shows what happened when a couple of them were handed a box of Mr. Potato-head pieces. They had already done the standard silly faces and mixed up limbs for a while but got bored with being conventional.

The older boys got several robot kits of various sorts for Christmas. (It was a theme this year, and they do love robots!) Most seemed to require adult assistance to get them put together right, but a couple still refused to function properly. They got set aside for a bit. A few days ago my daughter let me know that the boys had gotten out those kits again, spent days noodling around with them and finally got everything working, one way or another. Directions apparently had only a minimal role in that happening.

I’m well aware that it’s not fool-proof, but the point is that by playing with these sets, they actually achieved better results than the adults who slavishly tried to follow the (frequently enigmatic) directions.

I try to do something similar when I approach creating a story. I’m pretty much a seat-of-the-pants writer, meaning I don’t pre-plot short stories or novels. I start with an idea, usually an opening scene or two and a vague notion of where I think it’s going to go. Then I sit down and write and see what my brain comes up with. 

Occasionally, the story will just work right out of my mind and onto the paper. I love when that happens. More often, though, I’ll write scenes, incidents, and in the process, I’ll find the core of the characters and unearth the story. More often it comes out as something equivalent to the Potato-Head mish-mash the boys built.

Almost always I have to go back and reorganize things, realizing I may have started at the wrong place or included too much of the background I had to write to find the kernel of the plot. Every now and again I get to a point where I realize it just isn’t working and isn’t going to, so I put that aside and go onto something else.

Normally, though, by playing around with the story elements--the scenes, the dialogue, unexpected actions by the characters and a few surprise revelations--I’ll find the heart of the conflict and the character’s arc. The process takes time. I’m not a fast writer, just a steady one.

Karen McCullough is the author of almost two dozen published novels and novellas in the mystery, romance, suspense, and fantasy genres, including the Market Center Mysteries Series and two books in the No Brides Club series of romance novels. She has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy, and has also been a finalist in the Daphne, Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, and Vixen Award contests. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications. She lives in Greensboro, NC, with her husband of many years. Connect with Karen at the following locations: Website: http://www.kmccullough.com

Want to find out more about Karen? Revisit her previous posts and check out her book A Gift for Murcher

Greed, jealousy, and anger often lurk below the surface of trade shows and business exhibitions, but murder isn't usually on the program....

For fifty-one weeks of the year, Heather McNeil loves her job as assistant to the director of the Washington, D.C. Commerce & Market Show Center. But the Gifts and Home Decorations trade show, the biggest show of the year at the center, is a week-long nightmare. This year’s version is being worse than usual. Misplaced shipments, feuding exhibitors, and malfunctioning popcorn machines are all in a day’s work. Finding the body of a murdered executive dumped in a trash bin during the show isn’t. The discovery tips throws Heather’s life—personal and professional—into havoc.

The police suspect the victim’s wife killed him, but Heather doesn’t believe it. She’s gotten glimmers of an entirely different scenario and possible motive. Questioning exhibitors about the crime doesn’t make her popular with them or with her employers, but if she doesn’t identify the murderer before the show ends, the culprit will remain free to kill again.

Her only help comes from an exhibitor with ulterior motives and the Market Center’s attractive new security officer, Scott Brandon. Despite opposition from some of the exhibitors, her employers, and the police, Heather seeks to expose the killer before the show ends. To solve the mystery, she will have to risk what’s most important to her and be prepared to fight for answers, her job, and possibly her life.

Get your copy today at: Amazon  Nook  Smashwords  Kobo  iBooks

What a cute story, Karen, thanks for sharing! Hang on to those Mr. Potato Heads because he is now just "Potato Head" such insanity but we're not going there LOL!

Good luck and God's blessings with your books.

Until next time, Friends, take care and God bless.


D. V. Stone said...

Thank you for sharing. I have fond memories of the Potato Heads. Your book sounds great. D.


I loved playing with Mr. Potato Head as a kid. And I always bought my girls random legos rather than kits so they could be creative. Good luck with the book!

Maggie Toussaint said...

I share many elements of your writing process, Karen. I can't help trying to organize some of the ideas ahead of time, but now instead of figuring it out I jot down a note like "something bad happens with suspect 2" or "sleuth has a revelation". While outlining is my background from my scientist days, my creative side is a different critter altogether. For many authors, that journey of discovery of how they can write the most powerful and engaging story is an epic saga. I commend you on having discovered and optimized your writing process. Maybe we should all keep a set of Mr Potato Heads by our monitors!

kaybee said...

Good post Karen. Yes, it takes work and faith to get to the core of a character or issue. I'm dealing with that now as I start a new series. It all seems bland and cold and mechanical right now as I put them through their paces. It's a challenge but wouldn't want to be doing anything else.
Kathy Bailey
Pam's friend in New Hampshire

Sadira Stone said...

I've never heard of a trade show mystery before. Lots of good places to hide the bodies!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi Karen,
Good to hear from you! The new novel looks great. Congrats.

Karen McCullough said...

Thanks, everyone for the comments and thank you to Pam for having me here! I'm afraid my writing process is rather messy and inefficient, but I've learned to trust it over the years.

Alina K. Field said...

I have a similar writing process! And how wonderful that your kids made arrangements so that they could all spend Christmas with you. I've heard so many stories of widows and older people spending the holidays completely alone out of fear of the virus. Sounds like you had a great holiday.

Anna Taylor Sweringen said...

Thanks for the peek into your process, Karen.

Barbara Britton said...

How creative your boys are! I like it too, when stories work themselves out. Congratulations on the book.

Kara O'Neal said...

I'm not much of a plotter either. I enjoyed reading about you!

Carol James said...

I also consider myself to be a “slow” writer. I do minimal plotting. I love the way my characters surprise me. Congrats on the book.

Alicia Dean said...

Hahaha, cute pic. Looks like the gandkids had fun. I am not a pantser. I have to have a plot/outline before I write. Whatever works, though, right? Congrats and best wishes!

Mary Preston said...

Sometimes with things you have to just jump right in.