Monday, May 30, 2016

Writing Your Own Style Sheet - Mar Preston

Not knowing any better when I began writing my series set in Santa Monica, I called this document a Character Roster. I’ve always loved theater programs listing the characters and the actor playing the role. Fiction writers struggle with many aspects of plot and story, one of them keeping track of our characters and settings.

The Character Roster is a simple idea, but it will save you a lot of agony, searching back and forward through your manuscript, scratching your head and trying to remember what you called the pharmacist your detective visited to nail down the victim’s timeline. Now he needs to go back to the pharmacist. What did you call him?  Look it up in the Character Roster.

A Style Sheet is more advanced.  A style sheet is documents the style standards and practices of a publisher of newspapers, books, or magazines. If you were to write for them, you’d know to ask for one before you submitted your piece. I wouldn’t have, so here’s a tip.

A traditional publisher to may adhere more or less strictly to the Chicago Manual of Style and your local weekly follow the Associated Press’s guide. Suffice to say there are many other style manuals for specialty publications.

Style sheets offer the publication's guide to spelling, punctuation, and capitalization practices so you can turn in a manuscript consistent within itself as well as match the style of the publication.

A style sheet can help you as the writer, as well as potential beta readers, and any editor you may hire to develop consistency and reduce errors in story details.

Make your own style sheet

You can make this reference document as simple or complicated as you like. Working simply, you’d list in alphabetical order on a sheet of lined paper (or spreadsheet or word processing document)  any odd spellings or words that you make up as you go along. Stick in place names for example, if you’re writing a mystery set in Wales.  

Use this also to keep track of odd spellings or words that you make up, especially if you're writing fantasy or paranormal. If your beta readers or editor pauses to make a decision over a word or grammatical construction, their attention has been jarred loose from the smooth flow of the story.

Make decisions.

Serial comma or not? Em dash or parentheses? Numerals for all numbers greater than nine or will your cut-off be ninety-nine?

Decide on the use of quotation marks and/or italics, especially for unusual words, or words used for emphasis. If you don’t know common usage for quotation marks and italics, this is the time to look it up and professionalize yourself. Writing down the differences will embed it in your brain.

Time to learn the basic rules of capitalization as well. For example, “seeing the sergeant” and seeing Sgt. Fields.”

List words in foreign languages that you’re using and how to spell them.

What belongs in your style sheet is anything unusual that the beta reader, editor, or copy editor should know as they are reading. Anything that would make them stop and say "What?"

If you’re a plotter you may enjoy this task. A seat-of-pantser may not want to slow down until the first draft is complete. Working on one before that point might get in the way of the pantser’s feverish creativity.

I do urge you, nonetheless, to set up the Character Roster. You may find you’ve referred to an incidental character as Billy, Bobby, and Bob. Get it right and your initial readers will thank you.

And your story will flow like honey when you send off your final manuscript wherever it’s going.

I'm curious if other mystery writers use this tool. Please let me know.


Sunday, May 29, 2016


Having completed three major book events and signings on the last three weekends I am now feeling like an expert on this sort of thing.  Hence, comments about Bestest and Worstest!

At least best and worst for me--Author Radine Trees Nehring.

Best is meeting and interacting with the public. Being in the book promotion business turned me from a total introvert (I used to hide in my bedroom closet with a flashlight and a book during my own birthday parties) into someone who welcomes interaction with other people in almost any setting.  But I welcome it most of all when I am in the game as an author. I'm not good at what a former boss used to call "playing lady." (That was going "shopping" or out to lunch with other women, gossiping, looking at clothing, household items, and so on, running clerks--in this case me--ragged, but buying nothing. Playing bridge--awful at that--quilting, or other artistic sewing action--crooked stitches and knotted thread--or just having refreshments and chatting--to me, most of it sounded like fictitious information with a yen to share thrilling gossip! So, as an adult, my introverted life consisted of my job as a sales person in a high end shop, eating out, hiking, camping, traveling with my husband, going to stage events (opera, concerts, plays) and occasional movies.  Just we two. Suited us both.

Then, as mature adults my husband and I bought forested land in the Arkansas Ozarks and--impelled by my love for everything about this new experience and interaction with nature, my interest in writing was born full-grown and I quickly began to write and sell essays and articles revealing what I was learning about nature and life in the Ozarks in general. Voila! I was a writer. Still an introvert. I enjoyed my writing, felt I was pretty good at it (it did sell) and there was little need to interact with other people since my writing was going around the English speaking world, not necessarily my neighborhood.

Until--until, my Ozarks essays were collected into my first book ("Dear Earth: A Love Letter from Spring Hollow") and sold to a New York publisher. This was in the days before the explosion of the Internet, so I began slowly to experience book events, traveling quite a bit around states nearest my home area. This was a happy experience.  People who came to events were there mainly because pre-event promotion by my publisher and various bookstores, libraries, etc. attracted their attention. They were interested. They bought books.

I wanted to continue writing. What next? Why not begin a series of cozy mystery stories set in the Ozarks? Why mysteries? Because that's what I loved reading.

Jump forward to today and the recent release of the eighth novel in my mystery series. A short period of frustration while finding publishers aside, the transition to fiction writer has been smooth. The transition to doing the largest percentage of promotion on line still is not smooth. I am in my office, typing words on a screen, clicking on sites, puzzling how to add my information to this location or that, being frustrated when the actions of my computer system don't follow my probably flawed instructions and balk. Where are the people? I'm back inside the introverted Radine, not hiding in a closet but hiding in my office--typing.  Worstest!

So, the hours spent (mostly outside in lovely spring weather) during the past three weekends were a beautiful return to the Bestest. People, people people. Nope, certainly not all of them bought books. Some chatted with me about many things, then walked off without a book. But gee, they wanted to know about me and my work, and to tell me about themselves, what they read, and much more. Some actually marched up to me, intent on their purpose to buy the new novel written by Radine Trees Nehring, get it autographed, and march off to pay and leave. No matter, I was out of my office and away from that w-a-a-y too demanding screen and keyboard.

In a couple of weeks I'll begin weekend work (all day Fridays and Saturdays) at my table in the front of many stores in a large grocery chain in my area. Back to long chats, hearing people's problems, and, some of the time, selling them a book.  Yea--the BESTEST! 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Oh, dear, I goofed again!

Here I am in Murietta--in the South end of California, thinking all is well. I thought I did all the blog posts I was supposed to, but I sure can't find the one I wrote for today. If I wrote one, who knows.

Because I am on a week long vacation--or adventure as I like to call it--I only have my iPad with me to write on. I did bring notes for the book I'm writing now, so if I get time I can do some plot building. However, since I'm staying with my eldest daughter and next daughter down drove us, I suspect I'll be pretty much occupied. We have grandkids and greats who all live by to visit this week.

From here we'll drive north a bit (but still considered Southern California) to Camarillo to visit youngest daughter and a couple of grands.

We'll then travel to Central California to go to the Central Coast SinC meeting and the next day, a big author event at a winery. Looking forward to everything. A nice break from the regular grind--and writing.

See you in June.


Monday, May 23, 2016

It Will Be Done!

I'm at least two-thirds through with my work in progress, called Awake, but life intrusions keep getting in my way.

Hopefully, my good twin, bad twin thriller will be available some time this summer. I'll need to squeeze in my writing time in between visits to Wisconsin, where the hubby fishes and I go on long walks with Buster, our energetic Miniature Pinscher.

Anyway, above is the proposed cover for the book which I'm determined to get finished!

Find excerpts and buy links to all of Morgan's
books at 

Amazon Page:


Twitter: @MorganMandel

Thursday, May 19, 2016

When To Start Your Book Promotion

by Linda Thorne

My debut novel, Just Another Termination, was released August 29, 2015. I’d signed the publishing contract fourteen months prior, giving me advance notice to work furiously on promotion.
Telling a new author to start promoting as soon as you start writing your book may be a stretch, but I encourage anyone taking on the challenge to study the subject from the beginning—even start doing a little promoting early on. Sure, your priority should be getting the book written and in shape, followed by a search to find an agent or publisher (unless you are self-publishing). If your book is released, the process will likely take years. Trust me, once you know you are being published and have a general time frame, you’ll be grateful for anything you’ve started, learned, or accomplished because your promotion now ramps up significantly and remains in continuous fast-paced mode.
Some things you can do early on.

·       Get your website name locked up. I had “” secured with GoDaddy eleven years ago. If someone is looking for my website, they’ll find it simply by typing in my name without having to guess or remember if there’s another initial in front, an extra word, such as author, or my middle initial.

·       The writing community urges new writers to have a website before they have a book. I chose not to. Instead, I learned everything I could about what was available out there until I knew which package would suit me and at what cost. I even chose a web designer. If you don't have a website set up, make sure you're prepared to move quickly the moment you know your book is coming out. 

·       Join an author’s critique group. You’ll not only get advice on your writing, you’ll have a group of people to commiserate with on your writing hurdles. Critique groups serve as both advisory and support groups.

·        Join writing organizations, online and/or in person.

·        Visit public meetings advertised for writers.

·       Look at author blogs. Make comments on them. You’re getting your name out there even if you don’t have your book ready and you’re finding out what is going on in the writing community.

Some things you can do once you’ve found a publisher or know when you’ll self-publish:

·       Do you want a book trailer? I personally think they’re great, but expensive if you pay for someone else to do the work. I was lucky when my husband figured out how to create one for me.

·       Start getting your swag (book marks, business cards, little gadgets with your name and/or book name and website) together. Again, my husband handled this for me, even studying “branding” so that he could design swag to eventually fit into a brand.

·        Put up that website you’ve already planned for if you haven’t already.

Some things to do in the months just prior to your book release and the months just following that release:

·       Find strong blogs that lend themselves to your genre and ask for help with your book release. I submitted to Lelia Taylor, of cncbooksbooksblog's Buried Under Books, and was lucky to have her advertise my book approaching release in what she called a “book cover reveal.” This was a teaser that splashed my book cover on the post with a little information. She then offered to do a follow-up at the release date with another post she called, Spotlight on Just Another Termination, and a whole ton of people were notified my book had been released. I do recommend that you support these blogs before and after they help you. I started commenting on cncbooksblog's Buried Under Books at least a year prior to requesting this. I even bought and read a couple of the books advertised there.

·       Ten days prior to book release date, the personal post I’d submitted to the Killer Nashville Blog, My Writing Curse . . . Ten Years and Counting, came out. The day after the book was published, Lelia Taylor of Buried Under Books, posted an article I wrote about me and my book called, Favorites . . . The Little Bookstore. Two days later I appeared in the September 2015 edition of two online magazines. The International Thriller Writers’, The Big Thrill posted an interview with me in the Debut Author’s column of the magazine. In Kings River Life magazine, a little blurb was published along with a giveaway contest to win a copy of my book in Sunny Frazier’s “Coming Attractions” column.

·        Most publishers recommend a blog tour, something that you’ll need to begin planning months before publication. Some authors have an extensive blog tour, being hosted on a different blog daily. It’s a great deal of work and, in the months just prior to publication, things got extremely busy at my day job, and stayed that way. In addition to the personal posts published in the Killer Nashville and cncbookblog's Buried Under Books. I began appearing on other authors’ personal blogs. I wasn’t prepared to do more than a few, so I also hosted some authors to appear on mine. My tour was more hit and misses than a true blog tour.

·       There’s also the in-person events. I went to my first book signing at my local author’s Sisters in Crime showcase meeting September of 2015 in Belleview, Tennessee. I worked like crazy to get on an author’s panel at the Southern Festival of Books and succeeded, appearing on a panel in early October, and then made it onto a panel for Killer Nashville’s Writers Conference the following month.

Book promotion is hard and mostly falls on the author. One thing I wish I’d done as soon as I signed the publication contract was to write numerous blog posts in advance to have available for blog visits. If I’d done that, I probably would’ve had a true blog tour and been hosted by many more of my author friends.
Twitter: @lindamthorne

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Baptism of Fire

by Janis Patterson

It’s part of a writer’s life. Sooner or later you’re going to get a one-star review. Expect it, people say. Don’t let it get you down, people say. It’s part of the business, people say. You’re not a real writer until you get a one-star review, people say. All of which are very true.

But it still hurts, and it hurts worse when it’s on one of my very favorite books, one that has more five-star reviews than any other ranking.

It’s not even what I would call an honest review. The writer says she (assuming it is a she) gave it a chance, stuck it out through the first quarter of the book, then threw it down without giving any cogent reason. I know that she (?) is not expected to give a reason and probably should not be, but it does seem rather mean-spirited just to say ‘its’s bad’ and nothing more.

One thing she did say was that the heroine’s name changed once to a very similar name. Well…. to my shock that is true, and I have no idea how it happened. I went to the typescript I sent to my formatter – thinking to prove her wrong – and by gum, there it was. In that instance she was absolutely right, and I would like to know how that particular little bomb got by my many readings, two editors, half-a-dozen beta readers and a respectable number of buyers. Gremlins…. it has to be gremlins.

So – first thing tomorrow I must send all the electronic files and the print file to my formatter and hope he can squeeze in a quick correction so I can get the files reloaded. For that bit of information I thank her, as I like my files to be as pristine as possible. Or maybe I should say as pristine as the gremlins will allow.

At least having passed the one-star baptism of fire I can call myself a real writer now. But it still hurts.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Time to Write

Finding the time I need to write hasn't been easy. I should be working on my next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery. Yes, I have ideas for it, notes written down, but I've been busy promoting the last one.

My big mistake was I made my blog tour far too long. I vowed not to do that, but people kept volunteering and I didn't want to turn anyone down. Next blog tour, if I do another, I swear will be much shorter. It takes far too much time despite being fun and hopefully a different bunch of people seeing what I've written.

If writing was the only thing I did, maybe I'd get caught up--but like most of my fellow mystery authors, I have a life chocked full of family, other commitments and events. (Lately, my husband has been plagued with health issues and dealing with the VA over his disability being cut.)

We also had a big change as our granddaughter and family have moved in with us. (Loving every minute of it.)

Planning ahead is needed for even tasks for writing for my regular appearances on blogs like this because of traveling plans too. I prefer to work on my home computer to my iPad, though I always take it with me.

This month, hubby, and middle daughter and I are taking off on a weeklong, jam packed trip. First we'll visit our eldest daughter and two grandkids and their families, then up the coast to see youngest daughter and family, from there to a Central Coast Sister in Crime meeting, and a book signing at a winery. Looking forward to it, but know I won't be doing much writing.

Hopefully, I'll at least get a good start on the book before I leave.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Monday, May 16, 2016

Marilyn Levinson's Guest Blog: The First Ladies Mysteries

I'm back, after spending months and months getting treatment for lymphoma. I'm happy to say I'm all right and regaining my strength and vitality. Please welcome Barb Schlichting. Her first mystery has just been published.

I've always loved American history and the First Ladies interested me. Dolley Madison piqued my interest because of the part she played in saving George Washington's picture. I also read she was the first First Lady to serve ice cream in the White House. Learning this fact, made me want to learn more about her. She was worth researching. Dolley Madison made sure that all was welcome, whether in the President's House or home in Montpelier. Foreigners traveled around the world just to meet her. She loved everyone and everyone loved her. Thomas Jefferson was a widower, and James Madison was his Secretary of State. Mr. Jefferson dubbed Dolley his 'First Lady'. President Taylor eulogized her as the nation's favorite First Lady.
I wondered if it was possible to get an autographed copy of a picture from each of the living first ladies. With a purpose in mind, I set out to get one. In my possession, I have an autographed copy from Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Laura Bush, Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, and Michelle Obama. Barbara Bush calligraphied her picture and sent me a note. Michelle Obama sent me a letter on White House stationary.
I am thrilled, which brings me to the reason for my series.  What better way to bring history to those who think they aren't interested?  I decided to combine history with modern day characters and setting.   In my opinion, Dolley Madison still has magic and charm.

DOLLEY MADISON: The Blood Spangled Banner is a mystery. My character, Liv Anderson, owns the First Lady White House Dollhouse store in Minneapolis, and has a doctorate in American history, specializing in the First Ladies.  A department store owner from New York City stops at Liv’s store to purchase dollhouses for further retail.  Liv finds her dead the following morning in her store.  Before her death, she asks Liv about the ‘family secret’.  What is the ‘family secret’?  Liv searches family records, letters, and photos, and finds that clues surround her, and realizes that she’s searching for the Star Spangled Banner manuscript.  Liv stands between the manuscript and the killer, who will find it first?

Barbara Schlichting was born and raised in Minneapolis and graduated from Theodore Roosevelt high school in 1970. She and her husband moved their family to Bemidji, Minnesota, in 1979. She attended Bemidji State University where she earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees in elementary education and special education. Ms Schlichting has been married for forty-four years and has two grown sons who have blessed her with five grandchildren and one great-grandson.

First Ladies, zooming Zephyr trains--murder
DOLLEY MADISON: The Blood Spangled Banner
Nook version:
Kobo version:

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Guilty Pleasures of Crime Fiction by Mar Preston

I never wanted to hang out in a cop bar, or be a cop, but I’ve always been fascinated with police work and that’s why I write police procedurals. Most law enforcement jobs offer burst of excitement, danger, and thrilling action—in sharp contrast to the way I made my living. For most of my working life I worked on academic social science research projects.

Wouldn’t say there were a lot of thrills and chills, would you?  Oh, the work had its own set of puzzles and intrigues, its own small excitements. Except for the earthquake that smashed through Los Angeles—and the University of Southern California where I worked for a generation—I felt pretty safe.

Cop life is anything but safe with a traffic stop or a felony pick up going sideways in a nanosecond. I’m not alone in my enjoyment of crime fiction with its thrill me, chill me, scare-me- to-death aspect of getting up close to Hannibal Lecter on the printed page. We love Halloween, death-defying roller coasters, tornadoes.  Don't we? Why do I feel such glee in learning new forensic details of death and dying?

I grew up with a mother who read them all and gave me the good ones. Had she lived longer I wonder if she wouldn’t have tackled one herself. I had good models—The McDonalds, Elmore Leonard, John Dickinson Carr, Ed McBain. I never liked the Grand Old Dames of mystery fiction, the Agatha Christies, or what came to be known as the “cozies.” I’m bored with Sherlock Holmes, no matter what contrivances they think up to make him new. I relish the dark side, a bit of noir, semi-hardboiled.

Crime fiction has its appeal because we’re assured that in the end goodness will prevail over evil and the villain will be punished. Things will end up right. I happily confess my guilty pleasure in crime fiction but I also know that murder in real life ripples outward and causes life-long misery and suffering in the lives of victim’s families.

Another pleasure of crime fiction is that I can dance on the dark side, speed into a dark alley after midnight, insult a gang banger or talk back to a cop with impunity. I can do things in fiction that would be unthinkable in daily life. In my fictional life I can be 32 and 5 foot ten. I can have curly blond hair and a romance with a hard-bodied cop who can dance the tango.  Sigh.  It all happens between my ears.

I can make things come out right. All the loose ends tie up. The villain goes to jail.

 What are your reasons for writing crime fiction? 
Living out a fantasy at the Writers Police Academy 2015
Living out a fantasy at the Writers Police Academy 2015

If you're just starting you might like to look at a series of 4 eBooks I’ve written which cover topics you need to think about in “Writing Your First Mystery.”

Here’s a link:

The overview “Writing Your First Mystery” is free on my website:

Friday, May 13, 2016

Ten Crime Writing Errors

by Jean Henry Mead

I discovered an article in my files written by Andrea Campbell for The Writer magazine. It’s titled “10 Things Police Wish [Crime Writers] Would Omit" and I’m going to paraphrase here so as not to plagiarize. Some of the rules may seem silly, but you'd be surprised how many writers commit the following crime writing errors."

Don’t have your cops always eating donuts. Most eat salads while on duty and they drink bottled water. They also work out to stay in shape, so if at least one of them mentions visiting a gym, it's authentic.

Policemen and veteran crime writers hate over-dramatization and not many real life detectives fight over a case. Crime writer Daryl W. Clemens is critical of plots where cops have a tug of war over a case that’s taken place on their jurisdiction border. They already have more work than they can handle.

Revolver silencers are another point of contention, according to crime writer Barbara D’Amato. She says,“Since the rotating cylinder is not closed, you can’t baffle the gasses” or muffle the sound.

Alcoholic policemen have been overdone and is another sore point for the police department. Former police officer and crime writer Robin Burcell wonders why so many fellow writers inject alcoholism into their plots.

Lone female detectives who search isolated areas without calling for backup is extremely foolhardy, according to writer Susan McBride. Make sure your woman detective alerts her partner or dispatcher of her plans and whereabouts.

Never tell a suspect to “Drop it, Pal,” because the gun could discharge when it’s dropped or tossed. Have the suspect place it on the ground and back away.

Never have police officers pointing their guns skyward, or what is referred to as “aiming at Jesus.” Police are trained to point a gun out and down, and directly ahead in preparation to discharge the weapon. Also, never have an officer jack a round into the gun’s chamber before entering a building. They always keep a round chambered, even in their holsters.

Don’t shatter a windshield. When hit by a bullet, there will be a small hole and spider web effect, even when hit several times.

Suspects are no longer called “perps,” unless your police department is located in New York, California, or a few other heavily populated areas. The term isn’t generally used anymore.

Police officers are burdened with lots of paperwork so make sure your cop does his or her share. According to Campbell, there’s “paperwork related to the Miranda warning before an interrogation; paperwork that police turn over to medical personnel at a hospital before interviewing a crime victim; and still more paperwork for requisitions and reports."

Readers of crime fiction are pretty savvy about police procedure. So do your research and don't depend on what you've seen in films and on TV. Sloppy research may result in readers passing up your next release in favor of writers who have done their homework.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Oh, Those Pesky Ideas!

by Janis Patterson

I am a pretty organized kind of person – where work is concerned, that is. We won’t talk about my housekeeping. With my books, however, I am very orderly. I try to write a fair number of words every day – though I don’t always make it every single day. (Life just gets in the way sometimes!) I keep to a schedule and respect deadlines. I have my books blocked out for the next eighteen months – a gothic romance, the first book of my new Rachel Petrie archaeological mysteries, a sweet older-heroine romance… It’s a nice, orderly system.

Except when it isn’t. Unfortunately, creativity has no respect for schedules and orderly systems.

I’ll explain. Last month The Husband and I took a trip to Las Vegas. We had won it some time ago and it had come down to use it or lose it, so of course we used it. We were put up in the Plaza, an older but nicely refurbished hotel/casino at the end of the Fremont Experience. That’s sort of an outdoor mall – it used to be one of the main downtown streets, but they closed it off, put an enormous canopy over it (way over it – 6 or 8 stories!) to keep the worst of that vicious Las Vegas sun off. I personally prefer the funky downtown Fremont Experience to the Strip.

When we left I had just finished the final edits on the new Flora Melkiot mystery – Murder in Death’s Waiting Room – and I had thought she was ready to be retired for a while. After all, I was already doing prep work on my new gothic and even had a couple of chapters written, then had started doing some early prep work on the first book about contract archaeologist Rachel Petrie. I also have two books ready to self-publish, and that takes a lot of work.

Except once in Vegas ideas began pelting me like summer hail in Texas – big and fast. Starchy, proper, elderly Flora and Las Vegas seemed made for each other. The entire story – motive, method, murderer, MacGuffins, clues (sorry – I couldn’t think of a word for clues beginning with ‘m’) – spooled through my head with terrifying cohesiveness. During our wandering around I wore a purse only big enough to hold my credit card, a hanky or two and my phone.

You know, that could be a writer’s vision of Hell – a great idea and no pencil or paper. However, I have adapted well to modern times, so while The Husband fiddled with the slots, I would sit and email ideas to myself on my phone.

It’s still a great idea, and I’ll probably write it just as soon as I finish this current, half-written gothic which has a hard deadline. And it works out well too, as my primary advisor for the Rachel Petrie series has to defend her PhD thesis this summer, so we’ve agreed to start over in the fall.

Schedules? How can they hope to stand up to inspiration?

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Yes, I am Really Busy!

I know, I say that all the time, but the busyness has heightened around here. Why?

Yes, I'm still on my blog tour and that takes a lot of time--but that's not why.

I'm still doing all the things I usually do, so of course that's not why.

I'm beginning to put together ideas for my next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery, but that's not why.

The big reason is my granddaughter, her hubby and their two little girls have moved in with us. They are buying our house and we'll continue to live with them. They wanted to buy a house and granddaughter mentioned she and her hubby were interested in buying ours. The house is big--we already have a great-grandson and his wife occupying the upstairs bedroom.

This is a great solution for all of us. Hubby could no longer do the up-keep on our old house--grandson-in-law is very handy.

The busyness comes from trying to get all of our possessions situated (blending two households), and two very lively pre-schoolers.

Their tiny dog came along with them--and we have two cats. That's been interesting. The animals mainly ignore each other.

How does this all work while I'm trying to write a new book? Not a problem. The kids love to play in their bedroom and outside. Yes, they do like to come and talk to me--but I love it.

Marilyn aka known as F. M.., Mom and Gramma.

Aleena and me reading together.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Moving From Place to Place - Mar Preston

The Brits say “up sticks and moved house.” I like the way it makes moving sound—active and positive. For several months now that’s what I’ve been  to stay active and positive.

I am moving away from Pine Mountain Club after 17 years, a village in the central California mountains, where I’ve been very happy. But the mountains—probably the mountains anywhere—are cold and the arthritis is getting me down.  It’s hard to type with cold, crabbed, blue fingers.

I know I could be happy somewhere else, preferably somewhere warmer. Many places beckon, Ecuador, Florida, Ontario, San Diego. I know I can’t go back to Santa Monica where I was happy for a generation and was the inspiration of my five  Dave Mason mysteries.

Ventura beckons.  It’s commuting distance from Pine Mountain Club, coastal California, and warm enough in the winter. I can keep a hand in with all the arty events that I love so much in Pine Mountain.

Many times lately I’ve had the image of picking up this  house and decanting all my belongings into cardboard boxes and driving off the mountains down the hill to Ventura on the coast. But anyone who has ever moved, and  that’s all of us, knows the reality is quite different.

The prep work starts with shelves high up in closets going through old boxes of papers and photographs, each of which contains an emotional bomb. A copy of the review of my first novel No Dice.

Old play programs, ticket stubs, clippings?  Keep or throw out? Fondling a broken figurine given to me by someone whom I loved dearly? How could I throw that out? I made terrible decisions and reduced many boxes into a few.

 I’ve devoted  little bandwidth to worshiping my Domestic Goddess. And it showed. However, people will clean for you, if you pay them? Great, huh?

The downstairs of this house is so chilly, and heating so expensive, I’ve spent little time downstairs. The upstairs where I live was a little better.

I try to change a light bulb and the neighborhood blacks out. But you can hire fix it guys too and I found a great one. Better even, his wife is a set designer, and loved the challenge of rearranging my house. I obviously have no taste and less imagination because what she created astonished me.

And Mel Weinstein, a photographer of renown, did a photo shoot that made every room appear lofty, cavernous, and vast. Well, it is a big house, but it is not Versailles.

The rest is up to me. I have to keep this house uncluttered and clean--not my natural bent. Buyers can visit any time, any day. The cat boxes must be attended, my old dog’s pee pads disposed of instantly. I must nourish and maintain the flowers I’ve planted.

In these last few months my ambition to finish my sixth mystery has dimmed. I'm deciding on a title between Pounce and The Most Dangerous of Species. Ventura may fire up the ambition once again.

Writing gritty police procedurals will be the most important thing in my life. I hope. I've missed it.