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.

Marilyn


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.

Marilyn


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.

Marilyn

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.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Giving Editing Tips to Middle Schoolers

Because I've been writing in /Facebook about re-editing all my Rocky Bluff P.D. mysteries, a middle school teacher I know told her class. They were amazed that a published writer would do so much editing. Frum that came the email asking me if I'd visit the class and talk about editing.

Of course, I will be there today.

I made up a hand-out--rather simplified editing tips. I'll expand on them as I talk depending upon how interested they are.


SIMPLE EDITING TIPS
Watch out for overuse of a word such as that, just, very, etc.

Use descriptive action verbs instead of look, walk. Think what the person is doing and the best way to describe it.

For dialogue, use an action or description instead of he said or she said.  Examples:

Billy kicked off his shoes. “No, I’m not going anywhere with you.”

Karen flipped her long blonde hair behind her shoulders. “Okay, but I’m going with or without you.”

Be sure to stay in whatever tense you use—past or present. (Frankly, I think present tense is really hard to do well.)

Choose whether you are going to use third person or first person as to who is telling the story. First person is the easiest:

I knew when I stepped inside the door of the house I might be greeted by ghosts. (First person,
past tense.)

However, the “I” person can’t know what anyone else is thinking, only guess. This is the same for third person too.

Jason could tell by the expressions on his parents’ faces that something was wrong. (Or you could describe their expressions.) If Jason is the one telling the story, he can only guess what others are thinking.

Be sure that a pronoun refers to the last person mentioned.

Start a new paragraph anytime a new person speaks or does something.

When choosing names from your characters, be careful that they don’t all start with the same letter, rhyme, or sound too much alike.

Don’t use too many explanation points! Instead, make sure what is said is exclamatory enough.

Don’t repeat information you’ve already given. And don’t have one character tell another something they already know.

Be careful not to start every paragraph with the same word.

Vary your sentence structure, some short sentences (especially for action), longer for descriptions.


One thing I always do when I talk to kids is try to make them laugh. And of course, I'll answer all their questions.

Marilyn  







Tuesday, February 6, 2018

A Few Odd Ball Tidbits About My Writing Life

As I've reported, some of my older books have been self-published (with lots of help from a friend.) Those books are bringing in more royalties each month then I received most of the time quarterly from publishers. (Of course, to be fair, it's several books.)

The one that is selling the best is not a mystery, but a cook book that I wrote years ago. That has been a big surprise.

Of course, a certain amount of promotion has gone into letting people know about all these re-edited and re-pubbed books. Definitely a regular part of my writing life.

Because I now have a new publisher for the Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series, I've been going over and re-editing each book--and I'm now on #10 in the series. Besides making needed corrections, I've also learned a lot about the characters that I've forgotten.

I decided it was time that my webpage get decluttered and my webmaven did a terrific job. Check it out: http:/ /fictionforyou.com/. In the process I realized I've now written over 40 books, and nearly all have been published.

Because of the extra work, I'm woefully behind in writing my next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. All I have so far is the first two sentences.

My calendar is beginning to fill with public appearances--that's always good and something I like to do.

However other events are also filling my calendar. One biggie is this week when I'll be attending the annual PSWA board meeting where we'll not only be taking care of business, but plans for the July conference will be finalized. More about that on my next blog post.This is my favorite writers' conference. You can check it out at http://policewriter.com/  This meeting is held for 4 days in Ventura--one of the places they had a devastating fire.

I try to attend as many meetings of the San Joaquin chapter of Sisters in Crime as possible. Besides seeing all my friends, I often get idea for my books from the speakers. I've noticed that I'm one of the only writers attending who takes notes. I've often wondered about that.

We've scheduled a mini-vacation in April, a much needed visit to see our eldest daughter and family in the Murrieta/Temecula area.

In May I'm going over to the coast to be a part of the Central Coast Sisters in Crime chapter writing conference. Looking forward to that too, love visiting the coast and seeing good friends.

I'm sure I've forgotten something, but you get the idea--my writing life is busy.

Marilyn






Monday, February 5, 2018

Make Mine Mystery
 


Linda Kane

February 5, 2015
Making it a Goal to be Happy!

So many people get caught up in what they think will make them happy but, in my opinion, this is where the fail. Happiness is not about doing its about being.
If you allow yourself to be in that moment, happiness will follow.
The world would be a better place if we chased our dreams and fulfilling our potential. I’m extremely fortunate that my husband has always supported my dream of being first, a real estate agent, broker, a college student, a person with a degree in communicative disorders, a counselor, and a psychologist, an equestrian, artist, and now an author. I’m not tooting my own horn by any means. I’m just letting you know what my husband has put up with so I can fulfill my dreams. And I have to say, I’m very happy…even when I get rejected, I know I just have to figure out why and fix it.
Here are five quotes to think about on your journey to happiness:
5. “Rules of happiness, something to do, Someone to love, Something to hope for.” –Immanuel Kant
4. “The secret of happiness is freedom; the secret of freedom is courage.” –Thucydiels.
3. True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating something new.” –Dillip Bathja
2. Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of traveling.” –Margaret Lee Runsbeck.
1.    My favorite: “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” -Abraham Lincoln.


 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 release of the The Black Madonna. She lives with her husband, three dogs, one bird, and eight horses in California.

Monday, January 29, 2018

WHAT THE WRITING ART GIVES US.

Jana Jae, television star and world-famous violinist and fiddler, read my novel "Music to Die For," and wrote to me a few weeks ago: "I LOVED reading your book with so many parallels to my music career experiences! The mystery kept me reading on and on."

All careers, maybe especially those of the artist, have ups and downs--sometimes even heartbreaking moments, but this sort of thing?  WOW.

Writing is a very personal art, along with painting, sculpting, and creating music--as Jana Jae does. Others would say creative cooking, crafts, and much more are arts, and I won't quarrel with that. In fact, maybe the work of a good auto mechanic could be named art. But now I'm thinking about the idea art that depends on one individual's ideas being born into words. Many authors, including myself, have looked back over a page of their writing and thought, "Gee, that's good, so beautiful, so expressive. Did I . . . did I really write that?  And then we look into our own hearts and accept the personal praise, though we rarely speak it to others. For at least a time, though, we know we are creating art.

However, if it is not to die before blooming, artistic expression needs acceptance and praise from others. Initially, maybe, from members of a critique group, an agent, a publisher. Then, eventually, when our words sail out into the world, we hope for more acceptance and praise from reviewers and the reading public. Probably that is the most important form of payment for art.

I've been writing for publication since the 1980's and enjoyed acceptance by magazine and newspaper publishers, but I did not become a full-time writer until more than ten years later. A salaried career dominated until then. Finding a publisher for my first book, the non-fiction "Dear Earth: A Love Letter from Spring Hollow" did not come immediately, but comments from publishers were often full of praise before the ..."but" explanation for rejection, and within a year I had an acceptance. My hard-cover book was released in New York in 1995.  Many authors followed a similar path in the days before wide availability of self-publishing.

And now?  After the publication of eight more books--mystery novels--praise from readers is still the best pay. (See the first paragraph.)  To know that others are sharing the creative ideas we gave birth to is one of the best gifts writers are given.  Unknown people from many unknown places sometimes take the time to write and give us the gift of their praise, God bless them!

And that's a gift we hold in our hearts forever.







Thursday, January 18, 2018

Rediscovering Audiobooks

by Linda Thorne

I lived in a little town called Hanford in the Central Valley of California from July 2002 until May of 2007. During the first few years I was unemployed, read a lot of books, and then decided to write a book. I had written the first draft of Just Another Termination in 2005 when I was offered a job in human resources at a Kraft Foods plant in Visalia, California, 23 miles from my home. With a 46-mile round trip commute, audiobooks popped into my mind as a way to continue reading while adding some fun to an otherwise boring drive. Even though I wasn’t literally reading the audiobooks, they helped improve my writing skills as much as the paperbacks and hardbacks did.

The job lasted two years until the plant closed its doors in 2007. I went through many audio tapes during that period of time. My favorite was The Long Lavender Look written by John McDonald
and narrated by one of my favorite actors (now deceased), Darren McGavin. I listened to that audiobook many times over.

My husband’s five year contract job ended a few months before the Kraft Foods plant in Visalia closed, so we moved out of state looking for a home and jobs somewhere in the Deep South. We ended up in Nashville, Tennessee and soon I had another job in human resources. My drive to work was a short eleven miles, with mild traffic. I thought I could pick up where I’d left off listening to audiobooks on my way to and from work, but the commute was just too short to get into them. That job lasted nine years before being eliminated in a company-wide reorganization. I found a new job last summer, in downtown Nashville, where traffic is horrible. It’s a little farther each way, but with the traffic it’s at least an hour getting to work and getting home – sometimes longer.

It had been so long since I’d played audiobooks, I’d totally forgotten about them until my husband asked me what I wanted for this past Christmas. That got me thinking. Soon, I’d pulled up the memory and wondered why I hadn’t thought of it earlier. Of course, I thought, audiobooks, the perfect cure for a long and boring commute.

Some people say you’re not really reading a book if you listen to it in audio. To me, it feels like I’ve read the book. Sometimes I think I retain more. Also, being busy at my fairly new job, I lack the time and energy to sit and read in a relaxed state. I get stuck on sections and feel I’m working to get through them, something that doesn’t happen to me when I’m listening to the narration.


So I have been listening to audiobooks since Christmas, something I haven’t done in almost ten years. My favorite current book is The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens and read by Zach Villa. I highly recommend it.



Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Why We Write Mysteries

by Janis Patterson

Someone once asked me if I had ever seen a psychiatrist. When I could close my mouth again, I said of course not, and asked why he would ask me such a question. He replied that I spent a great deal of time planning how to kill people, and wasn't that a sign of homicidal pathology?

Well, I didn't say or do what I really wanted to, but I did start thinking. As part of the front credit crawl on the old TV show Castle a voice over states "...there are two kinds of people who spend their days plotting murder - psychopaths and mystery writers." (Quoted from memory, and not guaranteed to be absolutely accurate, but it's pretty close.)

Accurate or not, it's true. It really shocked me exactly how much time I do spend thinking about ways to do away with my fellow men. I remember once stopping a dinner party absolutely dead (no pun intended) when I chortled with glee after a scientific friend told me how to weaponize simple table salt! (It's complicated and requires special circumstances, but it can be done. Tee-hee!) The Husband can always tell when something (usually murderous) has ticked over in my brain, because according to him I "get this really weird look on my face, and then I smile with satisfaction..." His words, not mine. I hate to think I had such an obvious tell. Anyway, my friends, even the ones who aren't mystery writers, have apparently become accustomed to this phenomenon.

So what does this have to do with why we write mysteries? I think it's because of a need deep within us. A need of what? Well, that varies with the writer. Some of us are dedicated to promulgating the idea that justice will prevail and evil-doers will be punished. Others like the solve-the-puzzle aspect, and murder usually presents the highest stakes. Still others are fascinated with the workings of the criminal and the detective mind. I'm sure there are other reasons, probably as many as there are mystery readers.


I do know that for one mystery writer (me) it's an exercise in mental health and obeying the law. You see, every villain and/or murderer that I have dragged to justice has been at least partially inspired by someone who has at one time or another angered me. It's really quite healthy for everyone - I can off anyone I want in the nastiest ways possible and if the first time doesn't work, I can do it again; no one gets hurt; and I get paid for doing it. Win-Win-Win!