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The Sirens of Suspense




STEVE HOCKENSMITH’S first novel, the Sherlockian/Western hybrid Holmes on the Range, was a finalist for the Edgar, Anthony, Shamus and Dilys awards. It was followed by four (for now) sequels. He also wrote a bestselling prequel to the international cult sensation Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and (with educator/gizmo-maker “Science Bob” Pflugfelder) launched a series of science-based mysteries for kids with the book Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab. His latest novel is the tarot-themed mystery The White Magic Five & Dime. He lives in Alameda, California, with his wife, his daughter, his son, his dog and his other dog.



Find Steve on Facebook and Twitter.

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You know what the hardest part of writing a blog post is? Not the writing part. Not the posting part. And not the yelling at people via social media that you’ve written and posted it part.

No, for me the hardest part by far is figuring out what the heck I want to write about. By comparison, starting a novel is easy...and I start every novel by beating my head against a wall for a month or two. (The wall is metaphorical. It’s called “outlining.” And it hurts -- though it sure beats the pain that comes from writing without outlining.)

As challenging as it can be to plan and write a novel, there’s one question I never have to wrestle with. “Why am I doing this?” Because I always know the answer.

Baby needs a new pair of shoes!

Just kidding. (Though baby probably does need a new pair of shoes.) I actually don’t write novels to make money -- which probably explains why I don’t make more than I do. I write novels because stories start in my head and I want to see how they turn out.

For example: “A cowboy hears about Sherlock Holmes,” I think to myself, “then he gets involved in a mystery and uses Holmes’ methods to solve it. Then what?” That became my first novel, Holmes on the Range.

Or: “A woman learns that her estranged mother, a con artist, has been posing as a tarot reader -- and she’s been murdered. Then what?” That became my latest novel (written with tarot reader supreme Lisaitem6 Falco), The White Magic Five & Dime.

Or: “A great white shark with a taste for human flesh begins hunting in the waters off a small New England town, but local politicians don’t want to acknowledge it’s there lest they scare away tourists. Then what?” That became...oh, wait. That’s Jaws. My apologies to the Peter Benchley estate.

Anyway, my point is this: A novel often begins life as a premise, and part of the fun for the writer is following along as that initial idea leads him or her in sometimes unexpected directions. But a blog post doesn’t work like that. You’re not telling a new story. You’re making an argument. And you don’t make an argument by beginning with an idea -- “Ice cream is yummy,” let’s say -- then following that wherever it might lead. It wouldn’t lead anywhere...except maybe to the refrigerator because suddenly you’re craving Cherry Garcia.

A story is a winding path you travel to see where it will go. A blog post is an edifice you build line by line, point by point.

Suppose, for instance, that you wanted to write a blog post about how hard it is for you to write blog posts. You’d have to start by pinpointing the why of that -- maybe, say, because you find it difficult to identify suitably compelling topics. You could then move on to illustrate that by writing thitem9e most boring, pointlessly circular blog post ever. Or you could scrap that idea entirely, think of a bold and interesting argument you want to make, then put in the time and effort necessary to build your case.

I suggest the latter approach. Unless you run out of time.

Anyone else in the mood for ice cream?





WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE SUMMER ICE CREAM FLAVOR? Tell us by commenting on the blog below or on our Facebook page and you’ll be entered to win a a copy of WHITE MAGIC FIVE AND DIME (U.S. entrants only, please.)


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