Monday, January 26, 2015

Remember the Weather

Sometimes, I get so wrapped up in writing a novel, I almost forget what season it's in, or what the weather's supposed to be like. Somewhere along the way, my plot reminds me to figure that out. If I haven't included a locale, that's a necessity. Weather is not the same everywhere.

Today, every radio and television broadcast warns that the Northeast portion of the United States is bracing for a humongous snowstorm, which could dump 2-3 feet of snow that way. Fortunately, here in Illinois, we're only expecting about one inch of snow.

Weather can and should play a role in our novels. Characters live in a world, which in many ways is governed by weather and seasons. That's not to say weather completely controls humans, but it can play a huge part in their behavior and day-to-day activities.

For some reason, fuses are shorter in the hot months, and more fights and murders occur. I'm not sure why tempers flare then, but suspect it may be a physiological phenomenon. Even if that weren't so, keep in mind it's easier to get around and do nefarious things when there's no snow, ice, or cold blocking the way.

Of course, cold, snowy winters also have their advantages. Nefarious happenings can go unnoticed when no one else is around. People like to hunker down in their homes then and not venture out unless necessary, or if attacked by a case of cabin fever. Also, snowbanks can be handy spots to hide bodies, not to be discovered until after a thaw.

In my romantic suspense, Killer Career, a snowstorm brings the heroine and hero closer together romantically, after they work in tandem to clear her driveway. The weather also furthers the mystery plot. When the neighbor comes over to ask if they've seen her dog, they search the lady's yard, and at first are hindered because snow has obliterated the paw prints.

In my sweet romance, Christmas Carol, a snowstorm brings about a chance meeting between a waitress and a big-time author in a small town.

What other examples can you think of where weather plays a role in a novel?

Morgan Mandel writes mysteries, thrillers and romances. You can find her at:

Amazon Author Page:

Twitter: @MorganMandel


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Does Anyone Know How to Market?

by Kaye George (also w.a. Janet Cantrell)

I was asked for tips today from a writer who is newly published. I gave her what I could think of at the moment: Goodreads giveaway, read Jeffrey Marks’ INTENT TO SELL, watch what Rebecca Dalhke does.

But, really, besides those, how does one market a new mystery? How do YOU market your mysteries?

Here are some things I do (never knowing what works and what doesn’t).

I guest blog when a new book or short story anthology comes out, wherever I can. I’ve accumulated a list of places where I seem welcome and am always looking for new ones, usually mentioned on one of the writers’ lists I belong to.

I put the news in my newsletter. I put it on my blogs. I cross-reference these as best I can for increased visibility.

If I’m in an area with cool bookstores, I get signings. I now have a signing lined up here in Knoxville at Books A Million for my second Fat Cat book.

I try to appear on panels at conferences, also to increase visibility.

For every brand new story and book, I post the releases on the discussion lists and Facebook groups I belong to.

I try to build up hype before publication with the above-mentioned Goodreads giveaways, plus giveaways on guest blogs and my own blogs. I give away ARCs as well as actual books.

When a conference accepts auction baskets for charity, I put one together with some themed items for the new release. I already have a few cute cat things for Malice in May to promote my Fat Cat series.

I had mugs made for DEATH IN THE TIME OF ICE and for EINE KLEINE MURDER and have done giveaways of them.

When a conference lets me take bids on a name in one of my upcoming novels, I do that. It’s amazing how much attention those get! Some day I hope to be coordinated enough to offer a pet name in an upcoming book.

If a book takes place in a real town, I contact someone official there to let them know.

I have no idea if any of this does any good. But I do know that if I don’t do anything, I won’t sell much.

Any great ideas?

Friday, January 23, 2015

My Role Model: Ernest Hemingway

by Jean Henry Mead

Ernest Hemingway has always been my writing role model. Not only because his work changed the face of writing, but because he was a fellow novelist and journalist. My interest in him intensified when I learned that I was born on his birthday, July 21. A framed photograph of him sits on my office desk, and I was told by Elmore Leonard, during my interview with him, that a large photo of Hemingway hung in his office because he was also most influenced by his work.

The following are a few of Hemingway's quotes:

~There's no rule on how it is to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly. Sometimes it is like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.

~[I'll] work again on the novel today. Writing is a hard business, but nothing makes you feel better. 

~I love to write. But it has never gotten any easier to do and you can't expect it to if you keep trying for something better than you can do.

~The good parts of a book may be only something a writer is lucky enough to overhear or it may be the wreck of his whole damn life--and one is as good as the other.

~A man's got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book.

~Whatever success I have had has been through writing what I know about.

When asked what the best early training is for a writer, Hemingway answered: "An unhappy childhood." Whether his answer was tongue in cheek is irrelevant. I'm sure he meant that emotions such as sadness, anger, rebellion and depression are remembered emotions which contribute to good writing. And writing that elicits reader emotion is the primary ingredient in a successful book.

(Quotes from Ernest Hemingway on Writing, edited by Larry W. Phillips, Scribner, 1984.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Place for Me

by Janis Patterson
I call it my office, though that is a grandiose term for a small desk on the short wall of the guest room. Still, it’s mine, and I can go in there, close off the outside world and work. At least, that’s the way it was supposed to be. After some much-needed (and unfortunately ongoing) remodeling on the house and the decision to get rid of our storage units, which necessitated the sorting and going through of all kinds of family stuff, my office without warning morphed into an overcrowded lumber room. It seemed that everything that we wanted to keep but didn’t have an immediate place or which had to be looked through in order to determine final distribution got dumped in there. Now I have a high tolerance for clutter, but all of a sudden it went over the top when I couldn’t turn my desk chair around.

As a consequence I have been opening boxes and sorting and getting rid of stuff! That which we definitely want to keep but have no immediate place for (such as my great-great-grandmother’s sugar bowl, creamer and spoons dish) is carefully packed into uniform new boxes and stored in the garage, which has been remodeled just for such a purpose. Our favorite charity, an orphanage for abused and abandoned animals, has received several pick-up loads of still-good castoffs for resale in their charity shop.

And still the stuff is there! I have decided that one of the secret truths of the universe is that both boxes and books breed. And generally faster than we can sort them. We have been on this decluttering, downsizing ideology since our marriage (when we combined the stuff from four separate households – long story) and it seems that we have more stuff now than when we started. I tell you, it breeds!

One of the major decisions is to make the room more officelike. We have a suite of antique furniture in there – double bed, dresser, chest and nightstand – that had belonged to my father’s mother and is over 100 years old. It’s beautiful and I love it, and not just because it came to me when I was about ten to become my girlhood furniture. It’s just that the stuff is massive and the guest room is a very small room. So – we have decided to continue using the chest and dresser, but get rid of the mattress and springs and knock the bed down. It will be stored with other ancestral pieces in the garage. We’re going to replace it with a single (antique, of course) bed that belonged to The Husband’s family. That will still allow us to shelter a guest, and give me the convenience of a daybed/couch in my office, but free up so much room.

Another thing I have decided to do is hang pictures. The room had two or three in it from the beginning, conventionally hung one to a wall. A sad fact is that our house has a very open floor plan, which means there is very little wallspace for hanging things. As we were going through things I found so many paintings and things that I love, so I decided to hang them. All of them. The result is solid blocks of paintings on every wall and I love it, though the visual cacophony is something of a sensory overload. Neither are the styles congruent. There are huge paintings from J.K. Durbin and Brad Jernigan and 3 or 4 from my mother’s mother, the smallest of this lot being roughly 2x3feet. There are smaller ones by James Rather and Bud Biggs and my parents and an aunt. There are an antique floral chromolithograph and a 17th century copper repousse Madonna and Child. There are some 1,000 year old scraps of incredibly detailed Wari weavings and a rattle and a blowpipe (complete with carefully sheathed darts) from the Peruvian jungles. Are the darts poison-tipped? I don’t know and I’m being very careful not to find out! I have some of the original artwork from Danny and the Dustbunnies, my only (so far) children’s book. There are two original D. R. Rago archaeological illustrations of an ancient skull. Also, there’s an ornate brass oil lamp from an 18th century Middle Eastern monastery library and a small collection of reverse-paintings on glass.

Yes, I have very diverse tastes.

The Husband wonders if all this color and crowding might not be distracting from my work. I don’t think so. I am surrounded by things I love, things that each have their own special, personal history for me, things from all kinds of places and times. To me that’s inspiring, not distracting. It makes a somewhat generic guest room into my nest.

Now if I can just get ahead of the brown paper boxes….

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Another One of Those Busy Times

There are those who think I'm always busy--but the better word might be occupied. But right now, I really am busy.

My next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery, Violent Departures, is at the publisher's. As I'm writing this, in my in-box is a rough draft of the final product that I need to go over. (By the time this appears I will have done it.)

I received an email from the publisher's assistant as to suggestions for a cover. I'm really not sure. I looked through some stock photos and picked three that might work. A lot will depend upon how the title is done.

One of the things I always do is a blog tour and I'm planning that now. It won't happen until April but it is a lot of work gathering hosts, setting up the calendar and then writing all the blogs. Each one needs to be unique and interesting enough that at least some people will follow along.

I'm also writing the next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery--and I need to keep at least one chapter ahead of my critique group which meets every week. (Thank goodness, since the book will be due at the end of summer.)

In the meantime, I have to keep hubby happy, run my household, teach my Sunday School class, do my duties as church clerk, and enjoy my big, big family.

This is a photo that inspired the coming Violent Departures.

Marilyn Meredith who who writes the RBPD series as F. M. Meredith

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Out of Thin Air

Hey, MMM fans. I've been thinking about where our stories come from. Actually, I listened to a lecture Stephen King gave to a Massachusetts University on U-tube. He talked about the kernels that stayed with him. Those were the things he knew he would write, sooner or later.

He started Under the Dome when he was still teaching high school. But, he put the book away, wondering if it was too big for him to write then.

I have one of those books on my desk top. I've been playing with the woman's fiction for a couple of years now, maybe longer. I have the first scene in my head but I haven't felt comfortable enough to dive into the lake and find the lake monster. Not quite yet. Although the book keeps calling to me. I loved hearing King talk about his own process. It made me feel a little less freaky and more like a writer.

Today I hit send on an email to my editor. It's a new cozy proposal that I started playing with last summer during my two week driving trip out west to Idaho. The idea has been marinating for months, with me writing notes about the project. Then last week, I sat down and started making decisions. Who, what, where, when, and how. And one more decision, why. Who were the characters and why were they on the page when they were? My notebook page looked like doodles rather than an outline. But it worked and I'm excited to begin this new adventure.

So where do your stories come from fellow MMM authors? Do they drop down fully cooked as if you dreamed them? Or are you a mad plotter with spreadsheets and pages done before you even start to write the story?

Or are you like me, someone who takes an idea and plays with it for a while in my head before it turns into a story?


By the way, GUIDEBOOK TO MURDER, the book that hit the NYT's list last summer is on sale through January. Amazon/Nook/Kobo - it's $1.99. It's a great time to take a chance on a new series.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Some Quotes on Writing

by Kaye George

I love to collect inspirational quotes, that is, quotes that inspire my writing. I’d love to hear your favorites. Here are some of mine. Several of these have been posted here before, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat the best ones.

“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” -Orson Welles

“The way to make a film is to begin with an earthquake and work up to a climax.” -Cecil B. DeMille

“I'm thinking literary focuses on the moment when the character changes, and the genre focuses on what the character does with that change.” -Stephen D. Rogers

“No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress, you’re still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying.” -Unknown

“Writing is a lot like prostitution. First you do it for love. Then you do it for money. Then you recruit others. “ -Moliere
 "Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working." - Pablo Picasso
“Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Every time you sit down to write, you should be afraid of losing the reader at any moment of any page." - Playwright William Gibson
“That was the moment I changed from an amateur to a professional.  I assumed the burden of the professional which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you are writing and aren’t writing particularly well.”-Agatha Christie

"It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop." – Confucius