Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Fun of Research

If all goes well, when this appears I'll be on the road to Tehachapi. For those of you who have no idea where or what Tehachapi is, it's a mountain community off Highway 58 between Bakersfield and Mojave.

It is famous for it's huge wind farm--monstrous wind turbines cover the hillsides.

And something called The Loop also draws visitors. It's a place where freight trains over a mile long go around a hillside, and if you are lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, you can watch the locomotives (four or more) pass over the end of the train.

The reason I'm going to visit is because my next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery is set in Tehachapi. Though I've been there several times, I want to make sure I get descriptions of places right--and also that the places I've made up could be where I've set them.

It should be a fun and rewarding trip.

I'm woefully behind writing this book. My Tempe Crabtree books usually come out in August, but this year not only have I been re-editing some of the earlier ones, I've been doing the same thing with my Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series. Plus, of course, life has intervened as well.

My intention, of course, is to make this next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery the best it can be. More about the trip next time.


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Make Mine Mystery

June 5, 2018
Linda Lee Kane
Writer's Block: Can You Use it as a Tool?
Writing is both fulfilling and frustrating. There are days, that no matter how much I want and need to make progress on a book, I am unable to put words on the page. Or, if I do force myself to write, every word feels wrong. I know I'll be deleting most of them the next day.
When I first starting writing, this terrified me. But over the past ten years, I've learned that writer's block is my subconscious telling me that something has gone wrong in my book. There a plot hole issue or a problem with a character arc. I need to back up and reassess.
  I often will go back to the beginning and read the entire manuscript. So that I don't feel as if I'm wasting time, I use this time to edit. When I return to the stopping point, sometimes I've recognized the problem and put the book back on track. If I'm still stuck, I reach out to a writer friend and talk through the issue.
So next time you're struggling with writer's block, give your WIP a good edit. Reassess your plot, make sure your characters are following their arcs, and then reach out to a friend to talk about why you're having trouble. It's possible your story has wandered off course and needs to be redirected.

MA in Education, PPS, School Psychologist, and Learning Disability Specialist, is the author of Death on the Vine, Chilled to the Bones and an upcoming re-release of the The Black Madonna. 

Okay Folks, is Blogging a Thing of the Past?

On several of the email lists people are writing about blogs and many think they are no longer useful. I'd like to hear your opinion.

Here's mine.

I love blogs. I enjoy writing posts and reading what others have written.

I've been a regular on this blog for a long time and I enjoy what others have written. So many different topics and all have been interesting.

Some say that blogs don't sell books. Well, I've never written blog posts to sell books except when I'm on a blog tour. And like anything else, some blog tours have sold books, others not so much. How do I know, by tracking my numbers on Amazon while I'm on a tour. Though I often mention a book or books, especially if I have a new one out, that isn't why I participate on blogs.

I do it because I like to write. For me it's fun to come up with a new topic and write about it. Having a place to write about something I'm interested in is important to me. I love reading mysteries and writing them--and this is a good place to discuss all things mysterious.

I know that changes come along all the time, especially in the promotion part of writing. What once was "the thing to do" might not be now. 

Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I like to stick with the things that make me happy. Reading and writing blogs give me pleasure, insight, and make me think. So I guess I'll keep on blogging.

What is your opinion about blogs and blogging?


And here I am a bit younger and with red hair instead of the white I now sport--doing one of the other things I like to do, give talks at bookstores.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Writing Those Scary Parts

by Linda Thorne

When I wrote my first book, I came across big segments where I found myself drawn so heavily into the story, I forgot who was writing and editing it. There were moments when I’d sit up and bat my lashes, returning to reality. Other authors have told me they do the same thing. I think it comes naturally since it’s our work, our love and our passion. Unfortunately, none of this means the reader will have the same experience.

With my second book this happened, still does, but with one big difference. In the second book, my work-in-progress, I find myself truly frightened by the inciting incident. Why?

The scene was created from something that happened to me when I was 22 years-old. My boyfriend had talked me into following him to a college town in Kansas where I found a job and a place to live with two roommates in an upstairs room of an old rickety house. The landlady and her daughter lived downstairs in a section beside the stairwell. On the day before Thanksgiving with a major blizzard imminent, the landlady and her daughter left to stay with relatives, my roommates took off for their family homes in other parts of Kansas, and the neighborhood became a ghost town. Many things happened to me that Thanksgiving weekend while I was the sole occupant of the old, frame house.

I wrote my experiences of that weekend into backstory, where the inciting incident occurs. In this flashback, my lead character is 20 years-old and she goes through everything I went through, culminating in a dangerous incident followed the next day by terrifying news.

So, starts the story of my second book, A Promotion to Die For.

What about you? Have you written scary scenes from real-life experiences or totally made-up fiction that frighten you when you’re reading or revising your own work? 


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

What's In A Name?

by Janis Patterson

As predictably as the seasons, every so often the writers' eloops explode with The Great Pseudonym Question. Someone - usually a newbie - asks whether or not they should use different names for different genres, have separate websites and social media feeds, etc. The answers are all over the place, from yes and no to certainly and most definitely not. And there are good reasons for just about every answer.

My answer? A definite 'It depends...'

Whether or not to use a pseudonym is an intensely personal decision, but it's not all about you. You have to think of your reader. If you write middle grade fiction and hot erotic romance, I say you definitely need a pseudonym, as well as separate websites and social media accounts! Your readers are drawn from two vastly different populations. Can you just imagine what would happen if your middle grade reader, anxious to learn about the new adventures of your heroine Sweetie McNice as she navigates the politics of Prettytown Summer Camp, picks up (on the basis of your author name) the new book featuring Stormy McSexy who happily sets about seducing every guy in the police department to try to get the attention of the new detective? It doesn't bear thinking about - especially the reaction of the parents. You definitely need a pseudonym there, for your protection if not the kiddos'!

I believe an author name is an essential part of branding. I use pseudonyms to delineate my different books - none of which are overtly sexy, except one. I was coerced into writing that by a former publisher, but by today's standards it's pretty close to mainstream, so I leave it under my romance name. (In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that when in desperate need of quick money a couple of years ago I wrote a few full-blown erotics. Needless to say, I used a pseudonym which shall remain forever known only to me and God, and God better not tell anyone what it is, because I certainly won't!)

As I bore easily I write in a variety of genres. I write romance and horror (odd combination and a long story, but I believe the covers will be guide enough for the reader) as Janis Susan May, traditional mysteries as Janis Patterson, children's as Janis Susan Patterson and scholarly and non-fiction as JSM Patterson. I make no secret that all of the above are me, even to having just one website and one social media account. It just makes things easier, which is great, as it leaves more time for writing. Which I should be doing now.

So - everyone says your name is your brand, but to brand efficiently - and to be fair to your readers - think carefully about whether you need a pseudonym or not. It's your decision, but as I said above, you have to think about your readers as well.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Speaking to San Joaquin Chapter of Sisters in Crime

An idea for a presentation hit me when I was at a meeting of my chapter of Sisters in Crime, and I asked if I could be a future speaker. Obviously the president and program chair agreed.

This past Saturday I spoke to a wonderful group of Sisters and two Misters about where I got the ideas for my books.

I brought one copy of most of my books (those I had on hand) and put them on a table in the order they came in my two series--and I brought 2 other books as well. Lingering Spirit because it's based (loosely) on the death of my police officer son-in-law who got me started writing about law enforcement.

The other non-series book was the first mystery I wrote that was published, The Astral Gift. I lifted it from life too. No I never astral projected, no Internet to research at the time I wrote it, but I found several books on the subject, and it fit right into my story.

I continued on with the Rocky Bluff P.D. series that I write as F. M. Meredith, beginning with the newly edited and re-published Final Respects. At the moment it has two covers. Bits and pieces of this plot came from my son-in-law's stories he told me and also the fact that my daughter who was about 10 at the time had a friend whose family owned a mortuary. Daughter and the three daughters of the mortuary owner played hide'n seek in the mortuary among the dead bodies.

Several of the books I talked about, plot ideas came from speakers who'd come to visit our chapter.

It was so much fun recalling where the ideas came from for each of these books, and then I did the same with my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series.

The audience was great and we all laughed a lot. After I was done I sold a lot of the books I'd talked about.

I belong to three chapters of Sisters in Crime, this one, the L.A. chapter, and the Central Coast Chapter. I'm one of the founding members of the San Joaquin chapter and it's the closest so I attend most of their meetings. I participate with the Central Coast chapter any chance I can get because I have many friends in that chapter--plus it's on the coast. I haven't been to an L.A. chapter meeting in years--just too far, but I love their newsletter and listserve.

It was a great day for me, and everyone seemed to enjoy it as much as I did.


(I don't have any photos--my daughter usually takes one, but she said she got to caught up in my stories she forgot.)

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

What I Miss Most in My Writing Life Since I've Gotten Older

Me in the middle and Radine on the left--at some conference, not sure where.

And when I say older, I mean older.

Used to be, hubby and I went to every Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime and a few of the smaller cons that no longer exist like Love is Murder and Mayhem in the Midlands. We had a great time. We loved visiting the different cities all over the United States--but most of all what we loved the most was all the people we met and became friends with. When we saw them again, it was like connecting with family.

What reminded me of what I'm missing was reading Radine Nehring's post yesterday. Radine and her husband John were two of the people we met and enjoyed spending time with at several cons.

Hubby can no longer do that kind of traveling, and though I did go to a few by myself, I'm not comfortable doing that anymore either. Though I used to love to fly, I don't anymore for many reasons.

Oh, I'm certainly not completely homebound, but I only attend events I can get to by car--and when my daughter is willing to drive me there. Which means mostly I'm attending events in California. One big exception is the Public Safety Writers Association in Las Vegas--and she loves to go to that one with me, and hubby likes to go there too. Both help with selling books at the conference itself.

This year so far I've been to two fairly close book fairs and I'm signed up for a couple of others in the future. I'm participating in a one day writer's conference on the coast--and daughter will be in charge of the book sales.

I'm going to be the speaker this Saturday for the San Joaquin chapter of Sisters in Crime, so I am still getting out there. And yes, I have lots of writers friends at all these events.

What I really miss though, is walking into a big conference hotel and immediately seeing familiar faces--faces of friends (writers and readers) that I've met at other conferences. The feeling is much like a family reunion. What I still do have though, is lots of great memories of those wonderful times and the most friendly and interesting people.

Is there anything any of the rest of  you can't or don't do anymore that you used to? Not necessarily because of getting old like me, perhaps it's the cost, or not having the time, or maybe something you've decided is not the best use of your time.


Me and Lorna Collins at Epic in San Antonio

Monday, April 30, 2018


Here's a question for all published authors: Do you enjoy reading your own books, maybe months or even years after they have been published?

I have heard some authors say that, after their books are published, they have no interest in ever reading them again. Not me. I enjoy re-reads of my own books. Maybe that's because I like spending time with my characters. (The continuing ones have become good friends.) Do other authors feel this way.

A favorite author of mine, Marilyn Meredith, once said, in answer to a question about whether or not she would continue writing both of her mystery series, "Yes, I want to find out what my characters are doing."  I have loved this answer and think of it as I read one of Marilyn's novels.  (We want to know too, Marilyn.)

Another reason I enjoy a re-read of my books is setting. I set my novels in specific Arkansas tourist destinations, and reading a novel set there is next best to an in-person visit to a favorite place.

Whatever the reason, here's something that proves what I've just said. During the past two years my husband and a former editor at the press who published my first five mystery novels in the "To Die For" series have worked together to re-issue my first two novels, print on demand. Both were originally offset print and, though one had gone into a second printing, both were out of stock, hence out of print. During the re-issue work I needed to make  updates in book text, and then read sample copies for accuracy. The first book re-issued, "Music to Die For," has a touching ending involving the redemption of one character. I cried at that ending on the two necessary re-reads. A re-read of the other book brought, instead, laughter, since that was appropriate for its finale. Did I not remember how those books ended? What do you think?

The second re-release, "A Valley to Die For," will be out in May. The final book sample just came. I picked it up after it slid out of its packing, approved the change in cover art, and--I couldn't help myself--opened to the first page and began to read! I just had to see, once more, how Carrie and Henry were handling their first adventure together, and how JoAnne's murder impacted both their lives.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Tweet-Twit-Twitter ... Aw, Whatever!

by Linda Thorne

Is it me? When I found a publisher in 2014, Black Opal Books, they sent me their standard to-do list. The salient points were: get an author website, join Facebook and Twitter. As soon as I finished my website, I joined Facebook for the first time and mucked around learning how to maneuver through it.

Twitter was a whole other animal. I’ve spent what I think is excessive time trying to use all the online instructions and posts to figure it out. I’ve followed my author friends, which I think is good, but I’ve also followed too many other people recommended to me by places I’m unfamiliar with.

Lately, all I do is tweet my public posts (like this one) on Twitter, but other than that, I don’t participate much. I find myself avoiding it.

I wanted to title this post: To Tweet or Not to Tweet – That is the Question, but if any of you googled anything with a couple of the words I just wrote, I’d look like a copycat. Those words are all over the internet. So, there are others out there feeling pros and cons.

If I felt strong enough about Twitter as a useful tool, I think I’d need to get a BA in chirping to “get it.” The tweets are so short. Who is the audience I should choose? Are there written instructions that don’t look like a master's thesis?

I find myself avoiding this very popular site I started using in 2014. Some authors swear by it, and some waiver. What about you?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Procrastination as a Fine Art

by Janis Patterson

I spend waaaay too much time online. First, there's email to check, just to make sure there's nothing that has to be attended to, as everyone knows email is the best way to contact me. Then there's my twice-daily check of my sales stats - lately that has been a masochistic exercise in depression, to say the least! Of course, there's research to be done, for I simply have to know the depth of a stylish hem flounce in 1816 or the exact caliber of a Broomhandle Mauser... All legitimate reasons, all time-consuming, and if I would just stop there I would be all right.

Unfortunately, minutes spent online are far too much like potato chips or jelly beans - far too easy to overindulge in. I promise myself just one quick look on Facebook or Twitter, just long enough to do a little promo and do a fast check to see what my friends are doing... then sometimes at least an hour later I'll notice the clock and scream Noooo! It can't have been thaaat long!

Even more unfortunately (from a time sense only, as I am very happy), I have a husband and a home and an extended family to look after. Clothes must be washed, the kitchen cleaned, meals cooked, dust bunnies rearranged, errands run... the minutiae of daily living. Unlike the internet, each of these makes a perfect excuse not to write. I won't struggle with this chapter right now, especially since (insert household chore of choice here) has to be done.

Back when I was single my late mother used to swear she could tell how my writing was going by looking at my kitchen. If it was a disaster area almost fit for condemnation she knew the new book was going well. When she came over to find me cleaning the gasket of my dishwasher with a cotton swab and alcohol for the third day in a row, she would suggest that I start checking the want ads for a real job.

Make no mistake - I am a professional writer. Writing is my job. When I don't write I don't get paid. (Sometimes even when I do write I don't get paid, but that's another rant for another blog.) And I do my best to treat my writing just like I would an office job - dedication, responsibility, reasonable hours, decent output, respect for my craft.

Unexpected exigencies aside, I try to ration the lunches with girlfriends (though some still cannot understand why since I work at home - and therefore obviously don't have a 'real' job - I can't just drop everything and go run and play at any time) and other social/political necessities. I spend very little time at the store, meaning primarily the grocery store, as I dislike shopping and am known for wearing clothes until they are old enough to vote. There is one exception to this - when my dear friend from Peru comes up once or twice a year for a visit we spend a great deal of time shopping, as for her it is almost a religious experience. So much so that some clerks remember us from one excursion to the next!

Sometimes looking at my life I wonder that I get anything done, let alone why I put myself through such hard work and dedication and mental gymnastics for such a (recently, at least) insultingly paltry return. (Something really must be done about falling book sales!) It took me a long time, but I finally figured it out...

I can't do anything else. There are times I hate writing, there are times I vow never to write anything but a grocery list again, there are times I really wish the characters in my head would just SHUT UP... but there are more times I glory in the act of creation, feel delight that something works out swimmingly when I had feared it would take days of effort to make the situation work, joy that my characters have morphed into real, believable - albeit incorporeal - people with minds of their own...

In other words, I love writing. I can't imagine ever spending my life doing anything else. No matter how creative I can be in avoiding doing it!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Oh, My, Not Sure I've Been Such a Good Influence!

My granddaughter, her hubby and two little girls share our home. Of course, I'm around the girls a lot. Aleena is 5 and Priscilla 3. They love to hang out in my office with me. Fortunately, I had five kids, wrote a book while baby sitting 3 greats (long ago) and I'm used to interruptions.

I make lots of lists, shopping lists, to-do lists, things I want to be sure and put in the book I'm writing. Then Aleena started making lists, her own to-do lists, and what she wanted to buy at the store.

Today was the biggest and the funniest. Granddaughter took the girls shopping to our community thrift store and Aleena came home with a kid's detective kit. She and her sister have going all around the house with examining things, taking down notes (Priscilla's job), and hanging up crime scene tape.

One place she hung the tape was our bathroom. The reason? It was a crime scene and there was the blood of a thousand cockroaches and scorpions. (Not really.)

They played like this for over an hour, entertaining me and their great-grandpa.

We have two living rooms divided by the dining area (no walls), and we watch a lot of police shows. Though the girls don't sit and watch them with us they pass through a lot--no doubt have picked up bits of information about crime scenes that way.

It will be fascinating to see if either one of the girls ends up being a writer, hope I hang around long enough to find out.


Thursday, April 5, 2018

How to Wash those Negative Thoughts Right out of your Hair!

Make Mine Mystery

April 5, 2018
Linda Lee Kane
Last month I had some negative thoughts about editing and I thought I would share how I try to overcome these thoughts. Notice I used the word...try.

Realize that you are the only thing stopping you from succeeding.
All ideas go through the creative process. Most people start off thinking their idea is terrific for their next book, then realize the difficulties and begin to question it and think it’s a bad idea. This then manifests into self-criticism and self-doubt.

Some powerful Ways I use to Remove Negative Thoughts:

         Cut it off right from the beginning: AS soon as you notice yourself beginning to think the thought, interrupt it with a not-so-polite, “Shut Up!” Don’t even entertain the thoughts, especially after you’ve cut it off. Then replace the feeling with a positive one. (look at my past blogs, I’ve mentioned a few).

         Observe it: One of the most significant lessons I’ve learned over the years is that we are not our thoughts. And, just because we have individual negative thoughts, doesn’t mean they’re correct. Instead, we’re just observers of those thoughts. Know that a negative thought only has power if you give power to it.

    Exaggerate into ridiculousness: This is really pretty fun. It involves noticing a negative thought when it arises and then keeping the thought going by creating the most ridiculous possible outcome. You’ll realize your worst case scenario is not that bad.

   Counter it with the exact opposite: The fourth and final approach is my favorite. You can’t think two thoughts at the same time, with that in mind, this tool involves noticing the contrary view and then immediately replacing it with a feeling you want. Think of it like changing channels on the TV when that annoying ad comes on again. And forgive yourself for doubting your own creative ability. Think of it like a bungee cord made up of dozens of tiny bands, one negative doesn’t mean the entire thing breaks. And most crucial KEEP WRITING!

Linda L. Kane MA in Education, PPS, School Psychologist, and Learning Disability Specialist, is the author of Death on the Vine, Chilled to the Bones and an upcoming re-release of the The Black Madonna. She lives with her husband, three dogs, one bird, and eight horses in California. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Some Tips for New Writers

I wrote on this subject on my own blog--but I'm going to get more specific here.

No matter how good you think your novel might be it needs to be looked at by an editor--not just a friend--but someone who know what good writing is.

I've read several self-published books by fairly new writers--some have been good, others not so much.

While reading the last of these, here are some things I noted.

First, point-of-view. It's fine to switch, but let us know it's happening, and please, stay in one character's head per scene.

What tense are you going to write in? Present or past? Decide and then stay there. (Yes, I know some writers use both, but they do it for a reason and know how to do it effectively.) Frankly, past tense is the easiest to handle.

Check carefully for repeated phrases and words. The book I'm reading now actually has the same phrase at the beginning and end of the same sentence.

Be careful of how you use an apostrophe--it is needed when you make a noun or pronoun possessive as in Bill's hair stood straight up, but you don't need it when you've made a word plural like all the birds are in the bush.

A pronoun should always refer back to the last person or thing mentioned.

In this particular book, there are numerous typos, page after page.

What's too bad is the plot, situation, and characters are good, but most readers will give up after a few pages. And do you think the person who attempts to read this will buy another by this author?

A good editor could have easily fixed all these problems. It actually makes me sad to have to write this, but hopefully it will help someone who is just starting out.


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Short Isn't Necessarily Simple...

by Janis Patterson

It's an old story. The other day I was catching up with a friend I seldom see and in the course of our conversation I mentioned that I had written five novels last year. Her eyes grew wide and she asked in wonder how could I get that many ideas, let alone in one year.

Like I said, it's an old story; I've written many times about the plethora of ideas that constantly swirl around and how getting an idea is one of the easiest things in the world.

An idea for a book, that is. Blogs are a totally different animal. I blog of three times a month on three group blogs - Classic and Cozy, Ladies of Mystery and right here at Make Mine Mystery. About once every six to ten weeks I serve my turn at Not Your Usual Suspects and I also do a guest blog every once in a while. Blogs usually shouldn't be over a thousand words and generally closer to five hundred, so you'd think that writing a blog would be a walk in the park compared to the sixty to one hundred thousand words of a book, wouldn't you?

You're partially right. Writing a blog is easy... once you have the idea. And that's where I fall flat on my face. Blogs should be short, concise and focused. Sadly, there are those of us afflicted with hyper-verbosity who can't even say 'Good morning' in less than three hundred words.

Plus, there is the minefield of subject. I usually try to stay on the subject of writing, but let's face it, after half a dozen years of writing blogs there's only so much you can say about writing without starting to repeat myself. I don't want to say too much about my personal life, and though I am a tireless activist for the political and other causes I believe in, I don't think a professional blog is really the place for such subjects. (Though I do confess to having slipped a time or two...)

Which leaves the problem of finding an idea to write about. Once an idea is nailed down writing five hundred to a thousand words more or less is a cinch. It's getting the idea that is the stumbling block. Books are easy - they're a big canvas I can paint with a broad brush and put in lots of exciting events and subplots. To mix metaphors, a blog is a surgical strike - a short, hopefully sweet focus of information.

Sigh. It sounds a lot easier than it is. But I will keep trying. You can decide for yourself if that is a promise or a threat!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Writers Write

At my latest writers critique group we had a visitor who supposedly wanted to write about his life.
We expected him to come with at least a sample of his writing. Instead, he tried to tell us some interesting facts about his life.

Though what we heard was unusual, our leader told him what I've often said myself, "Don't tell your story or you may never write it."

Many times I've been at a book fair or given a presentation to a group and had at least one person come up to me and start to tell me about the book they planned to write someday. Chances are most of those folks will never actually sit down and write that book.

The fact is, writers write.

It might not always be the book they are working on, it could be a blog post or a short story. It could be an outline for the next novel, or perhaps character sketches.

Writers write.

In my case, I feel compelled to write. It certainly isn't because I make a lot of money at it. But I'm not happy if I'm not working on a book, planning or editing one.

Of course there's a lot more to being a writer--but the simple truth is writers write.


P.S. I'm working on my next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Some Good Reminders from a New Author

Recently, at a Sisters in Crime meeting, we had a young, brand new author. Though I didn't remember him, he  opened his talk by saying that I'd come to a California Writers meeting ten years ago when he was 16. My presentation was on How to Write a Mystery. Already interested in writing, my talk gave him the impetus to write mysteries.

His name is Daniel Stallings and his first book is out now, Sunny Side Up

He talked about his book, how it came to be, other things he did, but he said a few things about writing mysteries that impressed as good reminders.

Have an unusual means of murder.

A really good reason for the murder. Why would someone have such strong feelings about a person to kill him or her? Money? Revenge? Love gone bad?

A good puzzle with honest clues--puzzle pieces.

Having a main character who actually grows and changes in a series. One who is someone the reader actually wants to root for.

Using new locations.

A definite end to the story even if the series will continue.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Trying to Stay Positive

Make Mine Mystery
March 5, 2018
L. Lee Kane

I have to admit I’ve been in a tailspin over my latest two books, ‘Death on the Vine’ and ‘Clyde to the Rescue’ (a children’s book). Over the last three years, I’ve been working steadily on both. In the first, I researched grapes, harvesting, and I used Grammarly and of course, found errors, so like any good writer, I edited, reedited, and reedited it again. Next, I hired an editor, actually two. I wanted both of these works to be perfect. I received it back and put it through Grammarly again and found 1203 errors. This particular person thought I was ripped off by the first editor. I paid both upfront, and unfortunately, Death on the Vine was put on Create Space (I decided to go rogue and publish my own). After reading the book over again, I found more error. Did I pull the book down? Oh, yes! I sent Death on the Vine to another editor (at first you don’t succeed…) that I used for my children’s ooks, and I finally feel good, progress is being made. She knows me; she knows how I think and the message I’m trying to get across.
The last two months blogs wee about happiness and being positive-that’s because I havn’t been. I’ve paid quite a bit of money over the years to editors who I believe were professional and knew so much more than I did. In some ways that’s true but for many your writing is just a job-they get it done in a week or less, charge you thousands of dollars and you’re left with something that isn’t your words, nor your voice.
I’ve learned a valuable lesson, know one knows you as well as you do or cares about what you sent to the public as much as you do. I’ve had to learn to empower myself and learn to belief in myself.
Death on the Vine and Clyde to the Rescue will be out this week. My words-my voice.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Stalking the Typo Gremlin

by Janis Patterson

Whether for traditional or self-publishing, all professional writers strive mightily to turn out a perfect product - or at least they should. Most of what the world knows about us comes from our work, and as professionals we should work to make sure there are no (or let's be realistic - as few as possible) errors. Nothing screams 'amateur!' more than misspelled words, bad punctuation, typos and worse grammar.

However, as in all good stories, there is an antagonist who is constantly stirring up conflict. As I cannot call him what I want to in a place where children might see, I gave him the appellation the Typo Gremlin. This malign little entity simply adores to throw typos into anything that has words. And he seems unconquerable.

Back in my magazine editing days, the Typo Gremlin had a field day. When I took over all our magazines had the reputation of being sloppy - typos and grammar errors abounded. As this was my first gig as EiC (Editor in Chief, or as I sometimes called it Editor in Chaos) I was going to change that. Setting up rigorous protocols I was determined to hunt the Typo Gremlin and his partner in disruption the Grammar Grinch to extinction.

Well, I didn't. In spite of every page being proofed by at least two people besides me and no board being released to the printer without my signature those two sneaky little critters still managed to put in a fingerprint or two - but, I am proud to say, nothing like the rampages they had inflicted before.

At a writers' meeting not long ago I talked to an aspirant writer who told me that during his insurance days he was the coordinator for writing a new kind of policy. As this was the initial time out for this particular policy and it was a legal document, he was extra-careful that all the i's were dotted and the t's crossed. He not only proofed the document several times himself, he had others in his department and the legal department go through it multiple times until it was certified as clean and could be sent to the printer where a bazillion copies were run off. Then - after bales of policies were sent to offices around the country - and only then did they find a whacking great typo - not in the scads of 'tiny type' body copy, but in one of the main headings. The Typo Gremlin's laughter was practically audible.

When I left the magazine world and went back to traditional publishing, I was still a terror, being notorious for sending edited manuscripts back with corrections on what the editor had done/suggested. The day of the hyper-vigilant professional editor like the late, great Maxwell Perkins is on the wane if not already dead. Those giants of the written word are far too quickly being replaced by fresh-out-of-the-egg college graduates with vague English degrees and in some smaller houses even other writers who may or who may not be published, resulting in edits of widely varying quality. My personal prejudice is that I have trouble trusting my career to someone when I have shoes older than they are.

Now I am pretty much self-publishing my novels, but the dreadful duo of the  Typo Gremlin and Grammar Grinch still dog my footsteps. Case in point, a book I released not long ago - a book that has had no fewer than two professional editors, my own repeated scrutiny and at least four extremely literate beta readers - changed the heroine's name for one mention in the middle of the book. Not just a simple letter reversal or a mild misspelling, but changing one name for another, albeit a similar one. One big point to the Typo Gremlin...

Popular wisdom seems to tend toward the belief that if you cannot defeat an enemy, you should make them your friend. Maybe that works in international politics (though I am somewhat skeptical) but for me, at least, it will never do with either the Typo Gremlin or the Grammar Grinch. It is, as far as I am concerned, an ongoing battle to the death. Words are our livelihood; we should display them in the best form possible.