What's in Store

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Writer's Resolutions for 2012

Just to be clear, I dislike resolutions. They reek of failure and political posturing. I resolve to balance the budget. We all understand it's not under the control of one man or woman. And there's part of us that believes the candidate doesn't even mean it. He/She is jumping on the bandwagon and making a promise that sounds good. Why should it be any different when the Average Jane makes the same kind of statement? I resolve to fit into my high school prom dress. Right.

I do, however, like to set goals. Actually, I'm anal retentive and like to make lists so I can experience the joy of crossing something off with my pretty new pen. Here is my list of hopes for 2012.

I hope to leave more reviews on Amazon.

Luck has been with me in 2011, and I've discovered authors who make me smile. It seems heartless and selfish to keep all that enjoyment to myself. Besides, I know how hard it is to get reviews. I've tried giving away free books in exchange for reviews. Here is the formula:

Dozens of Free Books + Requests = No Reviews.

If an author has made my day, why not give them something in return? And for all those Scrooges who say I already gave them my money, don't be so miserly. Spread the joy.

I hope to get my finished works up on Kindle.

I have several mysteries I've been working on for, hmmm, forever! I've rewritten, tweaked, torn apart, and tweaked again. In life, you can't expect new yummy things on your plate if you don't let go of what's already there. So I'm going to do it. I'm going to publish The Body Guy and Barking Mad About Murder. I'm even going to aim to get Civility Rules out by next Christmas.

I hope to get my Kindle books up on Create Space.

I'm tactile about books. I love to hold them in my greedy little paws. As intimidating as learning a new formatting process is for disorganized me, I'm going to do it.

I hope to interview more authors on my blog.

I love authors. I love their excitement, their insights, and their books. When I interview, I don't send a pat list of questions. I read the books and tailor to each author, so it's time consuming. But it's worth it. BTW, if you're an author who wants to be interviewed, send me a note with Author Interview in the subject line. I'm not a snob. In fact, I'm sometimes more excited about new authors I haven't heard about.

I hope to get up a new website.

My current website doesn't do it for me. None of the blame lies with the designer. It's all me. I'm the nightmare client who doesn't understand visuals. This year, I want a one-stop shop that reflects my books and includes my blog. And, hopefully, I won't drive my designer mad in the process.

The other thing about resolutions is that people overdo them. The list is an endless chain that can't possibly be conquered in one year. So I'm going to stop here. Literally.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Start the New Years Off Right with New Authors

Before Christmas, I offered a list of fabulous writers I've discovered in the past year or two. I couldn't put them all on one list, so here are some more suggestions for 2012! I guarantee you I'll have more lists throughout the year because, as I've discovered, there are some fantastic writers out there!

J. Michael Orenduff - The Pot Thief Mysteries are a pleasure to read. Protagonist Hubie Schuze is the kind of guy you can spend time with without checking your watch. The books are filled with clever dialogue, romance, mystery, and philosophizing. Alburquerque makes a beautiful setting, and the author is coming out with a cookbook of Southwest dishes like the ones Hubie whips up in the books. Each book revolves around a theory, and past stories have included scientific and culinary tidbits that leave you feeling smarter when you're finished with the book. I'll be first in line for the cookbook!

Mark Schweizer - The Liturgical Mysteries are a riot, plain and simple. Hayden Konig is both St. Germaine's police chief and the organist for St. Barnabas Episcopal Church. Sometimes his duties overlap. It's hard to figure out which is more hysterical--the goings on at the church or the murder itself. A huge fan of Raymond Chandler, Konig hopes to write his own detective novel, each book contains a novel within a novel--an outragiously poor piece of prose. I dare you to read it with a straight face.

L.C. Tyler  Cross the pond to meet up with third-rate mystery writer Ethelred Tressidor and his diamond-in-the-rough Elsie Thirkettle as they stumble through murder investigations. You'll have to hang onto your sides as you giggle your way through their antics. Mean CAN be funny, especially when it's coming from Elsie. I'm so excited to find that there's a new book out, Herring on the Nile. I can't wait!

Diana Dempsey - Who wouldn't like a mystery called Ms. America and the Offing in Oahu? I did! Not only did I enjoy the laughs, but I felt like putting on a little makeup and a nice outfit by the time I finished. A great vacation read because the environment and vicarious pampering will relax you!

I'll stop there, except to give you a couple of quick links to other authors I've enjoyed.

G.M. Malliet  Ms. Malliet writes the St. Just mysteries. I've tried her new series, but I like St. Just best. Lots of humor, and the investigation reminds me of a good, old-fashioned British cozy.

Linda O. Johnston  Take your pick. She has several series including her new Pet Rescue books. Others are the Pet Sitter Mysteries and paranormal romances. A book for any mood!

Dorothy Howell - Haley Randolph is a protagonist that you love to hate. Sometimes you wonder why she's not the victim.

Gwen Freeman - Fifi Cutter will have you laughing over her snarky observations, mostly because you'll agree with her!

I hope you enjoy the authors I've listed. I love them all! Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

We Have a Winner!

The lucky winner of a free copy of Family Matters is Jackie Houchin! May she receive hours of enjoyment, laughter, and a general feeling of frivolity from the ebook! Congratulations, Jackie!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How Editing is like Tithing in Reverse

Tithing. It comes from the Jewish Scriptures (the Old Testament to us Catholics). It's when we give God the "first fruits". It's saying, "Hey, God. Since everything comes from you, I give you back the first and best part of everything, just so You know that I know." (And then we wink.) That's why we tithe off the gross, not the net. Otherwise, the government would get the first and best. Not going to happen.

When you edit, you're tithing ten percent, only it's not the best ten percent, and it's not going to God (or to the all-powerful reader). This ten percent goes right into the wastebasket. But it's still a gift. By culling it out of the story, your reader winds up with only the best. The last fruits, but in this case that's a good thing.

There are those who will tell you to edit out twenty, thirty, or even forty percent of your first draft, but I say, No, No. Let us not be extreme. Or, if we're going to be extreme, do it in steps. Edit ten percent. Clean it up. Edit another ten percent if necessary. Clean it up. And so on.

Cutting like a madwoman on a scissors rampage can kill the voice of your story. Here is my finely edited mystery:

He killed. She died. They solved. The End. Grunt.

Some advise taking out all of the adverbs. I'm not going to sink into a depression  if I read "Tell her to go to hell," he said, jokingly. Maybe it's because I read a lot of old books. If Agatha Christie can get away with it, it's a rule that can be broken.

I'm in love with words, so my first draft has a lot of blather. It's highly creative, impressive blather, but it's still blather. My first draft of Family Matters was more of a social satire/mystery. There was a subplot about an illegal immigrant who witnessed the murder...and the murderer knew it. While this poor, frightened guy was trying to lay low and avoid his own demise, demonstrators on both side of the issue were trying to make him their poster boy. Funny, perhaps brilliant, (well, I thought it might be) but it brought in all sorts of characters who had nothing to do with the murder. But they sure made the book fun.

Snip, snip.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Drawing on Friday, December 16th

Dates have become kind of blurry since Foster was injured. I realized after my post that it was already Thursday, so the drawing for the free copy of Family Matters will take place on Friday, December 16th!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Christmas Gift to You

I've been off the net for a while. My husband had an accident at work in October, and it's been a whirlwind of hospitals, rehab, and caretaker activity. He's doing nicely.

To celebrate, I want to do something nice for readers this Christmas. Okay. Make that two nice things.

First, I want to give you a list of great new books available on Kindle. These are authors you will love reading; books that will give you the warm, fuzzy feeling you should have during the holidays; books guaranteed to lower your stress level. Books you can gift to your mother-in-law without worries! (If she has a Kindle. If not, you can always give her one for Christmas along with the book and become her favorite In-Law!) They include a variety of mystery genres, so you should be able to find someone who will appeal to your tastes. The second gift is a free copy of my ebook, Family Matters. Leave a comment, and I'll have a drawing on Friday. Make sure I have a way to contact you.

These are authors you might not have heard of yet, but should. Authors I've discovered over the past year or two who delight me!

Marilyn Meredith. Marilyn writes two mystery series, one under the name of F.M. Meredith. Her latest is Bears with Us and features Deputy Tempe Crabtree, a woman of Indian heritage married to a minister. Marilyn's books are straight-forward mysteries that are part police procedural, probably because she knows so many law enforcement officials.

M.M. Gornell . Madeline's latest standalone mystery is Reticence of Ravens. This lady has the ability to put you down in the middle of a story and make you feel as if you've entered another world. You really feel as if the characters have been living a full life and you've stepped into the room as a spectator. Like P.D. James, Madeline finds a location and wonders what would happen if a murder occurred here? Reticence features Route 66, where Hubert Champion must face his past in order to clear an unbalanced but harmless girl of the murder of her father.

Karen Cantwell . Funny. Funny, funny, funny. Karen writes the Barbara Marr mysteries. Barbara is a suburban housewife and mother who's living a bit like Jamie Lee Curtis in True Lies. Karen has a holiday short out, It's a Dunder-Bull Wife, so you can try her out, fall in love, and start her series at the beginning with Take the Monkeys and Run.

Karen Ranney .  If you're looking for romance, Karen's your author. Her latest release is A Scottish Love. Her stories feature Scotland, and she blogs at Warm Fuzzies. I love that Karen's books often deal with characters who are difficult to love who have huge obstacles to overcome.

Pam Ripling . Did you say you like romantic suspense? And lighthouses? Great! You can have both with Pam's books, which she writes under Anne Carter. Her latest, Cape Seduction, travels back and forth between Hollywood's heyday and a modern investigation into the decades-old disappearance of a starlet and a twist ending that will shock you.

Kwei Quartey . Inspecter Darko Dawson is a new favorite of mine. These mysteries take place in Ghana, and Dr. Quartey takes us from the struggling modernization of that country to the traditional villages where superstition rules. Children of the Street will hook you from the start. These are characters you will care about.

Jeri Westerson . A dishonored knight, a young thief, and Merry Ol' England. What's not to love? Westerson's Medevial Noir gives us enough background to create an atmosphere, but not too much. You won't feel you're reading a history book. The mysteries weave in and out of historical events and figures, and the characters are easy to root for. Troubled Bones is the latest release.

K.J. Larsen . While waiting for the next Cat DeLuca mystery--Sticks & Stones--why not check out the first--Liar, Liar? This wonderful cast of characters including Cat, the owner of the Pants on Fire Detective Agency, will have you laughing out loud. Written by three gifted sisters, this series in on my list of favorites!

I better stop there.

As for Family Matters, the novel is my first Wilder Women mystery, featuring Roxanne Wilder and her mother, Deanna, and sister, Vanessa. Deanna is addicted to classes at WACKED (Wilton Adult Center for Knowledge & Education), and her latest is Criminal Psychology & You. When the local accountant turns up murdered at the Historic Christmas Walk, Deanna decides to put her textbook to work. Roxanne's job includes keeping her mother from becoming the next victim, an especially difficult task as Roxanne is carting her sister around in a gigantic wheelchair, the temporary result of an unfortunate accident.

Just leave a comment, and on Friday I'll have a drawing for a free copy--either Kindle or Smashwords, depending on your ereader.

Make sure to check out the authors listed above. They are all wonderful storytellers and their books are the perfect accompaniment to a cup of hot chocolate and some Christmas cookies!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Author Pam Carter Ripling aka Anne Carter

I'm so pleased to have author Pam Carter Ripling on my blog today. She's the author of several romantic-suspense novels (written as Anne Carter) as well as Young Adult books. She also writes non-fiction, freelances, and is the owner of Valdata Services, Inc, a trust accounting firm. You can read all about Pam and take a peek at her blog here.

I just finished reading "Cape Seduction", and it was good on so many levels. While on assignment in Northern California,  professional photographer Rebecca Burke thinks she sees a woman in red on the steps of a deserted lighthouse. She's determined to travel the treacherous waters to check things out for herself.  The anonymous owner is impossible to reach except through Los Angeles attorney, Matt Farralone, so Rebecca fibs her way out to the island to have a look around.  The discovery of an abandoned crib only peaks her interest, and she delves into the history with an eye toward clearing up unanswered questions.

As the mystery unfolds, the story flashes back to the 1940's, and we watch as the original drama unfolds alongside Rebecca's investigation. Starlet Darla Foster was last seen alive at the lighthouse where she starred in her first film. Coincedence? Or something more sinister? It was difficult to say which storyline captured my interest more, but the startling conclusion brings both ends together in a in a way that resolves both stories and satisfies the reader.

We’re casting your latest book for a movie. Who do you envision in the lead?
Since CAPE SEDUCTION takes place in two different eras and has two sets of characters, it has a variety of roles. Sometimes a particular actor will strike me as having a number of matching characteristics, and in this case the actor was Matthew McConaughey who filled out the role of present-day hero Matt Farralone (name was coincidental). Most interesting, to me, was my role model for Darla Foster, the heroine from the past. She was actually inspired by real-life 1920s actress Alice White, whose face appears on the cover. Playing her on film would probably  be Reese Witherspoon.  

Lighthouses. They feature in your romantic suspense books. Which comes first? The lighthouse or the story?
Good question! For POINT SURRENDER, the story came first, as the lighthouse is fictional. I did have a specific lighthouse in mind, but that sort of formed afterward. CAPE SEDUCTION, however, was written specifically about a very real lighthouse—inspired by and written about St. George Reef Lighthouse near Crescent City, California.

Pam, I want to know more about lighthouses--if they are publicly or privately owned, what they are being used for now, if there are still active ones off the California coast, if there are web sites and resources for people interested, and if they can visit and tour these lighthouses. What do you look for in a lighthouse for inspiration--the history, the architecture etc.?
Jackie, it’s estimated that there are about 680 lighthouses left in the U.S., of which around 600 are still operated by the U.S. Coast Guard. The rest are privately owned. Some of these are still operated and considered “active aids to navigation,” while others are private residences, bed & breakfasts, museums and landmarks. California has around thirty-six lighthouses at this time, protecting its 840 miles of coastline.
I visit as many as I can when I travel. There is nothing quite like the feel of climbing that winding staircase, hearing the echo in a cylindrical tower, peering out at the ocean once you’re at the top. You can almost hear voices from the past murmuring. Most inspiring for me is the architecture, the setting, and yes, sometimes the history. I’ve already chosen Angel’s Gate as the location for my third lighthouse mystery. This lighthouse, also known as Los Angeles Harbor Lighthouse, is another offshore beacon, and is completely unique in design.
Those interested in lighthouses can find a wealth of information online. One of my favorite sites is LighthouseFriends.com. These wonderful people have tons of useful information, including history, directions and accessibility to lighthouses all over the U.S.
Some of your books take place in or at least flash back to the past. How much research does this involve?
Glad you asked. Research is one of my favorite activities when writing a book. For CAPE SEDUCTION, I had a myriad of subjects to research. First, the late 1940’s era; the slang, clothing, pop culture. How much would Darla pay to see a movie? What would she wear? What was the airplane like she took to Northern California, and was there even an airport where she was going? More, if the characters smoke cigarettes, which would smoke the elite brand, and what was it called? For the lighthouse scenes, I had the good fortune to meet and interview a retired Coast Guardsman who’d actually lived at St. George. His recollections were invaluable.

Paper books haven’t disappeared, but ebook sales are growing. How does this affect you as a writer? For example, the writing process, how you work your appearances, etc.
I have always been a big proponent of ebooks, so I’m happy about the increase in sales. It affects me as a writer in the way I market. There used to be a bigger divide between ebook readers and those who prefer paper books. That gap is narrowing as people get more used to reading electronically. It’s not so much an “either, or” situation anymore. This is a good thing for writers who have had to divide their marketing energies and resources to cater to both types.
As for personal appearances, that’s an evolving animal. At a signing or a book fair, we are selling an intangible that people can’t hold in their hands. We are, essentially, asking them to take an active role, seek out the book online—if they can remember it—and buy/download it there. Over the years, some authors/publishers have tried selling ebooks on diskettes, CDs and DVDs, but to my knowledge it hasn’t been particularly successful.
Many authors have success with book clubs and even include questions on their web pages or in the books for these clubs to consider. What’s one question you’d like to ask readers to consider while reading your books?
Honestly, it’s something I’ve never thought about. On the fly, I think I’d want readers to be aware of the lighthouse-as-character aspect. What role does the lighthouse play? If the lighthouse has a personality, is it benign, helpful, safe, or is it antagonistic, dangerous, etc. The answer, of course, might lie with the POV of the character experiencing the lighthouse.
Social Media is such a big deal now. How much time do you spend on it, and what platform works for you?
I tried several at first, on the advice of my publisher. Like many, I use Facebook to stay in touch with fans as well as family, friends and fellow authors. I enjoy participating in Goodreads, both as an author and a reader. As for how much time I spend, it varies. Overall, I think people in general spend way too much time on social media. All one has to do is ignore it for a few days to discover how much of life passes by while sitting at the keyboard. There is a healthy medium that many exceed.
What’s the hardest part of being an author?
Getting books into the hands of readers. It’s a resounding issue. There is tremendous competition for the public’s attention and their dwindling disposable cash. We, as authors and publishers, spend a lot of time thinking up innovative ways to market books.
You write under two names. Why? And could you explain the differences in the books? And has it been confusing for readers at all?
My first romance novel was written 20 years ago. At the time, it was a very different and scary thing for me, but also exciting. Most romance authors I knew of had pseudonyms, so I thought I should, too. When I was finally published, my father had just passed away, and it meant something to me to use his (my maiden) name as a kind of homage. Hence, Carter.
After I’d written a few romances, I wrote a middle grade mystery. It seemed inappropriate to have both genres under the Carter name, since theoretically the younger readers could mistake one of my more “mature audience” books for another middle grade. It hasn’t caused any confusion that I know of.
Tell us what’s next for you?
As mentioned, I’m already at work on the next lighthouse book. I plan to offer more lecture dates in 2012, as I find more and more people are interested in lighthouses and literature. I enjoy the festival circuit and will likely turn up at the Ventura Author Festival and L.A. Times Festival of Books, where I participate with a group of mystery authors we call “Murder We Wrote.”
Thanks, Jackie, as always, for a stimulating and interesting interview!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Battling the Writing Blues

Sometimes writing gives me the blues. That's pretty bad, considering I write comedy.

At my "real" jobs, I've always been a subordinate--subordinate to the clients and subordinate to my boss. I love it. So what's so great about answering to people, jumping through hoops, and trying to satisfy other people?

Two words. Defined Goals.

Okay. Four words. Defined Goals and Defined Deadlines.

Even when your client isn't sure exactly what he wants, the right questions can get you a definite something that he needs. And he always needs it right away. This goes for female clients, too. And Bosses, although bosses usually know exactly what they want from the start and they want it yesterday.

I miss that. You know what you have to do, do it, and get feedback. You know when you're finished. You put the file away and forget about it until the next frantic call.

With fiction, you write for an invisible audience and yourself. You only have self-imposed deadlines. You never know when you're finished, and most times it takes eons to get feedback, whether it's from a writer's group, an agent, or readers.

It's a lonely, twisted road, and that's where the blues come in.

So how to pull yourself  back into the light? I don't always know how.

Right now, the thought of re-defining my goals into tiny, completable steps makes me nauseous. I've done it too many times before and then dumped the goals when the dog got sick or a copywriting job came up (Yipee! Goals and deadlines, and money too!) Or when there was something good on TV.

Setting another deadline and shaking my finger at the page while saying No excuses this time, girlie! doesn't help either.

Things I've Tried

An invisible boss that I answer to. This worked alright for a while, but then I forgot about her. She's invisible.

A separate calendar for writing goals. I have too many calendars already. I'm easily confused.

Threats. You'll never have a house with a big California backyard for the dog to play in (read: average Midwest backyard) and he'll develop arthritis because he never gets to run around.

Real threats. Those bills are only going to get paid if you get some writing out there or get a job greeting people at Wal-mart. But if I'm at Wal-mart, who will be around to let the dog outside? What if he desperately needs to tinkle while I'm collecting carts from the parking lot. No, no, no!

And, finally, guiltThe guy in the parable punished the servant who buried his talents. Is that what you want? Buried talents? What kind of ingrate are you? You have an obligation to make people giggle.

What do you do to get out of the writing blues? And does it work?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Short Story Bonanza Aids Japan

I love short stories. They're like that tasty chocolate with the oozy caramel center--quick and delicious.

When a collection of short stories will aid people in need, that's an added bonus.

You'll find some of your favorite authors in "Shaken", an anthology to aid the victims of the Japan earthquake. Grab a copy! I did.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Best-Selling Authors Karen Ranney and Sue-Ellen Welfonder

USA Today best-selling author Sue Ellen Welfonder writes Scottish medieval romances as well as Scottish-set paranormal novels, the latter appearing under the pen name, Allie Mackay , (website coming soon).

New York Times and USA Today best-selling author Karen Ranney writes Scottish historical romances set in the 19th century. She also writes contemporary romantic suspense novels which appear under her pen name, Katherine Storm.

They blog together at Tartan Ink .

 Welcome, ladies!

 “Two authors, one passion...Writing Scotland one book at a time.”  How did the two of you find each other? (And may I say that I LOVE that fans of your blog are referred to as “Tarts”.)

Karen:   We found each other through Digital Theft, believe it or not. I have often wished that more authors were active in hunting down those who steal our work. I don't believe, for example, that it's publicity. Sue-Ellen emailed me with a digital theft tip I hadn't realized, and I thought to myself: wow, another author like me. When she guest blogged at Warm Fuzzies, it was such a fun experience that we decided to do Tartan Ink.

Sue-EllenDitto to everything Karen said.  I’ll add that I was a hermit for years, keeping to myself and minding my own business.  Now and then, I’d glance at author blogs and eventually happened upon Warm Fuzzies.  I fell in love with Karen’s wit and outlook and knew I’d found a kindred spirit.  Like Karen, I hunt and report Digital Theft.  Through Warm Fuzzies, I knew Karen’s stance on Digital Theft mirrored my own.  One day I discovered a particularly evil trick used by Digital Thieves and emailed Karen, telling her about it.  We’ve been friends ever since.

How do you get across the language of the period, the Scottish dialect, and the medieval or 19th century references with the average reader in mind? (Definition of average reader for my purposes: One who is neither Scottish nor a student of history.)

Karen: I've always been fascinated with 19th century Scotland because it was a bridge over cultures. It was a hundred fifty years since the last battle with the English. On the outside, the Scots are good little British subjects, but their past was never far away. You could almost hear the thrumming beat of freedom calling. It's a duality that was buried, simmering below the surface, almost like today with the occasional cries for devolution.

Another thing that intrigues me is that the Scottish people are responsible for some of the greatest inventions that led to the lives we live today. Whether still living in Scotland, or expatriates, the theme of creation and risk-taking seems inherent in the Scottish spirit.

I don't write dialect. I may say something that reflects the cadence of speech, or use Gaelic, but I want the language to connect to the story, not put up a wall.

Sue-Ellen: Again, Karen and I resonate.  I, too, do not write dialect.  I believe there are other ways to convey a sense of Scotland without words like ye, yer, fer, and what-have-you.  Syntax, for one thing.  If I do use a Gaelic term or place name, I make certain the meaning is explained in the context.  I dislike heavy dialect of any kind and prefer to use words that are familiar to readers, while also giving a sense of time and place through how I use them.

If I were to write in language actually used by my medieval Scottish characters, no one would be able to read the books.

How much research is required when writing a historical novel?

Karen: It all depends on the plot. For example, The Devil Wears Tartan required a lot of history into Egyptology (which I love), Queen Victoria's Chinese expeditions, and the Opium Wars. Autumn in Scotland required that I read all about divorce, Scottish style, and inheritance law. Scottish law is not like English law.

The strange thing is - I do as much research on a contemporary, just to make sure I have the details right.

Sue-EllenTons, though only a small portion goes into the books.  I believe it is necessary for an author to know as much as possible about the time and setting of her work.  Only then, when you are wholly comfortable in that world, can you paint it vividly on the page.  Thankfully, most historical writers love research.  I certainly do and consider it one of the best perks of writing.

I’ve always been passionate about Scotland and medieval history, so I had a good working knowledge of medieval Scotland before I ever decided to write.  I’ve also been visiting Scotland all my life, so am familiar with the land and people.  Like Karen, I research deeper for specifics as needed.  As an example, I really studied the Black Death of the 14th C. for A Highlander’s Temptation.  My setting was far removed from the terrors of the plague, but it was going on in the world of that story.  I didn’t want to ignore it and so did a lot of really deep research and found a few fascinating tidbits I then wove into the book.

Romances, like mysteries, follow a certain formula. How do you keep your characters and plotlines fresh?

Karen: I think the characters are the ones who keep it fresh. If they're filled in, if you know enough about them, if they breathe, then the book is almost a living entity.

Sue-Ellen: Re plots... The path and destination may be the same, but it’s the individual journey that makes it fun.  It’s not so much the happy ending, but how they get there that keeps it fresh.

Re characters... Story people are as individual as real people.  Discovering their personalities and watching them come to life on the page is always a grand adventure.

Sue Ellen, you’ve branched out into paranormal novels. Was this a complete switch from Scottish romances, or an extension of that genre?

Sue-Ellen: Not a complete switch at all.  Definitely an extension.  Anyone familiar with my medievals will know that they’re bursting with paranormal elements.  And not just the usual Highland magic such a second sight and myth and legend.  There are also curses, ghosts galore, enchanted stones and animals, crones who work spells and other magic, mythical creatures, etc, etc…

I’m always surprised when someone blinks at my inclusion of such things because all the above and more were very much a part of medieval Scotland.  To leave out such elements would be to ignore a vibrant and colorful part of Scotland’s past.  I have great fun working such threads in my Scottish medievals and wanted to expand on that enjoyment with my Scottish-set paranormals.

For that reason, there are many touch-points between my Scottish medieval and my Scottish-set paranormals.  I love taking a modern day American heroine and sending her to Scotland where she either time travels to medieval Scotland or falls in love with a medieval Highland ghost hero.  These books are light and humor-filled and the heroines often live out my own travel adventures in Scotland which makes them great fun to write.

Karen, you also write contemporary romantic suspense novels. Are they easier to write than historical?

Karen: I think it's just as difficult to write either, frankly. My recent contemporaries feature San Antonio as a location, since it's my home. My historicals never mention an exact place in Scotland, because the setting is an amalgam of places. As far as plot, characters, pacing, all those are the same. The only difference in historical romance from contemporary suspense is the mores of 19th century Scotland - oh, and the clothing. I still insist on a Happy Ever After in my contemporary suspense, or at least the hint of one.

Both of you have pen names. Was this your choice or your publisher’s choice, and do you worry that readers of one name won’t discover all that you have to offer?

Karen: In my case, using the name Katherine Storm was my decision, to differentiate from my Scottish historical romances. These books are so different that I didn't want fans of one genre to be expecting something similar.

Sue-Ellen: It was my choice to use Allie Mackay for my Scottish-set paranormals.  Sue-Ellen Welfonder is my real name and, frankly, quite a mouthful.  When opportunity arose, I wanted a shorter, snappier name that also sounded Scottish.

I do worry about readers of one genre not reading the other.  But not because of the different names.  I’ve been very open about writing in two genres and using a pen name for one.  It’s no secret.  But I’ve discovered that very few of my historical readers read the Allie Mackay titles.  As noted above, there are so many shared elements in both types of books.  I’d hoped my historical readers would follow me into the second genre.  Some did, but most haven’t.  I have two sets of core readers with just a bit of mixed readers.

Sue Ellen, you’ve written a trilogy. Do you start a trilogy with the entire story in mind? And which do you consider easier to write--standalones, a trilogy, or a series? Does your approach to the characters differ with each format?

Sue-Ellen: Highland Warriors is my second trilogy.  I wrote my MacLean trilogy (Knight In My Bed, Master Of The Highlands, Wedding For A Knight) early in my career, although my publisher did not market the books as such.  My MacKenzie series also wasn’t marketed as a series, although it certainly was one.

I like to think all the books can be read as standalones, but writing-wise I prefer series.  I love revisiting well-loved characters and a setting that feels like home.  Yes, I have the over-all story in mind before starting a trilogy.  There has to be a powerful enough plot to sustain three books. 

My approach to characters doesn’t change with format or genre.  I’m always inspired first by an atmospheric setting and then the fitting character just ‘appears in my mind.’  I see them instantly and always full-bodied.  But they only come when I first know where the story is to take place.  My characters are always born of the setting.

Karen, you also blog on Warm Fuzzies. Is blogging an effective way for authors to get the word out about their books?

Karen: I think blogging is a great way to introduce yourself to people, but it's not for everyone. For example, I make a conscious effort not to talk about my books very often. When you go to Warm Fuzzies! - they're all there. If someone wants to buy one, they can. I also don't talk about writing all that often, even though I do like having guest authors.

Instead, I talk to my readers, and I think I've narrowed down who they are. Predominantly, women just like me. So, I'll talk about funny things, odd things, my peculiar view of the world, anything to reach out and connect with other people.

How much time do you both spend on social networking? Which venues get the best reader response?

Karen: I spend an hour a day. I love Goodreads, but I've also developed a liking for Facebook. I'd like to think that both blogs, Warm Fuzzies and Tartan Ink, generate the best response from people.

Sue-Ellen: I spend about the same amount of time on social networking as Karen.  About an hour a day, more around releases.  I’m fairly new to social networking, having resisted that whole scene for years.  I find self-promotion awkward and painful and have avoided such things for that reason.  I adore Twitter.  I can’t stand Facebook and will be taking down my page there.  I love blogging with Karen at Tartan Ink and enjoy popping by Warm Fuzzies.

I am not convinced that social networking sells books.  What I love is the immediacy of saying hello to friends on Twitter, catching word of neat blog articles and newsy bits tweeted there.  Above all, I LOVE Tartan Ink.  We have a warm and friendly community and I believe our readers enjoy visiting the ‘tea room’ each day.

When you read, do you stick to romance or is there another favorite genre that you indulge in?

Karen: I love almost anything. I'm a fiend for non-fiction. Right now I'm reading a collection of paranormal stories, a couple of motivational books, a contemporary romance, and a gritty crime novel.

Sue-Ellen: I adore cozy mysteries and Regency-set historicals.  I also love Karen’s books.  I have a set-in-stone rule not to read in my own genre, but I make an exception for her.  I also read tons of nonfiction.  As I love research, it’s pure pleasure to delve into books on all things medieval, Scottish history, Celtic myth and legend, archaeology, the paranormal (haunting, earth mysteries, and sacred places, etc.)

Karen again: Well, shoot, I have to add Sue-Ellen's books. Trust me, I do not read inside my own genre, so I was really annoyed that her latest book, Temptation of a Highland Scoundrel, was so good that it just grabbed me and wouldn't let me go. Truly, her books are wonderful, and she has such a magnificent way of depicting Scotland.  

What’s next for each of you?

Karen: I'm currently writing a very spooky and difficult book under the Katherine Storm name and soon to begin a new Karen Ranney book. I have A Scottish Love coming out November 29, 2011, and a few books in 2012.

Sue-Ellen: My next release is an Allie Mackay title, Haunted Warrior, out in Jan. 2012.  After that, comes Highland Warriors book three, Seduction of a Highland Warrior, also 2012.  Thereafter, a spin-off series from Highland Warriors.

Thank you both for stopping by A Writer's Jumble! You can find out more about each author's books at their websites, and I highly recommend their blogs.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

"Source Code": A Disturbing Type of Rape?

Spoiler Alert

Rape: "to seize, take, or carry off by force"

I just watched the movie Source Code. For those who haven't seen it, a nearly-dead soldier is attached to an 8 minute memory of a man who died in a terrorism attack so he can re-live those eight minutes over and over again to try to track down the terrorist. By the end of the film, he stops the attack, saves the victims and continues to live on through this guy's body.

Aside from the plot complications that come with time travel themes (they never can explain away all of the inconsistencies) there's another aspect of this film that I found disturbing. Make that horrifying.

Am I the only one who noticed that, while the hero goes off to enjoy life in another man's body, the man whose body he now inhabits has been shoved out of the picture? That guy has lost the rest of his life to his new "host". He's been taken over and now ceases to exist. The remainder of his life has been seized, taken by this soldier.

I had the same problem with "Lovely Bones". I didn't see the movie, but in the book, Susie Salmon jumps out of heaven, takes over another girl's body, and has sex with the boy she loved when she was alive.

Rape: "any act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person".

I can understand feeling gypped if you left this life without ever sharing intimacy with another person. But did anyone care that the girl whose body she took over gave up her virginity without consenting? What if the teenager had wanted to save herself for marriage? I know it's considered a quaint idea, but the point is she didn't have a choice. She wasn't even there for her first sexual experience.

Most movies and books aim for a feel-good ending, and we grown to care about the protagonists, Colter Stevens and Susie Salmon, but does this negate the rights of other characters? Should rights be governed by popularity contests?

It's a horrifying prospect.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Could My Creativity Save the Planet and My Checkbook?

Writers are creative people. There are all those articles about right brain versus left brain, and since I suspect that only half my brain is in use at any one time (and I'm not good at math), I'm hoping that the creative side is hard at work.

I recently decided that creativity might be the answer to a tightening budget and waster's remorse. Every time I toss a rotten head of cabbage, I think of starving families in China who, with just the right combination of spices, could have stretched that crucifer into ten meals.

And why, when I look in my pantry, can't I find anything good to eat? I do all of the grocery shopping. ALL of it. How did I manage to buy so many things I don't like or know what to do with?

A desire to tighten the budget combined with a sermon by Father Mike about waste have inspired me to a new challenge. I'm going to utilize everything in my pantry, freezer, and icebox with a bare minimum of shopping for ancillary items.

Craving a candy bar? I'll find a recipe online that uses that half a bag of walnuts, the scrapings from a jar of peanut butter, and baking chocolate. Milk, eggs, butter and dog food supplies are the exception, and if I run completely out of fruits or veggies, I'm allowed to resupply. Sound fair?

There will be less waste and less garbage going to the dump, so it's good for the planet, too.

I WILL have to overcome a fear of dwindling supplies, since I'm certain that the minute I use the last olive The Big One will come and I'll be forced to eat toothpaste. So be it.

I'm making a one week commitment to see how things go. I know one week isn't that long, but if creativity doesn't extend to my cooking, then one week will seem an eternity.

Monday, July 18, 2011

3 Ways to Healthy? Eat Like My Dog

I make Buster's food. After the commercial dog food scares, I'm committed. (Grinding up euthanised dogs? Really?) That doesn't mean he doesn't get the occassionally crunchy goodness of kibble, but it's really good kibble from manufacturers I trust. And he gets bones. Lots of bones.

My husband has wandered into the kitchen while I've been making Buster's chow and asked me, "What's for dinner?" Yes, it's that good. Ground meat, veggies, grains...It could be a casserole.

I also treat him with fruit or dried chicken strips, and I've made him cookies from ground meat, oatmeal, rice flour, fruit and cheese.

It occurred to me that I worry more about Buster's food intake than I do my own. I never give him cupcakes or candy bars, and I drain the heck out of the ground beef when I use it. While my own butt expands, I'm watching his wasteline. Did you know doggies can get diabeties?

Here's a few adjustments I need to make to my own diet to match Busters.

1. Make it from scratch.

There will be days when I'm pressed for time and grab some processed box of something-or-other for dinner. But I promise myself (and the hubby, who would stand in the kitchen, helpless, if he had to cook his own meals) that I will endeavor to cook from scratch. That means make my own bread for sandwiches, buy cuts of meat to cook and shave for the sandwiches, make any treats from scratch etc.)

This isn't as hard as it sounds because I'm the luckies woman in the world. I have a bread machine. I have a meat slicer. I have the time.

2. Eat more fruit

Buster's after-walk treat is an apple with the core removed. He also loves watermelon, mango, and blueberries. I do love my snacks. While I'll never give up chocolate, I promise to first reach for the fruit bowl.

3. More grains and veggies than meat.

It may surprise you to know that you don't need to feed your dog that much protien unless he's a working dog or she's a lactating or pregnant female. Buster is neither. He also has colitis, which is a nasty thing that is easily cleared up with increased fiber in his diet.

I cut back on the meat in his dog food recipe and increased the veggies. Cured. I promise to balance my meals more towards grains and veggies than yummy, delicious, meat. (Can you tell I'm a devoted carnivore?)

There are more ways I could adjust my diet--eliminate any sugary snacks, give up my glass of wine at night--but I'll try the first few and let you know how it works. We do need our treats! After all, Buster does have his bones.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I have a short story that I wrote ala Women's World:  You get the clue at the end to see if you figured it out. And so I give you "The Mystery of the Nightly Walk". Let me know if you guessed or not. Don't peek!

The Mystery of the Nightly Walk

The old woman with the large-brimmed hat turned the corner and headed up the cul-de-sac, just as she did every other night at nine pm.

“It’s just odd, Jack. That’s all,” I said, pulling the curtains closed. “Sandy and I invited her to come with us on our seven o’clock walk and she turned us down flat.”

My husband didn’t think it was strange. “Maybe she’s not social. Or maybe she's busy at seven. Besides. The only thing the two of you talk about since you've both started dieting is calories. I know I'd be bored with the conversation.” He obviously sympathized with Deloris.

“But she has those men over three times a week, and they aren’t her sons because they don’t look anything like her. They aren't even the same ethnicity.”

“Maybe they’re adopted.”

“And what about the hat? Why is she wearing a hat at night?”

Jack folded his newspaper. “Maybe she’s bald. Or had a bad hair day.”

For the last three weeks, our new neighbor walked the streets of Mountain View Estates every evening at the same time and always wearing the same large-brimmed hat that left her face in shadow.

When she moved in last month, I’d tried to say hello over the rose bushes that divided our backyards, but she ducked her head and went back inside. Maybe she was shy.

She looked like somebody’s grandmother. She dressed her plump figure in polyester outfits and her hands were covered with age spots. But I hadn’t seen any grandkids drop by. The only visitors she had were four middle-aged men who dropped by three times a week after her walk.

“Maybe I’m on edge because of the break-ins.” Several houses had been ransacked while the owners were out. The Petersons had been on vacation, while the Sorge family had only been at the movies. Cathy Sorge was still shaken up, worried what might have happened had they walked out of the awful film as her husband had suggested and returned home early.

“Leave the worrying to the professionals,” Jack joked, and he went upstairs to change out of his uniform having just finished his shift at the Lakewood Police Department.

The next evening, Jack worked late. Right on schedule, Delores came out her front door and headed up the street. This time, I followed at a distance, ready to find out what my neighbor was up to.

The old woman walked at a slow pace, pausing to take in her surroundings. She leaned over a hydrangea bush in front of the Danko house and inhaled, enjoying the sweet sent from the flowers. I followed suit when I got to that spot. Maybe it was my allergies, but I couldn't smell a thing. I looked up and Mrs. Danko stared at me through her living room window. I gave a sheepish wave and she pulled the drapes closed.

Deloris repeated her performance in front of every home, sometimes admiring the bushes, other times stopping to tie her laces or take an irritant out of her shoe.

Feeling like a fool, I picked up my pace and caught up to her.

“Nice evening,” I said.

She started in surprise, Even then, she only nodded a greeting.

“Are your sons stopping over again tonight?” I asked, trying to encourage her to talk.

“Those are friends of mine,” she finally said.

“They must be good friends. They see you every night.” A slight exaggeration. "You must run out of things to talk about."

“We play cards.”

At first she was reluctant to hold up her side of the conversation, but after I congratulated her on having a hobby and told her how thinking games like cards can keep your brain young, she finally opened up.

"Do you play?"

"What? Cards?" I laughed. "I wouldn't know a straight from a whatchamacallit."
“My late husband enjoyed Texas Hold-em. In fact, I always used to joke that Harold looked like the king of hearts. He had the same regal mustache and beard. I’m convinced he thought he was royalty,” she chuckled.

By the time we got to my house, I thanked her for sharing her walk with me. I couldn’t wait to boast of my success to Jack when he got home.

His response was not the one I expected. He kissed me on the forehead and made me promise to stay away from Deloris.

One week later, Jack received an accommodation and Granny Hardcastle and the Hardcastle Gang were behind bars.

“What tipped you off?” I asked after a big kiss of congratulations.

“You did.”


Deloris “Granny” Hardcastle said that she had played cards for years. In fact, her husband resembled the King of Hearts. Someone who plays cards three times a week would know that the King of Hearts is the only king without a beard.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

An Ode to Jerky Pet Parents

Please don’t make me mace your dog

He will not like the yucky fog

I know he’s so well trained and all

Perhaps he didn’t hear you call?

My own dog’s leashed, it is the law

The park sign spells it out, I saw

An ordinance to protect me

From dogs like yours, running free

You say he’s friendly, but I wonder

His teeth are bared, his growl like thunder

He’s getting closer, in my space

There goes the lid from my can of mace

We’ve been attacked three times before,

By saintly dogs (the owners swore)

Dogs so pure they’d never bite

Except for this one little fight

I must protect my dog and I

I must let doggie mace spray fly

I wish you loved your puppy dog

Enough to save him from the fog

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Interview with Author M.M. Gornell, the Queen of Standalone Mysteries

Those who read my blog regularly know that I have favorite authors who I would interview every day if I could without causing them to cross the street if they saw me coming. Many of them should be (in my opinion) household names. Authors such as Marilyn Meredith, J. Michael Orenduff, Kate Carlisle, Mark Schweizer, Hannah Dennison and Jeri Westerson. Then there are my new loves such as L.C. Tyler, sisters K.J. Larsen  . Another favorite is M.M. Gornell, the author of several standalone mysteries, and a master at storytelling and setting. Madeline has agreed to spend some time with me today. (Yipee!)

She is a lifetime lover of mysteries of all types, and her favorite novelist is P. D. James. Besides reading and writing, she is an avid gardener--with a fondness for roses and fruit trees, and a potter particularly interested in the high-fire reduction process. She now lives with her husband and assorted canines in California’s high-desert.

Don't forget to read my review of "Reticence of Ravens" at the end of the interview.

Welcome, Madaline!

In your standalone novels--more than any other novels I've read--it feels as if I've dropped into the middle of someone's world on the first page. I'm certain that these people have a history, just as I'm certain their story will go on as soon as I step out of the picture. How do you pull this off?

Oh Jackie, what kind words! Especially since I think you’re partly talking about character identification. Having characters that “ring true” and quickly take you into their world is one of my major writing goals. There’s probably also a little bit of plot development involved in the “dropped into” experience.

So far, the stories I like to tell involve ordinary people, presented with some extraordinary circumstances or events. Of course, one of those events is a murder! But besides the murder mystery aspect—and I’m not sure on this—but possibly some of what you’re describing is that I like to have a lot of “things” going on. Just like in real life. So, besides the murder, my characters are involved in life-stuff before the murder mystery, and will continue to be involved in that life-stuff once the book is closed.

Could also be I spend a lot of time trying to take the reader inside my characters’ heads. Which is something I really like doing but must struggle to balance with plot movement and action. Fortunately, I have several extremely good editors who help me with pacing. Without them, nothing I’ve ever written would be published.

I also learned from a very good writing coach about POV. Since I use third-person, with multiple POV characters, it took me awhile to figure out how it should go for me. But once I understood how it could apply to my writing style and voice, it has become a big driver. I think seeing the world through character’s eyes, and occasionally letting the reader into their actual thoughts, lets you “know” them better, and transports you into their world quickly. There’s an irony there, in that I’m rather fond of reading novels that have a more omniscient point of view than what I’m striving for.

Location always plays such a large part in your books. In "Reticence of Ravens", it's a portion of the historical Route 66. Do you build your stories around the location? How do you decide on a location for your stories? How much research do you do?

The first excitement and kernel of an idea for each of my books has come from a location that has reached out, grabbed me, and wouldn’t let go. That sounds a bit silly, and it’s not the whole story, but yes, so far, my novels have started because a location said, “Me! Me! Write about me.” From the location, I’ve then wondered who would have lived there, or come that way. What is their story? Or in the case of my first, Uncle Si’s Secret—it was “What a perfect spot for a murder!”

Another key writing goal/challenge for me is to make that location also come alive for the reader. Have them see, taste, smell, etc. what’s unique about this particular spot on earth. Sometimes that’s very hard. On all levels, rewriting is when my story comes together, and finding just the right word, in particular for sensory experiences is very important. I have yet to reread my published novels—I know I’ll want to rewrite, and nitpick at my word choices—especially when it comes to description. And it’s far too late for that!

I can say with certainty, Route 66 has become a huge source of inspiration with “locations” galore begging to be written about. Unfortunately, I’m a slow writer, and there’s a long queue!

You write standalone novels, which means you have to populate each book with new characters. Where do all of these people come from?! And how do you keep from duplicating characters? "Death of a Perfect Man" and "Reticence of Ravens" each have a unique cast.

To say my characters come from the “jumble” in my head is not being flippant. My life experience has been that “stuff” goes in, but doesn’t remain as specific facts (i.e. terrible memory for historical facts, names of books I’ve read, etc.). The best way I can explain it is, bits and pieces out of that conglomerate in my brain, reappear when I write as characters, events, locations, situations, snapshots… All different from what “went in,” but for sure tied-to and based upon my life experiences and events. Currently, there are still many such characters and ideas jostling around in my head, waiting for their moment on paper, so to speak.

On the duplication, I haven’t thought about that, but I’m guessing there probably is some, in that I think everyone is unique, having lived specific lives, but in some ways we’re all the same, and faced with similar challenges—though maybe not as dramatic as in my stories.

And on a not so philosophical level, I really like creating new characters. For me, that’s part of the fun of writing. I can create new worlds, new people, new towns, fit names to characters, and more—every time I start a new book. It’s exciting just thinking about a new book. What great fun!

Do you have a special approach to marketing? I imagine it's more difficult when you don't have a series, but is that true?

I have yet to come up with a marketing-silver-bullet. After two-plus years at this, I’m still trying whatever sounds like a good idea.

I think not having a series—a set of characters readers want more of—might be a hindrance, but I honestly don’t yet know. But in that line of thinking, my imagination has been captured by Route 66, and “Lies of Convenience”—the first in what I’m hoping might be a trilogy, and now in final edits and rewriting—is again in a fictional town on Route 66 in California’s Mojave. So Route 66 is a “branding” of sorts, and might bridge the “series” issue. For me, marketing is still a big challenge—and the path very uncertain. There’s plenty of advice out there, finding what works for me is the trick.

Oddly, I love reading series—P.D. James and Adam Dagliesh are my ideal and inspiration—but what I keep writing are standalones. Even in my current trilogy work-in-progress, though the protagonist remains the same and there is one underlying mystery tying the trilogy together, in each book most of the other characters will be new, with a new mystery to solve.

Do you have any tips or tricks for writers that might make the rewrite process easier?

I love to rewrite, everything comes together then. I’ve come to anticipate with pleasure thoughts and suggestions from my editors. So far me, rewriting is now one of the good parts of writing. But it’s been a “process” getting to that point. I do think every author is different in their writing journey, but for me, some key things are:

I try to forget how it sounds in my mind now that it’s on paper, and try to imagine from outside of me—the picture my words are presenting in the mind of someone who doesn’t know me or my characters. I think editors, critique groups, etc. are good judges of that—better than myself.

I keep looking for the right word, even if it feels like it’s taking forever. And if I can’t find the right word, or phrase—I delete. At first, deleting was hard—easy now—and in retrospect, what I’ve left out has always been for the better.

Rewriting is one of the few times in life I can “take back” what I’ve said. Too many times in my real-world I’ve wished for that “erase” capability.

Let it sit. Then come back.

Thank you, Madeline!

Please visit Madeline on her website and on her blog . Be sure to check out her books, available in both trade paperback form and as e-books on Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords. Better still, get a signed copy from the author by emailing her at mmgornell@earthlink.net . I noticed that she also offers a deal to book clubs--buy two, get the third free!

Reticence of Ravens

By M.M. Gornell

Hubert James Champion III has a problem, and it’s staring him in the face through blank eyes surrounded by a cherubic face. A former psychologist hiding a dark secret, he thought he could exchange the pressures of helping people for a slow stint as the owner of Joey’s, a small convenience store located in the Mojave Desert. But now a slow-witted woman named LoraLee is sitting on his living room couch, soaked in blood, having allegedly just killed her abusive father.

Though his instincts tell him to stay out of it, Champion is drawn to help solve the crime by more than a desire to protect LoraLee. He’s attracted to Police Chief Audrey Boyes—Mojave County’s Assistant Sherriff. And as the mystery becomes more complex, Champion will have more at stake than just simple curiosity.
Gornell excels at creating worlds that are both believable and enticing. She draws you into the lives of her characters, an admirable feat for an author of standalone mysteries. Yet her character’s stories feel vaguely familiar, as if you already knew them and had been part of the community for years.

You’ll feel the sweat trickling down your back from the hot desert sun and breathe in dust kicked up by an infrequent breeze, because Gornell’s locations are as important to the story as any human character. By the time the mystery is solved, you’ll hate closing the book, because her character’s lives don’t end with the last page.