Q&A at Writers Who Kill

RamonaGravitarToday, I am answering questions about editing, working on anthologies, writing, my writing, and what I like to read on vacation at the Writers Who Kill blog.

The Writers Who Kill are a group of mystery authors who post each day. Their Welcome Wednesday spot presents a Q&A to guest authors, agents, and editors. I’m pleased to be their guest today.

9 Ways to Open a Blog Post

The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated – Mark Twain

If you have spent any time blogging, you’ve heard the news that blogging is dead. It was dead five years ago, and three years ago, and is dead now. Despite the death of blogging, people keeping posting on blogs and other people keep reading them.

I think Mark Twain had the right idea.

What do you do if you’re invited to write a guest post but you never have before? Where do you begin? Here are 9 ways to  open a blog post:

1- The Anecdote – Begin by relating a personal experience–yours or someone else’s. Use real names to make it real and personal. After the short scenario, segue into the broader topic. In this case, the topic is disenfranchised grief.

When my friend Jill’s ex-husband was killed in a car accident, she cried–for a month. This was the man who’d dumped her, who’d destroyed her credit rating and put a permanent dent in her self-esteem. She hadn’t seen him in years. She’d moved on. So why was she bawling in the shower and dreaming about him at night–this person who had ruined her life?

When your heart is broken by the loss of someone you are supposed to hate–or not supposed to love–it can be as confusing as it is painful. Disenfranchised Grief—grieving for an ex-spouse, extra marital affair partner, a lover kept secret because of sexual orientation, or any relationship that is kept private–prevents the person left behind from openly expressing the pain of loss. That makes recovery harder.

2 – Breaking News – Begin with a news story and move into commentary. This works for mysterious disappearances or cold cases that make good fodder for crime  novels. It can  also address real life concerns that aren’t always obvious or comfortable. In this case, a pedophile in a position of trust:

In a small courtroom in Delaware, a one-day trial decided the fate of a man accused of numerous shocking, heinous crimes. Despite the lengthy list of charges against Dr. Earl Bradley, only two Delaware State Police officers testified for the prosecution. No one testified in Dr. Bradley’s defense. No one spoke up to explain why a popular pediatrician would molest his young patients—or how he managed to get away with it for so many years.

3 – Addressing an Issue – Begin with a social or political issue. Briefly give enough background so the reader understands the issue. This one is good for personal opinion/editorial. Here, the topic is forced charitable giving:

There’s been some interesting PR lately about the group of billionaires who’ve pledged to give away at least half of their personal fortunes before they die. The list of pledges includes names like Gates, Rockefeller, Bloomberg, Vanderbilt. I followed this story because I think it’s an admirable and interesting concept. If I had a personal fortune, I think I’d like to see the bulk of it put to good use before I kick the bucket. But, big fortune or small, should I be forced to be generous? Should anyone?

4 – Opening Questions – Start with a list of questions. The queries should be both specific and accessible, so set them in real life. Below, the question lead to the topic of early onset dementia:

We’re all friends here, but pardon me if I get personal for a while and ask: When’s the last time you slept through the night? Do you walk into a room and forget why you’re there? Did you leave your purse right there on that chair, you are positively sure you did, but now it’s nowhere in sight? Do you seem to misplace your car keys all the time? Do you forget a few things—or maybe more than a few things—every day? Several times a day? Do you wonder if this is natural aging, or does some disturbing voice ask if these are really early signs of dementia?

5 – Drama or ConversationOpen with a pretend scene. It can be humorous or not, but the short scene leads up to a punch line that leads into the topic. This one is, does your promise to drive a drunk friend home anytime, any night, make you a real pal–or an enabler?

Ring, ring, ring!

Me: (knocking around bedside table because I’m dead asleep): Um, hello?

Maria: Hey, girl! Did I wake you up? Never mind, guess where I am?

Me: (struggling to sit up) Um, where?

Maria: On the phone with you! (cackles hysterically)

Me: Very funny. (wide awake now) So, how many have you had?

6 – The Surprise/Shocker – A true confession or a surprising fact as an opening. It works best if what follows is unusual and not a cheap hook. This one is about a personal connection to a killer:

I went to my high school Prom with a murderer. He wasn’t a murderer then, of course. Then, he was the cute guy who sat across from me in Chemistry, the second string tailback on the football team who worked at the Piggly Wiggly on weekends. Ten years later, this guy who posed next to me on Prom Night in his baby blue tuxedo, his head tipped down to touch mine as we smiled at the camera, was put away for life.

7 – The Spoof  – A fake letter or news story. Good for something outrageous or humorous, because bloggers want to have fun, too. I used this one to express my undying support for my pretend boyfriend, Blond Bond:

Dear Daniel Craig: I apologize for contacting you via this impersonal public format. There’s been some communication glitch, as my letters to you are returned unopened, my emails bounce back as undeliverable, my texts don’t land, my flowers don’t arrive, and you don’t respond to telepathic messages. Even the wind blows away my smoke signals…

 8 – Survey – A vote or poll on some issue (real, imagined, or joking) is the start. You are opening the floor for return opinions, so be prepared. In this one, you’d get to tell me what you think about reality television.

Let’s take a vote. If you HAD to choose one of the following, would you prefer to be:

A} Trampled to death by elephants; B} Mauled to death by a bear; C} Eaten to bits by piranhas; D} Forced to watch Jersey Shore 20 hours out of every day for the rest of your life.

The first three made me cringe in horror, but D’s the one that’s really scary–to me. Obviously, there are fans of the nutty crew out of Jersey, but I don’t get it. Do you?

9 – The Quote – Look above. Mark Twain fired off this zinger after his obituary appeared in the newspaper. Using a quote, particularly a zingy one, can set the tone and the topic for what’s to follow.

So, here are nine ways to get started. Maybe next time I’ll come up with ways to end them.


It’s Been a Ball, TLC!

On Saturday, my little world was rocked by the announcement that the Lipstick Chronicles blog will be closing its doors on January 1.

I’ve been along for the TLC ride since its inception in 2005. Back then, the bloggers–all  mystery writers–focused the posts on their books and the craft of writing. Then the posts broadened to families and social issues and world affairs.  Not many subjects were skipped over by TLC–or the cadre of daily commentors, the back-bloggers, who happily provided opinions and insights from outside perspectives.

This announcement will change up my morning routine of enjoying the daily post with my opening cup of coffee. A true community evolved among the bloggers and the back-bloggers. I will miss them all.

I had the pleasure of guest blogging at TLC on several occasions. To preserve my own little spot in TLC history, here are some of my contributions to the Lipstick discussion:

The Vending Machine is about language, food, and sensuous art: http://thelipstickchronicles.typepad.com/the_lipstick_chronicles/2005/10/vending_machine.html

The Bad Boyfriend Talk  discusses a mother’s attempt to teach her son how to treat girls right: http://thelipstickchronicles.typepad.com/the_lipstick_chronicles/2006/06/the_bad_boyfrie.html

Who Would You Voodoo?  ponders the lure of black, or white, magic: http://thelipstickchronicles.typepad.com/the_lipstick_chronicles/2007/10/who-would-you-v.html

An Open Letter to Craig, Daniel Craig invites you into the Blond Bond sisterhood: http://thelipstickchronicles.typepad.com/the_lipstick_chronicles/2008/11/an-open-letter-to-daniel-craig.html

Everybody’s Doing It  is my helpful (and yes, self-serving) testimonial in support of independent editors: http://thelipstickchronicles.typepad.com/the_lipstick_chronicles/2009/11/everybodys-doing-it.html

To my friends at the Lipstick Chronicles: It was a pleasure. Every darn minute of it.