Wednesday, November 15, 2023

A Decadent Rest Well Earned

by Janis Patterson

I am so happy. And so tired. My republishing blitz is over. Twenty-two books, each re-edited, re-formatted and most with new covers, one released every other Wednesday without fail from 15 January to 25 October. 

Of course, it was a totally mad idea, and about three-quarters of the way through it I was starting to doubt if I could follow through...  as well as about my sanity. That’s kind of silly, since my middle name might as well be ‘stubborn’ and my pride wouldn’t allow me to quit. So I didn’t. But I am so happy it is all over! This project took up so much of my time I only did two new books this year instead of my regular four or five.

So is my husband. Bless him, he has had to put up with sketchy meals, late laundry and seeing nothing for hours but the top of my head as I bent over the computer. 

This year we did manage a few excursions, though - a conference for him in Hot Springs, a speaking engagement for me in Arkansas, a long-delayed couple of days visit with my dearest friend in the world, the NINC conference in Florida for both of us, a day of diamond-digging... and no, I didn’t find anything except a few muscles I didn’t know I had. Ouch!

As an early Christmas present, my wonderful husband is taking us to Germany for a week-long tour of Bavarian Christmas Markets. We’ve done this tour before, so I’m really looking forward to it. I also know it will be exhausting. And The Husband has laid down the law - I cannot take a computer. 

Know something? I don’t really mind. The idea of a rest from words is irresistible.

So - I have decided to take the rest of the year off. (Doesn’t that sound decadent?) I won’t even be doing a blog in December... but I will be back in January, rested and full of tales... and probably ideas for new books!

Hope you all have a bountiful Thanksgiving, a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year! 

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

The End Is Nigh

by Janis Patterson

For every beginning there is an ending... and conversely, for every ending there is a beginning... and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

This year has been a landmark year for me - it’s been one of the lowest output years for me in well over a decade (only two books as opposed to the four or five I usually do) and yet I’ve been busier than I ever have.

In case you have been living under a rock and not heard about my republishing blitz I’m going to give you a quick prĂ©cis...

During the covid crazies I got very lazy. The Husband was home - and even retired during this time - s0 we had things to do and my writing business came in a distant second to being with him. I knew that rights on previously published books were coming back to me, but being distracted by other things I just let the reversion letters pile up on my computer.

Until January of this year. Life was returning to a semblance of normal and I realized I wasn’t getting any younger (are any of us?) and if I wanted to get back into this writing thing I had to get busy, so a good start would be republishing those reverted books through my own company. A quick wander through my hard drive shocked me, because there were 26 (yes, TWENTY SIX) of the little beasties. Gulp.

A quick perusal decided me that for various reasons four of them were going permanently ‘under the bed,’ hopefully never to be seen again. That left 22 to be republished. As I am lazy, doing that could possibly take a couple of years, years which I might not have. As I was raised in advertising and journalism, the fact that deadlines are sacred is bred into my blood and bones. My father taught me that (to use his words) “There is only one excuse for you to miss a deadline, and that is death. Yours.”

So I set myself a deadline - I would release a book freshly edited, freshly formatted and most with new covers every other Wednesday until all were out, starting on January 15. MISTLETOE MAGIC, the last book, comes out October 25. 

22 books released every other Wednesday, each on schedule, each reworked as promised and all without missing a single release day. (Actually, there were 24 released - one through one of my publishers and the other as an outlier which appeared suddenly through a set of circumstances too complex to go in to... neither of which I counted as part of the blitz.)

I’m exhausted. I would love to take a few weeks off away from the computer, but I have deadlines... one for a July 4th mystery anthology, one for my new Flora Melkiot book and one for a summer Regency romance anthology. Sigh. Even though we spend our days pretty much in the same room (the den) The Husband says I spend more time with the computer and my invisible friends than with him and lately he’s been right. I’ve taken my computer along on every trip we’ve made this year - and it saved my sometimes tenuous sanity the days we were holed up in a motel in Mississippi when he fell ill on our way home from NINC!

Anyway, the blitz is now over and the encroaching deadlines await. It doesn’t get any easier, people. It really doesn’t.

And now for some good news! EXERCISE IS MURDER is now available in audio from Audible! (The ebook is available from Amazon and will hopefully be available in paperback before too long... it is the first appearance of the redoubtable Flora Melkiot!)

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

It's All In Your Point Of View

by Janis Patterson

People who don’t write don’t believe that stories and characters take on a life of their own, and if you don’t agree with them the story stops. Writers know what I mean. 

Now my writing process, I have been told, is different from most others’. There are many ways to write - plot wheels, detailed outlines, multi-page character interviews, etc. To me personally, that is the fastest way to kill a story. By the time I have plotted it I am bored with it. Now I do have a general idea of the basic construction of the story - a beginning, a probable end, a couple of major plot points - and then the characters come. Yes, come, just like real people. They walk into my mind, tell me their names and all about themselves. The stories come to life through the interactions of these people.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. I’ve had characters - fully formed, believable people - not like a turn the story has taken and shut down the entire process. One hero, who was perfect for the story, was insistent on a certain name. A name I hated, and immediately changed. He didn’t like that, and refused to talk to me. The story stalled and none of the techniques I’ve learned over the last decades made it work. Finally I surrendered, changed his name back to the one I hated and the story flowed like warm cream. It is one of my best sellers.

But there is more to a good story than storyline and characters. There is viewpoint. Is the story told in first person or third? Or even in that modern horror - second? I have been known to return a book when I find it is told in second person. Is it traditional indefinite past tense (I went to the store...) to the other modern horror, present tense (I go to the store)? I always return a book when it is in present tense. A most definite personal choice.

Once I was working on a story - a novella - with a good strong storyline, good visuals, great characters and even a good moral. Working is the right term. Normally I’m a very fast writer. This time ... not. I was struggling. Oh, I was writing, but slowly. Word. By. Painful. Word. Sort of like pulling long-rooted teeth.

Life happens, though, and everyday things must be done. One day I was running errands and a traffic back-up from a wreck kept me sitting in the same spot for a quarter of an hour. Well, a writer is always writing, so while my body waited for the wreck ahead to be cleared my mind went to work on the story.

How, I thought, would I feel in such a spot? What if the man I loved was in such danger? I’d...

Then it hit me. I was using the wrong person for the book. I had been writing in third person, and it just didn’t work. This book should be in first person. 

Now my personal preference is and always has been first person; to me it is more engaging and intimate, making the reader a part of the story whereas third has an inherent distance. However, there seems to be such a backlash of dislike of first person that I often write in third. This story, though, demanded first.

I had a little over 12,000 words already written. Not necessarily very good words, but a good solid first draft. It had taken me several weeks to get that far, and the deadline was approaching with the delicacy and hesitancy of a runaway train. Still, I had a feeling...

It took me two days to rewrite that 12,000+ manuscript into first person and then it took less than a week to finish the book. It worked. And it’s still one of my most popular books!

For those of you following my republishing blitz, all is going just as planned. I think we’re all defeated by the heat, so both September’s releases are Christmastide Regency romances - September 13ths was called THE RESURRECTION OF REGINA and  CHRISTMAS TANGLE comes out on September 27. Believe it or not, this blitz is almost over - next month is the end of it. And... if you’re in the mood for Halloween I’m fortunate enough to be part of the wonderful Kate Hill’s Halloween promotion which goes live October 1st! The link is

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

There May be Too Many of Us--Writers That is.

Now that anyone can self-publish, I suspect there are way too many of us grasping for readers.

Way back when the only way to be published was to be accepted by a publising house, there weren't so many books for readers to choose from.

Frankly, I've read--or a least read part of--way too many not so good self-published books. Tales with far too many plot holes and lack of editing have flooded the market.

Plus, I realize I'm behind the times, as I didn't recognize many faces or names of authors attending Bouchercon and appearing on panels. 

I still have my favorite writers and try to get copies of their latest books--though I admit, I buy the Kindle versions these day as I have way too many books even after giving many away. 

Am I discouraged by the huge amount of new writers? No, because I know the best ones will rise to the top.

Will I continue writing?

I don't plan on writing any more books in my two series--since I'm now 90, I'm busy writing a short memoir about my childhood during World War II. And if a great plot idea occurs to me, I may use use parts of it to write a Young Adult Mystery. 

I can't imagine not writing, it's been a part of my life always.


Tuesday, August 22, 2023

This is my Birthday Week


Yes, I'm having a major birthday this week--the big 90! (And in actuality I've been celebrating all month.) 

To celebrate, I'm giving a free copy of the first book in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, DEADLY TRAIL. It will be free until midnight on August 24.

Blurb: The tranquility of the town of Bear Creek in the Southern Sierra is disrupted by the suspicious death of the owner of the local inn. Investigating a murder case isn't Deputy Tempe Crabtree's job, but when the detectives don't look any further than Nick Two John as the primary suspect, Tempe begins asking questions. Putting the planning for her wedding to Pastor Hutch Hutchinson on hold, it doesn't take long for her to discover several more people who wanted the victim dead, including his wife. Tempe follows the trail of clues putting her job, her upcoming marriage, and herself in peril.

On Amazon, it's listed as #0--but it is the frst one in the series. It introduces many of the on-ging characters in the series: Native Ameican Tempe Crabtree, her fiance Hutch Hutchinson, Nick Two John  and Detective Morrison. It also introduces the small mountain community of Bear Creek. 

There are 21 books in this mystery series.


Wednesday, August 16, 2023

The Dead Zone

by Janis Patterson

We’ve all been there. We’re writing along happily on a book when suddenly - ZAP! - everything stops. It doesn’t matter if you have a minutely detailed outline or are a free-wheeling pantser or anything in between. Everything just stops. The well is dry. Ideas are things that happen to other people. The storyline that has carried you along so wonderfully, the storyline that was perfect and carefully crafted suddenly becomes a mis-matched pile of unconnected - and unacceptable - actions that have no relationship to each other or to any coherent tale.

Determined to work your way past this bump, you stare at the computer screen.

Like the single eye of a particularly malign deity, the computer screen stares back at you.


The reasons for this sudden and apparently impassible roadblock can be legion. The idea you thought was so perfect has suddenly revealed its hidden and insuperable flaws. You’re coming down with something. Influences/events in your real and everyday life are taking precedence. There are more valid reasons, almost as many as there are writers, and most of them are very real. Admittedly, some are conscious or unconscious excuses, but some are completely, sadly, totally real. Those are the ones we have to look out for. 

It is hard to concentrate on creating a fictional problem among fictional people who live in a fictional world - one that you created - when in your real actual life someone gets sick or your job goes away or there is a disaster threatening or perhaps even destroying your property or your life (metaphorical or physical). Fortunately, though, it seems that most of these distractors are, while distracting, are not so overwhelming.

Some call this sudden and absolute stoppage writer’s block. I don’t, but I don’t have a better term. Others call it burnout, which I don’t think it is. My problem is with this particular manuscript, not the process of writing as a whole. Either way, my go-tos are a cup of coffee, maybe a couple of hours of mindless TV or a nice long soak in the hot tub - which right now, sadly, is denied to me as it is on the fritz. Sob. Others may play with the children/grandchildren, take in a movie, take a nice long walk, go into a cooking frenzy, or anything else that particular person chooses. Often this works, and if it does you’re lucky. 

Sometimes, though, it doesn’t. Two or three or more days go by in this eyeball/screen staring contest and no progress is made. After a while, some writers simply put this project aside and go on to another, something new and shiny and so perfect it will never shatter so spectacularly on them. (Yeah.) Some writers will grit their teeth and forge on through, putting down word after painful word with all the same speed and ease as pulling teeth, even as they know it is garbage that will have to be deleted. Other writers will... well, there are as many answers to that as there are writers.

And perhaps, just perhaps, this death of a manuscript is normal and necessary. Not all projects can be or should be brought to fruition. 

But how do we know? I dunno. I can’t really answer for myself, let alone for all writers everywhere. I just know that everything I have said is at some time, in some place, to some (most? all?) authors true. And we just have to deal with it to the best of our abilities at the time.

After all, if writing were easy, everyone would be doing it.

And for those of you following my republishing blitz, all is going just as planned. Today’s release is a contemporary romance called CHRISTMAS CACTUS. THE HOUSE WITH THE RED DOOR, a gothic/ghost story set in contemporary South Carolina, releases August 30. A traditional Regency romance called THE RESURRECTION OF REGINA releases September 13. Annnnnnnd - an international romantic adventure called THE JERUSALEM CONNECTION is on sale for only 99 cents from now through Saturday, August 19. 

Monday, August 14, 2023

HOW I GOT MY PEN NAME By Morgan Mandel

    When my first book, TWO WRONGS, was about to be published way back in 2006, I had a decision to make. Should I use my actual name, or choose a pen name?
    Well, the book was written in the points of view of the hero and the villain, both of whom were male. Since I'm a female, I wondered if using my actual name would not get as many readers.
    So I decided the best bet would be to choose a name which could belong to either a male or female. Well, the names of Morgan Freeman, a guy, and Morgan Fairchild, a gal, came to mind.
     Not only that, I also owned a female dog who happened to have been named Morgan when my husband and I adopted her.

    So, Morgan seemed a great choice. As far as a last name went, I have to admit I wanted a short one which would be easy for people to remember and also short enough to easily sign autographs.
     When TWO WRONGS was first released, the book originally came out in paperback and ebook forms. Since then, after the publisher sold to another publisher, and the second publisher was of no help in selling my books, I wondered what to do. Upon the advice of Austin S. Camacho, a fellow mystery writer, I decided to arrange for the publishing rights to revert back to me. 
    With ebooks becoming ever more popular, I chose to publish this one myself solely in ebook form. From looking at the cover, I think you can figure out who's the good guy and who's the bad guy. 

    And now you've learned the deep dark secret of how I chose my pen name. 
    To learn even more dark secrets, check out TWO WRONGS. This mystery, set in Chicago, includes Marshall Field's in a pivotal scene before it became Macy's.

Morgan Mandel