Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Sister in Crime… Murder She Writes- Author Sylvia Dickey Smith

Before I forget, Joan, I want to let your readers know about a new internet radio talk show called Murder, She Writes. I will be hosting the program every Monday evening from 5:00 to 5:30 p.m. Central time. The program is open to everyone.

The website address is at Blog Talk Radio:
Murder She Writes

Thanks Syl for reminding us.

I was so excited about your blogtalkradio program that I went ahead and posted the time and date. Good Luck, you will be marvelous.

Murder, She Writes focuses on women crime writers. Each week I will host a different, best-selling mystery/suspense/thriller author. We will be discussing her books, her life and her writing, and what makes her keep going in this competitive genre. I invite your readers to make our program a mainstay of your listening week. Our first guest, on May 4th, is Glynn Marsh Alam talking about her fabulous book Moon Water Madness, available at bookstores and online. I am reading it now and have fallen in love with her characters.

1) Are you anxious? Apprehensive maybe?

Are you kidding? Of course I’m anxious and more than a little apprehensive. I’m nervous as all get out! I have the gift of gab, inherited from my father. I can talk to practically anyone about practically anything—but on the air is another whole medium. I’m sure I’ll stutter and stammer for a while. But hopefully folks will be patient with me until I get my wings. My training and experience as a licensed professional counselor and marriage and family therapist should give me an edge and help me keep the conversation going—at least for a while! Also, I am open to receive requests to be a guest on the program from any published woman crime writer.

2) About your experience in Persist and Publish writers group? What advice do you give the aspiring author?

Persist & Publish! What a neat critique group, and that includes our hostess. I don’t know if I would have ever gotten my first book finished without them. They virtually held my hand and taught me how to write! I owe them so much. My advice to the aspiring author is to find such a group. Don’t settle for feedback that flatters. Keep looking until you find a group who tells you the difficult stuff. When that ‘stuff’ stings, don’t get defensive. Don’t defend, don’t explain, just receive. Then go home and consider their advice. If only one person dislikes something you write you can take it or leave it, but if more than one person says the same thing, REALLY pay attention. And by all means, find a strong supportive group that will help hold your feet to the proverbial fire. A good group is not there to make you feel good, but there to show tough love and let you know what works, and what doesn’t. Learn to trust them, but don’t throw away your own writing voice in the process.

3) What tips or pointers can you give us on revision of your work?

Well, for one thing, revise, revise and then revise again. One of the best tools I have is my own voice when I read my text out loud. When I do, the awkward parts really show up because I trip over them. If I find that I read it differently, changing a word here and there, words different than those on the page, then I know I need to revise that sentence. A great tool is Read Please, at This is simple to use, text to speech software that will read your text back to you. They have a free version of the program that you can download without obligation and use as long as you wish, or there is another one you can purchase. I use the free one and find it works just fine, doing all I want it to do.

I think one of the biggest mistakes a new writer can do is to not revise their manuscript well enough and frequently enough. Write your first draft, revise, present to your critique group, revise again, submit to another critique group or writing partner, revise again, and again. Then you might be ready to do the copyediting for punctuation and grammatical errors. Don’t settle until it is perfect.

4) Writing a sequel?

Planning to! Spending two or three months launching book three, DEAD WRECKONING, while doing a lot of thinking about book four. I am also running a cookbook contest, accepting recipes from Sidra Smart fans, which will be compiled in a cookbook later this year. The deadline for submission is July 3o, 2009. The first, second and third place winners will receive a free copy of the book. Recipes can be emailed to me at I hope to launch the cookbook along with the fourth in the series near the same time.

5) Do you have anyone read your manuscript before submission, now?

Absolutely! Lots of people. I am in three critique groups who read and give me
feedback. Plus, I paid to have this last book edited by a professional editor, and will
use her again for any and all I write. Mistakes in books drive me crazy, and I know
my editor/publisher can’t find them all. So this is what I do to make my work as
seamless as possible. Besides, commas and their proper usage drive me crazy! If a
sentence looks like it doesn’t have enough commas, I put some in. If it looks like it
has too many, I take out a few!

6) What advice and tips would you like to share with the aspiring author on marketing books?

Be prepared to market like crazy. If you are not willing to go the extra miles (and
expense) to do what it takes to make your book a success, hang it up—give it up—
don’t even bother. Go do something else. I love the whole marketing aspect of
writing. I find it great fun. I love talking to people, period. I especially love talking to
people who want to talk about my books!

New authors, always be on the lookout for new, creative ways to get your book out
there. I just came from events in east Texas where I dressed as a pirate (one is on the
cover of my third book), opened a treasure chest and threw out gold-wrapped
Snickers candy bars to the audience while brandishing a sword. I gave out door
prizes that I bought and wrapped in advance.

There are so many fun ways to market. And if it isn’t fun, turn it into fun!
Challenge yourself, watch and listen to ideas from others, brainstorm your own and
put them into action. Play with it.

Rule number one—have no shame! Put yourself out there (as long as it’s legal and
moral!) Ask for what you want—and you just might get it!

7) Does it get any easier writing a story after the first one?

It took me longer to write the third than it did the second. And if I am not careful, I
will still tell myself the whole thing is a fluke—that I really can’t write, can’t really
finish a book, can’t really get a book published! Often we are our own worst enemy. But I keep plugging away. Why? Because I can do no other!

8) Writing a mystery novel, do you outline? Would you recommend outlining?

No, I don’t outline. When I sit down to try my poor brain takes a vacation! I’ve had to accept the fact that my story wants to unfold for me just as it does for my reader. The disadvantage is I probably do a lot more rewrites than do those who outline. Then again, I’ve heard where some authors spend a year developing a 50 page outline. I don’t have that discipline. My advice is to do what works for you.

9) Do you prepare before you begin writing a novel?

I try to come up with at least an inspirational idea. In my first book, Dance On His
Grave, that story was inspired by true events. Book two, Deadly Sins Deadly Secrets,
was inspired by a true Civil War heroine I learned of while researching the first book.

10) Where do you get your ideas?

Everywhere! Our world is so full of stories we will never reach the end of the
resource. For instance, I got the idea for Dead Wreckoning from a tale my brother
told me over the phone one day. His father in law recounted how he had gone into
the swamp behind his house hunting squirrel and saw a resurrected brass-bowed
pirate schooner sticking up out of the water. Wa-la!

11) What inspired you to write? Does Sidra Smart remind you of yourself?

Yes, Sidra Smart reminds me of myself. For many years I felt like I had at least one
book inside me. When I sat to write, Sidra Smart came to life. Of course a lot of my
experiences and life lessons reflect hers. However, the characters in the books are
fictional composites of many people I have met, and some I’ve just heard about.

12) Have you thought of writing a literary novel or short story?

Actually I am now revising a literary—no, probably more mainstream historical novel set during WWII called A War of Her Own.

I have a non-fiction short story published in True Tales of Transformation: The Story That Must Be Told, by Loving Healing Press. My story in the anthology is Divorcing God.

Then , I have a short story published in the mystery anthology, A Death In Texas, published by L & L Dreamspell. My short story, Growing Up Dead, introduces Warren Chadwick, Sidra’s brother who willed her The Third Eye detective agency. The story occurs before his death and gives Sidra Smart fans a glimpse of her brother.

13) Am I still learning?

Oh my gosh yes! Every day. That is the exciting thing about this world of writing! Always something new to learn, to do, to try, to retry!

Thanks for letting me visit your blog. I invite any and all who might have a question or comment to ask it.

Thank you Syl for taking the time to comment and answer any question's the aspiring authors may have. I look forward to listening to you on Blog Talk Radio it really sounds exciting.


  1. Hi JB and Sylvia!

    It's good to hear what Syl is up to! The interview is very helpful. I guess you never can say the "M" word enough. Because of Syl's advice, I've joined a local critique group. We'll see how THAT turns out. Love the critique group over at WVU.

    Those of us who walk the path behind you, salute you, Syl! And dag-nab-bit! I wish I could have seen you in that costume.

    And gotten some candy. There WAS candy, right? I'm sure somebody mentioned candy.


  2. Hi Raven,
    Thanks for dropping by, we'll have to see if we can entice Syl into posting a picture of her in her pirate outfit. A critique, when do you have the time, boy you are one busy lady. Good Luck.

  3. Hey,

    That would be great! Maybe she has a couple pics of her at various signing events? It'd be great
    to see Syl in all her glory.

    Take care of yourself JB.




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