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DEATH OF THE ZANJERO
Old Los Angeles Book 1
BY ANNE LOUISE BANNON
In Old Los Angeles, life was cheap and water could cost you everything…
Back in 1870, the most powerful man in Los Angeles was the Zanjero, or water overseer. And he was often the most corrupt, as well. When Zanjero Bert Rivers turns up dead in the irrigation ditch, or zanja, leading to young widow Maddie Wilcox’s vineyards, Maddie has the odd feeling he was murdered.
Then the undertaker’s wife, Mrs. Sutton, confirms that Rivers was shot, and not just hit on the head. Maddie finds herself drawn into finding the killer, first to see justice done, and then to save the skin of the one person she knows did not do it – the town’s most infamous madam, Regina Medina.
Maddie quickly discovers that Mr. Rivers was not the kind, upstanding civic benefactor he presented himself as, but a most despicable man who preyed on the weak and vulnerable, and cheated everyone else. With nearly everyone having a reason to kill the zanjero, Maddie stumbles on more than a few secrets and ends up in a chase that will tax her intellect, her soul and her very belief in humanity before she’s done.
By Anne Louise Bannon
Years ago, as I was trying to market one of my first novels, I got tons and tons of advice from well-meaning agents and others. I went to writers conferences and classes. I learned tons of techniques.
None of it helped me write a better book. Or rather, almost none of it did.
Now, please note, I am not bagging on classes and conferences. They can be gold mines and the difference between being stuck and writing something wonderful. I’ve learned tons from speakers and panels and even writing teachers.
The problem I had back then was that everyone wanted me to write their way. I had one teacher explain that if I didn’t lay everything out according to her outline plan, I would never finish anything. It didn’t help her that I’d already finished several books by that point. I did dutifully try to use her outline style, on the theory that it would help me write a better novel. I ended up abandoning the project almost immediately.
It wasn’t that this particular teacher was stupid. She wasn’t, by any stretch. Nor was her advice bad, although her pronouncement on my odds of finishing anything was a bit off. In fact, the vast majority of these speakers had a lot to offer. I just didn’t realize it because of what I was – a beginning writer.
The toughest thing to learn as a beginning writer is that most of the advice you get is not going to be very helpful to you. It doesn’t mean the advice is bad. It’s just not for you and the toughest thing in the world is to figure out how to sift out what is appropriate for you and what isn’t.
I, fortunately, learned early on that a detailed outline is not going to work for me. I get bored silly by laying out every scene before I write it. If I had to test each scene for whether it belonged or not, as one speaker I heard not too long ago suggest, I’d never finish the edits. I also learned that if a writing teacher says that there is only one way to get a novel written and that they can always tell if someone hasn’t used their system, I’m probably not going to get much from that person.
There is no one write way to write. What works for me would make someone else run screaming. What makes me run screaming is perfect for someone else. And the sooner you get that as a beginning writer, or even as an old hand, the better your writing will become.
Because here’s the real twist on this whole thing – knowing that I’m not going to get much from Teacher X makes it possible for me to learn what I can from her. When I was younger and starting out, if Teacher X said do it this way, I did and more often than not, got into trouble. So I stopped listening to everything Teacher X said and missed some great stuff.
I’ve since learned that knowing Teacher X probably does not get my process frees me to listen to what she says and filter out what’s not going to work for me and then focus on what I can use. I am not likely to apply a test to each scene to see if it belongs, whether in the editing or writing process. But when I am having trouble with a scene, I do have a tool or technique to use that can either get me out of the scene or dropping it or whatever it needs.
So, how do you get to that point? Time and practice do help. Trying things is the best way. Finally, listen to your gut. If you’d rather eat glass than hot pen your first scene, then there’s a clue there. It’s not your process.
I do advocate working against your natural process occasionally, and especially when you’re stuck and nothing, but nothing, else has helped. Working against your process can energize you. Or it can help you find a new process. Or maybe it’s what your current project needs, and your other projects need something else.
And that’s the beauty of writing classes and conferences. There is always something new to learn and try. I will (hopefully) never stop learning about writing. But knowing what does and does not work for me as a writer makes it possible for me to continue that learning.
Anne Louise Bannon has made not one, but two careers out of her passion for storytelling. Both a novelist and a journalist, she has an insatiable curiosity. In addition to her mystery novels, she has written a nonfiction book about poisons, freelanced for such diverse publications as the Los Angeles Times, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Backstage West, and edits the wine blog OddBallGrape.com. On the fiction side, she writes a romantic serial, a spy series, and her Kathy and Freddy 1920s mystery series. Her most recent title is Death of the Zanjero, set in Los Angeles, 1870. She and her husband live in Southern California with an assortment of critters.
Links to Anne’s website, blog, books, etc.