Check out my guest blog post on Fiction University

July 29th, 2014 → 2:35 pm @

Janice Hardy invited me to guest blog on her Fiction University site. Check out my column here:

Character Evolution: Don’t Restrict Your Characters to Your Original Vision of Them

By Robin Leemann Donovan

Characters have a way of evolving in a story, sometimes for the better, sometimes to the utter frustrations of their creators. Despite those hair-pulling moments, though, a character who comes to life on their own often turns into a star. Please help me welcome Robin Leemann Donovan to the lecture hall today, to share the story of one such character.

Robin is president of the advertising/communications firm, Bozell and author of the blog, Menologues, a humorous yet informative look at the trials and tribulations of menopause by someone who’s been there. Menologues is republished on two commercial sites: Vibrant Nation and Alltop, and has won regional honors for social media at the AMA Pinnacles and PRSA Paper Anvil awards. Her first book in the Donna Leigh Mystery series: Is It Still Murder Even If She Was A Bitch? won an AMA Pinnacle award.

Robin was born and raised in New Jersey but lived and worked in Connecticut for a number of years before moving to Nebraska in 1999. Starting her career as a high school English teacher, Donovan moved into advertising in the early 80’s. In 1999 she accepted a job offer from Bozell. Donovan lives with her husband and three bulldogs, Jasmine, Roxi and Sadie (Sweet Pea).

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound

Take it away Robin…

When I started writing my first comedic murder mystery, Is It Still Murder Even If She Was A Bitch?, there was no Clovis Cordoba Seville character. All of my characters were utilitarian. I had a murder victim, some amateur sleuths, and some cops.

Having loosely based the murder victim on a less-than-favorite acquaintance, I had plenty of opportunities for humor in my ability to mock her. Early in the process I began to realize that too much focus on mocking the murder victim would make my protagonist really unsympathetic.

I had characters that could give me some slapstick and some playful co-worker banter but I was worried about too much of the same type of humor over and over again. I was short on diversity and range in recurring comedic characters.

That’s when I introduced Clovis.

She is loosely based on a former co-worker with a stunning ability to make herself the center of absolutely everything. How had I forgotten about the importance of narcissistic humor – the backbone of any creative enterprise – in the mix? So Clovis was born.

Throughout the writing process I was able to introduce Clovis as the “irrelevant logic voice of reason,” a role the deranged woman who inspired her had mastered. The beauty of this was that I didn’t have to make fun of her – she took care of that all by herself!

One fairly typical comment by Clovis causes Donna Leigh, the protagonist, to ruminate, “I was really beginning to think that the only thing that would satisfy her would be to make her the murder victim, and it was getting more tempting by the minute. But, of course, being the second murder victim just wouldn’t do.”

Initially, Clovis was nothing more than an outsider looking to insert herself into the action, making her the antithesis to most characters in a murder mystery who labor to distance themselves from any possible suspicion and/or danger. The complexity of her character is based on the fact that fulfilling her self-centeredness is the main driving force in her existence trumping every other basic need. How many of us have not known someone like that?

Further along in the plot, her thoughtless selfishness (in her case this is not really redundant) causes the protagonist to contemplate murder, “At that moment the thought of killing her and spending the rest of my life behind bars seemed like the only logical course of action.”

Ultimately, Clovis proves to be more integral to the plot than I’d initially anticipated. As she moves deeper into the plother character’s sense of triumph grows palpably.

Clovis is ridiculous. One of my editors questioned whether or not anyone would believe such an impossible to believe character. Ironically, the very aspects of Clovis that are so ridiculous are behaviors I have absolutely seen her inspiration exhibit on a quasi-daily basis. Honestly, I couldn’t make this stuff up!

I take great pride in the believability of all my characters. They are all based on real behavior patterns plugged into a fictional story. Unfortunately, for many who are not in a creative profession themselves – these characters can be a stretch of the imagination. I cringe whenever I see that my work has been reviewed by a scientist, knowing that they’re generally surrounded by logical, orderly minds on a daily basis, and that they don’t easily suffer fools. My work is not for them.

As writing progressed it became clear that Clovis could be so much more than just a comedic figure on the periphery of the plot fighting to get in. Her penchant to project her own self-aggrandizing behaviors onto Donna Leigh in a constant dogmatic tirade enables us to view the protagonist herself through a, probably more realistic but definitely less flattering and far more amusing, filter.

Clovis becomes the mechanism by which Donna’s own character flaws are illuminated in a way that enables us to laugh with her more than at her.

Clovis has gone from being a late-to-the-party add on to being my favorite character. She enables me push the envelope of the ridiculous and explore the machinations of a totally self-absorbed individual.

About Is It Still Murder Even If She Was A Bitch?

How does one react to the shocking news that a former colleague has been brutally murdered? Worse yet, you realize that your vitriolic relationship with the victim could land you squarely on the suspect list. That’s exactly what happens to Donna Leigh, the energetic and somewhat sardonic owner of an Omaha ad agency, who jumps right in to the investigation – despite annoying menopausal symptoms – in order to keep the wolves away from her door. She manages to amuse as well as impress with her effective but unorthodox sleuthing.

As Donna and her colorful colleagues work feverishly to solve the case, they leave a trail of unintentional destruction in their wake; from injured police officers to collapsed buildings. Donna and her team stir things up enough to make the murderer nervous; after Donna receives a threat to “back off” things take on a more serious bent for her, but not for her ever vigilant colleagues who continue to animatedly bungle their way through the investigation until the murderer is behind bars.

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound

http://blog.janicehardy.com/2014/07/character-evolution-dont-restrict-your.html

 

Uncategorized

KOIL It’s The Beat Interview – Jody and Karen are totally cool!

May 23rd, 2014 → 10:15 pm @

Check out Saturday’s It’s the Beat at 12 noon. It was so incredibly fun! Jody and Karen were hilarious!

20140521_192119 (3)I want to hang out with them from now! And their engineer was awesome as well!

20140521_193723 (3)They all made me feel so comfortable – and encouraged me to talk as much as I want.

Naturally, there will be  some edits!

In addition, they invited me back when book 2 comes out – which should be any time now!

Watch for it – and check out Saturday’s show – it might give you a laugh!

Uncategorized

Radio Interview on It’s the Beat! on the Mighty 1290 KOIL

May 16th, 2014 → 5:40 pm @

Just got a call from producers of It’s the Beat to record an interview Wednesday night featuring Is It Still Murder Even If She Was A Bitch?.

 

It will air on Saturday, May 24th between noon – 1 pm!

It will also be available online. I’ll keep you posted!

Uncategorized

A Talented Photographer Can Make Your Book Cover

January 21st, 2014 → 9:27 pm @

I feel very fortunate. Being in the ad business I have access to many very talented artists. When it came time to design my book cover, my designer strongly recommended commissioning a photograph by the incredibly talented Scott Drickey. Scott read the book, asked a few questions and then came up with a cover photo that offered mystery and intrigue. It created a visual tension befitting a suspense-filled story about murder, yet it maintained a whimsical posture which enabled it to pave the way for the comedic nature of the book.

And Scott managed to convey all of these things within an extremely sophisticated framework.

It fit the book to perfection!

So many of my cozy mystery colleagues select covers that are exaggerated and cartoonish in nature. I’m not sure how that trend came about – but I knew right from the start that it did not fit my work.

I relied very heavily on my designer, Jill Rizzo, to find a “look” that would convey my brand accurately, and with the help and talent of Scott Drickey – my expectations were far exceeded!

 

Uncategorized

Review from Granite Cove Mysteries author Sharon Love Cook

January 7th, 2014 → 5:46 pm @

By Sharon L. Cook on September 11, 2013

Format: Paperback Amazon Verified Purchase

The title alone tells you this isn’t a cozy about embroidering or making fudge. The central character, Donna Leigh, isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. But even when she finds herself in trouble, she never lacks for a witty response. This amateur sleuth compares herself to Miss Marple, albeit a “younger, hotter ” Jane Marple. And though she may unwittingly do ditzy things, such as propping a ladder against the dead woman’s house, thereby attracting the attention of the police, she is a savvy businesswoman. In fact, part of the book’s charm is the insider look at the world of advertising. Author Robin Leemann Donovan is part owner of a high profile advertising agency in Omaha, Nebraska, the setting of this mystery.

There’s something for everyone: fashionistas will love the descriptions of clothes worn by Donna Leigh and colleagues, a coterie of women who aren’t afraid to pile into the car and go investigate a murder. And though they’re bold and daring, they don’t always think before they act. Impulsivity runs rampant in that office. Nonetheless, they’re fiercely loyal, the kind of friends any woman would love to have in her corner–providing they remain in the corner.

Is it Still Murder Even If She Was A Bitch? is brimming with madcap fun, dark deeds, humorous musings and asides and old fashioned suspense along with a victim you love to hate. The protagonist is a whirling dynamo who never slows down, and never lets the reader down either.

 

Uncategorized

Sold Out on Amazon?

December 30th, 2013 → 6:06 pm @

For the first time ever: Is It Still Murder Even If She Was A Bitch? is listed as unavailable on Amazon.com. I emailed my publisher to tell her something was wrong.

She said there’s nothing wrong – it just means that they need to order more copies for their warehouse. Does that mean my book is “sold out” on Amazon? Why do I find this so hard to believe?

I’d love to believe that they just can’t keep it in stock – but I’m having trouble convincing myself. If experience has taught me anything – I’m more inclined to think there’s a technical glitch.

That said, please check out amazon.com and let me know what you find. If my book is truly sold out – I’m going to celebrate more than just the New Year!

Uncategorized

Thanks again Council Bluffs for a very nice Library Author Fair

November 26th, 2013 → 5:51 pm @

This past Sunday was my second Council Bluffs Library Author Fair, and it was even better than the first. Although it’s set up as a sleepy little surprise for local library patrons, it has a whole other set of surprises for some of the attending authors.

Sure, it’s always nice to sell a few books, but Sunday’s Fair also enabled me to meet and reconnect with other local authors. It enabled me to meet some aspiring authors that might be looking for a little bit of mentoring to get through some of those new author/not completely edited jitters, and possibly best of all, it enabled me to meet some of my readers – that was awesome!

In this entire book writing/publishing experience, I guess it just never occurred to me that there would ever be strangers coming up to me to enthusiastically tell me that they’d read my book and/or heard me speak. If felt really good!

 

 

 

Uncategorized

Now on Nook!

November 13th, 2013 → 10:20 pm @

Is It Still Murder Even If She Was A Bitch? is finally on Nook! And it’s on sale!

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/is-it-still-murder-even-if-she-was-a-bitch-?dref=2207&keyword=is+it+still+murder+even+if+she+was+a+bitch%3F

 

Uncategorized

Alzheimer’s Association in my spare time or Meet the Stars!

June 20th, 2013 → 7:50 pm @

In addition to writing cozy mysteries, I spend a lot of time on activities relating to my board position with Alzheimer’s of the Midlands. Last week I had the rare opportunity to attend a small cocktail event sponsored by the association. They were welcoming Erich Hover and Brett Cullen, two Hollywood actors who will be in an upcoming movie about Alzheimer’s being filmed in Omaha late this summer.

Selfless Stars

Selfless Stars

Hover is an Omaha native who went to Hollywood to pursue an acting career. He has appeared in films such as Moneyball. While pursuing his career Hover learned that his Dad, still living in Omaha, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Once he realized the need for both research funding and public awareness, Erich jumped at the idea of creating a film that could provide both.

His experience in the film industry enabled Hover to solicit a script telling the tale of his Dad’s journey and recruit well known actors for the project.

Actor/Filmmaker

Actor/Filmmaker

Cullen, who was featured in recent film 42 and appears in the weekly program Person of Interest has great enthusiasm for the project, in part because he is currently the primary caregiver of a Mother with dementia, and he is intrigued by the difficulty of the role. He will be playing Erich’s Dad, the Alzheimer’s patient.

It is the hope that this film will significantly help raise public awareness; in addition a percentage of the proceeds will go directly to Alzheimer’s research.

The Alzheimer’s of the Midlands, with their new Executive Director, Viv Ewing and her staff, joined the actors and researcher Dr. Bonasera in celebrating the beginning of a much needed project in the history of finding a cure.

CullenIt is only recently that the legislature and a small segment of the public have begun to realize the massive toll that Alzheimer’s will take on the medical community as the Baby Boomers continue to age.

 

Uncategorized

When Is Your Editor The Biggest Pain in the Butt?

May 22nd, 2013 → 7:24 pm @

My first book was edited by five people. Not everyone has that luxury. I think it’s a luxury because you get to see your work through different eyes – and you get to make the final call by reviewing the options and choosing the ones that make the most sense for your plot and characters.

!

I can honestly say that all five of my editors contributed something meaningful to the final published work. Some of the editing was tedious, but I found the overall process invigorating and frequently enjoyable. It was extremely helpful to have them point out areas that warranted a second look. I would review the section in question to determine whether or not it would pass muster with a broader audience; in some cases a reference was too obscure or a joke too lame. I’m not sure I would have caught those weaknesses on my own.

My second book is not going as smoothly. So far I’ve had three editors, and they all seem to get caught up in their own lack of knowledge of my genre. They’re not contributing anything meaningful. It’s frustrating and it feels as though this book will never get out. I write comedic murder mysteries. They’re so hung up on making comments like “why would that character tell her so much when she’s not even a real detective?” Oh for god sake – get over it! Have you never read Agatha’s Christie’s famous Miss Marple? Did you never watch Jessica Fletcher solve every mystery on Murder, She Wrote?

Even under the best of circumstances editors can get under your skin. But a good editor is worth their weight in gold. Aside from the outlay of cash, the biggest potential risk to self-publishing is not making the effort to get good editors reviewing your work. I was convinced my manuscript was perfect on the first day it was submitted – it became so much better over the 18 month editing and proofing process.

Even though in hindsight I am so grateful for the editors of that first book, they still managed to frustrate the hell out of me. I think I shortened and lengthened the same sentences three or four times, and I know I moved commas out, over and back into the same places. Some of their comments were stupid and dated – but I knew enough to ignore those – albeit not without angst and bugging my publisher for permission. I think I was high maintenance!

As I look back on the experience of my first book – I would not trade the value my editors brought to the project even if I never had to move a comma. And even though my second book has not yet met with a successful editing experience, I still cannot emphasize the importance of good editors – now I just have to find some!

Donovan heads Bozell Books, a division of Bozell designed to help authors and budding authors from inception through promotion of their published work. She has authored a novel entitled: Is It Still Murder Even If She Was a Bitch? www.rldonovan.com, and the second in her Donna Leigh Mysteries series : I Didn’t Kill Her But That May Have Been Short Sighted,  is currently being published.

 

 

Uncategorized