Monday, April 29, 2013
Well . . . .
Imagine holding a baby. Picture the baby. Feel it. Soft. Warm. A bit heavy, maybe like a ten-pound sack of sugar. Interesting sounds and smells. Perhaps a tiny fist opens and grabs your finger. Love. Got that image?
Okay. Think about being in a tornado or hurricane. These days, most of us can at least imagine that. Furious wind. The famous freight-train sound. The crack of splintering wood, perhaps a rush of water. Air sucked out of us. How can we breathe? Fear rising to panic.
Next, think about watching a Fourth of July parade. The high school band is marching by, playing "Stars and Stripes Forever," perhaps with more enthusiasm than talent. But still . . . heart beating faster. Tears?
What have you been feeling? Emotions!
Humans are hard-wired to express and feel emotions. Sadness, joy, fear, horror, outrage, pride, compassion, joy, empathy, love. As humans we feel, we respond, we even make decisions based on emotion. We may decide what is good and true and what is not based on a "gut" feeling" which, frankly, is just another way to use and express emotion. What would human life be like without emotions? But to get there, something must have the time to touch us--the time to get inside us far enough to stir responding feelings. (Humans often find great satisfaction in responding to positive emotions.)
Personal relationships, experiencing or viewing disaster or triumph, and much more, can awaken emotion. Reading a book can also give us that. Books offer enough time to create emotions and allow us to experience them. I think, because of that--if nothing else--books in some form will endure.
What do you think?
Saturday, April 27, 2013
Friday, April 26, 2013
Block asked the question: “What’s the biggest factor in determining writing success? “ Not just talent, “but a feel for language, an intuitive understanding of how to arrange words in their best order, a sense of what is and is not dramatically effective.”
Perseverance and the courage to continue writing, no matter how many walls you’ve papered with rejection slips, are also contributing factors. Block credits believing in your ability to write as the most important aspect of successful writing. Comparing writers to athletes, he said, “Mental attitude and preparation make the difference. It plays precisely the same role for us that it does for the runner and the weight lifter. The more completely I believe in myself, the more I am able to employ the talent I possess. My belief in my ability and in the worth of my work will enable me to work to the limit of my capacity."
He recommends sitting at the computer for fifteen minutes before beginning to write. Spend that time telling yourself what a good writer you are and that you do excellent work. Erasing negative thoughts before you begin is a huge step in getting those words down on paper. Negative beliefs, whether or not you’re aware of them, can sabotage your work. Thoughts such as: I’m not a good writer, what I’ve written is crap, I never finish what I start, no one will publish my work, etc.
As so often happens, the first third of your book goes well but when you get to the middle you’re stuck, particularly if you don’t outline the plot (which I don’t). During my current work in progress, I wrote myself into a corner and had to put my story in reverse and back up some 20,000 words. It was not only discouraging, it briefly made me lose confidence in my ability to write. But once I took off in another direction, the writing has gone quite well.
I’ve also found that reading the previous chapter before starting to write helps to carry me forward into the next chapter. Bestselling novelists I’ve interviewed have said to stop writing when you’re over the “hump”—when a plot problem is solved--so that you’re ready to finish the scene the following day. That isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially for me, because you want your muse to run its course before you quit for the day.
I aim for five pages and sometimes find that it’s like pulling teeth to meet my goal, so I stop, hoping to take up the slack the following day. Writing fast and making changes in the second draft seems to work for most successful writers.
Negative beliefs can be damaging as well as paralyzing, resulting in long term writer’s block. But how do you pull yourself out of writer’s depression? Lawrence Block recommends putting your negative thoughts on paper. When you read them, tell yourself they’re all LIES. Rejection won’t destroy you, he said. “Nobody ever died of a rejection slip, and nobody every succeeded without accumulating plenty of them along the way."
~Jean Henry Mead
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Available at - http://www.passioninprint.com/ShowBook.php?CR=LC_TMPRMATES
Monday, April 22, 2013
Do people have any power over the weather? Those who believe in global warming insist we do, although no one knows for sure.
What we do know as authors is that, with a bit of care, we can use bad weather to our advantage. We can do this with actual or fictional occurrences. On March 13, a wintery storm hit Arizona, with snow, hail, rain covering the state. On April 20, California got hit with snow, wind and rain.
Some areas in Illinois, such as DesPlaines, are still trying to recover from a heavy rainfall on Wednesday, April 18, and more rain is predicted beginning tonight.
Some ways to use bad weather:
1. Bad weather conditions can impede victims in their efforts to evade an enemy. Snowstorms, rainstorms, windstorms are all impediments when trying to escape.
2. The same kind of conditions can delay rescuers attempting to reach victims.
3. Inclement weather might tempt a character take a trip for relief. Anything can happen on the way to or from. If the destination is an unfamiliar place, even more havoc can ensue when venturing into an unexpectedly dangerous area.
4. Then there's the tried and true scenario of being stuck in a cabin in a snowstorm. This one is used often in mysteries and romances.
5. Communication methods, such as landlines, cells, Internet, even power, can be wiped out by bad weather. Without communication, victims may not be aware of bad guys in the area. And, if they do have such knowledge, they may not be able to transmit it to other victims or rescuers.
These are just some ways bad weather can be used to advantage in mysteries and other genres. Maybe you can think of others. I invite you to mention one, either real or fictional, in your own book, or one you've read.
Find excerpts and links to all of Morgan Mandel's books at
Connect on Twitter: @MorganMandel
Friday, April 19, 2013
When deciding where to set a novel, an author has a choice of restricting the story to a single locale or spreading it across a wider tapestry. There are several factors to consider in making the selection. Sticking to a single location, which is one of the hallmarks of cozies, has the advantage of requiring a minimum of research. If you are like me and choose the city where you've spent most of your life, it's an easy choice.
My seven books in two mystery series featuring PI's are set primarily in Nashville. Since I've spent most of my 87 years here, it makes describing the locale simple. During the early part of my writing life, I was a newspaper reporter or a local magazine editor, giving me total familiarity with the area. The city has changed considerably in recent years, but I've watched it grow and develop. When I need to, I do a drive-by in a particular area to check out recent changes.
The first two books in the Greg McKenzie series are set only partly in Nashville. The first takes place also in the Holy Land, which I had just visited before I started writing. The second starts in Nashville and then goes to Perdido Key and the Pensacola area. Part of it was written at my brother's condo on Perdido Key, which my wife and I visited twice a year.
Both of my Sid Chance PI stories are set in the Nashville area. But I didn't start out locating books in my home town. My first novels were a trilogy of post Cold War political thrillers. I spread the action across the map.
Research is a major consideration when choosing a widespread setting. Getting an unfamiliar area right can be a problem. I set the first two books mostly in locations I was familiar with.
|Star Ferry in Hong Kong Harbor|
The third book, written in 1993 but never published, will be out next month. Overture to Disaster required the greatest amount of research, since much of it is set in areas I had never visited. A portion of it takes place in Mexico, mostly in the area of Guadalajara. I had been to Mexico City and taken a bus tour from there to Acapulco, so I knew the countryside fairly well. To get the flavor of Guadalajara and Lake Chapala to the south, the number one destination for retired U.S. servicemen, I corresponded with the editor of a retiree newspaper. She provided loads of helpful information.
The home of a character who was an investigator for the Minsk prosecutor proved the most challenging area to portray. The time was shortly after breakup of the Soviet Union and formation of the new Commonwealth of Independent States. Things were changing in the capital of the Republic of Belarus. I corresponded with an attache at the American Embassy there who provided me with answers to all my questions, including political conditions and locations of various government offices.
The important thing in spreading your setting around the globe is to do everything possible to get it right. So far I've had no problem with readers taking potshots at my descriptions. What's your take on how to handle unfamiliar settings?
Visit me at Mystery Mania
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Janis Patterson is a seventh-generation Texan and a third-generation wordsmith who writes mysteries as Janis Patterson, romances and other things as Janis Susan May, children’s books as Janis Susan Patterson and scholarly works as J.S.M. Patterson.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
The trauma of course was my son's severe beating on the job and then him not getting proper medical care at first--all is going well now thanks to a wonderful brain trauma rehab center. The good stuff was his daughter and her husband coming out to visit from North Carolina for a week with their seven month-old-daughter.
So now it's time to get busy and write, write, write. I need to be thinking and writing about the police officers of Rocky Bluff P.D. and their families, what's going on with them while they are investigating a murder case.
To get myself in the mood, I'm thinking small California coastal town, smelling the salt air, and remembering the layout of the town.
Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith
Monday, April 15, 2013
Lexie's best friend, Rosie, asks her to lead the Golden Age of Mystery book club she has created. The first meeting, a discussion of Agatha Christie novels, is held in Rosie and Hal’s mansion in the upscale village of Old Cadfield. Lexie muses that she could have lived the elegant life--if she hadn’t broken up with Hal when they were in college. If only she hadn't found him boring.
Before the meeting, Lexie overhears Sylvia, an old friend of hers, arguing with a neighbor. “Write that book if you dare, but you won’t live to see it in print!” Gerda tells Sylvia. An hour later, Sylvia is dead.
Lexie agrees to house sit Sylvia’s Old Cadfield home for the duration of the summer. While she appreciates her lovely surroundings and enjoys having a private pool at her disposal, she doesn’t feel comfortable with the Old Cadfield crowd. As she investigates Sylvia’s death and gets to know the book club members better, Lexie learns that money doesn’t necessarily make for happiness. Each member harbors a secret. The murderer strikes again, and Lexie begins to feel she’s living an Old Cadfield version of Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians.
Lexie is drawn to two very appealing, sexy men: the renown architect who built Sylvia’s home and the homicide detective in charge of the murder investigation. Will she make the "right" choice this time?
And then an "accident" occurs, and Lexie barely escapes with her life. The murderer is losing control. Lexie employs Poirot’s power of deduction and Miss Marple’s cleverness to find the murderer before he/she kills again.
Saturday, April 13, 2013
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Monday, April 8, 2013
It's no secret that I'm a country and western fan. There's something about the music and words that strike a chord in me. Country seems so real. I much prefer listening to a country tune over rock, heavy metal, hip hop or rap.
What I didn't expect was that Luke Bryan, a relative newcomer, would come from behind and win Entertainer of the Year! Since I always bet on underdogs when I go to the racetrack, I was thrilled! I didn't think he had a chance; yet, with the help of the fans, he pulled off what seemed the impossible.
Even better, the guy was truly humble and grateful. I like that in an entertainer. This morning, someone on the radio said Luke started out playing from the back of his truck at Solder's Field in Chicago. Somehow his tunes and talent won over country fans, and what a success story!
What does this have to do with books? Well, it goes to show there's always hope. If you try hard enough and do the best you can, your dream might come true. That dream might be to complete a book, or to publish a book, to get a contract, or, even the lofty goal of having a bestseller!
Whatever yours is, remember, there's always hope!
Thursday, April 4, 2013
Oops, running late today (again). The following is a partial reason why.
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
My granddaughter, her husband, and their 7 month old baby came to visit. (She's my son, Matthew's daughter--Matthew, the one with the brain trauma.) Jessica lived with us off and on while she was growing up--when she was school age she lived with us so she could go to our little country school. Then her whole family moved in our little house next door and we had her around all through her high school years--and after--when she met her hubby and got married. One of her husband's relatives found him a job in North Carolina and off they went. This is the first time they've been back. We had a wonderful week with them. And fortunately, her dad got to come home too.
While all this fun time was going on I was at the tail end of my blog tour which meant I got up before anyone else in order to promote it--and of course sneak back to my computer when the kids were off visiting to check to see who had come to read the blog.
We had a big Easter celebration at church and afterwards--and I fixed the food for the afterwards at our house. The kids have gone on now to their next stop and I miss them!
That wasn't all that was going on last week though. I write proposals and program designs for people wanting to go into the residential care business and of course, I had one phone call after another with people wanting my services. That's what I'll be busy with all this coming week and probably the next.
Have I been able to get any writing done? Absolutely not. My work in progress is right where it was about three weeks ago.
Oh, I forgot to mention, right before the kids arrived, I was plagued with allergies which then turned into that abominable cold. I felt okay, but my nose ran and I coughed--which meant I couldn't get as close to the baby as I would have liked.
But that's life, isn't it? You get the good along with the bad--and I have some great memories and lots of pictures of my granddaughter and her family. Here's a couple I'll share.
|Jerry, Aleena and Jessica|
|Proud Grandpa Matt with Aleena|
Monday, April 1, 2013
Tell us about yourself, including where you grew up, where you went to school.
I grew up in Boston, mainly in Mattapan, and attended Girls’ Latin School from grades six to twelve. All I remember from my six years of required Latin classes are enough words to do crossword puzzles. I graduated from Simmons College with a major in Communications. My goal was to become the first woman editor of The New York Times. Those plans changed in December of my senior year when I decided to apply to the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. It took me another forty years to get back to writing (other than academic papers and some columns), when my first novel Chanukah Guilt was published. It was followed by the non-fiction Talk Dirty Yiddish and recently by the second Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mystery Unleavened Dead. Currently, I am coordinator of the Jewish Hospice Program and a spiritual support counselor for Samaritan Healthcare and Hospice, in Marlton, NJ, where I live with my husband, a rabbi in a synagogue, and our two sons.
1. What inspired you to become a rabbi?
As an undergrad, I was very involved in Jewish student groups in the Boston area, and was interested in working in the Jewish community. I wanted to have a deeper understanding of Judaism, and the rabbinate (despite there not being any women who had yet been ordained in the US) seemed to make a lot of sense to me.
2. What inspired you to become a fiction writer?
I have always loved to read and write, but I’d never written fiction. It was beginning to bother me that so many works of fiction I considered of poor quality were making the best seller lists. I realized that, unless I tried to write a novel, I had no right to complain. I read a lot of cozy mysteries, and decided to write something I would enjoy reading.
3. How do your two careers impact on each other?
Mostly it’s a matter of time management. I used to do so many grant proposals and curricula, reports during my work day that I was too tired to do any “recreational” writing. Now that I’m working part-time, I still have the same time management problems, trying to juggle an emotionally-draining job, family demands, marketing of my three published books (blogs, guest blogs, social networking, conferences, public appearances), and writing my third Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mystery, Yom Killer.
I also have to be careful not to include any descriptions of people that could be misconstrued as someone I know or work with – or who belongs to my husband’s synagogue!
4. Do you like to travel? If so, what are a few of your favorite places that you visited?
I love to travel, but I hate the process: the packing, unpacking, getting to the airport (or driving a long distance). Seeing new places makes it worthwhile, though. My favorite location is, not surprisingly, Israel, but, perhaps surprisingly, I haven’t been there in over twenty years (cf. above re: time management issues). As an avid birder, I particularly enjoy going someplace where I can find birds that don’t normally visit New Jersey. The highlight of a great vacation to Nova Scotia for me was the boat trip to Bird Islands -- I finally got to see Atlantic Puffins.
5. Why do you write mysteries?
I decided to write what I enjoy reading. And I enjoy mysteries, especially cozies.
6. Tell us something about your books. Where can readers find them?
Chanukah Guilt, the first Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mystery, is about a twice-divorced, mid-50s, beyond zaftig rabbi of a small synagogue in South Jersey, on the edge of the Pine Barrens, about fifteen miles from Philadelphia. A young woman comes to her for counseling, convinced she’s caused her father’s death. Distraught, the young woman runs out of Aviva’s office and is later found dead in her dorm, supposedly a suicide. Aviva looks into the events that preceded the young woman’s death and puts her own life in jeopardy.
In Unleavened Dead, Aviva becomes involved in two sets of deaths – a deliberate hit-and-run and a couple who has died of carbon monoxide poisoning. In the course of both books, Aviva also deals with the day-to-day operations of her synagogue and her duties to her congregants, while keeping her sense of humor and rather acerbic wit. Oh, and did I mention that her first ex-husband is the new interim police chief?
Talk Dirty Yiddish is a humorous look at the Yiddish language, with explanations, sidebars, and practical ways to use Yiddish expressions and words. And if you don’t know what zaftig means, it’s in the book.
The books are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. online, plus some bookstores – both as print books and e-books (Chanukah Guilt and Talk Dirty Yiddish are on Kindle and Nook; Unleavened Dead is on Kindle).
7. How do you get the word out about your books to readers? How much time do you spend on marketing and publicity?
A few weeks ago, I came home from my day job and spent several hours on marketing tasks – checking emails, updating my blog, knocking out a couple of guest blogs, posting on Face Book. Afterward, I complained to my husband that marketing is becoming a full-time task. Fortunately, it’s one I enjoy. Networking, whether virtually or face-to-face, really is the only way to get the word out.
8. What are you working on now?
Marketing! But I am plotting out (in my head at least) the third Rabbi Aviva Cohen mystery, Yom Killer. It will take place in a Boston assisted living facility, where Aviva’s nonagenarian mother lives. She seems to have suffered a stroke, but, once again, all is not as it seems.
9. Do you have any thoughts regarding the future of publishing?
The current situation reminds me of the Betamax vs. VHS shakedown. It doesn’t matter which is the best method, only which one wins the marketing battle. All the various types of publishing currently available have their good and bad points. At this time, I am happy to have a publisher. There’s validation when someone has enough faith in you and your product to gamble their money, time, and efforts to publish your book. And it means I don’t have to worry about formatting! To me, it’s equally important to have books published as e-books and as printed books. If my books didn’t come out in print form, I would lose the majority of my fan base: my parents’ friends!