Wednesday, September 19, 2018


by Janis Patterson

I'm so happy! Next week we're off to the fantastic Tradewinds Resort in St. Pete Beach, Florida for the Novelists, Inc. (NINC) conference. The Tradewinds is a world-class resort, with many and varied restaurants (from crystal-and-white-tablecloth to a funky cafe open to the sea breezes), several bars (from dark and elegant to a rustic palapa on the beach) and all kinds of entertainment, including a multi-story inflatable water slide. As great as it is, though, I am not a resort person and probably would never go there if it were not for NINC.

So what is NINC? It is a professional organization for professional writers. It is the greatest group for working writers that I have ever found. There is an e-loop, so we can stay in touch with each other, but no local chapters. In a way that's sad, but most of us are so busy working we don't have time to socialize.

Except at conference. Held in late September/early October every year, the NINC conference is the only conference I most definitely will not miss. (I hope I didn't jinx it by saying that...) Once a year working professional writers can get together to learn, to meet with friends and get up to date on industry news. And have fun. It's great to see friends you don't see from one year to the next. It's also great to get to talk to industry people (agents, editors, publishing people, tech people and more) in both business and social gatherings.

One thing that makes it so great is that we writers are all pretty much in the same place - oh, there are best-sellers with dozens of books and fairly new writers with just two or three or four books, but all are published and all have met certain standards to qualify for membership. All have dealt with traditional publishers or are self-publishing or both. We all speak the same language and know what the others are talking about. It creates a feeling of being among family that is unprecedented.

If you are a published author, look into joining NINC. It's one of the best things you can do for your career, whether you go to the yearly conference or not. There are stiff requirements - number of books published and by whom, and a financial floor, but nothing that should be too difficult for a professional writer.

Can you tell I'm excited? The Husband (who moonlights as my assistant) is coming too, and as always we've reserved a waterfront room so we can sit on the balcony and watch the moon on the water after going out for a romantic dinner. Then, during the day, we can see friends and go to workshops and party... never forget the partying! Hopefully one of my dearest friends in the world who lives about half an hour from the Tradewinds will be able to come in so we can take her to dinner. This year I'm even reporting on two different workshops for the NINC newsletter!

Unfortunately, before we can leave there is a lot to do. I have a new book (A Well Mannered Murder) I want to finish before we leave so I won't have it hanging over me while we're at the conference. There's always housework, and laundry, and packing... I'd better get busy!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Waiting Game

The next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery, which I titled Tangled Webs is supposed to come out in October. Everything has been turned around with getting a new publisher (Aakenbaken and Kent) for this series. All the earlier books had to be re-edited and received new covers--the idea to make it obvious it's a series.

In the past, the latest Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery came out at the first of the year. I was far too busy with the re-editing to finish the latest and get it sent off.

The same type of things was happening with the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series--some of the earlier books needed re-editing and new covers to match the covers in the newer books. So while I was re-editing, of course the next book in the series was on hold. August has always been the month for a new Tempe to come out. Not this year.

The new cover for the very first book in the Tempe Crabtree series.

The book is finished and is called Spirit Wind and my critique group has heard it all. It's been sent out to a Beta reader. Once I hear back from her and make any changes she might suggest, I'll send it off to Mundania Press where their editor will take make the final edits.

Once both those books are out, I'll be busy with promotion. Fortunately, I am signed up for quite a few events.

In the meantime, it's time to start thinking up ideas for the next books.

How well do the rest of you do at waiting? For me, it's best to keep busy.


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

What do I think about When I write?

Make Mine Mystery

Sept 5, 2018

Linda Lee Kane


When I write, I don’t consider my readers likes and dislikes: I approach writing as if it’s a treasure hunt and the treasure I’m searching for is the truth—what choices would these characters truly make in these situations? What would these characters honestly feel?
I want my characters to be as real and as honest as possible, and since they ultimately drive my stories, my books don’t always turn out how I initially envisioned them—or in ways that I think readers might want. For example, I chose a new narrator for Death on the Vine. Daisy, my new narrator, was not universally liked and many of my readers were unsure about my choice to make her the main character. But I actually think their dislike of Daisy made the book stronger. Since Daisy was not a beloved character, I knew I’d have to work really hard to win readers over to her side. I knew I couldn’t just throw her on the page and assume readers would follow her—I had to fight to make readers fall in love with her.

When I write I don’t consider book sales, I write because I enjoy the process and every day I learn something new: When I first started writing, before I actually sold anything, I used to think about sales all the time. I stalked agents and continuously read their tweets and blog posts about the market. I studied the books that everyone was buzzing about. But my studies never led to selling a book. In fact, they almost held me back from writing The Black Madonna.
When I first drafted The Black MadonnaI was told by more than one person that books with a historical perspective were hard sells—no one was looking for that—and the creative historical market was saturated. The Black Madonna didn’t feel like a safe book to write, but I’d tried to write safe books, which hadn’t sold much, and I was obsessed with the idea of the Knights Templar and the Cathars, a religious group that Pope Innocent wanted to be destroyed. The Black Madonna was the book I wanted to read. So despite the appearance of the market and various agent wish lists, I liked to believe that if I wanted to read it, others would want to read it as well.
I still think it’s good to be aware of what’s selling, but I don’t usually consider it when choosing what I write. Instead, I try to find the idea that I’m obsessed with because I believe that if I’m passionate about something, I’ll find readers who feel the same way.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

August Is and Always Has Been My Favorite Month

Even more so this year, as it started with our family reunion, a most special reunion. My grandson whom I hadn't seen since he was three and now 42, came all the way to join us from Nebraska and brought his wife Jeff is the child of our eldest son who died from cancer. And no, he never got to see his son again. You can't imagine how wonderful it was to hug Jeff, and hear all about him. Emotions ran high all weekend. We also had a lot of fun. All my daughters were there with some of their family members, plus cousins galore.

This is also my birthday month, and at the reunion my eldest daughter did a This is Your Life presentation, with comments from people from my past, like the superintendent of schools (I was PTA president four times and knew him as a friend), several of my Camp Fire Girls,and  three of my cousins. That was fun.

My daughter celebrated her birthday and she and her daughter both celebrate anniversaries, we have other family birthdays this month too.

But enough about family, onto writing business. Usually I have a new Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery coming out this month, but I haven't quite finished writing it. Had too many re-edits to do of both the earlier books in that series and the ones in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series.

Because I don't have any new books at the moment, I haven't done much promotion. However, I still have plenty of copies of my older books and have presentations and other venues lined up in the coming months to hopefully sell some.

I went to Nightwriters in San Luis Obispo to tell about where I got the ideas for my books.This is always fun, and a great group of people.

Next I went to Visalia to the Tulare/Kings Writers group to talk about writing description of  people, places and things. This is a small group and so enjoyable as we can easily share back and forth.

I'm always ready and willing to give talks about different aspects of writing, and I love going to book and craft fairs.

Hopefully, in the next month or so, I can finish my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. I think you'll like this one, it's set in Tehachapi where all the wind machines are, and of course Tempe will be dealing with ghosts and spirits as well as a murder.


Monday, August 27, 2018

How to Bake a Murder Was a Pleasure to Read

Now that I'm part of the older generation, I find it difficult to discover books containing heroines with whom I can relate. Many books seem to be about younger people. 

However,  I did stumble upon a great cozy mystery called How to Bake a Murder by K.J. Emrick. In it, the older heroine is actually depicted as savvy and kindhearted, not a feeble woman who does dumb things. 

If you'd like to read my review, you can find it at this link.

This ebook is available on Amazon and worth checking out.

Morgan Mandel

Sunday, August 19, 2018

What About Subplots?

by Linda Thorne

I’m on two panels this year at Killer Nashville’s 13th Annual International Writers’ Conference that runs from August 23rd to August 26th. My first panel is this Friday on Writing Effective Subplots. My second is this coming Sunday on The Differences in Men and Women Sleuths. In preparation for the first panel on subplots, I thought I’d use the subject for this August Make Mine Mystery post.

I love subplots in books for a million reasons. Subplots have their own story arc but take up less of everything: action, impact, significant events. Many intertwine with the main plot, but they don’t have to. They can be a sub-story of interest with a beginning, middle, and end and they can be short.

In my books (one published and one completed but in editing stage), I use a main subplot that knits in and out of my main story line. In my first book, Just Another Termination, the subplot is an unsolved double homicide 25 years earlier. In my second book, A Promotion to Die For, yet to be published, I use an unusual and dangerous situation my lead character experienced 30 years earlier. In both books, the subplot runs parallel with the main plot and comes together at the end with a bang.

Do any of you, readers and/or writers, want to add information about subplots? I love the subject and I’m definitely interested.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

An Embarrassment of Riches

by Janis Patterson
I've done it again. I didn't mean to, but I've done it again.

Every time I get buried by unfinished books - and that means more than the four or so I am always writing on at once - I swear I will not plot/plan another one until I've finished up everything I'm already working on.

I really mean it, but I just can't help myself. Book ideas keep hurling themselves at me with the density and rapidity of a snowstorm, and they're too good just to ignore.

For example - when The Husband and I went to Illinois for his high school reunion earlier this summer I was trying not to think of anything writerly, wanting just to have a good time seeing his old hometown and the kids he grew up with. No such luck. As we are both rabid historians, we spent a grey and lovely morning in the rain exploring an historic cemetery there. It was deliciously spooky, with clouds so low you could almost grab a handful if you reached up over your head, and lots of examples of over-the-top Victorian mourning cemetery art, and a dense, dark forest choked with sinister-looking underbrush hovering at the edge.

One thing that I find tragic and infuriating is that so many - especially of the older stones - have been vandalized. Pushed over, scored to illegibility, parts broken off - what kind of person would damage the stones of the long-dead? I do hope there is a special part of Hell for these savages, and that they get there soon! I mean, what kind of mentality would get pleasure from breaking the head off a baby lamb on the gravestone of a two year old child who died over a hundred and thirty years ago? They're sick - just sick!

While we were walking through the oldest part of the cemetery, looking for some of his relatives and Civil War casualties who were buried there, within twenty minutes I had a complete book - the second in my Rachel Petrie, Contract Archaeologist series - completely plotted. (Rachel's first book is A KILLING AT TARA TWO, and will be out this fall.) The main characters had walked in, introduced themselves and told me their function in the story. Later that afternoon, I sat down at my laptop and made a new file with a couple of pages of notes and a gaggle of photographs so everything will be fresh when I finally am able to write it. The title is A KILLING AMONGST THE DEAD.

Okay - that makes five books in my to-be-done queue. That's enough, I thought. I'll quit plotting for a while.

Yeah. Sure. Right now I'm almost finished with a Mindy McMann book called A WELL-MANNERED MURDER. She's a researcher for a non-fiction writer who always manages to get herself into trouble. I guess Mindy was jealous that Rachel was getting a new book, because while The Husband and I were in historic Jefferson Texas at a (fantastic!) symposium on the War Between the States a new Mindy book popped into my head, complete with action, setting and characters. It's about revisionist history, radicals and long-held grudges. While The Husband napped after the seminar, I pulled out my laptop and made another file, complete with storyline, character sketches and photographs. This one isn't titled yet, but it will come to me.

Note - I never go anywhere without my laptop. Do you? Sometimes on short trips I never take it out of its case, but I have to have it near me. The Husband calls it my security blanket, and I guess he's right, though so far I have resisted taking it along to the grocery store and my nail salon.

So - now you see why I sometimes get so steamed when people ask in all seriousness how I get my ideas, as if it's some special rare talent that must be learned. I would really like a place where for a week or two at least I DIDN'T get viable ideas. I can't tell you how many 'ideas' both complete and fragmentary I have tucked away on my computer, most of them good enough to be turned into or at least used in books. Don't these people think? Don't they have some sort of rudimentary imagination? How can they NOT get ideas from just about anything? I don't understand. I just don't understand.