I like stories where no one is who they seem, probably because these stories reflect the nature of my own soul, of humanity. As Donald Miller writes in Blue Like Jazz, “The problem is not out there; the problem is the needy beast of a thing that lives in my chest.”
It is indeed a personal problem, widespread and universal. We struggle against it every day as we try to find truth in the details of our lives. Almost all art forms, throughout all of history, reflect this struggle.
But too often, modern novels that address human nature and the struggle for truth are not entertaining. Thought-provoking, perhaps. Disturbing. Entertaining and enjoyable? Rarely. And yet I would recommend MALICIOUS MASQUERADE to any beachcomber looking for a great mystery. This new release from Alan Cupp delivers page-turning suspense with topics like greed, lust, heartbreak, romance, murder and deceit.
Cupp’s writing style is smooth and engaging. His main character, Chicago PI Carter Mays, draws us in with an unassuming everyman demeanor. We first meet Carter at his desk, when a wealthy young woman named Cindy Bedford enters his office. We read that as Cindy “settled into the sage green upholstered chair, Carter stole a quick appreciative glimpse of her long, shapely legs. Catching himself, he immediately refocused on his prospective client’s purpose for being there.”
And what, exactly, is Cindy’s purpose for hiring a private investigator? To find the missing love-of-her-life, who just happens to be the man who jilted her at the altar on the same day someone stole millions of dollars from her father’s company.
Like most private investigators, Carter has a keen grasp on human complexity. In one particularly riveting scene, Carter studies the “faces and facts” he suspects might be involved in the disappearance of Cindy’s fiancé. Carter studies them so that “at least he would have some warning. Based on their records, Carter knew this was not just another case and things could get dangerous.”
Since the beginning of time, humans have put on masks of various kinds. Everyone has them, and most of life is about finding the real people behind our masks – the truth about ourselves and others. This search for truth, in both faces and facts, lies at the heart of MALICIOUS MASQUERADE.
It is a search that resonates with me on some deep level, wrapped into an exciting story that captivates.
For more information about Alan Cupp and his new release MALICIOUS MASQUERADE, click here.
In the past few months as an editorial intern at Henery Press, I’ve reviewed more than forty manuscripts submitted for publication. This is particularly educational because it coincides with my own efforts to become published.
Here’s what the writer in me has learned about submitting for publication:
1. Edit the first pages RUTHLESSLY. Your first three to five pages are like a first date. Appearance counts. Chemistry matters. Your plot might be brilliant, the characters witty, and the dialogue sharp. But allowing careless mistakes (typos, misspellings, grammar issues) in your opening pages is like going on a first date with broccoli in your teeth. Editors are slightly OCD by nature, and we have trouble getting past the broccoli.
2. Make the FIRST LINE clear and simple. Your first line should not be complex. Please don’t try to blow readers away with your best descriptive writing, or the most eloquent, or the most anything. The first line is there for one purpose – to make us read the second line.
3. Establish a CLEAR HOOK w/ character and plot. I don’t know how it works at other publishers, but at Henery we have weekly submission deadlines on Fridays. By Thursday when I open up those files, I’ve already accomplished a variety of editorial tasks. Perhaps I’ve written a blog post or two. At home my kids need help with homework, the puppy tore up something again, and we’ve stacked laundry so high we could vault off the piles to the nearest piece of furniture.
My point? By Friday, I’m tired. And I’m probably not the only one in publishing who feels this way. So when I sit down with a batch of manuscripts, like most readers I want to escape into a fictional world that holds my attention. Without a clear hook, my mind will wander right on to the next manuscript. Unanswered questions and tight writing, along with an emotional connection to the main character will keep us reading.
4. And for the love of all things literary, check the SUBMISSION GUIDELINES. Publishers have vastly different requirements for editorial submissions. Even editors at the same publishing house may differ in what they want. Take time to research submission guidelines, often found on the publisher’s website. Pay close attention to genre and subgenre. Study the types of books the publisher represents, and target your submissions to publishers that most closely match your writing style. Go the extra mile and follow the publisher (and even the editor) on Twitter and Facebook. You’ll get a good idea of what they want in a book submission, and you’ll be that much closer to publication.
It’s not brain surgery, but you would be surprised how often writers ignore a publisher’s preferences.
(This is part three of a six-part series. Stay tuned…)
Writers want all the secrets. We hang on the words of published authors, as if what worked for them will open some magic door for the rest of us. We scour books on what agents want, what editors need, and what the market will withstand. We go to conferences, drink coffee by the carafe, read magazines like Writer’s Digest, and whisper to each other about query drafts. Sometimes we actually write.
It’s a treacherous way to live.
That’s why I went undercover as an editorial intern at Henery Press, a Dallas-area publishing house that specializes in mystery and suspense. What better way to learn about publishing, right?
Now in full disclosure, I didn’t really go undercover. I didn’t buy special spy-gear, create a mask with a 3D printer, or find a wig (though it would probably be neon pink if I did, probably not the best for covert operations). I didn’t hide my real name, nor did I temporarily shut down my author website for the hiring process. And I definitely didn’t tag my coworkers with secret RFID biochips to track their every movement. They are far too much fun for that level of espionage.
Going undercover just means that I stopped thinking like a writer, to learn how to think more like a publisher.
And guess what? I’m learning all kinds of terrific publishing secrets, the kinds of things that every writer wants to know. So stay tuned…
(This is the first post in a six-part series.)
The late Ray Bradbury is on my nerves. In his book Zen in the Art of Writing, Bradbury said “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Part of me finds inspiration in this quote, but another part of me struggles with the implications.
Is it true that reality can destroy us? Probably. There is something about the human heart that cannot accept the cold world into which we were born. Deep inside – where we push against death and disease and loss, where we fight the emptiness crouching at soul’s door – we sense a type of nothingness here. Look into the nothingness too long, and it will pull you into the shadows, into the dark where monsters attack.
What is this world, if not a shadow place? Shadows define the night, obscure the moon, delineate seconds ticking away in time. Shadows can be fun, whimsical shapes on a child’s bedroom wall. They can also be dangerous, mysterious outlines of a stalker staying just out of reach.
A shadow leaves us guessing, while the real thing remains hidden, waiting to be revealed. Albert Einstein, arguably the most intelligent person of the twentieth century and a man firmly grounded in science, once said that “reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
This concept – the idea of reality being an illusion – drives my desire to write. Yes, I agree with Ray Bradbury that writing can be a form of intoxication if we so choose. We can write to escape, a dozen shot glasses of words lined up on the counter in self-destruction. Or we can use it to illuminate this present shadow, to shift the light and drive away the edges of illusion.
Which one will it be?
Here’s mine: Strong, hot cup of coffee. Some music, but genre depends on mood and energy level. About 30 minutes of brainstorming, tweeting, thinking about nothing in particular. Maybe I jot down a few thoughts on actual paper, just scribbles really. Finally I open the Word document. To write? No, to stare at the screen. Then type two words, maybe just one.
Get up. Refresh coffee. Sit down. To focus? No, silly. To browse the web aimlessly doing “research.” Tweet some more. Stand up to stretch. Wander the house (or the coffee shop). Under self-inflicted duress, sit down again. Switch into hyper-focus mode, typing every thought even if it’s horrible. Even if I would absolutely die of humiliation if anyone read it.
Build words into sentences like playing Legos. Forget to eat. Hours pass as mere minutes. Go back and edit mercilessly. More coffee? No, need water. And food of some kind, I’m getting lightheaded. Try to distance myself from the rhythm, from the zone. Make a few notes for later. Close the document. Go pick up the kids from school, get outside and enjoy the sun. Man, I love this writing life.
What about you?