Tuesday, November 27, 2012

All in the name of research.

Guns scare me.

I guess my fear started when I was a kid.  One night, my step brother pulled the shot gun out of his truck to go into the single wide and shoot his wife.  Instead, he got a bullet in the gut when the gun stuck behind the seat and he jerked the gun toward him, barrel first. 

Tough to manage shooting yourself with a shotgun, but he did it. And survived to marry wife number two, three, and four. 

Redneck stories from the wilds of rural Idaho.

I kid you not.

So when I started writing a thriller as part of a Masters of Fine Arts class, and my first scene is a kidnapping at gun point, I needed to research. I needed to know more about guns, what they feel like, and even, what it felt like to fire one.

Going to one of my brothers was an option, but the sane one was out of state and well, see above.

So what’s a girl to do?  I found two gun aficionados at the local watering hole, The Alibi. Recently divorced, I would stop once or twice a week and chat with anyone.  One day, I told a guy my dilemma with my stalled story and he said he owned a gun.

I peppered him with questions until he offered to take me for target practice to the desert (Warning sign #1) on the outskirts of town. 

I don’t know if it was the alcohol or the chance at researching for my craft that made me say yes.  It definitely wasn’t common sense.

The next morning, I met the guy and his buddy (warning sign #2) at the apartment complex. As they stacked an arsenal at my feet, adding duffle bags with ammo, calling out about different types of guns, I started rethinking my bright idea.

Finally, we were ready, but the guys sat on the couch and watched out the window.  When I asked when we were leaving, they informed me that a police cruiser was out front, handling a domestic dispute in a nearby apartment.  So they had to wait for the cop to leave to load the truck.  (Warning sign # 3)

By the time we got to the desert, I knew I was the target, not the shooter. 

Fred, the guy I’d met the night before, pulled the truck over, cracked open a beer, and handed me a gun. 

Not what I’d expected.  Fred carefully taught me how to hold a pistol, how to check to see if it was loaded, we practiced with the safety on, then, he pointed to my target, a can on a rock a few feet away. 

I shot so many guns that afternoon, I have no idea what they gave me.  I tried an AK-47, a shot gun, several different pistols, and a rifle.  When I’d gone through their bag of militia, we sat talking on the tail gate of the truck and had another beer. 

While we talked, I told him my stories plot and what I wanted to happen and they walked me through the type of gun that would be used.  He handed the pistol to me, I checked to see if it was loaded, then shoved the gun in my side.

The boys freaked.  Fred jerked the gun away from me and then I got the lecture about never pointing a gun at myself.

I explained I needed to know what it would feel like to my POV character, but they now looked at me like I was the crazy one.

The ride back to the apartment complex was quiet.  And I never saw Fred at the bar again.  But my chapter turned out amazing.

So what have you done in the name of research?


Monday, November 26, 2012

Why Should I Care?

The other day I saw a kid on a skateboard dart in front of a car near our local food store. Though I didn't know him or the driver, I got mad, thinking he should have known better than to jeopardize his life. Also, what about the driver? Imagine what hell the driver would go through if he'd hit the kid.

I often seen people on bikes with child carriers attached to the back, and I wonder why those parents think so much of their own exercise at the expense of what could happen to the child. Again, I don't know these individuals, but they still aggravate me. I can't figure out why children must be buckled up in special car carriers, yet can be so out in the open in the flimsy ones in back of bikes. It doesn't make sense.

Those are actual examples, and there are so many more, where my emotions are affected by people I don't even know.

Why am I mentioning this?

It leads me to one responsibility of authors. Yes, books should be technically correct in grammar and formatting, correct wording, sparse adjectives and adverbs, and all those other items that spell a quality read. However, a book can look correct, but still not engage the reader.

It's the author's duty to make the reader care what happens to the characters, or the reader will feel cheated and bored. Not only must we get into the characters' heads and think the same, but it's also important to share what we feel with the readers.

There are many ways to do this. Some are:

Dialogue, internal or external - What's said or omitted
Mannerisms - Biting a lip, tightening jaws, frown, smile
Another character's observations about the appearance or mannerisms of one of the characters.

These are some techniques. You may know others. If so, please share.

The main thing is to engage the readers. Make them care!

Morgan Mandel
Morgan Mandel is a past president of Chicago-North RWA,
was Library Liaison for Midwest MWA, belongs to Sisters in Crime and EPIC.

Her most recent releases are: Her Handyman, a romantic comedy,
and the thriller, Forever Young: Blessing or Curse.

See all her books at
Excerpts & Buy Links:
Twitter: @MorganMandel

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Small Business Saturday (& Taxes)

by Kaye George

I like the concept that’s being promoted this year. Friday is the day to camp out and burst through the doors of major merchandisers. The people who wrote the SBS ad campaign realize this, they’re not fighting that tradition, but they want you to consider patronizing small businesses the next day. (I didn't realize this concept started in 2010 by American Express. I would have thought some small business organization would have started it.)

Small businesses are good, right? Buy local!

If you’re a writer, you’re a small business, too. If you’re self-published or traditionally, you’re still a small business (unless you’re a big one and everybody in the world knows your name). Next month will be the end of your business year if you run on a calendar year. Some time between January and April, you’ll have to start getting your expenses ready for filing taxes.

There are, surprisingly, a few writers who don’t know the special rules that apply to them. Even seasoned tax consultants sometimes don’t know! So I’m here to tell you! (I recently posted a similar article in the Guppy newsletter, but feel it deserves all the audience it can get among writers.)

There is a well-known Hobby Rule that says you can't take deductions if you don't make a profit in 3 out of the past 5 years. This does NOT apply to writers. I've collected a few articles that shed light on this and I'd like to share them here.

The bottom line is that writers can take deductions for an indeterminate number of years, since even the IRS knows how hard it is to make money as an author. There ARE certain things you should do to prevent coming up short in case of an audit, however.

I'll mention that I'm not an authority. My tax experience is limited--I prepared taxes for H&R Block for a few years and don't have any degrees in accounting--but I do keep alert for parts of the tax code that affect me.

The source files I've collected are too long to include here. One file is 4 pages long, the other is 18 pages long. I'll give you the locations where I got them, though, in case you want to collect them together for yourself.

Here are the highlights.
You can help your case by being professional about your writing: joining writers' organizations, spending time networking, keeping good records of how you spend your time, showing that you're attempting to get into publication by submitting and keeping records of that, taking classes to improve as a writer to demonstrate effort toward publication. You can even make money some years and not other years if you can show the above things to an auditor.

This article (http://www.eclectics.com/articles/taxes.html), called Authors and the Internal Revenue Code by Linda Lewis, goes into great detail and cites lots of IRS Section codes. It also enumerates the classifications for deductions. It's helpful to me to put these on a spreadsheet and keep track of them throughout the year so I can slap them onto my Schedule C when the time comes. OK, I won't tell you how many months I'm behind in this task, but I do have the spreadsheet and a folder full of receipts. There are cases in this article to illustrate right and wrong ways to go about being a writer.

One last link (http://www.artstaxinfo.com/writers.shtml) to an article by CPA Peter Jason Riley, goes over expenses in detail a little differently and has some PDF and Excel worksheets you might find useful.

Please look at the original articles I've given links to before you do your taxes next year if you've been unaware of these details. The life of a writer is hard enough--no need to make it harder by not taking your deductions.

And happy shopping at your local stores!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Mystery We Write Blog Tour


Are blog tours worth all the time and effort it requires to participate? The reviews are mixed, but I’m excited about taking part in my sixth tour, which begins November 26 and runs through December 11. “The Mystery We Write” fall tour is comprised of 16 mystery authors who will be each be giving away at least one of their signed novels at the end of the tour. There will also be a wealth of writing advice, interviews and other interesting posts that make stopping by the various sites worthwhile. My own schedule and the authors who will be appearing at the Mysterious Writers site are listed at: http://jeansblogtour.blogspot.com/ So be sure to stop by and leave a comment to be eligible to win signed mystery novels.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

As You Like It

Sometimes writing a blog entry is like starting a new book. There’s a blank screen in front of you and you have no idea of how you’re going to fill it. Of course, there are ideas – there are always ideas – but they are insubstantial and wispy, and none of them seem sturdy enough to hang a fair number of words on.

Can you tell I’m having trouble here?

Reminds me of my favorite writing quote – “Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank screen until drops of blood appear upon your forehead.”

Whether it’s the start of something new or in the middle of a project, suddenly the words/ideas/inspirations simply dry up. So what do you do in a case like this? To tell the truth, I dunno. There’s no magic pill, unfortunately. (Think of the fortune to be made if someone should invent one!) All I can do is simply put down a word, then another, then another. Sometimes they aren’t even in sentence format, or even related to each other. Just words.

However, I am a believer that it’s like dropping pebbles into a well. Drop enough, and sooner or later you will fill up the well. Keep writing words and sometime an idea will surface. It’s easy to erase the ones that did not work once you find the ones that do.

The secret is, if there is indeed a secret involved, is to never give up. As Nora Roberts is reputed to have said (and I’m paraphrasing here) “Write the book. You can fix garbage; you can’t fix a blank page.” Books aren’t written in an afternoon, and not all days are equal. Books are the result of the author’s tenacity. Keep at it, keep putting down words, and eventually you will have a book, and, once that book is written, you can refine and polish it at leisure.

To prove my point (obligatory commercial here), I point to my two latest releases – BEADED TO DEATH (Carina Press, Oct. 2012) and EXERCISE IS MURDER (FiveStar Gale/Cengage, Dec. 2012), both results of tenacity.

See? I started this with no idea of what I was going to say, but word by word I have a blog post that is probably far too long. Sometimes it just takes time to tap into our subconscious, and that is done word by word.

(In case you’re curious about the title of this post, it comes from a legend about William Shakespeare. He had just created a play but, occupied with other things, had not titled it. When pressed for a title right before opening night, he said dismissively, “Just call it as you like it,” meaning they should put whatever title they wanted on it. So the play has been known all these years.)

          Janis Susan May Patterson is a seventh-generation Texan and a third-generation wordsmith who writes mysteries as Janis Patterson, romances and other things as Janis Susan May, children’s books as Janis Susan Patterson and scholarly works as J.S.M. Patterson.
          Formerly an actress and singer, a talent agent and Supervisor of Accessioning for a bio-genetic DNA testing lab, Janis has also been editor-in-chief of two multi-magazine publishing groups as well as many other things, including an enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist.
          Janis married for the first time when most of her contemporaries were becoming grandmothers. Her husband, also an Egyptophile, even proposed in a moonlit garden near the Pyramids of Giza. Janis and her husband live in Texas with an assortment of rescued furbabies.

We're Headed Into the Holiday Season

Marilyn at a library event with several other authors.

With the holidays come opportunities for book promotion.

Nothing is better than being part of a Christmas craft or boutique event--especially if you're the only author. For the past few years I've been invited by the Porterville Art Association to be part of their annual Christmas Boutique sale--a two day event. I love doing this one. I do make sales, I've also made some new friends. The only drawback is that I also tend to buy the wonderful goodies they've made.

Recently I participated in an Author's Fair in a mall. I didn't know anyone but thought it would be a fun event and it was in a place I've never been before. Despite the fact my table was behind a big post with the a map and location of all the stores, blocking the view of anyone entering the store from that direction, I still managed to sell quite a few books and I handed out lots and lots of cards. One thing I'm noticing is more and more people have Kindles and Nooks.

Some of the authors at this event had great displays and visited with people about their books. But--and this is a big but--one author who was near me brought her books, set them up and trotted off to go shopping. I know that's what she did because she showed me what she bought. Then she left again and didn't show up until it was time to pack up and leave. Some people stopped at her table and looked at her books, but you can't sell anything if you aren't there. Another man near me sat and read his own book the whole time. Some folks did stop and engage him in conversation, but he wasn't really making and effort to sell his books.

My message here is take advantage of whatever event you can to sell your books, but for goodness sake, be a sales person. Look people in the eye, smile, ask them if they like to read mysteries, talk about your books. If you don't, you've wasted your time and might as well have stayed home.

What are you doing for the holidays as far as your book promotion is concerned?

Have you got some other tips for this kind of event?


Monday, November 19, 2012

The Power of Secrets

Give every character a secret,” a well-known writer once told me. She was talking about writing novels for kids, but this proved to be especially good advice when I started writing mysteries. I discovered very quickly that secrets spice up mysteries like passionate scenes enhance erotic romances. Secrets help drive your plot. They provide tension. They make characters lie, misdirect, misinform, and blackmail. Secrets bring out the worst in your characters, and give readers good reason to suspect the wrong character of having murdered your victim.

We humans are curious creatures, and downright nosy at times. What motorist doesn’t rubberneck when passing an accident on the Expressway? Anything out of the ordinary sparks our interest, and secrets concern relationships, deeds, and habits involving the dark side. A character does something immoral, illegal or embarrassing and tells no one. Then someone finds out. When Character A threatens to reveal Character B’s secret, B may decide to kill A to keep him quiet.

In my opinion, the best secrets involve a character’s past. Past histories intrigue us, which is an excellent reason not to give out too much backstory about your characters. Dole out these juicy tidbits as needed. Rev up the reader’s need to find out a character’s secret. What has he done that’s so terrible, he’ll do anything to keep it hidden, even going so far as to murder?

Secrets abound in my romantic suspense, DANGEROUS RELATIONS, which came out recently with Uncial Press. Ardin Wesley has returned to her hometown when her cousin Suziette is murdered. Suziette’s widower, Brett, asks Ardin to help him adopt Suziette’s love child. Though attracted to Brett, Ardin discovers she wants to adopt the little girl herself. She’s suffered from an abusive marriage, and believes adopting the child is her only chance to have a family. But neither can adopt little Lionie until they learn the identity of her natural father. More deaths occur as Ardin and Brett uncover layer after layer of secrets, including Suziette’s list of lovers and more than she ever wanted to know about her ex-husband.

What are some of the secrets your characters have tried to hide? Leave a comment and tell me.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Preppers Are Getting Prepared

I suppose I'm not very tuned in to the current scene. I had no idea there was a Doomsday Preppers show on the National Geographic Channel. In fact, I'd never even heard of "preppers." That is until I read a newspaper article this morning about the National Preppers and Survivalists Expo coming to Nashville next March.

One local prepper quoted in the story said the growing movement believes preparing for the end  of civilization is more rational than ridiculing those who do. According to the writer, what was once viewed largely as a practice by survivalists on the fringe has achieved cohesion and community in the Internet age through best-selling writers, bloggers, risk assessors, conspiracy theorists, and  companies that cater the preppers' needs.

The American Preppers Network has a website that promotes "Freedom Through Teaching Others Self-Reliance." Its Facebook page has the motto "Helping Others Help Themselves." The organizer of next year's Expo in Nashville says the Doomsday Preppers TV show focuses on "the extreme, the worst-case scenario." But he points out that people in New York and New Jersey are still without power from Hurricane Sandy and have to wait in line four to eight hours for gas.

One prepper who is a former deputy sheriff says social unrest from a financial meltdown could be devastating. Another situation that could cause massive disruption is the sabotage of the power grid, which has been warned against with increasing concern.

James Wesley Rawles achieved best-seller status with Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse. He wrote two other novels in the series as well as a non-fiction book on how to survive in an uncertain world. He and various contributors provide tips on how to survive in his survivalblog.com.

Mainstream authors have penned post-apocalyptic books, including Stephen King with The Stand and Cormac McCarthy's The Road.

We're all familiar with the wealth of end-of-the-world predictions that proved false, with one still outstanding for December 21, 2012. But that one has been debunked by numerous scholars. It seems the serious preppers community has something more realistic in mind, however. That's the ever-present possibility of our facing the necessity for survival of natural disasters and devastation brought on by those who wish us ill or blunder us into oblivion (think a Congress that has spent us into bankruptcy).

Maybe I'd better check out this Expo next March, if I'm still around.

Chester Campbell 

Visit me at Mystery Mania


Thursday, November 15, 2012

HOT ROCKS Is Out & More Movie Lines

  First, I have to gloat and crow and preen and shout from the rooftops.  HOT ROCKS is out.  The saga of Beth Bowman's first case hit the newstands last week.  Yeah, I am HAPPY!
If you happen to read it (and why wouldn't you?), I'd love a review (preferably a good one). :-) 
  Now for some more great movie lines.  Am I the only one old enough to remember ON GOLDEN POND?  Katherine Hepburn, Henry Fonda, Jane Fonda.  And yes, I am a Vietnam vet with no love for Jane Fonda, the person.  But I must give credit where it is due.  She could flat out act, maybe not as good as her father, but good enough.  See if you remember any of these lines:

 Norman (Henry Fonda): Would you like the room where I first violated her mother?  (Speaking to his grandson)

Billy Ray (the grandson): So, I heard you turned 80 today.
Norman: Is that what you heard?
Billy Ray: Yeah. Man, that's really old.
Norman: You should meet my father.
Billy Ray: Your father's still alive?
Norman: No, but you should meet him.

Norman: Wanna dance or would you rather just suck face?  (Speaking to Ethel, his wife, Katherine Hepburn)

Ethel (Katherine Hepburn): That son of a bitch happens to be my husband.

Chelsea Thayer Wayne (Jane Fnda as his daughter): It just seems like we've been mad at each other for so long...
Norman: I didn't think we were mad; I just thought we didn't like each other.

Billy Ray: A canoe! Just like the Indians used.
Norman: Actually, the Indians used a different grade of aluminum.

Norman: You like that word, don't you? Bullshit.
Billy Ray: Yeah
Norman: It's a good word

Ethel: Come here, Norman. Hurry up. The loons! The loons! They're welcoming us back.

Norman: You want to know why I came back so fast? I got to the end of our lane. I couldn't remember where the old town road was. I went a little ways in the woods. There was nothing familar. Not one damn tree. Scared me half to death. That's why I came running back here to you. So I could see your pretty face and I could feel safe and that I was still me.
Ethel: You're safe, you old poop and you're definitely still you picking on poor old Charlie. After lunch, after we've gobbled up all those silly strawberries we'll take ourselves to the old town road. We've been there a thousand times. A thousand. And you'll remember it all. Listen to me, mister. You're my knight in shining armour. Don't you forget it. You're gonna get back up on that horse and I'm gonna be right behind you holding on tight and away we're gonna go, go, go.
Norman: I don't like horses. You are a pretty old dame aren't you? What are you doing with a dotty old son of a bitch like me?
Ethel: Well, I haven't the vaguest idea.

  Okay, I'll quit -- for now.  But don't think I'm giving up.  So many great lines in so many great movies.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Is It A Mystery?

Well, I could claim I was laying in the clues, red herrings, false paths and beefing up my villain, but truth be told, time got away from me. I was editing (pays the bills so I can write) and it seems like there’s always something interesting on Cupcake Wars, so there you go!

A while back I read a book and I don’t know if it’s a mystery or chick lit – maybe it’s a new genre – chick mystery? There is a mystery involved, although somewhat of a mystery of relationships and the acts they can precipitate, the emotions they can engage and the guilt that trickles down through the years. But it keeps me coming back to find out what happens, and that’s the goal of any writer for her or his reader. It is the mystery, the characters or the flow of the story that keeps me turning the pages?

What other cross-genres do we like to read in mystery – historical mystery, science, legal and sci/fi mysteries. What about paranormal mystery? And one of my favorites – romantic mystery, often known as romantic suspense!

What else can we come up with? What favorite authors?

Libby McKinmer
Romance with an Edge
Also at Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What happens when an idea sparks? Let It Sew.

I told you we'd have a guest.  Hey, help me pick up the magazines and books off the coffee table.  Are the dogs outside?  What about the cat? Who ate the cookies I sat out a few minutes ago...

Okay, now, I think we're ready... my friend, Elizabeth Lynn Casey, aka, Laura Bradford, is here to talk about her latest release in the successful Southern Sewing Circle Mystery series, LET IT SEW.  BTW, I love this cover! But I'll stop fussing and let Elizabeth talk.


Ask a dozen writers what sparks a story and you’ll probably get a dozen answers with a handful of similarities—a news article, a radio snippet (a big one for me), and/or a dream. And most of the time, that’s probably the case. Sometimes though, at least for me, the initial jumping off point comes from a flash of something that, by itself, seems rather meaningless.

Take for example my latest book, LET IT SEW—the 7th book in my Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries. I knew it was going to be a holiday book and that it was to be released in November of 2012, but beyond that, I didn’t really have a plan. Then came the flash, or, rather flashes.

Flash One: A woman with Alzheimer’s and whether their long term memory could remain intact, at least in spurts (the answer, according to my personal neurologist, was yes—hurrah!).

Flash Two: A different woman hell-bent on claiming her spot in a man’s life—his children be damned.

Most non-writers would probably see those flashes as odd thoughts and move on. But for a writer? Game on!

Once I’d confirmed the memory possibilities for my Alzheimer’s patient in the first flash, I began to build outward—using her skill with a sketch pad to slowly unlock a murder. Sketch by sketch this woman releases a chilling secret she’s hidden for nearly five years, a secret she thought she’d been keeping to protect one person only to find out her silence had actually enabled the real perpetrator to pull of the perfect crime.

But will anyone listen? After all, she has Alzheimer’s, doesn’t she?

The holiday aspect of my book grabbed hold of the second flash and spiraled that woman’s evil intent in multiple directions, making her the perfect female Grinch to wreak havoc among the series’ staple characters.

The next thing I knew, my fingers were off and running on my keyboard as my first flash took center stage and the second flash morphed into two different—yet interwoven—subplots.


I love it when that happens, don’t you?


Elizabeth Lynn Casey is the author of the Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries with Berkley Prime Crime. LET IT SEW, the 7th book in the series, is now available. Additionally, she is also the author of the new Amish Mysteries (also with Berkley) under her regular name, Laura Bradford. HEARSE AND BUGGY, the 1st book in that series, released in June. When she’s not writing mysteries, Laura occasionally dabbles in romances with her most recent release in that genre, STORYBOOK DAD. To learn more, visit: www.elizabethlynncasey.com or www.laurabradford.com.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Next Big Thing for Me is Blessing or Curse

I received three tag requests to participate in The Next Big Thing -- one from Jenny Milchman, who is posting today at http//www.kathleenkaskawrites.blogspot.com, another from Shonell Bacon at http://shonellbacon.com, who posted on Oct. 22, and yet another from Susan Furlong-Bolliger, at http://booksgoneviral.blogspot.com, who will do her post on Nov. 19, so I had to give in, sit down and do one of my own. 

My duties today are to answer ten burning questions, provide a link to the person(s) who tagged me, and also tag off to five other bloggers. So far, I've only found two, so I may need to tag three more victims later. The main thing is to keep The Next Big Thing going!

And the questions and answers are: 

What is your working title of your book?
Blessing or Curse 

Where did the idea come from for the book?
Forever Young: Blessing or Curse
When I began writing Forever Young: Blessing or Curse, my object was to lay the groundwork about the young pill which could revert a taker from that person’s present age to a previous one. So many characters begged for attention, I realized I couldn’t cover them all in one book. I had to yank some of them out of the manuscript and plop them into a separate book. Hence, Blessing or Curse, began.

The first novel, Forever Young: Blessing or Curse,  concentrates on the heroine, as well as the villains.
The second, Blessing or Curse, today's subject of The Next Big Thing, focuses on test market participants, as well as a bit about the bad guys.
The third, Always Young, concludes the trilogy by taking readers back to the original main character  and someone she holds dear. 

What genre does your book fall under?
Good question. This one has mixed parentage. Paranormal, since no one has invented a pill yet to take anyone back in age and hold that person there. 
It's also a Romance, because most of the stories revolve around love and relationships. 
And a Thriller, because the pill has a wide reaching affect for good or bad, and also because there are nefarious villains around.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie edition?

Ezekiel – Will Smith
Sherri - Nicole Kidman
Mike Walinski – Kevin James
Not sure yet about the rest of the cast

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Blessing or Curse focuses on five characters from differing walks of life, nationalities, and circumstances, yet with one thing in common: they are all test market subjects of the experimental pill, Forever Young, designed to revert the user's age back to an earlier choice.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Definitely self-published, but with the help of my editor, Helen Ginger, plus my book designer,  Stephen Walker.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of this manuscript?
This has been going on for too long.(g) Actually, I started this sequel at least three or four years ago, but since much of it was part of the first book, I had to finish that one first. I’ve just about wrapped this second one up and hope to have it ready sometime in December, 2012, fingers crossed.

What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?
Forever Young: Blessing or Curse, the first book in my trilogy.
Also, the original Forever Young book and movie.
More movies: 17 Again, Young Again. I know there's more, but I can't remember them all.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Getting old was a big inspiration, thinking how nice it would be to be young again and stay at a younger age.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I made a concerted effort to include different sorts of characters, with a range of nationalities and physical characteristics, to appeal to a wide audience. 

Here's something about their stories:

Desperation forces Consuela to order the Forever Young pill to cure her debilitated husband, Diego, who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease; but will the cure become a curse?

Ezekiel, an African-American male with  E.D. difficulties, sends in for the young pill to prevent his lady love, Luana, from discovering he can’t get it up. Will the pill draw her closer or drive her away?

Strawberry blonde model, Sherri’s popularity is fading with her looks. The pill can bring her fame and fortune, but what about love?

Overweight Chicago Police Officer Walinski must pass a new physical or lose his job, along with his canine partner. Will the young pill provide security, when danger lurks in the line of duty?

Downtrodden going-on-sixty housewife, Dee Dee Marshall, suspects her husband of infidelity, and will do anything to keep him, even take an experimental pill. What she really needs is self-confidence.

Now you know something about The Next Big Thing of Morgan Mandel, which I hope you'll be reading soon!!!

I'm tagging Debra St. John, who will be posting about her Next Big Thing at my blog, http://morganmandel.blogspot.com on Nov.19.

And Helen Ginger, is posting today at http://straightfromhel.blogspot.com.

Morgan Mandel

Twitter at @MorganMandel
Amazon Central Page:

Excerpt & Buy Links Blog:

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Visual Aids to Writing

By Kaye  George

I know many people use charts and other visual aids for plotting, but this one is new to me. It’s not a new concept by any means, but my TBR stack of articles has been there for quite a while and the printouts of Jennifer Crusie’s blogs just came to the top this week. Take a look at these two:

When I read these, I realized I had done this, somewhat, when writing my Neanderthal mystery. I needed a lot of help visualizing the people for this novel. I wanted to keep in mind what they looked like--that they were not modern humans, but not animals either. I found the best pictures I could and even assigned some of the pictures to the individuals.

I’ve never done so much research for anything in my life. I wanted the story to be as accurate as I could make it. I set it in North America 30,000 years ago, as the last Ice Age was approaching and as the Neanderthals were living their last days on earth as a separate group of people. The Mississippi River didn’t exist, so I had to know what the terrain was like. I had to find out what an approaching glacier would look like, since all of them are receding now. Plants, animals, climate, housing, clothing, I had pictures of it all. Plus, I drew a map of the settlement and the surroundings, after figuring out how far a bunch of people could move in a day. Whew!

Fast forward to the FAT CAT series I’m writing. I had to spend a few weeks away from it to finish up my project for Barking Rain Press, and I was very worried about getting back into it. Crusie claims that a collage is a cure for that. If it really is, I’m all for it. As I read her articles, I thought, “This is great! It will solve my problems.”

Then another light bulb lit up! I already have a bunch of pictorial helps--on Pinterest! I started some boards as soon as I got the deal, just thinking they might do some good. I have a Dessert Bar board and one for Fat Cats! If you glance at my boards (http://pinterest.com/kayegeorge/), you’ll see they all relate to something I’m writing in some way. I’ll need one on Minneapolis, or maybe Dinkeytown, the setting for the series. Or maybe I should combine all of those for myself. Since Pinterest just announced the new Secret Boards, I can experiment and see what I come up with. I’m looking forward to this!

However, I can’t find any illustrations of collages. Oh well. Click on some of the fantastic ones on the second Crusie link--they’re super duper!
Lightbulb & Glacier from Dreamstime

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Don’t Tell Me Again… and Again… and Again…

As I sit writing this, the presidential election is going on. I have no idea of who won, though I do have hopes. By the time you read this, however, all will be known. It will be over.
Perhaps that’s the second most important thing about this whole unending mess. It will be over! Of course, who won is the most important, but at last it will finally be over.
I for one have been sickened and disgusted not only by the rhetoric, but by the pervasiveness of politics. Your phone rings, and it’s more likely than not a robo-call urging you to vote for someone. Political commercials fill the air like a swarm of gnats – and are just about as annoying. Signs proliferate on billboards and lawns like mushrooms. TV’s talking heads keep saying the same things over and over and over.
You’ve probably gathered that I’m tired of this circus (you’re right) and wondering just exactly what does this have to do with writing?
If nothing else, this year’s election brouhaha shows the boredom factor inherent in overkill.
I once read a manuscript written by a woman who loved description. Really truly unbelievably self-indulgently loved description. She described everything, from the heroine’s eyelashes to the main house’s staircase in stultifying detail. And not just once. Every time someone went up or down that dratted staircase she found something else about it to rhapsodize over at adjectival length, but nothing she ever said about it was germane to the plot. Her descriptions weren’t clues, weren’t even especially part of her world-building after the first one or two; if anything, they were more like love letters to the life she wished she lived.
She described practically everything in the book with equally mind-numbing detail. The hero’s car. The heroine’s wardrobe. The garden. The alley. The heroine’s office. The hero’s office. On and on and on, until the manuscript was more like a catalogue sans prices than a novel and I was crying ‘Enough, already!’
Of course, after a very few pages it was obvious that this book was an offense of the worst Mary Sue type, where the author was living the heroine’s life vicariously and projecting herself as the heroine, making the book as much therapy as catalogue. Believing that life is too short to read bad books I wouldn’t have read much past the first chapter had I not been contracted to edit the thing. As it was, I did read the entire sorry mess, and I wrote a 7 page single-spaced critique, but then declined to do a full edit. One only has so much strength and I could foresee having to work with this writer line by painful line and I don’t mean as a line edit. No, thank you!
So do we need description? Yes, of course. We need to know our characters’ world. Historic or modern? Clean or dirty? Antique or cutting edge? Rich or poor? Whatever, because the character’s reaction to their surroundings helps define them as a character.
Conversely, we don’t need to see every nailhead or scratch (unless they are definitely clues) and we certainly don’t need to see the same thing again and again.
Description can be a powerful tool if used properly. Also, in some formats more description is allowed than in others. Noir description is usually spare. Cozy is a little more detailed. Romance loves it. Even in the most fussy of formats I tend to like a certain spareness. This allows me to use my imagination, see what is in my head.
Example – let’s go back to the staircase. You can say it swoops upward in a graceful curve, that the banister is dark with years of careful oiling, that the posts are carved with a wild variety of floral motifs, that the carpet is a genuine Oriental runner, only slightly worn… Got it? You now know the exact kind of staircase I meant, but I am almost positive that if we were able to compare visuals, the staircase you see is different from the one I see. We still have a similar idea of style, status, etc. We don’t really need to know that the posts are carved with acanthus, roses and ivy or that the carpet is pale blue in the Elephant’s Foot pattern or that there is a wainscot which matches the banister.
This vague-but-exact description makes the scene come more alive for the reader because it allows the reader to participate – albeit following the form that you as the writer have created. A wise sage once said ‘Less Is More’ and in description that is very true.

Janis Patterson is a seventh-generation Texan and a third-generation wordsmith who has just taken her first cautious steps into the world of self-publishing. This week she has released THE AVENGING MAID (traditional Regency romance), QUARTET:FOUR SLIGHTLY TWISTED TALES (mystery/supernatural short story anthology), THE DEVIL OF DRAGON HOUSE (traditional Gothic romance) and LACEY (traditional Regency romance), all under the name of Janis Susan May. All are available at Amazon and other major etailers.

The Devil's Foothold

Here's the book I wrote about in my last post. Nice spooky cover for what I'm calling a supernatural mystery only available on Kindle.

It's likely the only book I'll ever do myself. As it turned out, I need a lot of help. I found a great cover artist who definitely got the "flavor" of the book. 

Reading the directions for formatting for Kindle, for me was like reading something in Russian. I went to a friend who has great success and asked for help. Turns out her husband does all her formatting and putting it on Kindle. He helped me through the whole process--and ended up doing most of it himself. I've been calling him an angel.

The book is up there and I've had a few sales, but I need to get busy with more promotion. 

So far there's not a single review which is a bit disheartening, but I suppose they'll come.

My biggest problem is as I said before, I have way too much to do.

Trying to find time to work on my Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery and I've been caught up in fixing the historical family saga. 

And then I realized November was here and I needed to write a post for Make Mine Mystery--and here I am.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

More Favorite Movie Quotes

More Favorite Movie Quotes
by Randy Rawls

        Last month, I wrote about some of my favorite movie quotes. It stirred up some interesting responses and got me thinking and looking around the Internet. I discovered a whole treasure of lines from Humphrey Bogart movies.


           Rick: Your cash is good at the bar.
          Banker: What? Do you know who I am?
          Rick: I do. You're lucky the bar's open to you.

         Woman: What makes saloonkeepers so snobbish?
          Banker: Perhaps if you told him I ran the second largest banking house in Amsterdam.
          Carl: Second largest? That wouldn't impress Rick. The leading banker in Amsterdam is now the pastry chef in our kitchen.

         Ugarte: You know, Rick, I have many a friend in Casablanca, but somehow, just because you despise me, you are the only one I trust.

         Ilsa: Play it once, Sam. For old times' sake.

         Ugarte: You despise me, don't you?
         Rick: If I gave you any thought I probably would.

         Rick: ...Here's looking at you, kid.

         Rick: Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.

         Rick: Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

         Rick: We'll always have Paris.


        Brigid O'Shaughnessy: I haven't lived a good life. I've been bad, worse than you could know.
        Sam Spade: You know, that's good, because if you actually were as innocent as you pretend to be, we'd never get anywhere.

        Wilmer Cook: Keep on riding me and they're gonna be picking iron out of your liver.
         Sam Spade: The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter.

         Sam Spade: My guess might be excellent or it might be crummy, but Mrs. Spade didn't raise any children dippy enough to make guesses in front of a district attorney, and an assistant district attorney and a stenographer.

         Detective Tom Polhaus: [picks up the falcon] Heavy. What is it?
         Sam Spade: The stuff that dreams are made of.

         Sam Spade: People lose teeth talking like that. If you want to hang around, you'll be polite.

         Sam Spade: Don't be too sure I'm as crooked as I'm supposed to be.


        Charlie Allnut: Well I ain't sorry for you no more, ya crazy, psalm-singing, skinny old maid!

        Charlie: Well, yeah, but I never tried shooting myself in the head neither.

        Charlie Allnut: I don't blame you for being scared—not one bit. Nobody with good sense ain't scared of white water...
         Rose Sayer: I never dreamed that any mere physical experience could be so stimulating!

        Charlie: What an absurd idea! What an absurd idea! Lady, I may be a born fool, but you got ten absurd ideas to my one, an' don't you forget it!

       Captain of Louisa: I think I shall have to hang you twice.

       Captain of Louisa: By the authority granted to me by his Imperial Majestey Kaiser Wilhelm the Second I pronounce you man and wife—proceed with the execution.

       Charlie: It's a great thing to have a lady aboard with clean habits. It sets the man a good example. A man alone, he gets to living like a hog.

       Sorry to be so longwinded, but they go on and on. Hard not to include them all. And that's only three of Bogie's movies. I can keep this up forever.