Thursday, May 17, 2018

Writing Those Scary Parts

by Linda Thorne

When I wrote my first book, I came across big segments where I found myself drawn so heavily into the story, I forgot who was writing and editing it. There were moments when I’d sit up and bat my lashes, returning to reality. Other authors have told me they do the same thing. I think it comes naturally since it’s our work, our love and our passion. Unfortunately, none of this means the reader will have the same experience.

With my second book this happened, still does, but with one big difference. In the second book, my work-in-progress, I find myself truly frightened by the inciting incident. Why?

The scene was created from something that happened to me when I was 22 years-old. My boyfriend had talked me into following him to a college town in Kansas where I found a job and a place to live with two roommates in an upstairs room of an old rickety house. The landlady and her daughter lived downstairs in a section beside the stairwell. On the day before Thanksgiving with a major blizzard imminent, the landlady and her daughter left to stay with relatives, my roommates took off for their family homes in other parts of Kansas, and the neighborhood became a ghost town. Many things happened to me that Thanksgiving weekend while I was the sole occupant of the old, frame house.

I wrote my experiences of that weekend into backstory, where the inciting incident occurs. In this flashback, my lead character is 20 years-old and she goes through everything I went through, culminating in a dangerous incident followed the next day by terrifying news.

So, starts the story of my second book, A Promotion to Die For.

What about you? Have you written scary scenes from real-life experiences or totally made-up fiction that frighten you when you’re reading or revising your own work?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

What's In A Name?

by Janis Patterson

As predictably as the seasons, every so often the writers' eloops explode with The Great Pseudonym Question. Someone - usually a newbie - asks whether or not they should use different names for different genres, have separate websites and social media feeds, etc. The answers are all over the place, from yes and no to certainly and most definitely not. And there are good reasons for just about every answer.

My answer? A definite 'It depends...'

Whether or not to use a pseudonym is an intensely personal decision, but it's not all about you. You have to think of your reader. If you write middle grade fiction and hot erotic romance, I say you definitely need a pseudonym, as well as separate websites and social media accounts! Your readers are drawn from two vastly different populations. Can you just imagine what would happen if your middle grade reader, anxious to learn about the new adventures of your heroine Sweetie McNice as she navigates the politics of Prettytown Summer Camp, picks up (on the basis of your author name) the new book featuring Stormy McSexy who happily sets about seducing every guy in the police department to try to get the attention of the new detective? It doesn't bear thinking about - especially the reaction of the parents. You definitely need a pseudonym there, for your protection if not the kiddos'!

I believe an author name is an essential part of branding. I use pseudonyms to delineate my different books - none of which are overtly sexy, except one. I was coerced into writing that by a former publisher, but by today's standards it's pretty close to mainstream, so I leave it under my romance name. (In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that when in desperate need of quick money a couple of years ago I wrote a few full-blown erotics. Needless to say, I used a pseudonym which shall remain forever known only to me and God, and God better not tell anyone what it is, because I certainly won't!)

As I bore easily I write in a variety of genres. I write romance and horror (odd combination and a long story, but I believe the covers will be guide enough for the reader) as Janis Susan May, traditional mysteries as Janis Patterson, children's as Janis Susan Patterson and scholarly and non-fiction as JSM Patterson. I make no secret that all of the above are me, even to having just one website and one social media account. It just makes things easier, which is great, as it leaves more time for writing. Which I should be doing now.

So - everyone says your name is your brand, but to brand efficiently - and to be fair to your readers - think carefully about whether you need a pseudonym or not. It's your decision, but as I said above, you have to think about your readers as well.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Speaking to San Joaquin Chapter of Sisters in Crime

An idea for a presentation hit me when I was at a meeting of my chapter of Sisters in Crime, and I asked if I could be a future speaker. Obviously the president and program chair agreed.

This past Saturday I spoke to a wonderful group of Sisters and two Misters about where I got the ideas for my books.

I brought one copy of most of my books (those I had on hand) and put them on a table in the order they came in my two series--and I brought 2 other books as well. Lingering Spirit because it's based (loosely) on the death of my police officer son-in-law who got me started writing about law enforcement.

The other non-series book was the first mystery I wrote that was published, The Astral Gift. I lifted it from life too. No I never astral projected, no Internet to research at the time I wrote it, but I found several books on the subject, and it fit right into my story.

I continued on with the Rocky Bluff P.D. series that I write as F. M. Meredith, beginning with the newly edited and re-published Final Respects. At the moment it has two covers. Bits and pieces of this plot came from my son-in-law's stories he told me and also the fact that my daughter who was about 10 at the time had a friend whose family owned a mortuary. Daughter and the three daughters of the mortuary owner played hide'n seek in the mortuary among the dead bodies.

Several of the books I talked about, plot ideas came from speakers who'd come to visit our chapter.

It was so much fun recalling where the ideas came from for each of these books, and then I did the same with my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series.

The audience was great and we all laughed a lot. After I was done I sold a lot of the books I'd talked about.

I belong to three chapters of Sisters in Crime, this one, the L.A. chapter, and the Central Coast Chapter. I'm one of the founding members of the San Joaquin chapter and it's the closest so I attend most of their meetings. I participate with the Central Coast chapter any chance I can get because I have many friends in that chapter--plus it's on the coast. I haven't been to an L.A. chapter meeting in years--just too far, but I love their newsletter and listserve.

It was a great day for me, and everyone seemed to enjoy it as much as I did.


(I don't have any photos--my daughter usually takes one, but she said she got to caught up in my stories she forgot.)

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

What I Miss Most in My Writing Life Since I've Gotten Older

Me in the middle and Radine on the left--at some conference, not sure where.

And when I say older, I mean older.

Used to be, hubby and I went to every Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime and a few of the smaller cons that no longer exist like Love is Murder and Mayhem in the Midlands. We had a great time. We loved visiting the different cities all over the United States--but most of all what we loved the most was all the people we met and became friends with. When we saw them again, it was like connecting with family.

What reminded me of what I'm missing was reading Radine Nehring's post yesterday. Radine and her husband John were two of the people we met and enjoyed spending time with at several cons.

Hubby can no longer do that kind of traveling, and though I did go to a few by myself, I'm not comfortable doing that anymore either. Though I used to love to fly, I don't anymore for many reasons.

Oh, I'm certainly not completely homebound, but I only attend events I can get to by car--and when my daughter is willing to drive me there. Which means mostly I'm attending events in California. One big exception is the Public Safety Writers Association in Las Vegas--and she loves to go to that one with me, and hubby likes to go there too. Both help with selling books at the conference itself.

This year so far I've been to two fairly close book fairs and I'm signed up for a couple of others in the future. I'm participating in a one day writer's conference on the coast--and daughter will be in charge of the book sales.

I'm going to be the speaker this Saturday for the San Joaquin chapter of Sisters in Crime, so I am still getting out there. And yes, I have lots of writers friends at all these events.

What I really miss though, is walking into a big conference hotel and immediately seeing familiar faces--faces of friends (writers and readers) that I've met at other conferences. The feeling is much like a family reunion. What I still do have though, is lots of great memories of those wonderful times and the most friendly and interesting people.

Is there anything any of the rest of  you can't or don't do anymore that you used to? Not necessarily because of getting old like me, perhaps it's the cost, or not having the time, or maybe something you've decided is not the best use of your time.


Me and Lorna Collins at Epic in San Antonio

Monday, April 30, 2018


Here's a question for all published authors: Do you enjoy reading your own books, maybe months or even years after they have been published?

I have heard some authors say that, after their books are published, they have no interest in ever reading them again. Not me. I enjoy re-reads of my own books. Maybe that's because I like spending time with my characters. (The continuing ones have become good friends.) Do other authors feel this way.

A favorite author of mine, Marilyn Meredith, once said, in answer to a question about whether or not she would continue writing both of her mystery series, "Yes, I want to find out what my characters are doing."  I have loved this answer and think of it as I read one of Marilyn's novels.  (We want to know too, Marilyn.)

Another reason I enjoy a re-read of my books is setting. I set my novels in specific Arkansas tourist destinations, and reading a novel set there is next best to an in-person visit to a favorite place.

Whatever the reason, here's something that proves what I've just said. During the past two years my husband and a former editor at the press who published my first five mystery novels in the "To Die For" series have worked together to re-issue my first two novels, print on demand. Both were originally offset print and, though one had gone into a second printing, both were out of stock, hence out of print. During the re-issue work I needed to make  updates in book text, and then read sample copies for accuracy. The first book re-issued, "Music to Die For," has a touching ending involving the redemption of one character. I cried at that ending on the two necessary re-reads. A re-read of the other book brought, instead, laughter, since that was appropriate for its finale. Did I not remember how those books ended? What do you think?

The second re-release, "A Valley to Die For," will be out in May. The final book sample just came. I picked it up after it slid out of its packing, approved the change in cover art, and--I couldn't help myself--opened to the first page and began to read! I just had to see, once more, how Carrie and Henry were handling their first adventure together, and how JoAnne's murder impacted both their lives.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Tweet-Twit-Twitter ... Aw, Whatever!

by Linda Thorne

Is it me? When I found a publisher in 2014, Black Opal Books, they sent me their standard to-do list. The salient points were: get an author website, join Facebook and Twitter. As soon as I finished my website, I joined Facebook for the first time and mucked around learning how to maneuver through it.

Twitter was a whole other animal. I’ve spent what I think is excessive time trying to use all the online instructions and posts to figure it out. I’ve followed my author friends, which I think is good, but I’ve also followed too many other people recommended to me by places I’m unfamiliar with.

Lately, all I do is tweet my public posts (like this one) on Twitter, but other than that, I don’t participate much. I find myself avoiding it.

I wanted to title this post: To Tweet or Not to Tweet – That is the Question, but if any of you googled anything with a couple of the words I just wrote, I’d look like a copycat. Those words are all over the internet. So, there are others out there feeling pros and cons.

If I felt strong enough about Twitter as a useful tool, I think I’d need to get a BA in chirping to “get it.” The tweets are so short. Who is the audience I should choose? Are there written instructions that don’t look like a master's thesis?

I find myself avoiding this very popular site I started using in 2014. Some authors swear by it, and some waiver. What about you?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Procrastination as a Fine Art

by Janis Patterson

I spend waaaay too much time online. First, there's email to check, just to make sure there's nothing that has to be attended to, as everyone knows email is the best way to contact me. Then there's my twice-daily check of my sales stats - lately that has been a masochistic exercise in depression, to say the least! Of course, there's research to be done, for I simply have to know the depth of a stylish hem flounce in 1816 or the exact caliber of a Broomhandle Mauser... All legitimate reasons, all time-consuming, and if I would just stop there I would be all right.

Unfortunately, minutes spent online are far too much like potato chips or jelly beans - far too easy to overindulge in. I promise myself just one quick look on Facebook or Twitter, just long enough to do a little promo and do a fast check to see what my friends are doing... then sometimes at least an hour later I'll notice the clock and scream Noooo! It can't have been thaaat long!

Even more unfortunately (from a time sense only, as I am very happy), I have a husband and a home and an extended family to look after. Clothes must be washed, the kitchen cleaned, meals cooked, dust bunnies rearranged, errands run... the minutiae of daily living. Unlike the internet, each of these makes a perfect excuse not to write. I won't struggle with this chapter right now, especially since (insert household chore of choice here) has to be done.

Back when I was single my late mother used to swear she could tell how my writing was going by looking at my kitchen. If it was a disaster area almost fit for condemnation she knew the new book was going well. When she came over to find me cleaning the gasket of my dishwasher with a cotton swab and alcohol for the third day in a row, she would suggest that I start checking the want ads for a real job.

Make no mistake - I am a professional writer. Writing is my job. When I don't write I don't get paid. (Sometimes even when I do write I don't get paid, but that's another rant for another blog.) And I do my best to treat my writing just like I would an office job - dedication, responsibility, reasonable hours, decent output, respect for my craft.

Unexpected exigencies aside, I try to ration the lunches with girlfriends (though some still cannot understand why since I work at home - and therefore obviously don't have a 'real' job - I can't just drop everything and go run and play at any time) and other social/political necessities. I spend very little time at the store, meaning primarily the grocery store, as I dislike shopping and am known for wearing clothes until they are old enough to vote. There is one exception to this - when my dear friend from Peru comes up once or twice a year for a visit we spend a great deal of time shopping, as for her it is almost a religious experience. So much so that some clerks remember us from one excursion to the next!

Sometimes looking at my life I wonder that I get anything done, let alone why I put myself through such hard work and dedication and mental gymnastics for such a (recently, at least) insultingly paltry return. (Something really must be done about falling book sales!) It took me a long time, but I finally figured it out...

I can't do anything else. There are times I hate writing, there are times I vow never to write anything but a grocery list again, there are times I really wish the characters in my head would just SHUT UP... but there are more times I glory in the act of creation, feel delight that something works out swimmingly when I had feared it would take days of effort to make the situation work, joy that my characters have morphed into real, believable - albeit incorporeal - people with minds of their own...

In other words, I love writing. I can't imagine ever spending my life doing anything else. No matter how creative I can be in avoiding doing it!