Monday, December 29, 2014

The Power of Words

Words are magic. Think about it. A "political" speech. A sermon. A description of anything. Tongue lashing. Threat. A Valentine's Day card.

Words are power. I wonder, can we forget the English teacher, the editor, the "rules" that sometimes govern words we use, words we write? (Actually, I should have written "overly govern.")

Once, at a writers' conference, a multi-published speaker warned us to avoid dialect. "Drop in an odd word or two here or there, but too much dialect makes roadblocks for the reader," he said.

Well, maybe. My second novel in the "To Die For" series was then at my publisher's and would be released in a few weeks. I write stories set in the Ozarks, and though my two protagonists do speak reasonably orderly English, others who appear often do not.  One of my major characters in MUSIC TO DIE FOR is Mad Margaret Culpepper. Can you understand this one example of her language as she speaks out her grief and love for her dead daughter?

"Elizabeth weren't 'special purty 'n' she niver had purties to fix up in, but she done good at school. She were good at poetry 'n' thinkin' up music. Oh my, she loved music--she had the purty things in her head."

No one has ever said they didn't understand everything Mad Margaret says, and I am grateful for that, because I love her as much as many readers have said they do. And yet her language is drowning in dialect.. I guess the main message here is that it's important to evaluate all that experts say about writing. Learn from them, yes, but then be daring enough to explore, expand, and, well, explode your own ideas onto the page or screen.

In some contrast to "no dialect" dictum is an article I just read in the Sisters in Crime magazine, "inSinC."

(Pause. Look how the Internet and today's technology have changed our language. "inSinC?")
The article explained how experts can test language spoken and written by various individuals and tell them  who wrote what. Seems language use, even when it seems alike, reflects our education, profession, family background, and much more. It is possible to solve crimes using this knowledge.  Wow.

In A RIVER TO DIE FOR, Catherine has been abducted by a potential rapist and held captive. At one point, here is what we hear:

She shook her fist toward the ceiling, shouted, "I want you to know I'll sue you if you fall," and felt better, if no safer.

And, later: "I, Catherine MacDonald King, J D., affirm and attest that I refuse to give in. I refuse to die in this mine."

Where is she? What is her profession? Have you learned anything about her personality?

My very most ever favorite use of words is found in one of Verlyn Klinkenborg's "The Rural Life" columns published in the New York Times on July 6, 2009.  Here is one paragraph:

"It is late afternoon as I write. There is blundering beyond the tree line. Soon the tuberous blunderheads trundle over the horizon; they begin to "wampum, wampum, wampum" until at last they're vrooming nearby, just down the valley. Or perhaps they're harrumphing and oomphing, from the very omphalos of the storm. Onomatopoeia is such a delicate thing."

Isn't that wonderful?  How I love the variety of language--and sometimes--its free use.  How about you?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Party’s Over

Over the holidays, I did something I haven’t done since I started my latest series. I took five days off in a row from writing. That is, I didn’t sit at the computer and put words into the file for Fat Cat #3 (which doesn’t have a title yet). However, it wasn’t completely gone from my mind, except for short stretches of fun with the family.

Things kept popping up in my head and I noted them down. As soon as I could, I would perch on the edge of my office chair and type them into my notes. If that wasn’t possible, I’d stick the paper I had scribbled upon on the stack to the left of my keyboard. That’s my stack for whatever I’m currently working on, for the most part.

I dreaded getting back into the story, but, you know what? It wasn’t that bad. I’m so glad I did take the trouble to jot those ideas down because I used every single one, or will within a day or two.

Friday I did some gift returns, but did manage to get 880 words written. I’ll wait until Monday to do the rest of the gift stuff, I think. Saturday will be a zoo! Besides, I need a whole day to luxuriate in the freedom to write without thinking about the one gift left, the cards to mail, the peanut brittle (which I never did make), and the meal planning.

I love Christmas and love kids and grandkids being here. I also love the relaxation when everything’s over!

Have any of you taken a chunk of time off from writing during the winter holidays? Do you have any tricks for getting back into it?

Monday, December 22, 2014


I know everyone's busy at this time of year, but if you'd like to get into the Christmas spirit, you can still download my book called CHRISTMAS CAROL for FREE through Wednesday, Christmas Eve.


A stranded big time author learns the meaning of life and love from a small town waitress named Christmas Carol.

Blake Dugan's car gets smashed in a snowstorm and he's stranded in a small town. At first, he's annoyed by the tone-deaf singing of a local waitress. That's before he learns the terrible secret compelling her to try and forget the unforgettable.

Can he help her forget? When his car’s ready, should he go, or should he stay? 

As you can guess, this book is not really a mystery, although it does contain a slightly mysterious element. Since this is the Christmas Season, I'm bending the rules, in order to share my Christmas book contribution.

Merry Christmas!!!

Find Morgan Mandel's books at

Excerpts at:


Twitter: @MorganMandel

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

It's Christmas. Again.

by Janis Patterson

Remember when we were children and it seemed that geologic ages crept past between one Christmas and the next? Now it seems that the pine needles from one holiday season are barely swept away before another Christmas is barreling toward us.

This year I’m soft-pedaling the holiday. We have no small ones at home (save for the furbabies, who really don’t care) and all our family get-togethers are at other people’s houses this year. Yea! I don’t have to decorate. Or even dust.

It’s not that I don’t have the Christmas spirit – I’m just tired. A publishing blitz of ten books in four and a half months, four new books written, freelancing and regular blogs, plus the normal things like family, friends, the day to day things of laundry and cooking and the rest… it gets exhausting. Add on Christmas shopping and wrapping and parties and it gets even worse. Plus I’m getting older. (I will have to admit that I have reached the cereal years – every time I move it’s snap! crackle! pop!) Somehow putting up wreaths and crèches and garlands and animated lawn ornaments – though they are beautiful – doesn’t really excite me this year.

The Husband asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I didn’t have a clue. I mean, there are the things we can’t do anything about, like world peace and more sales (lots and lots, please!) of my books (Please, Santa – I would like to earn back at least the costs of publishing) and for Microsoft to quit making us change every few months to new programs that are both unnecessary and overly complicated. Then there are the things I really want but we can’t afford, like a new Herman Miller Aeron office chair (which costs about the same amount as my first car) or an office/workroom built above the garage. We already have everything we need, and a lot of things we want, so this year we have agreed that while there will be a few little trinket packages for Christmas morning, our main presents this year will be our trips. We are planning a lot of trips in the new year – the FRW cruise conference in February, perhaps a trip to Egypt in March, a sometime trip to Vegas we won, NINC in October and Denver in June…

Oh, have I told you about that? The Historical Novel Society is a prestigious international association which is holding its conference in the US this year – in Denver in June, to be exact. And…. (drum roll) I have been invited to appear on a panel on “Egyptology and Elizabeth Peters.” You all know what Egyptomanes The Husband and I are, and Barbara (Mertz, aka Barbara Michaels and Elizabeth Peters) was a friend. That invitation is truly a memorable gift.

While I love Christmas presents and parties and decorations, none of those are the true meaning of Christmas. There are those who can talk with much more eloquence than I about love, and faith, and grace, and all the other real things that Christmas means. Beside such cosmic truths poinsettias and reindeer and all the rest fade into insignificance.

So – this year I am going to try to be a better person, and keep the true meaning of Christmas in the forefront of my thoughts. I will be kinder and try to be a truly better person. I will try to treasure the things that really matter – family, friends, love, beauty and all the rest.

In one thing, however, I will remain the rebel – in gleeful defiance of the cleric Abu Musaab Wajdi Akkari (the one who said that wishing someone Merry Christmas is “worse than fornication, and drinking alcohol, and killing someone”) I will proclaim at the top of my voice “Merry Christmas to all!”

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Value of Fans by Marilyn Meredith

Some of you may have had a sneak peek at this post, since I mistakenly put it up the wrong day and didn't notice until the day was almost over. I ended up deleting the whole thing and starting over.

Recently at a fun and very successful Neighborhood Book Store event, I had a chance to realize how truly valuable fans could be.

The event was in a home in a nice residential district.  A sign in the front yard and at two nearby intersections directed people to the house.

One of the author's husband's took care of the signage. (And as you can tell by the photo, the weather cooperated with our event.)

There were eight of us--one, two or three with our book displays in several different rooms. The house flowed well for this kind of event, with the kitchen in the center where goodies were displayed and eaten.

I shared a table with another mystery writer in a pleasant room with comfortable chairs where folks could sit and chat with us.

Much advertising had gone on in the local area, newspaper article, postcard sized announcements left in a local small theater, several libraries and given out at book clubs and writing groups--plus, of course online announcements on Facebook and Twitter.

One of my fans of both series arrived quite early with a list of the books he already had--and then he bought all the latest that he hadn't read yet. That was an exciting way to start the day.

Other people came and asked about my series and bought one or two books. I also handed out many cards.

A woman I haven't seen since she moved to the town we were holding the event in (she used to live where I do which is an hour's drive away) came because she'd seen the flyer. She had always bought my books locally and caught up at this venue.

The day ended with a young man who has been a fan for years--though I only see him ever so often, came all excited and bought two books he hadn't read yet.

It was a great day--and I sold more books at this event then I do at many other much more public venues with many more people attending.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Animals Rights Day

by Kaye George

A lot of writers include animals in many of our our stories. A book without animals is kind of like a house without a pet—feels empty.

International Animal Rights Day was the 10th of this month, did you know that? There are many horrific stories I could tell, of course, to convince you that more work needs to be done for the poor creatures who have no words to express themselves, let along cell phones and access to social media. However, I don’t want to bring you a downer in this holiday season, so save those thoughts for January.

This is the season of Good Will to All. I’m sure Santa treats his reindeer well. How could they make it around the world like that if they weren’t in tip-top condition?

You can track the path of Santa and his deer here if you’d like to.

When I was little, I worried that our dog, Skipper, who died while still a puppy, wouldn’t get to heaven. I also wanted there to be horses there, since my parents weren’t going to get me one while I was on earth, evidently. (Sure enough, they never did. It was plain that our back yard was plenty big enough for one little horse, but they couldn’t see that.)

Tommy, who lived across the alley and was Catholic (I was Methodist—still am), assured me that dogs and cats and horses would never be in Heaven. They would go, he said, to Limbo. I would also go there since I wasn’t Catholic. I made up my mind right then that I much rather be going to Limbo, not Heaven. It would be full of superior-sounding boys like Tommy.

I wonder if it’s a coincidence that Pope Francis chose this time to tell the little boy, “Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.” It’s almost enough to make me want to go to Heaven, after all.

All animal photos from morguefiles

Photo of Pope Francis from Wikipedia

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Planning... and evaluating...and planning some more - Lynn Cahoon

I studied Covey early in my business career and got hooked on the idea of goal setting, evaluating, and re-setting goals.

Probably you're also hearing a mixture of my training experience in that last sentence. Plan, develop, present, evaluate, revamp. What good is a great plan if it doesn't work? I'm also a big fan of continuous education - a term for people like me who are always taking on a new task or theory to learn more.
The Addie Model...

But I think with all that, I learned a new lesson this year. And that's one of focus. If you've followed my writing career, you know I moved from cowboys to warlocks to small town to cozy mystery. It's a logical path, knowing my personal history.

It also confuses the crap out of anyone trying to brand me as a certain type of writer.

So this year, my main focus is to stay focused. I have four series going - one that is one novella away from being complete. That will be done in 2015. I'm taking my unsold Harlequin targeted series ans self publishing them. Look for the Castle View series (an Idaho set trilogy) and the Country Fairy Tales series to arrive in 2015 as well.

On the cozy mystery side, I've got one more Tourist Trap mystery on contract to write in 2015 (hopefully I'll have three more releases in this series in 2015), then hopefully, my publisher will sign on for three more. (If this happens, my writing schedule for 2015 will change dramatically from what it is now. But that's a good thing.)

I have a cozy series with one book written (set in Idaho) which I'd love to see available for readers this next year, but I'll have to see where the Tourist Traps go for book #7.

And, I have this idea floating around in my head....

Juggling the priorities, juggling the writing, and re-evaluating goals and plans as Lynn's writing world changes.

So, I've got my first goal plan for 2015 done. How about you?

Remember, a goal is a dream with a deadline....

Want a chance to win five mysteries from five different authors including me? Check out my author page tomorrow for instructions. Leave a comment to win.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Mystery is in my Heart by Paty Jager

Today I'm happy to introduce you to award-winning author Paty Jager, who will tell you about Double Duplicity, her first Shandra Higheagle Mystery.

Thank you for having me on Make Mine Mystery. I’ve always gravitated toward mystery books when looking for something to read and when I decided to try my hand at writing it was a given the genre I would pick.

While the first two novels I wrote decades ago were mysteries, I had so much trouble finding writers in the mystery genre willing to help me hone my craft that I jumped ship when the Romance Writers of America embraced me. Their meetings, workshops and conferences were filled with helpful people who taught classes on Point of View, character arcs, plotting, and all the skills I needed to make a publishable book. They also taught me the business side of writing.

And that’s how my career as a western romance author began. I now have 18 published novels, 5 novellas, and three anthologies. My tag line is: “Tales of intrigue and romance starring cowboys and Indians” Not only do I write historical and contemporary western romance, I also have a historical romance trilogy set among the Nez Perce Indians that deals with Native American spirits. A few years back I started an Action Adventure series with a female Indiana Jones/MacGyver character who is an anthropologist who specializes in Native American cultures. This fun jaunt into something other than westerns made me long to write a mystery again.

The yearning wouldn’t die and even though I’d already written in more genres than one author should, I couldn’t let the idea of writing mystery go. Many writing friends said it wasn’t a good idea to add one more genre. I’d lose readers. But my heart, from the first novel I wrote all those years ago, was in mystery. To stay true to my “branding” the female amateur sleuth in Double Duplicity the first Shandra Higheagle Mystery is half Nez Perce. After years of her mother and step-father having her hide her Native American side, she is finally starting to seek her roots only to have the one person who can guide her the most pass away. Her grandmother, whom she’d only visited once as a teenager, had a special request. That Shandra attend her Seven Drum Ceremony after the funeral. Shandra does and when she’s caught up in murder, her grandmother comes to her in dreams showing her clues to the murders.

I’ve had a wonderful time bringing my fictional ski resort town of Huckleberry, Idaho, to life. Adding three-dimensional secondary characters with a few quirks to keep this an entertaining cozy read has been the most fun. Each book (I’m writing book three and book two is awaiting editing) I add a new full-timer and enjoy the way they interact with the rest of the populace. My two favorite secondary characters are Sheba, a dog as big as a bear but a bit like the Cowardly Lion, who is Shandra’s companion, and Lewis, the orange cat that is usually draped around Crazy Lil’s shoulders. Lil is Shandra’s Jill-of-all-trades who, like the stray cat, came with the property Shandra purchased on Huckleberry Mountain. She bought the land because of its good clay pockets. Shandra is a potter who sells her vases as art.

My brother has worked in the art world since getting out of school. He sculpts, pours, welds, and patinas bronze art work. A story he told me about a particular statue he was putting a patina on for another artist stuck in my mind, and I knew one day I’d use it in a story. That information my brother told me was the whole premise that started Double Duplicity.

On the eve of the biggest art event at Huckleberry Mountain Resort, potter Shandra Higheagle finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. She’s ruled out as a suspect, but now it’s up to her to prove the friend she witnessed fleeing the scene was just as innocent. With help from her recently deceased Nez Perce grandmother, Shandra becomes more confused than ever but just as determined to discover the truth.
Detective Ryan Greer prides himself on solving crimes and refuses to ignore a single clue, including Shandra Higheagle’s visions. While Shandra is hesitant to trust her dreams, Ryan believes in them and believes in her.
Can the pair uncover enough clues for Ryan to make an arrest before one of them becomes the next victim?

Pre-order Sale:
Right now you can purchase Double Duplicity for a Pre-order price of $0.99. When it releases on January 10th the price will go up.

 About Paty:
Award-winning author Paty Jager and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon.  On her road to publication she wrote freelance articles for two local newspapers and enjoyed her job with the County Extension service as a 4-H Program Assistant. Raising hay and cattle, riding horses, and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.
All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Her penchant for research takes her on side trips that eventually turn into yet another story.
You can learn more about Paty at her blog; Writing into the Sunset  her website; or on Facebook;!/paty.jager , Goodreads  and twitter;  @patyjag.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Diversifying, or Multiple Book Disorder?

by Janis Patterson

I admit it. I bore very easily. It’s rare that I can keep my mind on anything for any length of time, which probably explains why very few of my jobs ever lasted more than two years. It also explains why I write in so many genres – romance, horror, cozy mystery, children’s, scholarly and non-fiction, so far – and why I have been so resistant to doing a series.

When I confess that at any given time I have no fewer than four works in progress many writers blanch and regard me as if I had multiple heads. They ask how on earth can I do such a thing. Then they remark that I must outline very closely in order to be able to switch back and forth.

Well, I don’t. As far as I’m concerned, outlining is – for me – the fastest way to kill a story. Once for a writing class I did a very detailed outline for what would have been a very good book. It will never be written, because by the time the outline was finished I was so bored with the story I could never face it again. No surprises or interest for me, none for the reader.

Now I do have the skeleton of the plot in my head when I start out, basically the beginning, approximately how it will end and a few major plot points along the way. The rest is exploration and discovery.

But the people! some writers have exclaimed. How can you keep up with them? Don’t you get mixed up?

Huh? Do you get your pastor and your plumber mixed up? Could you ever mistake the bag boy at the grocery with the mayor? Why then would you think of mixing up characters? And – for what it’s worth – I don’t create my characters. They walk in, already named and fully formed, and demand that I put them in a story. Sometimes they are quite tiresome about it.

By now my questioners are shaking their heads and giving me covert pitying glances. Poor thing, they’re obviously thinking. She thinks she’s a writer, and she doesn’t follow any of the writerly disciplines everyone is taught.

They’re right, but I don’t care. I am rather prolific, and my books are pretty well received, both critically and financially. My system works for me. Right now I am working on a murder mystery set in a contemporary nursing home, a murder mystery set in 1916 New Orleans, a murder mystery about a fact researcher, a time travel romance and have just completed a gothic romance set in modern England. Another mystery, set at a scholarly Egyptological conference, should be released this month.

How do you keep your stories straight? some ask. As far as I’m concerned, that doesn’t even justify an answer. Each is a complete individual, an entity unto itself.

And no, before you ask, I’ll say that I don’t work on each book a set amount of time every day. Sometimes I’ll work on one story exclusively for a week or more, but with every story sometimes you just hit a wall. If it’s something that demands more than a coffee break or a quick dip in the hot tub, I’ll just switch to another story, where the freshness of it stimulates my creative muse. Then, days or weeks later, when that story temporarily runs aground, I’ll go on to another – or back to the first.

You see, I have always believed that a writer’s brain is always writing. The time we spend at the keyboard is just transcription. The actual writing is done between our ears even when we’re not aware of it. When I run dry on a story and switch to another, the first is still fermenting away in the back of my brain and suddenly there it is, ready to go on. It’s a crazy system, and might never work for anyone but me, but somehow each book gets finished and I don’t think they’re all that bad.

What more could a writer want?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Some Thoughts About my Recent Blog Tour by Marilyn Meredith

Yesterday was the last stop on my month plus one day blog tour for River Spirits, the latest in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series. where I wrote about What Makes A Mystery Writer.

It's too soon to tell you who won my contest(s) and I actually turned it into two. I'm pretty sure who the winner of being a character will be as one person posted consistently on all of the blogs.

On this tour I had far more unique visitors than ever. I think that's a good thing, especially if they decide to buy my book.

I tried really hard to put a different picture of me on every post--though when someone lost what I'd sent them (happened a few times) I hadn't kept a good record of who I sent what photo to.

Some topics seemed to draw more interest than others--and I can only judge by the people who left a comment as I don't have anyway of knowing how many just visited and read.

Was my tour too long? Perhaps, but I don't know any other way of getting the message about my new book out to many different people. I always try to find bloggers who have different followers--and I think I did that pretty well.

I've thought about not doing the tour on weekends, but some of my favorite blogs only have guests on the weekend. I have no idea what I'll do in the future.

Are blog tours worth the trouble? I say yes because I do see an increase in sales during the time I'm touring.

And after all, everyone says name recognition is what's most important.

Because I've cut down on my travel--this still seems to be a good substitute for some of the in-person events I can't do any longer.

Any thoughts about any of the ideas I've shared?