Thanks for stopping by…

If you like kick-ass heroines, regardless of which side of the law they’re on, you’ve come to the right place. As we get to know each other, I’ll introduce you to my characters via their own stories — and between their stories, maybe I’ll tell you a few of my own…

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The Well

Fiction River: Feel the FearWhat are you afraid of? Death, poverty, debilitating illness, pain, creepy-crawly insects, being attacked on a dark stretch of sidewalk… When editor Mark Leslie issued his challenge for us to reach into ourselves, find our fears, and put them on the page, none of those came to mind. Instead, it was the fear of losing one’s sense of self to the darkness of emotional abuse – and then seeing the abuser turn their attention toward innocent children.

People aren’t always what they seem, and realizing that can often bring pain and heartache. And, at its darkest, emotional abuse can lead you to doubt yourself and shake your own grasp on reality.

Spousal abuse isn’t always visible in cuts, bruises and broken limbs. A deeper, sometimes more traumatic abuse than cuts, that bruises much deeper, is the way that a person can be undermined, can be made to believe that they are worthless, useless, and deserving of the way they are being mistreated.

I know too many people who have been down that dark path, who have lost themselves to it, and rejected that story idea as too dark, too personal, too painful to try to capture in a work of fiction. So I scoured the internet for other topics that would meet the anthology’s requirements, but every alternate idea I came up with seemed like a cop-out…

I admit it – the very thought of writing The Well tied my stomach up in knots. And once the idea had caught me, it wouldn’t let me go until I finally faced my own fears and simply wrote it. I’m glad I did. It was one of the most difficult stories I’ve ever written, and probably one of the most important.

In his introduction to the story, editor Mark Leslie says:

“…This story exudes both a disturbing darkness and a heart and passion against virtually unbeatable odds to escape the fear, the terror, the madness of the darkness the narrator is enveloped in….”

I wrote The Well for all those who have struggled as victims of emotional abuse. It is my deepest wish that you find way back from the fear and pain, whether through counseling, finding a new avocation, or just holding on to those who are precious to you, and that you are able to find the strength to climb up out of the well and into the light.

Fiction River: Feel the Fear is available in both print and ebook formats from Amazon, and as an ebook from KoboBarnes & Noble, and a number of other online vendors.

Finally, as Fiction River series editor, Kristine Kathryn Rusch says in her introduction to the anthology:

Turn on all the lights. Cover yourself with a nice warm blanket. Make sure you’re not alone in the house.
And, from the safety of your own reading chair, enjoy feeling the fear.

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Backstage Pass, a Hit Lady for Hire short story

Backstage Pass coverYour favorite Hit Lady for Hire is back, with a new (short) adventure!

A secret audit of an off-Broadway theater takes Meg to the Big Apple for what should have been an easy-money job.

While prepared to act the part of an investor to ferret out who’s cooking the books, Meg hadn’t expected to get caught up in the darker drama playing out backstage…

Backstage Pass is just one of the many stories in  Crimes, Capers, and Rule-Breakers – a collection of twenty short stories featuring thieves and miscreants on their criminal adventures! From burglars to assassins, grifters to con artists, these are mysteries from the other side, from the criminal point-of-view.

So be on the lookout! Crimes, Capers, and Rule-Breakers is available in your favorite ebook format on Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble, or through Hop on over today, before this great deal gets away!

Crimes, Capers, & Rule-Breakers

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Lemonade and Larceny

Fiction River: Editor's Choice

Fiction River: Editor’s Choice

I am so excited to announce my first cozy short story!

When a silly law forbids Effie Birmingham from practicing her trade as a psychic, she feels obliged to break it…!

Lemonade and Larceny, is a lighthearted, cozy caper, set in 1950s Huntington, West Virginia. It was such a fun story to write – and I’m truly excited that it’s finally available for you to read!

Fiction River: Editor’s Choice is an eclectic collection of stories from multiple genres. I’m proud to be a part of it.

You can pick up a copy in ebook for Kobo, Nook, or Kindle, from other retailers here, or in Paperback.
(Tip – if you buy the paperback version, it comes with a coupon code you can use to get a free Kobo copy – so you can have a beautiful version for your shelves and one to read on your free Kobo phone app. What a deal!)

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The value of short fiction

short_stories_coverSome colleagues and I were recently discussing the relative value of short fiction (short stories, novelettes, and novellas) vs full-length novels. Much to my surprise, there were those who seemed to feel that short stories were of no particular value – one went so far as to suggest that the “lowly short story” was essentially a waste of a writer’s time, for a variety of reasons.

Yeah… you know me. I couldn’t leave that one alone, and because I feel so strongly that short stories are extremely valuable – both to readers and writers – I had to address the issues point-by-point.

Lowly Argument #1: Short stories are lowly in the author-recognition factor.

I have often read a short story, enjoyed it, and looked for more work by that author. As a reader, a short story is a great way to test the waters and see if I like a new-to-me writer’s work without the commitment of a full novel. As a writer, short stories are one of the best forms of author-advertising there is, for lots of reasons (see argument #4).

Lowly Argument #2: Short stories are lowly in the paid department, because the author gets no advance.

Sure, there are a lot of unpaid markets out there for short fiction, and most of the professional-paying short fiction markets will pay in the neighborhood of $.05-$.10 cents a word for a story between 3000-10000 words long (talking in averages here). So it doesn’t add up to a ton-o-bucks up front. But short fiction markets also only hold onto the rights for a very limited time (see argument #3 on contracts), and then the author can (and I have) sell reprint rights, put the short story up as an ebook at low or no-cost, offer it as an audiobook, etc., and continue earning from it.

As an example, “With Friends Like These” is a 10,000-word story I didn’t sell to a print market, but published directly as an ebook in 2010, and it’s been a consistent earner for me for nearly four years. Even at ebook royalty rates, it’s been a decent workhorse, in both the royalty dept. as well as in leading people to the companion novel, Conflict of Interest. I’ll be putting up another short in that same series this summer, in anticipation of the next book release in the fall. (see the previous topic: short stories as author-advertising)

And in the ROI department, it takes me so much less time to write a short story than a novel (orders of magnitude less!) that what I earn from a short story over its life is actually quite competitive with the earnings from a novel, in a strict, “dollars per hour” sense.

Lowly Argument #3: How about contracts?

What about the contracts? Short fiction markets in the US (whether print or online):

  • typically ask for first world English rights for a limited period
  • automatically revert the rights back to you after 6 mos – 2 yrs (depending on the publication)
  • don’t ask for foreign and audio rights
  • don’t ask for rights they’re not immediately using (i.e., a magazine doesn’t ask for anthology rights, etc.)
  • don’t include non-compete clauses
  • don’t require an agent/IP attorney to negotiate
  • don’t include royalties, so no “reserve against returns” held back from your payment
  • etc.

Personally, short fiction contracts are so straightforward and uncomplicated as to be a breath of fresh air.

Lowly Argument #4: You enjoy writing Short Stories, fine, but you should be using your time writing the book and promoting YOUR NAME.

Again (and in summary), short stories are a good way to:

  • build name-recognition among readers
  • keep your name visible between novels
  • explore a story idea which may/may not turn into your next novel
  • get to know a secondary character in greater depth
  • give your new readers an introduction to your work
  • give your current readers “cookies” to keep them excited about your work while waiting for the next novel
  • build a collection you can eventually sell/self-publish to accompany your full-length novels

Lowly Argument #5:  It all depends on what you want out of your writing.

And now we finally come to an argument I cannot refute!

If you enjoy reading/writing short stories, the more the merrier. There’s a wealth of material out there for you to enjoy. If you don’t enjoy reading/writing short stories, you’re under no obligation to either read or write them.

Of all the benefits of short stories, I think my favorite is the opportunity they give me to explore the side-streets of a larger work. I can get to know secondary characters or figure out more about a world I’m either developing or have already created.

It’s just my opinion here, on this blog, but I have to say it: short stories are FAR from lowly! And I fully intend to continue writing them.

– Lauryn

short story 01

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The mystery of marketing

I just read a thoughtful blog post by Shelly Frome over at Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers, where she talks a bit about the recommendations frequently made to writers to promote, promote, promote their own work.

I wrote a witty reply to the post, but I’m reposting it here, partly because Blogger often eats my replies to posts, but mostly because I wanted my own readers to know why I don’t barrage them with incessant Facebook and Twitter messages, send out postcards (although I will hand you a business card if I happent to meet you face-to-face), or do any of the number of other takes-time-away-from-writing activities that are all too often recommended – and often, it seems, required for writers to do.

Anyway, here’s my reply to Shelly’s post. As for me, I’ve now spent far more than my alloted Internet-time today, so I’ve got to get back to work on Meg’s next contract…

* * *

In the middle of all the how-do-I-sell-my-book- brou-ha-ha, I’m starting to see more and more writers go back to the core of all book-marketing concepts:

“Write the best book you can, get it out there, and then write the next one.”

Yes, we absolutely want people to buy our book(s). But once we’ve hooked them, what next? They’ll spend a little of their precious time in the world we’ve created and – if we’ve done our job as writers – go looking for more. And if we, as writers, have been faithfully following the magazines’ advice and spending all our time promoting our book, our want-to-be-loyal readers will come up empty-handed, call us a choice (and hopefully, creative) name or two, and move on to the next writer with a world they can immerse themselves in.

I don’t do a lot of promotion for my work – instead, I’m working on building up a collection of stories for my soon-to-be-amazing-fan following to find and drool over (I’m up to two titles in my Hit Lady for Hire series now, one long and one short, with another one in progress).

In my opinion – and the opinion of more and more writers:

The best publicity for your book is your next book.

(Which is why I’m now going to get off the internet and get back to writing!)

Thanks, Shelly, for the post, and Lois, for posting it.

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Castle – mini-series style

Yes, I admit it – I’m not a fan of most television series. It’s not that there aren’t some good series’ out there – it’s that I don’t like the whole “being held hostage to the television” thing.

Castle&BeckettBut I will pick up the season DVDs of a series that I’m following or that has been recommended to me and watch it mini-series style. Which is what we’re doing with Castle, Season 3 (yes, I know, we’re behind, but I don’t care). I’m loving it! The writers and actors have really hit their stride, and the stories have a delightful number of twists and turns, and even when I can guess “whodunit” before Beckett & Castle, I don’t mind because I’m enjoying the ride so much.

Yup. As both a writer and a viewer, I’m definitely a fan.

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How to Tell a Story

State of Play - BBC miniseries - 2003My husband and I were thoroughly engrossed by the five-part BBC miniseries version of State of Play that we watched this weekend. (Disclaimer: I thought I’d picked up the Hollywood-movie version, and will be watching it next weekend.)

But getting back to the BBC miniseries…

This is an excellent example of how to tell a story. The writers ease you into the story, letting you get to know the characters and come to care for them while gradually turning up the heat. And then there’s the matter of “the stakes.” Initially, the stakes are low – the reporters want a story. But as the story progresses, the stakes also increase from personal challenges to serious physical jeopardy. And then, just at the point where you’re beginning to wonder how long they can sustain the original threat, they raise the stakes yet again, in much the same way that a musician might change key. But even then, the movie isn’t overloaded with action sequences and fluffy filler. Instead, the scriptwritrs gave us a real treat: characters who actually talk to each other – crisp, real dialogue, that keeps you glued to your seat for the duration of the series.

I think it’s the dialogue that is actually my favorite part of the entire show. When the characters are talking to each other, you actually believe the conversations – they don’t come off as scripted or artificial, the way so many other movie conversations feel.

And there’s one scene, where Ann (in the foreground) is finally letting herself react to the day’s events, while Cal (in the background) is talking just like a normal person would, that is a brilliant piece of both dialogue and cinematography.

If you’re tired of the usual roller-coaster action-adventure ride, that leaves you breathless but wondering what the big deal was, give State of Play a chance. The storytellers – and the creative team that produced the film – really knew how to tell a story.

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The Last Sigh of the Moor

I love historical fiction – stories that connect me to a historical place and time and letting me see and experience it through the eyes of a character I can care about. But I’ve hesitated about trying my hand at writing historical fiction. I’m not a historian, and found the idea of writing a story based in a historical period rather daunting.

So when I attended a short story workshop earlier this summer, and the first assignment given by the instructor, my friend, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, was to write a story set in a historical period about which we had a reasonable level of knowledge, I hesitated – but only for a moment, because you don’t tell Kris ‘no’ when she’s given you an assignment – and then I dove in. After all, refining my short-story skills, and learning from a master such as Kris was why I’d signed up for the workshop.

The story I wrote was The Last Sigh of the Moor. Not only was it a lot easier to write than I thought it would be, but once I let myself get past the “I’m not a historian” worries, and just let what I already knew about the period (the fall of Granada, Spain), supplemented with a little supporting research, guide me, the story almost told itself.

The Last Sigh of the Moor - a short story by Lauryn ChristopherThe Last Sigh of the Moor

a short story by Lauryn Christopher

There is a place, outside the walls of Granada, and in the shadow of the mighty Alhambra, where history tells us the city’s last caliph turned and wept at the sight of his beautiful, lost city… and, perhaps, at the loss of the friend who betrayed her.

Available on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. $0.99

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Shades of Gray … the Anti-Hero

In most crime and mystery fiction, it’s pretty easy to spot the hero/heroine.

She’s the person in the wrong place at the wrong time, who often finds herself in some sort of peril, but, in spite of all odds, manages to rout the bad guy in the end.

He’s the intrepid investigator/police detective/average Joe, who hunts down the villain with steely-eyed determination and a resolve to see justice prevail.

Villains aren’t always quite so readily apparent, but are seldom the mustachioed characters we remember from Saturday morning cartoons.

They’re more often chameleon-like, with textures and variations that make them sometimes difficult to spot amid the Rogue’s Gallery of shady characters populating the pages of the story. But while each of these individuals may have had some combination of means, motive, and opportunity to have committed the crime-in-question, the villain is ultimately revealed – and usually captured – as the one who acted on their darker impulses as the story progresses.

Yes, I’m generalizing on the stereotypes, but since it’s so easy to identify the stereotypical heroes and villains, it should be just as easy for us to recognize the anti-hero, right?

Not always.

When I wrote Conflict of Interest, I didn’t at first realize that the main character, Meg, was an anti-hero. After all, she’s an assassin – not a typical hero’s profession; on the other hand (keeping spoilers to a minimum here), she actually chooses some heroic-type actions through the course of the story.

It was a fellow writer who read an early draft and pointed out that by telling the story from the assassin’s point of view, I’d entered the gray area  and gritty streets inhabited by the anti-hero.

Of course, that suits me just fine. Meg is a complicated person, a woman with a dysfunctional past that has molded and shaped her into the person she is – someone who can kill quickly and efficiently when the need arises, who is not above selling secrets or using what she’s learned to her own advantage or to suit her purposes. At the same time, there’s a core of humanity in her that she frequently fails to recognize – a fierce loyalty to her few friends, a protective nature that asserts itself when she volunteers at a self-defense class or invests her ill-gotten gains in underdeveloped communities.

In her own stories, Meg never sees herself as the hero, but she doesn’t consider herself to be the villain, either. In her matter-of-fact way, she’d tell you that she’s just there, doing what needs to be done. A loner, a person who gets her hands dirty because there’s a job that needs to be done, and she’s not afraid of doing it.

Just don’t ask her to think too much about it.

Paris 2008, photo by Nino Andonis“In the real world there are no villains. No one actually sets out to do evil. Fiction mirrors life. Or, more accurately, fiction serves as a lens to focus what we know of life and bring its realities into sharper, clearer understanding for us. There are no villains cackling and rubbing their hands in glee as they contemplate their evil deeds. There are only people with problems, struggling to solve them.” 

–Ben Bova


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