Monday, April 29, 2013

Still READING Fiction Novels? WHY?

Well, of course we have all heard that reading books, whether printed on paper or available in e-form, is declining throughout much of the human race. After all we have technology--from television to the latest eyeglasses with a tiny video screen up in one corner. That's how we learn and are entertained today.  Why waste our time with a book?

Well . . . .

Imagine holding a baby. Picture the baby. Feel it. Soft. Warm. A bit heavy, maybe like a ten-pound sack of sugar. Interesting sounds and smells. Perhaps a tiny fist opens and grabs your finger. Love. Got that image?

Okay. Think about being in a tornado or hurricane. These days, most of us can at least imagine that. Furious wind. The famous freight-train sound. The crack of splintering wood, perhaps a rush of water. Air sucked out of us. How can we breathe? Fear rising to panic.

Next, think about watching a Fourth of July parade. The high school band is marching by, playing "Stars and Stripes Forever," perhaps with more enthusiasm than talent. But still . . . heart beating faster. Tears?

What have you been feeling?   Emotions!

Humans are hard-wired to express and feel emotions. Sadness, joy, fear, horror, outrage, pride, compassion, joy, empathy, love. As humans we feel, we respond, we even make decisions based on emotion. We may decide what is good and true and what is not based on a "gut" feeling" which, frankly, is just another way to use and express emotion. What would human life be like without emotions? But to get there, something must have the time to touch us--the time to get inside us far enough to stir responding feelings. (Humans often find great satisfaction in responding to positive emotions.)

Personal relationships, experiencing or viewing disaster or triumph, and much more, can awaken emotion. Reading a book can also give us that. Books offer enough time to create emotions and allow us to experience them. I think, because of that--if nothing else--books in some form will endure.

What do you think?


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Different Strokes for Different Folks, But Different Names?

Let’s start with genres. Some writers are able to conquer more than one, most of them closely related. Like mystery and romantic suspense. Even romance and mystery are related and many do both of these. This brings us to the topic I want to discuss: names.

I know several authors who use more than one name for publication. Okay, I AM one. So far I’ve used two, but in 2014 will have a book out with a third name. What are the reasons for using different names and are those reasons valid?

**Here’s what I’ve come up with on using multiple names.

PRO: Using one name per genre is less confusing to readers.
CON: If a reader likes your writing in one genre, the reader might like it in another and you’d be easier to find with only one name.

**On using a pen name.

PRO: Your real name is hard to remember/pronounce/spell.
CON: Look at Janet Evanovich. Had anyone heard of that name before she made it big? An unusual name is more memorable.

PRO: You want to protect your job/spouse/family by using a pen name.
CON: Nothing occurs to me for this.

Personally, I’m participating in a couple of the above. My real name is hard to remember and spell, so I came up with Kaye George as a pen name. However, when I wrote a book solely for my grandkids I used my real name, Judy Egner, so that would be less confusing for them. Another book for another grandkid is in the works if I ever put aside the time to finish it. My third name, Janet  Cantrell, is being used for a hired work, so that was necessary and not a choice for me (although I did choose the name).

However, when my Neanderthal mystery is published, I’ll use the same pen name I’ve used for most of my work, Kaye George. It IS a mystery, but it’s very different from my other mysteries. I’ve written the gamut under this name from cozy and light and fluffy, to medium and traditional, to tough and hard-boiled to horror. One of my cousins read one of my horror tales (“The Bathroom”) and said she was afraid to read anything else by me. Exactly the reaction I want! Except that I want people to read my horror who are looking for horror! That cousin prefers cozies. I did steer her away from the rest of my horror stories. I hope she read something else eventually.

Maybe it’s a mistake not to differentiate my work with different names. Maybe not. It’s a little late to change that now, though!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Lawrence Block on Writer's Block

I rarely suffer from writer’s block, thanks to my journalism training, but I’m told many writers do. While packing to move, I found an article concerning the malady, written, ironically, by Lawrence Block, an MWA Grandmaster.

Block asked the question: “What’s the biggest factor in determining writing success? “ Not just talent, “but a feel for language, an intuitive understanding of how to arrange words in their best order, a sense of what is and is not dramatically effective.”

Perseverance and the courage to continue writing, no matter how many walls you’ve papered with rejection slips, are also contributing factors. Block credits believing in your ability to write as the most important aspect of successful writing. Comparing writers to athletes, he said, “Mental attitude and preparation make the difference. It plays precisely the same role for us that it does for the runner and the weight lifter. The more completely I believe in myself, the more I am able to employ the talent I possess. My belief in my ability and in the worth of my work will enable me to work to the limit of my capacity."

He recommends sitting at the computer for fifteen minutes before beginning to write. Spend that time telling yourself what a good writer you are and that you do excellent work. Erasing negative thoughts before you begin is a huge step in getting those words down on paper. Negative beliefs, whether or not you’re aware of them, can sabotage your work. Thoughts such as: I’m not a good writer, what I’ve written is crap, I never finish what I start, no one will publish my work, etc.

As so often happens, the first third of your book goes well but when you get to the middle you’re stuck, particularly if you don’t outline the plot (which I don’t). During my current work in progress, I wrote myself into a corner and had to put my story in reverse and back up some 20,000 words. It was not only discouraging, it briefly made me lose confidence in my ability to write. But once I took off in another direction, the writing has gone quite well.

I’ve also found that reading the previous chapter before starting to write helps to carry me forward into the next chapter. Bestselling novelists I’ve interviewed have said to stop writing when you’re over the “hump”—when a plot problem is solved--so that you’re ready to finish the scene the following day. That isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially for me, because you want your muse to run its course before you quit for the day.

I aim for five pages and sometimes find that it’s like pulling teeth to meet my goal, so I stop, hoping to take up the slack the following day. Writing fast and making changes in the second draft seems to work for most successful writers.

Negative beliefs can be damaging as well as paralyzing, resulting in long term writer’s block. But how do you pull yourself out of writer’s depression? Lawrence Block recommends putting your negative thoughts on paper. When you read them, tell yourself they’re all LIES. Rejection won’t destroy you, he said. “Nobody ever died of a rejection slip, and nobody every succeeded without accumulating plenty of them along the way."

~Jean Henry Mead

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Where in the world is Lynn?

Today?  Probably at the day job.

Saturday, April 20th, I released my fourth romance.  Temporary Roommates is set in St. Louis in Forest Park – the site of the 1904 World’s Fair.  Several buildings still stand in the park from the event.  It’s a runner’s paradise and for Annie, my heroine, exactly the reason she chose to move from a small town in southern Missouri to St. Louis. 

I like to think of myself as adventuresome.  This year I've been to Shreveport- Louisiana and Nashville- home of Mysteries & More.  Both trips were in March and I drove to the book related events by myself.  I want to be the first one to try something new, or feel wander lust to get in the car and go.  I want to be brave, like Annie in my story. 

But I think that’s not so true anymore. I’m happy at home. When my husband and I played darts, we traveled all around the country.  I found out that a ballroom in Las Vegas looks an awful lot like a ballroom in Decatur, IL.

Now, I choose my adventures a little more wisely.  I focus on the benefit, not the wild hair that drove me to think Nebraska in February would be fun. (For the record, it wasn't a fun drive.  But my nephew’s wedding was a blast.) And no matter where I go I look for story ideas.  And I’m not often disappointed.

My next trip this year is to Memphis to meet up with some romance writers for a workshop.  And maybe, if I keep my eyes open, I’ll see one of my characters visiting the sites along with me.

Your turn.  Are you a homebody?  Or do you have itchy feet and like to travel?

BLURB- Annie Baxter has her dream job.  Now, all she needs is a cheap apartment close to the hospital.  Troy Saunders knows his life as an intern is all about the long hours. He doesn't have time to play doctor to some Nurse Barbie.  So when his sister finds a great apartment walking distance to work and next to the best running paths in the city, he’s sold. Two leasing agents, two prospective renters, one apartment.  Can they co-exist without fireworks?

Available at - 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Using Bad Weather to Your Advantage

One thing I've learned is that the weather is unpredictable. I've often heard people say they'd like to be weathermen, because a weatherman does not have to be right all the time.

Do people have any power over the weather? Those who believe in global warming insist we do, although no one knows for sure.

What we do know as authors is that, with a bit of care, we can use bad weather to our advantage. We can do this with actual or fictional occurrences. On March 13, a wintery storm hit Arizona, with snow, hail, rain covering the state. On April 20, California got hit with snow, wind and rain.

Some areas in Illinois, such as DesPlaines, are still trying to recover from a heavy rainfall on Wednesday, April 18, and more rain is predicted beginning tonight.

Freak weather can produce strange happenings. If you look to the right in this picture taken April 19, you might discern two ducks swimming in a makeshift weather related pool in a parking lot across from Golf Mill in Niles, Illinois. They knew how to take advantage of the situation. We can, too!

Some ways to use bad weather:
1. Bad weather conditions can impede victims in their efforts to evade an enemy. Snowstorms, rainstorms, windstorms are all impediments when trying to escape.
2. The same kind of conditions can delay rescuers attempting to reach victims.
3. Inclement weather might tempt a character take a trip for relief. Anything can happen on the way to or from. If the destination is an unfamiliar place, even more havoc can ensue when venturing into an unexpectedly dangerous area.
4. Then there's the tried and true scenario of being stuck in a cabin in a snowstorm. This one is used often in mysteries and romances.
5. Communication methods, such as landlines, cells, Internet, even power, can be wiped out by bad weather.  Without communication, victims may not be aware of bad guys in the area. And, if they do have such knowledge, they may not be able to transmit it to other victims or rescuers.

These are just some ways bad weather can be used to advantage in mysteries and other genres. Maybe you can think of others. I invite you to mention one, either real or fictional, in your own book, or one you've read.

Find excerpts and links to all of Morgan Mandel's books at

Connect on Twitter: @MorganMandel

Friday, April 19, 2013

Setting...Local or Widespread?

By Chester Campbell

When deciding where to set a novel, an author has a choice of restricting the story to a single locale or spreading it across a wider tapestry. There are several factors to consider in making the selection. Sticking to a single location, which is one of the hallmarks of cozies, has the advantage of requiring a minimum of research. If you are like me and choose the city where you've spent most of your life, it's an easy choice.

My seven books in two mystery series featuring PI's are set primarily in Nashville. Since I've spent most of my 87 years here, it makes describing the locale simple. During the early part of my writing life, I was a newspaper reporter or a local magazine editor, giving me total familiarity with the area. The city has changed considerably in recent years, but I've watched it grow and develop. When I need to, I do a drive-by in a particular area to check out recent changes.

The first two books in the Greg McKenzie series are set only partly in Nashville. The first takes place also in the Holy Land, which I had just visited before I started writing. The second starts in Nashville and then goes to Perdido Key and the Pensacola area. Part of it was written at my brother's condo on Perdido Key, which my wife and I visited twice a year.

Both of my Sid Chance PI stories are set in the Nashville area. But I didn't start out locating books in my home town. My first novels were a trilogy of post Cold War political thrillers. I spread the action across the map.

Research is a major consideration when choosing a widespread setting. Getting an unfamiliar area right can be a problem. I set the first two books mostly in locations I was familiar with.

Star Ferry in Hong Kong Harbor
The first involved the Great Smoky Mountains, an area I tromped about many times in my younger days; Washington, D.C., which I had visited many times on business, and Hong Kong, where I spent several days during a Far Eastern tour. I had made several visits to other American cities used in the story. Brief scenes were set in Vienna, Austria, Tel Aviv, Israel and the island of Cyprus. I used tour books and online research to provide sufficient background for those.

Seoul Subway
A large part  of the second book takes place in South Korea. My familiarity there came from a tour in Seoul during the Korean War, plus a visit to the modern city while on the Far East tour mentioned above. That trip also provided several days in Chiangmai, Thailand, which I also featured in the book.

The third book, written in 1993 but never published, will be out next month. Overture to Disaster required the greatest amount of research, since much of it is set in areas I had never visited. A portion of it takes place in Mexico, mostly in the area of Guadalajara. I had been to Mexico City and taken a bus tour from there to Acapulco, so I knew the countryside fairly well. To get the flavor of Guadalajara and Lake Chapala to the south, the number one destination for retired U.S. servicemen, I corresponded with the editor of a retiree newspaper. She provided loads of helpful information.

The second area was a small community in the Zagros Mountains of northwestern Iran. I chose it after reading a book about Army Special Forces that told how U.S. soldiers became heroes to the locals in the wake of a deadly earthquake. That was during the Shah's reign in the late seventies, but the people still would have viewed American soldiers with fondness.

The home of a character who was an investigator for the Minsk prosecutor proved the most challenging area to portray. The time was shortly after breakup of the Soviet Union and formation of the new Commonwealth of Independent States. Things were changing in the capital of the Republic of Belarus. I corresponded with an attache at the American Embassy there who provided me with answers to all my questions, including political conditions and locations of various government offices. 

The important thing in spreading your setting around the globe is to do everything possible to get it right. So far I've had no problem with readers taking potshots at my descriptions. What's your take on how to handle unfamiliar settings?

Visit me at Mystery Mania

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Responsibility - Yours, Mine or Whose?

by Janis Patterson
Right now I’m still reeling from the ghastly Boston bombing on Monday. It’s one thing when we, safely seated at our computers, create horrors and crimes and deal in dark deeds as if they were bits of candy. It’s another one completely when the horrors are real, when the streets are full of blood and living, breathing people are hurt or killed.
I think people are drawn to crime fiction out of a love of justice and right. (You notice I didn’t say the law – the omission was deliberate.) Between the covers of a book all kinds of nasty things can happen, but even as we are horrified at the turns of event we can rest secure that the bad guy will be caught and pay the penalty for his crimes, that justice will triumph and all will be well. Would that things were so easily predictable in real life!
In real life things aren’t so clean. We can create the most logical motives and put out masterly clues that our sleuths can solve with assurance. We give our villains identifiable motives that are rational – at least in the book – and the skills to implement them. Real life… Where does crime start in real life? Name just about anything and it gets blamed – bad parenting, peer pressure, finances, politics, religion or lack of same, TV, video games, movies, books… just pick one or more.
I don’t know if I agree with such reasoning or not. Take two people with similar backgrounds – one will commit a heinous crime, the other turn into just an ordinary joe whose main criminal act is the occasional speeding ticket. What makes the difference?
Whatever it is, though, we who create those thrilling tales of murder and mayhem must walk a slender blade of responsibility. We must create interesting and on the whole realistic stories, but we must be very careful not to make our stories into an instruction manual for the criminal. Yes, we need verisimilitude, but we also need common sense. Let our villain build a bomb, but don’t give the reader step by step instruction. Same with poison or gun, knotted handkerchief or whatever, we need to be like the police and always hold back one crucial bit of information – one little piece that makes the thing whole and workable.
But, you say, there’s so much information out there – they can find out almost anything on the internet.
That’s true – and people who are so inclined will, but we will be in the clear. Self-responsibility and self-determination are two of the cornerstones of liberty. If a person is determined to commit a crime, they will and they must take the responsibility. No video game or book or film forced them to do it – no one jack-marched them down the street to find the ingredients. They did it themselves. We just have to be very careful that we don’t aid and abet them with detailed instructions. We can’t control their actions – we can only control our own, and we should act responsibly.

 Janis 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. 


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Working on a New Book--and it Hasn't Been Easy

Because of big ongoing trauma in our family, and then some good stuff too--I've not been working on my next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery as I should have been--nor have I done the editing needed on my next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery so I can send it off to the publisher.

The trauma of course was my son's severe beating on the job and then him not getting proper medical care at first--all is going well now thanks to a wonderful brain trauma rehab center. The good stuff was his daughter and her husband coming out to visit from North Carolina for a week with their seven month-old-daughter.

He looks good, doesn't he? Still not perfect, but way, way better.

So now it's time to get busy and write, write, write. I need to be thinking and writing about the police officers of Rocky Bluff P.D. and their families, what's going on with them while they are investigating a murder case.

To get myself in the mood, I'm thinking small California coastal town, smelling the salt air, and remembering the layout of the town.

I do know where I'm going with this one, know the title, all it's going to take his place my fanny down on the chair in front of my computer and writing.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Monday, April 15, 2013

Talking About My New Mystery

My mystery, Murder a la Christie, a Malice Domestic finalist, is coming out in a few months. Forty-eight-year-old Lexie is an English professor at a Long Island university. She’s beautiful and brainy, but has no smarts when it comes to men. Her first husband left her twenty-six years ago, when she was pregnant. It irks her that her ex, an absentee father during the years she raised Jesse, now enjoys a good relationship with their son, probably because they’re both musicians living in California. Three years ago, Lexie married a colleague who turned out to be a nutcase. When she told him she was leaving him, he burned down her house with himself inside. Now she's homeless, so to speak, and short on funds.

Lexie's best friend, Rosie, asks her to lead the Golden Age of Mystery book club she has created. The first meeting, a discussion of Agatha Christie novels, is held in Rosie and Hal’s mansion in the upscale village of Old Cadfield. Lexie muses that she could have lived the elegant life--if she hadn’t broken up with Hal when they were in college. If only she hadn't found him boring.

Before the meeting, Lexie overhears Sylvia, an old friend of hers, arguing with a neighbor. “Write that book if you dare, but you won’t live to see it in print!” Gerda tells Sylvia. An hour later, Sylvia is dead.

Lexie agrees to house sit Sylvia’s Old Cadfield home for the duration of the summer. While she appreciates her lovely surroundings and enjoys having a private pool at her disposal, she doesn’t feel  comfortable with the Old Cadfield crowd. As she investigates Sylvia’s death and gets to know the book club members better, Lexie learns that money doesn’t necessarily make for happiness. Each member harbors a secret. The murderer strikes again, and Lexie begins to feel she’s living an Old Cadfield version of Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians.

Lexie is drawn to two very appealing, sexy men: the renown architect who built Sylvia’s home and the homicide detective in charge of the murder investigation. Will she make the "right" choice this time?

And then an "accident" occurs, and Lexie barely escapes with her life. The murderer is losing control. Lexie employs Poirot’s power of deduction and Miss Marple’s cleverness to find the murderer before he/she kills again.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Difference

by Kaye George

A lot has been said about the difference between a published and an unpublished writer. I’ve come up with a list of things that can be different. These pertain to writers who are published by a publishing house, since anyone can self-publish. Nothing against self-publishing--I’ve done it myself and intend to continue to do so. But some people want the extra boost of a publisher behind them. I’m also one of those.

It takes time to learn the craft. Sometimes the difference can merely be that the published writer has been writing longer and has learned how to polish up the prose. Where to insert hooks, how to pace the action, how to work descriptions and explanations into the text with dialogue or actions.

I’m convinced that there’s a certain amount of luck involved. You have to connect your work with a publisher or agent who is receptive, on that day, at that very time, to what you’re offering. And the publisher or agent hasn’t just accepted a project so similar to yours that he has to turn yours down. But if you keep showing up, you have a better chance at hitting it lucky.

This is so important. You don’t even know that it’s normal to take 10 years of writing before you’re published unless someone tells you. You also don’t know how to fix the glitches in your writing--sometimes don’t even notice they’re there--unless you find a good critique group, or critique partner. You also don’t know who is looking for what kinds of projects unless you buddy up with people who know these things. My solution is to buddy up with everyone in the writing business that I can. You never know who will have good info.

This is the most important. The main difference between a published and an unpublished writer is that the published writer didn’t quit. Here’s a self-serving illustration. I wrote a novel I called SONG OF DEATH. I wrote it and wrote it, then queried the heck out of it. Finally, after many agent rejections, I shelved it and went on to write other novels. A few months ago, I dusted it off and decided that it still sounded pretty good to me. I did another rewrite and submitted it to Barking Rain Press. After about 10 years, that novel was published this week! It’s now called EINE KLEIN MURDER and has been through extensive editing at BRP. If you’d like to check it out, here’s more information on my newest release:

I’d love to know what’s made the difference for you, if you’ve made it to published author.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Confessions of a Pantser.

I’m relatively new to this writing gig.  After starting classes in 2000, I took a break, writing when the muse hit. (Which as all of us knows is every other day with an ‘r’ in July.)

In 2007, life slapped me up against the back of my head.  I had breast cancer.  (Some of you know this story, so feel free to skim.) And I realized that my ‘dream’ of writing someday, could be in trouble.  What if someday never came? Was I building a bridge to nowhere?

So I got serious.  I sold two essays that I’d had floating through my head for years. And then I started a novel.  I wrote about four chapters and determined I wasn't a thriller writer.  So I started what I thought was a young adult story. Four chapters in, I decided I wasn't a YA author.  So I started a romance. 

You’re sensing a pattern, right? 

I didn't know what kind of writer I was because I never finished anything.

Then a friend stepped in and said – finish a book.  Any book. That was the magic push I’d needed.  Once I slogged through the murky middle once and wrote THE END, I knew I could do it again.  And again.

Then my critique group asked me to do a plotting brainstorming on another author’s book.  She gave us the set up, then we brainstormed plot points.

I was clueless.  Lost without direction. And I’m afraid, not much help.

And now, looking back, I know why.  I didn't know these characters, so I didn't know what they would do.  Now, I’m not so woo-woo that I think my characters live in my head, but until I've played with them a while, I have no idea what the next scene is because I haven’t written them there yet.  And every writer knows if you change something that happens to a character midstream (like a new job or an emotional loss) it changes everything.  Because just like in real life, the events of a character’s life mold them into the person they could be.  Their essence.

I need to know my characters before I can throw out scene ideas.

What’s your take on brainstorming?  Can you play plot monkey for your friends?  Or are you more like me and need to let the story flow? 


Monday, April 8, 2013

There's Always Hope

It's no secret that I'm a country and western fan. There's something about the music and words that strike a chord in me. Country seems so real. I much prefer listening to a country tune over rock, heavy metal, hip hop or rap.

I also enjoy watching their award shows. Last night was the ACMs - Academy of Country Music Awards. In an award show, anything can happen. I figured Blake Shelton or his wife, Miranda Lambert, might possibly win the coveted Entertainer of the Year Award instead of  the multi-winner, Taylor Swift. Since I've always love Blake's and Miranda's songs, I was prepared to be happy if either of them won.

What I didn't expect was that Luke Bryan, a relative newcomer, would come from behind and win Entertainer of the Year! Since I always bet on underdogs when I go to the racetrack, I was thrilled! I didn't think he had a chance; yet, with the help of the fans, he pulled off what seemed the impossible.

Even better, the guy was truly humble and grateful. I like that in an entertainer. This morning, someone on the radio said Luke started out playing from the back of his truck at Solder's Field in Chicago. Somehow his tunes and talent won over country fans, and what a success story!

What does this have to do with books? Well, it goes to show there's always hope. If you try hard enough and do the best you can, your dream might come true. That dream might be to complete a book, or to publish a book, to get a contract, or, even the lofty goal of having a bestseller!

Whatever yours is, remember, there's always hope!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Publicity, Please


Randy Rawls

        Oops, running late today (again).  The following is a partial reason why.
        My book, HOT ROCKS from Midnight Ink, has been out since last November, and I'm not feeling good about its sales. Of course, the author is the last to know, so I only have my gut feeling.

        For the last month or so, I've debated with myself (yeah, I do that) about bringing on a publicist. I've done it in the past with mixed results. Wish I could say sales took off, but they didn't. They improved, no doubt about that, but I didn't make my investment back. So, my question to myself has been, "Is it worth it?" And the answer is, "Beats the H out of me."

        Anyway, I've decided to take the plunge again. PJ Nunn and I are working out the details now. The program should kick off concurrent with my appearance at LexiCon in Denton, TX in July. Watch for a bright light in the Texas sky. It'll be round and putting out lots of heat.

        If there is a miracle and sales do make a big jump, I'll keep the events going through the release of BEST DEFENSE in November. If you'd like to cross some fingers for me, I shall be grateful.

        I'd be very interested in hearing your experiences in using publicists. I'm sure there are others who are curious.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Magic Click

by Janis Patterson
Just to be upfront, know that I am a pantser. When I start a book I have a vague idea of what the basic shape of the story is, but the idea of writing from a detailed outline not only makes me break out from stress, it also effectively kills any kind of creativity. In other words, I am bored with the story before it even begins.
I admit my style of writing has its pitfalls. Sometimes I simply sit and stare at the screen while it stares back at me. Sometimes an entire day’s work simply must be deleted because it just doesn’t take the story where I want it to go. To be honest, though, I have had the same problems when, during my ghostwriting career, I had no choice but to work from a detailed outline.
Pantser or plotter, there’s only one solution for when you hit a wall like that – write. Put one word down after another, again and again, repeat as necessary, until you have something on paper. If it has to be rewritten or even discarded later, you have something to work with, a base from which you can go forward. It’s not the dream of writing, nor is it the easiest task, but it is something every professional writer can do. Eventually the wall dissolves and the way becomes easier again. 
And sometimes there is the Magic Click, that wonderful moment when everything falls into place and the book flows like molten butter. You suddenly know exactly where everything is going, what clues to put in, what is going to happen two or ten chapters down the road, sometimes all the way to the end of the book – an end that is imminently satisfying and logical, yet might not have the slightest resemblance to the original you envisioned.
Magic, indeed. But isn’t that what writing is? Surely it must be magic to create believable worlds and people from little more than imagination and caffeine.
Some writers say that writing which comes so easily is suspect and most likely garbage. Perhaps, but I’ve never found it so. Usually the post-Magic Click prose is among my best, some of which has stood as written without any changes at all from various usually tough editors. I personally think it’s because all the pre-writing is done in the subconscious and is fairly well edited before it erupts onto the page. Plus, just getting all those words down (as many as 8.000 during one rather spectacular session) is a purely joyous rush.
Pantsing is sometimes frightening, sometimes labor-intensive, sometimes frustrating. It is also great fun and very rewarding. In my opinion it creates a much more ‘alive’ and vibrant story. The Magic Click is just gravy.

          Janis 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. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

I'm a Bit Tardy Today

Usually I have my post for Make Mine Mystery all ready to go, but I have lots of excuses so that's what I'm going to write about.

My granddaughter, her husband, and their 7 month old baby came to visit. (She's my son, Matthew's daughter--Matthew, the one with the brain trauma.) Jessica lived with us off and on while she was growing up--when she was school age she lived with us so she could go to our little country school. Then her whole family moved in our little house next door and we had her around all through her high school years--and after--when she met her hubby and got married.  One of her husband's relatives found him a job in North Carolina and off they went. This is the first time they've been back. We had a wonderful week with them. And fortunately, her dad got to come home too.

While all this fun time was going on I was at the tail end of my blog tour which meant I got up before anyone else in order to promote it--and of course sneak back to my computer when the kids were off visiting to check to see who had come to read the blog.

We had a big Easter celebration at church and afterwards--and I fixed the food for the afterwards at our house. The kids have gone on now to their next stop and I miss them!

That wasn't all that was going on last week though. I write proposals and program designs for people wanting to go into the residential care business and of course, I had one phone call after another with people wanting my services. That's what I'll be busy with all this coming week and probably the next.

Have I been able to get any writing done? Absolutely not. My work in progress is right where it was about three weeks ago.

Oh, I forgot to mention, right before the kids arrived, I was plagued with allergies which then turned into that abominable cold. I felt okay, but my nose ran and I coughed--which meant I couldn't get as close to the baby as I would have liked.

But that's life, isn't it? You get the good along with the bad--and I have some great memories and lots of pictures of my granddaughter and her family. Here's a couple I'll share.

Jerry, Aleena and Jessica

Proud Grandpa Matt with Aleena
 I promise I'll get back to mysteries when my next turn rolls around.


Monday, April 1, 2013

An Interview with Rabbi Ilene Schneider

Today I'm interviewing mystery writer, Rabbi Ilene Schneider. Please visit and leave a comment.

Tell us about yourself,  including where you grew up, where you went to school.

I grew up in Boston, mainly in Mattapan, and attended Girls’ Latin School from grades six to twelve. All I remember from my six years of required Latin classes are enough words to do crossword puzzles. I graduated from Simmons College with a major in Communications. My goal was to become the first woman editor of The New York Times. Those plans changed in December of my senior year when I decided to apply to the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. It took me another forty years to get back to writing (other than academic papers and some columns), when my first novel Chanukah Guilt was published. It was followed by the non-fiction Talk Dirty Yiddish and recently by the second Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mystery Unleavened Dead. Currently, I am coordinator of the Jewish Hospice Program and a spiritual support counselor for Samaritan Healthcare and Hospice, in Marlton, NJ, where I live with my husband, a rabbi in a synagogue, and our two sons.

1. What inspired you to become a rabbi?

As an undergrad, I was very involved in Jewish student groups in the Boston area, and was interested in working in the Jewish community. I wanted to have a deeper understanding of Judaism, and the rabbinate (despite there not being any women who had yet been ordained in the US) seemed to make a lot of sense to me.

2. What inspired you to become a fiction writer?

I have always loved to read and write, but I’d never written fiction. It was beginning to bother me that so many works of fiction I considered of poor quality were making the best seller lists. I realized that, unless I tried to write a novel, I had no right to complain. I read a lot of cozy mysteries, and decided to write something I would enjoy reading.

3. How do your two careers impact on each other?

Mostly it’s a matter of time management. I used to do so many grant proposals and curricula, reports during my work day that I was too tired to do any “recreational” writing. Now that I’m working part-time, I still have the same time management problems, trying to juggle an emotionally-draining job, family demands, marketing of my three published books (blogs, guest blogs, social networking, conferences, public appearances), and writing my third Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mystery, Yom Killer.

I also have to be careful not to include any descriptions of people that could be misconstrued as someone I know or work with – or who belongs to my husband’s synagogue!

4. Do you like to travel? If so, what are a few of your favorite places that you visited?

I love to travel, but I hate the process: the packing, unpacking, getting to the airport (or driving a long distance). Seeing new places makes it worthwhile, though. My favorite location is, not surprisingly, Israel, but, perhaps surprisingly, I haven’t been there in over twenty years (cf. above re: time management issues). As an avid birder, I particularly enjoy going someplace where I can find birds that don’t normally visit New Jersey. The highlight of a great vacation to Nova Scotia for me was the boat trip to Bird Islands -- I finally got to see Atlantic Puffins.

5. Why do you write mysteries?

I decided to write what I enjoy reading. And I enjoy mysteries, especially cozies.

6. Tell us something about your books. Where can readers find them?

Chanukah Guilt, the first Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mystery, is about a twice-divorced, mid-50s, beyond zaftig rabbi of a small synagogue in South Jersey, on the edge of the Pine Barrens, about fifteen miles from Philadelphia. A young woman comes to her for counseling, convinced she’s caused her father’s death. Distraught, the young woman runs out of Aviva’s office and is later found dead in her dorm, supposedly a suicide. Aviva looks into the events that preceded the young woman’s death and puts her own life in jeopardy.

In Unleavened Dead, Aviva becomes involved  in two sets of deaths – a deliberate hit-and-run and a couple who has  died of carbon monoxide poisoning. In the course of both books, Aviva also deals with the day-to-day operations of her synagogue and her duties to her congregants, while keeping her sense of humor and rather acerbic wit. Oh, and did I mention that her first ex-husband is the new interim police chief?

Talk Dirty Yiddish is a humorous look at the Yiddish language, with explanations, sidebars, and practical ways to use Yiddish expressions and words. And if you don’t know what zaftig means, it’s in the book.

The books are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. online, plus some bookstores – both as print books and e-books (Chanukah Guilt and Talk Dirty Yiddish are on Kindle and Nook; Unleavened Dead is on Kindle).

7. How do you get the word out about your books to readers? How much time do you spend on marketing and publicity?

A few weeks ago, I came home from my day job and spent several hours on marketing tasks – checking emails, updating my blog, knocking out a couple of guest blogs, posting on Face Book. Afterward, I complained to my husband that marketing is becoming a full-time task. Fortunately, it’s one I enjoy. Networking, whether virtually or face-to-face, really is the only way to get the word out.

8. What are you working on now?

Marketing! But I am plotting out (in my head at least) the third Rabbi Aviva Cohen mystery, Yom Killer. It will take place in a Boston assisted living facility, where Aviva’s nonagenarian mother lives. She seems to have suffered a stroke, but, once again, all is not as it seems.

9. Do you have any thoughts regarding the future of publishing?

The current situation reminds me of the Betamax vs. VHS shakedown. It doesn’t matter which is the best method, only which one wins the marketing battle. All the various types of publishing currently available have their good and bad points. At this time, I am happy to have a publisher. There’s validation when someone has enough faith in you and your product to gamble their money, time, and efforts to publish your book. And it means I don’t have to worry about formatting! To me, it’s equally important to have books published as e-books and as printed books. If my books didn’t come out in print form, I would lose the majority of my fan base: my parents’ friends!