Saturday, November 30, 2013

New Promo Idea: Warning—Lying is Involved

by Kathleen Kaska 
(Your Fifth Saturday Blogger)
            How many of you remember that popular game show from the sixties, To Tell the Truth? Yes, I know I just admitted I’m no spring chicken, but that’s okay; some of those early game shows were a
hoot. On To Tell the Truth, three contestants tried to stump a panel of four by claiming to be the same person. The announcer made the introduction. For example:
            “Tonight we have author Kathleen Kaska. She has published seven books, and more than eighty travel and outdoor adventure articles. She writes the Sydney Lockhart Mystery Series, where each book is set in a different historic hotel; and the Classic Triviography Mystery Series, which includes trivia and biographical information. So far her subjects have been Agatha Christie, Alfred Hitchcock, and Sherlock Holmes. Her latest book is a true story about the ornithologist who saved the whooping crane from extinction. Go figure.”
             After the introduction, all three contestants (me being one) walk out on stage and make the same claim.
            Contestant number one: “I’m Kathleen Kaska.”
            Contestant number two: “I’m Kathleen Kaska.”
            Contestant number three: “No, I’m Kathleen Kaska.  
            Now the panel begins quizzing each contestant to see who’s telling the truth and who’s lying. Sometimes the liars can be very convincing. The two imposters have to bluff and lie their way through, but the real person has to tell the truth. Whoever gets the most wrong votes wins the most money. See how it works?
            Think of what fun this could be in promoting our books.
            At a book signing, we could bring along two imposters and stage our own show. Of course, all contestants would have to dress in disguise or maybe wear a bag over their heads, since author photos are posted on every social network available. Or, the contestants could pretend to be our protagonists; costumes in order again. The nice thing about this game is that even if we don’t sell any books, at least we have a shot at winning some cash.
            If anyone is willing to give this idea a try, let me know how it works. Although I’ve become somewhat adept at promoting myself, I don’t think I have the nerve to pull this one off.
            But, I could do a Wheel of Fortune promo event, where all the puzzle answers are my book titles. The only thing I’d need to work out is how to get the cash coming to me rather than the players.
            By the way, Robert Porter Allen, the subject of my whooping crane book, was actually on To Tell the Truth in 1962. He was not able to stump the panel and he didn’t win too much money, but at least he was able to promote his cause.
            I’d love to hear about any off-the-wall promo ideas, if you’re game.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Time off? What are you reading?

Happy Thanksgiving Week.

As this comes to post, I'll be half way through a short work week at the day job. Definitely a reason to be thankful as my employer gives us Thursday and Friday as holiday days.  I'm planning an extended vacation around the Christmas holidays -mostly to get my writing life in order for 2014 as well as just time to relax (translate - read.)

I have several books I've been holding off starting so I have time to sink into the loveliness of a good story without having to stop for things like work, or sleep, or showers.  Yep, I'm that kind of reader. My son used to say he could measure the quality of a book I was reading by the number of "Mom's" he had to call out to get my attention.

Bad mother.

Good reader.  :)

First up? Doctor Sleep by the master (Stephen King.) I'm probably going to dig up my copy of Joe Hill's (Mr King's son) horror Heart Shaped Box after that. Then because I'll be too freaked out to sleep by then, I'll move into my pile of cozy mysteries I've been stacking in my TBR pile. Not your typical holiday reading fodder.

If you love reading holiday stories, my short, TOP SECRET SANTA, is available in All I Want for Christmas is a Soul Mate.  (Long title, great anthology.)

Top Secret Santa: Two strangers, each starting a new life, realize that visiting Santa really is about Christmas magic . . . 

So what are you reading this holiday season?

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Since Thanksgiving is coming up, I’d like to give out some thanks today. What I’m thankful for:

my health

my family

my buddies here at Make Mine Murder

all my other writing colleagues

our new home in Knoxville and being closer to some of the family (although farther from some,   

being born in America (not a perfect country, but so much better than many others)

being able to do exactly what I want to do every day--write fiction

turkey (I love turkey)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Making the Transition from Traditional to Independent Publishing

Anne K. Albert
Welcome to Make Mine Mystery, Anne. Tell us how and why you left traditional publishing to become an independent.

Life is a journey, and so too is the road to becoming an indie author.

 I never imagined I would one day publish my own books. But then, I never imagined ordinary people such as myself wrote books either! Yet, at 45 I decided to give writing my all. I spent the next fifteen years honing my skills. With seven completed manuscripts in hand, I entered contests (won several), attended workshops and conferences, queried agents and submitted my stories to editors.

The rejections piled high until three years ago when a small publisher offered a contract.

At 60 I became a published author! While I knew nothing about the book industry, and even less of social media, I was determined to do my part to promote my books.

And promote I did.

For two solid years I spent every waking hour online. I blogged. Took part in blog tours. Tweeted. Established a presence on Facebook. I also read how-to books, posts and articles that promised success if the author did this or did that as advised by the experts.

So, how did that translate into royalties? Sadly, it did not. Payments always arrived late (as in months, not weeks). Statements were nonexistent, while excuses from my publisher were so plentiful I lost count.

When my husband pointed out I’d earned more at ONE Saturday morning yard sale than I had during my two-year writing career I fell into a funk. I stopped writing. I stopped promoting. I stopped blogging. I ignored Facebook. And I was totally and utterly miserable.
Worse, I suspected my publisher was partially to blame. But how was that possible? Was I being paranoid? Delusional? Unable to decide I terminated my contract in May 2013. Within hours my books were withdrawn from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. I was stunned. I had no idea my publisher could move so fast!

I expected to feel relief, and that did happen. But what surprised me was the depth of sadness that washed over me now that my books were no longer available to readers.

I spent the summer in a writer’s purgatory. Towards the end of July I received the rights back to my books, and also discovered 14 other authors had recently ended their association with my ex-publisher. The reason? Fraud and breach of contract. One writer was swindled out of $5000.00 in royalties.

Misery changed to anger, and that’s when I made the decision to go indie. I realized no one cares more about my writing career (or the proceeds I would make from it) than me. So, I set up my own publishing company. Because I’m Canadian I applied for my EIN (US Employer Identification Number). Next, I set up an account with Amazon’s KDP, and in early August re-released DEFENDING GLORY, book one of the Piedmont Island Romantic Suspense series, in ebook format. FRANK, INCENSE, AND MURIEL hit the shelves this month.

These may be small victories in the grand scheme of things, but they’re huge in my world.

Was it scary? Yes. Did I make mistakes? Oh, yeah! Would I do it again? Absolutely. In a heartbeat.

If you’re considering going indie, my advice is go for it. It’s a fantastic time to be a writer. It’s an even greater time to be self-employed and queen of your universe!

Here are a few tips to help you get started.

(1)  Read everything you can get your hands on about self-publishing. Start with these sources:

(2)  Once you have a better understanding of what is required, decide how much of the process you’ll do yourself. Will you edit and format your books, design the covers, or hire someone to do it for you?

I chose to do it all myself. (I do have beta readers, however, that are worth their weight in gold. They believe in my stories as much as I do, and for that I am eternally grateful.)

 Money was also a factor, but the experience with my ex-publisher also left me with some trust issues. I wasn’t prepared to hand over my books to a stranger. Besides, with a degree from an art college (I graduated in the Stone Age!) and my past work experience at a daily newspaper, as well as a stint as editor for a weaving magazine, I felt confident I could do this. Plus, I love being in total control. If I succeed or fail, I have no one but myself to blame. J At this point in my life, that’s important.

(3)  Start your indie career by publishing something small such as novella or small non-fiction book. The task will not seem as overwhelming, and it will allow you to get a feel for the process. Each time you publish a book it will get easier.

At the moment my books are only available as ebooks. To be honest, when I set out on this journey I could not cope with the enormity of formatting in both versions. So, I took it one step at a time. Sure, it may have cost me a few sales, but my blood pressure is normal! I am determined to offer my books in print in 2014.

(4)  Embrace your mistakes because you will make ‘em! The joy of self-publishing is you can fix them lickety-split. It costs nothing to upload new content, and those mistakes are golden opportunities to look at something differently or tackle a task from another angle.

(5)  Dreams can come true. It can happen to you! If a 60-something woman who first saw a computer in her forties can be an indie author, so can you.
About the Author:Anne K. Albert has taught high school art, sold display advertising for a weekly newspaper, and worked for a national brand water company, but now writes full time.When not at the keyboard, the award winning author enjoys traveling and housesitting with her high school sweetheart husband (22 countries to date), visiting friends and family, and of course, reading using "Threegio" her cherished and much beloved Kindle.
She writes the Muriel Reeves Mystery series and the Piedmont Island Romantic Suspense series. Her books are available on Amazon. Visit her blog. She is also on Facebook and Twitter @AnneKAlbert.

Thanks, Anne.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fall Fever and Focus...

by Janis Patterson
…or lack of same.

Maybe it’s the change of seasons, but I’m having the hardest time focusing on anything productive writing-wise. For most of my creative life I’ve been able to sit and write and concentrate only on the story at hand.

Now I can’t. I sit, and I write for a while, and then my mind flits away and eventually my body follows it. The dishwasher needs to be emptied. The laundry pile has reached monumental proportions. The dried glue – residue of decades of long-resident cork strips holding up glass – absolutely needs to be scraped off my antique desk right this very minute. The autumn afternoon is bright and still warm enough to make the hot tub irresistibly appealing. I must find something to thaw for dinner. Oh – wait! A key ingredient is missing for that new recipe I simply have to try, so I must rush to the store, where I spend half an hour perusing ingredient labels.

All of the above are not unusual, save for restoring the old desk, but before they always waited patiently for the evening round of chores. It’s always been that I write during the day just as if I went to a regular job in an office elsewhere – except that the money isn’t as good – and do the ‘housewife’ chores in the evening. Now they – and anything else that isn’t writing – seem irresistible.

And before you say it, no, it isn’t writers’ block. My mind simply teems with ideas and plots and twists and turns that I really, really do want to write… but only after I have potted the new chrysanthemum plants. At night, sitting alongside The Husband as we watch TV, in my head I script entire scenes that only need to be written down. They are good, and I’ll get them into pixels first thing in the morning, I promise.

Except I don’t. Instead the hot tub calls, or the laundry, or reorganizing the spice shelf – a chore that has needed to be done for years. An elderly friend whom I haven’t seen in months should be taken to a leisurely lunch, but it’s too much like work to write long-overdue letters to other friends.

Is there such a thing as fall fever? And is there any cure for it? I know the answer to the first question (a definite yes!) and kind of hope there isn’t an immediate answer for the second. I’m enjoying this too much. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What Works Best at a Booksigning?

First, how do you get publicity?

In our town, and it's not a big one, it's nearly impossible to get the paper to print anything about a new book, the author or a signing. I've considered paying for an ad to have some publicity for my next event.

What about the place?

The only bookstore in our little town is a used book store. I've had some signings there, but it's very small and no room for people to hang around, or even to give any kind of presentation. One of my friends had one at our local art museum and was well-attended by her friends--but no outsiders. (Lack of newspaper publicity, I think.)

Our library has a nice meeting room but if you're going to sell books you are supposed to get a business license from the city.

Do you give a presentation of some kind? Or just sign books?

I prefer giving some kind of presentation, that brings in more people, though not necessarily people who want to buy a book.

One thing I've noted over the years--if it's in a place where the author must handle the money, it's always best if someone else is assigned the task of the actual selling.

However, the author should remain available to sign the books. I was recently at a signing where the author wandered around visiting and had to be called back to the signing table.

Do you have a guest book? What do you want the people to put in it?

I want their name and email address and I always ask them if they want to get my monthly newsletter.

For me, just having them sign a guest book is missing a good opportunity of collecting email addresses, even if you only send out announcements about your next book or event.

And time frame--what are the best hours for a signing? I've done them at all hours.

I recently went to a tiny bookstore in a mountain community (I love going up there). It was on a Friday night from 6:30 to 7:30--bookstore's decision. There was publicity in the local newspaper, three people came because of that. I promoted on Facebook and two came from that. (My grandson's mother-in-law and an author friend I only see occasionally at book events.) Four out of five people bought books. I sold another to a friend who couldn't come, but whom we had dinner with before the event. We stayed overnight because we had an event to attend in the big city in the valley the next morning. (Sold a book there too because I had them with me.)

On November 23rd, I'm giving a presentation on How to Get Published with another author in the art gallery. It's had some minor newspaper coverage and we'll be in competition with many Christmas boutiques around town.

Any other do's and don't's, successes and failures, you'd like to share?


Monday, November 18, 2013

A Paean to My Fellow Writers

I’ve begun writing the first novel in a new mystery series. My sleuth, Carrie Singleton, is twenty-nine, dresses a la Goth, and changes the color of her hair every other week. She also has a library degree. Carrie’s visiting family and ready to move on when she's offered the position of Director of Events & Programs at the local library. She’s about to refuse the job when a sweet old lady ghost with a sharp tongue advises her to consider her options. Carrie does, takes the job, and solves murders that occasionally occur during, after, or as a consequence of programs she’s set up for the library’s patrons. Busy as she is, Carrie also finds time for romance with two potential boyfriends.

For once, the novel’s plot came to me quickly and all in one piece. I had my cast of characters: the sleuth, the murderer, the victims, the suspects and their various relationships. I wrote up my synopsis and got to work.  Good job, I told myself after completing three chapters. Still, I knew better than to send out a project before having it vetted by a few writers I trust. They made a few comments and gave me a few ideas. I considered them all and continued writing.

The murder finally occurred at the end of chapter seven. Kind of late, I thought. But I simply had to write about Cassie’s two encounters with her mysterious landlord. I sent it to a writer friend for her comments and critiques.

I can’t praise my fellow writers enough for the valuable input and advice they’ve given me over the years. My friend had gone over the chapters word for word, adding missing quotation marks and periods like a seasoned copy editor. What’s more, she pointed out what was wrong with my pacing. I simply had to get the murder in sooner. I had to move the budding romance back and all would be right. Of course she was right! I’d even written it that way in my synopsis, but had allowed romance to take over.

Why didn’t I see the problem? I thought. But at least this time I didn’t berate myself for not having written the perfect manuscript at first draft. The truth is, we need others to view our work objectively and to tell us what needs fixing. Years ago editors did this for their authors. We’ve all heard how Maxwell Perkins cut Thomas Wolfe’s lengthy handwritten manuscript of Look Homeward Angel down to size. But times are different now, and we writers have to depend on one another. It’s why most writers are in critique groups.

One of my critique partners usually goes through the opening pages of a new manuscript of mine until she finds the right spot. “This is where you begin,” she tells me. I don’t doubt it. It used to bother me until another writer told me that I write the many pages before that point to acquaint myself with the new book, the setting, the characters, and the situation. So what if I depend of another writer to point out where my story actually begins?

Who critiques your manuscripts before you send them out? Or do you feel you don’t need anyone’s input?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Cover Reveal Time - Guidebook to Murder

It's finally becoming real. After selling my cozy series in April of this year, I have a cover to show for the first release April 17th - 2014.

And since I'm still on deadline for book three - I'll leave you to enjoy.


Guidebook to Murder: A Tourist Trap Mystery

In the gentle coastal town of South Cove, California, all Jill Gardner wants is to keep her store--Coffee, Books, and More--open and running. So why is she caught up in the business of murder?

When Jill's elderly friend, Miss Emily, calls in a fit of pique, she already knows the city council is trying to force Emily to sell her dilapidated old house. But Emily's gumption goes for naught when she dies unexpectedly and leaves the house to Jill--along with all of her problems. . .and her enemies. Convinced her friend was murdered, Jill is finding the list of suspects longer than the list of repairs needed on the house. But Jill is determined to uncover the culprit--especially if it gets her closer to South Cove's finest, Detective Greg King. Problem is, the killer knows she's on the case--and is determined to close the book on Jill permanently. . .

Monday, November 11, 2013

When Good Habits Go Bad

The house is in disarray right now. We're at the in between point between the painting done, but the carpeting still to go. Things are not where they usually are.

We were able to hang the pictures and sundry items again, but even that turned confusing. The dining room digital clock, which I like to check from time to time, somehow didn't seem right. Why did I have to crane my neck? I didn't remember doing that before. Had it always been that way? Turns out the DH exchanged its spot with the picture beneath it. I want it back where it was! I'm in the habit of looking at exactly one spot to see the time, not one even a little different.

The DH, who is not the neatest guy in the world, is having even worst problems adjusting. Being a creature of habit, he despises change. After so many years, though, stuff wears out and change is inevitable.

Looking at the clock is a small habit, but we follow others as well, such as going to church at a certain time on Sunday, sitting in the same pew every week, buying our lottery tickets and gas afterward.

Others have their own habits, different than ours. Habits are comfortable. They can be good, such as remembering to brush your teeth. They can also turn bad, when used by the unscrupulous.

When writing a mystery, an author can have lots of fun playing around with characters' habits. Here are a few ways:

1. A crook cases a house, learns the habits of its occupants, such as when they leave the house for shopping or work, and robs or maybe  even lays in wait to attack.
2. A character goes out every morning to get the newspaper around the same time. The bad guy takes advantage of that habit to gain access to the home.
3. A character is in the habit of being friendly to people, and becomes too trusting, with disastrous results.
4. Here's another one - A friend of mine, along with her hubby, went to lunch with me and my DH at a buffet restaurant. I happened to glance at our table and saw her purse sitting right smack in the middle of the table, in plain view of everyone in the restaurant, also not far from the next occupied table. Coming from a small town, she was in the habit of being trusting. Fortunately, no one stole from her, but she was lucky she still had her purse and wallet for the trip home. Goes to show that small town safety habits can be very different than those in a metropolitan area. Placing a character outside of a familiar setting can prove dangerous.

Can you think of other ways to make habits work in mysteries?

Morgan Mandel


Twitter: @MorganMandel

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Exercise and the Writer

by Kaye George

Increasingly, I hear online chatter about the conditions of writers’ bodies: their hands, their backs, or just in general. C’mon people! We have to take care of our instruments. We can’t write without our hands and fingers. Well, we can if we use voice recognition software, but I’ve heard that it’s less than ideal. I don’t want to do that for a long while.

There are ways to keep in shape in a sedentary job. There are chair exercises, for example. Dr. Oz has one. I did this one and got a good workout.

This chart is good.  I printed this one out for my bulletin board--it’ll be a little easier on the knees.

This page has some for the less able-bodied. 

Here’s a sit down chair workout

These are a little more strenuous. They’re supposed to be done in an office, but they’re pretty conspicious. 

The only problem is finding time to do them, right?  Wrong. You can work these in all day long. Set a timer for 50 minutes. When it rings, do 10 minutes of exercise, then get back to writing.

Now, go forth and do as I say. I’m not saying I do this faithfully!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Writing Dialogue Tips

While cleaning out a closet, I found an old copy of The Writer magazine, which contains an article titled, “Your Ultimate Fiction Workout.” I thought I’d paraphrase the section on writing dialogue and pass along some tips that took me years to learn.
Dialogue is the illusion of real conversations, a distilled yet genuine version of how people actually speak. It’s also what isn’t spoken.  If someone says, “Of course I don’t mind,” and throws something to the floor, you know he’s lying.  The old adage that ‘actions speak louder than words’ is true and combining action with dialogue creates a more vivid image.
Dialogue should be precise and to the point. Skip the pleasantries and any unnecessary chit chat. Unless a tornado’s on its way, don’t have your characters discussing the weather, or ask how someone’s feeling unless she's swaddled in bandages.  Skip the speeches and keep dialogue short. A little goes a long way.
Dialogue tags should be kept to a minimum as well as low key.  “He saids” and “she saids” have a way of disappearing into the text, if not used too often, while “he growled” or “she yelled” seem to stand out like stripes on a Hereford.  Few tags are necessary when two people are talking, but three or more speakers need occasional tags.
As for punctuation, a rare exclamation point doesn’t need he emphasized or she shouted following the statement any more than she asked is necessary following a question mark. But most writers, including myself, write unnecessary tags.
Each speaker deserves his own paragraph, and should have a distinctive voice, which includes word choices, accents, cadences and slang.  A reader should be able to determine the character’s age, education, and background from the way he speaks, without writing his words phonetically.
Reading dialogue aloud or tape recording and listening to how speak patterns sound is a good way to learn how to write believable dialogue.  
~Jean Henry Mead

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Thoughts That Drove BEST DEFENSE

The Thoughts That Drove BEST DEFENSE
By Randy Rawls

    When I began BEST DEFENSE (released November 1, 2013 in paper and ebook form), I pictured a kidnapping of a five-year-old and the turmoil such an event causes. I chose this topic because I want my books to be topical—at least part of them anyway. And, whether we like it or not, the kidnapping of children fills the news almost daily. I don't know whether there are more here in Florida, but I do know there are a lot.
    As I got into the story, though, I reached a point where I sat back and stared at the screen. My fictitious police had just announced they'd have an AMBER alert out by morning. My mind took off on a path of its own, wondering about the news stories I've read over the years. So few of those unfortunate young people have been recovered alive—or recovered at all. Why? Do only murderers kidnap children? I began to research the Internet. Too many cases to chronicle, but here are a few:
    Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr., 20-month old son of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. The father was a famed aviator, but that didn't protect him. His son was found dead two months later.
    Michael James Klunder, a convicted pedophile, is believed to have kidnapped at least four young girls. A 12-year old escaped, but a 15-year old is still missing. He may have abducted and murdered two young girls from Iowa. Sadly, Klunder was found dead, leaving no clues as to the 15-year old's whereabouts.
    Another registered sex offender, Donald James Smith of Jacksonville, Florida is believed to have abducted an 8-year old girl. She was murdered.
    The disappearance of Madeleine McCann, 3-years old, has gotten international coverage to no avail. She is still missing.
    Marc Dutroux, serial killer and child molester, was convicted of kidnapping, torturing, and sexually abusing six girls ranging in ages from 8 to 19.  He murdered four of the girls.
    Robert "Bobby" Cosgrove Greenlease, Jr., a 6-year-old boy, was kidnapped and immediately murdered in Kansas City, Missouri by Bonnie Heady and Carl A. Hall. They demanded and were paid a $600,000 ransom by the boy's father.
Peter Weinberger, 1-month old, was taken from his home in Westbury, New York for a $2,000 ransom. The kidnapper told investigators he went to the first drop site the day after the kidnapping—with the baby in the car—but was scared away by all of the press and police in the area. The baby's decomposed body was recovered later.                                                        

Graeme Thorne was 8-years old when he was kidnapped. His partially decomposed body was found weeks later.
The above are the tragic cases, the ones where no live recovery was made in spite of the intense police investigations and, in some cases, the parents meeting the kidnappers' demands. There are others where the victim was recovered. Some of the them are the result of the police involvement, but often they occur in spite of police involvement.                                                    
    Patty Hearst, the 19-year- old heiress to the Hearst Corporation fortune was kidnapped in 1974. She was captured in September 1975 after assisting her kidnappers in a bank robbery.
    Elizabeth Smart, 14-years old, was abducted from her bedroom in Salt Lake City on June 5, 2002. On March 12, 2003, just over nine months after the abduction, she was recovered because of the actions of an alert civilian.
    Amanda Berry, Georgina "Gina" DeJesus, and Michelle Knight were rescued from captivity in a house owned by their kidnapper, Ariel Castro. The women had disappeared between 2002 and 2004. They were discovered after an alert civilian helped Berry escape Castro's house with her daughter and contacted police.
    There are many other instances of kidnappings where the intense police work did not pay off. In too many cases, the victim's body was all that was found. In others, the victim was never found.
    So, when I hit the point in BEST DEFENSE where it was time to start the recovery investigation, I stopped. If my 5-year old daughter were kidnapped, and I had the clout to drive the investigation however I wanted, what would I do? If I added to that formula that I worked every day with the thugs and street slime that would do such a thing, how would that affect my decision?
    By looking through the eyes of John Hammonds, a powerful defense attorney in South Florida, I answered my questions. I hope you'll find my responses credible and enjoy BEST DEFENSE.
    BEST DEFENSE is book 2 in the Beth Bowman, S FL PI series.  HOT ROCKS was first and is available everywhere that fine books are sold.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Writer, Interrupted

by Janis Patterson
Our family has always been keepers. Not hoarders, but keepers. Things that are parts of our family history. Things that might be useful someday. Or simply, things that are simply too good to get rid of. That’s how we ended up with a garage full of stuff. And when I say full, I mean full! This oversized two car garage was packed so tightly we couldn’t have fitted an anorexic mouse in there.

Over the years periodically we’d decide to do something about it. We had plans to make it half into an organized storage facility with shelves and steel pallets and half into a workshop (I call it a ‘Boom Room’) for The Husband. We’d make a concentrated but short-lived attempt to get it cleaned out. The local animal-benefit charity shop loved us, because with every attempt they got a nice haul of stuff. But then other things – trips, rocket meets, gun shows, writer’s meetings, that sort of thing – got in the way and the garage would once again slip into oblivion on our radar.

Then not too long ago we realized how long we had been talking about doing the garage and, in a moment of bravado, booked the contractor to arrive on a certain date. Then we looked at the garage and ALL THAT STUFF! Gulp.

Well, there was no way we could sort through all those boxes and bags and suitcases in time to have the garage cleared before the contractor and his crew showed up, so we did the next best thing. We rented a storage room – a rather large storage room – on the edge of town and have been frantically moving things there willy-nilly for the last ten days. We? The Husband goes to his job Monday through Friday and can only work on the weekend, leaving guess who to haul stuff around during the week. Of course, I have a job too – I write, you know – but in the light of the present emergency my computer is getting a nice rest. I’m not. Sometimes life just gets in the way.

My mother did not raise me to be a stevedore, but necessity drives, so during the week I load up my SUV (which seems to be rather ashamed to be carrying such a shabby cargo), drive to the storage unit, unload, return and repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

Did I tell you I’ve discovered one of the great secrets of the universe? Boxes breed. They really do. After a day of moving I swear there are more boxes in the garage than there were when I started. Sigh.

It doesn’t help that we are dealing with four households – mine, The Husband’s, my late parents’ and what my mother had from her mother’s house. You can name almost anything and we have at least three of them. To complicate matters, my late mother was the family historian who kept all kinds of family memorabilia from photographs to a pump head to plow harrows to an ancient scythe (I’m fixed for costume parties from now on!) to an 1830 blanket box which strongly resembles a recently dug up coffin. We have furniture that came to Texas in a covered wagon in the 1840s and a settee and two chairs that date from my great-uncle’s first term as a State Legislator back in the twenties. I think we are the only house on the block to have our own anvil.

Not all was lost during this last weekend, though. The Husband and I took an entire pick-up load of stuff to the charity shop. And there is method in our madness in carrying stuff away to storage. That way we ensure that only things we wish to keep will come back to the house… and the charity shop is conveniently located between home and the storage facility!

I may not be getting much writing done, but it is a good feeling to know that our dreams of the garage are actually coming true and that our discards are benefiting the scores of homeless animals who so desperately need help. It’s also sad in a way, because I am getting rid of things I would rather not, but have no need of nor space for. There are some things I’m keeping, though, like the anvil. It might be useful someday.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Life Interfering with my Writing

Well, not just life--I've really been busy lately, and I have three chapters written in my next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. I need to get with it because I'm going to read the last chapter of my next Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel to my critique group next week.

Most everyone knows I've been on a blog tour for Spirit Shapes (the latest Tempe Crabtree mystery) and that take a lot of time to promote. There's no point in doing a blog tour unless you promote it every day and go back and see who has commented. Necessary, because the person who comments on the most blogs will have his/her name used in my next Tempe.

This month I went on a trip to Portland with the publisher of my Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novels. We drove from Central CA to Medford OR in one day, and then onto the convention center that was holding Wordstock in Portland. We unloaded tables and chairs and lots of books and carted stuff to the other end of the convention hall. After that we drove around Portland's freeways (as bad as L.A.s with just as crazy drivers) to find a place to eat and then our hotel. And by the way, I was the navigator for all this with the help of a GPS.

The next day we attended Wordstock and talked to many people about the books on display. That evening, we found a nice place to eat close to the hotel before heading back to bed. No sooner did we get into our room when I had some kind of scary heart incident.

The next day we went back to the convention center, again talked to people about the books, and in the late afternoon, packed up everything and headed back to the hotel. No problems. The next morning we left for home.

The first night home, I had another heart incident. Next day went to my doctor, had an EKG. Was sent for blood work--which turned out to be okay, but an appointment was made with a cardiologist.

Saw him, he thinks I had a heart attack and I'm signed up for a bunch of tests. Meanwhile heart is still weird at times though usually I feel fine.

I have some book events scheduled, and guess I'll just keep moving on and pray for the best. And maybe I'll get back to writing soon.


Monday, November 4, 2013

My Favorite TV Mystery Shows

I love mysteries. I read them, I write them, and I watch TV mystery-related shows. Here are some of my favorite series. They all have a wonderful cast of three-dimensional characters and great story lines that keep my attention.

“The Mentalist,” “Castle,” and “Elementary,” whose sleuth is Sherlock Holmes. All three are “amateur” detectives who help the police solve crimes. While endearing, all three have irritating personality quirks that are overlooked because they’re so clever at detecting.

“NCIS”—action. Great interaction between members of the team.

 “Hawaii 50” – beautiful scenery, action, and loyalty to the team

“Blue Bloods” – A wonderful portrayal of a family of cops and a sister who’s an assistant DA.

“Rizzoli and Isles” --  Detective Jane and ME Maura are opposites and best friends who play off one another as they solve crimes.

“Hostages” – a taut series of a doctor and her family held hostage in their home. She is to murder the president when she operates on him. The four home invaders have guns, but each is vulnerable in a different way.

“The Blacklist” – James Spader is marvelous as a villain we love to hate. He's willing to help the FBI catch other villains as long as he can work with a young FBI agent who fears her husband is a criminal.

My current favorite:
“Vera,” a British series on PBS starring Brenda Blethyn. Based on Ann Cleeves’ characters, these mysteries have plots that twist and turn.

Stop by and tell me a few of your favorite TV mystery shows.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Writing Honest Reviews

Mar Preston

Quite a number of book review sites have sprung up on Facebook, offering authors an opportunity to post a request for reviews. Most often the moderators of the sites request that the book in question be offered to the reviewer for free. And no reviewer is paid.

You see the book cover, a blurb about the contents of the book, and get a sense of its style and genre. Most authors ask that you post the review on Amazon. Some also ask that you post on Goodreads as well.

A few tips about accepting an offer to swap reviews:

It’s really best if you limit your reviews to works in your own genre. I write police procedurals. I don’t read young adult fantasy. I feel I shouldn’t review it.
Check out what former reviewers have said about the book. We all know that the first reviewers will be your sister, your best friend, and people in your writing group. Look at the 1, 2, and 3-star reviews as well. Often they may be more honest. Let them guide you before you jump in and agree to review an 800-page novel.
Decide what points or stars you will deduct for poor editing, proofreading, and grammar. Or not.
If you save 5-star reviews for the next Tolstoy-Evski, how do you rate a book that was better than anything you’d read lately, but it’s definitely not a first-rate classic.
How do you rate a book that you liked a lot, but which had some bad flaws?
How do you rate a book that you just couldn’t finish because the book was so bad that reading it caused you pain?
Now looking at all those points above, how do you make all those calculation on a book from a stranger against one from an author you know, one whom you’re likely to run into at conferences and book fairs? Or worse a friend?

I want to be honest and fair. Some books I’ve agreed to review are just dreadful. The best writing the author did was the blurb and the Facebook posting.

It is terribly difficult, for me at least, to post a review that is less than a 3-star. I would prefer to write to the author by email and say that I would like to be helpful, yet kind, and perhaps the author would like to see the review first, and make a choice on whether or not the author would like to see the review posted. 

I am putting my name on this review and I want my opinion to be worth something. If I give everything 5-stars, my opinion is worthless. 

Reviewing books from authors I’m friendly with creates a dilemma? How do you deal with this issue?