Saturday, July 31, 2010

There's More To This Story...

by Ben Small

Just when one thinks the drug wars in Mexico can't get any more bizarre or threatening, circumstances prove otherwise.

Seems the military just shot and killed Ignacio Coronel, #3 Capo of the Sinalua gang, and his left-hand lieutenant, amid Juarez Gang public allegations that President Filipe Caldercon's government favored the Sinalua gang in the fight for Mexico's future, claims which Calderon, of course, angrily denied.

Coronel -- ironic name, huh? -- controlled the Pacific trade, you know, keeping Californians meth-and-coke happy. (I'd list grass, but medical marijuana is spreading in California like its wildfires, and the Golden State's product is the world's gold standard. Ganja may be a two-way street in the California-Mexico drug-smuggling trade.)


So... was Coronel hit in response to the Juarez Gang complaint? Or was it a legit military operation? Or maybe Coronel wasn't ruthless enough in growing a part of the business and his boss thought he'd gain two benefits from a rub-out: move up a young turk and ease pressure on Calderon. Or maybe Coronel screwed up -- like running a hit-man squad out of a Durango prison.

Who knows? But Coronel's Sinalua drug operation was based in Durango, which abuts our border between Yuma and Mexicali.

And that's where the prison's located, [HERE} where twenty-three gang member-inmates died in a January brawl; the prison just sourced for the birthday party massacre you heard about two weeks ago. One hundred twenty rounds fired, twenty-three guests dead. Shots fired wildly into the crowd.

Purpose: to instill pure terror on anyone dealing with the other gang and to scare the bejesus of anyone who would talk or oppose.

The prison's director and top three lieutenants got busted. Charges: Running the prison as an execution squad on hire for the gangs. Seems prisoners used the prison's phones and internet connections to run their businesses, and sent out execution squads for enforcement or rent-a-hit missions, using prison weapons, vehicles and inmates -- some of them juveniles, You know, expendable... Then, job done, the killers returned to prison.

Need I say an operation like this requires support, that there are plenty of folks in the know... and on the take? These gangs are thirty-to-forty years old. The money stream's got a web of tributaries. 

Think Capone and Moran. Think larger scale, longer term. Mucho more moola. Think indiscriminate terror.

And now this on the wires: Citizens of the city housing the prison staged a protest a couple days ago. Folks don't want these people arrested. The protest grew so large even the spooked-out media -- frequent targets of Mexican gang violence -- gathered. One of the gangs -- not sure which one yet -- kidnapped four journalists, including the cameraman and talking-head for Mexico's largest television station. Now that gang is forcing these journalists to blast via videotape the other gang.

This might all be fun if it were fiction.

But this scenario gets worse. The Mexican drug war and its products are leaking through our southwest border like an Arizona wash after a heavy rain.

Money from Mexican drug smuggling is so big, such a significant factor in the Mexican economy, bringing with it corruption on such a massive scale, the government itself is at risk. Today, the American Consulate in Juarez shut down until further notice. Full scale security review. Remember, one of the recent Juarez assassinations targeted a woman responsible for U.S, Visa approvals...


You and I know the Juarez American Consulate Building possesses secrets. Homeland Security, Border Patrol, FBI, ICE, DEA; they've all been there. All forms of data flow. The gangs have money and influence. Extortion, blackmail, bribery, trafficking, murder -- tools of the trade. But these guys go further. Terrorism. Beheadings, grenades, an IED attack just last week.

In such an environment, whom do you trust? Secrets slicked green. 

Meanwhile, our border is still unprotected, and the Mexican smuggling trade -- drug and human -- is an Arizona growth industry. 

Stay tuned folks, this story ain't over...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Early Readers, Editors Worth Gold

Wat the Editor Know

Recently, I read this line on a chat group I hang with: An editor who does not charge is not a true editor. That sort of logic if taken to writing would say that an artist or writer or composer is not a true WHATEVER unless he or she is making money at it; unless and editor is making money at editing, he or she is not a real editor. This sort of snobbery has existed in NYC book business forever as they pay editors so well (HA!). I have had many many editors, some who woud place a comma between many many and some who would not, and I have as yet to find one properly compensated by anyone. I have also operated my own editorial services (Knife Services) from my website, and I charge half or a third of what some editors charge, and lately, the business is slow as molasses.

No one wants to pay for editing services. To this I can attest. To qualify that, few want to pay for editing services, but one way or another every author needs a great editor or two or three in order to truly get a MS to sing.

An editor for your work is worth his or her weight in gold, even if he or she edits your work for nothing but the opportunity and "privilege" and charge you nada...for no charge. Despite the line this blog began with, there are capable and surprisingly fine editors among those who do not charge a fee; I know because I have availed myself of some excellent editorial help at no charge over the years. These people are my early readers. People I have cultivated a strong friendship with as a result of our making great books together, people who wind up in my acknowledgment pages.

It may upset some pricey editors (some priced at ten dollars a page if you can imagine it) to hear such talk from a professional writer and published author, but I have relied all my life and career on people who have a sixth sense about what works and what does not work in a manuscript, items you want OUT before the MS goes to press or release to Kindle or Smashwords or wherever you are publishing nowadays.

My Children of Salem, my highest grossing Kindle title, was put through the grist mill by two editors in particular who suffered and struggled with me like Jonah and the Whale until we GOT it. My work in progress, Titanic 2012 has had the tremendous help of two editors in particular who have wrestled that one to the mat where they MAKE me wring out rather than ring out the right words and save me countless embarrssing moments as well as point out plot weaknesses and sags. They are simultaneously copyeditors and developmental editors these folks.

I go back as far as 1965 or 6 working with my Wells High School managing editor on the school newspaper for editorial advice, and damn but she was good with langauge and writing; one lesson she taught me then stayed with me all my writing career - Acitve over Passive. I get cudos for making my work "compelling, fast-paced, a page-turning roller-coaster ride" etc. etc. due in great part to my editorial board -- and now that I am a writer turned publisher putting out Original to Kindle titles, I rely even more on my early readers, my editorial board. They have recently truly impressed me, digging damn deep to make the work the best it can be to the point it is no longer about me but the novel itself that comes first. Of course, it helps that the publishing industry has long, long ago beat the living ego out of me.

My apologies to those who consider themselves legitimate editors because they charge a fee, whether fair or exorbitant, but sorry as I am, I must say that there are people who are not just willing to be early readers for an author but who become invaluable editors an author can and does TRUST, often just as much as he trusts an editor within a publishing house or with a logo. I love editors, love them all, and feel they all deserve a raise but the practice of authors cultivating two, three, four early readers is not likely to stop but increase as we go to press as Indie author-publishers. Certainly been the case with me, but then I had always cultivated early readers. By the same token, over the years, I have learned a great deal from my contacts with all editors, those who were paid--even if poorly by the publsihing house--and those who have graced me with thier help out of the goodness of heart and understanding and unfettered desire to be a part of the process of creation.

Sneak peek of Children of Salem and/or Titanic 2012 is available at

Thanks so much for coming by and do leave a comment, good, bad, ugly, indifferent but leave some word....

Robert W. Walker (Rob to my friends)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Home Grown by Christine Duncan

Our little once a week newspaper has had a recent feature about most popular county attractions. You know the type of coffee shop, best bookstore, best local park.

It was a great idea but the problem was that none of the stuff ended up being local. The best coffee shop was Starbucks??? Please, I can tell you about this wonderful place in Olde Town Arvada called La Dolce Vita. (I'll see you guys on Saturday. Save a sticky bun for me!) The best bookstore was Barnes and Noble? No wonder small business is having a bad time right now.

Anyway, the local library is doing the same thing periodically, by having a display guessed it...local authors. And I love it. I have read Marlys Millheiser (she's out of Boulder Colorado.) and Francine Matthews and... well anyway you get the drift.

So I'm wondering--you authors out there--have you thought about doing some kind of promo like this with YOUR library? And you readers, do you read a book just because it's set somewhere you know well or that you are going to travel to?

Christine Duncan is the author of the Kaye Berreano mystery series. Book two, Safe House is available now

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Club for the MOST Mysterious Writers - Ghosts!

Would it surprise you to learn that half the best selling authors in the country aren’t writers? It seems absurd, but I recently read that as many as 50 percent of all New York Times bestsellers are ghostwritten. I’ve also heard that there is great demand for ghostwriters for other types of books and in businesses of all sizes.

This legion of behind-the-scenes writers has been scattered and isolated until now. But an enterprising author has now launched a new trade association designed to help professional writers and authors interested in finding and landing more ghostwriting work. Bestselling author and experienced ghostwriter Marcia Layton Turner ( has founded the Association of Ghostwriters ( to help us all tap into the growing demand for ghostwriting services.

Why are talented ghostwriters in such demand? For one thing, professional speakers, consultants, business executives and coaches want the credibility that comes from having a book published. They know a book will give their business a boost, but either don’t have the time or the skills to write one.

In addition, business people have learned that sharing their knowledge online through blogs and articles helps highlight their expertise and they need help from professional writers. The growth in self-publishing also presents opportunities for subject matter experts to reach a wider audience, if they can present their expertise in a well-written book.

And don’t overlook fiction possibilities. Do you really think James Patterson can write half a dozen novels a year in 7 or 8 different genres? Not by himself he can’t. He employs five full-time collaborators that he pays out of his own pocket. He provides the elaborate outlines and story editing but they provide the actual text. I sure wouldn’t mind being on that team, even if I only got to write the manga version of the next Maximum Ride book.

The Association of Ghostwriters helps members tap into this expanding market for their services. Members get access to monthly teleseminars on marketing, project management, outsourcing, time management and other relevant subjects. There’s also a newsletter, a private forum and most valuable, job postings for ghostwriters. So if you’re more concerned with getting paid for writing than seeing your name in big letters on the cover, this might be the group for you.

Friday, July 23, 2010

An Interview with Hallie Ephron

by Jean Henry Mead

Hallie Ephron is the bestselling author of six novels, including her latest, Never Tell a Lie, a psychological suspense novel set in the Boston suburbs. Her how-to-book, Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel: How to Knock 'Em Dead with Style, was nominated for Edgar and Anthony awards. She's also a book reviewer for the Boston Globe.

Hallie, how did your early environment influence your career as a journalist and novelist?

I grew up in family of writers (my parents wrote plays and movies; my sisters Nora, Delia, and Amy are all well published) in a house that was wall to wall books. The pressure to become a writer was tough to resist. I tried for three decades and then succumbed.

Did you ever consider following in your parent's careers as a screenwriter?

Dialogue isn't my strong suit, and that's what screenplays are. So it was not the natural place for me to begin.

Where did you work as a journalist and did the experience serve you well when you began writing novels?

I never thought of myself as a journalist. I wrote essays and feature articles for magazines and now I review crime fiction for the Boston Globe. Reviewing books--and more importantly reading lots of them--has helped me see why some books work and others don't. So it's really helped me as a teacher, and also as a critic of my own work.

Tell us about your latest, a psychological suspense novel, Never Tell a Lie. How did the story come about?

I got the idea when I was at a yard sale near my house. It was a big Victorian house, one where my daughter used to play with the children of a former owner. I was dying to find out how the interior had been transformed. I drilled the poor homeowner with questions until finally she said, “Why don’t you go inside and have a look around?” I didn't wait for her to change her mind. As I wandered on, through the upstairs, I thought: What if a woman goes to a yard sale. Somehow she manages to talk her way into the house. She goes inside and…she never comes out.

The idea made the hair on my neck stand up. I knew right away that my next novel would start with that yard sale. I knew that the woman running the yard sale would be nine months pregnant, and the woman who comes to the yard sale and disappears would be nine months pregnant, too.

When did you decide to write how-to writing books and what do they encompass?

I didn't actually decide... I was teaching a class for writers and the acquiring editor for Writer Digest Books sat in on a bit of my class. Afterward, she asked if I'd like to write a book about mystery writing. I jumped at the opportunity. I started my career as a teacher, and this gave me a chance to combine teaching and writing.

How do you select books to review for the Boston Globe? And do you always try to find something good to write in each review or do you just cut to the chase?

I pick from the 80 or so titles sent to me each month. Yes, I try to find books I like. If I don't like a book I stop reading and go on to the next one in the pile. But if I review I book I don't like, I say so--but I try not to be flip or clever about it, just as specific as I can.

What’s the best way to acquire an agent and are they necessary to sell fledgling books?

Yes, they are essential if you want to be published by a mainstream press. Agents have become the arbiters of taste. The process is well documented--in Writers Digest Guide to Literary Agents it's all laid out plus detailed information about each agent and how to contact them. Just follow the rules about querying. And be patient. And revise, revise, revise if you are fortunate to get comments back.

Advice to aspiring writers?

Keep at it. Perseverance pays. Grow a rhinoceros hide so you don't take criticism personally, but hear it and use it to make the work better.

What do you stress most in your fiction courses at writers’ conferences?

Not to send a work out too early--I see so many authors jump the gun and send out manuscripts that still need work.

Hallie Ephron's website:

Her blog:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Promote, promote, promote by Vivian Zabel

Each year I attend two writing conferences: OWFI (Oklahoma Writers' Federation Inc.) writing conference the first of May and The Muse on Line Writers' Conference in October. I always bring at least one or two excellent ideas away with me.

OWFI had Dana Stabenow as the keynote speaker in May. I don't usually take notes during the keynote speech at the Friday night banquet, but she gave some excellent promotion tips.

You don't know Dana Stabenow? Then please go to your local Wal-Mart, Target, or bookstore, or Amazon, and find her books. She writes mysteries (of course) which take place in her home state Alaska. She is becoming more well-known all the time, and she is a best selling author.

One strong point brought out by Dana, publishers don't do much for promotion unless the author is already famous. That isn't a surprise to most of us. Even James Patterson pitches his books on television. Therefore, she decided she would do a major promotion for her books herself, using the Internet.

For her first major promotion she used her website to present one chapter of the book per month starting four months before its release, and she used only the first four chapters, no more. She gave a free ARC (Advance Reader Copy) of the book each month for those four months.

Dana wrote and posted a transitional chapter linking book one to the next book, or the book before the current book to the current book. She covered what happened to her main characters (which include a wolf) and community from one novel to the next.

The Stabenow URL ( appeared on everything, everywhere she could place it. Her website offers great advice for writers, too.

She paid for a professional trailer, which she discovered was not cost effective. Now one not done by a professional, but of good quality, does the job.

After the first book she promoted so strongly, Dana adjusted her procedure some. She began to do only one except before the release of a book, but continued adding a transitional chapter between the previous book and the current one soon to be released. She also offered an ARC as a prize a couple of times before the release of a novel, rather than one each month for four months.

Dana puts out five newsletters each year, with an active "buy" link in each e-newletter.

One thing Dana Stabenow covered, too, was building a platform (sometimes called a marketing plan), by which potential buyers can be reached. Facebook, Twitter, other social networking groups, and building followers for one's blog and website are a few ways to build a platform. Also, collecting email addresses through having people subscribe to her newsletter helps.

I am already using some of these ideas to promote my newest novel, to be released in October, and encourage other authors to do the same. I set up a website for Stolen, the novel, and incorporated some of Dana Stabenow's tips. I'll share any successes.

Since I face surgery tomorrow morning and will be rather limited for two months, I may not be back for a while. However, keep learning and writing and improving.

Vivian Zabel
Brain Cells & Bubble Wrap
4RV Publishing

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Since many of my stories are set in Hawaii, I pay attention to news reports from that state. A recent report on the national news made me laugh. According to this report, more than half of the businesses in Hawaii are minority-owned. Why did this make me laugh? Because more than half of the people in Hawaii belong to minority ethnic groups. There is no majority in Hawaii. So this was a "dog bites man" story and I wondered why it was even newsworthy.

Because my stories are set in Hawaii, I people them with a variety of ethnicities. To make everybody white would not reflect the reality of the setting. In most cases, I don't even mention a character's ethnicity and let the name take care of that. Some readers have commented that my stories have a lot of Chinese and Japanese characters. Well, yes, there are a lot of  Chinese and Japanese living there. Some of my characters have Anglo-sounding names and the reader doesn't know their ethnicity unless I tell them. In most of my stories, ethnicity is unimportant.

For the major characters, of course, ethnicity is important. It's a part of who they are and it explains some of the things they do.  I give a lot of thought to their ethnicity because my choices have implications not only for how the story is told, but for how it is received by readers. Stories have protagonists and antagonists. Mysteries have good guys and bad guys. Does portraying a bad guy as a member of an ethnic minority slander all members of that ethnicity? The complaints of some Italian-Americans that they are unfairly demonized in gangster movies is a case in point. Most authors will say that the ethnicity of their characters simply reflects the reality they are portraying. If there are Italian, Chinese, African-American, Japanese or Hispanic criminals in any population, there are many more people, the vast majority of whom are law-abiding citizens.

But stories are not about demographics. They are about protagonists and antagonists. So how does an author deal with ethnicity? Despite a few remarkable exceptions--S.J. Rozan's Lydia Chin, George Pelecanos's Derek Strange, and Tony Hillerman's Joe Leaphorn, for examples--most authors seem to draw their protagonist from their own ethnic background. I'm Caucasian and so is the main character in most of my stories.

What about antagonists? In Pilikia Is My Business, the antagonists were Caucasian, Japanese, and Hawaiian-Portuguese. In Splintered Paddle, the bad guy is a Caucasian. I had in mind a Robert Mitchum-like character. My short stories have included antagonists from a variety of ethnicities. Other writers of stories set in Hawaii have done the same, for the simple reason that the population is diverse and the composition of the characters reflect that diversity. I personally view that population diversity as a strength of the state and set my stories there for that reason.

However, I admit that I worry how my readers will perceive that diversity, especially on the part of my antagonists. Do I offend people of Chinese ancestry if the bad guy is Chinese? Likewise for Japanese or other ethnicities. Some years ago, I took part in a discussion group in which one of the participants, in all seriousness and with great vehemence, contended that a white author who creates a minority antagonist is motivated by racial prejudice at worst or racial insensitivity at best. I don't believe that. I believe a writer must be faithful to the setting and its people. Nevertheless, every story-character attribute is the result of a conscious choice by the author. Our antagonists, in particular, will have many undesirable traits. When we combine those traits with ethnic identity might we be perpetuating hateful stereotypes?

I don't have an answer. I think it is a cop-out to say we're simply mirroring society and culture. At the same time I abhor the idea of balancing characters, e.g. creating a good fill-in-the-blank-ethnic character for every bad fill-in-the-blank-ethnic character. What do think? How do you authors handle it? How do you readers feel about it?

Visit my blog Hawaiian-eye
My web page

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

My guess is that every author has been asked that question many times. And I would suspect that most of them have more ideas than they'll ever have time to develop into a story or book.

Sometimes something that happens in life will trigger an idea for a story. That has happened to me more than once. I used a murder that actually happened in our area for three different books. The female owner of a mountain lodge was murdered in one of the cabins while asleep in bed with her Indian employee. (The handsome employee lived though he was shot too.) Her husband was in the southern part of the state tending to his automobile sales business giving him an airtight alibi. As the years passed, the man hired to do the murder decided to blackmail the husband and got killed for his trouble. That's when the husband was found out and arrested for the murder of his wife.

I used the murder of the owner of an inn, rather than a lodge, for my firs Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery, Deadly Trail. The story wasn't much like what actually happened, the murder victim was the male owner of the Inn, not female, and he wasn't killed in bed, but that real murder is what triggered the idea.

For another mystery in the Crabtree series, Intervention, I used the lodge in the real murder as the setting for a completely different story.

And once again, in a later Crabtree tale, Kindred Spirits, I lifted some aspects of that first real murder.

I like to save newspaper articles of interesting crimes and murders too. The story I write won't be exactly like the real happening, but often will give me a jumping off point for a plot of my own.

We recently had two deaths in our community that are far too coincidental. Female friends were found dead in their homes within hours of each other. No autopsies were done. One lady had no family at all and the other's family didn't acknowledge her until after her death. Of course I will work that into one of my mysteries.

And my latest book, Lingering Spirit, a romance with a touch of the supernatural, was inspired by a tragedy in my own family when my son-in-law was killed in the line of duty. I must add that it was only the inspiration, what happened after that is fiction.

You can learn more about any of these books on my website

What about you? Where do your ideas come from?


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Heat by Morgan Mandel

Illinois has been in the midst of a long heatwave, going on for weeks, with no relief in sight.
Still, my weekend was progressing pretty nicely. Saturday evening, after the sun went down, I and the DH went to another outdoor concert, this one at Terry Moran Day in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, where we enjoyed a performance by a very energetic and talented group called Friction.

It was still kind of hot out, but it's been worse. Still, being spoiled, I was looking forward to when I could get home afterwards and step into our nicely air conditioned home. Well, I did step into the kitchen, but when I did, I felt as if I were still outside. It appeared the fan attached to the furnace was blowing air from the basement into the rest of the house, but the compressor for the air conditioner was not turning on. The DH tried flipping the circuit breaker, adjusting the thermostat to a very low level, but still the air conditioner would not turn on. At 11pm it was too late to do anything about the situation, so we settled for fans downstairs and the window air conditioner in the bedroom.

Sunday morning, I got nervous about our dog, Rascal, being stuck in a hot room while we were gone. Also, how much would the repair cost? Would we need a new air conditioning compressor?

I waited nervously as the DH put a call through to a friend of ours who happens to work in the heating and air conditioning business. We were happy to hear he'd come over the same afternoon to check out the problem. It turned out to be an easy fix. Something called a capacitator broke and he got the part for us within an hour. (It pays to have connections.)

Now, this is real life I'm talking about, so an easy fix is a good thing. In books, easy solutions are boring.As writers, we must make our characters suffer. So, if I were including such an event in a book, I'd have to make the part something rare or out of stock, or maybe make it impossible to get a technician out becaue of high demand during the heat wave. I could even let one or more characters get sick or die from the heat.  Or, if it were a bad guy, the heat would get to him or her, making it the catalyst for a fight or murder.

What about you? Have you ever included heat as a factor in one of your novels? Or, maybe you'd like to share a heat experience. Or, have you read about it in someone else's book?

Morgan Mandel

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Notes From An East-West Journey

by Ben Small

Having just completed my second round-trip cross-country drive from Tucson to points east as far as Florida and as far north as Wisconsin and Michigan this year, I've got some observations and recommendations to share.

1.  When passing through El Paso, keep your head down. The Mexican drug wars last week caused an AK-47 round fired from Ciudad, Juarez to smack El Paso's City Hall building. Granted, much of Interstate 10's border route passes through a concrete bunker, but not all of the highway is under a bullet's flight-path. I guarantee that as you pass through these areas, you will be looking toward Mexico with nervous eyes.  We survived the passage.

2. If you're brave enough to stop in El Paso and are interested in genuine Mexican furniture, bronzes, leather goods and pottery at bargain-basement prices, by all means stop at El Paso Saddle Blankets, on the south side of I-10, Exit 25. My wife and I just about lost our minds in that store. The prices, the quality, the selection...  Sure we dodged and weaved a bit, stood low and behind stacks or poles as much as possible... the border was close. How thick were the walls? Still, we'll be back. Next time, we'll drive a rental truck and wear Kevlar.

3. The Billy The Kid Trail through lower New Mexico is a spectacular drive. You follow Billy through mountains and forests on a four lane highway most of the way. We stopped at Fort Sumpter to see his grave. Found out my wife may be related to Billy's son. Guess I'll be wearing Kevlar more often...

4. Just off Billy's trail is the White Sands Weapons Test Range, along with Trinity, where the first A-Bomb blew. It's a fun and interesting drive, and nobody in our car radiated green or blue. While you drive, try to find the monitors that must be present somewhere on that test range. What do you wanna bet, you wouldn't get far if you climbed the fence? I've never spotted the monitors, but I know they're present somewhere: The warning signs are very explicit. Check your radio or the internet: Sometimes the range is closed; You don't wanna be there then. 

5. North and East of White Sands is Roswell, a much larger city than I expected and one which has few curio stores featuring alien tourist junk. But we did manage to pick up some blow-up aliens to terrorize our granddaughter. Ain't being a grandparent fun? I call it "Parental Revenge."

6. Further north still is Dodge City, Kansas. If you're into Old West stuff as much as I am, Dodge City is only second to Tombstone on the fun-meter.

7. The route from Kansas to Wisconsin is Tornado Alley. Be sure to bring kites.

8. Sinuses have no purpose other than to wreak havoc on your ears, eyes, nasal passages and forehead. Eric Holder should get off his fanny and ban them.

9. Do not drive through Louisiana without stopping at a Landry's. For that matter, they're in El Paso, San Antonio and several other cities, too. Good Cajun eats.

10. Anyone who spends summers in Florida is nuts. No need for towels. Drying off after a shower serves no point whatsoever.

11. All food in the Tennessee and North Carolina mountain valleys is fried, even their Snickers bars and ice cream.

12. Don't enter the South unless you're Baptist and carrying a Bible.

13. Stop by the side of the road in Tennessee and someone will politely ask if you want directions, followed by an invitation to visit their church, Baptist of course.

14. The presence of red crawfish in a stream means there's gold nearby.

15. The Star Ruby came from Jackson County, North Carolina.

16. The only way to read Stieg Larsson without throwing the book against the wall is by audio book. C'mon, all those meaningless details... By the time you wrestle the CD from your player and roll down your window to throw, Stieg's moved on to the good stuff. Book in hand, I'd have been tossing the first time Larsson read off Blomkvst's grocery list.

17. Kentucky and KY Jelly are not related, except maybe in the hills.

18. Texas has more cops than all the other states combined, and Texas cops don't have much of a sense of humor. When Texans say Don't Mess With Texas, they mean it.

19. Beware jalapeno turkey jerky in Texas. If you ignore my warning, expect two days of extreme discomfort.

20. The only decent bypass around Chicago is to fly over it. Talk about log-jam... And its roadways -- those of Illinois generally -- may cost you tire rims or shock absorbers. Consider bullet-proof windows.

21. Texas has the best BBQ in the country; Louisiana offers drive-through daiquiris stations.

22. Avoid Branson, MO and Pigeon Forge, TN unless you want to spend hours in traffic and watch Scooters pass you by. Andy Williams and Dolly Parton aren't worth such hassles. But you might see Goober in the Holiday Inn Express.

23. I may never drive again; Stieg Larsson is dead.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Julie Kramer's Silencing Sam

by Jean Henry Mead

It's not just because I'm a journalist that I liked this book.The deadpan humor, sassy characters and authentic behind-the-scenes-broadcast relationships make it difficult to set aside.

Award-winning network producer Julie Kramer's third novel, Silencing Sam, is an intriguing tale of a TV reporter who becomes a suspect while investigating a sensational murder.

When Sam Pierce, a newspaper gossip columnist, is shot and killed at his Minneapolis home, there are plenty of logical suspects, all of whom he has embarrassed in print. But police focus on Riley Spartz, the TV reporter who threw a drink in Sam’s face shortly before his death.

Another broadcast journalist arrives at Channel 3 from Texas. Clay Burrel, a cocky cowboy reporter, is a proverbial thorn in Riley’s side from the moment he appears. When Riley is sent to investigate destroyed wind turbines in farm country on the Minnesota-Iowa border, yet another murderous mystery unfolds. Riley is the widowed reporter-protagonist of all three Kramer mystery-suspense novels, including Stalking Susan and Missing Mark. Her previous novels follow cold cases Riley's investigating with information provided by Nick Garnett, a police detective she falls in love with.

Julie writes about her home territory, where she grew up on a farm along the Iowa border. “It was a hard knock life. And it taught me to work hard. And whatever job I've ever had, bosses and coworkers have marveled at my work ethic. I also grew up reading a lot of fiction, probably to escape the real world. Some of my best childhood memories involved waiting for the bookmobile to bring a new Phyllis A. Whitney book.”

When asked why her protagonist wasn't a producer, she explained that, “In television, a reporter works on camera; a producer works behind the scenes. But both are journalists, and both do their share of writing. As a career television news producer, I feel some guilt that I made my heroine, Riley Spartz, a reporter instead of a producer, but I decided that the role of a reporter gave my character more variety for plot and character development. And that now was not the time to give producers their due, no matter how deserved."

Kramer's first novel, Stalking Susan was nominated for an Anthony Award. It also won a Minnesota Book Award, the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice for Best First Mystery, and was a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award. “It's your basic serial killer story using the Bible and the calender. But many critics feel the strength of the story comes from the insider newsroom information I weave into the plot. That's something I felt I could do better than anyone else. If I had to build a fantasy world of wizards, I think I'd be stumped.”

Her day job includes assignments that involve “screening and booking guests for shows, or supervising live shots or feeds in the field, or conducting interviews for taped producing includes a wide range of skills.” Prior to working as a network freelancer, Julie was a national award-winning investigative producer at WCCO-TV in Minneapolis. She left the station when her children were young because she didn't want to work full time.

“About six months later, NBC called with a freelance assignment. It was September 11th and the network had gotten a tip that something had happened at a flight school in Minnesota. All the airports were closed and they had no way to get a team on the ground. It ended up being a good long term arrangement for both of us. Part time work, but still good stories.

"Right now freelance work is slow because the media is in a meltdown as readers and viewers change how they get their news. Money is short, but I tell myself, this gives me time to concentrate on the world of publishing."

Watch her book trailer at: Silencing Sam.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mysteries for Your Beach Reads by Christine Duncan

I am nowhere near any beach that I could loll around. Nor am I expecting to be. But I am still reading in my sparse time off and I thought I'd share some of that with you.

The first book I want to share with you is from Jenny Bentley's Do-It-Yourself Mystery series. Number three in the line-up is named Plaster and Poison and it has just come out. I'm a big fan of the series as I have spent more time than I want to think about doing home repairs and I like the series heroine, Avery Baker.

In this book, Avery and her live-in love decide to help out their friend by renovating an old carriage house for her. Avery has her doubts as she has never done anything more than cosmetic repairs before but the renovation seems to be going along fine and on schedule until she finds a body in the house. Which of course, is when all the fun begins.

Bentley writes cozy so you don't have to worry about graphic violence or language. I definitely recommend this book.

Another book I just read this summer is JD Robb's Fantasy in Death JD Robb is, of course, noted romance author, Nora Roberts and I've found some mystery fanatics who are down on this series, but frankly I love it. It is rare that I've been able to guess the ending unless of course, the author made it plain and the character of Eve with her jaundiced view of the world is interesting. I have more than once wanted to say some of the things that come out of that character's mouth, but my mama raised me better, (or I'm chicken--take your pick.) But a word of warning to those who dislike graphic language. This book may not be for you.

Anyway, it's a fun series. This book deals with the death of a computer gaming manufacturer and although I guessed this particular ending well in advance, I didn't put the book down because I was still enjoying it so much.

So what are you reading this summer? Come on, share!

Christine Duncan is the author of the Kaye Berreano mystery series. Book two of the series, Safe House is now available.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Review: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing a Novel

It has happened to all of us. You’ve read hundreds of mysteries and finally you decide you could do as well as any of us authors. You’re ready to try your hand at creating a bestseller, but you don’t know where to start. The answer may be to pick up a copy of the newly-published second edition of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing a Novel by Tom Monteleone.

I must tell you that this article qualifies as Blatant Pal Promotions. I met Tom Monteleone at a writer's conference and we became pretty good buds. Still, I think I can say objectively that this book is perfect for the first time novelist because it covers all the basic elements of the novel, plus the various tactics and processes to make it happen. And when it comes to writing what sells, Monteleone knows what he’s talking about. He’s published more than 100 short stories and 25 novels, including The Blood of the Lamb which was both a bestseller and a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

“Regardless of how many novels writers produce, the real barometer is whether people like reading them,” Monteleone says. “As far as that goes, I’ve had my share of rave reviews and dedicated fans over the years so, yeah, I’d say I’ve been doing the job well enough to qualify to write an Idiot’s Guide.”

Clearly one of the acquisition editors for the Complete Idiot’s Guide series agreed, because he asked Monteleone’s agent to put him on the case. And the first edition was a hit, remaining one of the ten most popular Idiot’s Guides for the last five years. Despite that success, Monteleone felt the need to freshen the book for a second edition.

“I had to go through the entire book and do a lot of updating—economically and culturally, and even technologically,” he says. “That part of the job makes you realize how fast things can change. I added a section to examine the new arena of e-publishing. And I included more interviews with some of today’s best-selling writers - Dean Koontz, Lee Child, Heather Graham, and a few others.”

The book also includes tons of advice on agents and editors, illustrated by clever stories and anecdotes with an informal approach that seems perfect for beginners.

“I wrote the book in a very informal, conversational style so it would be accessible and easy to read,” Monteleone says. “I wanted it to sound like the reader was sitting with me on the steps of the front porch just talking writing. And I get letters and email every week from people who’ve bought the book—from high school kids to doctors and lawyers to retirees - who claim to have gotten tons of great advice, info, and encouragement from my Guide.”

But Monteleone is quick to add that this book’s value is not restricted to rank beginners.

“I honestly feel that writers who have never written anything longer than a vignette to those who’ve pounded out several novel-length manuscripts are all going to get something out of my book, because I cover a lot more than just the essential mechanics. Lots of people who want to write have little understanding of how the publishing industry works, or things like time-management, subsidiary rights, trade shows and literary agents.”

This book is filled with the wisdom of those who have been there and done that, like Thriller Master David Morrell who said he believed he could teach you how to write clean, grammatical, stylish sentences, but he could never teach you WHAT to write well—that has to come from that dark well of imagination and need.

However, Monteleone says that the single most important thing anyone should derive from his book is that writing a novel has to be fun.

“The need to write may come from any number of magical psychological sources,” he says, “fired by engines of fear or love or even a simple sense of wonder about the world. But I honestly believe you can’t really be a successful writer if you do it out of obligation. If you approach it like that, it becomes a job, rather than a joy. And your lack of enjoyment will show up in your prose.”

While interviewing Monteleone about The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing a Novel I couldn’t resist asking (with tongue in cheek) if his guide to writing a novel was actually written for the complete idiot. He replied that in fact the opposite was true.

“Even though I’ve written my book in a most easy-going style, I think it’s for people who have intelligence, wit, and imagination. Even the clumsiest of novels were written by people with an earnest belief in their abilities, a determination that remained undaunted, and one more thing: a mind fueled by curiosity and the need to create the same in others.

Nothing idiotic about that.”

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Any Editing/Vetting Opportunities in the Kindle Error? Era?

With ebook publishing opening up whole new avenues and revenues for Indie author/publishers like myself (2000 books sold in past 2 months), it SHOULD open up whole new avenues and revenues for Indie Book Editors! Why not? It has spawned a whole new business of Cover Art graphic experts, and experts at manuevering the digital platform requirements and html conversion work, so why not more editors?

I recieved (i before e except after c sometimes?) a request from a nice person other day asking me of all people "How does one succeed as an editor in the world of book publishing?" when in fact, I am possibly perhaps maybe the worst person to ask this of, but since "Nice Person" asked, I did not want to simply say, "I'm like the worst person to ask".  Instead I wrote the following, which took some doing, which makes me a nice fellow too (insert a Lewis Black wink here).

Who makes more errors in a manuscript than I? Further for Farther, lay for lie, YOU'RE for YOUR, suit for suite and suite for sweet even. At any rate, I have had some experience with teachiing, speechifying, editing, proofing, rewriting, rethinking, restructuring manuscripts (40 some odd years) so here is what I had to say in response to Nice Person's inquiry:

First, I thought sure, dear, you were going to talk about some errors you found in Children of Salem--whew! Dodged that bullet. There is hardly a work of fiction or nonfiction that could not use yet another vetting as errors are like gremlins....they exist, they are real, they are everywhere!!! Boo! No matter how many times I editr...errr edit my own work, and send it to others to edit, something slips through....and quite often it is an error while fixing an error.

Now about making a living as an editor, especially freelancing it....this is a horribly tough row to hoe. There are some fine, wonderful editors available that I have found willy-nilly online just by happenstance and trial and error. But my first editor was a great friend who was Chief Overall Editor on my high school newspaper at Wells High, Chicago--and I still use lessons learned from Margaret Givhan such as work in active voice as much as humanly possible. So there is that. You may have people close to you who can do more than simply say of your book, "That's nice."

 I also have been so put upon over the years since '79 by New York City publishing copyeditors that I had to soak up some truths about writing and rewriting.  I have also become an editor myself and have proofed and ghost written my share of books via my Knife Services found at my website.

However, for the past year that business has absolutely dried up for me, despite the praise I get from clients. It is a gift that goes unrewarded and extremely hard to convert into funds. Most editors purely love the work, but unless attached to a magazine, a publishing house, working with a college PR department, or a PR division of a company or other group for steady work, there simply is nothing steady about freelance work. In short, one can starve worse than the writer starves while building a clientele.

Building a clientele can take years and look at me--no gaurantee of work the next day, week, month. I liken it to being a novelist or freelance writer. Complete uncertainty as to where the next job will come from. So I do not paint a pretty picture here.

With the onslaught of "Indie Author/Publishers" coming into being due to Smashwords, Kindle, and many other avenues open to writers today, this picture I paint above ought to change for editors hungry for work; in fact, the Kindle 'revolution' ought to open up whole new doors for editors as it has for a plethora of people now charging to do cover art and/or to place work up on digital platforms such as Kindle ( for the uninitiated.

Editors ought to be in extremly high wingnut demand (one reason they are often not in demand is the hubris of writers who think they don't need an editor! Fools that they be!). If I were seriously going to pursue an editing career as a young person today, I would go out into this Brave New M-M-Marketplace Online, and this means find where authors hang out online at such places like  and of course , the Kindle Boards at Amazon, various other Yahoo groups. I would Boogle...ah Goofle...ah Google for more places and introduce myself as the person who can make a Kindle title perfect in diction and detail before the author's GAFFs are speread to the forewinds of internet publishing. I would Play Up the fact that it is a well known that kindle readers are immediately turned off and will not return to an author whose work is not perfectly polished, and that a great editor is as important as great artwork, great title, great expert advice on guns, and a great resource librarian. That vetting and editing the book is essential.

I likely scare people off with my style of advertising for editing work with my "complete book autopsy" talk, and talk of slabs and dissecting the work. I mean who wants to go under the knife and do you have the guts, etc. By the same token, an editor needs a logo and a motto and advertising savvy as any other business on the web. Turn your editing business into a metaphor for instance of sewing, knit-one, pearl-two..."We keep you in stitches" or "We do great seems, ah seams, ah scenes!"

In any event, it is difficult to get people to part with money for any service but particularly editing. I think many people see it as the last item to spend money on...kind of like having to pay for air to put in your tires. Sorry but that is the sad truth aka reality of it...a reality that people who love editing deal with every day.

Now as to pricing: it is all over the map. The high end editors who worked at one time for NYC publishers often are out of sight at six or more dollars per page, or they will bill by the hour and you can 'take it or lump it' as they say. The average bill I see is four an hour, but I have known at least one NYC based editor charging eight dollars a page! No one, in my opinion, rates that but some people buy their coffee at Starbucks too, thinking the higher the price, the better the quality, and I don't get that. Certainly not true with price of books on Kindle! All my titles are 2.99 save for 3 books I don't control.

The average at low end is 3 bucks per page and I have charged in the past as as much as 5 and as little as 2.50 per page depending on difficulty of the work. Some jobs mean a near ghost writing effort, some develop into ghost writing! while others are a breeze. I never charged by the hour, because it sets up all kinds of questions in the client's mind as to how you do your bookkeeping, can I really trust you, etc., whereas in charging by the page everything is out in the open.

I routinely work with first chapter or first 30 pages before committing to the entire novel or book--like the one entirely from the point of view of a Bonsai tree (client has passed away, so I figure it is OK to speak of it here and will not be attacked by a lawsuit). This way either party can back out if unhappy with the circumstances--as in: you learn too late that you're dealing with someone on a certain medication that makes her think herself an angel or worse!

I hope this has been of some help, and that it has provided you with some guidance, and wish I could be more upbeat about it. Still perhaps the new avenue for writers--ebook publising--will open up new avenues for editors as well it SHOULD!  Thanks -- and happy writing, editing, vetting all...

Rob Walker
Children of Salem, Killer Instinct, Cutting Edge

"Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first person she
meets and then teams up with three strangers to kill again." Rick Polito's
single-sentence summation for the Wizard of Oz.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Naming Characters by Mark Troy

Last week, Earl wrote about naming one of his characters. It's a great topic because where we get our characters' names is a question often asked by readers and other writers alike. I decided to riff on Earl's theme for this post.

Character names are important because, unlike our first meeting with a real person, the name is what we base our first impressions on. The author will usually give us a name before a description and by the time we get to the description, we have probably formed some image of how the character looks. In my experience, that image will stick with me throughout the story, even when the author's description is at variance with it.

 More often than not, a name says something about a character's personality, attitude, and outlook on life. Spade, Hammer, Archer, Gunn, and Magnum are men to be reckoned with. With women, it's usually the first name that indicates toughness--Kate, Maggie, Gina, Diana, or Victoria, for examples.

Names can also give us a character's ethnic or family history.  Bridgette Logan, Lydia Chin, and Precious Ramotswe are characters whose heritages are evident in their names. Victoria Iphigenia Warshawski's name tells us her father's ethnicity and working-class background, her mother's operatic background, and something of her personality--victorious and strong-born (the meaning of Iphigenia).

Names can resonate with other historical or fictional persons. It's no accident that two giants of detective fiction, Marlowe and Spenser, have the same names as two giants of English literature. One of the most complex detectives in modern literature, Hieronymous (Harry) Bosch gets his name from a painter whose work is full of monsters, chimeras, nightmares, and a didactic view of morality. Bosch deals with such monsters and nightmares, internal and external, in every story.

The main character in my current series is a former military policewoman turned private eye. I wanted a name that would reflect her military background, her strength of character and some backstory. I decided on Rome, the iconic image of military strength, for her last name. That gave me a backstory. Her father was a military man named Virgil Rome. With a name like that he has to be an amateur student of the Aeneid. I guess you could say he and I have that in common (in spite of the fact that Troy is an Irish name). But I digress. As a student of the Aeneid, Virgil wanted to name his daughter Camilla, after the Queen of the Volscians, the best developed of all the mortal women in the epic. Even though she meets a tragic end, Camilla was clearly a favorite of the poet.

The Aeneid's Camilla is an archetype, the wounded Amazon, a strong, yet vulnerable woman. Statues of wounded amazons graced the temple of Diana five centuries before Virgil wrote his epic. In one particular battle in the Aeneid, Camilla defeats a warrior in combat and then gloats, "You thought you were tough, but you were beaten by a woman." How often have we seen that scene and those sentiments repeated in modern thrillers? After two millennia, the archetype is alive and well.

But, much as my character is based on the wounded Amazon archetype, the name Camilla just doesn't evoke the image of strength. So I went in a different literary direction for her first name. There was a fictional PI named Tony Rome created by Marvin Albert. Two of the novels were made into movies starring Frank Sinatra. Sinatra, at that time, was married to Ava Gardner. Ava Gardner is something of a modern archetype, herself--the face of an angel, the body of a goddess, appetites for fast cars, strong drink and messy relationships. I combined the modern with the classical and named my character Ava Camilla Rome.

So where do your characters' names come from? What do they say about your characters?

Mark Troy

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A SurpriseTribute

Recently we spent several days in Las Vegas at the PSWA conference. I've been the program chair for the conference for about five years now, but a member of PSWA much longer. The majority of the members are involved with or have been with law enforcement of some kind though membership is open to other branches of public safety (we have one fireman as a member) as well as anyone who writes non-fiction for fiction about the public safety fields. This of course, includes mystery.

After one of the lunches, my husband and I were called up to accept a plaque. This plaque was in honor of our son-in-law who had been killed in the line of duty. It was beautiful and included a rubbing of his name from the Police Memorial Wall in Las Vegas.

It's been about twenty years since Mike died. He inspired many of my Rocky Bluff P.D. mysteries. He loved to visit me and tell me about his adventures as a policeman. He was in the local P.D. for fifteen years, before he transferred to the Sheriff's Office in another county, becoming a deputy.

Needless to say, when hubby and I were presented with this plaque we both became teary-eyed. What a wonderful gesture for this group to do for us.


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Mistakes Aspiring Writers Make

by Jean Henry Mead

It’s often difficult for novices to break the writing habits they've learned in school. Perfect grammar, especially when writing dialogue, is one of the worst mistakes a writer can make. I was once a member of an online critique group comprised mainly of unpublished writers. I’ll never forget a critique that said, “You need to clean up your characters’ grammar.” The characters were uneducated farmers.

Author William Noble said, “The grammar rules we learned in eighth grade should never be followed absolutely. At best they are one choice among several, and at worst, they will dampen our creative instincts.”

The use of clichés is another fledgling blunder. The rule of thumb is: if it sounds familiar, don’t use it. If you can’t come up with something original and your muse is tugging you on, type in a row of Xs and write it later during the second draft. But if you must use a cliché, add the word proverbial as in "as profitable as the proverbial golden goose."

Of course there are rules that must be followed, such as adding commas for clarity and periods at the end of sentences. Some writers have felt that innovative sentence structure signals creativity, but the practice is only acceptable now in poetry. In Ulysses, for example, James Joyce’s last chapter begins with:

Yes, because he never did a thing like that before as ask to get his breakfast in bed with a couple of eggs since the City Arms hotel when he used to be pretending to be laid up with a sick voice doing his highness to make himself interesting to that old faggot Mrs. Riordan that he thought he had a great leg of and she never left us a farthing all for the masses for herself and her soul greatest miser ever. . .

Joyce’s stream of conscience continues for forty pages without a single period. I wonder how many people actually read it to the end. Creative and innovative? In my opinion, anything that slows the reader for even a few words may cause him to abandon the book.

On the opposite end of the sentence spectrum, Hemingway taught novices to write declarative sentences: “The day had been hot.” “The rifle was long and cold and strange.” “She wore black shoes, a red cape and a white tunic. . .” However, short, choppy sentences must be interspersed with longer ones to make them read well. A good practice for beginning writers is to read one’s work aloud to avoid clumsy phrasing. If words don’t flow well together and your reader stumbles over them, you’ve lost her.

Reading the classics doesn't prepare anyone to write for today’s market. I’ve judged writing contest entries that contain the most formal language I’ve seen since reading War and Peace. Some fledglings avoid contractions entirely, even when writing dialogue. The result is stilted language.

Studying the bestsellers for style, content, description and characterization helps the beginner gain a handhold in the current market. Some writing teachers advise copying your favorite author’s work, as artists have done with the masters—as long as it’s only practice and doesn't result in plagiarism.

I learned to write fiction by studying the work of Dean Koontz. Whose writing have you studied and did it teach you the language of fiction?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Writing Books I Recommend

by Jean Henry Mead

There are a number of good books on writing available, many of value to even the most experienced writers. During the past year I’ve accumulated several that I’d like to share:

~Richard Curtis’s How to be Your Own Literary Agent has been around since 1983, and was revised and expanded in 2003. Curtis doesn’t advise fledglings to become their own agents, despite the book’s title, but offers advice for those brave enough to try. A top notch agent with forty plus year's experience, he outlines in detail what his job entails. He also lists the reasons why publishers can no longer afford over the transom submissions.

How to negotiate your own contract alone is worth the price of the book as well as termination and revision rights, royalty statements and the bookkeeping games that publishers play. He also talks about warranties, permissions, option causes, ancillary rights, cyberbooks and hyper authors, ebooks, movie and TV deals and what writers need to know to launch their careers in today’s publishing environment, among other insider tips.

~Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel: How to Knock ‘em Dead with Style by Hallie Ephron is another book writers should read. Novelist and broadcast journalist Hank Phillippi Ryan swears that Ephron’s book enabled her to write her award winning novels. Ephron talks about planning a novel, writing a dramatic opening, creating a sense of place, fixing plots and characters, and targeting agents.

Ephron also discusses villains, choosing a title for your book, introducing your protagonist, planting clues or red herrings, laying in backstory, minor characters, point of view, dialogue and everything in between. I highly recommend this book written by a best selling novelist.

~How to Writer Killer Fiction by Carolyn Wheat is another book writers should have on their shelves. I especially enjoyed her chapter on writing killer fiction. Her introduction quotes the late John Gardner, who wrote, “Fiction is like a dream.” She goes on to say that “Fiction can send us on a roller coaster ride of sensation, or it can produce images as distorted as any to be seen in the funhouse mirror in the carnival.” And “If fiction is like a dream, then suspense is a nightmare. The hero, and through the hero the reader, is plunged into chaos, driven from one extreme to the other, hounded and disbelieved and threatened with ultimate danger.”

Wheat writes of many aspects of her “Funhouse of Mystery,” including organizing your novel, the two-layered ending, spy fiction offshoots, the hero’s journey, how to finish your book before it finishes you, endings that satisfy, the storyboard, comic relief and much more.

Another how-to book I’ve been hearing about for some time but only acquired recently is Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, an abstract and somewhat shocking account of her journey as a writer. A fiction writing teacher, she writes of her experiences growing up, in her classroom, as well as writing her own novels. In the book she says, “Now, who knows if any of this is usable material? There’s no way to tell until you’ve got it all down, and then there might just be one sentence or one character or one theme that you end up using. But you get it all down. You just write.” Word by word. Bird by bird. The writing advice and lessons she offers her students as well as her readers is invaluable.

I’ve saved some of the best for last: Chris Roerden’s award winning books, Don't Murder Your Mystery and Don’t Sabotage Your Submission. The former New York editor, freelance editor and author lists ten reasons writers cause editors to cringe: Arrogance, as in
~ My book is so good it doesn’t need editing.
~ The only thing it could use is maybe a light proofreading.
~ Everyone will want to buy it.
~ Every publisher will want to publish it.
~ They’re getting a bargain at 150,000 words.
~ To make sure no one steals my ideas, I’ve already registered the copyright.
~ I don’t have to read guidelines, write a synopsis, or play by any of those other Mickey Mouse rules because those are for amateurs.
~ I never read books about writing.
~ What genre is it, you ask? Let the publisher figure that out. They’re in the business. It’s got romance, mystery, history, and biography, and autobiography.
~There isn’t another book like it.
(Excerpted from my recently released book, Mysterious Writers: The Many Facets of Mystery Writing.