Tag Archives: Michael Murphy

Writing humor in fiction

Although I’ve write mostly in the mystery/suspense genre, my literary voice has evolved to a blend of humor with mystery and suspense.  Nelson DeMille is an absolute master at it. Now, after seven published novels, readers expect humor from a Michael Murphy novel.  I find a lot of wonderful writers tend to avoid humor, as if it’s some mysterious method of writing.  Don’t shy away from it, life is full of humor (thankfully), and so should your writing.  How does one make humor work in a novel without making it appear forced or contrived?  What works for me is focusing on what drives plot, conflict.

Drama does not exist without conflict.  Same with humor.  There are essentially three types of conflict to generate humor; a character’s conflict with setting, conflict with themselves and conflict with the other characters.

A climactic scene in Scorpion Bay demonstrates humor resulting from conflict between characters.  Parker Knight, a kick boxing expert, sweeps the feet of one of the villains who falls face first. With a bloody mouth, she spits out one tooth then another. The scene is suspenseful and full of conflict between the good guys and the bad. The next line is a one word dialogue that injects humor into the scene when Parker’s friend Justin watches the woman spit out first one tooth then another.  He looks at her and says, “Chiclets.”

One of the funnier scenes in the novel happens at a Phoenix Suns game. Parker has implemented a carefully orchestrated attempt to listen in on a remote conversation so he can learn information about who is behind his wife’s murder. To Parker’s consternation, he’s seated next to Justin’s high maintenance girlfriend, Tina Banks. While the plot moves along and Parker learns valuable information, Tina’s series of demanding requests add conflict and humor to the scene.  Though Parker finds no humor in the girlfriend’s unending requests, the reader does.

Plot is driven by conflict and so is humor. Humor adds an additional dimension to a novel, so look for opportunities: to enhance your next manuscript by extracting humor from conflict, as well as drama.

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Interview with Michael Murphy, Author of Scorpion Bay

Tell us a little about your main characters in Scorpion Bay. Who was your favorite?

Handsome and popular newscaster, Parker Knight is a rising star at a Phoenix television station. Just don’t call him “pretty boy.” His life is shattered in the opening chapter when his wife, a prosecuting attorney, is killed in a car bombing. When authorities seem unwilling or unable to pursue the most obvious lead, Parker uses his investigative newscaster skills and his background in the military Special Forces to go after the man he thinks is responsible for his wife’s murder. Parker is driven by the sudden loss of his wife. In spite of his quest for revenge, he vows not endanger the lives of his friends, but before his wife’s murder is solved, he learns he needs friends more than ever.

Who is your most unusual/most likeable character?

This is an easy one; definitely Tina Banks. Author Alisha Paige recently mentioned during Academy Award time that if there were Oscars for literature, Tina would win best supporting actor in a novel. Tina “steals” every scene she’s in. She is the most interesting character in any of my seven novels, like an onion, she has many layers.

At the start of Scorpion Bay, the best friend Justin has a new girlfriend, Tina Banks. Tina enjoys being the center of attention is of the high maintenance category of girlfriend and prone to say and do the outrageous such as keeping a pet boa constrictor in her apartment. But Tina is also funny, gorgeous, and a deeply caring person, and Tina knows what she wants out of life. Parker and Justin would not have survived their numerous scrapes without Tina being there to help, especially at the end of the novel when their lives are in danger.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it? (searching Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)

Since I write mystery/suspense novels, I’m always researching police procedures, and the latest in forensic medicine. I did so for Scorpion Bay, including taking an eleven week citizens police academy that allowed me to drive a police vehicle, shoot weapons officers use and see the inside of a jail, which fortunately I’d never seen before. My main character is Parker Knight, a Phoenix newscaster. A local television station was very generous in showing me how newscasts are made. I hope the authenticity shows through in Scorpion Bay.

What is your goal for the book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?

I write mostly mystery/suspense novels, so it’s fast paced with twists that will surprise readers, but my style of writing includes splashes of humor. The writer who has influenced me the most is Nelson DeMille, a great writer of thrillers and suspense, yet there are always laugh out loud moments in his books. I strive to do the same and in Scorpion Bay a tale that deals with murder, revenge and a desperate quest for justice, I think I’ve found moments that will make my readers laugh. At least I hope so.

How has your background influenced your writing?

I’ve always been an avid reader. I read Gone with the Wind when I was nine, all 1,027 pages. Guess I was a geek even back then, but reading novels has always been important in my life. Writing them, especially the kind I enjoy the most, mystery/suspense with a touch of humor, seemed like a logical thing to do.

Are you writing to reach a particular kind of reader?

Surprisingly, my audience consists of an equal number of women as well as men. The male audience likes the suspense, danger and humor, while women seem to enjoy the surprising touches of romance and tender interactions between characters that doesn’t always occur in mystery and suspense novels.

Do you have a favorite snack food or favorite beverage that you enjoy while you write?

I allow myself one Diet Rockstar per day whenever I write. And on days that I don’t write, I usually sneak one anyway. I think I’m addicted.

What’s been the most surprising part of being a writer?

The most important thing I’ve learned about novel writing, is how much rewriting is involved. Learning this has made writing easier. Now when I write a first draft, I don’t worry about the details. I focus on characters and plot. When I’ve completed the first draft, it’s like an artist sketching an outline on a canvas. I go back repeatedly and add color and depth to the manuscript.

I’ve also learned to give myself freedom to cultivate characters and relationships. Often I’ll find characters surprising me. This allows characters to grow and develop providing depth to characterization and scenes. In nearly every novel, I’ve had one-scene characters become so likeable that they just have to spend more time on the page.

What, in your opinion, are the essential qualities of a good story?

Unlike most mystery/suspense novels, mine are primarily character driven. In Scorpion Bay for example, not everyone would react to the death of their spouse the way Parker Knight does. His reaction and love for his wife drives the story.

In my opinion a good story has conflict throughout and characters the reader will care about. I don’t believe the story, what happens to the characters is nearly as important has how these events impact the character’s lives, how they’ve evolved and grown, or in some instances, how they’ve stuck to their principles and are not changed by events in the story. An example of this type of story would be the movie High Noon.

What are you working on right now?

My current work in progress is a real departure for me. It’s a story about the Woodstock nation, as they are now and what it was like those three magical days in August of 1969. There’s plenty of humor and of course sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. Hey, it was the sixties!

Click here to read the first chapter of: Scorpion Bay

Click here to read an excerpt of: Scorpion Bay

Click here to buy: Scorpion Bay

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Excerpt from Scorpion Bay by Michael Murphy

A high tech motorcycle, a black disguise, a crusading newscaster’s quest for justice.When a car bomb kills the prosecuting attorney and a key witness against a powerful bioengineering industrialist, the blast shatters the life of the attorney’s husband, popular Phoenix television investigative reporter, Parker Knight. After authorities hit a dead end, Parker risks his career and his life to seek his own revenge. Riding a high tech motorcycle and wearing a black disguise, the crusading newsman inadvertently becomes a media created superhero jeopardizing his quest for justice.

Excerpt:

Parker counted on Carl thinking he was just some pretty boy television reporter. Lenny cleaned his fingernails with his knife and seemed more interested in the sports report about the Suns. Parker might not get a better chance.

“Tyler, Remember me, Punk? How’s your head?” Carl said on the cell phone. “Shut up and listen. Someone wants to talk to you.” He held out the phone to Parker.

Parker leaped to his feet. He swung a kick that cracked across Carl’s face. Blood gushed from the man’s nose as he howled and tumbled against the table. The cell phone clattered to the floor as Lenny shrieked and dropped the knife.

With shock giving way to hatred in his eyes, Carl pulled the gun from his waistband. Parker punched the bastard in the jaw with both fists, knocking him off balance. As Carl stumbled backward, blood flowing down his face, he pulled the trigger. A shot shattered Marissa’s image on the television. The screen exploded into a shower of sparks and burnt electronic smell.

Lenny picked up the knife and jabbed the blade toward Parker’s neck.

Parker sidestepped the thrust and kicked Lenny’s ass, sending him sprawling under the table.

One more punch to the face sent Carl onto his back. The gun cracked against the wall and fell to the floor. Parker kicked it across the kitchen.

Lenny scrambled from beneath the table and lunged with his knife. Parker blocked the blow with his forearm but the blade sank to the bone. Ignoring the pain, Parker sprinted into the living room and threw open the front door. A shot splintered the doorjamb above his head.

Outside, Parker spotted his Kawasaki parked in the driveway in front of the white van. Biting at the tape around his wrists, he dashed across the rain-slickened lawn and ripped off the binding.

Parker sprinted to the bike and grabbed the extra key he always kept in the saddlebag. He leaped onto his bike and inserted the key. A shot blew the left mirror apart in a burst of shards. Parker gunned the bike behind the van as two more shots slammed into the side of the van shattering the quiet of the dark neighborhood.

The motorcycle fishtailed on the wet street. Parker glanced back to see Carl and Lenny scramble into the van. With cold rain lashing his face, Parker skidded around the corner, regained control and checked back over his shoulder as the van shrieked in pursuit.

Unfamiliar with the neighborhood, Parker raced through the streets and approached a red light at the six-way intersection of Grand Avenue near the fairgrounds. Hoping to elude the two men in traffic, Parker took a quick glance over one shoulder then ran the light, turning north in front of a fast moving one-ton pickup.

Blasting its horn and squealing its tires, the pickup swerved and clipped the back of Parker’s bike. The Kawasaki’s rear tire slid, the handlebars wobbled and the motorcycle veered toward the center island.

With a jolt, the bike hit the curb. Parker somersaulted into the landscaped median and landed beside a saguaro cactus. His head slammed against the hard ground as the bike slid into oncoming traffic. A squeal of tires on the wet pavement was followed by a crunch of metal. A semi crushed the Kawasaki like a cheap beer can.

Head buzzing and rain dripping onto his face, Parker saw the driver from the pickup climb out and rush to his side. “Don’t move,” the man said. “I called nine-one-one.”

“Where’s the white van?”

“What white van?” The man ripped off his Diamondbacks jacket and stuffed it under Parker’s head. Feeling lightheaded, Parker gazed across the intersection and spotted the van stopped at the traffic light. The image blurred, and Parker drifted into unconsciousness.

***

Award winning novelist Michael Murphy is a full time writer and part time urban chicken rancher. He and his wife make their home in Arizona with their two cats, four dogs and five chickens. He enjoys writing mystery and suspense novels with twists and turns and splashes of humor. Scorpion Bay is his seventh novel.

Click here to read the first chapter of: Scorpion Bay

Click here to read an interview with: Michael Murphy

Click here to buy: Scorpion Bay

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Scorpion Bay Book Launch

I didn’t realize it at the time I wrote the novel, but product placement, also known as embedded marketing, would become important in promoting Scorpion Bay.  A few tweaks to a manuscript could impact a writer’s novel in positive ways as well.

Next time you’re at a movie notice how many times you see a box of Dunkin Doughnuts or a Coke product.  Product placement is common in movies, but novels? Sure, specific products are often mentioned but how can they be turned into tangible product placements to benefit a writer’s book promotion?

I named my mystery/suspense novel Scorpion Bay two years before the Scorpion Bay Marina was built.  I had to create scenes based on the existing marina at the other side of Lake Pleasant in Arizona.  Once the new marina was built at Scorpion Bay, I realized the deli I described didn’t exist.  The only eating establishment was a wonderful restaurant called Dillons.  Writing about a real location, I wanted to be accurate, so I contacted the owner, Rich Dillon, who welcomed my inquiry like I was a long lost brother.  He not only gave me permission to use his restaurant in the story, he asked if he could sell the book, once the novel was published, at his store where boaters come up for supplies. Many of his customers spend half the year on the water.  They need something to read right?  He didn’t have to twist my arm.

When I asked whether I could have a launch party at his restaurant, Mr. Dillon said, “Absolutely. How can I help?”

Armed with a date and location, I approached the media.  The media rarely does stories about a new novel being released, except by literary superstars of which I am not yet a member.  However, the local weekly, Peoria Times and the state’s daily newspaper, The Arizona Republic , said yes to stories about the launch of Scorpion Bay the novel, at the real Scorpion Bay.  I also approached the state’s highest rated morning news program, Good Morning Arizona.  Two years earlier, one of their newscasters had been helpful in researching my story; the main character is a newscaster.  Good Morning Arizona jumped at the chance to interview me in studio because they were the story, their newscaster helping an author.

In studio interview

When you read the articles, notice the stories are not about me or Scorpion Bay.  They’re about Dillons Restaurant and the Scorpion Bay Marina.  Those were real places mentioned in the novel.  The locations give scenes authenticity and they became product placements like Coke or Dunkin Doughnuts. They resulted in tangible benefits to the book promotion efforts of my book release and more specifically the book launch.

The restaurant and the marina not only benefited from media publicity, but they profited from my promotional efforts through social media such as my Facebook page, twitter page, Goodreads and my website.

During the launch party I made a point of asking attendees what brought them there.  Several had boats at the marina.  Some had come for the food. Half said they came because they read about the event in the newspaper or saw it on television.  I sold twice as many books at the launch party than any event I had for my six prior novels, because the launch party for Scorpion Bay was at the real Scorpion Bay. The title itself is product placement.

Writers whose manuscript involves a real location should look for ways to not only add authenticity by using real locations, but they should look for locations that potentially offer produce placement. Partner with businesses, obtain their approval and the author should see how a relationship can work to their advantage.

My main character, Parker Knight, road a high tech Harley Davidson.  Maybe I should approach them and surprise my wife by riding home on a black gleaming Harley…naaah. 

Dillons RestaurantPlenty of signs along the pierIt got busy!

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Celebrating Three New Releases from Second Wind Publishing!

To celebrate our new releases, we are offering you a chance to win a copy of one of our new books! Three people, chosen at random from all those who leave a comment, will win a print book of one of the new releases, and three people will win a  coupon for a free download of an ebook version at smashwords.com. If you have a preference of which book you’d like to win, be sure to tell us the title or titles in your comment, otherwise you will be entered in all drawings. Giveaway ends May 18, 2011.

Our new releases:

1. Scorpion Bay by Michael Murphy:

A high tech motorcycle, a black disguise, a crusading newscaster’s quest for justice.When a car bomb kills the prosecuting attorney and a key witness against a powerful bioengineering industrialist, the blast shatters the life of the attorney’s husband, popular Phoenix television investigative reporter, Parker Knight.  After authorities hit a dead end, Parker risks his career and his life to seek his own revenge. Riding a high tech motorcycle and wearing a black disguise, the crusading newsman inadvertently becomes a media created superhero jeopardizing his quest for justice.

Click here to read the first chapter of: Scorpion Bay

2. She Had to Know by  Coco Ihle:

After the deaths of her adopted parents, Arran discovers her long lost sister’s name and, despite a terrifying premonitory dream, embarks on a quest to find Sheena. After reuniting in Scotland, the sisters search for the reason their birth father and his housekeeper mysteriously died and why Sheena’s life is being threatened. Led to a cryptic rhyme rumored to map the way to an ancient hidden treasure buried deep in the bowels of Wraithmoor Castle, the sisters follow the clues. A murderer follows the sisters. Will the secret passages lead them to discovery and triumph, or death and eternal entombment?

Click here to read the first chapter of: She Had to Know

3. Dear Emily by Louise Thompson

How could  a fine institution, born in Europe and perfected in America, disappear in little more than 100 years?

“Here  is My Life in the Fine Stores.  I hope it will bring fond memories to  many and a glimpse of what it was like to have superb service.  tasteful, well-made garments offered in stimulating surroundings. I doubt they will return.” –Louise Thompson

“What a fascinating account Louise Thomas gives us of the grand old days of the grand emporium! An easy, conversational style makes her memoir as much a pleasure to read as a letter from a good friend, yet it is an instructive lesson in American retailing history.” –Bryan Haislip, Former Editorial Page Editor of the Winston-Salem Journal

Click here to read the first chapter of: Dear Emily

For even more fun, click on the covers and you will find a delightful surprise!

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