New Releases

One Nine Books is proud to announce two new releases…

DEVILS YOU KNOW by Miles Watson: Miles Watson's hard-hitting debut novel, CAGE LIFE, put him on the map with critics and readers alike. Now he's back with a collection of stories designed to work the head, heart and adrenal glands all at once: DEVILS YOU KNOW. In this anthology, you'll find horror and drama, warfare and madness and crime, and even the laughs are of the midnight-black variety. You'll encounter gangsters elbow-deep in the red business of murder, soldiers slogging through physical and moral mud, and supernatural monsters whose pleasures are taken in human blood. You will journey through a dystopian America and a just-liberated Paris, encounter ordinary men descending into madness, and meet a Nazi officer who learns the hard way that we are all brothers under the skin. Somewhere in these pages you will even meet Satan himself...and discover that sometimes even he can't take the heat. So sit down, buckle up, and get ready to meet your devils. Just don't be surprised if they look familiar.

OLD GUYS RULES by Thomas Lipinski: While Pittsburgh private detective Carroll Dorsey may have never followed in his deceased father's footsteps, the elder Dorsey's political connections and backroom deals left behind an unshakable legacy. When Ed Shearing, one of his father's closest political allies, asks Dorsey to travel to Chicago with him to witness the opening of a mysterious safety deposit box, Dorsey gets involved in a missing persons case rooted in the 1968 Democratic convention, civil unrest, political corruption, and the kind of greed that ruins families...and perhaps his life.

Lipinski, the Shamus Award-winning creator of the Carroll Dorsey mystery series, holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Pittsburgh and an MA in Literature from Slippery Rock University. Tom is presently a tenured professor of English at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, where he served as Department Chair for eight years. He has also worked as an insurance investigator and as a corrections administrator.

All the One Nine authors, including Watson, Lipinski, Pat Picciarelli, and myself, will be attending the book-signing event during Seton Hill University's In Your Write Mind residency. Alert your friends and neighbors. But please, no flash photography. Pat gets skittish.






Description Tips

Descriptions are another element of my own writing that I've really worked to improve, and I've learned some valuable lessons along the way.

The best book I ever read about description is WORD PAINTING by Rebecca McClanahan. Can’t recommend it enough. One reason I like the book is because McClanahan references Aristotle and his belief that good description should be four things:

1. Concise – use the specific, proper names for things.

2. Sensory – appeal to all five senses.

3. Active – describe things in motion, create moving pictures in the mind.

4. Metaphorical – descriptive language and metaphors conjure vivid images.

Other tips:

- Use active, vivid prose.

- Avoid filters like “She noticed” or “She felt”; state image directly.

- Avoid linking verbs like appear, seem, was, were.

- Avoid helping verbs like would, can, might, must.

- Avoid adverbs.

- Metaphor isn’t the marriage of two things; it’s the child produced.

Tips for describing characters:

- Appeal to all five senses.

- Modify adjectives completely. For instance, instead of “green eyes,” say “eyes like cheap brass.”

- Make details as specific as possible.

- Don’t overdo it; focus on most revealing details.

- Don’t clump physical descriptions; spread details throughout scene.

- Set characters in motion.

- Use the environment to describe characters. For instance, if the character is sad, the environment’s description can help convey the sadness.

Aristotle’s four points are the most significant; everything else kind of flows naturally from them. Keep those points in mind whenever writing description.

Also, David Morrell, the fella who created Rambo, practices what he calls “triangulation.” Basically, he always tries to combine sight description with two other senses, triangulating on the subject matter to provide a strong image. Again, you may not be able to do it every time, and if you did, it would get repetitive like anything else. But triangulating is a good tool to have in your toolbox. You can bust it out whenever you really want to drive home a description. 

Clumping character and scene descriptions is probably the most common mistake I see. Clumping occurs when you place all your descriptions in one paragraph and then move on with the story, essentially segregating the description from the rest of the story. It happens the most when characters get introduced. Avoid giving extensive physical descriptions right away. Spread those details throughout the scene. 

You never want to describe something just to describe it. Every description should be crucial to defining character, establishing atmosphere, or advancing plot. Make the details essential to the story.

I have a writing teacher named Tim Esaias who always points to the book SHOGUN as the perfect way to do description. The story takes place in feudal Japan, where a lot of the buildings had paper walls. But we don't know the room has paper walls until someone puts his fist through one. Until that moment, the paper walls aren't important, so there's no need to describe them. Make sure the description is vital before writing it. Otherwise, unnecessary descriptions bloat prose and slow pacing.

Make sense? This was just a quick review of the key points I try to remember when writing description. In the next blog post, I’ll provide some examples to illustrate effective description.


Mystery Plotting the Hardy Way

Want to learn the finer points of mystery plotting? Sure, you could study Doyle or Hammett or Chandler, but I would like to shine a light on two overlooked giants of the genre: Frank and Joe Hardy. Yep, that's right. The good ol' Hardy Boys will teach you all you need to know about writing a mystery. And, better yet, they'll do it while hanging out at the circus.

For those who don’t know, the Hardy Boys are teenage amateur sleuths who first saw print in 1927. They've starred in countless young adult mysteries, all written under the name Franklin W. Dixon.

High-Wire Act, the 123rd mystery in the Hardy Boys Casefiles series that started in 1987, finds Frank and Joe investigating the suspicious circumstances surrounding an injury to their pal Freddie Felix, a circus clown who almost died during his high-wire act. Simple in premise but profound in execution, the story provides the perfect mystery blueprint due to seven key points.

1. Structure - Chapter 1 ends with what the Hardy Boys believe to be an attempted murder. They begin an investigation, interviewing suspects, discovering clues, and using legit detection to solve the crime. The plot starts quickly, and each subsequent scene works toward the eventual solution.

2. Motivation - When dealing with amateur sleuths, you must establish a clear motivation. Why are they getting involved? Frank is friends with Freddie the clown, providing an emotional connection to the crime.

3. Suspects - Readers get clear, defined suspects in a shady veterinarian, a suspicious strong man, a short-tempered snake charmer, and a rival clown named Bobo. However, the two guilty parties, Bobo's wife and the circus magician, aren't targets of the investigation until the very end. They both make appearances relatively early, and Bobo's wife has a clear motive, but neither crosses the Hardy Boys' radar until absolutely necessary. Yet when the key clue turns out to be poisonous chemicals, the groundwork had already been done to connect the magician to the crime. When he first meets the Hardys, the magician makes a point of saying his tricks are done with chemicals. And Bobo's wife had told a blatant lie about Freddie's friendship with the strong man, betraying her involvement in the murder plot.

4. Secrets - All the prime suspects have secrets to protect. The strong man is on steroids. The veterinarian is smuggling exotic birds. These secrets make them look guilty and pull suspicion away from the real killers.

5. Second Body - Mysteries need a second victim to raise the stakes. Bobo's death supplies the second body and provides the Hardys with the decisive clue.

6. Plotting - The book begins with the Hardy Boys investigating who tried to kill Freddie, but in reality, Bobo was the target all along. Once the Hardys figure out Freddie wasn't the intended victim, the pieces fall into place. Mystery plots benefit from this kind of misdirection since it’s another way for authors to stay one step ahead of readers.

7. Logic - Plot twists only work if they make sense. Everything surrounding Freddie’s fall and Bobo’s subsequent death -- every clue, red herring, and motivation -- comes together perfectly with no holes in logic.    

Naturally, the story itself is tailored for the YA audience, but don't let the simplistic prose fool you. If you want a mystery plotting lesson, High-Wire Act is your manual.

The Hardy Boys would never let you down. Nancy Drew? Well, let’s just say I’ve heard things....