Thursday, January 26, 2023

No Excuse for not posting

 Well actually I have a lot of exuses as to why I haven't done my regular posting on this blog.

First, my 2nd daughter had a huge heart problem, nearly died. She wentt home and in a couple of days had to go back--this time she had open heart surgery. Thankfully, she is doing well now--not 100% but oh, so much better.

From before Thanksgiving and almost to New Years Eve, I was really sick with bronchitis. I was prescribed two antibiotics and they didn't do anything for me. 

On New Year's Day I actually felt like myself. So much so, I made my annual pot of seafood gumbo. All together we had 21 people here to enjoy it. It was a bit harder to do because I went to church first, so the cooking was later than usual. May not do it again--it's expensive and I'm getting old. Might just make a small batch for just a few.

During all the time and into this year, I had a lot of requests to do program designs for people want to start residential facities. Most were in the area where I do the most work, but some were for other areas. Takes a lot of time. I have to look up reguations and figure out what each regional center wants in the program design. 

Then my house phone went on the blitz and I didn't know it, so probably missed some calls. It's fixed now. 

I'm about halfway through writing my latest and last Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery, and I've finally had time to do some work on it. Not sure how it's going to end--which of two suspects will end up being the murderer.

Anyway, forgive me you folks who follow this blog. I'll try to do better in the future.


Tuesday, January 17, 2023

The Poor Abused Apostrophe and the Confusion It Causes

by Janis Patterson

I will admit it, I am a stickler for the correct usage of the English language, which means that these days my grammatical sensibilities spend a great deal of time being lacerated, usually over the abuse and misuse of the apostrophe.

The apostrophe is a humble and very useful part of grammar. Not only does it indicate ownership both singular and plural, it denotes a shortening of a phrase by standing in for a missing letter - both very needful in writing if one is not to sound stilted and stuffy. Properly used, it can clarify a point like nothing else.

So why do so many people abuse it? The rules, even though not totally consistent, are easy to learn and follow.

For example, ‘its’ is a possessive, meaning something belonging to it, where ‘it’s’ is a contraction for ‘it is.’ This is an exception to the general rule, but certainly not egregiously complicated.

Customer’s is a singular possessive - something belonging to a specific customer. Customers is a simple plural - more than one customer. Customers’ means something belonging to all or a great group of customers. Is that so hard?

Apparently. Not long ago I wanted to go to a certain store, but the large - and largely empty - parking lot had a sign proclaiming ‘Customer’s Only’. Being of a precise (and admittedly bloody-minded) nature, I parked carefully across the street where I could be seen by the cashier and walked over. Once inside I asked why they restricted their parking lot to only one customer when it was of a decent size.

Unable to answer, she called for her manager, who didn’t understand either even after I explained the different between singular and plural possessive and voiced concern that they were driving away business because of their signage. I even told them that they were remiss in not explaining what exactly was the singular customer’s. Though in this ungrammatical day and age I suppose parking could be logically extrapolated.

They asked me to leave. And I guess that some people have no shame in parading their ignorance to all and sundry, because until they day they went out of business (by a lack of multiply parked customers, I wonder?) they never changed their sign.

Again, in a novel I found the character talking (obvious in the context) about a family named Smith. It read something like, “The Smith’s are going to rent a beachhouse.” Well, this is wrong on so many levels. First of all, which singular Smith? And which singular Smith’s what? In this case it should have been a simple plural - the Smiths. 

Sadly there is a definite prejudice against self-published novels, especially romance, and examples of this disregard of correct apostrophe etiquette are often cited as the reason. What is never mentioned is that there are the same kind - and sometimes worse - examples are to be found in the theoretically superior and sacrosanct precincts of traditional publishing in a rapidly expanding number.

Something like “’s appearance was unworthy of the care one would expect the Carters family shop to have expended on something that would bear the Carter’s name...” is not only confusing, it pulls the reader out of the story, it becomes an exercise in translation. And no writer wants that, does he?

Like its much more challenging cousin the comma, the poor apostrophe is abused and misused with a blatancy that is astonishing, especially since the correct usage is so simple. All writers - and readers - should learn the proper forms and meanings.

And stop being an Apostrophe Abuser!

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Christmas, Greenhouses and Life

by Janis Patterson

Am I the only one losing it this Christmas? We’re doing less, but everything takes more time - and a lot more money. Of course, The Husband’s Physical Therapy for his injured shoulder takes a lot of my time, since he isn’t supposed to drive, so I have to take him and wait. There is truth to the old saw that every cloud has a silver lining. His sessions aren’t long enough to justify taking my travel computer and working (besides it would be terribly inconvenient, as the waiting room is small and not well equipped) so I take my phone and read, something I never have time to do. I’ve read more in the last eight weeks than I have the entire rest of the year.

We still have no refrigerator - 100+ days from ordering and nothing. I still can’t get over the fact a simple white refrigerator is a special order, especially when they seem determined that you should be happy with a stainless or black one! You’ll forgive my glee when I heard a couple of days ago that style maven Martha Stewart has declared both stainless and black kitchen appliances to be horribly dated and no stylish kitchen will have them. It probably shows the smallness of my soul that in my secret I heartily wish both Lowes and GE be stuck with hundreds of them!

We have a small greenhouse-type thing I constructed in sheer desperation one freezing night years ago from PVC pipe, sheet plastic, spring clamps and a heat lamp, and it has kept plants alive through the winter for years. However, this summer The Husband has started raising hot pepper plants in big pots and now that the cold weather is on the way our little greenhouse is woefully inadequate. So we simply got more pipe, more plastic, and have been trying to adapt the design. It’s almost finished (REALLY cold weather is coming in tomorrow) and I think it’s going to work. I hope so... I’m also hoping the plants keep producing, because I’m accustomed to having a continual supply of yummy fresh hot peppers!

Now I know this blog is to be about things writerly, but let’s face it - life is writerly. Life is where we get our ideas. Life is where we do our research. Life is everything... especially this wonderful, crazy, overstressed time of year! 

And life is what gets in the way of us writing. I’m not proud of it, as I’m a hard-working professional writer, but I’ll admit I haven’t written a word for three weeks. Life - and the holidays - just got in the way. So - I’m just going to do what I have to, and enjoy my family and the season, and get back to writing after the first of the new year. 

I hope that each and every one of you has the happiest holiday season and the best of New Years... and I’ll see you in January, with a talk about something writerly!

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

The First Book in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series

The aftermath of giving away free Kindle copies of RAGING WATER, is readers bought what they thought was number one in the sries, DEADLY OMEN. But that book was not the first in the series.

The first book is DEADLY TRAIL, but it's listed as #0.

The reason is, it didn't get published until long after the first four book in the series came out.

Anyone who knows me and my publishing history are aware I've had many publishers along the way. The wonderful woman who published the first four books and became a friend, passed away unexpectedly. DEADLY TRAIL was picked up by a populare independent publsiher. Unfortunately, this publiher had a death in the family and closed the doors to her business. 

The series was picked up by another quite renound small press, but after a few years, they shut down too.

My friend suggested I go the self-publishing route. Frankly, at my age I didn't want to learn how to do what had to be done.  My friend said she'd help--and help she did. I got the rights back for the books that had been published as well as the covers--and she and her husband did the hard work of getting this series published again. Needless to say, they've been a great blessing to me and my publishing life.

I guess Amazon didn't want to make changes as to the number of the books and DEADLY TRAIL became  #0.

This first book introduces Tempe, her son, Blair, the man she's engaged to, Pastor Hutch, and Nick Two John. I got the idea for the wonderful garden in the book from an Indian and his wife I met at a friend's home. They described their garden and I knew it belonged in a book. 

Here is the link to DEADLY TRAIL

Available on Kindle and in print.


Monday, December 5, 2022

Another Freebie


Once again I'm offering a free book on Kindle.

This time it's RAGING WATER, a Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery.

The mountain town of Bear Creek is cut off frome town because of a massive mud slide during a monstrous rain storm. Bear Creek is flooded and many homes are threatened. And to complicate matters, a murderer is trapped along with everyone else.

Tempe has her hands full--and she has a target on her back.

Do try it.


Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Public Safety Writers Association's Annual Conference

This is a repeat from my own blog. This is my favorite conference--where mystery writers can learn more about law enforcement.

Sign up now for the early bird fee and more information: 

These are the four main speakers for next year's conferende:

The Seven Touchstones for Writing a Crime Thriller by Nick Chiarkas

Nick Chiarkas grew up in a housing project on New York City’s lower east side. Called “hopeless” by some uncaring teachers, he went on to become a celebrated author as well as a U.S. Army Paratrooper; a New York City Police Officer; the Deputy Chief Counsel for the President's Commission on Organized Crime; and the Director of the Wisconsin State Public Defender Agency. On the way, he picked up a Doctorate from Columbia University; a Law Degree from Temple University; and was a Pickett Fellow at Harvard. He shares with us his writing process called The Seven Touchstones for Writing a Crime Thriller.

Criminal Profiling for Mystery/True Crime Writers, by Pete Klismet

While many people, and certainly police officers, profess knowledge about "Criminal Profiling," very few understand what the concept is about, or how determinations are made. Former police officer, retired FBI agent, and college professor Pete Klismet practically wrote the book on criminal profiling and has put together a shortened presentation of the course he once taught at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. Pete designed this presentation specifically for those writers working on mysteries and true crime projects. A distinguished author himself, Pete has been published both foreign and domestically and this presentation is guaranteed to knock your socks off as well as giving you a factual baseline to add credibility and realism to your writing.
Join us as he presents the 'nuts and bolts' of how trained profilers look at circumstances involving a crime, or evidence from a crime scene in a completely different manner and use these observations, behavioral clues to provide insight into the personality of the offender.

Modern CSI Skills and Technology by R.J.Beam

Crime Scene Investigation has come a long way from messy fingerprint powders and feather brushes. Modern TV and movies show cops using magical gadgets to find evidence and solve cases in an hour. Real life police officer and police academy instructor, RJ Beam knows how to separate fiction from fact. A published author and expert police detail editor for a publisher, RJ is ready, willing, and able to break down some of the latest technology in use today at real crime scenes. During this presentation, he will also explain how some of what you see on TV while real is not in use at the average department just yet. With luck, RJ's boss will be cool (and the TSA won't pester him) so he can bring a few "toys" to Vegas for demonstrations

Your Book From Inception to Marketing By Jo Wilkins and Jenni Curtis

The tag-team presentation by these two industry professionals from Mystic Publishing starts with the introduction of how your book idea can be spread across a marketing platform and progresses into a full-scale explanation of how such a platform might intertwine with the publishing process from beginning to end. Well established author, editor, and publisher, Jo Wilkins is the Chief Executive Officer and Acquisitions Editor for Mystic Publishing. She, along with published author and marketing expert Jenni Curtis will demonstrate how these principles apply whether you are going to use the traditional publishing route or are contemplating taking the plunge into self-publishing. Jo and Jenni will review the necessities that every author should and must consider and how to apply them to your marketing plan up to and beyond the release of your novel.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

A Post About Censorship

by Janis Patterson

I know this is not a political forum, so I’m not going to be political... just bear with me.

I’m not much on social media - in truth, I hate it. It’s a timesink and sometimes it’s frightening to see what’s going on out there. I use it for two primary purposes - family/friends contact and publicity on my books. More, if I am to be honest, of the former than the latter. 

However, I am human, and when I see an egregious lie posted as fact I have to respond. (And it has to be a really BIG lie to make me comment.) This time I simply stated an irrefutable, provable scientific truth. So guess what? The platform froze my account, then sent me a cloyingly polite little note saying my post had been flagged as being hurtful of some people’s feelings.

What? An account is frozen because a factual statement of truth is ‘hurtful to some people’s feelings”??? It is indeed the truth...

They then said I could be completely reinstated by deleting the ‘offensive’ post. 

Hmmm - so if I want to be allowed back in the ‘tribe’ all I have to do is deny an irrefutable scientific fact - and agree to a deliberate untruth. Bad bargain. I protested, telling them I was not going to defame my honor by underwriting a lie, and since my account was locked I had no way of closing/deleting the whole account - and believe me, I tried. So I asked them to close and delete the account for me and we could call it quits.

Not surprisingly they refused. Apparently I not only have to sacrifice my honor and honesty, but I have to kowtow to their rules and delete the truth before I can sever our relationship. That’s scary. Needless to say, we are at a stalemate - I will not sacrifice the truth to have a platform on which I can sell my books. Period.

So what is the purpose of this little screed besides some personal venting? Well, this attitude affects every writer out there. Why should we be expected to allow someone - censor, Mrs. Grundy, monolithic corporation, government, anyone - to dictate unilaterally to us what we can and cannot write - especially when it is the truth? And before you say ‘truth is relative’ sometimes it isn’t. An irrefutable fact is an irrefutable fact - if you turn loose of a rock, it will fall down, not up. If you cut a piece of meat in half, you cannot make it truly whole again. You cannot cut off a person’s head then stick it back on and expect him to be the same. More frivolously, you cannot eat your cake and have it too. Some things just are, and cannot be changed simply because we want them to be - or because they “might hurt someone’s feelings.”

Now there are those who will say social media is a contract between individuals and media, meaning the individual corporations which have the freedom to say what will and will not be said upon their platforms, and in a way that is true - I am a great believer in corporate freedom. If this or any social media platform chooses to play that way, I can choose not to play with them. However distasteful I might find their actions, they are certainly within their rights to be as dictatorial as they choose. If someone doesn’t like what they are doing, they can leave and go to another platform they find more to their liking. What I object to is that this repugnant practice is it is becoming so prevalent over every branch of communication - including magazines, movies, television and books.

What if someone decrees you cannot write a mystery with a ____ (insert classification of choice here, such as man, woman, child, straight, homosexual, black, white, Asian... whatever) as the villain? Or that you cannot ever have more than two dead bodies in a single book? What if we are ordered that no one in a story can come from a such-and-such background, or be of (or not be of) a such-and-such socio-economic/racial/sexual group? That’s censorship, plain and simple.

Nor is the problem confined to social media. Not long ago a scandal erupted in Romance Writers of America about their yearly award. It used to be called the Rita, but I believe now the name has been changed to the Vivian, but egregious as the change was, that’s not the problem. The book which won was about the romance of a man who had years before as a soldier had taken part in a military action against some Indian tribe. In the intervening years between then and the beginning of the book he had reformed and found the love of his life, which was the main thrust of the story. 

The fact that this book won enraged the PC agitators in the crowd, who claimed that since he had once been involved in a massacre of Indians he should never be a romantic hero, whether he had reformed or not. He didn’t, according to some of the more vocal critics, deserve a happy ending and could never even receive redemption or God’s forgiveness. 

In a free and sane society such hysterical blatherings would have been ignored as the self-aggrandizing lunacy they were, but sadly and disturbingly RWA chose the ‘woke’ side and rescinded the award. They couldn’t ban the book altogether, though I believe they would have if they could, but it was stripped of the award in spite of the fact it was well-written enough to have won in the first place, it adhered to every rule of the contest and was by a well-known and well-respected writer. But it displeased a minority of the membership, so it had to go. Now one cannot help but wonder how many writers are hesitant to submit their books to the - or any - award for fear it won’t pass the muster of the PC hysterics even if it does follow every rule of the contest.

So far as I know the mystery community has not succumbed to such lunacy, but one never knows. We can only hope it stays sane and free of such irrational control.

I believe such blatant censorship is something against which all writers should fight, whatever they write. BUT in spite of that statement I will say there are some things which definitely be kept out of some hands, such as pornography and children, for example - after all there are the structures and decencies of civilization to consider - but as writers we exist to communicate. If that communication is stifled, distorted, controlled, or negated, the world is doomed.