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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.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Week's Roundup of Great Blogs

There are so many great blogs out there, too many to keep up with.  My gift to you are the links to some of my favorites for the week, all in one place!  Let's get onto the roundup. Yee-ha!

Since authors are people, and people sometimes get their priorities skewed, here is "The Overachiever's Dilemma" from Steve Tobek.

Writer's need to budget too!  Daily Worth brings you "How to Create a Bust-Proof Budget".

If you want more money to budget with, read Carol Roth's "5 Tips for Boosting Your Bottom Line". (Contributed by Donna Saul)

Here's some great advice on getting things done, in "Get What You Want Part 2 - The Power of TNT" by Kristen Lamb.

And because we all need a laugh, here's Nothing Says "I'll Love You Forever" Like a Dead-Mother-in-Law Diamond." by Kristen Lamb.  (Yes, she is a favorite of mine.)


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Why I'm Breaking Up With Gmail

If you're like me, you dread opening your email. Yes, there's a warm, fuzzy feeling when I get a message from a loved one, and the excitement of receiving my discounts and cash back from various shopper programs gives me a high--for about one minute. The rest of the time I'm wondering how I wound up on so many notification lists, and the unsolicited special offers creep me out. I feel violated, as if a traveling salesman kicked in my front door and settled down on my couch.

Over the years, I've opened different accounts, all of them still open. They were impulse purchases of a sort, and I'd hoped each account would be for something specific to help keep me organized. It hasn't worked.

It's time for a game of Terminator, and Gmail just made the choice easier.

Recently, I opened my email to find folders, determined by Gmail, to "help" me sort my mail into Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates and Forums.  Their criteria is sadly lacking in logic. My bills are going to Updates, my favorite blog subscriptions are in Promotions, and we differ on what I consider Primary. And I believe I'm not getting all the important emails I was getting before the change.

One of the silliest things about Gmail is that there isn't any way to sort by sender. That option could save me a lot of headaches. In Hotmail, you can "sweep" through your account and eliminate all emails coming from, say, YOUWIN.com.

SBCGLOBAL lets you sort by sender AND, when you search, they group together the senders involved in the search results, which is huge. I've searched for all emails from DSW.com before and had message from my editor included in the results. Listing the senders on the side lets me avoid deleting the good with the bad.

I have one client who has my Outlook account address, so that has remained clean.

It's going to take a lot of work to figure out how to save old emails I want and transfer them to the new account. Then I'll have to figure out who has my gmail account and notify them, change my email on various bill pay sites, and keep an eye on it for a month or two, but I think I'll finally reach email nirvana.

What works for you? I'd love any input you have to offer.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Well of Forgotten Books...My Kindle

I downloaded  The Examin Prayer by Father Timothy Gallagher to Kindle last night. I prefer to hold a paper book in my hands, but with the limited selection at bookstores, and even the library, I'm being swept along into the world of electronic downloads and "highlight by finger".  And, yes, sometimes I'm that impatient.

Back in the old days, I would drop everything half hour before the book store closed and run out to buy a desperately needed (wanted) item. With Kindle, I now spare the public the vision of me running through the aisles in a shirt that I threw on backwards and uncombed hair. There are advantages.

It's so easy to download and then set my iPad aside for other distractions that I sometimes forget what I've purchased.

Last night I found, untouched:

The Cozy Chicks Kitchen (and I found a recipe for Easy Crispy potatoes that's going on the menu tonight!)
The Social Media Gospel
Kristen Lamb's:
Are You There Blog?
We Are Not Alone
Rise of the Machines
Pamela Samuels Young's Attorney-Client Privilege 
Behind the Screen
M.M. Gornell's Counsel of Ravens (thought I just bought that and hadn't really forgotten about it...yet)

About thirty books that I've gotten 18% of the way through. (That seems to be my attention span in one sitting.)

A dozen SAMPLE books that I downloaded to peek at and order later.

With a paperback, I've got it in front of my face and can't forget about it, but with Kindle....

Has Kindle turned into a black hole of good intentions for you? Or am I just approaching it wrong?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Will I Be Allowed to Cling to My Simple Life???

We live in the land of too-many-choices, and it's giving me a headache. I like things simple--hand written letters, bills paid by check, handmade gifts, and food made from scratch.

Sometimes, it feels as if there's a hand on my back trying to hurry me out the door...or push me under the bus. Where I'm hurrying to isn't quite clear. 

Every time I boot up my computer, I'm accosted by something called Genius. Or maybe it's called Sync Up. They seem to be in with the same gang.

My Outlook appearance changed last week; this week it's Gmail. Always something to catch up on.

I'm not sure how to log into my LinkedIn account, what to do with Twitter, and my Face Book friends have long ago accepted that I'm a techno-dweeb. I'm lucky if my links come out right.

And then, there's my web page. Gads!  I'm inundated by offers to experience deep humiliation add videos as a personal touch. The wonderful people at iPage keep telling me how simple they'll make my life, but I can't even make it through the various offers without screaming.

I understand writing is a profession. I remember how my dad would sit out on the porch at night and read through insurance journals, keeping up on industry trends. But really! This morning, I received no less than fifteen articles--all of them reputable--that ranged from writing nuts and bolts to marketing know-how. And it's only noon.

I go through my house on a regular basis, pulling items I haven't used to give them to charity. I simplify. Is there a way to simplify my writing life?  To keep me from following the man with the lollipops down the dark alley?  He keeps promising that this one trick will make my writing life easier.

From Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Warfield Productions

How about you? Anyone else running into writer info overload? Have any tips to keep the rest of us sane?

Friday, July 19, 2013

13 Writing Goals for 2013 - Better Late Than Never

I was fascinated by a young woman who made a 30 before 30 bucket list. She came up with thirty projects, tasks and dreams she wanted to accomplish before she turned thirty. How motivational! How cool! How unattainable!

I mean, really. At my age, the closest round number is 50, and I don't think I have enough time to complete fifty accomplishments unless they include Eat dessert for breakfast and sleep in.

My husband and I came up with 13 for 2013 instead, and though we each have our own list, we cheated a little. There are a few joint projects that went on both our lists.

Naturally, I thought I should have a  13 for 2013 for my writing. Is it too late to get them done? It's already July.

1. Blog more often than I dust the tops of the bookshelves. At least some semblance of regularity. Enough that those who follow me don't start scanning the obituaries.

2. Finish three novels.  It's not as intimidating as it sounds. They're all in different stages, so it's not as if I'm starting them all from scratch. And I put the pressure on this goal. I contacted my editor and scheduled the first edits of two of the books for the first quarter of 2013. Then I hung up and passed out.

3. Get my e-books on CreateSpace. I have several novels and even more short stories, but I figure that once I get the process down, it will be a cinch. Right?  Right???

4. Quarantine my FB. Right now, it's writing notes, friend notes, and spiritual sharing. That's right. It's a mess. I like to keep up with certain folks, and I'm shy about unfriending all but the few I actually read. Maybe variety is good, but I'm not so sure.

5. Unsubscribe to every newsletter and update except for the few I read. Right now, my inbox has over 1500 3,000 items in it...and I had it under 1,000 the other day.  This means putting on my angry face and following up on the unsubscribes that continue to show up weeks later.

6. Figure out my iPage website. It has a lot of cool features, I'm certain, if I could only figure them out. I don't want to become a web designer.  I just want my page at a level where teenagers who stumble across it refrain from sneering.

7. Take a few business classes, because writing is a business. And it will give me confidence if I ever get audited.

9. Get all the straggler short stories, compilations etc. finished and off my plate. That way I'll have room for new, fun projects.

10.  Do a better job each and every time, whether copywriting or outlining the latest novel.