Monday, February 29, 2016

Just for fun!

Goeffrey Caucer's Blog:

Yes, I am an old man, and that gives me right to say what I think. I come here to instruct you, to save you from ruin. My words must give you pause, if not wisdom. Wisdom, is, mayhap, too much to expect from the callow youth of today. But here is what I say:


What I tell you (don't turn away--listen to your betters) is that I do mind if clumsy folk who claim literacy, but feel nothing for the beauty of our historic language, try to write poetry. They even change my own words and then claim I wrote their bastard verses. Pfaugh. They bring ruin and ugliness to language. Do you dare deny what I say as you read my original words and hear them within your very being?

When that Aprille with his shoures soote
The droughte of Marche hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;

Then hear this bastard version:

When that April if his showres droopeth
The droughte of March had perced to the rooteth,
And bathed every veine in sweet licuor,
Which engenders virtue to the fluer:

Or (I can barely write it) my lovely words buried in what is called modern American English but must surely be, (I hope it),  a foreign tongue:

When in April sweet showers fall
And pierce the drought of March to the root, and all
The veins are bathed in liquor of such power
As brings about the engendering of the flower.

Oh, hear me as I stoop low to write in your language! Are the folk of this twenty-first century so numb-minded they cannot manage true poetry as I wrote it in my Canterbury Tales? I shared a lifetime of encounters with the fascinating folk of 14th century England. Will all of you turn aside from this bounty? Did I return to teach you in vain? 

So be it.

Geoffrey Chaucer

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Better Conversations - Mar Preston

I was alerted to this TED Talk 10 Ways to Have A Better Conversation by a fellow who talks too much and thought, how ironic. How unaware we are of ourselves and our impact on people. Or is it only me who thinks he talks too much?

I’m fascinated with conversational styles because many times I feel pinned to the wall by one ear because I’m a good listener. I grew up in Canada, and most Canadians are “nice,” which means we don’t start wars, and we apologize a lot. It was also beat into me not to interrupt.

I’ve come away from “conversations” wondering why someone would consider the topic of their grandchildren, their health, buying a new smartphone, or the lives of people I don’t know and will never meet, issues of interest. Short of yawning in people’s faces or just walking away, how can I convince you I’m not utterly absorbed in your experiences with Windows 10?

I would never think of relating the entire plot of my current  mystery to someone in conversation. It’s probably boring to anyone other than me.

Celeste Headlee is a professional conversationalist, host of the Georgia Public Broadcasting program "On Second Thought." She has previously been the co-host of the national morning news show The Takeaway, from Public Radio International and WNYC.

She knows how to talk to people and here are some of her rules of conversation. In a time when we are so politically polarized and reluctant to make a mis-step, I for one took these rules to heart.
The overall theme is to listen more, talk less. That’s hard sometimes as you go glassy-eyed and rigid with boredom. We’d all rather talk and be the center of attention.

But here are some:
 Don’t multi-task. Don’t play Solitaire while you’re on the phone, read email, or make out your grocery list. Be present.
 Conversation is not a promotional opportunity.
 Don’t repeat yourself.
 Don’t pontificate, even if you’re an expert in something.
 Set aside your personal opinion about Trump or Bernie Sanders and listen to an opposing view. You might learn something.
 Realize you don’t know everything. Even the most boring person knows something interesting that you don’t know. Be prepared to be amazed.
 Ask open-ended questions.
 Don’t compare your experience with theirs. Everyone’s experience is unique, especially dramatically awful experiences. You don’t exactly know how they feel.
 Details are boring. It doesn’t matter the exact date something happened.
 Be brief.

Please listen to this 10-minute video for the full conversation with Celeste Hadlee. It’s worth it.

By the way, I'm off to Left Coast Crime Conference in Phoenix next weekend. Can't wait to meet up with old mystery writer pals. If we meet, let's have a conversation.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Alabama Author Event and Visit with Carolyn Haines

by Linda Thorne

Our Middle Tennessee chapter of Sisters in Crime has been trying to get Mississippi Delta writer, Carolyn Haines, up for a visit for some time. She was a real hit when she met with us here in Nashville six or seven years ago. Travel for Haines is not easy with the twenty-one pets she cares for in her Lucedale, Mississippi home. Besides her responsibility for the many animals, she works as a professor of creative writing at the University of South Alabama. She also puts out a number of new books on a regular basis including ones under the author name of R.B. Chesterton.

Carolyn Haines decided against coming to Nashville this year, but she surprised us with a nice invitation to visit her world in the Mobile, Alabama area where she teaches. A number of our members could not make the out-of-state trip, but those of us who could jumped at the chance. She worked with the president of the Mobile Writers Guild, Craig Price, and they arranged for us to speak to their group of published authors, readers, and aspiring writers. Here's a picture with Craig Price arriving Monday February 8th at the meeting held at the Somi Club House. More members arrived shortly afterward.
I was with Beth (Jaden) Terrell, our outgoing chapter president and Robert Mangeot, our incoming chapter president, and fellow Sisters in Crime member, Michelle Honick. We enjoyed interacting with the group, answering questions, and listening to their stories. I learned a lot from being there.                                                               

Michelle to the left

Beth, Robert, and me on the right

After the speaking gig, we joined Carolyn Haines and some of her students at Los Arcos  Restaurant. Some students left us pieces of their work to critique.
The day before, Sunday, I'd driven to nearby Ocean Springs on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I stopped for brunch at the Bayview Gourmet where one of the scenes in my debut novel took place.

I left the restaurant and headed for the location where I'd staged a number of scenes in my book and took pictures. The pictures here show the street signs for the crossing of Halstead Road and East
Beach Drive and the entranceway into the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory just east of this junction. In  one of the climax chapters, my protagonist walks east through this entryway (above picture to the right) and turns right (south) finding a crime scene near the gulf waters.

My next stop was the Southern Bound Book Shop in Biloxi where they agreed to carry my book, Just Another Termination in their Biloxi and Ocean Springs stores. Barnes and Noble in Gulfport, MS also agreed to carry Just Another Termination.

That evening, we had dinner with Carolyn Haines at Wintzell's Oyster House in Mobile.
Starting from left front around the table to right front: Me, Beth (Jaden) Terrell, Carolyn Haines, Michelle Honick, Michelle's friend who lives in Mobile, and Robert (Bob) Mangeot.

Thank you Carolyn Haines for the fun and the opportunity. Thank you Craig Price and all the folks at the Mobile Writers Guild and the Somi Club House for your interest and hospitality.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Audio Books, Tall Stools and the Glamour of Show Business, or my adventures as a recording artist

by Janis Patterson
On one of my writers’ eloops there has been a lively discussion about audio books. Some like them, some hate them, some are just glad to have another outlet to sell books and some want to know how to do them. Oh, has that brought back memories!

Having been an actress at one time (The Husband says I still am, even though I haven’t been near a stage or microphone for years…)  I’ve narrated a couple of audio books. Believe me, it is a discipline all in itself and one of the most difficult in the entire entertainment industry. There are no facial expressions, no body language, no costume or make-up, nothing to convey emotion or character – nothing save your voice. It is potentially the hardest form of acting ever devised, and yet in the eyes of the general public it is one of the least respected.

To make a decent audio book you need (1) a good book – duh – (2) a good voice actor, or, depending on the book, several of them and (3) a good studio with good technicians. Sometimes the last is the hardest to find.

When I did my first audio book it was many years ago and the industry was still in the toddler stage. I don’t even know if and other suppliers existed. I certainly didn’t know about them. The producer of the audio book was also the author, and she had very definite ideas of how it should be done. Some were actually workable. Some were not.

We did our first recording all in one room – the author/producer, the male voice talent, the technician and I – all huddled around a commercial version of a cassette recorder. The studio was small and old and unhappily located under an elevated freeway. A very busy elevated freeway. The tech was the only one with earphones, and we’d have to stop and re-record every few minutes because of traffic noise. Needless to day, the quality was terrible – so bad that the author, who had been trying to save pennies by using the bargain service, decided to re-record the whole thing.

This time we moved into a more professional studio complex. There were three rooms in a row, each solid black and about the size of a small walk-in closet – one for the male talent, one in the center for the tech, the equipment and the author/producer, and one for me. The only trouble was, all three rooms were sealed. Mine had one solid door and no windows at all. Our only contact with the outside world was through our headphones. I am somewhat claustrophobic, but made myself rise above it for the good of my art. (Big, sarcastic grin. It was more about the money.)

All well and good, but this was summer in Texas and the temperature was brutal. To make things worse, the noise of the air conditioner invariably picked up on the tape. Because of contractual and other complications, we couldn’t record at night, when the temperature was marginally cooler. No, not cooler. Less hot. So – we would take breaks and run the a/c, drink lots of water and in my case try not to freak out at being enclosed in a small room completely painted black. Then, when the temperature was bearable, we’d turn off the a/c and start recording. After a while we’d repeat the process. The 100,000 word plus book took about five days to record. Five very long days.

Well, that helped, but not enough. After about the first hour of recording, I stripped off my shorts and shirt and recorded in my bra, panties and headphones. I even stripped off my jewelry, and those of you who know me realize what a drastic step that was!

In each of the talent’s rooms there was a tall and very uncomfortable stool, an adjustable black (of course) metal music stand and a set of earphones on a long cord that snaked away to a plug in the wall. That was it. Our scripts were a stack of individual sheets and as one page was finished we would just drop it to the floor. White papers spread like random snow over a black floor in a black room only added to the surreal quality of the session.

The funniest part was that the book concerned a very wealthy man who wanted to do nothing but pamper this beautiful woman, to the extent of building her a fabulous house in the mountains. Most of the actions took place during snow season, so there was lots of talk about fabulous jewels and mounds of furs and even a passionate rendezvous while on a skiing run. Yes, I performed all that, becoming that wealthy woman swathed in furs in a cold climate, all the while sitting on an uncomfortable stool in a sweltering black room while sweat dripped from my nose and my chin and from almost every portion of my anatomy, including my toes.

The audio book sold rather well, even though now I feet the writing could have been stronger. I ran across my cassettes (yes, it was that long ago!) not too long ago and played a little. In one of the snow sequences there had been a wind background lightly laid in, and it was great – I could honestly feel the cold and shivery nature of the scene, even though I knew how miserably hot the taping session had been.

Another crisis of our miniscule budget was that it was one track – ie, recorded straight through, without doing separate tracks for each character even when two women or two men were speaking to each other. That made for some very sophisticated – and scary – vocal gymnastics.

I felt I earned my spurs as a voice actress from one scene alone, a scene where the heroine and the villainess and the wise old woman get into a rip-roaring fight, all screaming at each other. Each had their own voice, their own intonation and accent – and, of course, each was me. That scene gave ‘talking to yourself’ an entirely new dimension.

I listened to that sequence again too, and for its time and genesis, it wasn’t too bad. They used the second take, even though I think the first was better – at least what there was of it. In an effort to make my performance as energetic as possible, I was swinging my arms and putting a lot of physical energy into the fight scene – so much so that I tipped over the stool and went crash on the painted concrete floor. The noise – especially through headphones – must have been horrendous, for before I could raise my somewhat bewildered head everyone, including the male talent, the tech, the author and several employees of the studio, came charging in. Of course, I was sprawled full out, surrounded by a snowstorm of script pages, more than a little dazed and wearing nothing but a sweat-saturated bra and panties.

Needless to say, that was the end of the day’s session. I regard it as a tribute to my professionalism (to say nothing of courage) that I actually came back and re-recorded the entire scene.

After that I recorded two more audio books, both in much better studios and there was absolutely nothing memorable about either session.

All three books are out of print now, and probably should be, as the industry has moved so far forward in the intervening years. Still, though, I cannot forget that early session, try though I might. If nothing else, it serves as a reminder of the glamour of show business!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

No Sanctuary now on Nook

A little history about No Sanctuary: 

This is #5 in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series.

The first four books in the series were published by 2 different publishers. Had some problems with the first publisher. The second one decided to no longer be a publisher.

I met Billie Johnson of Oak Tree Press at the Public Safety Writers Association Conference. She asked me to be a speaker at a writers' conference in her (at that time) home town of Taylorville, IL. I'd approached her about continuing the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, and while I was back in Illinois she brought me a contract.

As of now, besides being on Amazon, No Sanctuary is now available on Nook!

The blurb for this one is:

Two churches, two ministers, two wives, one murder.

Over the years I'm attended and belonged to various Protestant churches and known many ministers and their wives, and people who work and volunteer in churches.

One of the churches greatly resembles the church I attended as a child. I've never attended a large, wealthy church like the second one in the book. Neither minister is like any I knew. However, the church secretary is a lot like one who was my friend and knew all of the secrets of the church she worked for.

Frankly, I had a lot of fun writing this mystery.

If you haven't already, I hope you'll try it.

F.M. aka Marilyn Meredith.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Favorite Premises

Lately I've been working on a good twin/bad twin thriller. For some odd reason, I've always been attracted to books about twins. It's a mystery why, since I'm not a twin and don't personally know any of them.

I also enjoy mysteries containing a romantic element, whether great or small.

Cozies are also high on my list of must read mysteries, since they often contain likable characters, and non-threatening settings.

Being an animal lover myself, adding a dog or cat to a mystery heightens my interest in that book.

Buster Kegan, Our adopted son

Maybe one of these days I'll even include a miniature pinscher, such as my present dog, Buster, in one of my books.

What about you? What draws you into a mystery or, for that matter, any genre?

Catch all of Morgan Mandel's mysteries and
romances on Amazon at: 

Excerpts & Links to her books are at:

Twitter: @MorganMandel

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

How Do They Do That?

by Janis Patterson

Not long ago on one of my writers’ loops there was a discussion on how you couldn’t sell without reviews. Then some of the writers talked about how they only – only! – had six or seven hundred good reviews. Only six or seven hundred reviews? A goodly number of the writers I know would commit murder to have that many reviews, myself included.

It’s impossible to get on one of the best sales sites – such as Bookbub – without a set number of good reviews and those sites drive a lot of sales. Perhaps that is a good idea, as some of the books out there are pure rubbish, but in another way it is unfair to books which are good but have no reviews.

So how does one get reviews? If you want heavyweights, Publishers Weekly and Kirkus do reviews, but they are hard to get even if you’re with a legacy publisher and pretty much impossible if you’re an indie. Not too long ago Kirkus started offering a paid review with a very hefty pricetag and – if I remember correctly - no guarantee of whether it would be bad or good. There’s Netgalley review service, but it’s very expensive. There are those who sell lists of blogger reviewers, but there’s no guarantee that the book you send them will get reviewed at all, or even that the bloggers are still in existence.

There’s another risk in seeking reviewers, too. While there are very many good and honest people who review books – even if not all the books they receive – there is an unpleasant sub-species who get the books for free then either sell them on eBay or post them as free at pirate sites all over the internet, all probably without ever reviewing them.

I ask again – how does one get reviews? There are lots of writers who have tremendous fan followings, fans who wait with anticipation for each new book and who lavish rave reviews on every one. That’s an enviable situation where we would all like to be, but how do you get those legions of fans in the first place? Without reviews your book sinks like a stone to the bottom of the byzantine Amazon algorhythms.

And speaking of Amazon… it would seem logical that the first place a writer should look for reviews is to family, friends, other writers and paid reviewers. Except that Amazon does not like and will pull reviews if they know they are written by family, friends, other writers and paid reviewers. I don’t know how Amazon justifies accepting paid reviews from Kirkus and other top-level sources, but the ways of Amazon have always been strange and inexplicable. Just recently there’s a rumor going around that if you use a certain kind of Amazon link (a ‘super’ link, whatever that is) in your social media publicity, Amazon automatically assumes that whoever buys from that link is a friend of yours and if they do a review, it will be pulled down. I don’t know if it’s true or not, and I really don’t know why Amazon makes it so hard for authors to get and keep reviews. Yes, I know all about the sock puppet meme, and that was inexcusable, but why punish all authors for the arrogant sins of a few? Sometimes it seems that Amazon is dead set against ordinary, non-best-selling writers earning money, but then I’ve always believed that Amazon is not our friend.

So what does that leave? Nothing that’s in the writer’s control. All that can be done is for the writer to ask readers to leave a review. Most writers do in the back of their books. Most readers don’t.

But it would be lovely if they did.

By the way, if you’re in the Bonham, Texas area on this coming Saturday, 6 February, thirteen wonderful romance authors and I will be featured at the Eighth Biennial “Romance in Bonham” panel discussion/reader event. It will be held from 11am to 1 pm at the Bonham Public Library, 305 E. 5th Street. Please come by if you can – it’s free, of course.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Why Do We Torture Ourselves?

The "we" I'm referring to is authors--people like me.

We sit down in front of a computer screen and begin to write. Some of us have already written or thought out an outline, have a cast of characters, and now we're ready to start our latest mystery.

During the days and weeks and months that we're writing we're keeping track of the plot, making sure things are happening, when they should, planting clues and red herrings along the way, that the characters are responding as they should to what's happening to them, all the while trying to choose the best words to describe the action, making sure the dialogue sounds realistic, while following the rules of grammar.

Of course, we know that this first draft will be edited and rewritten, but still, we're going to do the best job possible. None of this is easy.

After the editing and rewriting, if we're self-publishing we'll probably hire an editor to go over it and make sure we did our job well--or if we're sending it off to a publisher we'll be hearing from an editor with things to change and fix.

After all that's done, while we're waiting for the book to be published, we're busy planning promotion--all the while though, there's that nagging thought--will anyone like what I've written?

So the book is finally available for people to read and we wait for that first review. What are readers going to say? For some this is a real worry.

What about sales? Only a small percentage of authors really make enough money writing to live on. So if we're not in that percentage, why do we do it?

I can only answer the question for myself--I have to write. It's what I do. Because I'm writing two series and I love my characters, the only way I can find out what's going to happen to them next is to write another book. So, in a way, maybe I'm writing for me with the hope that there are some readers out there who will want to read what I've written.

What about the rest of you?

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Coming soon: A Crushing Death