2/2020 NOTICE - To fight back against spam comments, I am closing comments to all older posts. Current blog posts will still have comments open. I apologize for this inconvenience.

Thursday, October 31

How to Plant Red Herrings in Crime Novels / Guest Post by Damyanti Biswas

Please help me to give Damyanti Biswas a BIG welcome. Her book YOU BENEATH YOUR SKIN has been making waves. I am honored to have her on my blog today.

Damyanti Biswas' Guest Post:

One of the joys of reading a mystery novel is trying to address a story question—who was the one who did it? I do not write traditional whodunits---my debut You Beneath Your Skin subverts the thriller genre—making of it a whydunnit. It helps though to have the structure of a page-turner, and that means red herrings.

Red herrings do not exist in nature, the term is an idiom—for a rather fragrant distraction (herrings are cured in brine and roasted to give them a red colour) that would take the detective off the scent of the real culprit. Red herrings are the author’s way of making everyone other than the real culprit a suspect. Each red herring would lead the detective or the reader down a different garden path, distracting them from the actual clues.

A few ways to plant red herrings:

1.    Make as many suspects out of other characters as possible: This of course is the prime way to create red herrings. Give other characters the motive, means and opportunity to commit the crime. Make these as strong as those of the suspect. The mistress of red herrings, Agatha Christie, actually decided who the culprit was more than halfway into writing her novel—by which time a range of characters could easily be the culprit.

2.    Let the red herring only confuse the investigators: Sometimes, it is fine to let the investigators take a wrong fork on the road, suspect the wrong person, but the reader can know better. This makes the detectives vulnerable and easy to root for.

3.    Double meanings to create confusion: Sometimes a single clue could be interpreted in many ways. If a detective gets it wrong pretty reasonably because of a genuine confusion, it makes the case more complex, and makes the reader believe a red herring to be a suspect.

4.    Double herrings: This is about introducing too obvious a clue, which the detective dismisses because of its very obviousness. They pick up on something else which is contrary to the first one, only to realise later that the first, obvious clue was the right one.

5.    Check how the red herrings affect characters: Sometimes it is not about a red herring making the reader suspect a wrong character, but instead about showing us an aspect of the character we haven’t seen before. Deepening of character affects plot, and the reader is further engaged in not just getting to know the character but in what happens to them.

6.    Seed them early, and follow through: For a red herring to be really convincing, it needs to be placed as organically and as early as possible. Follow through within the narrative to ensure that the character becomes a viable suspect.

7.    An unreliable narrator: The reader trusting an unreliable narrator can lead to the best twists and red herrings. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn works precisely because the reader comes to trust the narrator’s diary as an intimate portrayal of truth. Sometimes making the detective the main suspect can also help turn the story on its head, especially if the reader can’t decide if they are really clean or not.

Reading a mystery novel is mostly about finding who the culprit is. It is also about getting the reader to turn pages, and care about the characters. Red herrings, when judiciously placed and allowed to grow organically, can be used to spice up a story, add twists and deepen character.


You Beneath Your Skin is a crime novel about the investigation of an acid attack on a woman from Delhi’s upper class, set against the backdrop of crimes against underprivileged women. They are assaulted, disfigured with acid, and murdered.

While the framework is that of a thriller, the novel threads together different narrative strands. The author tackles various social issues: crimes against women and why they occur, the nexus between political corruption, police and big money; the abuse of the underprivileged, be it adults or children.

Of these the issue of crimes against women is the strongest—why do men attack women? Why do they gang together? What happens when a woman tries to break the glass ceiling? Can toxic masculinity masquerade as benevolent patriarchy?

Parents would also find this novel fascinating: how do you bring up a good human being in today’s troubled times? How much do you know of your teenager’s life? If you’re the parent of a special child, what challenges do you face and what sort of support can you expect?

It is a whodunnit, but also a whydunnit, because violent crime unravels those affected: the people, the relationships, the very fabric of society, and we get a glimpse of what lies beneath. That’s why the title, You Beneath Your Skin.

The narrative of the book was researched and shaped during the author’s work with Project WHY, and some of the experiences generously shared by acid attack survivors from the non-profit Stop Acid Attacks. To return this debt of gratitude, all author proceeds from the book will go to these two non-profits.



Damyanti Biswas lives in Singapore, and works with Delhi's underprivileged children as part of Project Why, a charity that promotes education and social enhancement in underprivileged communities. Her short stories have been published in magazines in the US, UK, and Asia, and she helps edit the Forge Literary Magazine. You can find her on her blog and twitter.

All the author proceeds will go to Project WHY and Stop Acid Attacks.

Thank you, Damyanti, for your awesome tips and for sharing your book with us. More, for the good you are doing. You are AMAZING!

Please leave a comment for Damyanti. 

Monday, October 28

Actually, I'm a Witch / Vlog

I've published my first flash fiction piece on Wattpad! I figured I minus well should do something with these stories. First up is REAPER OF DEATH, perfect for this month. You can read it HERE. If you enjoy it, please vote for it. And follow me, too! I'm a bit lonely. <3


Hi, there! Thank you for stopping by for this edition of my vlog on Write with Fey!

I've got two videos for you dedicated to my short story, Witch of Death.


Actually, I'm a Witch

Length: 6:21

Witch of Death Reading

Length: 4:34

Total Length for Both Videos: 10:55

Feel free to comment on my blog and/or on the videos on YouTube. To go each video's YouTube page, click on the title located on the video.

QUESTIONS: Do you enjoy reading witch stories? Who are your favorite witchy characters?

Thanks for watching!

Before you go, consider signing up for my mom's holiday blog hop to celebrate the release of her next picture book SLEIGH RIDE.

Blog Hop Day: November 15, 2019

Blog Hop Question for participants to answer in their blog posts: 

What is your favorite holiday memory? (This includes Hanukkah, Kwanza, Yule/Winter Solstice, Christmas, etc.)

All posts will include the cover art, blurb, and buy links for SLEIGH RIDE. As well as her author info.

Sign up here:

Monday, October 21

Bactine for Introverted Writers - Do's and Dont's

UPDATE: Had to change my comment settings again to stop spammers. Sorry! Right now, you have to have a Google account.

Introverts struggle in many public situations, especially those with crowds of strangers. We can usually fake it till we make it, and can also do a decent job of being social when the circumstances require it, but it takes a toll on us. In the moment, it can take a lot out of us to gain the courage to break out of our shells, even if no one else sees it.

My Story:

After an awkward exchange with three authors with personalities much bigger than my own, I had told them that I’m an introvert. The most vocal author, who practically glowed with extrovertism, gave another author a look that said, “Ha! Do you believe that?”

I noticed this exchange, which only overwhelmed me even more. At that instant, I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to be at that table. I wanted to be home, in my comfort zone, my safe place, far away from looks like that.

Instead, I wheeled in a bit more courage and didn’t allow myself to let that look go without addressing it, something I would’ve done when I was younger. I looked both of the authors in their eyes, letting them know I noticed their exchange, and said, “I fake it very well.” I didn’t owe them an explanation, though.

I had several awkward moments with this vocal author during an event the four of us were a part of together. For instance, for my first intro to readers, I shared my author tagline; I was the only one to do so. The next time around, though, the vocal author shared her author tagline, which sounded very similar to mine. In the moment, I couldn’t help but think she did it on purpose (because she went before me). There were a couple more awkward moments that I tried to play off with laughter and jokes aimed at myself, but it did not help how I felt.

This other author and myself just did not mesh well in this situation, which is funny because the two of us were the first ones at our table and we talked and got along fine. Then things changed when the other two authors joined us.


How do you handle situations where your introvertism is butting up against someone else’s extrovertism?


1. Take a Deep Breath

Counting to three while inhaling and three while exhaling can calm our thoughts and help us to maintain our composure.

2. Smile

You know that saying, “Kill ‘em with kindness”? Well, being the bigger person really does work. So, smile like you mean it. Not only are you using your kindness to combat the awkward situation, but you’re also faking it till you make it, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

3. Play it Off

No matter how annoyed or overwhelmed you get, or how awkward things feel to you, play it off. I know I felt uncomfortable with this other author, but I used lighthearted jokes, even at my own expense, to get myself through those instances. And the readers had no clue, either.

4. Give the Other Person the Benefit of the Doubt

The extrovert may not know how they’re affecting you and may not be doing anything wrong in their eyes. Realize that this is how the person is in life and to everyone. Once you can accept that, you’ll be able to handle any situation with this person.

5. Give Yourself a Break

You may not be the only person in that situation whose introvertism is butting up against this person’s extrovertism. Others could be feeling the same way. More than anything, you’re doing great as an introvert, getting out there and doing what you need to do. No matter how you feel with someone you don’t mesh well with, give yourself a break. Pat yourself on the back for leaving your safe place.


1. Ignore the Extrovert

Ignoring someone will only make you seem cold, childish, or worse yet…rude. You don’t want people to think you’re any of those things. It’s better to acknowledge the other person by smiling (Do #2) or by playing it off (Do #3).

2. Show Your Feathers are Ruffled

The moment you show aggravation, you get painted as “the problem.” It’s better to take that deep breath (Do #1) and do something else that can allow you to discreetly pull yourself together and try not to show how fed up you may be.

When I needed to hide my annoyance, I signed all of my printed swag that I’d be handing out to the readers and pretended to not know what was going on around me.

Take a moment for yourself, too. Even if you have to politely excuse yourself to use the restroom. Do it! You’ll be all the better after a calm minute to yourself.

3. Snap

Saying something rude or snippety will only taint your image in the eyes of everyone else around, and whomever the recipient of your words tells. Instead, try one or all of the tactics mentioned above (breathe, seek a solitary minute, smile, play it off.)

4. Complain

While at a social event, you may have the urge to complain about that person to someone else, but I warn you not to do that. You never know who is friends with that person, and the last thing you want is for your complaints to get back to that person, who may not have intended what happened or could view it in a different way. Once again, this will turn you into “the problem,” and you could be dealing with consequences bigger than your own feelings.

5. Check Out

When we get overwhelmed, we can withdraw into ourselves. Don’t sit there with your arms crossed pouting, stewing in your anger, or on the verge of tears. Rather, interact with others around you. Anyone. This will show your good side to everyone else.

At the end of this interaction with a strong extrovert, or any social situation, your energy will be depleted. That’s the thing with being an introvert; these things can really take it out of us. We need time (this could be days) to replenish what we spent, so take as much time as you need. And for putting yourself out there and surviving that strong extrovert, I say, “Proud of you, Introvert, proud of you!

QUESTIONS: Are you an introvert? Have you ever had an awkward face-to-face exchange with someone more extroverted than yourself? How did you feel in that moment and how did you handle it?

Monday, October 14

GIVEAWAY + Ways to Save Your Documents / Vlog

NOTE: I had to add word verification because of a persistent spammer. Sorry! It'll only be  up a few days.

Thanks for you interest in my vlog post about ways to save your work!

This is a PowerPoint presentation that I did for a local writer's meeting. I decided to share it after seeing several writers on Facebook complaining about losing their hard drive and how their ONE saving technique failed them. It's important to have a few saving techniques to protect your work.

I hope you find the information in it useful.


Ways to Save Your Work

Length: 10:19


Feel free to comment on my blog and/or on the videos on YouTube. To go to each video's YouTube page, click on the title located on the video.

QUESTION: How do you save your documents?

Thanks for watching/listening!

Wednesday, October 2

Bactine for Book Events / IWSG

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is a safe place for insecure writers of all kinds.


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is our October/November fiction book, voted on by our members.

Discussion Fun Day will be November 20th.


A couple of years ago I went to my first ever book event/signing as a featured author. The first day was for workshops. I remember roaming around, seeing the people in attendance and noting how many of them knew each other and were greeting each like long-lost friends. I smiled at them, wanting to introduce myself, but not many made eye contact with me. If they did, they shifted away. I felt like a leper.

The New Kid on the Block

The next day, during the signing, although I did meet an author I knew online (yay!), I felt like an outcast.

While I went around, going from table to table to introduce myself and exchange business cards, I got blank stares in return. At one point, when I was introducing myself to one author, a group of three others came up to her, and the four them squealed and showed excitement at seeing each other again. I was literally pushed aside.

Another person came up then, a reader, with two canvases that she was getting the authors to sign. (They were pretty full already.) She asked the author I had been attempting to talk to, to sign a canvas. Then she asked another author among the group to do the same. I expected her to ask me (I was wearing the red “featured author" lanyard), but she took back the canvases and left. I went back to my table and noticed her approach all the other tables around me, but she didn’t approach mine. I know that it can be easy to skip a table on accident, but I couldn’t help but feel the sting of rejection.

That year, I didn't sell a single book. Okay, well, I sold one book to a friend. :)

Round Two

I went home from that two-day event not wanting to attend another book event again as an author. I was being dramatic, of course, because I signed up to attend the next year because the event itself is a great one.

But last year during the workshops, although I was a bit more known among the group, I once again felt like an outcast. I did greet a few authors I’d come to know, but aside from that, when they were busy with others, I stood there, wondering what to do. There were groups of authors everywhere, circled around each other; no way to join them without feeling like and looking like an intruder. 

My mom was a featured author along with me, and I whispered to her, “It’s just like last year when I was ignored.”

I worried that the signing would be the same, only for it to be the exact opposite. Many people, authors and readers, approached me, knew my name, my series, even my YouTube videos! I was SHOCKED. And I sold several books.

Bactine for Book Events:

1. Learn from It

An event may not go the way you expect it to, but it’s important to learn from every experience—good, bad, ugly, or average.

Although I felt rejected and didn’t sell the first year, I looked around and took mental notes of what other authors did and what readers seemed attracted to, such as big banners, so I got one. I also did more promoting in the Facebook groups set up for this event. On top of that, I offered a deal on my books if someone bought more than one, which cut the event price of the second purchase (which was already discounted a lot) in half. The effort I put in to change the outcome for Round Two worked.

Look around.

Take notes.

Promote a little bit more.

Make an effort to get to known those who will be in attendance beforehand.

Implement new strategies.

2. You're Not Alone

Many other authors in the same event, possibly even in the same moment, will be feeling like an outcast, too. You may not see them or notice, but they are there. 

3. Don’t Give Up

I could’ve let these things get me down, but I refused to. I went back last year, this year, and I will be going back next year. I just don’t attend the workshops, to avoid that insecure feeling I had two years in a row.

4. It’s Okay

Remember that not all book events will be the same. You can sell a lot at one, nothing at another, and just one at yet another one. Not even a book event you go to repeatedly will be the same for you every time. This is normal.

Roll with the punches.

Stay in the game.

All exposure helps.

5. Reward Yourself

After an event, find time to relax, to take it all in. You need time to rest and rejuvenate, especially if it doesn’t go the way you expect it to. Pour yourself a drink, eat a chocolate bar or a big bowl of ice cream, watch your favorite movie, take a nap.

Then start planning for the next one.

QUESTION: Have you ever felt like an outcast at an author event? Or during another time?

P.S. Later this month I’ll be sharing a post about another experience I had at a book event.


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