Monday, July 29, 2013


How did it happen?  There was that first essay, written out of love and nominally about hummingbirds, but really about "People Who Matter,"  (ie: The rich and famous I assisted in the high-end shop in Tulsa, OK, where I worked.)  It sold quickly toThe Christian Science Monitor, and was read on their Home Forum Page around the world. Woooee. Writing Ozarks-based essays for The Monitor quickly became my goal and . . . gosh, I was actually making money by writing. I was a retail shop worker quickly becoming a fledgling published author--at age fifty!  And, eventually, we simply had to move to our Ozarks land. Here's the story:

Writing work expanded. I began selling articles and essays about the Arkansas Ozarks to regional and national magazines. I was also asked if I would consider doing a program on a Northwest Arkansas radio station about my area.  I would. I researched, wrote, and reported my musings and news on the air in a fifteen-minute weekly broadcast for over ten years. The Ozarks, it seems, were of interest to many. A publisher in Germany even read my work in The Monitor and asked permission to publish in Germany.

Is writing an addiction? Probably, even if a beneficent one. I loved writing about the Ozarks. There is no better high than getting up in the morning, reading words you put in order the day before, and thinking, "Oh, that's pretty good."  All writers know what I mean.

It was a beautiful world. Not only was I writing (any author's number one happiness, or at least mine), but I was selling what I wrote, and people in many places were reading my words (number two happiness).

For only the first part of my writing career my husband and I lived in Tulsa during the week and came to an Ozarks cabin we had built on weekends. Finally we were so pulled to the Ozarks that I quit my job in retail, and John closed his Tulsa business. We moved full-time to our 23 Ozarks acres, built a large home, and settled in. I created huge gardens and, in addition to writing, grew much of what we ate. John took over care of mowing and keeping up the cleared area around our home that I had handled while he and friends were expanding our small cabin. (We lived in the middle of a forest.)  And, most important of all, I wrote, eventually selling a book of collected Ozarks essays and true stories to a New York publisher, then beginning work on my mystery novel series set at destinations of special interest in the Ozarks.

Partly because of my media background, promotion had never been difficult for me--until the Internet became a major factor.  I did (and still do) befuddle easily when confronting unknown territory on the web. And, work on the 'net took such a chunk of time. Records of book sales, travel plans to author events, and other business matters were taken over by my husband. Our days became very full. Too full. The garden languished. Grass grew and was attended to in snatched time by John. Keeping up with 23 acres we used to roam and love, a large home, and too many possessions became more burden than joy. It was time for a move.

So, we looked for "easy care" living opportunities, and eventually settled for a five-room condominium on a street named Meadow View, in Fayetteville, Arkansas. We are currently involved in the work and sometimes sadness of reducing possessions (including books, which once numbered over 1700), and fitting it all into Meadow View. THAT, my friends, is what I have been doing for the past weeks, and why you haven't seen me on DorothyL, SistersinCrime, Murdermustadvertise, and only rarely on facebook.  Soon--soon, we will be settled at Meadow View and I can go back to figuring out the Internet and, and WRITING, WRITING, WRITING!

Radine at

Saturday, July 27, 2013

What Recharges You?

by Kaye George

Sometimes I feel like my cell phone, on the red line. The trouble is, the fix isn’t as easy as plugging me in for a nice big dose of electricity. I have to figure out where to get my electricity. I have a few gimmicks that work well for me. Most of the time!

When I’m stuck on a project, which means that it’s boring me because I’m writing boring stuff, I get that heavy feeling that writers get: I’m no good; I can’t write; now they’ll find out; why did I think I could do this? And worst: That last thing I wrote, the one people say they like, was a fluke. The solution, I know, is to write something else that’s as good as the last thing I wrote. But how, when I know I can’t?

Going for a walk is a great way for me to recharge. We moved a few months ago and I haven’t found my ideal walking place yet. Around the neighborhood is good, but a trail by the library is better. Walks that recharge me have to be pretty. I want to see flowers, birds, insects, trees, and maybe some water. I do miss the walking trail in Taylor, TX, called the Hike and Bike. (Although it was sometimes depressing because it wasn’t cleaned up very well--hated to see all the styrofoam in the duck pond and all the plastic stuck in the bushes.)

Another tactic is for me to review my Attagirl file. Is that a silly thing to keep? Maybe, maybe not. When someone tells me they like my writing, or when they ask me to blurb a book, or--best--when they say I’m their inspiration (can you even believe that?), I print that out and file it. I also classify acceptances for publication as Attagirl-worthy material. This year I’m putting those in my Good News Jar. I started that January 1st. It’s my alternative to New Year’s Resolutions. Next year, on New Year’s Day, I’ll fish all the papers out and read through them to inspire myself for 2014. (More inspiring than making resolutions and breaking them.)

Sometimes it does work to just keep plugging, get out the butt glue and put my fingers on the keyboard. Many slow spots can be written through, then the bad bits edited out later. If I give my story a chance, it will develop. Sometimes in directions I hadn’t foreseen. That’s a good thing! But for the times when plowing on isn't working, I resort to the above.

And then there’s chocolate.

Photo source: Wikipedia.
Publicity photo of Nikola Tesla sitting in his laboratory in Colorado Springs in December 1899. Photo was taken by Dickenson V. Alley, photographer at the Century Magazines. The laboratory was built in 1899. Tesla sent a copy of this photograph to Sir William Crookes in England in 1901.
This image was created using "trick photography" via a double exposure. The electrical bolts were photographed in a darkened room. The photographic plate was exposed a second time with the equipment off and Tesla sitting in the chair. Tesla's Colorado Springs notes identify the photo as a double exposure.
To give an idea of the magnitude of the discharge the experimenter is sitting slightly behind the "extra coil". I did not like this idea but some people find such photographs interesting. Of course, the discharge was not playing when the experimenter was photographed, as might be imagined!
The photo has also been identified as a double exposure by Tesla biographers Carl Willis and Marc Seifer.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Perfect Place to Write

Mountaintop ranch at 7,000 ft.

Because I began my writing career as a news reporter, I could probably write in the middle of a traffic jam, but there are distractions that bring me to an exasperating halt. Phones and door bells ringing, neighbors and friends popping in unexpectedly, salesmen (yes, they still occasionally appear on your doorstep), missionaries leaving pamphlets, and so on.

According to Carl Honore, who wrote In Praise of Slowness, it takes our brains eight minutes to return to our creativity mode whenever we’re distracted. Telephone interruptions require a fifteen minute recovery time. With email, one message delays your creative train of thought for more than a minute, according to Lois J. Peterson in her article, “May I Put You on Hold?”

Peterson says, “High tech interruptions come with built-in controls, if only we would use them.” We have answering machines, caller I.D. and email programs that alert us to messages, if we leave the programs open. Shutting down the Internet while we write is one solution as well as unplugging the phones, especially if we have broadband service.

What if? would always be on my mind if I shut off all forms of communication. What if there’s an accident at the job site, what if one of our adult children needed our help? What if my husband had an accident or broke down on the way home?

Before he  retired, my husband and I shared a home office. Although background music helped, I was often interrupted by not only the phones but my husband wanting to share something with me. Many spouses don't understand that writing isn’t just a hobby or an excuse to avoid housework. Bestseller status would undoubtedly cure that problem.

My husband reads more than I do, including my books. I’ve talked to other writers whose spouses don’t read their work, and resent the time they spend writing instead of with the family. Countless writers have said their spouses’ resent their creativity. Writers, artists and entertainers used to only comprise 5% of the population (before self publishing), so that placed us in a special category, of which I can't think of anything comparable, with the possible exception of rocket science. I’m not advocating that writers be placed on pedestals, but regardless of how much money we earn, or how little, our writing time should be respected by family members.

Writing isn’t just an occupation that usually doesn't pay well,  for me it’s a source of joy and feeling of accomplishment, like nothing else. I’d rather write than attend a party, sell books at a signing, or stay in bed all day to read.

Although most women writers have said, “I need a wife to do the chores so I can write,” the obvious solution is to marry another writer who cooks, cleans and edits. And while we’re at it, make sure he looks like George Clooney.

Most of my writing problems were solved when my husband retired and we moved to a small mountaintop ranch (pictured above) with only cell phone service and few neighbors. The only distractions are cows mooing in the distance and an occasional deer or antelope passing by my window. Or an eagle soaring past. It doesn't get much better than that.

~Jean Henry Mead

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Creating Balance Before the Burnout.

The Road Not Taken?
Last week, the romance writers got together to learn, celebrate, party, and pump their books. I love going to conference.  It's non-stop for four days - workshops, book signings, meetings, dinners, coffee, agent pitches... An overwhelming experience for an introvert like me.  I just don't love paying out that kind of money when I have no book to pitch to all those lovely editors and agents.

Long story short, I didn't go. Instead I wrote on my last bull rider book where Jesse gets corralled without him even knowing what's happening. I started a new exercise program (and hopefully, as this goes live, I'm still on the program), and I did all the normal, everyday activities like going to the day job, dishes, laundry, and took the car in for two appointments to correct an air bag problem. You know, life.

One of my writer friends sent me an email saying she was writing while at the conference.  Now that's determination. Or bad planning for a deadline. I'm not sure which.

But her admission got me thinking about balance in our lives. Or at least my life. I'm a run-full-force-into-battle girl, then collapse when it's done, not understanding where my energy went.

So I'm turning over a new leaf. One day a week I will not write. I will watch a movie, read a book, or work on a craft project. And more importantly, I will not feel guilty.

I'm feeling antsy just writing this statement. Especially since I'm trying to finish a romance before I start on my last contracted book in my mystery series. I feel like I'm agreeing to give up the drug of my choice. Are there 12-step meetings for people like me?

Hi, I'm Lynn, I'm a writer.

Over to you - what do you do to make sure you don't burn out?

(Commercial time -If you're a romance reader - Crimson Romance has my Bull Rider series on sale until the end of July -$1.99 a book - The Bull Rider's Brother and The Bull Rider's Manager.)

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Right Equipment

It used to be that authors wrote manuscripts by hand or by typewriters. Either way had to be tedious, not to mention time consuming. I don't know any authors who are satisfied with their first drafts.

With the dawn of computers, we can move and change words, whole chapters and almost an entire manuscript around, if we so desire.

The downside is computers need to work, which sometimes doesn't happen either through hardware or software malfunctions, age, or hackers. The last can occur at some point through an Internet virus, yet these days authors are helpless to sell books without being connected to the Internet.

Right now I'm in the process of figuring out a new laptop computer, since mine is past its prime and has a nasty habit of freezing on me when I need it. I'm vacillating between getting the cheapest adequate one or looking for more features, in case my desktop computer decides it wants to misbehave as well.

I found a decent Dell laptop for $498 at Walmart, but then to get all the Microsoft Office programs features that would be $99 per year more, $44 for accident insurance, 1 year limited warranty. To go through Dell, the same computer runs close at $902 for their 2 year service contract, plus accident insurance tacked on, and only one year on the Office programs.

Or, I can get a tablet instead of a laptop, but then which one? Also, I do want Microsoft Office capability. Microsoft Surface RT sounded like a good buy at $349, but then I found all kinds of reviews saying it's not so great.

It's all totally confusing. I'll keep investigating, and hope that inspiration will strike, or lower prices. At least I still have my desktop computer, fingers crossed, still working!

What about you? Do you own a laptop computer or tablet or both? Do you have any recommendations or warnings?

Morgan Mandel writes mysteries, thrillers and

Check out all her books at:
Connect on Facebook:
Twitter: @MorganMandel

Friday, July 19, 2013

Putting Yourself in Your Book

By Chester Campbell

I'm not talking about making yourself a character in your book, but consciously or not we usually include a lot of ourselves in our writing. Back in the days when I made a lot of public appearances (a voice problem limits my talking these days), I would talk about my Greg McKenzie mysteries and someone would invariably ask, "Is Greg really you?"

My standard reply was, "He's bigger and bolder and more confrontational than me, but we think a lot alike."

A lot of my characters have no relationship to me, either in size or demeanor or thought processes. But at least one of the key personalities is bound to express my sentiments about the situation. It just comes flowing out of my fingers naturally. I choose to write about subjects that interest me, which means I have feelings that get expressed in one way or another.

There are other ways we put ourselves in our novels. One is to use experiences we've had some place or another. I've done that countless times. In my first post Cold War political thriller, Beware the Jabberwock, I had my two principal characters, Burke Hill and Lori Quinn, ride the Star Ferry across Hong Kong Harbor. I described it as I remembered from my visit to Hong Kong back in 1987 (the story takes place in 1992).

In the second of the thriller trilogy, The Poksu Conspiracy, I had Burke Hill visit Chiangmai, Thailand. I used the Top North Guest House where my wife and I and our son and his wife stayed during our Far East tour. It was more like an early American motel with limited amenities. I also used places we visited such as the Chiangmai Night Bazaar and Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, a Buddhist temple high on a mountain west of the city.

My first Greg McKenzie mystery was based largely on a tour I took of the Holy Land in 1998. Greg and Jill make a similar journey as the book begins, and several of the characters were based on people I met during the trip. One who played a key role was our tour guide in Israel, an American who had lived in Jerusalem for several years. I used a lot of her characteristics but changed her sex for plot reasons.

I think most writers put a lot of themselves in their books in one way or another. Do you find your thoughts, your preferences, your characteristics, your experiences showing up in your prose?

Visit me at Mystery Mania or my website ChesterDCampbell

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Writing and Other Priorities

by Janis Patterson
I try to write every day. Not because some writing guru or bestselling writer says it’s the only way to write or because it’s the ‘technique du jour’ or because it is reputed to guarantee sales or because of any other fanciful explanation. I try to write every day because the more I write, the more books I finish and (hopefully!) the more money I make.
Some things, however, supersede sales, and yes, even money. Not many, I will admit, but family tops the list. I can always catch up on my word count. The book will still be finished if I fall a little behind. The world will not end, no matter what an editor might say, if I miss a deadline.
Now I’m not talking about taking a nephew to a soccer game or going to lunch with an aunt… those are ordinary everyday things that should be scheduled around your work, just as if you worked in an office or in a factory. Just imagine telling your boss you had to leave because you had to chauffeur a kid to a game! It is just the same if you write – nothing changes just because you’re the boss. You work for yourself just as surely as if you worked for a multi-national corporation, and you should have the same attitude towards work. You are both boss and employee.
One of my favorite sayings is that when you work for yourself you might work 23 hours a day, but at least you get to choose which 23!
There are times, though, when all the rules go out the window. Family need trumps career every time. My beloved sister-in-law has gone into the hospital for a total knee replacement. She is a widow – my brother passed away almost a decade ago – and her children all live more than a fair distance away. I’m almost through with a book – two weeks dedicated work will get it finished, with a half-finished one and a completed one waiting to grow cold for editing in the to-be-done queue, but at the moment they’re off the table. My sis-in-law needed someone to drive her to the hospital at zero-dark-thirty in the morning, and I was not going to let her go into surgery alone. No, I didn’t go into the operating theatre, fascinating as it would have been – I stayed in the waiting room. I firmly believe, however, that no one should awake from anesthesia alone.
So – two days without writing. My career will survive, and if it doesn’t, my family is more important. I can catch up, though, and with a clear conscience. Besides, I firmly believe that 90% of writing is done between the ears – the keyboarding part is mainly mechanical – and I can think anywhere. At least, I could try, if my fellow denizens of the surgical waiting room would not keep the TV at a level somewhere between foghorn and earthquake!
 My sister-in-law will go directly to rehab after a couple of days in the hospital, and when she eventually comes home her children will have taken time off from work and traveled down in turn to stay with her until she’s strong enough to return to her regular life. Plus, I’m just a phone call away.
If she wants to go to a soccer game, though, she’s going to have to drive herself. Because I am a very stern boss, I’ll be working.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Wondering About Movie Critics

I know this is off topic, but I just had to write this rant.

Mostly I'm going to write about the movie The Lone Ranger and what the critics had to say about it along with my own reactions to it.

When advertisements for The Lone Ranger began to appear, I knew I wanted to see it. No, I'm not a huge Johnny Depp fan, but I do think he is an extremely talented actor. When The Lone Ranger first came out I read all the reviews and they panned the movie. When that happens and I tell my husband, he always says, "Then it must be good."

In this case he was right.

The Lone Ranger is fun. I think the critics are far too serious and looking for anything to pick apart and don't bother to consider entertainment value.

No, it certainly isn't the Lone Ranger and Tonto from old. It's a spoof on all the old Lone Ranger movies and Westerns and it's funny. There is plenty of action, sometimes impossible action, but great to watch. Some of the lines between the Lone Ranger and Tonto are hilarious.

There's plenty of action, the scenery is great (even though it isn't the places that it's supposed to be, but in a movie like this, who cares?), sometimes the comedy is subtle and sometimes it's not.

And when the The William Tell Overture played, I bet anyone who remembers The Lone Ranger of old had a big smile on their face.

Johnny Depp is a perfect Tonto--and to those who didn't like it because he's not an Indian, he does claim some Cherokee in his bloodline. And there were some Native Americans playing Indians in the cast. Needless to say, I enjoyed the movie.

My favorite line from Johnny Depp comes right after the Lone Ranger cries out, "Hi Ho Silver."

On the other hand, critics loved The Heat. I wanted to see it as did hubby, he really likes Sandra Bullock and it's been awhile since she's been in a movie.

Oh, my goodness, the language in the movie is so bad it distracts from everything else. In fact, I'm sure that's why it got an R rating. I would think that the movie makers might figure out they'll have more people come to the movies if they tone down the language. We can get that people do say the F word without using it over and over. The same with the cursing, it just isn't necessary. Many people walked out about 1/4 of the way through the movie because of the language.

We might have done the same, but it take us too long to get up and out.

Yes, there are some funny moments in the movie--but talk about preposterous--one of the criticisms of The Lone Ranger, but not this one.

And to bring it back to mysteries--there haven't been any good movie mysteries lately, has there?

What kind of movies do you like best and how much stock do you put in what the critics have to say?


Monday, July 15, 2013

Interviewing Toby Speed

Today I'm interviewing Toby Speed, a fellow Long Island Sister in Crime. Toby's first mystery, DEATH OVER EASY, is coming out September 15th with Five Star Publishing

Briefly tell us a bit about yourself—where you grew up, went to school, what you studied, the kind of work you did or do.

I grew up in Syosset, Long Island, and later moved east, but Long Island has always been my home except for a few years in New York City and Bergen County, New Jersey, where my oldest child was born. It’s hard to believe I’ve been in my current location for 30 years.

While I lived in the city I took writing classes at The New School, and I’ve been a writer professionally for many years. I work at a university, writing feature stories and brochures and anything else they throw at me. Now I’m looking forward very much to write-tirement!

Like me, you were first published as an author of books for children. How did that come about?

My parents read to me from birth and so I grew up loving books. Then I did the same with my own children. While reading them great picture books like GOODNIGHT MOON, SWIMMY and lots of others, I was inspired to try my hand at writing children’s books. It was a great way to combine my love for poetry, simplicity, directness and a wacky imagination into a satisfying vocation.

I’ve published seven children’s books, and have written many stories for Highlights for Children and other magazines. And I may go back to writing children’s books someday – never say never!

What got you started writing mysteries? Is there a carry over in your writing from one genre to the other?

I got started writing mysteries because I loved reading them. There is nothing like a good puzzle, especially when it’s written with depth of character and a sense of humor. As far back as 20 years ago I was playing with ideas for a mystery, filling notebooks with characters and plot ideas. And I’ve always enjoyed forensics programs on TV. So, mystery-writing began gradually for me. Eventually, the book I
was trying to write took over my life, and I had to finish it in order to regain my self-respect.

To me, there are more similarities than differences in writing in these two genres. They both use similar “muscles” for creativity, humor, style, story arc and other aspects of effective writing. And I think I am recognizable in all my writing, whether it’s for adults or for children.

Tell us a bit about your new mystery.

DEATH OVER EASY is my first Emma Trace mystery. It’s set on Long Island in the village of Port Jefferson, and it involves blackmail, murder and flying. Emma is a practical, both-feet-on-the-ground type of person who happens to be part of a family of gamblers and aerial daredevils. When police suspect her of having murdered the local diner’s short order cook, s
he is forced to come out of her safe world to find the real killer.

For me, writing this book was a great journey in the understanding of fear, risk and reward. At the outset, I shared with Emma a fear of flying, and so I learned how to fly during the writing of this book in order to understand her better. I have a private pilot’s license.

Emma’s story will continue with book #2, DEATH UNDER THE RADAR.

These days, authors are expected to promote their books. How do you do this? What do you think is the best way to reach readers?

I’m learning as I go. So far I’m enjoying connecting with readers and other writers through Facebook (, Twitter (@TobySpeed1), my monthly newsletter and the emails I receive. It’s fun making friends; whether this translates to sales remains to be seen.

What’s your favorite aspect of writing?

Finding the right words! I love poring over a thesaurus; it’s my favorite writing tool.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love walking outdoors, doing yoga, and reading. More and more I treasure being outdoors in natural, beautiful surroundings, such as the north shore beaches, rivers and lakes, and mountains. The last few I have to leave Long Island to find, of course.

What advice would you give someone who’s almost finished writing his/her first mystery novel?

Don’t be in too much of a hurry to publish it. Find some friends or colleagues whose opinions you value, or find a critique group online or in person, and share your work. Learn to listen and be receptive to ideas, and at the same time respect your own strengths and goals in writing. This way you will continually develop as a writer, and when your work is ready for publication you will find the whole task much easier. Believe in yourself!

What writers’ groups and organizations do you belong to? In what ways do you find them of value?

I’m a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. I joined Sisters in Crime to get a discount on registration at the New England Crime Bake a couple of years ago, and I got so much out of that conference and met so many terrific people that I was eager for more. I contacted Marilyn (host of this interview!), who was then president of the Long Island chapter of Sisters in Crime, and I started going to meetings. We have a fabulous group of writers, editors, former detectives, forensics experts and others, so the friendship and networking is invaluable. We also invite speakers to talk about writing and crime-solving, and we take field trips. This year I hold the position as secretary for the chapter.

What are your thoughts regarding critique groups?

They can be very valuable if those in the group know how to critique constructively and gently. Writers need to develop a skin but they also need to be open to truly useful, helpful advice.

What is your next writing project?

I’m working on DEATH UNDER THE RADAR, the second Emma Trace mystery, which is about a distant cousin of Emma’s, a retired K-9 cop who was shot during a bust and now comes back to help solve a murder. His K-9 partner Strider plays a major role in the story.

I am also writing some short mystery stories. My story “At the Corner of Night and Nowhere” will appear in the forthcoming Untreed Reads anthology called MOON SHOT: MURDER AND MAYHEM ON THE EDGE OF SPACE.

Toby's website is:

The Perfect Murder - Mar Preston

You’ve read all these murder mysteries of one kind and another from grisly hard-boiled noir to the sweetest cozy. You’ve seen all the tricks and seen how the detectives unravel a Gordian Knot of a story to solve the murder. You let your mind out to play imagining the Perfect Murder.

Just to pass the time while you’re sitting there fuming in a traffic jam, you pick out that daffy blonde in the BMW in the lane next to you who’s putting on eyeliner while talking on her cell phone. Grrrrr.

We’ve read of course that the hardest murders to solve are those in which killer and victim have no discernible connection. You whip out that gun that suddenly appeared on the seat beside you. (This is just fiction, remember.)

You’ve never seen that woman before.  But what if somebody remembers you fuming and the dirty looks that blonde got, and the way you cut her off when a lane opened in front of her. Just suppose they were trying out a new camera and saw you speed away. Or there’s a freeway camera you never saw.

Let's face it, you're no hardened criminal.  If you got away in the chaos of a traffic accident when she ploughs into cars beside her, you watch the news that night. How could she be old enough to have four children and a mother dependent on her? How could she be a choir director? A veteran?

Your own mind turns on you. You sweat, you dream, you listen for the knock at the door. A patrol car pulls up behind you at a stop light and you want to get out, fall to your knees and confess just to make it stop.  It’s human nature to want to confess.

Once they get you in the interrogation room, you're gonna fold up like a beach chair anyway.  Law enforcement professionals break down people like you and me every day. One’s sweet; the other one scares you to death. Even when you know it’s a Good Cop/Bad Cop routine what’s human in you looks to find an ally, someone who understands you.

It’s fun to consider, but I don’t advise going any further than reading this when considering the Perfect Murder. You’re not the type.

Do you really think you could get away with it?

Mar Preston's mysteries can be found at

Her website is

Twitter her at YesMarPreston

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Preparing for a Talk

by Kaye George

As I write this, I’m preparing to take a trip to a Sisters in Crime chapter, the Upstate South Carolina Chapter in Greenville, SC. They graciously asked me to visit and give a presentation. After some discussion, we decided I would talk on short stories vs. novels.

So, what did I do to prepare? I’m doing this blog as much for me as for you! If I set down my steps here, it helps me out.  (By the time you read this, I will have finished my talk and will be on my way home, if not there already.)

Here are my 12 steps.

1--The first thing I did was write my talk. This took awhile. I wanted to have between 1/2 and 3/4 of an hour. I figure that if I have that much material, it should take an hour, with interaction and questions. Hope there is some of that! Just in case there isn’t, I took a suggestion from Ramona DeFelice Long and printed out the beginnings of some of my novels to do a reading at the end. It occurred to me that I should also do a short story reading! So I printed out a story.

2--After the talk was written, I practiced it. Often. Of course, I did this while writing it, in order to time it, too. The more practice the better. This is also advice from Ramona.

3--I was told to bring books to sell, so I took a book inventory. I found that I didn’t have a lot of some of them, so I ordered more. I have several titles out. For novels, there are 3 in the Imogene Duckworthy series and 1 in the Cressa Carraway series. There is also 1 in the People of Wind series, but it’s an e-book only at this stage, so there are none to order.

Since I’m speaking about short stories, I should also bring some of those, I figure. I’ll bring some of my own collection, and the two anthologies I have on hand.

4--Practice my talk some more.

5--Sales preparations. I’ve done enough signings and book sales events that I have a system for this. I keep a large shopping bag full of my stuff: a clipboard to hold my price list (which I printed out on card stock with my new books included); a coin purse with $100 in small bills to use for change; a small notebook to write down which books I sell; a few stands to prop up my books while I’m speaking, if there’s a place to do this. When I’m doing a bookstore signing, I usually bring a cute candy dish with individually wrapped candies, but for this meeting, they’re providing dinner and treats, so I don’t think I’ll need to do that.

6--Handouts: bookmarks for the print books and postcards for the e-book. Also some business cards in case someone wants those instead.

7--Practice my talk some more.

8--Decide what to wear. I’m still doing that!

9--Pack. I’ll have a suitcase of books and a smaller one for my overnight stuff, as soon as I decide what I’m wearing.

10--Make sure my netbook is charged and the spreadsheet is there for people to sign up to receive my newsletter. I find this a much better way to be able to read email addresses than a paper signup sheet.

11--Decide: How many books should I bring? I’ll bring 8-10 of each title. I’d be VERY pleased if I sold that many!

12--Practice my talk some more.

That should do it!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Taking a break -writer style.

Two days ahead of schedule, I turned in a 'complete' manuscript to my editor checking off writing book #2 of my eKensington series.  Now, I have one book left to write for my contract.  It's due November 1st.  I have 4 months. I need 3.

Now, if you think I'm going to talk about taking a long, restful vacation. Maybe fishing on Warm Lake like the guys in the picture? Uhm, have you met me?  No, my break time will be spent returning to my world of romance.

So instead of diving back into the California cozy world I'm building, I'm working on some romance projects. The first one is a completely new story. Not a continuation of either the Bull Rider's series or The Council series.  Brand new people, new world, new setting. Having a solid three chapters and a partial, I'm setting that project aside and returning to Shawnee, Idaho - or actually Boise, where my bull rider is finding his days of the player coming to a close.

I was writing Jesse's story when I sold my cozy series and had to put the book away while I got the first two books on my editors desk. And I don't have much time before I have to return to book #3. So I'll be focusing on finishing by the end of July. 33000 words in 24 days. Or 1375 a day. Not unworkable. But a challenge.

Wish me luck.

What are your summer plans? Do you have a fun project you 'want' to finish?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Nothing Better to Do

My dog, Rascal, gets easily bored. She also craves attention. On nice weather days she's content to sun herself in our backyard.  However, on the not so nice days, especially the rainy ones, she's got nothing better to do than to get into devilment.

I watch her casing the house, searching for targets. Her favorite is paper. At times, I'll purposely leave unneeded papers on the floor under my desk to prevent her from finding  more important ones and destroying them. Okay, I'm not the neatest person in the world, but I do try. Still, she's adept at foraging into odd spots and finding bounty.

Today, she discovered a gauze bandage complete with wrapper, which had apparently fallen under the dining room table, or perhaps onto one of the chairs. I didn't notice it beforehand, but her x-rays vision did!

Don't feel sorry for her. She's got plenty of toys to play with, but they sit neglected. To her, something new is always better. Not only is it fun to chew, but it also gains my attention.

This time I was able to offer her one of her marrow bones, plus a few stuffed animals in exchange for the papers, and she actually played with them  for a few minutes. Right now, she's decided to sleep and give me some peace. I'm not sure how long that will last.

What does Rascal have to do with mysteries? Well, to paint a well-rounded villain, the author should in some way hint at or present a reason why that person chose the wrong path. A few that fit with Rascal's scenario might also apply to your villain. Perhaps that person, with nothing compelling enough to hold interest, such as a hobby, a job, or a cause, sought to relieve boredom by going down the wrong path. Or, perhaps, that person as a child was ignored by parents or guardians. Or, later, for some reason that person went unnoticed by peers. Performing an illegal act, even going so far as to murder one or more people, may seem the perfect solution for gaining attention. The media only feeds the frenzy, by highlighting abnormal behavior, almost to the point of rewarding the perpetrator.

Of course, there are tons of other motives for villains to commit crimes. Maybe you'd like to name one and offer a book or real life example.

Morgan Mandel writes when she gets bored and at other
times. Find excerpts from her mysteries and romances


Twitter: @MorganMandel

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independence Day


Respectfully submitted by Randy Rawls

            For several years, I've watched our country turn from the celebration of Independence Day to the celebration of July 4th Shop 'til You Drop Day, or July 4th New Car Discount Day, or July 4th at the Mall Day, or July 4th Fireworks Day — or the biggie, July 4th Drink and Eat all You Can Day.  It seems that far too few remember why we have a holiday on July 4th.  So, I hope you'll forgive me if I wave the flag and offer a read that is unique to us, citizens of the United States.


The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

   He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

   He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

   He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

   He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

   He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

   He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

   He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

   He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

   He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

   He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

   He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

   He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

   He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

   For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

   For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

   For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

   For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

   For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

   For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

   For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

   For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

   For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

   He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

   He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

   He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

   He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

   He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

   In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

   Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

   We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Sometimes Publishers Get It RIght

Lately it seems to be the fashion to bash traditional publishers; I’ve done it myself – and let’s face it, sometimes the criticism is right on because some of the things they do are just wrong, wrong, wrong. Sometimes, though, they aren’t. (Though I admit I still don’t get why some publishers demand that authors follow their detailed and occasionally arbitrary formatting – which doesn’t necessarily match that of any other publisher, necessitating a complete almost character by character work-through if the book is ever to be sent elsewhere – just to be able to submit a manuscript. That is not the focus of this blog, though.)
I do believe, though, that if we are free to gripe about the follies of some publishers, we have the equal duty to be unstinting with praise when a publisher gets it right!
Several years ago, when I wrote only as Janis Susan May and Janis Patterson had not yet been thought of, two of my best romantic mysteries were brought out in trade paper by Vinspire Publishing, once called Vintage Romance Publishing. (Now they’re e, too!) The covers were cute – well, sort of. They were okay, but I wasn’t wild about either one of them. Sales were somewhat respectable but, as time went on and on, I kept expecting Vinspire to pull the books from the catalogue.
Then - ! A couple of months ago I got an email from my wonderful editor Dawn Carrington, who said quite frankly she though the original cover of ECHOES IN THE DARK didn’t do the book justice, that she thought the book was so good it should be selling more, so she had commissioned a new cover. When I opened the new cover I almost cried. It was so beautiful! Here - take a look; wouldn’t you have?
ECHOES IN THE DARK - new cover (remember, it is a romantic mystery, not a straight mystery…)

Well, I just felt wonderful. The good luck pixies had gifted me and I was gratified to see sales rising again.
Then, some time later, the unexpected happened. Again. My editor emailed, saying she was so happy that sales on ECHOES were climbing, she had decided to get a new cover for DARK MUSIC as well. Now DARK MUSIC is also sort of a romantic mystery, but one that is more mystery with just a touch of romance, if that makes any sense.
Here’s the new DARK MUSIC cover –

Don’t know if the cutline will come through on the blog page (remember I am a total techno-naif) but it says “They might have a future unless the next scream is hers.”
My editor says the new cover is already stirring interest.
I think it’s wonderful and hope it starts a huge groundswell in the industry. Just imagine - a traditional publisher working with the author, doing what is necessary to sell the books, taking a personal interest in their writers’ success…
See? Sometimes publishers do get it right. Yea for them!

Janis Patterson

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

What is Your Favorite Prize in a Writer's Contest?

Some authors actually give away a Kindle as a prize to someone commenting on a blog post during a blog tour. I've seen a few that have given away an Amazon gift certificate. Most give away a copy of the book that they are promoting on the blog tour.

I have given away a copy of the book I'm promoting if a blog host has asked for that. However, since I'm on a blog tour to promote a particular book I'd rather that the readers following the tour would buy the book, I prefer to give away and earlier book in the series.

Lately though, the most popular prize on my blog tours has been to have the winner's name used for a character in the next book. How do I know it's the most popular? Because I have so many people who make comments on nearly every blog I'm visiting.

And yes, sometimes the winner turns out to be a fellow author, and I've had several reader end up being a character in the book.

I write down each and every name that is posted on each blog and keep track diligently of how many times a person commented.  The one who commented the most times is the winner.

I've had a lot of fun doing this and will probably continue for my next book.

At the moment I'm finishing up a book with a winner's name as a very important character.

What do you think? Would you take the time to follow a blog and commenting hoping to have a character in the next book named after you?

If not, what kind of prize would keep you commenting?

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Available from Amazon as an ebook and tradepaperback.