Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Merry Christmas to all--and I'm Starting a New Book


 This is a different Christmas for many. In my case, I'm missing the usual celebrations from Christmas Parades to our writers' group annual Christmas dinner. However, our family Christmas will be much the same as usual with the addition of a three guests--also relatives.

Despite what all is going on or not I've started planning a new Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. In the last book, Tempe had decided to retire. When I wrote it, I thought it might be the last in the series. However, a trip to visit my eldest daughter gave me a great idea, so once again I'm in the planning stages.

No, I don't write an outline, however this is what I usually do when I'm beginning a new book:

First comes the setting. In this case, it will be a new place for Tempe. I've ordered a couple of books about the history of the town she'll be in, as sometimes historical facts give me ideas for the plot or side-plots.

Next, come the characters. Who is going to get murdered and why? I need a name, personality traits, physical description,  and of course all the people who might want to see this person's demise and for various reasons. Which means developing more characters.

Oh, yes, I must not forget how the person was killed. Was there a weapon to be found? The crime scene, any clues?

I'm not very far along in the planning process, but I'm excited that I get to be with Tempe and her husband, Hutch, once again.

Have a great holiday no matter how you celebrate.

Marilyn


Friday, December 18, 2020

Christmas Already?

by Linda Thorne

How does Christmas get here so fast? When I was a kid, my father used to say the older you got the faster time went by. I didn’t understand. Back then, all I knew is Christmas seemed to take forever to come around.

When I became a young adult, my dad told me this again, and I still didn’t get it, although I’d noticed it didn’t take quite as long for Christmas time to arrive. I asked him why he thought this was so. He told me it was because we have more years behind us, and the more years packed under our belts means the coming years speed up. This didn’t answer my question and back then we didn’t have the internet. I remember blowing him off and thinking, whaatteevver.



Since then I’ve researched this online, finding that it's a scientific fact having to do with our memories. When you’re a kid many things you do, go through, experience, are for the first time, making new memories each day. From what I’ve read, when anything becomes routine, you just sort of pass through it unknowingly, and that time seems to disappear from your time frame, shortening it, so that major event reminders like the annual holiday season can seem to be here sooner than in the past. By the way, when I talk about Christmas and the holiday season, this can be any holiday event of any kind.

I also read online that if you want time not to go by so quickly, keep having new experiences. I’m sure that’s accurate, but not so easy when you’re older. Most of the things we do in the later years will be repetitive. As I move through my 70s, I see people my age strapped because of finances (the reason I don't quit my day job). My husband is alive and well but has not been physically mobile for making trips with me for a long, long time. Also, even for those folks who can move around easily and have plenty of money, still have fewer opportunities for new experiences. Even if they take trip or a cruise to a place they've never been, they've already had the experience of a trip or a cruise. 

Here's a picture of my husband and me taken earlier this month to use for Christmas cards. We tried a selfie, but our glasses fogged up because of the masks. A neighbor appeared and volunteered to help. 


Hey all, have a great holiday and a Happy New Year and make a new happy memory.



My book: Amazon Buy Link

Linda Thorne website



Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Publishing - A Basic Primer

by Janis Patterson

I’ll admit it - 2020 really snarled up my life. I lost the best publishing opportunity of my career, missed a lot of really fun trips and fell victim to the endemic malaise that seems to be affecting everyone. Instead of doing my regular three to five books this  year, I barely finished two. What’s worse is that I have five full manuscripts, all professionally edited and lacking only formatting and covers, ready to publish. And yet they sit (metaphorically) on my desk gathering dust. The dust, by the way, is unfortunately all too real. I don’t need a pandemic to help me skimp on housekeeping!

However - things do seem to be a-changing! I’ve seen a definite uptick in professional talks among writers. I’ve seen more interest in marketing techniques and websites and craft than I’ve seen in months. It’s like after a long enchanted (cursed?) hiatus the industry is coming alive again, bringing with it a steady stream of newbies or close-to-newbies eager to be published.

Many of the questions they ask (and there are NO stupid questions, by the way) show their ignorance about the most basic part of getting a book published - publishing itself. What kind, what charges, what to expect. 

So, as a battle-scarred veteran of many decades of publishing, I’m going to give a nutshell course about the basic types of publishing. Unfortunately there are no clear-cut dividing lines between the major types of publishing today; every form is blurred slightly or complicatedly with the others. The main thing is, what kind of publishing do you want and what will you do to achieve it? Make money? Be famous? Print your family history for your relatives? Just have the ego stroke of being a ‘published author’? Whatever you want there’s an outlet for it. Just know what you are doing and why - and be prepared to pay for it in some kind of coin.

Traditional publishing - this is the Holy Grail for many authors. A big publishing house which gives you an advance, takes care of all the expenses such as editing and covers, gives you lots of publicity and sets up booksignings and tours, and helps you make best-seller lists is every writer’s dream. The house will take writers under their wing, manage, guide and promote their careers and allow the writer to concentrate on writing. Yeah. Sure. Indeed, that’s the dream of many authors and - except for a miniscule few - it’s pretty much just that... a dream. 

Trad publishers these days in general offer small if any advances, all too often have pathetic edits, uneven quality of covers and do little advertising support other than put out their new release list and maybe a couple of press releases, as they now expect you to do almost all your own publicity. All for low-single digits percentage royalties per copy. The dream scenario does happen, but so rarely a lot call it the Cinderella Syndrome. Still, there is a cachet to being published by one of the Big Five - or maybe now it’s the Big Four; the number changes with unsettling regularity as the large publishers buy, overtake and generally cannibalize each other.

However, Trads have always and still do have the magic ingredient - distribution. In the days of paper-only books whoever could get them to the book outlets (bookstores, drug stores, wherever) held the whip hand. Those who self/vanity published often ended up with a garage full of books which they could sell only by contacting each outlet individually. Trads still have the advantage here, but with Print On Demand and a more savvy buying public the balance of power/distribution is slowly shifting. As long as there are paper books, however, I believe that as long as they control the major distribution networks Trads will always have a place, albeit a small one.

At the other end of the spectrum are the Vanity publishers. These in the main are predators out to make money from wide-eyed writers with stars in their eyes. It sometimes takes a sharp eye to tell a Vanity from a Trad, as their appearance is carefully crafted to appear as legitimate as the Trads, like the innocent-looking camouflage of a lurking predator. They don’t offer advances (but so few legit publishers do these days, either) and their ‘editing services’ are either pathetic or non-existent. The biggest tell that they are a Vanity is that they ask for money, and lately the contacts for all your friends and relatives as well. Heaven only knows what they do with the contacts, for the full responsibility of selling your book falls directly on your shoulders. Basically, you are paying an astronomic amount (often in the double-digit thousands) for a couple of hundred mediocre physical books delivered to your house to take up residence in your garage until you sell them. In these days of electronic publishing, the Vanity house might throw up an ebook on one or two of the main retailers, often for an extra fee.

As sales depend on distribution, those who control the distribution networks control the industry - and the Vanities don't have any distribution facilities or networks.


One very important thing to remember is that in this industry whatever the publishing model the money should flow TO the author. These Vanity companies make their money FROM the author. If they have no investment of their own in your book they sure aren’t going to push it. They’re getting their money from you, not from sales of your book.

That said, I will add one caveat - there is a single small niche where Vanity is not only acceptable but often desirable. If someone writes a family history, for example, or a collection of Grandma’s recipes - something for family and friends only, something they are not interested in putting out on the open marketplace, Vanity publishing is a viable option. Just be very careful in choosing which company you decide to business with. A very few of the Vanity publishers are trustworthy and provide a good product. Do your due diligence. Then just to be sure, do it again.

Next month I will discuss the newer incarnations of the industry - Hybrid and the 800 pound gorilla that started the revolution in publishing, Self. We’re still in the Wild West in this area, though things have begun to settle down a little because of - or perhaps in spite of - the constantly changing landscape of technology.

Now I wish to give each of you a personal good wish for a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Good Yule, Happy Kwanzaa, or whatever else you celebrate, and a very Happy New Year. I think we all deserve them.


Tuesday, December 8, 2020

MAKE A WISH by J. L. Greger

Today, I'm hosting a guest instead of doing my own post. Please welcome, my friend and fellow author, J. L. Greger. 

 


Do you wish you could travel to exotic spots? Is the Taj Mahal one of the places you dream of seeing? I realize many of us during the pandemic would be thrilled to travel safely even to Peoria, Illinois. But let's focus now on travel to real tourist spots.

I admit the Taj Mahal was breathtaking as it appeared among the mists rising from the Yamuna River at sunrise. However, as the sun rose I also saw and smelled the polluted Yamuna River. Indian politicians have described it as an "open sewer."

My other problem with the Taj Mahal was the crowds. Think of the crowds leaving the stadium of a Big Ten school after a football game. I saw the Taj Mahal during the Diwali (a Hindu festival) holidays several years ago with more than twenty thousand people. I hate the suffocating feeling of being pushed along by crowds, especially in warm humid weather.

Now comes the surprising part of my wish to see the Taj Mahal. The best part of visiting famous sites in India wasn't the sites but the school children at the sites. The children were in groups of fifty to three hundred. Each clump of children were identifiable by their clothes, particularly the girl's uniforms. For example, one group of several hundred girls wore leggings with long jumpers almost to their knees in shades of green. Although all the groups were noisy when they left their buses. They were quiet and organized and with the smallest in front and the tallest at the back of the group by the time they reached the entrance to the sites. When I made the mistake of saying hello to one particularly cute little girl in a pink uniform, I was swamped by children taking my picture and asking questions. 

My advice is if you aren't an experienced traveler, skip an expensive trip to India and read DIRTY HOLY WATER, a romantic mystery with realistic depictions of India—good and bad. If you're not into India, you'll still enjoy this mystery in which it's difficult to distinguish villains from victims.

 Consider an alternate wish

Maybe during this holiday season and the rest of the pandemic, many of us should wish to be more helpful to those less fortunate than ourselves. For example, many children desperately need on line tutors. Local teachers and school districts could put you in contact with one of these children. Patients in hospitals are often not allowed visitors now, and they're lonely and scared. Volunteer offices at many hospital will accept handmade (knit, crocheted, sewn) baby blankets and afghans. these offices can also describe how to construct care packets that can be given to incoming patients. Homeless shelters and food banks need volunteers and contributions.

 Why should you consider an alternate wish? Because your wish for happiness and relief from the boredom induced by "stay-at-home" orders is met by fulfilling the wishes of others. Then too, you won't feel guilty when you snuggle up under a warm afghan and read DIRTY HOLY WATER.

 Blurb for DIRTY HOLY WATER: Sara Almquist is about to become engaged and leave for a vacation in India with her boyfriend when she becomes a suspect in the murder of a friend. It's unnerving for Sara because she's used to being a trusted forensic investigator with answers, not a nervous suspect. Surprisingly, Sara finds insights into her feelings and those of the dysfunctional family of the murder victim as she becomes immersed in Indian culture.

 The Kirkus review is: "A thought-provoking, disturbing, and engaging mystery with a likable, strong-willed female lead"  

DIRTY HOLY WATER (paperback or ebook) is available at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0960028587


Bio: J.L. Greger is a biology professor and research administrator from the University of Wisconsin-Madison turned novelist. She has consulted on scientific issues worldwide and loves to travel. Thus, she likes to include both science and her travel experiences in her thriller/mystery novels in the Science Traveler series. Award-winning books in the series include: The Flu Is Coming, Murder: A Way to Lose Weight, Malignancy, Riddled with Clues, and A Pound of Flesh, Sorta. Learn more at: http://www.jlgreger.com

 

 


Friday, November 20, 2020

Writing, Pandemic, Loss of Logic and Normalcy

by Linda Thorne

Author of forty-five or more books, Marilyn Meredith recently posted on the Make Mine Mystery Blogspot the topic, How has Covid 19 Affected Your Writing? She responded to a comment I made that she doesn’t let it bother her much since she can’t do anything about it. A wise way to handle the situation, but not something that works for me. I am drained by all of it.

Are we ever going to see normalcy again? Are you feeling stressed, desperate, frustrated,
mad, or plain worn out? I suddenly recalled a forty-year-old movie, Private Benjamin, and Goldy Hawn popped clearly into my mind in army clothes and helmet, marching in the rain, airing her frustrations loudly. “I want to go out to lunch! I want to be normal again!” I thought to myself, I get it Goldy, I really get it.

The last time I went out to dinner was on my husband’s birthday, Friday the 13th of March. We stopped by Great Clips afterward to get haircuts. So many months have passed since then.

Things closed soon after that, but the partial reopening has not gone well. I started cutting my husband’s hair even though the hair salons and barbershops had reopened here in Nashville, Tennessee. I hazarded hair appointments with my regular beautician. Twice. But as I was leaving the last time, I saw that the hairdresser next to her didn’t wear a mask, so I never went back. What I learned is the other beautician had a doctor’s excuse for not wearing a mask, so I have been cutting my own hair since with the help of my husband.

Where’s the logic in an employer allowing someone to work directly with the public without a mask when there’s a mask mandate? A mask is to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The doctor’s excuse is meaningless in a sane world. Yeah, maybe she couldn’t find a mask that allows her to breath or doesn’t irritate her skin (even though they are out there), but she still needs to stay home, doctor’s excuse or not.

The Pandemic has been bad enough, but during the skyrocketing increase in the number of cases, we had a Presidential election. Historic during a Pandemic, but the election is being drawn out, adding more stress.

Look at the rallies for Biden and protests against Trump not winning. The CDC is against any large gatherings, but it seems too many people feel like it has to be okay when there’s a cause they believe in. Whatever their cause, these things have no logic concerning wearing a mask to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Where’s our logic and common sense? And by the way, what about social distancing?

Then there are those who must show they have their rights not to wear a mask. Why? Why not help our economy and others’ safety?

At least we have one huge positive on the horizon. We are obviously going to get a vaccine.

Happy writing even during the Pandemic. If you can make it work for you, congratulations and keep going.

https://www.amazon.com/Linda-Thorne/e/B0147NO7CM/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1440368737

Buy Link Amazon

Linda Thorne.com

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The Diversity Paradox

by Janis Patterson

Can I make a confession? I love Thanksgiving - the family, the excitement of the beginning of the holiday season, the Americanism of the day, and yes, of course the food - but I hate turkey. Oh, I know people rave about it, how good it is and how good for you it is, and some people (including The Husband) eat it all year around. I just don’t like it. Badly cooked it tastes like fibrous cardboard. Even when well cooked it tastes like a slightly off chicken. But that doesn’t change the fact I love Thanksgiving - I just don’t eat the turkey.

Which is a rather clumsy way of saying that there is room for all opinions in this great big world, even in publishing as in food. There is something for everyone. Don’t like science fiction? Don’t read it. Don’t like romance? Same. Don’t like an alternative history mystery suspense set on Alpha Centauri with a cast of half-humanoids/half-reptiles? Don’t pick it up. 

Every permutation of genre has someone who wants to read it. That’s one of the glories of self-publishing - as a writer you can hit that special niche, no matter how small or restricted it is. The big commercial publishers, bound by the sheer economics of distribution and print runs and storage, can’t. They have to hit the broadest audiences possible in order to make a profit - which, unfortunately, is the bottom line for corporations. 

However - there is a disturbing sub-current swelling through the writing world. Instead of allowing the writer to create the story he wants, there are those urging that stories must glorify and showcase ‘diversity’ no matter if it suits the writer’s vision of his story or not. (Don’t get me wrong - I am in favor of diversity; it is a good thing, but only when it happens naturally and organically instead of being forced down writers/readers throats as a mandate.)

Neither do readers escape this dictate; they are very strongly urged to spend money which they might not have to buy books they might not be interested in and use time they might not have to read books by people they’ve never heard of - all in homage to the god of diversity. Reading is many things to all people, but in my opinion non-scholarly reading is for most an escape, a time of fantasy where I can go to a place untainted by the myriad complexities of the modern world. And I don’t think that’s wrong.

A nationally-known writing organization recently turned itself inside out and lost a number of members in the process for just this reason. Yes, there were things about the organization that could have been better, but the resolution could have been done better as well. One does not use a Howitzer to kill a mosquito, or level a building to fix a plumbing leak. Overkill is neither good nor practical. That, however, is just my opinion. Yours may differ.

So - as there are differences of opinion and style in the real world, so should there also be in the world of reading and writing. And, dare I add, in the gastronomical world. I wish everyone here the happiest and most enjoyable of Thanksgivings. Appreciate your families and delight in the traditional orgy of eating. May you even enjoy turkey if you like it - just don’t expect me to have any.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

I Ignored a New Taboo


Though I've seen readers say they don't want to read a book with Covid 19 in it, when I started writing my latest Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery, I didn't see how I could avoid it. After all, I'm writing this series in more-or-less real time.

Plus I really wanted to see how the characters (who seem real to me) would face what was happening, how it would affect the police officers and their families. So despite the naysayers I did what I knew had to be done.

The result is Not As We Knew It.

Despite what is going on, I believe it is an up-beat book. And I had fun writing it.

I'm so fortunate that I have Lorna Collins and her husband to help me with editing, the cover, and publishing it on Amazon.

To buy:

https://www.amazon.com/Not-As-Knew-F-M-Meredith/dp/B08NDT3FW5/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Not+As+We+Knew+It+by+F.+M.+Meredith&qid=1605794759&s=books&sr=1-1

Marilyn who writes this series as F. M. Meredith

Marilyn

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

And I Did an In-Person Event!

 

Here we are, daughter and I in our new plastic face masks participating in the Porterville Art Association's Holiday Boutique in the Art Gallery.

This event happens annually, and they didn't let the virus stop it this year. However, the group followed the rules, and I was happy to be a part of the event.

It lasted for two days, Friday and Saturday, and most of the other tables sold crafts and edibles. I've belonged to the PAA for many years, and in other times, I've given writing classes there, and hopefully I can do it again.

Though the attendance was light, some patrons came with the intent to buy one of my books. With mask wearing, at times it was hard to recognize folks. I had a friend who drove in the rain all the way from Fresno (an hour and a half plus drive) because she had 3 particular books she wanted. 

Others wanted to start with the first in my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series. 

It was a successful event for me--and not only for book selling, but because I not only got to chat with people I haven't seen for a long time, but also the artists who are members of PAA.

Though things have not gotten back to the way they were, it was wonderful to do this and I was happy for the opportunity.

The younger woman in the photo is my daughter, Lisa, who not only drove me to the event both days, she also helped me set up and take down, and makes changes and keeps track of sales. My son helped too by loading and unloading the car. I"m blessed by both of them.

Marilyn

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

How Has the Covid 19 Affected Your Writing?

I'm wondering because I've seen so many varied reports from writers on Facebook and other places.

Some seem to have given up writing to deep clean their house. I can assure you that hasn't happened to me. Oh, I've thought of it, but that's about as far as I've gotten. I pay a granddaughter to do the floors and other chores that I don't do anymore.

Other writers seem to have used this time when the world as we know it as been put on slow to write like crazy, producing even more than they have before.

For me, it's not the virus that's affected my writing, it's getting writing jobs that have taken up my time. I also have done some promoting by offering the first book in my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series free for 5 days. That paid off in over 600 copies being downloaded, and now people are buying copies of other books in the series--which, of course, was the whole point of the freebie.

I'm more fortunate than many in the fact that I have family living with me, next door, and close by and I still see them all. So, some parts of my life haven't changed. 

I am working on a new Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery and I'm anxious to get back to it and finish.

I've lamented all the in-person book events that have been cancelled--but lo and behold, I have two events coming up--a holiday boutique being held at the nearby art gallery--masks to be worn by all, and another event that hasn't quite been firmed up as yet.

Because I want people to know when I'm smiling, I purchased clear full face masks to wear. 

So, tell me, how has this nasty virus affected you and your writing?

Marilyn

You can take a peek at all my books at my website: http://fictionforyou.com/ 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Challenge Writing

                                                                            by Janis Susan May

When the writing is going well, it’s hard to pull us away from the computer. Words sing in our mind and dance from our fingertips. When the writing is going badly, it’s amazing how many things have to be done before we can force ourselves to sit down to write. When the writing is going really badly, it doesn’t matter what we do the muse remains stubbornly silent, the flow of words simply stops and we have no idea how to get it started again.

There are techniques to prime the pump, of course, and everyone has their own favorites. One way that has been around for decades - but is fairly new to me - is the book-in-a-week self-accountability writing, an offshoot of the book-in-a-month phenomenon.

Once a month one of my writing groups sponsors a book-in-a-week event. That is not a totally accurate name, though we call it that. We don’t expect anyone to write an entire book in a week. We do, however, expect all of us to write. On the first day we each declare how many words we are going to do in the next seven days. This can range from 500 to 10,000 or more. Each evening we email the group our numbers for that day and at the end of the week the coordinator posts a spreadsheet with each individual’s and the group’s totals. There are no prizes for those who make or exceed their goals and no reprisals for those who don’t. It’s completely voluntary and self-reported. There’s no real competition except against yourself.

Simple, right? Yes, it is, but then the simple things are often the most powerful.

Thanks to the restrictions and general malaise of this dratted lingering plague I have had trouble writing. I have been a professional writer of some kind for nearly all my adult life (and, no, I am not going to say how long!) and writing is what I do, no matter if I feel like it or not. Deadlines are deadlines and must be met no matter what else is going on at the time. This plague changed that. I don’t know if it’s simply accidie, or being affected by some malign mental atmosphere permeating the country, or the simple laziness of age. Whatever it is, I have had trouble writing.

I joined the BiaW challenge more out of curiosity than from any hope of help, but it works. I began with a goal of 5,000 words for a week. Normally this would be a laughably low weekly count for me, but one I had not made for several weeks. Just the public declaration that I would do 5,000 in a week stiffened my writing spine and I exceeded my goal. One challenge I didn’t make it, but that particular slice of time contained several family problems. Every other challenge I have more than exceeded my goal - sometimes even doubling it.

So, in my case at least, simple works. Just the act of stating that I am going to write X number of words in Y length of time makes it real. Announcing it publicly makes it real. However it works, for me at least it does work. If you’re having trouble getting the words down, you might try an accountability group.


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

I'm Doing it Again: Free Book on Amazon





From yesterday, October 12, until Friday, Oct. 16, the first book in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series will be free on Kindle.


This is the newly edited, republished edition--the book that started it all, Deadly Trail.

Actually, the second book in the series, Deadly Omen,  was published first. I found another small press to publish Deadly Trail, but it never got much in the way of promotion.

The series has now grown to 19 books. 

Deadly Trail introduces Native American Deputy Tempe Crabtree, her son, Blair, and her fiance, Pastor Hutch Hutchinson. Nick Two John is an important character in this book as he is in most of those that follow. 

The story is set in the mountain community of Bear Creek that has a striking resemblance to the town I live in, with some necessary changes.

This is a great way to start the series, and I hope some of you will try it.

Marilyn

Friday, September 18, 2020

Hacking Away At Your Word Count

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by Linda Thorne

If you’re an author who has ever entered a writing contest, you’ve been subjected to maximum word count requirements. I found this to be the norm in contests asking for part or all of a work-in-progress novel and in every short story contest I ever entered.

It’s amazing how you can reduce those words. I’ve managed to take a 3500 word short story and reduce it to 1000 while still keeping the story line.

My first book, Just Another Termination,started off at 120,000 words. It was awful. So much needed cut. I took out a couple of non-essential characters and their roles, but there was a more fat to trim. I had way too much detail regarding how some events came about. I described how my character and her husband moved from LA to the Mississippi Gulf Coast and gave way too many details. Boring. When I finally published my book it was down to 80,000 words. 

I published this post somewhere three years ago. I'm not sure whether it was here on Make Mine Mystery or on Novel Spaces. I'm bringing it back re-written a little differently. 

I’ve heard that the current preferred length for mystery, thrillers, and romance is 70,000 to 90,000 words; although I personally consider 90,000 high, and 75,000 to 80,000 a better word count.

Things I’ve done to reduce word count:

Drop one of the subplots. I had too many in the first draft.

Get rid of a few characters. I had to do that with a couple of characters in Just Another Termination and hated it. I may have one too many in my current work-in-progress, A Promotion to Die For. I don’t know yet.

I know you are supposed to take out back story in the beginning and trickle it throughout. This has been hard in A Promotion to Die For, as so much back story is needed for a murder 30 years in my character's past. Critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Susan Isaacs wrote a book called, Lily White, where each chapter was either in the present time or in the past. The past chapters were in italics and the present ones in regular font until both stories met toward the end. I enjoyed this. In A Promotion to Die For I only have a few chapters that are written in back story. The people and occurrences in that history from three decades earlier surface soon in the present and the old cold case murder from back then is solved toward the end of the book in its current timeline.

Eliminate repeats. I can’t tell you how many times I can say the same thing in writing over and over. The reader gets it the first time. I’m not sure about other authors, but I find myself telling it to them again in a different way. This has to end and I usually get rid of it during the revision process.

No rambling over things you want to get in because of your beliefs. This is not about the author, but about giving the reader something interesting to read.

I’m interested in your experiences as authors and/or readers in words working without being too wordy.

Buy Link: Amazon Buy Link

Author Website: Lindathorne.com

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Rabbit Hole Seduction

                                     by Janis Patterson

No matter what we write, we’ve all been there. We’re writing along happily, the scene is working, the tension is building, our characters are behaving the way we want them to for once and - boom! - suddenly you need a tiny little fact without which nothing works.

Sometimes you can skip over it and finish the scene, vowing to go back and fact-check later (and sometimes you forget, for which fans will inevitably ding you) but often if the action is to proceed as you want it to you need an answer, as it might change the action.

In a way research was simpler before the internet. A trip to the library or the encyclopaedia if you were fortunate enough to own one, or a phone call to some authority, and you felt safe. You had done your due diligence and could feel fairly secure that you knew more about whatever it was than the majority of readers.

It’s different nowadays. Everyone has access to the internet, and let’s face it, a lot of information on the internet is confusing, contradictory and sometimes just plain not true. What’s a curious writer to do?

Research, research and more research. Some things are pretty immutable and easy to find out - the date of a battle, for example, or the reaction between two common chemicals. It gets a bit dicey, however, when you get into more esoteric stuff, for example, when did metal-spring hoop skirts become indispensable to ladies’ fashions? It’s fairly easy to find out the date of their first release (England, 1855 is the best date I can find) but when did they cross the pond to become available to Southern belles? What was a common recipe for home-made ink during the 1860s? And my own personal bĂȘte noir, did the 1916 Jordan Sport Marine automobile have a self-starter or were they only available with the old-fashioned and very dangerous crank? (Aeons of research have never yielded a definitive answer, so like my betters I have taken refuge in weasel words, saying that my heroine’s machine is an ‘experimental model.’ However, once the book is released I fatalistically await some reader to excoriate me for not having the correct answer. Sigh.)

I am beginning to appreciate why so many writers are now choosing to do urban fantasy, pure fantasy, science fiction, etc. Their world, their rules.

There are two main problems with research - one is that it takes time from writing, but this can be countered with the absolute necessity for at least believable accuracy. And yes, accuracy is important. I point to a Regency romance in a contest I once judged where the hero reaches into his pocket and pulls out a fountain pen, which although primitive ones were first patented in the 1830s were not commercially available until the 1850s, some thirty years after the Regency. When I counted this faux pas against the writer that absolutely furious young woman wrote me back, demanding to know why, especially since it was an old fashioned pen and who would know the difference anyway? Double sigh.

The second problem with research is its seductivity. You flip over to the internet to find out the date (say) whalebone was first used in corsets or the chemical formula for gunpowder and three hours later you are engrossed in reading the life cycle of the water nymph (dragonfly larvae) without really knowing how you got there, since neither dragonflies nor nymphs (insect or mythological) have anything to do with your story. Seductive, indeed!

Unfortunately, there is no cure that I know of for such a predilection to wander off into the arcane pathways of interlocking knowledge. After years of trying to discipline myself I have given up and allowed my mind to dive down the rabbit hole and follow the seductive lure of unknown fields. At least, for a while. You never know when you might find a nugget of knowledge that will enhance your story, or even give you a new one. (Yeah, like we really need new story ideas to add to the 200+ year stockpile we already have, right?) Besides, it’s inevitable. There is just too much fascinating information out there. We’re doomed.

(And I apologize for any weirdnesses in formatting - this new Blogger upload interface and I are not getting along well together! I don't see why companies insist on changing things for the worse!)

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

VOLUNTARY EVACUATION!

 That's the status of where we are at the moment. The Sequoia Complex fire (or something like that) is just above Springville where I live--but encompasses many, many acres. Some of the homes and cabins in the upper mountains have already been lost, including a popular pack station. 

The air is full of smoke and has been for days. Many of my friends not far from here had a mandatory evacuation, and were forced to leave. Lots of animals have been transferred to safe places down in the valley.

We received our Voluntary Evacuation notice via our phone, cell and landline about 9:30 Sunday a.m. On Monday I began gathering important papers, meds, things I didn't want to lose. A line of bags is sitting on the big table in my office.

The bad things about packing this stuff is I have to keep getting things out that I need.

This is the second fire that's come close to our home since we've lived here. Three years ago we had the Pier Fire and hubby and I packed the important stuff and stayed with friends in Porterville for 3 days. That fire was different, fierce but smaller acreage wise. We could also see the flames, which we can't with this one because the smoke is so thick.

Where will we go if we have to leave? I'm not sure. Several people have offered for us to come to their homes, but if we really have to go, it will probably be to one of our kids'.

I've written about fires many times in my mysteries, but believe me, it's far scarier when it's happening to you.

We're praying for the firefighters and for the fire to be contained. There are so many fires in the state as well as in Oregon and Washington that there really aren't enough firefighters and they are having to work too many hours.

My writing is not happening right now, not because of the fire but because of other things I need to do.

I'll keep you posted.

Marilyn



Tuesday, August 25, 2020

The Good and Bad of August

This is from my perspective, of course.

This is my birthday month--and yesterday I celebrated twice.

We had the pleasure of taking a road trip to my daughter's new home (long drive), staying for three days and spending time with two grown grandsons and their families--which involved 3 great grands including one we'd never met before. What a great break from staying at home because of the virus.

With the re-publishing of Wishing Make It So, all of my books have now been re-edited and made available on Amazon. This was written a long time ago, not a mystery, more of a psychological horror. And the bad is every venue for selling books have been cancelled.


We've had really hot weather and along with it fires have sprung up all over the state of California. So far, none near where we live, but the sky is so full of smoke we can't see the hills and mountains that surround us. Many people have had to be evacuated, some with only the clothes they were wearing.

In the past, we've had fires that were too close for comfort--close enough that we packed up my computer, insurance papers etc., and stayed at a friends' home for three days.

A couple of bears have decided to roam the neighborhoods and raid trash cans. One was spotted several times at the dump where people bring their trash to be hauled away on Fridays and Saturdays. (Not sure if that's good or bad.)  People like spotting and taking photos of these visitors.

I've gotten a good start on a new Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery. My police officer grandson gave me some good tips I can use in my plot.

Lots of annual events where I live have been cancelled--rodeo, Hot Summer Nights dance and party, Friday night concerts in the park, the Apple Festival, and more.

More good is we have a great and big family who help us out in many ways. 

Hope there is more good in your lives than bad.

Marilyn who also writes as F. M. Meredith




Friday, August 21, 2020

Welcome Saralyn Richard with an Interesting Post on Titles and Covers

   

 

Today I've invited award-winning author, Saralyn Richard, to speak here at Make Mine Mystery. This will be her second visit.


Titles and Covers

by Saralyn Richard

    “Prime real estate” for a novel resides in first impressions. That’s why finding the right title and cover are super-important. In my experience, a book title either comes easy or hard. Sometimes the working title sticks, making the final editing and publishing process go down as smoothly as a chocolate martini. Most of the time, though, I can’t be sure of a title until I’ve completed the book. I want the title to make sense for the reader, both before and after experiencing the book. I want it to pop off the cover and grab the reader’s attention with its pithiness or cleverness or emotional pull. I hope it charms and intrigues—I could go on and on, but you get the picture. I have high expectations for titles, and that makes choosing a title one of the most difficult tasks of the entire writing process.

   My newest release, A PALETTE FOR LOVE AND MURDER, started out as Brandywine Art Murder. Like it's prequel, MURDER IN THE ONE PERCENT, this book is set in the lush, elegant country of Brandwine Valley, Pennsylvania. The second book revolves around the art community there, made famous by the Wyeth family and other artists featured at the Brandywine River Fine Arts Museum. Detective Parrott investigates an art heist, which turns into a murder, a treasure hunt, and a palette-full of secrets.

    Enter the palette. I changed the title to A Palette for Murder. Nice, tidy title—not too many words to overpower the cover or become too hard to remember. I checked to see if there were other books with that title, and—uh, oh—there were three, one of them published fairly recently. I agonized over what to change the title to. I surveyed my email subscribers. I badgered my family and friends. I pondered over the book’s themes and characters and realized this book went beyondBarnes and Noble the boundaries of mystery and suspense. It was also a story about love in its complexity. I quickly searched for A Palette for Love and Murder, and, finding no other book by that title, voila! I had my title. 

    Next came the cover. Because this book is part of a series, I wanted the cover to resemble the Murder in the One Percent cover in some way, but not to replicate it. I wanted readers to be reminded of the first cover, but not to confuse it with the second. My talented cover artist, Rebecca Evans, knew how to achieve that. She used the same background as in the first cover, but this time she made the artist’s palette front and center. This was, however, no ordinary artist’s palette. First of all, the globs of paint are meant to be mysterious, even sinister. Some of the paint droplets resemble blood. And anyone who looks closely enough will see that she has embedded images from the story into the background of the palette. More edgy than beautiful, this cover fits a story where characters are haunted by their past experiences, where everyone has secrets to hide.


    What do you see in the title and cover of A PALETTE FOR LOVE AND MURDER? I’d love to hear your thoughts on choosing titles and covers, as well!


Award-winning mystery and children’s book author, Saralyn Richard strives to make the world a better place, one book at a time. Her books, Naughty Nana, Murder in the One Percent, and A Palette for Love and Murder, have delighted children and adults, alike. Look for A Murder of Principal to be released in January, 2021. A member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, Saralyn teaches creative writing at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and continues to write mysteries. 

Reviews, media, and tour schedule may be found at http://saralynrichard.com

Buy Links:  Barnes and Noble   Amazon

Twitter Account

 



Wednesday, August 19, 2020

A Matter of Perspective

 by Janis Patterson

 

I have decided that I am a different sort of reader.

On one of my booklovers’ lists it seems there is a constant discussion going on. This particular list happens to be about a very specific kind of historical romance, a genre I have always loved, but sometimes these discussions get very heated. The author involved is noted for her historical accuracy and therein lies the problem.

The current discussion is - as it usually is - about aristocratic snobbery and unconscious racism. Personally I don’t mind either in historical fiction, as the stories in question were written in the past about a time even further in the past, and that was pretty much the way things were then. I said the author was renowned for her historic accuracy, didn’t I? However, some members of the list keep repeating how they loathe those particular attitudes and how they think they taint the stories. Of course that is their right - those antique attitudes are and should be loathsome by today’s standards - but the stories weren’t written about today, today’s society or today’s mores. As they were first published so long ago they weren’t even written for today’s people. They are a story of their time - not ours.

When I open a book, I am entering someone else’s world. By going there I am a visitor and should understand that by being there I accept their world as it was then. If it becomes too upsetting to me, I close the book and leave. The same ethos applies if the book is sci-fi or paranormal or futuristic or even today’s plain (or perhaps not-so-plain) world. It is the world of that book, the world the author has created for it - not for me or any other reader. It is an discrete entity in and of itself, and we should treat it as such. We are mere visitors, observers - not residents.

To give this a more concrete example, I can think of no worse fate than to live full time in a tiny glass-walled treehouse set high up in the woods’ canopy and accessible only by a twisting, dizzying, exposed staircase. That said, however, I thoroughly enjoyed a two day holiday there and would not mind going back - but not for more than a day or two. It is not my world. I am a visitor.

It’s the same with books and movies, and TV, and other entertainments. I choose to go there, wherever ‘there’ is. I choose to stay there. It is different from my real life. If I don’t like it, I can leave by closing the book or turning whatever it is off. Implicit in my going there is my acceptance that it is the creator’s world, not mine; the creator’s thoughts and history, real or made-up, not mine. It was not created for me. I am a visitor, not a participant, and as such part of the artistic contract is to see the story through the author’s and characters’ eyes and beliefs - not my own. If all I cared about was my own, I should sit at home and stare at the wall.

You cannot apply today’s mores and ideals to the past. As someone famous once said, “The past is another place. They do things differently there.” The past is over and gone, and if it offends you don’t go there.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

What Are You Missing Most as a Writer?



We've talked about this before, all the writing conferences and conventions that have been cancelled, plus the book and craft fairs.

So what do we miss besides the opportunity to sell books?

For me, it's not getting to see old friends and make new ones in the writing and reading community.

In July, my favorite conference of all, the Public Safety Writers Association's annual get-together had to be cancelled. I usually teach at the pre-conference workshop. I always get ideas for my books from the speakers and panels.

The Visalia Library had planned a big outdoor book festival for fall--of course that won't happen, all the libraries are closed.

One of the biggest book festivals in northern California held in Manteca held in the fall is a victim of the Covid 19 too.

My calendar for the 2020 was filled with conferences and book fairs to attend, plus speaking engagements at writers groups. All cancelled.

Of course, I've got copies of my books on hand that I expected to sell at all these places.

I've been busy, despite all this because all my books are now self-published in paper and for Kindle on Amazon. But, I don't know about my fellow authors, but for me, it's not as much fun to try and promote on line as it is to be face-to-face with a potential buyer and reader of one of my books.
Discussing a book in person is much more rewarding. And I miss this.

What I'm also missing in meeting with my writers' groups like the San Joaquin chapter of Sisters in Crime. I miss seeing the members, and I miss hearing the speakers. I miss the regular meeting of the Tulare-Kings Writers group. And most of all, I miss the weekly gatherings of our writers' critique group. I'm in touch with them via email, but it isn't the same.

What about you? What are you missing most as a writer or a reader?

Marilyn who also writes as F. M. Meredith

I'm busy writing the next book in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, and the latest book in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series is End of the Trail. 



Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Time for a Redo on My Website

Over the years, I've had many changes done to my website. Once I'd finished the re-editing and self-publishing of all my books (with a lot of help), I realized I needed to update my website as much of the information, the books covers and the links were wrong.

I also wanted it to be de-cluttered. I didn't need the first chapter posted, and certainly not the places I'd be appearing as this isn't happening this year. 

I toyed with the idea of building a website from scratch so I could up date it myself, but decided that would be daunting even if I used Blogger or another of the do-it-yourself sites. Not easy when you have over 40 published books.  So I contacted the gal who has served as my web-maven for the last I'm not sure how many years and told her what I wanted.

Fortunately, she agreed, so now the updated website is ready. I'm sure I may find things to tweak, but it looks so much better.

You can check it our yourself: http://fictionforyou.com/ And yes, I kept them same URL because it's on all my business cards.  (Though now I really need to make new ones. Oh, well, one big project at a time.)

If you see something that should be changed, feel free to let me know.

And now I have time to get back to my writing.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

The last (or is it) in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series.




Friday, July 17, 2020

Killer Nashville, The Pandemic, and Me

The Killer Nashville Writers’ Conference, held annually in late August, recently cancelled under the ominous cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic. Did this surprise me? No, but my personal reaction and mixed emotions to this cancellation did.

In mid-March my employer sent me and many of my co-workers out of our offices and to our homes to conduct business. All this time, companies have been closing and people losing jobs, the stock market a miss-mess of confusion, my 401(k) drooping, and I continue to work from home. Yet, it was only when I recently heard that the Killer Nashville Writers’ Conference was cancelled that the pandemic felt truly real and hit home for me.

I’ve attended the Killer Nashville Writers’ conference every year since 2009. This year I held off paying the registration fee after watching what was happening in China. When we were told we were in a pandemic in March, I decided not to attend this year’s conference. Still, Killer Nashville went on preparing for the event, scheduling the panels and the presentations. They continued to work to make it happen right into this month.

Even though this was not a surprise, it still blew me away. Clay Stafford, the founder, stated online: “Thanks to all of you for a wonderful 15 years. I’m sorry, very sorry, we couldn’t pull it off.”

I’m sure many of you are aware of other author/writer conferences that have had to do the same thing. For some reason this felt personal to me.






Addendum:
A picture of the last time my husband and I went out to dinner on his birthday March 13th. Mexican food and Margaritas. Afterwards we went to Great Clips and got hair cuts. We’ve pretty much stayed home since. Bummer.


http://author.to/Amazon_Author_Page

Amazon Buy Link


Wednesday, July 15, 2020

On Superwoman and Humanity

by Janis Patterson

Am I the only one tired of Superwoman? You know the kind of heroine I’m talking about - when challenged she can leap six feet in the air and take out half a dozen attacking bad guys with a symphony of martial-arts moves, all without mussing her hair or make-up. She has an encyclopedic knowledge of all kinds of esoteric knowledge and can solve a crime with a single piece of exotic evidence. Locked in a dungeon? She picks the lock with a hairpin, overpowers another gaggle of bad guys then goes home and cooks a gourmet dinner for her adoring stud-of-the-week.
Oh, there are other examples of Superwoman, some not as extreme but all redolent of the bad old days of the early feminist movement when average women were told they not only should be but were expected to be Superwoman.
Now I don’t want heroines to revert to the simpering, cloying wimps they were in the early days of the last century, incapable of much of anything except looking beautiful and allowing the hero to rescue them. They are just as unbelievable as Superwoman - and just as if not more annoying.
But - doesn’t there have to be some sort of a middle ground, one with which most people can identify? Of course there are extant examples in real life of both Superwoman and the wimp, but even their admirers admit they are rare.
I’ll admit I don’t like fantasy. Witches, shapeshifters, goblins, alternate worlds where the denizens have magical powers... they all leave me cold, and quite frankly I put both Superwoman and the incompetent wimp in that category of unbelievability. Now those of you who love fantastical stories, I wish you many joyous hours of reading and writing them... just don’t expect me to join you.
I prefer reality - at least, a reasonable simulacrum of reality. People whom you could know in everyday life, not the extremes. To me it is much more engaging to read about a heroine (or a hero, for that matter) who could be my next door neighbor - or maybe even me. Thoroughly human, with some skills others might not have but lacking others, yet all on a human scale. To me that is encouraging, heartening, something to strive for - that someone as ordinary as I can triumph in ordinary circumstances.
Maybe I should learn more about the denizens of fantasy worlds, get myself more in tune with Superwoman. Maybe not. I’m happy with ordinary fallible humanity. If they can rise above their very ordinariness and do great things, maybe I can too.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Putting One Foot in Front of the Other--Sort Of

All of the books in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series are now completely re-editrf and with new covers--and self-published. Here's the cover of the last one in the series:


Available from Amazon for Kindle and trade paperback:


Once these were all done,  I realized my webpage needed to be completely revamped. I spent a lot of time deciding what should disappear and what should be on it. I sent the new information, links, and covers to my webmaven. 

And while working on those files, I was reminded that I had some of my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series on audio books and I'd never received any royalties for them. First, I had to get the rights back from the now defunct publisher. Took some doing with the help of Lorna Collins who did all the republishing of both series. The audio books can be accessed here:


The way I work, or plod along, is by making a list and tackling the most important or time-sensitive or hardest project first. I take great satisfaction in crossing what I've completed from my list.

"What's up next?" you ask.

It's time to get busy and write a new Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel. I do have two pages done, but I need to do more research and planning for more crimes and what happens next in my characters' families. 

And like all the rest of you, I am praying for this virus to be over so we can get back to at least a semblance of normal life.

Marilyn who writes the Rocky Bluff P.D. series as F. M. Meredith




Tuesday, June 23, 2020

How has the Corona Virus Affected You as a Writer'





I've been hearing all sorts of comments about how the virus is affecting other writers, from even though they have the time, they haven't had the desire to write, to the other extreme, some love the fact that being confined to home has given them lots of time to write.

Which end of this answer are you, or somewhere in the middle?

To be honest, the writing part of my life hasn't changed much because of the virus. I am mostly staying home, except for forays with mask on to the grocery store.

What I miss most is all the events and conferences I'd planned on going to and were cancelled.

Because I had a non-refundable hotel reservation for San Luis Obispo for a conference that cancelled, my daughter, hubby and I packed up and headed over to the coast. For those of you who don't know, San Luis Obispo is a jumping off place for many coastal beaches.

Though we didn't get close to any people at the surprisingly crowded beaches we did watch the otters play at Morro Bay, and visited Pismo and other popular spots and saw a lot of great scenery at vantage viewing spots. Many of the restaurants had just opened following all the new rules, so we had some great meals too.

It's been long enough to know if we were exposed to anything, and we're all fine. It was a great get-away and certainly renewed all three of us.

As for my writing, I've been busily going over old books in my Rocky Bluff P.D. series that have been re-edited and making sure to catch mistakes. These books have all been published before, but oh, my, there are typos and goofs. They are all going to be self-published and some of them are already there on Amazon for Kindle and in paper.

Though we haven't been doing them in order, the first ones are done.

The series begins with Final Respects. When I wrote it I had no idea it would become a series.

Marilyn who writes this series as F.M. Meredith

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Who Are You Again?

 by Janis Patterson

As someone once said, it’s always something.
After decades - centuries - of respecting proper grammar, pronouns, tense, sentence structure, conjugations and all the other bits of pieces that comprise language and forms so much of communication, writers are being asked to learn a totally new - and distressingly flexible - set of personal pronouns.
Now there are people who are intent on messing up the concept of language. In a politically correct move some who believe they are more than one gender are not only using different pronouns for themselves, they expect others to use them as well. Some use ‘they’ referring to their singular selves. Some make up pronouns. Some commit even more unforgivable grammatical mayhem. One person interviewed calls itself ‘It.’
Whatever my personal feelings about these people are people have a right to live their lives as they see fit, as long as it’s legal. They can call themselves what they want to when they’re among their intimates, but who on earth would agree that they should be allowed to change the shape of the language?
Language is communication. Language conveys ideas and feelings and information and all kinds of things, but the basis of language is understanding. Both parties - the one speaking and the one listening - have to have a common ground, not only a knowledge of what the words they speak mean, but a certainty that they both know the same meanings.
For example, there are many languages in this world, and in each language there are many examples of beautiful writing. But - unless you speak that language, those writings are nothing to you. Someone could be reciting the most exquisite words in the world, but if you don’t know what they mean you hear nothing but polysyllabic babble. There is no common point of reference.
Now that might be something of an overdrawn example, but the principle is true. Language is shared communication.
Say someone wants itself to be referred to using ‘tym’ rather than ‘he’ or ‘she,’ as in “Tym is my friend.” Or someone refers to itself as ‘they’ rather than ‘I,’ as in “they want to go to the mall” meaning that the speaker wants to go to the mall. Unless you are personally acquainted with this person, or know of its preferences, you won’t know what they’re talking about.
Language has rules. For example, ‘they’ is plural - not singular. ‘Tym’ is a made-up word, signifying nothing.
We are writers. Our job is to communicate, to share ideas and situations and information. If people don’t understand what we’re saying, we are not doing our job. And it will lose us readers. Another possible pitfall is that writing is forever, and the words that are currently trendy may be totally incomprehensible in a decade. Or less. Yes, language changes and mutates, but it is a natural process, not a fiat declared by a tiny minority, a minority that can’t even agree on which of their new words are right.
Again, people have the right to refer to themselves as they wish. They do not have the right to demand that others use those same words. There is no standardization to these new manufactured words/meanings, and the definitions are too fluid to last.
Call yourself what you want, but don’t mess with the language. Posterity - and those who believe in clear communication - won’t thank you if you do.