Novel Viewpoints

Today we want to introduce and welcome our latest new blogger, author Katherine Sharma. She spent more than 15 years as a newspaper writer and editor, but is now focused on writing her own fiction. Her latest mystery, “Lies Agreed Upon” has received high praise from critics. Her blog, Novel Viewpoints, explores the love, life and the challenges of fiction writing. You can purchase her novel on paperback or kindle.

Thrillers Resonate This Political Season

Freedom and statue of libertyRecently, Russian digital hacks of the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee were revealed, raising the specter of foreign government interference in U.S. elections. That’s a plot you’d expect to find in a Cold War-era political thriller, not 2016 news stories. Read More

Physical Challenges Can’t Stop These Sleuths

beautiful fashionable woman detectiveIf you like triumph-over-physical-adversity tales, you may want to check out mystery writing’s long tradition of physically challenged detectives. There are many reasons for authors to create sleuths who are blind, deaf, paralyzed or otherwise physically limited.  Read More

‘Bad Seed’ Characters Exist in Fact and Fiction

Upset and angry boyPsychopathic villains–manipulative, aggressive, remorseless and unemotional–abound in murder mysteries, but when those psychopaths are children, an element of horror enters. Read More

 

Mystery on Board: Cruising Into Murder

oceanIt’s vacation time, and maybe you’re longing to sail away from it all. You may even be one of the folks actually taking a cruise ship to exotic destinations. But what if there is a murderer hunting among the passengers trapped on that floating hotel? Read More

Dark Mysteries Shine In Las Vegas Neon Lights

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas SignLast week I took relatives visiting from abroad to Las Vegas–because foreign tourists see its neon-magicked, cigarette-and alcohol-hazed glamorization of fantasy and vice as a top American entertainment experience. Read More

Add Thrills To Your 2016 Beach Reads

HELP written in a bottleIt’s time to pack for that summer vacation, including, of course, a couple of mysteries or thrillers to get the heart pounding and the blood chilled despite the lazy, sunny days ahead. Read More

‘Poison Pens’ Find Dangerous Cyber Power

????nThe poison pen letter has been a plot device in some classic murder mysteries. For example, Dorothy Sayers’ Gaudy Night and Agatha Christie’s The Moving Finger featured these cruel communications–anonymous notes sent to the targeted recipient to humiliate, intimidate and discredit. Read More

Injecting Poison Into The Mystery Plot

Portrait of office manager poisoning petroleumPoison is a rare murder weapon statistically but not fictionally. And here’s a case where mystery plots may be more revealing than crime data. Many homicidal poisonings go undetected per experts, and only one in five verified murders by poisoning is ever solved. Read More

Blindsided By Murder Mystery Plot Twists

TS-522556328 Murder Plot TwistsSkilled mystery authors can use an ingenious plot twist to surprise and stump even veteran mystery readers. Here are some favorites that continue to inspire imitation and inventive variation. Read More

Just the Facts, Mam! Murder by the Numbers

TS-462193457 Crime Scene tapecropMurder mysteries are fiction. The reality of murder is both more mundane and more inexplicably tragic. If you want to write a murder tale that accurately reflects crime data, you will describe a handgun homicide involving two male friends engaged in an argument that escalated. Read More

Unconventional Crime Fiction, California Style

TS-71155127 California Mysteries 2cropIf your mystery bookshelf is overstocked with British-accented capers, hard-boiled noir and “cozy” cat-lady sleuths, it’s time to add crime fiction titles that will take you off the beaten path. And what better setting for the unconventional than California? Read More

When Cat Lovers Unite With Mystery Lovers 

Based on the number of titles TS-101763455 Cat Eyesavailable, there is a relatively large mystery audience that combines love of detective/crime fiction with a love of cats. Felines have sauntered into a growing list of series. Read More

 

Culinary Mysteries Make Murder Appetizing

TS-535939389 Chef MurdercropThe culinary mystery has become a popular subgenre, pleasing both crime-solving and foodie fans. Most of these nestle in the “cozy” mystery category, sport cute titles, include recipes, and form fictional series. Here’s a quick taste (pun intended) of popular foodie mysteries. Read More

Sci Fi Meets Mystery: Detecting in Future Time

TS-512327828 Sci Fi Mystery-candlesIn previous posts, I focused on mysteries set in past historical eras, but some mysteries leap into the future, and this marriage of science fiction with mystery has attracted best-selling authors and awards. Read More

Victorian Mysteries Debut Modern Crime-Solving

Sick woman and her friend.Looking to escape back in time with your next mystery? England’s Victorian era is a favorite setting because it can combine old-fashioned moral certitudes with relatively modern crime-solving thanks to the era’s policing and forensic science advances. Read More

Some Murder Mysteries Inspire Historic Change

dead woman in red dressIn a previous post, I talked about the new fascination with “true crime,” and I think it’s only fair here to acknowledge the positive side to our lurid interest. Some murders not only inspire fictional bestsellers and highly rated television shows, they generate lasting legal and social change. Read More

Mysteries Close to Home: Los Angeles Noir

Detective interviewing a young sad woman in his office, film noir scene.It’s a rainy winter day in Los Angeles, courtesy of El Nino, and a great time to stay at home with a good mystery. Since Los Angeles is the recognized home of “noir” police procedurals and “hard-boiled” private eyes, I’m gathering together my favorite “L.A. noir” authors. Read More

Books for Novice and Expert Cooks in Your Life

Housekeeper with cookbook and mixerMy holiday gift shopping list always includes cookbooks for the foodies in my life, but cookbooks are good gifts all year long. The list of possibilities is so huge that I scour the Internet for recommendations. Read More

Raise Your Glass to Fiction’s Worst Sex Scenes

TS-124819036 Bad Sex Scenes 2By Katherine Sharma
One of my favorite “literary” awards, the annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award, has announced this year’s winner! The award was established back in 1998 by the British Literary Review’s then-editor Auberon Waugh, with the hope of discouraging authors from penning laughably bad fictional sex scenes. Read More

Southern Gothic: ‘The Night The Hogs Ate Willie’

TS-177365647 Souther GothicBy Katherine Sharma
I’m a sucker for Southern Gothic writing–works by authors such as William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Carson McCullers and Cormac McCarthy. So I was curious to read the recently published The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young. Read More

What Is Behind The Urge To Write?

TS-466850519 Why write 2cropBy Katherine Sharma

Recently, a friend wondered about whether to write a blog, and it got me thinking about writers’ motives. Read More

A Chill Is In The Air With These Fall Mysteries

TS-486861145 Fall MysteriesBy Katherine Sharma
Cooler, darker fall days are around the corner, so it’s time to stock up on mysteries for cozy holiday reading–including several foreign imports. If you miss genius punk hacker Lisbeth Salander, read The Girl in the Spider’s Web by Sweden’s David Lagercrantz, Read More

What Your Dream-Home Style Says About You

TS-181401158 Woman on Chaise LoungecropBy Katherine Sharma
I have bought and sold many homes over the years, from the affordable two-bedroom starter condo to the five-bedroom floorplan with a pool, and I am now at the stage where an empty nest and aging knees are pushing toward downsized, single-story… Read More

It’s No Mystery Why Female Sleuths Proliferate

TS-492265595 Female Slueths 3cropBy Katherine Sharma
Ever since Nancy Drew, I’ve liked female sleuths in mystery fiction, especially because they were once a relatively rare breed. Now women mystery-solvers–police detectives, medical examiners, journalists, psychiatrists and detecting psychics–proliferate in publishing. Read More

Best-Seller Mysteries for Your Summer Reading

TS-505254387 Murder Mystery1By Katherine Sharma
It’s time to gather up mystery fare for the long, lazy days of summer. If you are a fan of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, you’ll like two new best sellers. For those attracted to mean-girl protagonists, try Jessica Knoll’s The Luckiest Girl Alive. Read More

Put Biographies on Your Summer Reading List

TS-488651959 summer ReadingcropBy Katherine Sharma
I’m certainly not alone in appreciation of biographical literature. Biographies, autobiographies, memoirs and biographical fiction (which embellishes historical fact with imagined elements) are very popular in the book marketplace. Ever wondered why? Read More

In Fiction AND Real Life, Looks Can Thrill

TS-112124384 Couple in WaterBy Katherine Sharma
Whether to describe, how to describe and when to describe a character’s physical traits are among the conundrums of fiction writers. Many great writers have provided only minimal clues to a protagonist’s appearance and thus freed the imaginations of readers. Read More

Good Moms/Bad Moms – It Takes All Kinds in Novels!

TS-478699243 Good MomBy Katherine Sharma
For Mother’s Day, the nation celebrated motherhood with floral bouquets and restaurants full of dutiful children honoring moms. Of course, in fiction, especially mystery writing, the “bad” mother is usually more significant to plot and character development. Read More

Fictional First Lines Can Be Unforgettable

TS Novel First Lines-480219163cropBy Katherine Sharma
The first line of a fiction novel is so important that the most famous are instantly recognized:
“Call me Ishmael.” (Moby-Dick by Herman Melville)
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” (A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens) Read More

The Telltale Clues of A Doomed Relationship

ThinkstockPhotos-158987240 Bad RelationshipBy Katherine Sharma
In adult gatherings, the demise of a marriage or long-term romantic relationship is a common topic. There may be revelations about physical abuse, affairs and addictions. However, sometimes, like the murderer in the news whom everyone describes as a “good son” or a “great neighbor,” these relationship deaths take people by surprise. Read More

What’s In A Name? A Chance for Success

romeoBy Katherine Sharma
Several young couples in my circle recently welcomed babies, and their struggles with name choices reminded me of my own deliberations over naming of fictional characters–because the answer to Juliet’s famous question “What’s in a name?” can affect social (or publishing) success. Read More

Dystopian Fiction: There’s No End To It

462170051 TS Dystopian NovelsBy Katherine Sharma
Dystopian fiction is thriving as news stories about global warming, world pandemics, and violent human intolerance of every kind–racial, religious and sexual–inspire tales of a terrifying future for humanity. It’s no fluke that The Hunger Games series sells books and movie tickets. Read More

The Alchemist: A Best Seller With Life Lessons

469546607 TS Pyramids -WomancropBy Katherine Sharma
I must admit that I had not read The Alchemist, an allegorical novel by Brazilian-born Paulo Coelho, until this year. First published in the U.S. in 1993, the novel is celebrating over 20 years of international popularity. It has been translated into at least 56 languages and is in its 345th week on The New York Times paperback best seller list as of today. Read More

Fairy Tale Weddings Can’t Promise A Happy Ending

178879984By Katherine Sharma
Weddings have been on my mind because my daughter is getting married this year. As a result, everywhere I look, everyone seems similarly obsessed. On reality TV, courtship and marriage fuel dramas with “love” as the prize: “The Bachelorette,” “90-Day Fiance,” “Married at First Sight,” “Bridezillas,” “Say Yes to The Dress,” etc. Read More

Even Good Writers Can Win Bad Sex Awards

185032011By Katherine Sharma
What better start-of-the-year topic for a fiction blog than sex. In this case, I want to pass along a humorous and cautionary reminder that even great writers can pen sex scenes that leave readers stunned–by incoherent, clichéd and unintentionally comic results. Read More

Love and Laughter Help Us Cope

476108731cropBy Katherine Sharma
As the New Year begins, I’m suffering from a post-holiday mental hangover. One of the blessings, and trials, of the holidays for baby boomers like me is that we reunite with aging parents (if we’re lucky enough to still have living parents). Read More

‘Tis the Season When Children Star

shirley templeBy Katherine Sharma
It’s the time of year when children dominate in public media and private ceremonies, symbols of hope and innocence to be showered with gifts. We forget how recently children became “economically worthless but emotionally priceless,” as sociologist Viviana Zelizer has said.  Read More

Already Feeling Overwhelmed By Holiday Decor

christmas treeBy Katherine Sharma
It’s that time of year when printed magazines and online social sharing are dominated by holiday decor. This year, I was feeling especially uninspired as I began to haul out old ornaments, yet I couldn’t find the motivation for the effort and expense required to create a new seasonal look. Read More

New Mysteries to Add to Your Holiday Reading

146068575cropBy Katherine Sharma
‘Tis the season to stock up on mystery novels for vacation reading. Here are a few highlights of my shopping list for anyone planning to cozy up with a good read for the holidays. At the top of my agenda is the best seller The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. Read More

Try Paranormal Mystery Treats for Halloween 

Murder MysteryBy Katherine Sharma
Halloween is a perfect time to indulge in mysteries with the extra spice of the supernatural–ghosts, curses, magic, haunted houses and dark forces. I’ve always had a soft spot for Jonathan Kellerman’s best-selling Alex Delaware mysteries set in Los Angeles, so I’ll start with The Golem of Hollywood by Jonathan Kellerman and his son Jesse. Read More

In Food Books, ‘Healthy’ Outsells Tasty Recipes

cookbook By Katherine Sharma
I’ve noticed that new best-selling food/cooking books have become less focused on tasty recipes and more on healthy “lifestyle” diets. But it really hit home when I went shopping for holiday gift books for “foodie” friends in September. Read More

Dressed to Kill: Clothing is Clue to Character

young couple dancingBy Katherine Sharma
“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society,” remarked Mark Twain. Clothes, even if sketchily observed, make the fictional character, too. OK, naked characters rule in erotica, but you still want to know about clothes taken off. Read More

Arf or Meow: What Author Pet Choice Tells You

dog and catBy Katherine Sharma
Many author promotional photos include pets, as I noticed when researching my prior post about author portraits. I suppose it is partly a ploy to make the writer more appealing; you can’t be a selfish, irresponsible brute if you love a pet, right? Read More

Separating Forensic Facts From Fantasy

woman in redBy Katherine Sharma
I admit I’m a sucker for forensic detection, especially mystery fiction where the medical examiner or expert is the key crime solver. I like Patricia Cornwell’s Dr. Kay Scarpetta series, Kathy Reichs’ Dr.Temperance Brennan mysteries, Tess Gerritsen’s Dr. Maura Isles, and Aaron Elkins’ “skeleton detective” Gideon Oliver, for example. Read More

It’s A Mystery! The Power of Fear

487590043By Katherine Sharma
Fear is the emotion that makes us blind. How many things are we afraid of? We’re afraid to turn off the lights when our hands are wet. We’re afraid to stick a knife into the toaster to get the stuck English muffin without unplugging it first.  Fear makes us blind, and we touch each fear with all the avid curiosity of self-interest, trying to make a whole out of a hundred parts. We sense the shape. Children grasp it easily, forget, and relearn it as adults. The shape is there, and most of us come to realize what it is sooner or later: it is the shape of a body under a sheet. Read More

Modern Echoes of the ‘Penny Dreadful’

penny dreadfulBy Katherine Sharma
The term “Penny Dreadful” has been revived by the recent Showtime horror-thriller series. “Penny dreadful” refers to cheap and lurid British publications catering to the newly literate youth of the late 19th century. Thanks to increased public education, a growing number of English working class adolescents had learned to read at a basic level, and had income for inexpensive escapist entertainment. Read More

Book Clubs Often Give Short Stories Short Shrift

book clubBy Katherine Sharma
In an upcoming book club meeting, we are discussing the short-story collection Runaway by Canadian Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature as a “master of the contemporary short story.” Despite the prestigious award, Munro wasn’t an obvious choice. There is a hesitation in book groups to tackle a story collection; it’s hard enough to structure a conversation about one plot and set of characters, much less multiple ones! Read More

His Sense of Humor Makes Him Sexy. Really?

couple laughingcropBy Katherine Sharma
Humor is an aphrodisiac — or at least women (and men) consistently tell surveys that “a sense of humor” is a top attraction in a romantic partner, even more important than looks, brains or wealth. So in crafting my next novel’s sexy hero, I should forget face and fortune and focus on funny? Really? I just don’t buy it, even though I’ve heard countless girlfriends declare the importance of a “sense of humor” in choosing “the one.”  
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When the Paintbrush Inspires the Pen

paintingBy Katherine Sharma
Along with readers across the nation, my book club is discussing The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel referencing the painting “The Goldfinch” by Carel Fabritius. The fictional tale has sparked new interest in the real painting, and I wonder what Fabritius would make of booming museum gift-store sales of tote bags featuring his trompe l’oeuil portrait of a little pet bird chained to its perch. Read More

Time to Escape on a Foreign Mystery Tour?

By Katherine Sharma
As you emerge from winter’s grip, it’s time to plan for some fun travel — and there’s no cheaper way than a global mystery tour. Enjoy sunny piazzas, pyramids and pagodas with fascinating sleuths for company. If you’re already addicted to bleak Scandinavian landscapes by Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series, consider Norway’s “Queen of Crime” Karin Fossum and Swedish master Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander series. Read More

Archetypes, Stereotypes & Character Creation

By Katherine Sharma
Good fiction writing relies on the creation of believable and compelling characters. It’s a challenging task, but writers can fall back on some tried-and-true models — as long as those models are a starting point not a substitute for character development. Most characters can be traced to an “archetype,” which, if properly developed, adds cultural and psychological resonance.

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The Challenge of Writing Sex Scenes

By Katherine Sharma
Sex sells. Would anyone read Fifty Shades of Grey without the sex? Luckily, I write mysteries rather than romance novels or erotica, so explicit sex is not the centerpiece of my stories. Still, as long as characters are not solitary beings, love and lust will come into play, and sex will have a role. I recently looked at several articles of the “10 Steps to Writing Great Sex Scenes” variety to help guide my creativity. The first step in one article was “Get drunk.” Read More

The Challenge of Creating a Good Villain


By Katherine Sharma
A traditional mystery, especially a murder mystery, requires a proper villain or two. Like a spider in a web, these antagonists are the prime movers at the heart of the mystery — murdering, abetting, lying, betraying, and generally causing pain, grief and turmoil. Usually, the protagonist, who seeks to solve the central secret of who did what and why, can be flawed or tortured but must ultimately be on the side of justice if not the angels. And the villain can be sympathetic, even admirable Read More

 

About Katherine Sharma

Katherine Sharma’s family roots are in Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas. But after her early childhood in Texas, she has moved around the country and lived in seven other states, from Virginia to Hawaii. She currently resides in California with her husband and three children. She has also traveled extensively in Europe, Africa and Asia, and makes regular visits to family in India. After receiving her bachelor’s degree. in economics and her master’s degree in journalism from the University of Michigan, Katherine worked as a newspaper and magazine writer and editor for more than 15 years. She then shifted into management and marketing roles for firms in industries ranging from outdoor recreation to insurance to direct marketing. Although Katherine still works as a marketing consultant, she is now focused on creative writing.

Visit Katherine’s Website or Sign Up For Her Blog