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.


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