Thursday, April 28, 2016

WRITING A MYSTERY IS LIKE DIETING by J.L. Greger


Before you say no, think about this standard advice to dieters.

1. Set realistic priorities. You are more apt to attain small achievable goals (such as losing a pound a week or writing a page a day) than larger goals with artificial deadlines (for example losing fifty pounds before your class reunion or writing a three hundred-page novel by Christmas).

2. Control problems and distractions. For writers, the distractions on the Internet are comparable to high fat, sugary foods to dieters. Perhaps this advice from Murder… A Way to Lose Weight will help you sort through your clutter.

“There are three types of problems. A few problems are like wine. Those situations improve if you delay decisions and let them age. Most problems are like waste paper. You can ignore them because they don’t matter. Unfortunately like waste paper, they tend to be messy when they pile up. And some problems are like manure. You must identify them quickly before they stink.”

3. Be prepared for hard work everyday. Most successful dieters have changed their lifestyle and eaten less and exercised more for months. If you want to write a novel a year, set aside time to work on your book every day.

4. Sweat the small stuff. Little bedtime snacks can undo our good behavior at meals or in the gym. Similarly grammar and spelling errors can ruin a novel with a great plot and characters.

5. Laugh at all those who give advice like this because you know it’s easier to give advice than follow it.

If you like this blog, maybe you’ll like my mystery, Murder…A Way to Lose Weight. See whether you can catch the murderer in the medical school before the heroine, Linda Almquist does. It could be an ambitious young “diet doctor” or old-timers, including the Dean of the Medical School, who want to keep their secrets buried.

Get the paperback version of Murder…A Way to Lose Weight from Amazon: http://amzn.com/1610092392. The Kindle and Nook version should be available by late May.

Reviews:
Linda Almquist has the worst job on campus. She’s an Associate Dean, a temporary appointment. If good things happen, the Dean gets the credit. If something bad happens, it’s her fault. And something bad has happened. Izzy Roth, a research associate, lies dead on the floor of her office, and detectives from the Violent Crimes Division are asking questions.

J. L. Greger has created a page-turner of a novel with well-formed characters in a believable setting. You’ll find the Medical School faculty to be the group you might encounter in any office, anyplace, and especially on a college campus. Dac Crossley, professor & author

Being a constant dieter and someone who tries every new diet fad on the market, the topic of overlooking ill effects of a diet product during scientific testing struck a chilling chord in me. The plot is unique and compelling, and although I am not a "science" person, the science part of the mystery was so well portrayed I had no problem understanding it.
Holli Costillo, lawyer & author

The Featured Book of the Moment at Venture Galleries on April 21: http://bit.ly/1SvALAG.


Bio: The author J. L. Greger, is a biologist and research administrator turned novelist. Her other novels are international thrillers—I Saw You in Beirut, Coming Flu, Ignore the Pain and Malignancy (winner of 2015 Public Safety Writers’ annual contest). To learn more, see her website: 

http://www.jlgreger.com or Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/janet.greger.3



Tuesday, April 26, 2016

About Blogging and Being on Someone's Blog

Of course I'm in the middle of a blog tour for A Crushing Death so my mind is on blogging.

Anyone who follows my blog also know that I host many authors right here.

What I can't understand is why, after either paying someone to set up a blog tour, or just asking someone to host you on a blog, why so many don't bother to promote the blog. I promote everyone who is on my blog on Facebook and Twitter--but there are many more place to do this.

How can I tell when someone doesn't promote? No, I'm not just checking the comment section, but I also can go behind the scenes and look at the stats and see how many people visited.

Speaking of comments, when someone does comment on a post, the featured person needs to respond. I'm shocked at how seldom that happens, especially when I know the person paid money for the blog tour they are on.

I probably drive people nuts when I'm on a blog tour because I promote everywhere I possibly can, Facebook, Twitter, Facebook groups and all the listserves I'm on. Does it help? Sure, I get lots of comments almost everywhere I stop. And believe me I go back and read and respond to everyone.

This is where i am today, and will be in the following days:

April 26 The Challenge of Coming Up with New and Interesting Topics for a Blog Tour

April 27 Ten Interesting Facts About Chief Chandra Taylor

April 28  A Day in the Life of Chief Chandra Taylor

April 29 Interview

April 30 Questions Answered

May 1 Keeping a Series Fresh

May 2 Naming Characters

May 3 The First Two Pages

May 4  How Much Grit do you Want?

May 5 Jackie Zortman is a Character in A Crushing Death

May 6  Mistakes People Make on Facebook

May 7 Crossing Paths on the Internet and in Person

May 8  Mother’s Day

May 9 Critique Groups

May 10 My Most Favorite Writing Conference

May 11 A Review and Excerpt

This is the last stop on the tour. I’ll notify the winner by email or Facebook message. And of course, I’ll announce the winner in many places.

May 26 Summing Up My Blog Tour

A Crushing Death Blurb:
A pile of rocks is found on a dead body beneath the condemned pier, a teacher is accused of molesting a student, the new police chief is threatened by someone she once arrested for attacking women, and Detective Milligan’s teenage daughter has a big problem.
Contest: Once again, the person who comments on the most blogs during this tour, can have a character named after them in the next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery.












Friday, April 22, 2016

Introducing Tara Willis, author of Carry Me home.


Carry Me Home was written over the course of fifteen years, give or take a little. I think the book was inspired by what I saw, at the time, as a lack of life. I grew up in a tiny Bush village in Alaska. I didn’t exactly miss the outside world because I knew very little about it. But I did wonder. I wondered what the rest of the world was like outside of a tiny Aleutiq fishing community of 100. I had never seen a real city; I had never visited another state. Our life was incredibly isolated from what most people know as modern mainstream society. I imagined other lives, other places, other cultures, people and ways of life. So I began to study with the limited resources available to me. 

Computers were not available in my part of the world in the late 90s-early 2000s. But I didn’t let that stop me. I wanted to find out about what I didn’t know. And I did. I read everything I could get my hands on though available reading material was also quite limited and outdated. I was quickly hooked on learning as much as I could about the outside world, both past and present. 

A lonely, solitary child with few friends, I created my own friends and shaped their worlds. Their worlds became my inner worlds. Like changing the outfits and accessories of a collection of paper dolls, I could change them and make them anything and everything I ever wanted and needed. 

Creating characters and settings and lives became a beautiful addiction, one that has saved my life over and over again and one I would never wish to be without. My main character, Lina Montoya, was myself as a young girl, both who I was and who I wished I was. I believe this is true of many authors that they base their characters on either their real or imagined selves or on people they loved or hated, depending on the character. I was no different.

In a nutshell, this book was first inspired out of loneliness and isolation but it quickly developed into something much bigger and much more beautiful than that. I think many authors find themselves writing about life, not so much as it is, but as they wish it was for them. Within the pages of a fiction novel, the abused discover love and acceptance, the underdog can be a courageous hero, the bullied emerge triumphant; the orphan finds a family and so on.  This book and its characters have become very dear to me throughout the years of perfecting this book over and over, almost like real life friends.

I fell completely in love with Lina and her family and friends.  I invite you to read Carry Me Home and fall in love with them too. J   

Tara Willis
Carry Me Home

Published by Oak Tree Press. Hanford, CA. 

Bio:

My name is Tara Willis and I was born in 1984. I grew up in the Bristol Bay area of Bush Alaska, the eldest of four.  I like to think I was born with a pen in my little newborn hand. 

As a very young child, I used to “write books,” by drawing a stick figure scene on a page, labeling the page numbers and always including the title on the first page. By the time I was seven or eight, 20-30 page “books” were common.  

Nothing gave me more pleasure than drawing the stories that I was still too young to really write.  At the age of nine, I penned six, short, comical stories, known as “The Durumple Tales.”  

I finally deemed Carry Me Home fit for submission earlier this year, and I am currently in the middle of simultaneously writing both the prequel and the sequel to this novel, Wait Until Sunset and Praying for Dayl

Besides writing, I hold an AAS degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Alaska-Anchorage, and I very much enjoy working with young children. 

At ten, I wrote my first novel, a twenty chapter, historical fiction novel of sorts, then entitled “Captured in Communist Russia.”  My inspiration was a fifth grade history textbook.  This particular manuscript has been rewritten several times, and is now in the middle of an extensive renovation in preparation for future submission. 

I wrote the first draft of  Carry Me Home when I was fourteen years old and have rewritten and revised repeatedly off and on for many years, while I also focused on writing other novels, short story collections and a treasury of free verse poetry, as well. 

While at first I had planned this work to be a single novel, I finally decided that this book should be extended into a trilogy. 

Other passions and interests include studying foreign languages, culture and history which is probably what has drawn me to writing historical fiction novels.  I am also an avid reader and very much enjoy coin collecting, baking, spending time with family and friends, particularly my nephew and nieces, The Three Musketeers and attending plays at Valley Performing Arts.   

The best advice I can give to any aspiring writer is this: “Don’t be afraid to jump; because you can 
fly!”

Tara Willis

Carry Me Home Blurb:

Following the passing of their invalid father, the poverty stricken Montoya family is barely surviving as, together, they wage a daily war against the ravages of extreme poverty, racism and a system bent on separating and destroying them. Nine months after her husband’s death, his widow makes the difficult decision to accept an advantageous marriage proposal for the sake of her young children. Thirteen year old Celina, the eldest, is hurt and angry about the remarriage which appears, to her, a betrayal to her dear father’s memory. Just as the new, blended family is growing close, a stranger from the past appears and reveals the shocking secret Celina’s mother has kept for many years; a secret that will test the Gonzalez family’s growing love for each other and leave them changed forever. . .  


http://www.amazon.com/Tara-Willis/e/B00TPBBKZO

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Nicks and Noras in the Real World: The Thin & the Thick of It By Colleen Collins

Husband and Wife Sleuthing Teams

Most of you know about Nick and Nora Charles, the husband and wife private detective team in Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man. William Powell and Myrna Loy played Nick and Nora in the 1934 movie of the same name, the first in the popular six-film series. While wise-cracking, canoodling, and imbibing martinis, they also managed to solve a murder or two.
Before my husband returned to being a criminal lawyer, we worked together for over a decade as a real-life private eye team. Even today we sometimes still work cases together for his law practice.
As much as I like to think we held our own in the Nick-and-Nora wise-cracking department, only one of us drank martinis, and we never solved a murder, although we investigated and solved a few attempted murder cases. However, just as Nick and Nora had their terrier Asta, we worked cases with our Rottweiler Aretha, who has sat on innumerable surveillances, helped serve legal papers, and once climbed part way up a mountain where we investigated the scene of a “ski” crime.

Hollywood vs. Real-Life: Glitz vs. Grunge

Hollywood movies often show the sparkling highlights of a case, whereas the day-to-day digging for evidence can be a grind, sometimes with no viable clues surfacing for weeks at a time. And the film version of surveillances is fiction at its finest—it’s rare that a sleuth-mobile can follow a subject’s vehicle for hours on end. Yours truly has been a PI since 2003, and only once did I successfully follow a subject’s vehicle for hours...and I credit that singular success to the subject not being the brightest mental-bulb on the planet.

Pros and Cons of Being a Married PI Team

For the most part, both my husband and I found sleuthing together to be fun. We had our tense moments, but we enjoy each other’s company and like to make each other laugh, plus there’s nothing like the thrill of cracking a case.

Differing Work Styles: The Good, the Bad, and the Are You Crazy?

My husband and I fit the “opposites who attract” category. He’s a big-picture person, I focus on the details. He can wing it on little data, I like to be overly prepared. Our strengths can work amazingly well together; other times, we can drive each other more than a little nuts.
Here’s one example of how our traits mesh well. On a rolling surveillance, meaning a surveillance in a vehicle, I can count on my husband to calmly tackle the major issues, from finding a subject we’ve lost in traffic to fixing a flat tire. And he counts on my organization and planning — I’ll know the subject’s physical description down to their birthmarks, even how they walk and talk.
An example of how our traits clash. Once we rolled up to a huge dumpster outside an apartment complex for a trash hit (where evidence is retrieved from people’s garbage). The dumpster was too high to get into without using a step or box, neither of which were available, so Mr. Big Picture said he’d hoist me into the dumpster, to which Ms. Detail snapped, “Are you crazy? How do I get out? Fly?” It was a long drive home to retrieve a small step ladder, so we ended up parking close to the dumpster and my husband used the car hood as a platform to get in/out of the mess o’ garbage.
By the way, over the years we became expert trash hitters, solving all kinds of cases via trash, such as finding abducted children, discovering affairs, assessing a child’s living conditions, determining if a witness lived at a certain address, locating bank accounts, and more.


Other Articles

Below are a few articles and resources featuring real-life private eye teams:
For These Married Detectives, Truth is More Fun Than Fiction (Westword Magazine, 2011, about Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman): http://www.westword.com/news/for-these-married-denver-detectives-truth-is-more-fun-than-fiction-5113800
Hart & Hart May Be Prime-Time Private Eyes, But Jack and Sandra Are For Real (People Magazine, 1979. An older article, but still interesting especially for those setting a story in this timeframe): http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20074773,00.html
Pursuit Magazine, the magazine of professional investigators, is managed by a husband and wife PI team (Hal Humphreys and Kim Green). Great information about private investigations in general: http://pursuitmag.com/

Bio

Colleen Collins (colleencollinsbooks.com) is a PI and award-winning author of mystery, romance, and nonfiction. Her private investigations blog, Guns, Gams & Gumshoes, was a Mystery Month web crush by the American Library Association’s Booklist in 2011 and 2014, and named one of the top three true crime blogs by Ellery Queen magazine in 2010. Her next release, How Do Private Eyes Do That? (second edition) will be released in June 2016.


Monday, April 18, 2016

SOFT TARGET'S Beginnings, by John R. Beyer



Some writers wonder where they receive the idea for the next novel and for me the crucial aspect of the conjuring up of ‘Soft Target’ was partly due to my years in law enforcement. As a former street cop and member of the elite SWAT I had witnessed multiple hostage situations – some with positive results and some with not so much. Entering public education after nearly ten years behind the badge left me wondering what would happen if a hostage situation occurred at a school in the United States. Sure, there had been school shooting like Columbine, Sandy Hook and the like and as terribly tragic as they were my imagination kept coming up with the greatest question a writer in two words ‘What if?”

After attending a symposium concerning school safety when I was Director of Student Services put on by local and federal law enforcement agencies one speaker intrigued me. Col. Dave Grossman, retired Army and psychologist who had created a program called ‘Killogy’. The psychology of when someone is forced to kill and the inner changes to that person or persons. He mentioned Beslan – the small village in Eastern Europe which witnessed the worst school killings in modern history. September of 2004 saw over 300 children brutally murdered in cold blood along with teachers and parents where the grand total was somewhere near 400 people with guesstimates probably closer to 600 individuals gunned down or blown up by Islamic Fundamentalists.

It had been a gruesome day for Russia and a wake-up call for the world.

That is when the question – What if? came to me while sitting in the audience – writers get ideas wherever they are and sometimes unexpectedly like what occurred with me.

What if an Islamic terrorist group were successful in taking over a school in America? What would be their plans? Their demands? Would they kill indiscriminately or more systematically? Who would be involved on both the ‘bad’ guy side and the ‘good’ guy side? What would be eventual outcome?

The first thought was what grade level of school – Beslan was an elementary school which was problematic with the terrorists trying to corral hundreds of toddlers and young children into a gymnasium. A high school – well in America the terrorists may be outgunned depending on the school district they descended on or at least would have to deal with older teen attitude which is enough to drive a parent to drink which is a no-no for these ideologues. So, what was left? A middle school where students are young enough to be scared out of their minds but old enough to follow orders at the end of a barrel.

Wilkins Middle School was created and housed with bright faced and strutting 13 to 15 year olds. The smiles left when 21 terrorists arrived like locusts with Rocket Propelled Guns, AK47’s, grenades and illegal cell phone jamming devices.

Now – the dilemma of the writer – who were the protagonists? The antagonists had been written, described and put into motion and it was time for a savior or saviors.

A school personnel or two would be a good read – local law enforcement – perhaps federal officers who happened to be in the area – maybe even an ex-special operations officer who witnessed firsthand the terror at Beslan.

The Protagonists had been created and ready to roll.

Some writers spend days or even weeks with story boards ensuring each chapter follows the previous chapter flawlessly and some writers utilize 3 x 5 cards with all pertinent information to ensure their characters remain the same throughout the writing process.

Me – the characters run the story. My spouse, Laureen, thinks I’m crazy by stating this but I believe many times my characters are real and tell me what is going to happen next.

It occurred in my first novel ‘Hunted’ where a psychopath had gotten upset by an innocent comment by a police detective and decided to make the hunter the prey. Zachary Marshall was funny, irreverent, smart, brutally honest and a cold blooded killer. Jonas Peters (a character in every on my works either as the protagonist or a cameo appearance) was brooding, haunted and fearless. A great team to go against each other and who ran the keyboard for me – their story their way.

That’s it – nothing fancy or earth shattering in my writing process. I create the world in which my characters live and they are the ones who advise me, sometimes rather forcefully, how that world will spin.

Sounds strange – but it works.



Bio:

John Beyer has two doctorates - Ed.D. in Education and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology (though he is not licensed to practice and has no intention to do so).

He was in law enforcement for nearly 10 years serving as a street cop, a training officer and member of SWAT (entry team and sniper).

He followed those experiences with education for 26 yrs. as a teacher and administrator – on site and district office.

John has been writing most of his life. He’s traveled to at least 23 countries (and was actually shot in the head in Spain in 2000 during a march between Neo Nazis and Communists two days after running with the bulls in Pamplona). He was caught in a hurricane off the coast of east Baja (Bahia de los Angeles) while kayaking and lived to tell about it. Essentially, it’s hard to tell where experience leaves off and fiction takes over. You’ll want to read his books.


 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Moving Right Along Despite the Bumps in the Road



My book launch for A Crushing Death was fun. The little shop, Fair Finds, where it was held, despite being in the middle of town, isn't well-known. However my Facebook and the posters I put up around town worked. 

People came in dribbles which was good, giving me time to chat with each one. And yes, I sold some books. 

The bump in the road came on Sunday when hubby felt bad enough to make another trip to the ER. We arrived at 7 a.m. and didn't leave until 5 p.m. They took many tests and they all came out negative--meaning they didn't keep him, but they also didn't even guess at what his problem might be. We learned later his heart doc was out of the country. He'll see his GP on Thursday.

In the meantime, I've been to Redwood High School in Visalia to talk to students. I'm in the white sweater. I talked about writing and gave every student an autographed copy of one of my early Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries.

I spoke with two classes--a great bunch of kids who asked lots of good questions.I had a great time.



Thursday a.m. I gave a talk at the library about where I get my ideas.


Not many people showed up, but I had fun like I always do--and Porterville Library has the best librarian, Sandra Farnsworth, who ia a big fan. Also my publisher arrived and we had lunch together afterwards.

My blog tour didn't begin as planned--not surprising, just another bump in the road.

Greatgrands (little ones) were sick enough to go to the hospital and hubby had a check-up at the doctor's. So life certainly has its ups and downs.

Next up for me is tackling the edits on my next Tempe so I can get it sent off to the publisher.

Have a great day and smile a lot.

Marilyn

Thursday, April 14, 2016

What Does it Take to Succeed (as a writer)? by Elena Hartwell



Many years ago, I asked my first acting teacher what was more important, natural talent or commitment to learning the craft? He didn’t even stop to think about it. “Tenacity,” he said. “Tenacity wins out every time.”

I never actually pursued a career in acting — though I did get some very nice reviews from the only show I ever did in New York — but as a writer I’ve often thought about the same question. What makes a writer rise to the top? My answer? Working on craft… and tenacity. Tenacity is the component every writer needs, because everything else comes from there.

Of course it’s nice to have both and I think most serious writers have at least a kernel of talent or they wouldn’t have anything to attach their tenacity to, but survivors in the arts keep at it. The last one standing really does get the part, the agent, the book deal… the wonderful, elusive, sought after, yes.

When I got my book deal for One Dead, Two to Go, (and Two Dead Are Better Than One and Three Dead, You’re Out J) it was not my first finished manuscript. It wasn’t even the first finished manuscript I pitched to my publisher. I’d sent them my third book, which they liked enough to offer suggestions and recommend I submit again. So I said, “I’ll work on that, but meanwhile, I’ve got this other book….” And the rest is history.

My point here, is whatever manuscript you’re working on is very important, but don’t get hung up on it being your only shot at publication. Write it as well as you can. Rewrite it as well as you can. Get feedback and rewrite it again, as well as you can. Pitch it. Maybe you’ll even find a home for it with an agent or publisher. But don’t let it be the end of your story. Write another manuscript. Write the next book. Write and write and write, because that’s how your voice gets clear, your work gets better, and your publishing dreams come true.

Write like your life depends on it, because your artistic life does depend on it, but don’t write like your artistic life only has one chapter. Write like you have an epic career with many stories ahead of you, because in the long run, isn’t that better than writing just one book?

There is no such thing as wasted time writing. The stuff we cut is the stuff we cut away from the diamond in the rough. If we didn’t write the manuscript we hid in a drawer, we’d never have been able to write the manuscript sitting on the shelf in the bookstore.

Scrape paint from the work of a Master and you’ll find another painting underneath. Mistakes are how we learn. The only failure is calling it quits.
--Keep the faith, Elena Hartwell

One Dead, Two to Go is the first in the Eddie Shoes Mystery Series. Private Eye Eddie Shoes investigates the death of a young woman. A young woman she’d seen alive and well and lounging around in lingerie the night before, along with Eddie’s current client’s husband. After her own client goes missing, victim or killer, Eddie can’t help but get sucked further into the case. In the midst of it all, Eddie’s poker-playing, card-counting, mafia-befriending mother arrives unexpectedly on her doorstep, with enough luggage to indicate a very long stay. The only thing that could make things worse would be to have her ex show up in Bellingham, Washington, as the new homicide detective in town. Oh wait, there he is now…  



Bio: Elena Hartwell was born in Bogota, Colombia, while her parents were in the Peace Corps. Her first word was “cuidado.” At the age of nine months, she told two men carrying a heavy table to be careful in their native tongue. She's been telling people what to do ever since. After almost twenty years in the theater, Elena turned her playwriting skills to novels and the result is her first book, One Dead, Two to Go.

@Elena_Hartwell