Tuesday, December 24, 2019

"Twas the Night Before Christmas...."

Wishing you all the merriest of Christmasses.

How do you spend Christmas Eve?

Over the years, what we've done has changed. When the kids were little, they got to open one present before they went to bed. No one got much sleep. Once they were gone, often it was time to put some of the gifts together. I remember once, one of the kids got something so complicated, it too all night to have it ready.

Now, with our children all grown up, two of our grown children and their spouses join us, plus one of our son's son, wife,  and two of his kids, and our granddaughter and husband, and their three girls. We have dinner, then open presents. Nowadays, because our family has gotten so huge, we draw names.  Opening presents doesn't take so long, and everyone can go do other things if they are so inclined.

Do any of you writers continue with your writing chores during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day?

For me, it's celebrating the birth of Christ and enjoying family.

Soon we'll be beginning a brand new year, 2020! Hard to believe.

Have the best of whatever you  celebrate at this time of year.

And Happy New Year!

Friday, December 20, 2019

Christmas Again Already????

by Linda Thorne

Why does it seem Christmas gets here quicker every single year? There were a whole lot of years when my step children were children. Those were the greatest Christmases of all and I remember them well. We lived in Denver then, so those were often white Christmases. The last white Christmas we had in Nashville was in 2010. Our children are grown with children of their own and all live in different states. This year it will be just me and my husband. Our two dogs (featured in the picture), brother and sister border collies didn't make it to Christmas 2018. We miss them so, and keep them in our memories of Christmases past or what writers call backstory.

Speaking of that, my second book in the series is close to completion, but not yet ready to turn over to my publisher. Right now my biggest struggle is backstory. The main plot is built around a 30-year-old cold case with my lead character, at the age of 20, being the intended victim. Someone else was murdered in her stead. I love the story line, but weaving in an inciting incident that happened 30 years earlier is not only difficult, but a science. A friend of mine read much of the book and gave me suggestions and then warned me to tread carefully in finding the right places to drop in the backstory. I'm so thankful she's willing to look at it again once I've struggled through this process.

Does anyone else find Christmas is here before you know it? Anyone want to talk about the problems with backstory?

Either way, hope each and every one of you have a wonderful, happy holiday event.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Blame It On Santa

by Janis Patterson

Or maybe not. The old gent has enough to worry about this time of year.
No, the blame is totally on me. I have been so swamped with Christmas, a dear family member moving across the country, some other family issues, including some health issues, and the everlasting crush of approaching hard deadlines that I just plain pushed this blog to the back of my mind and there it stayed until my second mug of coffee this morning. Ooops.
All I can say is that I’m sorry and apologize profusely. Usually I love sharing things with all of you, but this month life just got away with me and I apologize. And make an early New Years resolution to be better.
I also promise the announcement of something wonderful in January. It’s taken a lot to keep my mouth shut about this, but I’ll tell all as soon as the news is officially released!
Still, I want to take this opportunity to wish you the Merriest of Christmases, the Happiest of Hanukkahs, the best of whatever you celebrate in this wonderful season, and the loveliest and most creative of New Years! Bless you all -

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The Christmas Season is Upon Us

Are you rushing around trying to get your house decorated and buy and wrap Christmas gifts?

As an author, I would encourage you to buy books for some of the people on your Christmas list. you might try some of the books by the authors who write for this blog.

When I was a kid, my favorite gifts were books. My mom always gave me the latest Nancy Drew mysteries--and I'd usually read them through by the end of the day. Of course I read them again--and again. And believe me, as an adult, I've always loved receiving a book or a gift card where I could choose books for myself.

May I suggest any of my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, and especially for those who enjoy books with Native American elements. And of course, there's my Rocky Bluff P.D. series, about a police department on the Pacific coast, the men and women and their families. I write that one as F. M. Meredith.

Though both are series, the mysteries in each book are finished, so they don't have to be read in order.
But for those who really like to start in the beginning, Deadly Omen is the first in the Tempe series, and Final Respects the first in the Rocky Bluff series.

Buy link for Deadly Omen:


Buy link for Final Respects:


Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Heroes and Villains

Make Mine Mystery

December 5, 2019

Linda Lee Kane

When I begin a story, I like to create the scenario, then the names of my heroes and my villains. These are some of the things I ponder when writing and I thought it might be helpful to some of you.

Most thrillers tell the story of a hero who leaves the comfortable, known world and ventures into the dangerous unknown, often at risk to his/her life, to bring benefit to humanity. As such, thrillers hearken back to myth is that span all cultures and epochs. Look at Wikipedia’s list of Heroes and World Cultures and Heroines in Folklore and mark those that appeal to you the most. Keep a list of ideas and heroes in a notebook to refer to later.

When creating motivations for heroes and villains, a fundamental principle to remember is that making a decision between good and evil is never really a choice. All humans will choose well as they see it. You must tell why your villain is picking his own right (which your reader will perceive as evil). This is where your moral gray area becomes essential.

In the Black Madonna, A Popes Deadly Obsession, the moral gray area is whether or not to bring the last written words by Jesus to light. An offshoot of the Catholic Church doesn’t want it to come to light, but Luci, in her naivety believes that by doing so it will bring truth to the bible and in doing so bring light to all mankind.

All stakes, no matter what kind of novel you’re writing, should involve death. This can happen physically (the hero's life is in danger, (psychologically) the hero stands to lose his identity or a vital aspect of his soul) or circumstantially (or at some point of the hero’s life will be lost forever-a career, a marriage, his family, etc.). When you’re designing your hero’s central conflict, ask yourself which kind of death your hero is going to confront.

Sometimes a moral gray area turns a hero into a villain. In fiction, this is known as an anti-hero. Check out these television shows as an example:

Tony Soprano of The Sopranos
Walter White of Breaking Bad
Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo

Watch Raiders of the Lost Ark and observe how the character of Indian Jones is revealed. Which personality traits are shown first? Which ones come later? What motivates Jones in his quest?

What aspects of your hero can be reflected through your villain?

What aspects of your villain’s personality and life could create relatable motivations for what they do in your novel?

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

And a Promo That Didn't Work

As the saying goes, there's a sucker born every minute--and this time the sucker was me.

Most writers receive all kinds of offers to promote their books, usually the latest, but I get them for all my books, even some of the oldest.

Because my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series is now self-pubbed, I can check to see how any promotion I do is working.

When I got an offer from an outfit who said they'd put my book on Twitter and other sites for so many times a day for a week--the most expensive offer--I decided to go for it with Spirit Wind, the latest in the series.

I monitored sales the whole week--not a single one for Spirit Wind. I did have a few sales for others in the series, but I think that happened because of the earlier promotion of a free book in the series, and the flyer I hand out at in-person events with a list of all my books.

Maybe this kind of promotion has worked well for others, but it did nothing for me.

I will know better next time.

Buy link for Spirit Wind.



Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The Perils of Having a Writing Wife

by Janis Patterson

I married late, well after my writing career was started, so The Husband knew exactly what he was getting. Sort of.

A down-to-earth and sublimely practical man of science well into a long and honorable military career, he knew I was a writer of fiction. He also knew that writers were thought to be eccentric. He just didn’t know how much.

Luckily he is a courageous and adaptable man, for as our marriage progressed, he learned more than I think he ever wanted to know about the unknown side of writing.

For example, he will leave in the morning after kissing a pajama-clad me in my office, already sitting eye-to-eye with the computer. He will come home some eight or nine hours later to find a pajama-clad me in my office, exhausted and emotional, sitting eye-to-eye with the computer. The laundry is undone, the bed unmade, dinner is a frozen lump still in the freezer, and I will look up in surprise, asking if he didn’t leave just a little while ago.

He has gotten used to me murmuring the name of my hero (or villain) in my sleep without wondering about the possibility of infidelity.

He has finally learned to accept that when I am asked what I do, I smile sweetly, give the questioner my best grandmotherly twinkle and say in soft, mellifluous tones, “I kill people.”

He no longer becomes alarmed when he finds books on poisons larded among my cookbooks.

He has become accustomed to my handing out business cards (with my websites only – no phone or address) prodigiously and has even learned to carry a few of them in his wallet. Apparently being married to a multi-published novelist carries a certain cachet.

I’m glad, because on retrospect I’m not sure writing is a lifestyle I would have chosen. I believe that almost anyone can write, given enough time, training and work, but that writers cannot help but write – it is an inescapable part of them, like some sort of birth defect. He has learned that when I stop in mid-word, my face goes blank and my eyes focus on some distant point that I am not having a fit, merely an idea. This is usually followed by a frantic scribbling on anything around, from a cocktail napkin to the back of my hand. He realized early on that I carried enormous purses not for make-up or other feminine junk, but to accommodate my tiny notebook computer, which he called my ‘purse computer.’ Now that my uncertain back has put paid to large purses, he never sees me without a pen and scratch pad – and usually a few choice (and unacceptable) words, because I loathe having to handwrite anything.

Unfortunately, the creation of worlds and populations on little more than caffeine and imagination can be an unsettling process for a non-writer. Currently I am working on a book set in contemporary Egypt – yes, yet another one. One of the side effects is a profusion of photographs of obscure archaeological sites blooming all over my office. Another is that our dinner menu has suddenly leaned heavily towards kushari, kibbe, hummus and tabouli. Luckily The Husband is as big an Egyptophile as I (doesn’t everyone know by now that he proposed to me in Egypt?) and he takes this with equanimity.

I’m not always that lucky. While writing Dark Music before my marriage, I lived in an apartment. The hero was a concert pianist who specialized in Chopin. I played Chopin almost 24/7 for the three months it took to write the novel. Though I tried to be quiet and respectful, before long my neighbors were begging to know when I would finish the book.

When I was writing The Hollow House, a cozy mystery set in 1919, I pestered The Husband about WWI and suitable firearms. Being something of a WWI/WWII historian, he happily complied.

He was less happy when, at a very crowded local gun show, we saw an automatic M96 Mauser Pistol Rifle, the firearm I had decided on for my villain to use. It’s a very distinctive and rather rare piece. I pointed it out gleefully and said to The Husband, “Look, darling, isn’t that what I used to kill Jake?” The gun show might have been packed, but suddenly there wasn’t a single person within arm’s length of me for a long time.

Due to several ancient accidents, I sometimes have a slight limp, especially when I’m tired. In Exercise is Murder, the heroine has a severe limp, though hers was caused much more dramatically by a bullet wound. As my tattered and beloved sweatshirt says, “It’s All Research.” The Husband has become accustomed to my asking all kinds of sometimes bizarre questions wherever we go.

I’d like to say I’m strong-minded enough to keep control of my characters, to keep them on the page instead of letting them seep into my life, but I’m not. As every character, good and bad, shares at least a few aspects of its creator, so does the creator reflect – at least temporarily – a modicum of the character. We create our characters from the inside out, and I believe Loucard’s Principle, that when two things touch, there is inevitable transfer from each to the other, however small. 

I realized that The Husband has not only learned but accepted this, for when I am in full damn-the-torpedoes-and-write-mode, so submerged in the story that I never get out of my pajamas and we survive on take-out suppers, he has developed the habit of peering around my office door and asking, “And who are we today?”

Maybe he’s lucky. He remains faithful, but still gets to live with a wide variety of women, all in one package.  He married a writer.