Wednesday, March 28, 2012

It's a Mystery To Me

It's still a mystery to me how the plotters do it! I so admire their discipline and their technique. I'm a pantster writer and always have been, except when writing exams in university, where I plotted out point form notes for the essay questions!

For me, writing fiction is like watching a movie and I'm just recording what's happening -- which can get me into point-of-view problems because I'm seeing everything. (Thank you to my fantastic editor.) I guess my way is kind of like what the director of a movie does by seeing all the scenes, knowing all the characters, but letting them express themselves, in a director's case through the actor, and in my case, through the words.

It also means sometimes my characters surprise me by going off on a tangent I hadn't expected...and I can worry I don't know how they'll get back, but they always do. Nevertheless, I think it can add a bit of zing to a hero to have a wobble toward wimpdom from his strong, silent stoicism or the heroine having a shoe or purse fetish that leads her to finding out more about leather production and thus to a slaughterhouse, and changes her to a vegan. Which I didn't know about her when we started out!

I generally know who the good guys and bad guys are, what the mystery to be solved will be (a death, kidnapping, robbery or whatever) and that the bad guys will lose in the end, even when they seem to have the upper hand at some stage of the story. But I let my characters lead me along their path. It's a fun way to write and why it never, ever gets old for me.

Libby McKinmer
Romance with an edge
On Facebook, Twitter & Goodreads, too

Monday, March 26, 2012

Nosy Neighbors

A Nosy Neighbor May Look Like Her.
(Istock version)
 Nosy Neighbors - You know the type. They seem to know everything that's going on with everyone in the neighborhood. Guess what? I'm one of them. I like to know what's going on around me. I suspect a lot of you are also, but may not want to admit it.

On our Tuesday garbage day a few weeks ago, while I was walking my dog, Rascal, I happened to notice a huge pile of garbage in front of our neighbors' house across the street. Also, I couldn't help noticing that one of the containers was marked shrink wrap. After the walk, I told the DH, "It looks like our neighbors are moving."

Well, wouldn't you know it, late Friday evening I heard a a motor rumbling. Glancing out my kitchen window, I saw a moving van in the driveway across the street. It was no surprise to me!

Sometimes I rely on exchanging information with my next door neighbor to keep me abreast of the latest happenings. I do what I have to do to know what's going on.

Okay, you may ask what any of my nosiness has to do with mysteries.

I'm suggesting, if it will fit into your plot, feel free to throw in a nosy neighbor or two to offer clues about the culprit, or maybe to provide a red herring. You can have neighbors talking to the police about what they saw or thought they saw, or one of the main characters could go over and ask. If you're in the mood, you could even have a nosy neighbor come to a bad end. There are lots of possibilities when it comes to nosy neighbors.

Have you read a book including one, or maybe written a book including one?

Morgan Mandel writes thrillers, mysteries &
romance, often combining them.
Excerpts & buy links for Morgan's books:

Friday, March 23, 2012

Marilyn Meredith aka F.M. Meredith, a Featured Mystery Writer

Award-winning Marilyn Meredith is the author of over thirty published novels, including the award-winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, her latest titled No Bells. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, including the Central Coast chapter, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She's also featured in the just-released book, The Mystery Writers.

Marilyn, why you write?

Writing is part of my life like breathing. I enjoy creating a story and seeing where it’s going to go. I love connecting with my readers either by way of the Internet or in person at promotion events.

When did you start writing and why?

I began creating stories before I could write by drawing pictures in what some might call a story board today. As soon as I began reading real stories I began writing my own. I’ve been writing ever since in one form or another.

How did your Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series come about as well as the Rocky Bluff PD?

I first became interested in law enforcement when my police officer son-in-law would come to my house after work, have a cup of coffee and tell me what he’d done on his shift. I went on a ride-along with him and with other officers–including a woman who was a single mom. She poured her heart out to me about how tough it was being the only woman in her department.

I interviewed a female resident deputy who lived in the mountain area where I live and about the same time met a Native American woman who’d grown up on the reservation nearby. I sort of combined these women into Deputy Tempe Crabtree.

When we lived in Oxnard, California, which is a beach community, we had several police officers and their families as neighbors. We were all good friends and I observed how the job affected their families and what was going on with the families affected their job. From there came the birth of the Rocky Bluff P.D. located in a small beach community.

Do you feel that ebooks are the wave of the future?

I’ve been electronically published for over ten years. Most e-publishers today publish electronically and in trade-paperback. There have been e-readers around for years, and now with the Sony E-Reader and Amazon’s Kindle, ebooks have really come into their own. Even some of my older books are now on Kindle.

What’s your writing schedule like and how long does it take to write one of your novels?

My goal is to write every morning at least three or four hours. It doesn’t always work out that way because when I have things I need I know have to be done, that weighs heavy on my mind. My writing will work better if I clear my desk–or computer, as the case may be.

I don’t have too many other projects going, I can finish a book in three months. Of course that doesn’t count the rewriting. Most books I usually read to my critique group too, a chapter at a time.

Are you a seat-of-the-pants novelist or do you outline your books? And do you know the ending before you start?

I don’t outline in the true sense of the word, but I start collecting ideas first. Then I decide on characters–who will be the murder victim, if there is one, in the book I’m writing now, I don’t think anyone’s going to die, who the murder could be, usually several folks that had a motive and the opportunity. Then I write something about each of those characters so I can get to know them.

When I start writing I think I know how the book will end, usually the final climax scene, but as I write that often changes. I do keep notes along the way as I think of things I want to put in.

Have you had any strange or humorous events happen while you were researching a book, and do you visit the locations to get a feeling for your settings?

In my Rocky Bluff P.D. series, I’m relying on my memories of living near the beach for twenty years. In my book, No Sanctuary, the two churches are similar to ones I’ve gone to in the past–but the ministers are totally made-up. I’ve lived a long time so I can reach back into my experiences for a lot that I write about.

For my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series, I’ve done a lot of research about Native American culture and visited the reservation and the casino. My most exciting research happened when I discovered that the Tule River Indians (who I write about but call them a different name) believe in a Big Foot like creature called the Hairy Man and that there are pictographs of him and his family on the reservation. I’ve talked a couple of times to the anthropology class and when I talked to the professor about the pictographs he invited me on a college field trip to see the pictographs. What a wonderful experience! The pictographs are hidden away. To get to them you have to climb down huge slippery boulders. Fortunately, the college kids helped me get down there–and back up. The Tule River Indian who guided us told us some wonderful legends and stories of sightings of the Hairy Man. The Hairy Man is in the Tempe book that was released during the fall of 2009, called Dispel the Mist.

Who most influenced your work?

Once I joined a critique group, about 30 years ago, I met a wonderful author named Willma Gore who helped me more with my writing than any other person. Willma wrote and still writes for all sorts of publications and has had several books published, fiction and non-fiction. She taught me more than any writing class or conference I ever attended.

Favorite author and why?

I have far too many favorites to even list them. Jan Burke has always been one of my favorites. I started with her Irene Kelly series and just kept on reading. I've met her several times, and she's a sweet person as well as a good writer.

Betty Webb is another. She's tackled a social issue that has plagued Arizona and now she's changed gears a bit and started a new, lighter series. I admire her courage--and she's also a nice person.

Some men that I really like to read are William Kent Krueger and James Lee Burke, and I love the way both of them describe settings.

Advice to fledgling writers?

Read what you want to write. Learn the basics of writing. Write every single day. When you are done have someone who knows what to look for edit your book. Join a critique group. And when you have begun the submitting process, start writing another book. Do not let rejections stop you. Over the years I’ve met several gifted writers who got discouraged after one or two rejections. My first book received nearly 30 rejections before it was accepted. Over the years, most of my books have been rejected at least once, some several times. Rewrite when necessary.

Marilyn's website:
Her Blogs:
Stiletto Gang blog: (every Tuesday)
Make Mine Mystery: (1st & 3rd Tuesdays)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The two things about plot by Mark Troy

A writer named Glen Whitman wrote about the concept of the two things. The two things refers to the type of question that is often posed in a bar after a couple of drinks. "What are the two things everybody needs to know about X?" For every subject there are only two things that are really important. Everything else is an application of those two things or else not important.

I decided to try it with some aspects of writing. Here, in my opinion, are the two things a writer needs to know about plot.

1. Isolate the protagonist.
2. Grow the problem.

I recall seeing a fantasy poster once by the great calendar artist Frank Frazetta. In it a warrior woman, sword in hand, stands on a clump of rock, maybe the top of a mountain, surrounded by a more numerous, better-armed enemy.  The "ah ha" was when I realized I was looking at the climax of this woman's story. I don't recall the story or the character, but her future was clearly in doubt at that point. The print was a perfect metaphor for what takes place at the climax of a story, the peak of the action.

Isolate the protagonist.

The insight for me came when I asked, "How did she get there?" She didn't get up that morning with the idea of climbing a rock by herself and swinging a sword at an army of bad guys. She probably had family, friends, comrades-in-arms. Where were they? Why weren't they helping her? What made her go it alone? I don't think she wanted to go alone. Clearly some of our protagonists are loners, but it's not always by choice. When it comes to our own survival, most of us want some help and backup. Readers of police procedurals know that the call that gets cop cars rolling is "Officer needs assistance." This warrior may have sent such a call, but the assistance never arrived. Had help arrived, the story would not be as compelling.

Grow the problem.

How did these bad guys get there? How did they get to be so numerous? How did they get to be so well-armed? Our warrior must have royally pissed someone off. She probably didn't start the day that way. Like most of us, she had problems, but they would have been small ones. None of us want to take on more than we can handle. When things begin to get out of hand, we tend to back off. Obviously, our hero didn't. Her problem grew and she could not escape it.

Isolate the protagonist and grow the problem.

Both of these happen slowly and inexorably in the story. We know before we open the book where the hero will end up--alone and up to her neck in trouble. The hero could be FBI agent-in-training Clarice Starling, in a basement catacomb, in the dark, trying to save a young woman from a serial killer with a handgun and night-vision goggles. She started the day as the junior member of a team. Her job was to gather evidence. Along the way, she became isolated and her problem grew.

Even the quintessential loner heroes like Jack Reacher and John McClain don't start alone. Nor do they set out to fight terrorists in a skyscraper. On the other hand, when the story involves an ensemble such as the men and women of the Dan Kearney Agency, one of the group will end up alone in the final battle.

To get our hero to that peak of the action where he or she stands alone, we must build in events that increase our protagonist's isolation each step of the way and grow the problem, like Audrey the carnivorous plant, right before everybody's eyes. If we do that, the anticipation that something bad is going to happen will increase inexorably.

So, the two things about plotting are isolate the protagonist and grow the problem. Everything else is an application of those two things or else not important.

Mark Troy
Look for my collection of Val Lyon mystery stories, Game Face, on Kindle, Smashwords, and other ebook platforms or in paperback from Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

About Eppie Winner, Lingering Spirit

For those of you who don’t know, my son-in-law, Mike Cole, a 15 year vet of the Oxnard P.D. became a deputy in El Dorado County. He was there 6 months and was killed. I loved Mike like a son. He came to my house for coffee after his shift, told me all his stories and even took me on a ride along. He’s the one who got me interested in writing about law enforcement. When he died, it was devastating to everyone in our family. He left a wife and three children. This happened a long time ago—but he is the one who inspired me to write about mysteries containing people in law enforcement and their loved ones (and sometimes not so loved ones.). My Rocky Bluff P.D. series is the result of Mike’s influence.

A few years after Mike was gone I wrote Lingering Spirit, a much fictionalized version of what happened to Mike and his family afterwards and I called in Lingering Spirit. My description of the book is that it’s a romance with a supernatural touch. It was first published by an e-book publisher I wasn't happy with, and I finally pulled it. After I became one of Oak Tree Press’s authors, Lingering Spirit was published as a trade paperback. Later, it was once again an e-book and made available for the Nook and Kindle. Oak Tree entered the e-book into the Epic’s e-book awards for supernatural/mystical romances—and I was shocked and delighted that it won at their annual conference this weekend in San Antonio.

Still floating on air,

Marilyn Meredith

Sunday, March 18, 2012


by Ben Small

Mercenaries -- guns for hire -- have existed for thousands of years, dating back at least to the ancient Romans, but a recent website, sent to me by a former SEAL interested in a mercenary career after his military service, caused me to open my eyes. Here's the website. The World's Most Powerful Armies

I suggest you take a look, and I wonder if you're as surprised as I was. Yes, I'd seen the furor over Blackwater's activities, seen the hub-bub over private contractors' work in Iraq and Afghanistan. But, frankly, I had no idea the extent to which highly-trained retired warriors are being used and funded around the world. I had no idea the business of being a well-equipped mercenary is a growth industry.

But the trend makes sense. The military training our elite warriors receive is extraordinary. The SEALs, Delta Force, Green Berets, Marines, Revolutionary guards, Legionaries, etc. all receive rigorous conditioning, are mult-weapon functional, and the weapons available to these modern warriors are highly functional and effective -- deadly. Plus, there's a world-wide weapons trade to support them. Want to buy AK-47s in bulk? They're available just about anywhere. South and Central America do a booming trade in them. Want a rile that fires an air-burst, a round that sprays shrapnel above a target? It's available. Want a computer operated rifle, one that determines range and balances load automatically? It's available. Grenades? Sure, why not. A rocket launcher? No sweat. A battle helicopter, no problemo. A nuke? Who knows...

For years, we -- and others -- have been training and utilizing these highly effective warriors and incorporating them into a military machine like no other in the world. The best equipment: ordnance, weapons and protective equipment. The best conditioning: strength, stamina, stealth and speed.

And while we train our warriors to the nth degree, in the U.S. we tend to pay them squat and run them in and out of service. Plus, we saddle our soldiers with Rules of Engagement intended to walk the wavy, gray line of political correctness, a line that changes with the need to placate whomever our actions have offended. Then, when someone alleges we've violated an enemy's honor, or "tortured" however that term is defined, we investigate and vilify those we've hardened into effective soldiers.

Under these circumstances, why wouldn't our very best and most trained warriors decide to further their pursuits elsewhere, somewhere for instance where these oppressive rules don't apply and where the pay can make them rich? They'd be foolish to do otherwise. What else are these veterans to do? What's their job market look like in other endeavors? We've conditioned these people to kill quickly, silently and effectively. That's what they do best. And if we won't let them do it the way they've been trained, if we won't pay them for the risks they incur, and if we're going to give them proctoscopic treatment whenever they come back from a mission,  and provide them no jobs, why wouldn't they look elsewhere, utilize their skills in the way they know best -- and profit from it?

And hiring mercenaries offers our government, among others, an out. You can hire someone to do what you cannot do and then claim when you learn what they've done, that you didn't know. Torture is a difficult definition, one that changes over time. Water-boarding is now torture, so is causing pain or injury or putting a prisoner under duress. Playing loud, heavy music is torture. That one's obvious. You learned it from your teenager.

But these restrictions apply to our military, not necessarily to those serving as a contractor. Distinctions tend to blur when issues arise as to who did what to whom and under what authority and where. Employment and duty records may be kept overseas or encrypted. Access to them may not be possible. And whose law governs a mercenary in foreign lands?

And there's another benefit to our government. We can claim to the American people that we're leaving a country, scaling back our military, and then hire contractors -- albeit at higher cost -- sell them weaponry, even aircraft and artillery, and bury these costs under one of our many covert accounts. Want to claim we've left Iraq? Okay, just hire contractors to replace them.

Think Haliburton.

Yes, Blackwater folded. But other similar training agencies and mercenary services popped up to replace Blackwater. Mercenary training and employment have become growth industries. Google "mercenary." You don't have to be more specific. You'll find all sorts of employment and training opportunities. As I said, a growth industry. And one that pays well.

Given this plethora of mercenary opportunities, and the growing trend of hiring them...everywhere, another natural question arises: To what degree are we fighting ourselves? In other words, a case of we train 'em, you hire 'em, for whatever, whomever, wherever. Sell them what they want and let them use it against each other, perhaps both sides funded from the same source: us.

Hamid Karsai hires these mercenaries and so do other Middle East and third world countries. It seems every petty dictator and dictator-in-training has them. And what's more, if Americans cannot satisfy international demand for them, there are plenty of third world nationals that we've trained and equipped who can.

Some may claim that mercenaries fighting mercenaries is the way battles should be fought. Not me. Mercenaries have loyalty to only one god: money. In many cases, there's no love of country or god; they'll fight for who pays them. And what happens if these highly trained warriors organize and decide to take over a country? There are certainly enough of them to do so, and they can buy the weapons they need on the open or black market.

Yes, Dick Cheney utilized mercenaries to good advantage, at least from his point of view. But Obama promised change. While we've imposed ridiculous Rules of Engagement on our official troops, we've encouraged and turned the mercenary industry into a very profitable, growth endeavor. Indeed, covert operations and government lies about them are exploding like bees from a burning barrel.

Robert Ludlum should be alive today. His grandiose conspiracy theories don't sound so implausible now.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking of hiring my own mercenary. My driver's license needs renewing, and I don't wanna wait in line. I'll equip Chuck Norris with this:

Friday, March 9, 2012

Justice Dept. Warns of e-Book Pricing Lawsuit

Apple and five of the largest U.S. publishers are in danger of being sued by the Justice Department, according to Reuters News Service and the Wall Street Journal, for allegedly conspiring to raise the prices of electronic books. The publishers include Simon & Schuster of the CBS Corporation, Lagardere SBA’s Hachette Book Group, Pearson PLC’s Penquin Group; and MacMillan, a division of News Corp, which owns the Wall Street Journal.

Representatives of some of aforementioned companies have held talks to settle the potential anti-trust case and a spokesman said that a settlement could lead to cheaper consumer prices. The publishers in question have denied agreeing to raise prices, according to the Journal, and insist that an agency pricing model has enhanced competition by encouraging more online booksellers.

Publishers set e-book prices under the “agency model” and Apple earns 30% of retail, but Apple won’t allow publishers to let rival retailers sell ebooks at a lower price (which is also an policy). 

Amazon Inc. has sold new bestselling books at $9.99 as a way to promote its Kindle e-readers, but the practice has “ruffled the features of many publishers.”
What does all this mean to writers? Lower royalties for one thing. Many e-books are already selling at 99 cents or lower, and Amazon’s Kindle Select Program offers free e-book promotions for any writer who signs on exclusively for the 90-day program as well as royalty payments for its book borrowing program. That's a lot of free e-books for potential buyers. KSP was designed to provide free e-books to Amazon's Prime members and even offers a free one-month trial to entice readers to join. 

Why? Rumor has it that is in financial trouble and that a number of writers are threatening a class action lawsuit because royalties haven’t been paid, or their sales figures have disappeared off the Kindle Direct Publishing Bookshelf report.
Has the e-book revolution reached its peak and begun it’s retreat into cyberspace? Only time will tell.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Critique Groups by Christine Duncan

I met an old friend for lunch the other day. She had recently moved back to the area and was searching for a critique group. Not so coincidentally, so am I. She had tried more than I had though. She kept coming up with groups that charged. Groups that wanted to include everyone from the lady who wants to write Haiku to the guy who thinks he wants to write a novel in the first person--without any description and with no capital letters or punctuation. And doesn't know if he wants to stick to some genre "formula." Many of the groups she had tried limited manuscripts from each writer to only once every 4 weeks or so. So you attend 3 meetings and critique and then on the fourth, you finally get some feedback. I have a few simple rules for critique. First, you limit group membership. Everyone can not possibly be good at all writing. Personally, I know diddly about Haiku. And not much more about biographies. So any group I'm a part of will limit itself to--at the minimum--fiction writing. I try to make sure that I join adult mystery fiction writing groups. I like romance, s/f, action, but can I critique it? I've never written it, that's for sure. My second rule of critique is equally simple. Everyone brings in 8-10 pages of their manuscript. Everyone brings enough copies for every person in the critique group. And when you get there, you exchange your copies. Everyone reads the same one first and then critiques that one. Then you read another, and critique until everyone gets some feedback. The author can not argue with the critique. And it's rude to leave after your stuff has been critiqued but before the group is done with the rest. Oh and my third rule of critique is probably the most important. I believe in the sandwich method. Say something nice, everyone needs to know what is good about their manuscript. Otherwise, they could just trash the whole thing. After you say something nice, you can make a suggestion about changes. Then say something else nice. No hatchet jobs. No sucking up either. Honesty is best. I love critique because I will get writing when I know a group is going to be seeing it. Life has been so busy these last few years, I've tried to fudge it by doing online critique or emailing my stuff to a writing buddy. It doesn't work as well for me. But a bad critique group is worse than none.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

How Much Do You Relate to Your Characters?

Reading what Sue Grafton said about her heroine being her alter ego and perhaps doing what Sue might have done had she not gotten married young and had children made me think about the heroines in my books.

My immediate conclusion is I'm not the least bit like either one.

In my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series which I write as Marilyn Meredith, Tempe is Native American, has one grown son who is in college, married to a pastor, and is a deputy sheriff. I'm not like any of those things, not Native American, had 5 kids, much, much older, married to a retired career Navy man, and I was never in law enforcement.

The main heroine in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, which I write as F. M. Meredith, is Stacey Milligan, a police officer, has one son who is now six, married to a police detective and is in her late twenties.

The only things I have in common with either of these gals is the fact that they are strong, independent women--which I like to think I am too. Oh, and I've lived in a beach town much like Rocky Bluff and I now live in the mountains much like Bear Creek.

What I do think I have in common with all of my characters is that I've had many experiences similar to those in my books. I know how people feel in all sorts of situations because I've been there too. When I create a character he or she is probably going to resemble someone I've known in one way or another.

So tell me, how much are you like your characters? Or if you are primarily a reader, is their a fictional character you really relate to?


Monday, March 5, 2012

How to Write a Book

A book starts with an idea, much like a small bud.

Treated carefully and skillfully by an author, the story slowly unravels.

Bit By

Little Bit

It Slowly Blossoms Into

A Very Beautiful

Work of Art!
And that's how you write a book.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Range Day Lessons

by Ben Small

It's a good thing my neighbors can't see what I took out of my trunk last Saturday. An M4, a M1A, a Glock 34 and an XDm. For those who don't know, the first two are battle rifles, the latter two semi-auto pistols. Two of the above hold thirty rounds or more, one twenty rounds, one sixteen. I'll let you figure out which is which.

Guess you can tell: I spent the day at the range.

There's a certain exhilaration from firing a firearm, a release of tension and a dose of either immediate satisfaction or disappointment.

Sorta like a modern era third date.

And it's tiring. I was haggard all evening, exhausted, de-hydrated and spent.

Sorta like the morning after that modern era third date.

But there are always lessons learned from a day at the range. And last Saturday was no exception. Just observe. You'd be crazy not to look around. People are firing live ammo, you know.

I noticed two things Saturday that at first glance might appear to be unrelated. Not so. Indeed, they represent illustrations of something that writers about shooting should understand.

Let me tell you what I saw.

First, I saw an eight year old girl shooting a .22 rifle from a rest, her barrel supported on a sandbag, the butt end on her shoulder. Her target stood ten yards away, with holes all across its four foot span. The rifle, an old Winchester, a lever gun, its wood stock chipped and gouged, the bluing of its barrel only partially remaining. No rust, no butt-pad. The girl's parents stood behind her, marveling at the way she worked the smooth action, laughing when she said she aimed at the target's armpit. Occasionally, one of the parents would shoot another, more powerful rifle at the table next to her. Their guns were newer, but their setup was the same, barrel on a sandbag, butt on the shoulder. Their targets stood at fifty yards, but their aim wasn't much better than their daughter's.

At another table, a man struggled with accuracy from a brand new rifle. His fifty yard shots spaced too all over his target, the rounds key-holing. I knew his rifle; I own one similar. I knew the ammo he used.

Why couldn't these folks hit where they aimed?

Simply put: harmonics, torsional vibration they'd screwed up. Their stuff wasn't working well together.

As I learned from years of working with engineers who designed complex equipment incorporated into sophisticated systems worked into products which accomplish complicated tasks, everything vibrates, even stationary objects. We just don't always recognize vibration because we can't always see it; we can't always feel it. But when the separate vibrations of components combine into a whole, the vibration of that whole is called "torsional vibration." And when that torsional vibration goes out of tune, things go wrong.

Think of the weird shaking of your car when you hit a certain speed. Go slower or faster and the vibration disappears. Sometimes that vibration can be severe; indeed, such out of tune vibration can tear some of the components apart. In vibration terms, the out-of-tune harmonics are called "criticals." A critical occurs when something vibrates at its own frequency instead of in a harmonized blend. It shakes, rattles and rolls.

Bored yet? Be still; I'm getting to the point.

Let me tell you what each of these people did wrong.

The girl and her parents: They rested the barrel instead of the stock on sandbags. While their rifles were cared for, in no worse condition than most, her parents didn't realize that by resting a barrel on anything, they ruined the barrel's float, throwing off the rifle's harmonics and causing it to fire differently with each shot. A rifle is designed to minimize any direct link interference between the bolt, action and barrel. It's designed to spiral a balanced round straight through a perfectly round tube and out toward a target, all at thousands of feet per second.

Like how Peyton Manning fires a perfect pass to a receiver, scaled differently of course. Ever see a wobbly throw? It's hard to toss a perfect pass when one's arm is smacked during the throw. Same principle for this girl and her parents, their rifles (throwing arms in this analogy) operating at much higher pressures and speeds than any linebacker nailing poor Peyton.

And same result: no accuracy.

The other guy: Wrong bullet weight for his rifling. That's why he had no accuracy, why his target looked as if someone had thrown keys through it.

You see, the guy fired a weapon with 1:9 rifling, and the spiral couldn't stabilize the heavy bullet he used. Every rifle barrel is cut into lands and grooves. They cause the bullet to spin. To spiral, a heavy bullet needs a fast spin. Otherwise it wobbles -- "tumbles" in rifle parlance. And tumbling causes key-holing in a target.

Again, think of a football: the heavier the football, the more spin required to make it spiral.

A 1:9 rifling means a bullet makes one turn in nine inches. A 1:7 rifling means one turn in seven inches. So a  1:7 rifling means a faster spin. Sorta counter-intuitive, isn't it? The lower number on the ratio denominator means a faster spin.

This guy would have been better served with a lighter bullet weight. The rifle functioned properly; he just didn't mate it with the right bullet. The torsionals were off.

Of course, I could have butted in and said something to the girl, her parents and the other guy, but, well...we all know people who do that sort of thing...butt in, that is. One can usually tell when someone wants help. They say something; they scratch their heads, or they stare at you with that lost look. I got none of that. Despite no accuracy, these people were having fun.

Well, okay, I lie...maybe just a bit. During a break, the guy came over and remarked about my tight target groups. As often happens during range-break chats, we discussed our rifles. When I told him I owned a rifle similar to his, he asked what ammo it ate.

Wham, bam! I threw a perfect spiral right through his open ear hole.

Just like Peyton Manning.

And, well...I learned something, too. I learned that if I don't clean my XDm once in a while, it occasionally may not fire.

Some people -- like -- are just idiots.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Starting Over with No. 1

I entered the ranks of published authors in 2002 with Secret of the Scroll, which became the first in my Greg McKenzie mystery series. I had a three-book contract with Durban House Publishing Company, now deceased. They published my first three McKenzie books and then let them go out of print. I bought the publisher's remaining inventory of a couple of hundred books and sold them over the years at non-bookstore venues. A lot of readers want the first book in a series.

With my supply depleted, I turned to my current publisher, Night Shadows Press. As a result, Secret of the Scroll will be available to bookstores in the next few days. The text is identical with the first edition, but there's a new cover, shown here. It closely resembles the original, with the addition of a blurb identifying the book as "An International Thriller, Greg McKenzie Mystery No. 1."

One of the problems I've had since the book first came out is that just glancing at the cover, people presumed it was about the Dead Sea Scrolls. The novel involves a fictional parchment similar to those famous documents, but it's hardly a religious book. It won second place for Thrillers/Horror in the 2003 Bloody Dagger Awards and was a finalist for the ForeWord Magazine Mystery Book of the Year.

The book has been available for more than a year on Amazon for the Kindle and Smashwords for other e-readers, and it will now be on sale in a new paperback edition for those who like to hold a real live book in their hands.

Chester Campbell

Visit me at Mystery Mania

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Waiting for Publication

By Randy Rawls

Okay, I sold the book. I sold the book a long time ago. I sold the book way back when I was filled with enthusiasm and ready to conquer the world. Now I wait . . . and wait . . . and wait . . . I know I should be working toward the release date, but I can hardly remember what the book is about. Guess I'd better return to those fun-filled pages and re-read them.

I'm sure that each of us faces that lag time between sell and publication in his/her own way. Me, I try to keep writing, hoping that the next book will do even better than the last. At the same time, though, I'm impatient, waiting for release. What should I be doing?

Over the years, I've read several posts by other authors about what to do during the looooooooooooong period between sell and publication—get postcards and bookmarks printed, develop a media package, line up publicity opportunities, etc. However, since I didn't take notes on how to do those things, let me throw it out to the community.

What do you do to get ready for Release Day? Share with me and with the others who read this blog. Give us your helpful pointers. I, for one, will be grateful.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention HOT ROCKS featuring Beth Bowman, South Florida PI, will be out in the Fall.

Randy Rawls