Tag Archives: Author: Nancy Cole Silverman

WHAT’S NEXT? How Adversity has Changed My Life By Nancy Cole Silverman

I started writing the Carol Childs Mysteries when I was bucked out of my previous life. That’s right, bucked. If I substituted the B in that word for another more suitable letter – namely the letter F – you may have a more accurate description of how I felt.

Yes, I was #%-ucked!

You see after a long career in radio, I had launched The Equestrian News, a southern California newspaper I founded for the horsey-set. At the time, I thought I was literally in my heyday. Pun intended. I was like a little kid at the barn. I was there every day, and when I wasn’t at the stable I was having so much fun writing and reporting on horse shows and the like, that I never dreamed I would one day want to be doing anything else.

That is, until the day my horse spooked and my world changed.

My bulletproof horse, who I thought would never do such a thing, was frightened by a tractor. No doubt he thought it was a dinosaur, and he took off with me. And when the horse you’re riding is better than seventeen hands I can tell you that’s scary. To make a long story short: He ran. I held on. He stopped. I didn’t. I ended up going over his head and nearly breaking my neck and losing my hand. Fortunately I didn’t, but two surgeries later, and after a year of very painful rehabilitation – not to mention being told by the doc I couldn’t ride again – I found myself staring at a computer keyboard and wondering, so what’s next?

Prior to my accident, I had spent nearly twenty-five years working for news and talk radio stations. I had done everything from commercial copywriting to news, and because I was always one of those lean-in type of gals, I retired as the general manager of a sports talk radio station here in Los Angeles. At the time, there were only two female general managers in the market. Some might say it was a feather in my cap. I like to say, it’s proof that God has a sense of humor.

So that’s my background. And as I stared at the keyboard, I knew one thing. Writers write what they know and nobody knew the inner workings of a radio station like I did. The stories behind the mic? The personalities? The political workings of a station? I could have fun with that. Plus, I didn’t think it was very likely I’d get bucked off my desk chair, and that had a lot of appeal.

What I wanted more than anything was to create a different type of female protagonists, one that was more brain than brawn and who believed a microphone was more powerful than a forty-five.

Thus, Carol Childs, a thirty-nine-year-old, single working mother of two, was born. At least on the page, and along with her boss, Tyler Hunt, a twenty-one-year-old whiz kid who considers her the World’s Oldest Cub Reporter, I had a built-in conflict. Something I felt most women could relate to.

How about you? What experiences have you had that lead you to where you are today and influenced your writing?

Nancy Cole Silverman

Nancy Cole Silverman credits her twenty-five years in news and talk radio for helping her to develop an ear for storytelling. But it wasn’t until 2001 after she retired from news and copywriting that she was able to sit down and write fiction fulltime. Much of what Silverman writes about today she admits is pulled from events that were reported on from inside some of Los Angeles’ busiest newsrooms where she spent the bulk of her career. In the last ten years she has written numerous short stories and novelettes.

The Rule of Five By Nancy Cole Silverman

 

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Someone once told me we couldn’t be friends because they already had their five.  I looked at them curiously.  I had no idea there was a limit to the number of friends one could have, but indeed with some people – particularly those living here in Los Angeles – there is.  Five appears to be a magic number for which people feel they are comfortable.

It got me thinking.  Could the same be true for my readers?  Was there such a thing as an ideal number of principal characters?

Writers know too many names on a page or in a scene can confuse the reader.  While there is no rule-of-thumb for the number of characters an author may use in a work, there is a limit to the number the reader is comfortable with before they begin to feel overwhelmed. Please note, I’m not talking about the over-all number of minor and reappearing characters in a book, but those that actually interact with the protagonist for the purpose of moving the story forward.

Hence my rule of five.

  1. Limit the number of primary characters to a handful. This frequently allows the author to add color and depth to their personalities.  Alice becomes not just the girl with blue eyes, but my former college roommate, the girl who got all the guys, etc.
  2. Consider combining the roles of principal characters. Do you really need five investigators?  Would two, maybe three be better, allowing you to show the conflict between them?
  3. Make certain your characters names are not too similar to each other. I’m good friends with Maryann, Marilyn and Madeline, but I’d never write a novel with the three of them in the same room. It’s too easy with today’s speed reader to slip by the names and mix them.
  4. Ancillary characters don’t always need to be named. Consider referring to them by their job description. For instance, the intern, the receptionist, or perhaps by a physical description; the pharmacist with the bulbous nose.
  5. First and last names are wonderful and frequently used alternatively, as well as a nickname. But make certain it’s used frequently enough that the reader will remember that Worm when used on page 192, was Marty’s nickname from high school that you introduced in chapter one.

Of course rules are made to be broken. Tolstoy was famous for the number of characters in his novels and their pseudonyms. I remember having to make a chart to follow all the characters in his books. But most readers today all multi-taskers, they may be watching TV, surfing the internet or perhaps even texting while reading your novel.  Keeping it simple may guarantee your reader will remember your book and even pick up the next.

Oh, and by the way, I ran into my I-already-have-my-five-friends the other day.  She wanted to get together.  It seems her BFF had moved away and she suddenly found herself with time on her hands.  She wondered if we might hang out.

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Nancy Cole Silverman says she has to credit her twenty-five years in radio for helping her to develop an ear for storytelling. In 2001 Silverman retired from news and copywriting to write fiction fulltime. In 2014, Silverman signed with Henery Press for her new mystery series, The Carol Childs’ Mysteries. The first of the series, Shadow of Doubt, debuted in December 2014 and the second, Beyond a Doubt, debuted July 2015. Coming soon, in 2016, is the third in the series, Without A Doubt. For more information visit www.nancycolesilverman.com

 

 

 

 

Writer, Writer Pants on Fire – Or Confessions of a News Junkie  By Nancy Cole Silverman

april 8

I was once taken to task by a reader for saying that I think a good writer is not only a good liar, but that there is also a bit of larceny in their blood. The young woman in the crowd looked at me as though I had just attacked the Holy Grail. It seems to me, I said, that if cops and robbers are at times only separated by a thin line – that between right and wrong – then certainly mystery writers are only a blank page apart from their characters and the crimes they commit. Pease let me go on record and say that I do not believe all cops and robbers are cut from the same cloth or that writers are all liars, cheats and scoundrels, but that at some point, writers do tell lies, and we all do steal. We have to. We steal from each other – I’m not talking plagiarism – but we are frequently inspired by the ideas of another writer, a conversation overheard at the park, a mother talking to her daughter, two lovers in an argument, or a news story that caught our attention as we had our morning coffee that won’t let go.

For instance, this last month I’ve been riveted by the Robert Durst’s story.  In case you missed it, it’s the one about the son of a New York real estate mogul accused of murdering his wife, getting a female friend to dress up as her, enter their New York apartment so that she might give the appearance of his wife returning home, then moving to Texas where he changed his identity to that of a mute woman, befriends a neighbor, who he is suspected of convincing to go to California and kill the very woman who supposedly helped him cover up the murder of his wife, and is later accused of murdering the man in self-defense, cutting up the body, and dumping it in the bay. Got that? It’s an amazing story. If I set down to write it I don’t think I could have imagined all the twists and turns. Sometimes you just can’t make this stuff up. Truth is stranger than fiction. While I wasn’t quick enough to grab the idea for myself, writers Marcus Hinckey and Marc Smerling did. They turned it into a successful screenplay, All Good Things, and later worked with HBO to produce a documentary, The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst. 

After twenty-five years in news and talk radio it’s no surprise that I look to news for the source of my inspirations. For a long time I worked both sides of the desk.  In the early days I worked as a reporter, doing light news, when a woman’s voice was a novelty. Later I worked on the business side in sales, marketing and eventually management where women were again a novelty. When I retired I was one of two female general managers in the marketplace.

Growing up in the business I saw talk radio as the grand central station of any market it was in. It was the local watering hole where politicians, entertainers, doctors, lawyers, celebrity-chefs and those colorful, local personalities – you name it – came to vent.  As for the listeners, the on-air hosts were their friends; faceless voices they listened to each day on their commute to and from work for the latest box score, gossip or crisis update.  It’s also where they called to yell at the host and to share their grievances and their victories.  For many, talk radio was their commuters’ shrink, their best friend, a faceless voice who would listen and was there for them, twenty-four seven. For me, this theater of the mind – that you could hear but could not see – was rich soil from which to write my new series.

In my first book, Shadow of Doubt, Carol Childs, a middle-aged mom embarking on a new career as a reporter, is told by her friend and next door neighbor that her aunt, a top Hollywood agent has died suspiciously in the bathtub of her Beverly Hills home. Where did the idea come from? A news story of course. The day after an Academy Awards show here in Hollywood, I read an article about a Hollywood Agent who had been shot and killed as she drove home from the awards show.  That in itself was terrible, but what followed in the paper was even more intriguing. The agent had twin nieces and had left a will in which one niece inherited one-million dollars and the other niece just one dollar. One dollar! I couldn’t let that pass. The story just wouldn’t let go of me. That’s frequently the way it is.

But what came out of the story, for me anyway, was even more revealing.   I started to think about Carol and what her own internal struggles might be. Young, single, in the midst of a career change. I looked around at other women, women in the midst of reinventing themselves and the pressures that were on them to succeed. Did I steal from that? You bet. As for my characters Misty Dawn, a former hippy, flower-power clairvoyant who befriends Carol, or Tyler Hunt, her boy-wonder boss, who refers to Carol as the world’s oldest cub reporter, did I make them up? Or were they a combination of the strange but lovable personalities I’ve met along the way? I get asked that a lot but I’ll never tell.  However, I will say they all made for a better story because I pulled from those around me and blended fact with fiction.  In essence, I lied.  A lot.  But it all made for Carol’s experiences to ring true on the page.

I was very pleased when Kenneth Weene reviewed Shadow of Doubt with great praise.  He and other reviewers, who have also liked it, have the set the bar for this new mystery series. And as the sequel, Beyond a Doubt, is about to be released in July, I find myself rubbing my hands, hoping my readers and reviewers will enjoy my second book as much as they did the first.

Beyond a Doubt opens with a body dump. Is the idea original? Not entirely. Years ago I woke up to the sounds of helicopters above my house in the hills where I live. Commuters had spotted a body and called police.  The story stuck with me, the emotion of seeing a body airlifted from the canyon, not easy to forget. I pulled from all those scenes to get the feelings and emotion I wanted Carol to feel on the page. Am I guilty of theft? Absolutely.

My point is that as writers we’re like emotional sponges. We soak in all that we see and hear around us. We have to. To be authentic on the page, one has to be able to recall a similar experience with from within ourselves, or that we’ve experienced vicariously through others. Whether it’s a scene we’re writing or the same gut feeling we need to show our character experiencing we have to pull it from somewhere. To do that a writer must steal from all around him, blur the lines of fact and fiction – lie even – then wrap it up in from of novel or a short story.

Bio – Award winning author Nancy Cole Silverman’s new series with Henery Press is available in bookstores and online. For more information about Ms. Silverman, please visit her website; www.nancycolesilverman.com or her publisher http://henerypress.com/nancy-cole-silverman/