Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Talent or Determination?

As I’m writing this, the weather outside is in the single digits and I’m stuck at home due to snow covered roads. Bad news is I have a lot of work to do at the day job that’s not getting done. Good news is I have heat, food, and a lot to do in my other life as a writer. 

Like this blog.

I’m not sure I ever loved the snow. When I lived in Idaho after my divorce, I took time to learn to cross country ski. Thirty minutes out of Boise, there was a small ski lodge with both downhill and cross-country trails. I loved spending Saturday mornings on the mountain, lost in my own world fighting through the fear. All I could hear was my own heavy breathing as I trudged the trail, going a little farther with each trip.

Was I an expert? No. In fact, going down little hills on the trail scared me. Most times when I felt out of control, I forced myself to fall over, stopping my descent. You’d be surprised how hard snow can be after a few warm days of sun and a few nights of freeze. It might look soft, instead, it was rock hard.

However, I got up each time I fell and then I kept going. With each trip, I gained confidence and strength. I started to believe in my ability not only to ski, but to succeed in other areas of my life. 

I wasn't an athlete in school. I dabbled in junior high but never had the confidence to try out for a team after that thinking I wasn't good enough. I was right, I wasn't. Not because I didn't have the ability, but because I didn't try.

Work, persistence, and determination three things anyone needs to succeed. Probably even more than talent.  
Speaking of persistence, how are your goals progressing?

Saturday, January 25, 2014


by Kaye George

Whether you believe in the science of climate change or not, you’ve gotta admit, it’s cold! Just how cold is it? OK, you can finish that one.

Here are some records, to make you feel warmer--maybe.

In connection with the people marooned at the bottom of the earth recently, you probably read that the coldest temperatures on the planet have been recorded in Antarctica. No surprise there! The official coldest one is -128.6 F in 1983. However, a satellite got a reading of -135.8 F in 2010.

In the range of what is humanly imaginable, there’s the -80 in Prospect Creek, Alaska, in 1971. Maybe you can’t imagine this, but I can, having lived in Montana. Granted, I have only experienced -80 as the temperature WITH wind chill. But without, it was -40. Brrrr.

Here are some wimpy record lows. 46 (that’s +46) in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia. Then there’s 40 in three different spots in Puerto Rico. Those are looking good right about now.

Wanna go for highs? Maybe that would help? Our country holds the world record. I didn’t know that! It’s 134 in Death Valley, California, in 1913. The record high at the South Pole, by the way, is 9.9. Another reason to stay away from that place.

Jeopardy! is offering a chance to win free National Geographic trips to exotic places. One of them was to Antarctica. I wonder how many people logged in to compete that day. One? Two?

How does any of this relate to writing or reading mysteries? This is GREAT weather to do both, provided you don’t have to go to the library, book store, or office supply shop to get material.

Info from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_weather_records
Photo from my back yard

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Gearing Up Promotion for New Book

Yes, I'm starting early. I don't even have a cover yet to display. And the book won't be out until March.

Come to think about it, maybe it's not early enough.

So what am I doing?

Crazy as I am, I'm doing another blog tour. This one is a month long and will be in April. I want to make sure that books are actually available for purchase when I'm out and about talking about it. Of course for a blog tour out and about means telling everyone about the blog I'm visiting each and every day.

I do have all the the blogs I'm visiting set up. Believe me, that's a chore in itself. I've included a few I've never done before.

And as incentive to entice people to follow along, I'm again awarding the opportunity for the person who leaves a comment on the most blogs to have his or her name used for a character in the next book.

At this point, I'm a little over halfway writing the posts for the blogs. It's a good thing I like to write because it is a lot of work to come up with something different for each post. It's helpful when the host tells you what they want to write--but most don't.

So what is this book I'm planning the promotion for? It's the next in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series called, Murder in the Worst Degree. One of the pivotal characters in the plot is the person who won last year's contest, Evelyn Cullett--another mystery writer.

As for in-person promotion, I haven't planned much so far. Our only bookstore is closing next month, so an appearance there is out. I am signed up for Left Coast Crime--and I know I'll hand out cards to anyone who'll take one, but whether or not I'll be on a panel at this point, I don't know.

Anyway, that's what I've been up to lately. And having fun with my great grands.

(My sons grandkids (cousins). They live close by so I get to see them often.)

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Monday, January 20, 2014

Some of My Favorite Groups

We writers spend a good deal of time alone. We have to, if we want to get the words down and our books written. But we’re social creatures as well. This past week I met with four groups I belong to, groups that impact on me as a writer.

Monday night I attended a meeting of my children’s writers’ group. I joined this group in the late 1980’s, after my first book was published. We meet informally to talk about the writing business and our writing careers. I was especially glad to see everyone because ever since I moved some years ago, I can only make a few of the meetings.

Thursday night I drove to my local library to meet with our mystery book club. We read a book each month and discuss it in great detail. I led the group when it first began but had to step down because of events in my personal life. Someone else took up the role, and, frankly I prefer it this way. Of course I make many comments and observations from a writer’s perspective. More importantly, I learn first-hand what appeals to mystery readers and what doesn’t regarding plot elements and character development.

I belong to another book club that rarely reads mysteries. This Friday went to see the movie “Her” and discussed it afterwards. I thoroughly enjoyed this film about a man who falls in love with his OS—operating system--more than most of my friends. Regardless, I enjoyed hearing their comments. Our discussion set me thinking—always a good thing for writers.

Saturday I attended Long Island Sisters in Crime’s monthly meeting. As creator and past president of the group, LISinC has a special place in my heart. We talked about future meetings and presenting panels at libraries, etc. We talked about marketing, and, as always, I jotted down new ideas and ways to promote MURDER A LA CHRISTIE, which comes out next month.

These are some of my favorite groups. What groups do you belong to that sustain you as a writer?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

by Janis Patterson/Janis Susan May
But it shouldn’t be.

Like so many other writers I am in the process of trying to get my rights back. Why is it such a hassle?

Most new contracts are written where it seems the publisher controls all the rights forever, with little or no hope of reversion to the writer. Apparently many publishers feel that they own the book instead of just having the license to publish it, and that’s just wrong, especially if they do little or nothing to sell the book. Instead they just sit on it.

A friend of mine has had several books with a major publisher for years now and try though she will, she cannot get the rights back. There is a catch in her contract that she can expect her rights to be reverted only after her book has been on sale for a certain length of time. As her sales had been okay but not spectacular she wanted to try for the gold ring in self-publishing. Every time the magic reversion date comes close, though, the publisher brings out a new, cheapie edition in Rumania or Patagonia or somewhere. It’s a new edition, however potentially unprofitable, and that resets the reversion clock. I guess they don’t want the author to make any money that they don’t control or the ability to put the book on the market where it might be bought instead of one of theirs. Either way it’s a dishonorable practice, whether or not it’s contractually legal.

Even worse is the publisher who has a distinct reversion of rights protocol in their contract, but who simply refuses to acknowledge it. Certified letters are refused, takedown requests are ignored, sometimes even royalties are withheld, but like a dog in a manger they keep the books – usually without doing anything for them. The books are simply held hostage and the author is forced into getting a lawyer to regain her property. I believe that I am facing this prospect now.

To add insult to injury, there are publishers who do not pay the proper amount of royalties earned and, as there is no law that sales figures (from their website or from third party retailers) have to be shown to the writer, the author must just take on good faith that the publisher is telling the truth. The author receives only dribs and drabs as royalties without having a way to check if this is right while the publisher keeps the money. In any other business this would be called theft; in publishing it is sometimes unfortunately business as usual. Sites like Writer Beware and Preditors and Editors are full of warnings about such publishers. And, sadly, it seems that these ‘publishers’ are the worst about reverting rights. Doubtless they feel they shouldn’t have to let loose of a cash cow, no matter what the law says.

Some publishers act as if a writer requesting reversion is a personal attack and respond in kind with rants, threats and tirades over the phone and through email. Sometimes they even go to the extremes of harassment through bad reviews on all the author’s books no matter where they are published or by whom. Such vicious attacks are designed not only to increase the publisher’s sense of power and personal vindictiveness, but to browbeat and punish the author for daring to want to recover her books.

Of course even the legitimate publishers are scared. After decades of being the omnipotent Grand High Pooh-Ba who must be placated and courted by the writer in order to be published, of doing as little as possible for the author while keeping as much as possible of the money (6% royalty, which some houses still offer? Of net and not even of cover? Really?) the specter of the independence of self-publishing must be terrifying. Books go directly from the author to the reader and the publisher is totally cut out of the equation. One of the downsides is the potential for a really big number of really bad books to flood the market, but there are no more gatekeepers. On the other hand, one of the upsides is that there is so much more variety and servicing of niche markets (markets too small to really interest a big publisher) because there are no more gatekeepers.

Publishing is changing, but that does not give the publishers the right to violate contracts and refuse to return authors their legitimate property – their books. The authors write the books and the publisher is only licensed to handle them for a proscribed amount of time. It’s time that all publishers – good and bad, honest and dishonest – realize that without authors there would be no publishing industry and they should be treated with honesty and respect. The author-genie is out of the bottle of traditional publishing and it will never go back to the old ways again. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The 3 in 100 plan. Or how to be part of the 8 percent.

It’s January 14th – Do you know where your New Year’s resolutions are? 

Most people give up on their resolutions within six months.  And worse, only eight percent of those who make resolutions reach their goal by the end of the year.

Eight percent.

I love resolutions, I call them goals.  One trick I learned to keep them in my sights is what I call 3 in 100.
Take a new notebook. Write out three of your resolution. (If you have more, put them aside for a while.)
The first page of my notebook looks like this.
  • Goal #1 – Lose 20 pounds in 2014
  • Goal #2 – Write Tourist Trap #4 Or at least three chapters and a synopsis
  • Goal #3-Workout 5 times a week

Except #1 and #3 are kind of the same and hopefully #3 makes #1 happen.  But we’ll change #1 to stay within my calorie count.
  • Goal #1 – Lose 20 pounds in 2014 Stay within my calorie count to lose weight.
  • Goal #2 – Write Tourist Trap #4 Or at least three chapters and a synopsis.
  • Goal #3-Workout 5 times a week.

Better ?Now the fun begins.

Day one – turn the page.  
  • Write the date on the top of the page.
  • I’m also going to add my ‘measurements’ so I can see if I’m progressing on my ultimate goal – to lose twenty pounds.
  • Then I’m writing down one thing for each goal that I did to make progress.

For #1 it could be – packed my lunch and snacks for work. (Today it was carrots, celery and a shrimp salad.)
#2 – Write down all the ideas I have for a fourth book. Or what I call loose leaf plotting.
Finally #3 – worked out on Xbox game and rode bike for 30 minutes.  That may not happen as the snow hit pretty hard today so I didn't get my morning workout before I had to brave the commute. 

Day two – rinse and repeat.

Do this for 100 days in a row.  No stopping. If you miss doing anything toward your goals that day, write down your reason.  Is it really a good one?  Then do better tomorrow.

The nice thing is a new day gives you a blank slate to start all over and better. 

Questions? Do you use a goal plan like this? Or how do you make sure you’re one of the 8 percent come December? 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

My New Year

by Kaye George

My fellow bloggers here at Make Mine Mystery have been putting down wrap ups of 2013, predictions for 2014, and resolutions. My turn to blog falls 1/3 into the month, so it’s a little late, but allow me to wind back to the first and do a New Year’s post here.

Looking back on my 2013, I’ll note that 13 has always been my lucky number and it didn’t fail me. Hubby and I were engaged, then married on the 13th, so I’ll always have a fond spot for that number. (However, it hasn’t helped when I use it on Lotto tickets. Yet.)

I don’t think I’ll ever have another year like 2013. Two different publishers (Barking Rain Press and Untreed Reads) birthed two new series for me! They were released in April and June, two months apart. I’ve been scrambling ever since to get the word out on both of them at once.

Then I signed a contract with a third publisher. This one is the Penguin imprint, Berkley Prime Crime. I should say Penguin-Random (but I prefer Random-Penguin). Closer to the end of the year, I turned in the manuscript for that new series, which will debut in September of 2014.

In the middle of all the writing I’ve been doing, we moved from the Waco area of Texas to Knoxville Tennessee. Compounding the difficulty of that was the fact that we had just moved, seven months before that, from Taylor TX where we had spent 7 years. That’s a long time for us, nomads that we are. This one is different, though. This is where we intend to stay put. Hubby retired and we have kids and grands in the area. We did in Texas, too, and hate to leave them behind. We miss them, but I’m not missing the heat and the drought. We’re also closer to the third set of kids on the East Coast.

In the middle of moving, a grandson was born under difficult circumstances. He’s fine now--in fact, I’ve never seen such a happy, smiling boy, but he stayed in the hospital for a few weeks, so I went to the DC area to help out with the two year old.

A very confusing, rushed year! But good times, in the end.

What about 2014? More writing, more publishing, is what I hope for. My lucky number can go ahead now and do the trick with Lotto so I can hire a secretary, maid, and personal full-time masseuse.

I’m hoping for a good year for all of our blog readers, and for my fellow bloggers!

Friday, January 10, 2014

My Only Starring Role

Early in my professional writing career I was involved in a number of writers’ groups. During the mid-1980s, I served as secretary-treasurer of a worldwide writers’ organization, and it wasn’t long before I was spending my writing time answering phone calls as late as 11 p.m. from novice writers who needed advice as well as non-writers who had bestselling ideas and needed someone to write the book and share the profits. There was even a letter from a fledgling journalist in Zimbabwe who wanted an international press card. That I couldn’t furnish.

Similar phone calls and messages became commonplace and I was often up the proverbial creek, attempting to help callers and lettter writers although a young journeyman writer myself.  My biggest challenge was a call from a German PBS crew filming the U.S. for viewers back home.  The producer called to ask for information about western reenactments and said that actor Glenn Ford was narrating a TV series (I had no idea he spoke German). He also said that Louis L’Amour had agreed to serve as their technical advisor. I had recently interviewed L’Amour for my book, Maverick Writers, and was told he had given them my phone number, so how could I refuse.

The crew of five arrived in Casper in late July, following the filming of Cheyenne’s “Frontier Days.”Among other suggestions, I told them about a 2,000-member buffalo herd located 120 miles from where I lived. Big mistake! They insisted that I lead them there. I regrettted not telling them that I had grown up in Los Angeles and never ventured near a buffalo herd.  But I reluctantly agreed.

The next morning found the crew waiting for me, travel weary and not terribly anxious to leave for the Wyoming outback. Three of the men were past fifty, perhaps even sixty, and spoke English well, although they lapsed into German when not speaking to me, which I thought was rude. A young video grip, whom they had hired in San Jose, agreed and complained whenever they were out of earshot.

The director/script writer decided to ride with me while the equipment  caretaker; cameraman;  and producer followed in a old van and station wagon. Accustomed to driving the German Autobahn, they had acquired a spindle full of speeding tickets.Quite a collection, in fact. I’m sure they were annoyed that I only drove 65 miles an hour on back roads to the buffalo ranch near Reno Junction.

Two and a half hours later, we arrived at the ranch where the foreman had arranged to meet us at noon. Obviously unimpressed with German film crews, he  left earlier that morning to buy tractor parts in distant town, so we never saw him. After an hour's wait, his teenaged son left the ranch house to lead us to the herd. With a contemptuous glance at our motley crew, he led us down a bumpy dirt road in his decrepit pickup truck which appeared to have been held together with bailing wire. The pickup bed flapped like a large bird on takeoff, and I knew why when we followed him through rough, sagebrush-peppered  terrain.

Our first glimpse of the herd came some five minutes later as they grazed peacefully on a hill. We parked nearby and my passenger asked if I would stampede the herd so the cameraman could film them raising clouds of dust. I refused because my Bronco was nearly new  So while they persuaded our guide to do the deed, I drove into the herd and watched as the buffalo showed off by wallowing on their backs with feet in the air several yards away. In order to get some great pictures--that I’m now unable to find--I foolishly left the driver’s seat to get a bettter look, finding the buffao so large that they towered over me. 

I never got around to writing about the experience until now, but was later told that I had appeared on German TV as the crazy woman who stood in the midst of a buffalo herd. I had no idea that the crew, stationed on a hill nearby, had their camera trained on me.

That was my first and last role as a buffalo tour guide and foreign TV reality star. I also quit my advisory job, happy to return to writing fulltime.

~Jean Henry Mead

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Where Do You Get Your Titles?

The quick answer--many different places.

For my next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery, the title came from a friend, who from out of the blue emailed me and said, your next book should be called Murder in the Worst Degree. My reaction? Sure, why not.

Okay, I had the title, now what on earth should I write? I started with only a few plot ideas, certainly not sure how I would work in the title. Did it matter? No in the least. I wrote and I wrote and near the end, the words in the title fit the plot. You'll have to wait until March of 2014 to find out how.

The previous RBPD mystery, Dangerous Impulses, I was completely finished and had no idea what the title should be so I turned to my writing group that had the tale from start to finish, and one of the group came up with the exact title I needed. The concept of dangerous impulses covers many of the happenings in the story.

I had no trouble at all coming up with a title for No Bells. Part of the plot came from what one of my son's former girlfriends said to him when she broke up with him.

Angel Lost was easy too, the title refers to two major incidents in the story.

And before that was an Axe to Grind. No problem with that one either, the opening crime made the title easy.


No Sanctuary was a cinch since it involved two churches, and the final scene takes place in one of th churches which definitely was not a sanctuary.

The idea for Smell of Death came from my police officer son-in-law who said movies, TV and books never conveyed the horrific smell of death. (They've gotten better about that in recent times.)

Though most of the cops in my RBPD mysteries are good--or at least normal men and women, in Fringe Benefits the villain and main character is a bad cop, one who takes great advantage of his job. This is the book where Officer Gordon Butler first comes on the scene. (Easy title to come up with.)

#2 in the series, Bad Tidings refers to the bad news that the police often have to deliver--and sometimes get themselves.


When I wrote Final Respects I had no idea it would become a series. Once I'd finished it, I had no trouble at all knowing what the title should be. I wish all titles were as easy to decide upon.

And there you have it--the whole history of choosing titles for the Rocky Bluff P.D series.

Now it's your turn. How do you come up with titles for you books? Or if you're a read and not a writer, do titles help you choose a book to read?

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Monday, January 6, 2014

My Five Favorite Books & Five Favorite Movies of 2013

I love reading novels and watching good films. Here are my five favorites in both categories.. Keep in mind that they reflect my tastes and that I certainly haven’t read every new book or seen every movie made this year.

Regarding the books: I found all five well-written, original, and captivating. I’d received the first three from Shelf-Awareness, the fourth from Net Galley, and the fifth I bought. I’ll read any book Donna Tartt writes.

1. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer is an engrossing novel about a group of young people whose friendships go back to their camp days. Their relationships take many twists and turns over the years.

2. An American Bride in Kabul: a Memoir by Phyllis Chesler  I remember Phyllis Chelser from the 70’s as an outspoken feminist. I found her memoir truly astounding. As a 20-year-old Jewish girl from Brooklyn, she travels abroad with her new husband and ends up living in his family home in Kabul, where she’s expected to follow traditions she finds alien and abhorrent. Though her passport’s been taken from her, she manages to make her way back to the United States.

3. The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison Jodi and Todd’s story is a mesmerizing read with a powerful ending. I’m sorry the author died before she could enjoy the success of her book .

4. Mrs. Poe by Lyn Cullen I don’t care if the love story told here about poetess Frances Osgood and Edgar Allan Poe is true or imagined. I loved reading about the New York literary scene in the mid-nineteen hundreds. Suspenseful, beautifully written, and thoroughly enjoyable.

5. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt  13-year-old Theo and his mother are in the Metropolitan Museum when she and many others are killed in a terrorist attack. He escapes, taking a valuable painting. The Goldfinch becomes an albatross he keeps with him through his tumultuous life. I’m still reading this amazing adventure.

The movies I enjoyed most this year all have wonderful actors, an interesting story line, and depth.

1. “The Royal Affair” A memorable love story that takes place in Eighteenth century Denmark between Queen Caroline Mathilde and her husband’s physician as they set about bringing the Reformation to the Danish people. .

2. “The Way Way Back” is an exceptional summer coming-of-age story with pathos and humor and memorable characters.

3. “Philomena” Based on a true story, an Irish woman sets out to find her son, who was taken from her fifty years ago. Probably my favorite film of 2013. Not to be missed!

4. “The Sessions” A quadriplegic young man who spends most of his day in an iron lung wants to experience sex. He does, and finds love along the way. Based on a true story. Oddly enough, not prurient.

5. “The Attack” A respected Palestinian physician who lives in Tel Aviv is shocked to discover his wife is responsible for a suicide bombing. Unable to comprehend why she has done this, he returns to his Palestine village where he finds some answers.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

It's 2014?

It's 2014?

  Frankly, I find it hard to believe that it's 2014 already—and I'm still here to be a part of it. Heck, I was shocked to watch 2000 roll in.
  Yeah, fourteen years have passed since the Bicentennial Scam. Remember that one? Everyone's computer was going to blow up, and we'd all be living in caves. I wonder how much money changed hands as computers were "upgraded" to accept four digit years. I was still working for the government at the time, and I can attest to the size of some of the contracts that were let to "protect" us. Nuts, perfectly nuts. So nuts that I spent most of that New Year's Eve and New Year's morning sitting in a computer center waiting for the emergency calls to roll in. Do I need tell you there were NONE.
  Enough of looking back. Although I have 20-20 vision, there is so much "back," I can't see that far. What's up for the future?
    Less efficient government?  Of course.
    Higher taxes?  Of course.
    More sports channels on TV that I can't get without paying a lot more? Of course.
    Worse airline travel? Of course.
    Earl Staggs writing a bestselling short story? Of course.
    More violence in movies by those who decry violence in society? Of course.
    More poorly written books reaching the NY Times bestseller lists? Of course.
    Randy Rawls getting his entire backlist out as EBooks? I certainly hope so. I want to push all of them out there, then hope for the best. I mean, Ace Edwards deserves a second chance, right?
  In case you missed it, I just slipped in a clue about my GOAL(!) for 2014. The Ace Edwards series will find new life, along with Tom Jeffries and Beth Bowman. Plus, I'm putting out what I truly believe is the best thing I've ever written: DOWN BY THE RIVER. When it hits Amazon, I hope you'll at least look at a sample.
  And, aw what the heck (cliché alert), HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year’s Resolutions and Other Woes

by Janis Patterson
How can it be a new year already? I’ve just become used to writing 13 on my checks, but then I have never taken change well. The change from 19— to 20— was positively traumatic. How can time go by so fast?

I know our metabolism slows down as we get older, but the sad truth is that time goes faster to make up for it. Sigh.

I never make New Year’s Resolutions as I do not handle failure well. The only time I ever followed through on a resolution was when I resolved most solemnly never to make any more New Year’s Resolutions!

If I were to, though, they would be simple. To cook more from scratch. To write faster and more. To keep a cleaner house. To socialize more. To be less distracted by the fascinating trivia of life. Yes, they’re sometimes contradictory, but then so am I. And with time slipping away faster and faster, such good intentions tend to get squished into smaller and smaller timeframes and therefore negated.

Am I the only one whose life seems roughly equitable to trying to have a leisurely swim in a blender? Too much to do and much too little time in which to do it? So many of my friends, writers and otherwise, seem to be doing so much more, producing so much more than I, and that is disheartening. Obviously I must prioritize more, must make better use of my time and resources. Unfortunately, that sounds too much like a New Year’s Resolution, a failing I must overlook if I am to follow through. At least I can try. 

I do have a small brag, though, if you will allow me... under my Janis Susan May persona I received two book contracts in December from Vinspire Publishing. Miss Morrison's Second Chance is a traditional Regency romance which will be released next September. Welcome Home is a contemporary gothicky romantic suspense, so far without a release date. Talk about ending 2013 with a bang! 2014 is going to have to do a lot to catch up.

I wish each and every one of you the Happiest of New Years, along with good writing, all kinds of happiness and many sales.