Tuesday, December 6, 2016

And the Holiday Season is Upon Us

Many authors are now participating in Christmas boutiques and craft shows, and I just did one too.

I thought I'd make a comment about authors who do these. I know that it's fun to be with other authors, but sometimes that can be a problem. I've noticed too often that if two or more authors are together, they tend to spend a lot of time chatting with one another instead of paying  attention to those who are passing by.

For me, I find that I'll sell more books if I stand up and make eye contact with those passing by. And if they do glance my way, I ask, "Do you like to read mysteries?" Those who aren't at all interested will shake their heads, or say they don't read, or only read non-fiction, but many will stop and listen to what I have to say about my books. Once I've had that opportunity to give a few short sentences about my series, they'll often ask questions, and will probably purchase a book or two.

Another problem I've seen is the author leaving his/her post to go visit with others. No one is going to buy your books if you aren't there to sell it. I've seen people stop at an unmanned table, pick up books and then look around to see who was there to talk to--no one. Then the potential buyer moves on.

Because authors work alone, it's great to finally have someone who know about writing be available to visit with--but do it when there are no customers or readers walking by. Interrupt your conversation if needed.

And smile at everyone. Look like you're enjoying yourself even if you aren't. Maybe you're way out of your comfort zone, but you signed up for the event to sell books so that's what you should do.

And with that, I'll sign off--but tell me what you think--both readers and writers.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Novel Spaces: Book Reviews

Novel Spaces: Book Reviews:   by Linda Thorne Ah, reviews. Whether good, bad, or ugly, we yearn for them. Well, maybe not the one-star review or those certain t...

Contemplating What To Do

by Linda Thorne

Just the other day, our dog, Mo, was sitting at the door looking out and I wondered what could possibly be on his mind as he stared into space as if contemplating something. 

At last it's fall and a record long heat wave in Nashville is behind us. My third Thursday of the month post here at MMM happens to fall on the same day as my 17th of each month post on Novel Spaces blogspot. So I'm two places at once. Well, actually three, since I'm also at work at my job in human resources.

I'd rather be home sitting with Mo and contemplating how I'm going to continue handling what I really want, a career as a writer, when I'm very busy at work. "Hmmm." 

I think about this a lot, but always end up with the same disconcerting realization. There's no alternative now for me to consider. I work at a good company and my husband and I (and the two fur people) need the income and the benefits. I'll have to continue to squeeze in as much writing and promotion into the small amount of free time I have. We all do what we have to do and it's not always exactly what we want to do, but that's not all bad. Life normally requires some balancing. I think we all came into it to play the gameto go for the adventure, to chase our dreams. That's the biggest part of life. Yeah, it would be nice to win or fulfill our dreams, but somehow I think that's secondary to the journey, the chase. 

Our other fur person, Abby, will take issue with being 
left out when I show this post to her and Mo and read it to them, so I'm adding a picture of Abby here with her brother. She's not contemplating, she's just posing for the camera. 

Enjoy the fall. It's not a long season.


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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Those Blessed Accursed Friends

by Janis Patterson

I am among the blessed – I have a number of very good friends who are – in the main – proud and supportive of my work. Most of the time.

Except – I don’t think any of them really understands how much pure work and concentration writing a novel and then self-publishing it entails. They will call me just to chat or say ‘let’s go to lunch’ or do whatever – most of which I really enjoy, but there are sometimes you just don’t interrupt the Muse when she’s cooperating. Or when you have a deadline. Or when you are doing the intricate dance of getting a book arranged just so before it’s sent to the formatter. Somehow at those times the thought of something so pleasant is either a snare and a lure that must be avoided, or a plain bloody nuisance. There are those writers who through necessity or natural inclination can turn their writing on and off at will. I am not and never have been one.

At times I have simply resigned from the world – turned off both the landline and my cell, so I can live in blissful solitude. Until one dear person – who does have a history of over-reacting – drove by the house when I hadn’t answered the phone after several calls, saw my car and knew that I’m supposed to be home, so she stopped and pounded on the door to make sure that I was all right. The first time this happened I swallowed my anger and tried to be gracious. All subsequent times I was… well, less than gracious. She hasn’t done that in a long time now.

My late mother was a master at this. She’d call and when I told her I had been working she’d say “I’ll just take a minute of your time…” I could never understand that once you’re interrupted the thought is broken and it makes no difference if the interruption is two minutes or two days. It breaks the flow. Even when I told her to get a spool of sewing thread, pull off a length and then cut it. No matter if you put the cut ends an inch apart or a mile apart, it was still cut. Her response? “Well, why are you so testy about being interrupted if all you’re doing is sewing?” That was the only time in my life I ever simply hung up on her. At that moment it was the more polite of my impulses. (Oh, but how I do wish she could call and interrupt me again, just so I could hear her voice just one more time!)

It’s hard to say no – especially repeated times – when dear friends whine “But I haven’t seen you in so long! We haven’t been able to talk for ages!” after I have explained for the umpteenth time that I have to work, that I have deadlines. These friends (all now retired from their jobs) would never be so pushy about me taking time off from an office job, but since I work at home obviously they think I don’t have a ‘real’ job and can run and play at will. Sigh.

However this unconscious war against my work ethic has taken a new turn. One dear friend of many years was concerned that working so much might just wear my brain out (I love her, but she is something of a ditz) after I had casually mentioned that sometimes the writing was so intense that I had to take a short break with a quick game of solitaire or backgammon – sort of a clear-the-decks reset. I know that’s not advocated in writing circles, but it works for me. So this darling lady thought I needed something besides solitaire and backgammon and – knowing I love jigsaw puzzles – sent me a link to an on-line jigsaw site where they have all kinds of puzzles with all kinds of pictures in sizes from 9 pieces to over 500+ pieces. Nirvana!

What she didn’t realize is that self-control is perhaps my weakest – or perhaps most non-existent – virtue. The siren song of those multi-colored scraps is overwhelming and I find myself playing more than I should. More than anyone should. I’m going to have to pull the URL off my computer (which will really do no good, since I have it memorized) and then go to her house for a little ‘talk’ – hoping I don’t become overly excited in the process.

At least, I will as soon as I finish this newest puzzle. It’s 480 pieces and a glorious picture of the Duomo…

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

My Writing is Suffering

Here it is, November already. I am getting near the end of my latest Rocky Bluff P.D. police procedural mystery--but I've been at that point for several weeks now.

Life has really interfered--some of it good, some not so good.

Because, like too many writers, I don't make much money from my books, I do other things that do make money. I've been blessed to get several of these jobs one after another. Because these particular endeavors also entail writing, when I'm done, I don't really feel like getting into the fiction mode.

I have my own blog to keep up, Marilyn's Musings and I like to have new content every other day. Because I host many guest authors, though I don't have always have to come up with something new to write about, it still takes time to get the post done. I also maintain the blog for
the San Joaquin chapter of Sisters in Crime--though that one isn't as time consuming.

Other writing chores I have are three newsletters--my own (monthly) and one for residential service providers (also monthly) which involves keeping up with new regulations and requirements, and a quarterly newsletter for the Public Safety Writers Association. And by the way, there is an early bird fee for their most wonderful conference which expires at the end of December. Check it out, and you can read the last newsletter while you're there, if you're interested. http://policewriter.com/

And as you all must be aware of by now--I have a huge family. We've had lots going on.

I'm really anxious to get back to my writing, but at this point it's been so long, I might have trouble remembering everything, which means once I'm done I'll have to do some careful editing.

No doubt, all you writers who read this understand exactly what I'm talking about.

Now, this is one job I can cross off my list.


Sunday, October 30, 2016

In Praise of Proofreaders by Mar Preston

We’ve all read bestsellers from the five major publishing companies containing errors that jerk you right off the page.  Misspelled words.  Words jammed together.  Missing words.  Not to mention formatting problems and grammatical goofs.

Yet you will look through a book with yellowing pages in vain for these errors.  I remember my mother and the librarian clucking their tongues over a proofreading error found in a book long ago.  Such errors were rarities.  What has happened?  

  • ·         Self-publishing
  • ·         Proofreading costs have risen

  • ·         Shorter attention spans

  • ·         Over-reliance on electronic proofreading programs


            The bottleneck that once existed between writer and publisher – the agent – no longer ferrets out writers who have not polished their work to a high gloss.  It is a hard lesson to realize that you cannot proofread your own work.

Proofreading Costs

            Costs for professional proofreading have risen and can amount to a significant fee, posing a particular problem for many self-publishing authors.  Proofreaders estimate costs by the hour, page, and word.  I’ve read estimates as high as 6 cents per word for fiction. 

Our Attention Spans

            Advertisers calculate that we now have only a 30-second attention span.  We flit like butterflies from one thought to another.  Proofreading requires a laser-like, sustained focus.

Electronic Proofreading Programs

            While proofreading programs such as spell-check provide a good place to start for an initial check of a document, people can develop a false sense of security using such programs.  A careful review by a patient, trained set of eyes is still needed.

Singing the Praises of My New Proofreader, Mary Goss

            I met Mary Goss a few years ago at a Sisters in Crime convention in Long Beach, which she was attending with author friend Dianne Emley.  She has proofread my last two novels, and I was very pleased with her meticulous work.  Over twenty five years of proofreading legal prose has trained her eye and honed her skills.  

            Mary’s advice to writers is to try to get a second set of eyes to read through your manuscript, as it is difficult to spot errors in one’s own work.  If you cannot afford a professional proofreader, find a detail-oriented person who has strong English skills and at least a slight case of OCD.  

            Find beta readers. These are people who have an interest in you and your work and want to see you do well. Beta readers are fans of crime fiction and willing to read the entirety of your best first draft. Beta readers are somewhat similar to your critique group members, but your critique group may have read Chapter IV seventeen times. Beta readers have fresh eyes. Anyone you can hornswoggle into doing this is valuable to some extent, but most valuable will be the reader who can catch glaring errors.

            Now I expect that Mary Goss may have a built-in level of concentration that may be superior to mine or yours.  She admits to a wee bit of OCD, but this quirky quality is a good thing in a proofreader.  She has likely honed her skills as a proofreader over the 25 years that she has been reading court transcripts.  Practicing a skill over decades certainly would make you better at it.

            Mary would like to expand her business to proofread more works of fiction.  Her contact info is:  iphone, 310-508-9476; e-mail, mkgoss@att.net        

            As author Isaac Bashevis Singer has said, “A writer doesn’t die of heart failure, but of typographical errors.”


Check out my webpage for a boxed set of the first four titles in  "Writing Your First Mystery"

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Blood On The Bayou - Bouchercon in New Orleans

by Linda Thorne

What an ideal place for me to attend my first Bouchercon World Mystery Convention last month. The great city of New Orleans.
Above is a picture inside the Marriott - New Orleans on Canal Street where I stayed and where the convention was held. A great location near the Riverwalk and the French Quarter. Harrah's Casino was close by too, but no time for a casino visit this trip.

The first time I saw New Orleans was in early 1995. My husband and I had moved to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, so not far from NOLA. On our first trip we stayed at one of the old boutique hotels close to Bourbon street and immediately fell in love with everything about this city.

Here some of the pics I took last month around the French Quarter.


I'm not sure I can do justice describing the ambience of the place to folks who have never been there.

In 2002 my husband and I moved across country and it was goodbye to New Orleans. This September 2016 Bourchercon visit was the first time I've been back since we left the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I'm happy to report that it looks and feels like the same place we fell in love with. Katrina did her damage and over many years we heard the presumptions that New Orleans would never recover, never come back. I'm glad to report that the soul of the city seemed untarnished, completely alive in the same way it's always been.

My book, Just Another Termination, is set on the Mississippi Gulf Coast with numerous references to New Orleans. I had it stocked for sale at the makeshift bookstore set up by Garden District Book Shop at the convention (front center below). I also donated a number of my books to the Bouchercon Book Bazaar at the convention. I wanted the book available in the region of the country where my story is set.
I got to participate on a panel at the conference called the Continuous Conversation. This went on through the entire convention, with new panelists rotating every fifteen minutes to stay a solid hour. My hour was Thursday afternoon. It was a good time and I stopped in again periodically to hear other authors joining the Continuation Conversation. I attended numerous traditional author sessions too.

Anyone else have some experiences to share about the New Orleans, Blood on the Bayou, Bouchercon? Or New Orleans? I came back muttering the words, "Laissez les bons temps rouler," meaning "let the good times roll."