Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Oh, Those Pesky Ideas!

by Janis Patterson

I am a pretty organized kind of person – where work is concerned, that is. We won’t talk about my housekeeping. With my books, however, I am very orderly. I try to write a fair number of words every day – though I don’t always make it every single day. (Life just gets in the way sometimes!) I keep to a schedule and respect deadlines. I have my books blocked out for the next eighteen months – a gothic romance, the first book of my new Rachel Petrie archaeological mysteries, a sweet older-heroine romance… It’s a nice, orderly system.

Except when it isn’t. Unfortunately, creativity has no respect for schedules and orderly systems.

I’ll explain. Last month The Husband and I took a trip to Las Vegas. We had won it some time ago and it had come down to use it or lose it, so of course we used it. We were put up in the Plaza, an older but nicely refurbished hotel/casino at the end of the Fremont Experience. That’s sort of an outdoor mall – it used to be one of the main downtown streets, but they closed it off, put an enormous canopy over it (way over it – 6 or 8 stories!) to keep the worst of that vicious Las Vegas sun off. I personally prefer the funky downtown Fremont Experience to the Strip.

When we left I had just finished the final edits on the new Flora Melkiot mystery – Murder in Death’s Waiting Room – and I had thought she was ready to be retired for a while. After all, I was already doing prep work on my new gothic and even had a couple of chapters written, then had started doing some early prep work on the first book about contract archaeologist Rachel Petrie. I also have two books ready to self-publish, and that takes a lot of work.

Except once in Vegas ideas began pelting me like summer hail in Texas – big and fast. Starchy, proper, elderly Flora and Las Vegas seemed made for each other. The entire story – motive, method, murderer, MacGuffins, clues (sorry – I couldn’t think of a word for clues beginning with ‘m’) – spooled through my head with terrifying cohesiveness. During our wandering around I wore a purse only big enough to hold my credit card, a hanky or two and my phone.

You know, that could be a writer’s vision of Hell – a great idea and no pencil or paper. However, I have adapted well to modern times, so while The Husband fiddled with the slots, I would sit and email ideas to myself on my phone.

It’s still a great idea, and I’ll probably write it just as soon as I finish this current, half-written gothic which has a hard deadline. And it works out well too, as my primary advisor for the Rachel Petrie series has to defend her PhD thesis this summer, so we’ve agreed to start over in the fall.

Schedules? How can they hope to stand up to inspiration?

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Yes, I am Really Busy!

I know, I say that all the time, but the busyness has heightened around here. Why?

Yes, I'm still on my blog tour and that takes a lot of time--but that's not why.

I'm still doing all the things I usually do, so of course that's not why.

I'm beginning to put together ideas for my next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery, but that's not why.

The big reason is my granddaughter, her hubby and their two little girls have moved in with us. They are buying our house and we'll continue to live with them. They wanted to buy a house and granddaughter mentioned she and her hubby were interested in buying ours. The house is big--we already have a great-grandson and his wife occupying the upstairs bedroom.

This is a great solution for all of us. Hubby could no longer do the up-keep on our old house--grandson-in-law is very handy.

The busyness comes from trying to get all of our possessions situated (blending two households), and two very lively pre-schoolers.

Their tiny dog came along with them--and we have two cats. That's been interesting. The animals mainly ignore each other.

How does this all work while I'm trying to write a new book? Not a problem. The kids love to play in their bedroom and outside. Yes, they do like to come and talk to me--but I love it.

Marilyn aka known as F. M.., Mom and Gramma.

Aleena and me reading together.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Moving From Place to Place - Mar Preston

The Brits say “up sticks and moved house.” I like the way it makes moving sound—active and positive. For several months now that’s what I’ve been  to stay active and positive.

I am moving away from Pine Mountain Club after 17 years, a village in the central California mountains, where I’ve been very happy. But the mountains—probably the mountains anywhere—are cold and the arthritis is getting me down.  It’s hard to type with cold, crabbed, blue fingers.

I know I could be happy somewhere else, preferably somewhere warmer. Many places beckon, Ecuador, Florida, Ontario, San Diego. I know I can’t go back to Santa Monica where I was happy for a generation and was the inspiration of my five  Dave Mason mysteries.

Ventura beckons.  It’s commuting distance from Pine Mountain Club, coastal California, and warm enough in the winter. I can keep a hand in with all the arty events that I love so much in Pine Mountain.

Many times lately I’ve had the image of picking up this  house and decanting all my belongings into cardboard boxes and driving off the mountains down the hill to Ventura on the coast. But anyone who has ever moved, and  that’s all of us, knows the reality is quite different.

The prep work starts with shelves high up in closets going through old boxes of papers and photographs, each of which contains an emotional bomb. A copy of the review of my first novel No Dice.

Old play programs, ticket stubs, clippings?  Keep or throw out? Fondling a broken figurine given to me by someone whom I loved dearly? How could I throw that out? I made terrible decisions and reduced many boxes into a few.

 I’ve devoted  little bandwidth to worshiping my Domestic Goddess. And it showed. However, people will clean for you, if you pay them? Great, huh?

The downstairs of this house is so chilly, and heating so expensive, I’ve spent little time downstairs. The upstairs where I live was a little better.

I try to change a light bulb and the neighborhood blacks out. But you can hire fix it guys too and I found a great one. Better even, his wife is a set designer, and loved the challenge of rearranging my house. I obviously have no taste and less imagination because what she created astonished me.

And Mel Weinstein, a photographer of renown, did a photo shoot that made every room appear lofty, cavernous, and vast. Well, it is a big house, but it is not Versailles.

The rest is up to me. I have to keep this house uncluttered and clean--not my natural bent. Buyers can visit any time, any day. The cat boxes must be attended, my old dog’s pee pads disposed of instantly. I must nourish and maintain the flowers I’ve planted.

In these last few months my ambition to finish my sixth mystery has dimmed. I'm deciding on a title between Pounce and The Most Dangerous of Species. Ventura may fire up the ambition once again.

Writing gritty police procedurals will be the most important thing in my life. I hope. I've missed it.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Dedicated Websites

For some time, I've owned the website, That site includes descriptions of all of my books and where to get them, along with a bit more information about the blogs I participate in. Since I write in more than one genre, having it all in one place might be a turn-off for some readers. I also own a blog, with excerpts of all of my books, at

In a way it might seem overkill, yet, I decided that genre specific websites could attract those who don't want to waste time perusing books in a genre they don't care for. When I was mulling over the thought, I was working on another romance book, so  Morgan Does Chick Lit was born. 

Recently, I switched gears and am working on Awake, a good twin/bad twin thriller. Coincidentally, happened to be having a sale. Always one to take advantage of bargains, I leapt at the opportunity of adding another website, this one for mystery/thriller readers, called Morgan Does Mystery.  

I hope to soon include the finished version of Awake on the mystery website. For inspiration, I devised the cover below. Now I have to finish the book. 

You're welcome to stop by any of my sites and learn something about me and my books.

Morgan Mandel

Also Find All of Morgan Mandel's books at
Twitter: @MorganMandel

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Dogs as Characters in Books and Senseless Dog Idioms

by Linda Thorne

In 2006 my friend Sandee from Denver came to visit me when my husband and I lived in a town called Hanford in the Central Valley of California. She was on her way to a friend’s wedding and talked me into going with her. We drove to the home of the bride to be, Gailee, and her fiancĂ© in Atascadero, California. I not only got to meet the wedding couple and their families, but Sandee and I
stayed after the wedding to tour that beautiful area of the country. We made a trip to the Hearst Castle in nearby San Simeon and then shopped in a lovely little tourist town called Cambria, close to the Ocean. While window shopping I found the book, Marley and Me, displayed in a gift shop window.  The book cover had the face of a dog that looked so much like our dog that had recently died. I felt
like singing that age old Doris Day song, “How much is that Doggie in the Window.” The book captured me. I didn’t know what it was about, had no idea it was a best seller, but I ran into the shop and bought it and read it within the next few days.

Dog lovers are everywhere. Doggie characters can help sell a book, but that’s not why I put our deceased dog, Buffy, in my Judy Kenagy book series. I put her in because it was my way to keep my doggie alive. Buffy appears in my book trailer at: Another Termination
Speaking of dogs, there’s something I just have to get off my chest. Forever, I’ve said things like: “That person talked to me like I was a dog,” or, “I’ve been working like a dog, or someone was treated like a dog.”

President Obama said it in a different way publicly when he said, “They talk about me like a dog.”

Look up “work like a dog” online and it will define it in terms of struggle, hard work, slave labor. The term is in dictionaries all over and is a negative term.
Of course some dogs don’t have it as great as others, but for the most part we talk to them like babies. They don’t have to work and get to lie around being pampered, fed, let out for the bathroom. We give them a safe haven and protect them and they know it. So, now, even when people talk to me badly (and believe me it happens when you work in human resources), I’m having trouble saying I was talked to like a dog. After watching our two pampered border collies, Abby and Mo (picture below), lounge around doing nothing all day, every day, I doubt I’ll ever be able to say the words again, “I’ve been working like a dog,” but the Beatles said it in their famous song, A Hard Day’s Night. I can still here the beat filled tune with the words that don’t ring true ... at all.

It's been a hard day's night, and I been working like a dog
But when I get home to you I find the things that you do will make me feel alright.

 Abby left, Mo to the right - They don't work much

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

When Do You Say Goodbye?

by Janis Patterson

I’m stunned.

An organization I belong to – one I helped found decades ago and one on whose board I now sit – is now seriously discussing the possibility of closing down. Just the mention of such a possibility breaks my heart.

I literally sweated blood for this organization, sometimes staying up all night to get my duties done even though at the time I was single, working both a full time and a part time job and looking after an ill parent. For several years it was touch and go whether it would survive or not, but it did and blossomed into a marvelous group that was widely known and respected. The glory years were great.

But – the old guard who had forged this group stepped down, or retired, or moved, or died, and new people arose to take over the management duties. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be? I guess ‘supposed’ is the operative word here. Nobody looks after your baby like you do. Mismanagement, both accidental and perhaps deliberate, and ego wars took their toll, and internecine warfare raised its ugly head. By the time the old guard both caught on to what was causing the slow decline and managed to get into position to halt it, great damage had been done.

And now even though we are in charge once more, we aren’t sure we can reverse it. Even if we do, there is the specter of who can we trust to succeed us? We’re old. We’re tired. We’ve earned our right to simply sit back and enjoy the benefits of that which we created. But into whose hands can we entrust it? During the time of decline membership declined as well, leaving a small and very insignificant field of those who could and would step up.

We can go on this way for a little while. Hopefully we can restore our group to a reasonable facsimile of its old self and even more hopefully that will bring people in of the caliber and dedication that the group deserves. Hopefully. If not, though, we will have no choice but to kill this living and wondrous thing that we imagined and grew instead of letting it die an agonizingly slow death until just two or three of us can still totter to the meetings.

Perhaps I am just being morbid. Perhaps we can revitalize the group and make it stronger and better than before. One can only hope. I am sanguine enough to know that nothing lasts forever… that all things end sometime. But, dear God, please not now. Not now.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Between Books--Writing Them I Mean by Marilyn Meredith

I should be heaving a sigh of relief--my next Tempe is finished and by the time this appears, I'll have fixed the first set of edits and will have sent it off to the publisher.

I'm in the middle of my blog tour for Crushing Death, which takes time and attention.

However, I have an empty feeling because I'm not working on a book. I don't even have many ideas for one.

It will be the next in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series and there are some loose ends in the characters' lives that I can pick up and use to weave into the plot. But the problem is, what plot?

The method of murder for A Crushing Death came from an author friend. Once I did some research to find out what that was, I was off and running. The ideas came tumbling in.

Anyone want to make a similar suggestion to me on how to murder someone? I've used all number of ways--the usual gun fire, several stabbings, a head chopped off, overdose of prescription meds, building collapse, and illegal drug use--and I'm sure other methods that aren't coming to me at the moment.

What would you like to see happen to a specific ongoing character?

What kind of crimes do you think should happen in my small beach community?

Am I asking too much? Probably, but I need all the help I can get.

I feel weird and yes, a bit empty, because I don't have a work-in-progress.

Any ideas you'd like to share?

Marilyn who is also know as F. M. when it comes to Rocky Bluff.