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Friday, March 6, 2015

Why a Cockatoo Almost Didn't Make it into the Second Pet Psychic

If you've seen the cover of "A Bird's Eye View of Murder", the second Frankie Chandler, Pet Psychic, mystery, you can't miss the cockatoo on the cover, but he almost didn't make it into the book.

Frankie Chandler doesn't like birds, and that may have been a spillover of my own feelings about winged creatures. It's not that I wish them any harm. They're just...creepy.

Puppies are cute. Baby birds are hairless, scrawny creatures with gigantic eyes (and no discernible eyelashes.)  My earliest memory of a baby bird was a fairly newborn robin who had fallen out of the nest and was being attacked by ants. A friend and I (after we finished screaming) moved the bird to the top of something, where I'm sure the ants finished it off later. Not a pleasant memory.

And I know, chicks are fluffy, but they're not especially cuddly. And they poop constantly.

Grown birds? Again, not cuddly. I can respect the hunting skills of a red-shouldered hawk, and it was a thrilling moment the first time I saw a  bald eagle in the wild. Birds can be beautiful and even admirable, but I can't really connect with them. (Though a cousin told me a story about chickens that makes them a shoe-in for a future Pet Psychic mystery.)  So how did a bird character even make it to my radar?

Pet Supply, a local store, has a very large cage with one such bird in it (and sometimes out of it), and the air is usually filled with sharp squawks. It is an ear-piercing sound that has me wondering if the bird would taste like chicken.

One day, I was talking to Zack, one of the store's experts, and he explained a few of the bird's quirks, They sounded annoying enough to be funny. So the cockatoo got his chance.

Tell me. Am I off-base about birds?  I admit that I've changed my mind about cats over the years. Do birds have redeeming qualities that make them wonderful companions?


Friday, February 27, 2015

I'm Not Dead. Really.

I've been caught up in a few projects, including getting the latest Frankie Chandler, Pet Psychic, novel out in both Kindle and Paperback formats, but I had no idea it had been so long!  June 2014 was the date of my last post.

Isn't it amazing how time flies?  And for all of you young 'uns out there,
it does seem to pick up speed the older you get. I think that's because as
we get older and wiser, we get braver. I could come up with a zillion
possibilities when I was in my early twenties, but only when I moved into middle-age did I stop listening to the naysayers and get bold enough to try them.

So, what's been going on?

I've been coordinating the resurrection of the group blog, Writers in Residence, for a group of lovely authors. That meant learning my way around some of the glitches of blogger. I haven't conquered them all yet.

I just finished Civility Rules, my Harlow Brothers mystery. It's now "resting". The hubby came up with a very cool cover idea, and now I have to find someone who can pull it off.

My priest mystery is back in the forefront. He's an exorcist who is on a leave of absence. His new punishment   assignment is religious education instructor at an all-girl high school. Sounds like a nightmare to me.

And I'm trying to clean up my digital profile. I hadn't even put any information in my Google profile, but then I saw that it had been viewed by over 60,000 people. (Or else my mother clicked on it 60,000 times.) Time to reward their efforts with some information, because I know it's frustrating to me when I try to look someone up and get nothing buy that shadowy avatar.

So, what has been going on with you? 


Friday, June 27, 2014

Free Business Resources for Writers and Entrepreneurs (Which You Are, Dear Writer)

Writing is a business, and anyone who hasn't run into that aspect yet will do themselves a favor to get prepared now. I've run into many authors and entrepreneurs (which authors are, essentially) who are frustrated with finding helpful information about marketing, social networking, and growing their business. Fortunately, there are many free resources out there, from blogs to webinars to email classes that can help you hit the ground running.  

The thing is, most of these folks know each other, so once you touch base with one email list, you'll find out about the others.  Many of them cross-promote each other, which has introduced me to so many great resources.  Here they are, in no particular order.



Remember football player and sports commentator Fran Tarkenton?  Well he's all about helping entrepreneurs.  At Go Small Biz  there are  free guides you can download.  And that's not all. He teamed up with Office Depot for the Small Biz Club , which is chock full of  free resources, including videos from business leaders. Subjects include  Leadership, Technology, Finance, Sales and Marketing, and Run and Grow (growing your business).  Who knew?





Nathalie Lussier    She's upbeat. She's fun. She knows we don't have a lot of time. Her videos and podcast
(available free on iTunes) are short and sweet. Her 30 day list building challenge is the bomb and taught me many things about creating landing pages etc.  (And her information, information I had paid for through other classes, was free!) I will go through the material again.  Nathalie is good at explaining technical stuff in very easy to understand terms.




Firepole Marketing   Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing has a LOT to say, and he is uber-connected to other like minds in the industry. If you sign up for emails, you will be inundated. A lot of it is great stuff, but it can be hard to keep up with.

I actually paid for the ABM class. There was a lot of useful information, but I do wish I had discovered some of these other resources first.






Laura Leigh Clarke   If you you sign up for her list, you will get a lot of good information.  She does giggle during interviews, but you absolutely won't mind, because she's talking to the movers and shakers who make things happen. That's her strength. And she gets points for being happy and having a lovely accent.








Michael Hyatt  Great information about building a platform. Sign up for his email list to get the What's in My Toolbox download and learn about some nice programs (some free, some not)  that will make your life easier.









Business Success Cafe   Weekly 20 minute classes on Thursdays (they are available for one day afterwards if you can't make it)  about lots of topics important to entrepreneurs. Pick and choose what you want to watch, but I'll tell you. I had no desire to teach an online class, watched the video anyway, and learned about Udemy. Now I might try it myself.

Here is the link to Udemy.  It's an easy way to hold an online class. I haven't check the prices out, but I'm sure there is some cost involved.  If you get a lot of attendees, you can make it back!

If you are interested in learning more about web design, the Skillcrush Bootcamp is a 10 day email course for free.  It's geared toward designers, but it's always handy to understand a little more about HTML code.

Build a Business With Your Book  D'vorah Lansky has a 30 day book marketing challenge. I joined it but couldn't keep up. I'll try again. Also, articles about book marketing. 

60 Day MBA   A couple of guys without MBAs figured out everything valuable you need to know, and then they put together a program.   I'm not suggesting you buy the program unless you're motivated, but once you get on their email list, they have some great free webinars. And there are articles on the site.  

Out:Think  This is a business for marketing and launching authors. They owner, Tim Grahl, wrote a book "How to Sell 1,000 copies" and then, when he sold 10,000 copies, gave a valuable seminar. His emails have always been valuable so far, so I would sign up.

Sophie Lizard  She has a blog on freelance blogging (she's a freelance copywriter) and she's the one who started the chain reaction of discovering great marketing/business/writing gurus by introducing me to Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing. And they told two friends... .  She is a smarty-pants and does throw in a few swear words, so be warned.


And because I like to see my taxes at work:

SCORE  is supported by the Small Business Association (SBA).  Tons of free and low cost information, from mentors to webinars to articles. A great resource.  

And don't forget the SBA.  Lots of articles and webinars, and if you locate their affiliate college (it's COC out here) or local office,  you can take live classes--many for free, some at low cost.

That's enough to get you started, I think!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Bonnie Schroeder Lives Her Dream with "Mending Dreams"


Bonnie Schroeder started telling stories in the 5th grade and never stopped. After escaping from the business world, she began writing fiction full-time and also volunteered for the Glendale-Crescenta Valley Red Cross, writing their e-newsletter. Mending Dreams is her first published novel, but she has more in the pipeline.
And that is very good news for us!  Bonnie's writing style is beautiful, real, and a pleasure to read. 
Bonnie, I love your success story!  Can you tell us about how you came to be a writer, and then an author?
I owe it all to my fifth grade teacher, Miss Annabel Doss, to whom Mending Dreams is dedicated. I always had a wild imagination and told exaggerated stories that didn’t have much basis in truth. Miss Doss found a way to put my imagination to constructive use. In her class I wrote a story about a cow that wanted to be a horse, and my classmates liked it! I got my first taste of storytelling as entertainment and was hooked from then on.
To me, a mystery is easy to plot. You need a murder, some clues, some suspects.  There's almost a ready-made blueprint.  Not so with a literary novel. How did you plot out  Mending Dreams?   Did you know the end when you began?  Did you follow an outline?
I wish I was smart enough to write mysteries. I love to read them!!
Mending Dreams started with a situation: I knew a woman whose husband, several years into the marriage, informed her that he was gay and wanted a divorce. Since I’m always thinking “what if?” about unusual situations, I wondered: what if that had happened to me? How would I feel? How would I cope?
And I started to write that horribly messy first draft. I sort of outlined, in that I knew a few things had to happen, but it pretty much evolved into something way different from my original concept. Characters came and went; they changed names and professions and even gender.
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I had no clue how I was going to end it, either, which was really uncomfortable. I knew that my main character, Susan, had to outgrow her self-defeating attitude about how and why her marriage ended; she had to claim her self-esteem and give up her rage.
I also knew there had to be a health crisis of some kind with her ex-husband Frank, and I wanted him to have a non-clichéd disease. When a gay man gets sick, people assume it’s AIDS, and that’s not always true. Then my mother was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and chose to go into a hospice program instead of enduring chemotherapy. So, I decided to work that into the story—not to capitalize on her suffering and death but to acknowledge the courage she displayed in facing this terrible test at the end of her life.
One funny/weird thing about the writing process: I’d heard writers talk about how one of their characters seems to come alive for them and hijack their story, and I never believed that really happened. And then: I created the character of Grandpa K, Frank’s paternal grandfather, more as a story device than anything else. But that guy refused to take a bit part! He really did figuratively jump off the page and suggest all kinds of ideas to me, most of which I used. And he helped me work out the ending to the novel, too.
Much of the story more or less materialized as I wrote. I had a lot of help crafting the novel, too, with my critique groups, which leads into your next question.
You've belonged to several critique groups over the years.  Do you have any advice for writers on what to look for in a critique group?  And how did you find yours?
Critique groups are essential to my writing process. Writing is lonely work, and at some point I need feedback. I’m too close to the material, and I need someone to tell me, “yes that works” or “maybe you should re-think that part.”
I’ll tackle your last question first: I found my first critique group through a writing class at L.A. City College, over 20 years ago. We had a good run, but eventually we all moved on, physically or mentally. Then I connected up with another group through a screenwriting class at UCLA Extension, and those folks helped me develop the initial draft of Mending Dreams (which was called Remember to Breathe back then.) When that group quit meeting, I joined the Alameda Writers Group and was able to participate in their critique groups (the Special Interest Groups—aka SIGs) where I met some amazing writers with whom I still work (and play) today.
Eventually, the AWG group morphed into an independent, online group that has lasted the longest of all, and I think the format is a key to its survival. We email our pages to the other members and can do our feedback whenever it’s convenient, 3 PM or 3 AM. With busy lives, jobs, and families, this formula has really worked for us.
As far as what to look for in a group, two words: honesty and compassion. I don’t want a group that tells me, “Your writing’s perfect; don’t change a word.” Nor do I want to hear, “This really sucks; what makes you think you’re a writer?” 
Most of the groups in which I’ve participated follow the “sandwich technique” of first telling the writer what you like about their writing. Then bring up a few things that didn’t work for you—such as plot holes or inconsistencies, slow passages—and your suggestions for fixing them without rewriting their entire story. Then wrap it up with some general words of encouragement. That’s the magic formula.
A group that follows this practice can lead you to your highest and best writing.
Why this story?  What about it needed to be told?
One of my mottos in life, to paraphrase the Rolling Stones, is this: Life doesn't always send you what you think you want, but if you’re lucky, it sends you what you need. I believe that with all my heart, and I like to think that Mending Dreams expresses that premise in story format.
Thank you, Bonnie! 
Thanks for letting me visit your blog, Jackie! You were among my critique group readers, and I’ve used a lot of your suggestions in Mending Dreams. Writers rule!
Bloggers note:  I actually stepped into the critique process when the book was just about finished, but her kind words are just another example of how generous Bonnie Schroeder is, and she's just as generous with her reading audience. She doesn't hold back on the characters or the turbulent emotions they experience as they deal with life's challenges. And she has a beautiful writing style! I'm not usually a reader of women's fiction, but I couldn't put "Mending Dreams" down. I highly recommend it. Here's a quick blurb for the book:
Mending Dreams is a contemporary story about a young woman’s journey to find herself as she struggles to forgive her gay, dying ex-husband before anger ruins her life.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Marilyn Meredith "Don't Box in My Rocky Bluff P.D. Series!"

Not a Hard-Boiled Police Procedural nor a Cozy
Marilyn in a pensive pose. Perhaps she's thinking
up another murder?
So where does the Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series fall into a genre slot? That’s a good question with not an easy answer.
One reviewer described the series as, “Think Ed McBain’s 87th precinct series mellowed out in a California beach town”
Another said, “Meredith does an outstanding job of showing the family stresses inherent in police work. Woven among the interactions you’ll find a taut suspense story, a touching family saga, a police procedural and a love story.”
I know that neither really answers the question I posed in the beginning, but it might give you some insight into what kind of tale I like to write.  Because it is a mystery and a police procedural, there will always be more than one crime—and usually at least one murder. The reader will follow along with the detectives as they collect clues and interview people. At the same time, the reader will learn about what is going on in the private lives of the men and women who work for the Rocky Bluff P.D.
It’s not hardboiled because I don’t do what I’d call detailed descriptions of the gory details and my detectives don’t use any bad language. Oh, they might, but I don’t quote them. The readers can add that in their minds if they so desire.
The books aren’t cozies either for a number of reasons: The sleuths are professionals. I haven’t put a cat into a single book, and most cozies have cats. It’s not that I don’t like cats, we have two inside cats and a whole bunch of feral cats that people have dropped off and hubby feeds.
So maybe you should try one and see if you can come up with a name for the kind of genre they belong in. (And by the way, though the characters’ lives continue from book to book, I write each one as a stand-alone.)
Thanks for hosting me today, Jackie.
Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

 Click on image to buy.
Click on the image to buy!
Blurb for the latest RBPD mystery, Murder in the Worst Degree: The body that washes up on the beach leads Detectives Milligan and Zachary on a murder investigation that includes the victim’s family members, his housekeeper, three long-time friends, and a mystery woman.
Bio: F. M. Meredith aka Marilyn Meredith is the author of over 35 published books. She enjoys writing about police officers and their families and how what happens on the job affects the family and vice versa. Having several members of her own family involved in law enforcement, as well as many friends, she’s witnessed some of this first-hand.
Contest:
Once again I am offering the opportunity to have your name used for a character in a book if you comment on the most blogs during this tour for Murder in the Worst Degree.
Tomorrow you can find me visiting at http://thebookconnection.blogspot.com/

Monday, January 6, 2014

Author M.M. Gornell Enters the World of Series Writing...But Will She Stay?

The list of authors whose books I purchase immediately rather than putting them on the waiting list is dwindling. Not enough time to read. Not enough money to get all the books I want to read, when I find the time. Not enough writers that really grab me.

M.M. Gornell is high on the list, and simply put, it's because she's a good writer. No other writer has made me feel that I've stepped into someone else's world; as if I had gotten out of my car and walked into their home right in the middle of their life.

Gornell is known for her standalone novels, each with different characters facing different problems, but all of their stories taking place along the historic Route 66. Counsel of Ravens is the first time the author has revisited a setting and characters, in this case, those from Reticence of Ravens.  I have to say I enjoyed the familiar faces and locations, and Madeline agreed to talk to me about her books.

Even knowing with certainty that you don't write a series, I have to ask if this was your first sequel, because the characters left such an impression on me I was certain I'd known them longer than one book!

Counsel of Ravens is my first sequel—a scary proposition for me. Writing this one little sequel has been so challenging. I’m in awe of so many of my fellow mystery authors (you being one of them) that have already written series—with many characters I just love (like Frankie, the Wilder Women, & Evan.) And I’m taking as a high-compliment that you “know” my characters. Makes me feel wonderful to know Hugh and the gang have became real for you!

What made you choose to spend more time with Hugh and the rest of these characters and with this particular location along Route 66?

I've lied (to you and others!) in the past saying a current book will be part of a yet to be written series or trilogy, then changed my literary mind. Truth probably is, I actually knew from the beginning that I just wanted to drop-in, then drop-out of each standalone set of characters from the start. BUT, mystery writers often write series. And my favorite mysteries, written by P.D. James, are Adam Dagliesh tales. So, the short answer is, I thought I should at least try a sequel, and Hugh seemed to be calling me. It was, I think, a back and forth kind of thing. When I started, it seemed a good thing, but before I finished, I cursed (mildly, but often) my decision.

In the process, I came to realize I really do like leaving literary lose ends. I must admit, though, at times it was fun deciding which "what if" possibilities to pursue for Hugh. BUT, it was very difficult to wrap up many of Hugh's challenges, possibilities, eventualities...not sure what exactly to call them.

And as far as location goes—the Mojave Desert and Route 66—for me, are still such a rich environment for tales still to be told. Here’s the preface to Counsel of Ravens (I’m very fond of prefaces to set the scene and mood.) Hopefully it explains a little of how I’m feeling about my current environment…

Topography, climate, scenery. When you think about all the different environments Route 66 touches as it forges westward from Chicago to the Pacific Ocean—the mind boggles. From Chicago’s sophisticated big city hubbub and bejeweled lakefront, to the movie-hub ambiance and sun soaked ocean beaches of Los Angeles and environs—what a ride! Literally and culturally.

And amongst all those locations—each offering myriad possibilities for intrigue, murder, and mayhem—this author’s mind remains captivated by California’s Mojave Desert. Stark, heat-baked, wind battered, and in-your-face—yet oddly comforting and sheltering. How can that be?

Hubert James Champion III continues to wonder…

Will you be writing additional Hubert James Champion III novels? And will you be writing sequels to any of your other Route 66 books? And are there additional Route 66 Mysteries with new characters and locations coming?

I'm feeling pretty sure at this point, I'm a stand-alone kind of writer, and don’t have any plans to write another sequel—but I’m old enough to know saying “never” is fool hardy, indeed! And I do have a couple raven’s titles running around in my mind.

Route 66 does, though, remain the “juice” for my imagination, and my next novel again takes place in the Mojave—in a fictional place between Ludlow and Needles I’ve created, called Shiné (shy-knee). The working title is Rhodes. I thought it would be a thriller, but it’s turning into a mystery. I should have known! 

Thank you so much for taking the time, Madeline. The good news with more standalone books is that I'll have the opportunity to meet new characters with unique problems in new locations! And now for a review of A Counsel of Ravens.


Something wicked is happening in Mohave County.  Young Deputy Sheriff Melony Dibbs stops to answer a motorist's distress call, not knowing that this will be the last thing she ever does. 

Chief Audrey Boyes is determined to find Melony's killer, but there are questions:  Was this a random act of violence, or a case of mistaken identity? Or a serial killer intent on targeting Mojave County officers of the law?  

The one person Audrey can turn to is boyfriend Hubert James Champion III, a former practicing psychologist who moved to the desert to escape his own personal demons. Unfortunately, Melony's murder stirs up Hubert's past, and he must confront the problems that drove him into seclusion. 

As always, the Mohave Desert plays a character in Gornell's story; sometimes beautiful and warm, sometimes hostile and frightening, but always a presence that won't be ignored. 

Assistant Sheriff Neil Knight, Ted Fletcher, Hobo and Gabe are all back in this second "Ravens" novel.  Gornell takes us even deeper into these characters who we care about so much, which will make them very hard to let go if this is the last in the series. (No pressure, Madeline.) 

Purchase Counsel of Ravins here or from your independent bookseller.

Friday, December 13, 2013

This Week's Roundup of Great Blogs

It's difficult to keep up with all the great thoughts being expressed on the many blogs out there, so here are a few highlights to choose from:


Kristen Lamb: We Are Not Alone
Expectations & Reality--Making a Better, Happier, Stronger YOU

As always, Kristen's advice is good for writing and life.

Crafting Fabulous Fiction 
Victoria Grossack

The information is pretty basic, but it's good to be reminded.

The Difference Between Showing and Telling 
Beth Revis

This is the briefest, clearest explanation on this topic I've ever seen.

Show Not Tell: What the Heck is That Anyway?
Shirley Jump

This is a more detailed look at the topic, and since it seems to be an issue for many writers, myself included, I thought I would include one more.

Okay. Maybe not. Here is the link to an article by Bonnie Grove, but I found myself too annoyed by the many ads that jumped up as I was trying to read the article.