Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Where to Write - An Experiment

by Janis Patterson

I’m lucky. I have an office. Well, that’s a bit grandiose. I have a tiny desk against one wall in our very small guest room. There’s also a very good sort-of ergonomic chair with good back support, a printer stand, a ceiling fan and a radio/CD player. Of course, there’s also a double bed, dresser, chest of drawers and all the other regular guest room paraphernalia. Yes, it’s crowded, but it is mine, and there are two doors I can close against the intrusions of the outside world. It’s also a great big step up from my days of using the dining room table.
Lately, though, I’ve been hearing a lot about going ‘someplace else’ to write. Some swear by trendy coffee shops, others cafes, others parks… just about anyplace that isn’t their home or office. I can see this, if your home or office is noisy, interruptive, non-existent or in some other way unconducive to the business of writing. Being of an experimentive nature, though, I decided to test it – several times, in fact, with a good friend who also writes.
Hmmm. It wasn’t altogether a success. Out in the world, a world full of distractions, I wasn’t able to concentrate as well and found myself missing points I had intended to use in the scenes I wrote. Neither was it pleasant working on what I call my purse computer, a small netbook purchased mainly for travel or for inescapable waiting times such as at the garage or doctor’s office.
I also felt something like a zoo exhibit. One of the places we went to write – a favorite restaurant owned by a long-time friend – was very gracious about having us there. There was a nice-sized corner table, an attentive staff who kept refilling our iced tea, and nice air-conditioning. There was also constant music, much louder than I prefer and not to my working taste. (This was salsa, which normally I like, but I prefer to write to classical, if to any music at all.) Our host had teased about putting out a sign saying ‘Please Do Not Feed The Writers’ but he didn’t, probably since I had threatened him with his life if he did.
Still, I feel something had leaked out, for many patrons took the long way around to the rest room, all passing close to our table and staring as they did so. The recurring movement and attention was most distracting. 
On a more concrete level, a table meant for eating is a different height from a desk, giving your arms and wrists a different and ultimately very tiring angle. I learned that lesson in the years I had to use the dining room table, and it was one of the reasons I bought a real desk. And a separate ergonomic keyboard, as the tiny straight keyboard on my writing laptop (to say nothing of the netbook!) are much too small for comfort.
The true deal-breaker, though, was the chair. Restaurant and coffee shop chairs are not made for real comfort in the long term. My back, injured long ago and held together pretty much with spit and baling wire, loves being pampered by my ergonomic chair with the adjustable back support. It does not like hours spent working in a commercial dining chair and was very definite in letting me know its displeasure. Or maybe I’m just a wuss, but no place I went to write was very comfortable – all of which showed in my work, I’m sure. 
I don’t know how my friend’s output was, save that she was satisfied with it, but I wasn’t impressed by mine at all. I produced less than half of what I would have in the same time in my office, and the chapters I wrote while away needed much more revision than any produced at home.
Was it a waste of time? No, not completely. I enjoyed lunching with my friend, as I always do, and the afternoons spent writing ‘away’ were pleasurable, but if anything they proved that – for me, at least – they are ‘hobby’ and not professional sessions. In the future if I want to meet a friend for lunch, I will, and I will eat and drink and enjoy it. If I want to work, I will go in to my office and work. A social occasion is a social occasion and work is work.
I realize that my situation is optimum – a home office, however cramped, with all the tools I need to follow my profession. Not everyone has these luxuries, and I applaud those who strive on and write whatever situation they face. When one does have an office, though, it seems counterproductive to go write ‘away.’ Again, I speak only for myself. Everyone has to find their own path for writing. Mine is in my office with my back-pampering chair and my ergonomic keyboard, both doors closed and soft classical music playing. The most important thing for every writer, however, is producing the words. However, wherever – whatever works best. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

On Getting Older

I supposed most people would just say I'm already there--old, I mean.

And yes, I do have the symptoms, hair turning white, lots of wrinkles, slow walker, takes some effort to get up out of chairs, and not being able to do all that I once could.

That last is probably the most frustrating.

I've always been used to making a list of what I planned to accomplish in a day, but not so much anymore. Oh, I still make the lists, but I don't always get everything done that I planned.

Of course I always have a lot to do--and the have-tos, I do finish, but they are also the jobs I'm least interested in doing--laundry, cooking, etc.

What I really want to get with is the writing on my next book, and more promoting of the latest.

Unfortunately, there is only so much time.

And now we've moved into the holidays. I no longer buy all the gifts that I once did, can't afford it and my family just grew to large. For those who come to our house on Christmas Eve, we drew names--so I only have two to buy for, and my kids (I give money) as I'm not longer good at figuring out what they might like.

That might sound like I don't really care for Christmas anymore, but that's not true. I love the true meaning of Christmas. We;ll celebrate on Christmas Eve with some of our family.

We share out home with 3 little girls, so we'll be in on the Christmas morning surprises.

And some time soon, I'll put up a few Christmas decorations.

What about you? Do you still do all the holiday things you used to do?

Marilyn, who still manages to accomplish a lot.

My latest, Tangled Webs.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Libations Fit for a King by Saralyn Richard

Today, I'd like to introduce my guest and fellow Black Opal Books author Saralyn Richard who shares behind-the-scenes information and history about expensive libations and exclusive parties, much like the party event in her recently published mystery, Murder in the One Percent.  Check out the impressive number of good reviews this book has brought in on Amazon (link next to the book cover below).  

Linda Thorne

Libations Fit for a King
by Saralyn Richard

            Who’s up for some amazing libations at an exclusive party?
The dictionary definition of “libation” is “a drink poured out as a ritual offering to a deity.” (Oxford Dictionary, Oxford University Press). Sometimes libations were given as an offering to a god or spirit, often in memory of those who have passed on. Pouring libations was a common practice in many religions of antiquity, and it continues to be performed in various cultures today.

            This is very likely where the ceremony of toasting before drinking alcoholic beverages derives from.

            In Murder in the One Percent (2018, Black Opal Books), the characters attend a birthday party at a mansion in the horse country of Pennsylvania. That Saturday night, they dine from an elegant nine-course menu with wines selected for their best years and perfectly matched to each course.

We would expect nothing less from the wealthy and powerful hosts in the one percent, right?

Just for fun, I priced the wines being served, using today’s market quotes. Following are the prices per bottle:

Champagne Krug, 2000  $225

Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos, 1990  $350

Sauternes Chateau d'Yquem, 1990   $265

Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru, 2006  $125

Richebourg Leroy, 1991                  $3122

Chateau Lafitte Rothschild, 1982    $2400

Graham's Vintage Port                     $139

Hennessy Paradia Cognac               $693

That adds up to a hefty $7319 for just one bottle of each. Knowing these characters as I do, they would consume at least two and probably three bottles during the party, bringing the cost of libations to a whopping $21,957.

No wonder the guests had such a fun time at that dinner party! They ate and drank like royalty and went to bed happy. Too bad the next day, one of them woke up dead.

Murder in the One Percent

Someone comes to the party with murder in his heart and poison in his pocket.

     When old friends gather for an extravagant retreat at a country mansion, no one anticipates how their lives will be changed--or that one of them will turn up dead. Remote and serene, Bucolia Farm is the perfect setting for a lavish party. The guests, members of the country's wealthiest elite one percent, indulge in gourmet food, fine wines, Cuban cigars--but greed, lust, and jealousy crash the party.
     Playboy and former Secretary of the Treasury, Preston Phillips, brings his new trophy wife to the party, unaware that his first love, the woman he jilted at the altar years ago, will be there, enchanting him with her timeless beauty. A snowstorm, an accident, and an illicit rendezvous later, the dynamics crackle with tension.
     When Detective Oliver Parrott is charged with solving the untimely killing of one of America's leading financial wizards, he realizes this will be the case to make--or break--his career.

Author Bio

Mystery and children’s book author, Saralyn Richard, is a writer who teaches on the side. Some of her poems and essays have won awards and contests from the time she was in high school. Her children’s picture book, Naughty Nana, has reached thousands of children worldwide. 

Murder in the One Percent, ©2018 Black Opal Books, pulls back the curtain on the privileged and powerful rich. Set on a gentleman’s farm in Pennsylvania and in the tony areas of New York, the book shows what happens when someone comes to a party with murder in his heart and poison in his pocket. 

A member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, Saralyn is writing the sequel to Murder in the One Percent. Her website is

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Where Has This Year Gone?

Or I could have titled this, Time Flies When You're Getting Old. (Some people would say I've already gotten there.)

The beginning of this year was difficult, having to find a new publisher for my Rocky Bluff P.D. series and having to re-edit all of the older books took a lot to time.

At about the same time, the publisher of my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series wanted the first four books in the series re-edited because they decided to do new covers for those.

A good friend of mine volunteered to redo my "orphan" books and put them on Amazon--so more re-editing.

None of this left much time for writing. I did finally finish the Tempe book I was working on, and started another Rocky Bluff. The Tempe book has yet to come out.

Of course I've been promoting the latest RBPD in many different ways--also time consuming.

Because of the "old" thing, I run out of steam much quicker than I usually do.

There are other writing jobs I do that take time too--so I am always busy.

Believe it or not--I have a lot going on besides the writing thing. With a big family, and mine is huge, there is always something happening. Which means it's time to start planning Thanksgiving dinner which we host here at our house.

So, looking back how was your year? What stands out?


Monday, November 5, 2018

Make Mine Mystery

November 5, 2018

Linda Lee Kane

Mistakes happen! I was going to continue my information to you about data and statistics on writing novellas from the Fussy Librarian. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I was watching a video from a writing coach about organizing my workspace. Looking around I noticed I had papers everywhere. I began cleaning, thinking that this would help me write more efficiently. In cleaning my desk and work area I began to throw papers out, including an application for two book signings, the Fussy Librarian email I received, and research I had done on a book.

Mistakes happen, yes, they do. I make them constantly and I can either cry about it or I can look at the positive and grow from the experience. I’ve had to face these truths about myself. That I have way too many irons in the fire and I’ve been making mistakes far too often.

I don’t regret my mistakes, I believe someone was telling me to slow down. To be more deliberate in my actions and in writing. So, I purchased a daytimer to record what I need to do every day. I write down what I’m grateful for and what I’m excited about. And, every day I post an affirmation and I include my exercise for the day, and finally my wins for the day.
I don’t regret my mistakes, I regret not sharing.

Linda L. Kane MA in Education, PPS, School Psychologist, and Learning Disability Specialist, is the author of Death on the Vine, Chilled to the Bones and an upcoming re-release of the The Black Madonna. She has written several children’s books, including Clyde to the Rescue, Matty’s Adventures in Numberland, Cowboy Jack and Buddy Save Santa, Katerina Ballerina, and Witch Number is Which. 

Monday, October 29, 2018


Talent is nice, language skills are important, good ideas are valuable, but, for a writer, I think motivation is indispensable.

I'd enjoyed writing since beginning school, with accompanying good grades. I had edited a college newspaper, and so on, but I didn't get going, motivation-wise until coming to Spring Hollow in the Arkansas Ozarks kicked me into writing. Simply put, I wanted to share what I was experiencing with everyone.

That's what did it for me. Each writer may have a somewhat similar story--something that said "I need to share this, and it's time to write."

Of course motivation is not a one-time thing. It has to have enough steam to keep you going through the problems, hours and hours at the computer, and times of discouragement and rejection most writers face.

Okay, so I'm motivated. What next?

When I began writing about Spring Hollow in the Arkansas Ozarks for magazines and newspapers and, eventually, in the non-fiction book "DEAR EARTH: A Love Letter from Spring Hollow," I already realized that this beautiful area was doomed. We were located in a county that, largely because it holds Walmart's headquarters, was rapidly becoming urban/suburban. Progress has too often been defined as this kind of growth, though perhaps that's beginning to change just a bit. As we lose wild places, we begin to value them more.

So, my motivation became a test for me. Could I construct my part of the Arkansas Ozarks in words? Could I share and preserve it that way?

After taking up this challenge, I learned something. In many cases, writing what our senses and perceptions tell us about a place (and I do this in my fiction writing too) can be better than virtual reality. We convey more than sight and sound. We strive to open doors for the reader, to bring individual experiences and perceptions to their attention.

I asked myself, "Can I be so accurate and honest that what a reader brings to what I have written enhances the experience for them? What can I bring alive for them?

Well, the reader has to answer that of course, and what happens for him or her will depend, at least partly, on the life experiences they bring to the reading. But, if I am any example, albeit a prejudiced one, I do bring special places and experiences in the Arkansas Ozarks alive on paper and screen. How do I know this? Because I can re-read my own books to bring any area, past or present, alive. If my motivation was to accomplish this--well, for at least one person, it succeeded.

If you are a writer, what motivates you?

Friday, October 19, 2018

Writing a Non-Historical Mystery Set in the Past

by Linda Thorne

     My current work in progress, A Promotion to Die For, is a mystery set in 2005. You’d hardly call that a historical mystery. I’ve seen the word vintage used for time frames 20 to 50 years ago, but my novel is only 13 years in the past. So, for now, I’ll tag my WIP as contemporary with a touch of things old-fashion.

     Thirteen years ago, Blockbuster stores were everywhere, but not today. Flat Screen TVs were available, but not widespread like now. Big Screen TVs were the norm in 2005. Cell phones were little fold-up phones, nothing like the Smartphones of today. I don’t think FaceTime had made an appearance and social media had not taken off (or over) like it has today.

     When writing in the past, even if not the historic past, it’s always important to write time-period appropriate. The clothes your character wears, the TV she watches, the political and social world of the time she lives in must be real. 

     So I am writing my second book set in 2005 while marketing my debut novel in a 2018 world heavy with social media, stumbling through blogs and forums, and wondering if I should also join Instagram and what is this Pinterest?

    My lead character in my Judy Kenagy mystery series, complains in A Promotion to Die For about all the new technology, oblivious to what the future holds for her. I wonder how she would’ve fared in current time. See the excerpt below from chapter one:

I stayed ensconced in my swivel chair, hammering away on my computer until disrupted by a buzz from my beeper. My husband’s phone number lit up on the tiny screen and I reached for the desk phone but stopped when a ringing tune shrilled from my purse on the floor. I pushed the chair back, bent down and fumbled for the jingling little phone, grabbed hold and yanked it from my purse—too hard. I lost my grip and watched it sail over my head landing with a thud on the thin carpet. I dropped on all fours and crawled under the desk.

Damn! When did it happen that people could find you anywhere at any time? Cell phones, beepers, e-mails. I was pushing fifty and couldn’t react as fast as I used to. I snatched the phone off the floor and opened it. “Dan. What?”

“What took you so long?”

“I dropped the…Oouch!”

“Judy, where are you?”

“I’m under my desk where the phone fell, and I hit my head. Give me a second.”

On my knees, phone in hand, I pushed the chair away from the desk and used the seat as a prop to get to my feet. “You beeped me and then called. I’m not a juggler.”

“Sorry,” he said.

“Just me, still adjusting to all this new technology.”

      Have any of you written novels set in the past where you were forced to change the world of your character to match the time frame? Or have you read books where you noticed the author making the adjustment? It’s critical to get it correct or you’ll lose your reader early on to lack of credibility.

     I’ve had fun with this part of writing my work-in-progress.