Feature Writing




Algonkian Passions
Dec. 13.13

I am honoured to be included in the acknowledgements of Carla Norton’s break-out fiction novel, The Edge of Normal. If you haven’t read it, do so. It’s a gripping, well-paced thriller about a survivor of abduction who helps another young girl after she’s freed from her ordeal. That’s all I’ll say about the plot – no spoilers from this quarter! Norton manages to convey horror and terror without graphic images that will haunt you; the story is told with a perfect blend of sensitivity and steel. The author is working on the sequel and I’m delighted to be included in her circle of beta readers once again.
I want to say a little something about Algonkian Conferences here, because it was the tough-love teaching method of Michael Neff that made me a much stronger writer. And it was through his Author Salon that I connected with Carla Norton, and I’m happy to say she and I have become friends. We met in September when I drove to Albany, where Carla was promoting The Edge of Normal at Bouchercon. (Did I mention you really should buy her book?)
The other wonderful (and surprising) thing that came out of my association with AS is that I’ve discovered another passion – editing. What’s more fun than finding the perfect word, the precise turn of phrase, to turn simple prose into pure poetry, to create a picture in the reader’s mind? What a rush! Doesn’t matter if it’s for my own novel or someone else’s – I love doing it.
Back to the whole shameless self-promotion thing: turns out I’ve got a flair for editing, too. People I’ve worked for have been generous in their compliments, and I believe I have found my niche. Oh yes, I will continue to write my own stories, but I hope I can continue to help others and earn something of a living from it at the same time.

Dec. 11.13

It’s amazing how, no matter how much you think you know about a particular subject, you can always learn something more.
A couple of weeks ago I took an editing workshop, put on by the Editors’ Association of Canada. The first couple of hours were fairly dry, and I was trying to think of a way to extricate myself when the teacher passed on one of those nuggets that gave me an ah-hah moment. Actually, it was more of a Homer Simpson “doh!” moment; something that was so perfectly obvious, so perfectly sensible, that I wish I’d thought of it myself. Of course I stayed till the end of the day, but it’s that one tidbit that I’ll carry with me and use forever. It made the trip into downtown Toronto on a snowy winter day all worthwhile. (For those of you who don’t know me well, I live on a hobby farm about 100 kilometres from the city, and would rather pick my way through a herd of rampaging sheep than manoeuver my car down Avenue Road on a Saturday. )
Every time I hem and haw about taking a course, attending a conference, signing up for a workshop, I must remember that there will be an ah-hah moment that will only serve to make me a better writer, a better editor, critiquer and beta reader. Yesterday I registered for a 14-week course at Sheridan College on how to structure a novel. Sure, I already know everything I need to know about that – don’t I? After all, I’ve penned 5 novels so far. So why spend all that money and put myself through it?
Because it’s the nugget(s) of wisdom that I’ll bring home – the one thing I can do better, the knowledge I can then pass along to other aspiring writers – that will be priceless.

Shameless Self-promotion
Dec 10, 2013

For a girl raised to be modest and self-effacing, the concept of shameless self-promotion makes me shudder. Really? It’s okay to admit out that I can write, and write well? Ouch. That’s gonna pinch just a bit. But I’ll deal.
In the past couple of years since I started (and subsequently ignored) my website, I have penned a couple of mysteries. I’m not sure how I moved from women’s fiction and romance to murder - and I should probably feel some sense of alarm - but I’ve had great fun thinking up ways to off people and, more importantly, how to get away with it.
My first novel, A Twisted Little Plot, does not fit the mold so it has been turned down by agents and editors alike, despite it being a darn good tale (hey, I’m really getting the hang of this self-promotion thing!). The log line “In order to write the perfect mystery, Rebecca commits the perfect murder” sounds promising enough, but apparently it’s a no-no to have the protagonist and the antagonist be one and the same person, so that manuscript may be headed for self-publication.
The working title of my second ms is “Death at Iron House” but I am toying with “Murder, Anonymous” since it’s about a group of mystery writers who try to solve a real crime. After all, most of them can kill off a character before morning coffee, and they all know the ins and outs of crime scene investigation. You’re welcome to comment on which title you’d pick off a bookstore shelf.
As you might well guess, humour pops up in my writing. It’s what I do. But, being a murder mystery and all, of course there are dark moments when scary mwa-ha-ha music runs through the reader’s head.
Stay tuned for more thrilling moments in the life of Lois Gordon, Writer. It’ll be fun to hang out with you.