Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The Coronavirus Makes Many Changes

I read what I wrote the second Tuesday of the month, and so much has changed since then.

The two conferences I mentioned have been cancelled, as has the regular meeting of one of the writers groups I attend. And of course it all began with the cancellation of Left Coast Crime which I hadn't planned on attending, but was looking forward to hearing all about it via Facebook.

Now the big problem lies in taking care of oneself, trying to find toilet paper and food in the stores.

Though I'm in the group that's supposed to stay at home, I must venture out to try and find what we need to exist.

One thing about staying home most of the time is I'll get a whole lot more writing done. I've also done a lot more praying. I'm a praying person anyway, but now I have a new topic to pray for: the health of my friends and the end of this new virus.

What about the rest of you? What are you doing these days with all the new rules we all have to follow?


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The World Gone Upside Down

by Janis Patterson

I don’t know about you, but right now I don’t know if I’m on my head or my heels. I didn’t realize The Husband and I did so many things, had so many meetings, went to so many organizations until they started cancelling one after the other like a cascade of dominoes. A simple trip to the grocery store became a frustrating expedition, where the shelves were empty and the store hideously crowded with people. I spent two days and many stores getting sufficient supplies for some elderly (90+ years old) members of our family, an exercise that was annoying and time-consuming. Some of the overreactions of the shoppers could almost be regarded as amusing – as in two grown men fighting over a package of toilet tissue.
Then today (I’m writing this on Monday evening) everything doubled, trebled, then went right off the ‘scary weirdness’ chart. Our mayor announced at 5 pm that beginning at midnight all bars and restaurants would be closed except for car-side delivery takeout – no dine-in allowed. Not only that, but our school district is closed. No restaurants, no schools, no… I have no idea what’s going to be forbidden next. They even canceled the iconic St. Patrick’s Day Parade, for Heaven’s sake!
I am not going to touch on politics, but I’m of two minds about the way this situation is being handled. Yes, this virus is serious, but is it enough of a threat for such draconian measures? I don’t remember this much hysteria for the H1N1 (aka swine) flu a couple of years ago. We cannot just do nothing, so we must do something, but are we doing too much?
For example, I fear that a lot of restaurants and small businesses – which operate on narrow margins in the best of times – will fold permanently with an extended enforced closing. Worse, their employees – most of whom work for minimum wage and live paycheck-to-paycheck – will suffer almost immediately. One of my restauranteur friends is providing bags of rice and beans for his employees – boring fare, but nutritious, and at least they will be able to eat. And my worries are not limited only to food service workers or small store clerks. Far too many people in our society have nothing put by for a rainy day and are dependent on receiving a regular paycheck. Now it seems the monsoon is about to rage around us and it’s too late for many to prepare.
And there are other, less immediate but more personal casualties. Next month I was to go to the American Research Center in Egypt International Conference in Toronto where, in a first for both ARCE and me, naming rights for three characters in a novel I would write especially for ARCE would be auctioned off as a fund raiser. The international publicity had already started when – because of the coronavirus – the conference was cancelled. The auction… who knows? It’s dead at the moment. There is always next year, but by next year it will be old news, all novelty gone, and who knows what will happen between now and then? Even if it comes back next year, it can never be the same. This could have been a breakout for me, and I grieve for its loss.
We must realize, though, that it is indeed an ill wind that blows no one good. Bars and restaurants are closed. Schools are closed. In many places gatherings of more than 50 people are forbidden. Social interaction (in person, at least) is discouraged. People are going to be pretty much stuck at home. So what are they going to do? You can only watch so much tv, play so many board games, do so many chores. What’s left, that will entertain and yet not expose you to the dangers of public places? Books. Especially ebooks, which can be ordered over the internet, meaning more sales for more authors. In the long run, perhaps something good can come from all this. If it is allowed – Amazon has already announced that it is focusing on immediately need supplies such as food and medicine, and that books are way down on their priorities. We can only hope they mean physical paper books and not electronic ones, which shouldn’t present any shipping difficulties. It is Amazon, though, so who knows?
However – to drag this subject kicking and screaming back to the writing of mysteries – it’s a rare situation that a writer can’t use in some fashion. Just think of all the plots that can spring out of this flirtation with real-life dystopia. In a few months I predict a flood of books with plots that can be traced back to our current situation.
I just wish they were fiction.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Getting back to writing and promoting mysteries..

This has been a rough time, not only for me, but our whole community.

Nearly every time we go to the town of Porterville, we pass near the burned out remains of the library. I've taken two loads of books, including the complete works of Louis L'Amour, to the place where they are collecting books. I've hugged my favorite librarian.

As an added problem, my husband and I both came down with the flu. (And yes, we had our flu shots.) My granddaughter and her family who live with us came down with it first and shared. It was a wingdinger. Hubby spent several days mainly sleeping. I found I did better if I got up and did my usual.

My usual has been doing some writing that actually brings in money and when I had a break from that working on my latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. It's been slow-going.

I have managed to get to my critique group finally. And I've attended my Sisters in Crime chapter meeting, as well as another local group of writers I belong to.  And that brings me to another topic, promotion. That groups is going to be discussing promotion at this month's meeting. We are all to share what we do.

Of course there are obvious things such as giving presentations. (I was supposed to give one this month at our library--now out of the question.) And going to book and craft fairs in order to sell your books--also writers conferences and conventions. (Some folks are staying home from these because of the new virus.)

Everyone should be promoting their books on Facebook. I've found that always results in a few sales. I only do one book at a time and try to find something new to mention about it. I post here twice a month, once a month on the Ladies of Mystery blog, and I have my own blog, https://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com/. I love promoting others on my blog too. If you'd like to be on it, just let me know.

I have an email newsletter that goes out once a month, and to subscribe all you have to do is give me your email address. That's a fun one. Some of my subscribers respond back to me like I wrote the letter just to them.

I tweet occasionally but am not good at remembering to do it.

Upcoming are two writing conferences I'm going to: Writers of Kern Spring Conference where I'll have a table to display my books. (I'm mainly going because they have some great speakers.) And I'm also scheduled for the Central Coast chapter of Sisters in Crime, writing conference coming in May.
I'm helping with that one, and will also have books for sale.

How about sharing some promo ideas that have really worked for you?


Monday, February 24, 2020

Missed My Regular Posting Date--

with good reason.

Our very busy library burned down last week and two firefighters were killed while checking the building to anyone who might be trapped. The flames were visible for miles!

To add to the tragedy, it was set by two 13 year-old-boys. Nothing has been said officially about the motive, be people who frequent the library said they were troublesome, making to much noise, hollering and whooping and using foul language. They'd been chastised and sent home several times.

At the time of the fire, the library was crowded as it always is after school. Many children came to the library to do homework and wait for parents to come pick them up. Homeless used the library as a place to rest and read the paper and magazines. Many activities were planned for all ages.

Fortunately the library staff got everyone out safely.

Frankly, this is all I've been able to think about lately.

The building was built in the '50s and no sprinklers.

Someone has offered an empty building close to where the library was for a temporary solution. Donated books are being collected there for now. What else they do with the space, I have no idea.
However the library staff are very creative and resourceful. And yes, I'm donating books. I have many that I know I'll never reread.

By March, I'll be back on my usual schedule--I hope.


Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Truth In Advertising - At Least, Sort Of

by Janis Patterson

Most of you know that I grew up in my parents’ advertising agency from the age of nine on, starting as a stripper (not that kind!) and progressing to doing product photography and writing copy before I entered high school, then doing international space buying several years before I graduated. One of the things that was drummed into me during those formative years was that my ad copy had to be truthful.
Apparently that is a virtue long gone extinct, at least in the book business. When I scroll through the online ebook vendors I am appalled at some of the titles. No, not the regular titles, though some of them are pretty grisly, but the subtitles. Now I will admit that personally I am sick to death of pun titles, but that’s just me. What I cannot stand is the subtitle, which sometimes appears to be as long as the book. For example (and totally fictitious) – The Leaving Tree – A Riveting Exercise in the Deliciously Lethal Discipline of Gardening, Where Each Plant Has A Story to Tell And No One Walks Without Fear. Or – Bedding the Lustful Billionaire – A Heartwarming Story of True Love Distorted by Money, Blackmail and Jealousy That Will Warm Your Heart and Give You New Hope For Romance.  You get the idea.
Isn’t it the duty of the blurb to give an indication of what the story is about, not a lengthy and more often than not mendacious subtitle? When the subtitle proclaims the story to be ‘thrilling’ or ‘can’t put it down’ or ‘riveting’ or any of a hundred other descriptors, you can pretty much believe it isn’t. When I read a title/subtitle/blurb I want to know what the story is about, not something telling me how I should feel about it.
One example (again fictional) of a subtitle that is not overblown and offensive is a short, accurate piece of fact that a reader really needs to know, such as Flying High – A Jane Smith 1920s Mystery #6. It just tells you what it is, not what the writer wants the reader to think or believe or feel. The book itself should do that.
On the whole, these lengthy and overblown subtitles make me think of books printed during the Victorian era and before, where pretty much the whole title page was taken up with what is basically a long subtitle, usually with every line done in a different typeface. It may have helped sell books back then, but in today’s short soundbite society I don’t think such over the top description helps.
It shouldn’t. In my not-so-humble opinion, the book – and to a lesser extent the blurb – should be what says the book is. I mean, why read the book if the story is revealed in the subtitle? Shouldn’t the reader be the one who decides if (and hopefully leaves a review saying) the story is riveting, heartwarming or whatever?
Honesty, and a decision made by the reader. What a concept.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Marketing Old Books

Because I have over 40 books published, I recently decided to see what would happen with those that are self-published if I wrote something about one or another and posted with a link on Facebook. I did the self-published, because I can see if anyone has purchased a book after I wrote about it.

I started with some of the older Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries. The first and the second, Deadly Trail and Deadly Omen.

I did a couple that had started out as Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries, but didn't quite seem like they fit the bill.  Deadly Feast was one of those. I got the idea from a huge flood that happened a long time ago where I'm living and a bridge was washed out, stranding people for several days.

 I did some others too. Every time I did this on Facebook, a few of the books were purchased. So it was worth the few minutes it took to do this.

I'm always willing to try something new, how about you?


(The above books are available on Amazon for Kindle and in paper.)

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Making a difference through Blogging

Make Mine Mystery

Linda Lee Kane
February 5, 2020

Not long ago, I took a class about blogging from Nina Amir. I also bought many of her book and I’ve learned so much from her about so many things in writing, as well as blogging. 

About two years after taking her class and following her plan I jumped right in and wrote about women who’ve made a difference in our society throughout the ages and many that you’ve never heard about. I got the idea after writing my YA book, Chilled to the Bones. I wrote it about the heroines of the American Revolutionary War…how many of you knew that it was Agent 355 who took down Benedict Arnold? To this day, we don’t know her name, we do know that she was a member of George Washingtons Culper Spy Ring, and we know she died in the British ship, New Jersey after giving birth. That’s it, nothing more. To me, knowing about these unsung heroines can make a difference in a kid’s life. It can inspire them to reach for the stars.

I decided, after listening to CNN, speak about ‘what can bring our country together again’? I had been thinking about this for quite some time. So I stopped writing about Heroines and began writing about the history of state desserts. I mean, what can bring people closer together than food, particularly a great dessert? How many people knew that each state has its own dessert? I didn’t and when I discovered that I researched the history behind each dessert and how it came to be so important to that state. I call the blog, 'Bringing the US Together One State Dessert at a Time! I’ve also written the recipe out for each dessert. All last year, every week I baked or cooked up a dessert from each of the 50 states. The people at the barn, the people at the football parties, and family gatherings loved each and every one. So in a small way, no matter the politics my desserts brought people together, and for just a while shared in the joy of food, the history behind it, and forgot their differences in politics. 

That's what writing can do, it can make a differnce.

You can read my blog at www.lindaleekane.com