Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Struggling a Bit

It is time for me to start a new Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery.

I have a title and an idea, including some of the new characters. So what's the hold-up? Too many other things keep coming up. I guess I could sum it up with one word, life.

I've slowed down considerably and not able to work as long as I once could. Because my husband and I are in the senior years, I like to spend more time with him, and my family.

We recently went on a three day vacation to Tehachapi where Spirit Wind is set mainly because daughter Lisa and I wanted to have our husbands experience all the things we did and saw when we went on the research trip for the book. Our eldest daughter and her husband joined us. Not only did we get to breakfast at the Keene Cafe (something I hadn't done before even though I put it in the book), we visited the Loop, did the self-guided tour of the wind machines, visited the fabulous bakery several times, went to Stallion Springs and had lunch, watched someone fly a glider, and as an added bonus, we all accepted the invitation to visit the home of one of the people who'd come to my book signing.

There we saw a collection of very old carriages, wild horses, Morgan horses, a fantastic house, a herd of elk, and were served a fantastic dinner and enjoyed a lively conversation.

My new friend and charming hostess, Karen Duvall.
Now, it's time to get down to the business of writing.

I'm also waiting to hear about the publication of the next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery, titled Bones in the Attic. Once it is set, it'll be time to pounce on the promotion for it.

I do have some in-person events set up, starting with speaking to the San Joaquin chapter of Sisters in Crime, the first Saturday in September. My topic--"The Book That Almost Wasn't."

Now, it's up to me to put my fanny in the chair and write that first sentence.


Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Killing Thing

by Janis Patterson

Perhaps it is the logical outcome of a disordered mind, but after several years of writing mysteries I tend to weaponize just about everything I see. My friends have become inured to this little quirk, but it sometimes does startle the people nearby.

I remember once going for a girls-only lunch at a trendy little cafe one of my girlfriends had heard about. The publicity had been wide-ranging, the food expensive but acceptable, the decor trendy - and very uncomfortable. Our table and chairs were made from metal tortured into shapes that few would believe were capable of supporting either food or human bodies. My friends either liked them or speculated if they were left over from the time of Torquemada. I speculated on using the chairs at least as a murder weapon, the table being too heavy to lift, saying that because of their strange configuration no one could ever describe them just from the wounds they would leave. The people at the next table left.

And it's not just me, either. When The Husband and I were staying at the dig house at the El Kab excavation in Egypt researching my book A Killing at El Kab the archaeologists and I were brainstorming about a murder weapon. I had almost decided on a broken chunk of statuary when the ceramologist (the pottery expert) had an idea and rushed out. He was back in a moment bearing one of the wickedest implements I ever did see. About a yard long, it was a heavy-duty caliper with a shaft of thick steel and a head vaguely resembling a pick-axe about 10 inches wide and an inch thick. It was perfect and because of the story and setting it was obviously the murder weapon (found covered with blood and lying next to the body) so I couldn't bring in the forensic 'What kind of implement could make this sort of wound?' trope... but it would have been so neat.

Once you become accustomed to looking at everyday objects through the lens of potential mayhem, the world indeed becomes a dangerous place. A gleaming sports trophy becomes a cudgel. A beautiful garden morphs into a buffet of potentially lethal plants. Sleek silk scarves make stylish but deadly garrotes.

My friends - mostly writers themselves but some not - have become accustomed to my whimsical forays into specialized slaughter and most find them amusing. I do tend to forget, though, that not everyone is privy to the basic innocence of my flights of fancy, viz the one time a group of us were sitting in a cafe (one with normal chairs, thank goodness) and I was speculating on the old trope of a piece of frozen meat being used as a blunt object and the ease of disposing of the murder weapon. My luncheon companions were becoming more and more uncomfortable, which I could not understand as we had had many similar conversations, until one of them revealed that the table behind me held a gaggle of uniformed police officers who were listening to our conversation with undisguised interest. Immediately our chatter switched to the intractability of our publishers, our current book release schedules, the necessity of finding good editors and other blatantly literary subjects. Luckily that day my luncheon expenses did not include bail. I even gave each officer one of my business cards as we left.

In real life most criminals are not smart - if they were, they wouldn't be criminals - and fiendish murderers with arcane methods and obscure weapons are very thin on the ground. Most real life murders are simple things - shot, strangled, stabbed, beaten; in fiction, though, we can let our imaginations soar. Our killers can use any of a million or more objects/methods to kill and get away with it until our intrepid sleuth tracks them down - and one of the glories of fiction is that the murderer is always brought to justice no matter how clever his killing.

Just be careful when you plot it in a public place.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Happy Writing to You - by Linda Thorne

There are all sorts of publicized studies concerning the unhealthy effect unhappiness and loneliness can have on people. Not just mentally and emotionally, but physically as well. I found the statistics for the frequency of damage to our health and the seriousness of that damage to be shockingly high. I’m not providing quotes or details because, if I did, I’d need to cite my sources and I want to keep this post short and light. Anyone who’s interested can find the same information I did online. It’s generally well known.

So, I’m curious. Does writing help you out of a funk? Does it make you happy? When you feel a little lonely, does that feeling go away when you write? I found a great deal of information that supports the idea writing makes people happy.

When I am writing on my work in progress, I see it as a mission. It takes my attention away from unhappy thoughts, worries, and sadness. I’m absorbed, I’m expressing myself, and I feel a sense of accomplishment even when I’m writing poorly in rough draft format.

I’m not saying I don’t sometimes get frustrated. There are times when I can’t get the words out to reflect what’s needed, but when this happens, I learned a long time ago to just walk away from it. I either figure it out and get over the hurdle or back off. It may be for a day, a week, or longer. This doesn’t mean I’ve given up. Far from it. I’ll keep all that's frustrating me in my mind when I’m walking, driving, sitting around. I’ll mull over what got in my way and search for solutions, alternatives. It’s amazing what I can resolve when I take a break from writing the problem areas and just let my mind continue to play with it for a period.    

I don’t think I’ve ever felt lonely when I’ve been writing. I’m too in tune with my characters. I’ve worried for them, been excited for them, and always bonded with even the minor characters and bad guys. I’ve had the feelings of a romantic crush on a few of my male characters and some of my other characters have infuriated me. When writing, you call on your past experiences to produce the material for your present and future in your story. Loneliness would not fare well in this mixture of writing about activities and involvement in the past, present, and future.

Between the characters you’ve created and their activities, you should have a strong sense of connection, caring consideration, and inspiration. All strengtheners to our immune systems.

For me personally, I’ve found writing makes me feel younger, keeps me active and mentally on the move. It perks me up and gives me purpose and a sense of pride.
                                                                                      My 1st author panel 2015 Southern Fest of Bks
So, I’m obviously one of the statistics of the many people writing makes happy. How about you?

How does writing make you feel?


Amazon Author Page

Just Another Termination Amazon

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Highlights from the PSWA Conference

For those of you who have no idea what the PSWA is all about, take a look at the website:

I've belonged to this group for years, ever since it was the Police Writers Club. I joined because I wanted to be where I could learn more about how cops operate. Now PSWA is open to mystery writers and every type of public safety person such as FBI, Police Dispatchers, SWAT team members, military, dog handler, doctors, nurses, firepersons, scientists, private detectives, postal inspector, prison warden, parole and probation, newspaper reporter, medic/crisis counselor, Department of Defense, CIA, every type of law enforcement as well as editors and publishers.

The conference had a good mix of writing and law enforcement topics. Here is the list:

Featured Speaker: John Schembra on Pursuit/Emergency Response Driving--Getting it Right
Panel--The Truth is Out There. Writers discussed legends and scientific information used in their stories.
Panel--The Short and Long of it--All About Anthologies.
Featured Speaker: Mysti Berry on Focusing your Story on the Dramatic Question.
Panel--Media Promotion and Press Releases
Panel--Telling You Where to Go--All About Police Dispatchers.
Featured Speaker: Dave Freedland--Topic: SWAT Concepts for the Patrol Officer
Panel--Publishers ' Croner
Featured Speaker: Michael A. Black--The Battle Between Showing and Telling
Panel--The Author and Editor Relationship
Panel--Writing Historicals
Panel--Writing Action Scenes
Panel--Gathering the Evidence
Panel--Keeping Order and Preventing Discord
Panel--Perfecting Your Writing

Excellent conference-I learned a lot from everything, and yes, I will use some in future books.
One big thing from those who work in law enforcement--what they show in TV and movies is often far from how things are really done.

The most entertaining was the radio show put on Friday at the end of the day--volunteers from the conference were the stars.

My favorite of all, seeing old friends and making new ones. One highlight, one of the authors grew up in Springville CA (where I live.) Reading his book now and it's outstanding.

This is the most affordable conference (including the hotel).


Sunday, August 4, 2019

Make Mine Mystery

August 5, 2019
 Linda Lee Kane

Usually I try to give some insight to writing and what I’ve learned but this time I am trying to figure out why I keep losing my writing on my computer. Computers have always been my enemy, as well as sewing machines. I quit sewing which I’m sure helps the economy but when I lose the words I so carefully work on, a sentence, and a paragraph I want to cry.

Back in January my new book, Death Is An Illusion was completed. I just had to send it to my editor. I waiting for a week to make sure every T was crossed and every I doted. Just before I sent it off, I looked at the page count, it was way off. It went from 603 pages to 400 or there-about. I had one hundred and thirteen chapters and it went down to fifty-eight. I was devasted but I got over it and began again.

Last month I finished the story again and sent it off to my editor. I received it back two weeks ago and worked on tightening it up, I made sure everything was lined up perfectly in regard to the story-line. I decided not to send it to the publisher that evening but wait until the next day. I saved it, I accept all changes and all of my 571 changes disappeared. I still don’t have a clue to what I did wrong. Someone said it’s there, somewhere, but where?
I’m back at it again, maybe it will be even better, but at this point I’m completely confused.