Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Keep Titles Short. Really?

By Chester Campbell

When it comes to rules, I'm like my PI protagonists. I don't particularly care for them. Greg McKenzie, the main man in my first mystery series, got his Air Force career stalled out at lieutenant colonel after some of his superiors didn't like the way he played the game. He declined to be a clone of the good old boy, let's get along model investigator.

My second series features Sidney Lanier Chance, better known as Sid, who refused a desk job after a marijuana grower's gunshots interrupted his career as a National Park ranger. He took a job as a small town police chief but refused to kowtow to the local sheriff. This resulted in his being setup for a charge of bribing a drug dealer. Following a period of isolation at his hillside cabin, Sid hung out his shingle as a private investigator in Nashville's Madison suburb.

The second Sid Chance book is titled The Good, The Bad and The Murderous. Okay, it's somewhat longer than the conventional wisdom would dictate. But I've never been one to slavishly follow the conventional wisdom. I chose this title because...well, because it fit.

The "good" is a young black man named Djuan just out of prison at age twenty-five, where he had been since shooting a man during a drug deal when he was twelve. He moved in with his grandmother who vowed to help him follow his determination to make something of himself.

The "bad" is a  pair of tainted cops who accuse Djuan of committing a new murder on flimsy evidence. Sid reluctantly takes an assignment from Djuan's grandmother to try and prove he isn't guilty.

The "murderous" is a deadly hit man we don't see until the latter part of the book. But when we do, he has Sid in his sights.

I initially came  up with the title "Good, Bad and Murderous," but my colleague Beth Terrell, now  known as Jaden, said since it was obviously a parody on "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," I might as well add the rest. Which I did. And I think it's quite effective.

Today, tomorrow and Friday (Jan. 29-31) The Good, The Bad and The Murderous will be free to download as an ebook in the Kindle Store.

Monday, January 28, 2013

My Latest Life of Crime

Not only do I write crime novels, but I participate in committing crimes (wink, wink) to help train police officers. Some number of years ago, I attended a citizens’ police academy, and now I’m part of an alumni group that meets monthly but also participates in role playing exercises for police training. Today I got handcuffed twice, first for domestic violence and second for trespassing.  In the domestic violence scenario, another citizens' police academy alumni member and I were shouting at each other when the police trainees arrived. They had to sort out what was happening (we accused each other of assaulting the other, while both of us had fake blood on us). The police separated us, cuffed us and took our statements. Picture below. All in a day’s work.

Mike Befeler

Saturday, January 26, 2013


by June Shaw

How do you get to choose which activity you'll take part in? I must make a firm decision soon this morning.

As writers, we need to write. We also need to live. We've got to have those exciting ideas coming to us, see nature, watch people and listen to them, and just relax. That's when ideas often flow most.

Today I need to work on the galley for my latest book. Changes are due by Tuesday. I also want to write more on the next book. I've reached an intense scene and need to decide what will happen next. I'm the published author laision for RWA's south Louiaian chapter, and our board has its annual meeting at 11 in New Orleans. That's an hour and a half away. If there are no Mardi Gras parades along my route.

Also during the luncheon hours today my Red Hat group has a get-together. I joined this society to have fun -- its main purpose -- and meet other people. My group is having a covered dish, bring any Red Hat items you want to sell or swap, and let's do it. And then board games. Fun.

The latest invitation came fom my 9-year-old granddaughter. She'll be a royal page on a king's float for a Mardi Gras parade here in two weeks. From ten till noon today all six pages are hosting a skating party.

And now how do I choose what I'll do this morning? (Oh, and when I woke up today, I realized I hadn't written a post for this blog. I'm doing that first.) Then -- although my family always comes first, I see my granddaughter often and know she'll have tons of kids at the party. I'll send her a gift and know she'll be happy. I know my Red Hat friends will have lots of fun, but I had other commitments; I'll join them next time. I've gotten a lot of work done already on my galley, so that can wait till later today or tomorrow. A few weeks ago I and other board members agreed that we could meet today in N.O., so....... while I'm driving there, I can work on what happens next in my current book. Then later today when I'm home I can add more to that scene. And/or work on my galley. Or maybe I'll just go out to relax with Bob.

How do you make choices for using your time?


Thursday, January 24, 2013


By Jackie King
In Julia Cameron’s book AN ARTIST’S WAY, she speaks of feeding your inner child. My problem is, I’m so busy taking care of my old-girl self, that there’s little time left for outings with some brat that lurks in my psyche. However, yesterday I had to return a purchase to the mall, and after I walked in the sizzling Tulsa heat into life reviving air conditioning, I decided that both me and my inner-child could use a respite. I had just picked up a shirt when this inner-brat whined,
“Why don’t you get something different? I’m sick of beige.”
What? Inner Brat didn’t like beige?
Somewhat unnerved, I put back the Tee and wandered on through the store. Maybe Inner-Child would prefer a nice navy blue? I strolled from sportswear into blouses and stepped within arm’s length of a dressy print top in shades of orange, yellow and brown. The effect was a bit like viewing an abstract painting and I paused a minute.
That one, Brat said.
My civilized (beleaguered?) self, smiled and spoke in a (silent) faux-calm voice said, “Okay, we’ll try it on, but will make us look like a buffalo.” (Brat isn’t the only alter ego who can be snippy.) I looped the blouse over my arm and moved on. Four racks over I spotted a splashy flowered print. I reacted with one word: “Yuck.”
“Try on that one, too,” Brat said.
I thought my child rearing days were over!
Grown-up-lady rolled her eyes. If anything would make us look ridiculous (an important fear to me, but Brat didn’t seem to care) this garment would. But the jacket was unlined, cotton and sported three-quarter sleeves. Very comfortable for summer, and we mature ladies love our comfort. What the heck, might as well try that one on too.
The two of us, brat and woman-of-a-certain age, (not sure who was leading whom), found a dressing room and tried on both items. SHOCKEROO: My older self decided to buy both! Grown up self loved the blouse; Brat insisted on the blazing blazer.
Feeling more than a little daring, I headed toward hats. I was getting into this. If child and grownup joined forces, what might happen next?


My first Hat
Footnote: The above anecdote happened two summers earlier. Whether for better or for worse, I’ve changed my style of clothes. This picture was me wearing my first hat. I now have a dozen!
Has my Inner Child morphed into an Inner Wild-Child?
Thanks for stopping by.
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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Now you see it, now you don’t

by Bill Kirton
A writer friend once asked me how I create visual images for readers. It’s an interesting challenge and one I hadn’t thought of before. I write DVDs and other commercial scenarios for training, safety and promotional purposes and the actual visuals there are obviously very important. But that’s not the same. There, I have to call for real images and sequences – it’s not a question of conjuring them up in the text.

I’d never read stuff about this, so I couldn’t offer theories – all I could do was stop and think of how I use visuals and what dictates the way I describe or convey them. And I think the answer to that is that I work backwards, starting from the reaction I have or a character has to what’s being seen. If it’s a beautiful scene, a sunset, the look of a lover’s hair or eyes – things like that – I try to imagine how I’d feel as I looked at it, then isolate and describe the aspects of it that provoked that particular response. In other words, the visual isn’t just a scene or setting, it has a function, it impacts on the characters or story. If I write ‘The sky was blue’ readers are justified in thinking ‘It usually is,’ ‘So what?’ and other less polite things. On the other hand, ‘The sky was a limitless, translucent dome, stretching its porcelain fragility over them, inviting them to dream’ would make the reader slam the book shut and throw it as far away as possible. So I prefer linking what’s seen with what’s experienced, as in ‘The blue of the sky was an insult, made a mockery of the darkness within him’. I’m not suggesting that’s any good, just trying to work out my approach to visuals.

I remember writing in The Darkness about the experience of being in total blackness – not just the lack of images when you close your eyes, because you still sense light through your lids, but the almost tangible absence of all light. I actually sat in a cupboard to experience it. (Am I, therefore, a Method writer?) It makes you redefine yourself, rethink just about everything. In The Figurehead, the visuals were part of my attempt to convey early 19th century Aberdeen, with its horses, square riggers, items of tradesmen’s equipment, stalls laden with slippery fish, and the general busy-ness around the harbour. But they all had to be linked with sounds and smells to create a textured experience. I suppose I’m saying that visuals, rather than being objective elements in a context, are inseparable from the story’s or the characters’ impulses.

I’m probably remembering this wrongly, but I seem to think I read that Stendhal didn’t know the colour of Julien Sorel’s eyes in Scarlet and Black because, as he said, ‘If you see the colour it means you’re looking at them, not through them’. My sister-in-law once told me that what she missed from my books was indications of what the characters looked like. Since then, I’ve deliberately tried to include little asides about clothing or appearance, but it obviously doesn’t come naturally to me. I sort of feel that a straightforward description of something implies the thing and an observer and therefore interferes with the narrative, where there is no observer, simply the characters doing what they do.

And the more I try to examine how I use visuals, the less clear it is for me. So anyone else got any ideas about it?

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Check Ride

By Mark W. Danielson

Passengers should find comfort in knowing airline pilots are constantly being evaluated and receive simulator training twice a year.  Since many of the cargo planes are much larger and fly longer legs, it is only logical that the same rules would apply to its pilots.  But regardless of whether you fly passengers or cargo, you can count on odd things happening whenever a Check Airman is looking over your shoulder.  Such was the case for my last line check.

The flight began with an ugly band of weather extending from the Gulf Coast to Canada, directly in my flight path from Memphis to Indianapolis.  To make matters worse, the temperature difference split Indianapolis right down the middle with rain to the east and freezing rain and snow to the west with gusty crosswinds to look forward to on landing.  As if this wasn’t enough, we had a cargo door warning light shortly after takeoff indicating the cargo door may not be locked closed.  Since our ground crew had similar problems on the ground and none of my four passengers in the back were screaming that the door was open, I was certain it was a sensor.  Still, it was something I had not seen so I naturally blamed it on my [good natured] Check Airman.  Thankfully we were late leaving Memphis, so the actual weather was not as bad as what was forecast and my landing was uneventful.

Our return flight the next day was more challenging though because the freezing rain from the day before had frozen our engines to their cowlings and would not spin.  Maintenance worked for over an hour while we sat in a 23 degree cabin waiting for them to get the fan blades moving with de-ice fluid.  We begged Ramp Control for an external heating cart, but it never came.  We started our auxiliary power unit as soon as we were allowed and welcomed the heat from its air source, but every time the cockpit started to warm up, maintenance had to turn our air off while they tried to see if the engines would spin.  When they finally broke free, our middle engine had an erratic fuel flow indicator.  Maintenance did not have time to fix it so they deferred it in accordance with the FAA approved manual.  About the time we were ready to get off the airplane, maintenance said we were good to go, so we kicked them off the aircraft, started the engines, and once more I blamed this on my Check Airman.

It goes without saying that when your engines are frozen solid, it only makes sense to de-ice the airplane.  This process took another thirty minutes, but after confirming all of our flight controls moved freely, our airplane wouldn’t budge, even with all three engines at maximum taxi power.  Having to get a ground tug to push us back caused yet another lengthy delay.  As it turned out, our brakes had frozen while we were being de-iced.  By the time we were ready to taxi, our left engine’s fuel flow became erratic, and since the maintenance manual says we can only go with one fuel flow indicator inoperative, we now had to return to the gate after wasting forty-five minutes of fuel with no forward progress.  Since it now appeared they would have to trans-load our cargo to another aircraft, we went inside Flight Operations.  Curiously, within minutes we were told they found the problem with a connection, our airplane was fixed, and we were good to go.

Although the problem with our middle engine’s fuel flow still existed, we found the left engine problem was indeed fixed, but now we had traffic delays from other aircraft that were inbound to the ramp.  Once again, the delay worked to our advantage and the only weather problem was flying into a 150 mph headwind.  Three and a half hours after our scheduled arrival, we taxied to our gate in Memphis still in time for our cargo to be sorted and our Check Airman told my first officer and I that we did a fine job.  Throughout our ordeal, I kept thinking how fortunate I was not to have passengers and flight attendants in the back.  No doubt they would have been less understanding than my cargo.

Besides telling it like it is from a pilot’s point of view, it should be assuring that whether flying people or cargo, no commercial airline pilot should ever compromise safety to meet a schedule.  It should also be noted that if there is an odd event causing a delay, it’s probably because a Check Airman is on board evaluating the captain.  I suppose that’s God’s little sense of humor, so you just have to deal with it.  As for me, I still have two days simulator training to look forward to this week, but I can’t think of many things that could be more unpredictable than what I just faced.  Coffee, anyone?   

Saturday, January 19, 2013


by Leighton Gage

Cândido Mariano da Silva Rondon was Brazil’s most famous Amazon explorer – and one of the best friends the indigenous peoples ever had.

Born of a poor family, orphaned at the age of two, he joined the army to get a higher education, earned a science degree and was given the task of stringing telegraph wires for the Corps of Engineers.

It was that assignment that set him on the path of greatness.

Some of the wires had to be strung through the hearts of Brazil’s vast rainforests, areas populated by tribes antagonistic to the inroads of modern civilization.

In his first contact with a hostile tribe, the Nambikuára, an arrow grazed his face and another lodged in his belt. His only response was to fire two shots in the air. One of his junior officers shouted that it would be a disgrace for the army not to set a corrective example.

Rondon’s reply was, “I represent the Army here and the Army did not come to wage war. The Nambikuára do not know that our mission is a peaceful one. If this was your land and someone came to rob it and, moreover, started to shoot you, wouldn’t you forget your manners?”

This seems quite normal to us today, but it was a revolutionary position to take at the time. In those days settlers in the region seemed bent on butchering every last Indian.

Rondon’s men lowered their weapons.
The Indians withdrew into the forest.
And what Rondon had said and done came to the attention of the government.

When his task of stringing almost 4000 miles of telegraph wire was done, he was put to work as an explorer, a pacifier and a mapmaker. And his work took him further and further into the unknown.

In May of 1909, Rondon undertook what was to be his longest expedition. He and his men set out from Tapirapuã, in Mato Grosso with the intention of cutting their way through the jungle, to the Madeira river, a major tributary of the Amazon.
By August, the party had eaten all of its supplies, and was subsisting on what they could hunt and gather from the forest.
It was December before they got back to civilization. By that time, they’d all been given up for dead, and Rondon was hailed as a hero for having brought his men through the ordeal without the loss of a single life.
It was on this expedition that he discovered the large river which he named the River of Doubt.
And to which, some four years later, he guided Theodore Roosevelt on the journey that almost killed them both.
Rondon’s most famous order to his men is one that all Brazilian schoolchildren know: “Die, if necessary, but do not kill.”

His achievements include the establishment of the Xingu Reservation, a place I’ll be telling you about in a future post, and the Indian Protection Service (SPI). In the latter, sixty-seven posts were established to provide means to help the tribes develop. Metal tools were provided, as well as remedies, hygienic products, salt for the preservation of food, and instruction in the spinning, weaving, and the sewing of cloth.

Rondon was credited, during his lifetime with the “pacification” of over a hundred tribes.
And the consequent salvation of tens of thousands of people who might otherwise have been slaughtered.

He ended his life as a Marechal, the highest rank in the Brazilian army.

And died at the age of 93.

He once remarked, “Hinterlands where civilized man never set foot are already included in public registers as if they belong to citizen A or B; sooner or later, according to where their personal interests lie, these land-owners will expel all the Indians who, by a monstrous reversal of facts, reason and morals, will be thought of and treated as if they were the intruders and thieves.”

In that he was prescient. The practice of encroaching on Indian land went on for many years after his death. It continues until this very day.

Rondonia, the Brazilian State that bears his name (in red on the map above) is about the size of Italy.
Three-fifths of it has been deforested in the course of the last forty years – and most of the indigenous people who previously lived in its rainforests have been displaced.

Rondon would not have been pleased.

Friday, January 18, 2013

How Bestselling Author Joyce Lavene Promotes Her Books

Joyce Lavene writes bestselling mysteries with her husband Jim. They have written and published more than 60 novels for Harlequin, Berkley and Charter Books along with hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. She lives in rural North Carolina with her family, her cat, Quincy, and her rescue dog, Rudi.

Welcome to Murderous Musings, Joyce. Please tell us how you promote your books.

I love promotion! I know many authors don’t feel that way, but I LOVE it. I love talking on Facebook, tweeting on Twitter, spending time with readers in chat rooms, and blogging. I don’t like it as much as I do writing – I can’t think of many things I like THAT much!

I really enjoy meeting my readers face-to-face in bookstores, at festivals and library events. The feedback is awesome. No one can talk about your characters, good or bad, as a reader can. Many of them know things about your characters that YOU didn’t even know!

I recently took a book club from Raleigh, North Carolina to Duck, NC where my Missing Pieces Mysteries are set. What a time! These readers wanted to look in every dark hole. They wanted to see every place mentioned in the books and they came up with ideas for future books in this series.

One good thing about writing a mystery series set in a real place, like Duck, is the participation you receive from people who live there. Duck has only around 500 people, off-season. The bookstore there was thrilled to see me and so was the town staff. They took me and my group of readers on a tour of all the sites. They were totally into sharing their town with my fictional characters, Mayor Dae O’Donnell, ex-FBI agent, Kevin Brickman and Horace O’Donnell, Dae’s grandfather.

Of course, I signed books with my husband/writing partner, Jim. We gave away bookmarks so that everyone would remember the occasion. We ate lunch at one of the restaurants in the books. They even printed up menus to welcome us!

I guess what I’m trying to say about promotion is that word of mouth is still the best you can get. A friend reads your book and passes it to her sister or another friend with a glowing recommendation – this is something you can’t buy with ads or anything else.

Think about promotion when you’re working on a new book. How are you going to promote it when you’re finished? What is your strategy for the finished product?

If you don’t have a market plan in place, you’d better re-think what you’re doing. For most authors, the only way writing works is if they can make a little money and begin to realize their dream of putting books (ebooks or print) into as many other hands as they can.

Blurb: The mayor of Duck, North Carolina, Dae O’Donnell, is a woman with a gift for finding lost things. When her boyfriend Kevin’s ex-fiancée Ann arrives in Duck looking for a second chance, Dae suddenly finds herself facing certain heartache. And while her romantic life is in shambles, she’s even more concerned by the sudden change in her gift. After touching a medallion owned by a local named Chuck Sparks, Dae is shocked when her vision reveals his murder—and a cry for help. Dae doesn’t know what to make of the dead man’s plea to “Help her,” until she has another vision about a kidnapped girl—Chuck’s daughter, Betsy. With a child missing, the FBI steps in to take over the case. But Dae can’t ignore her visions of Betsy, or the fact that Kevin’s psychic ex-fiancé might be the only person who can help find her.

Purchase: A Haunting Dream at: barnesandnoble.com/w/a-haunting-dream-joyce-and-jim-lavene/111136396WJoyceandJimLavene.com.and http://www.amazon.com/Haunting-Dream-Missing-Pieces-Mystery/dp/0425251799/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1353917138&sr=1-1&keywords=A+Haunting+Dream

For the complete Mysterious Writers' tour schedule go to http://jeansblogtour.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Downton Abbey, Barnes & Noble, and Me

by Carola Dunn

A few weeks ago, my editor told me Barnes and Noble had picked my 19th Daisy Dalrymple mystery, Anthem for Doomed Youth, to be part of a nationwide promotion for Downton Abbey. Yes, I was excited!

The third season of the popular series is set in England between the wars--WWI and WWII, that is. Besides books about the period, B&N were looking for novels set at that time. They planned to have 5 or so copies of each chosen book on display near the checkout counter, in every store in the US. St. Martin's was to do a special reprint of the paperback edition for them.

My editor said the four-week promotion was to begin on January 8th. So on the day, I trotted along to the local store. I must have circled the store 3 times before I decided I just wasn't going to find the display. All the booksellers were busy, so I came home disappointed and tried to call them. Impossible to speak to a Real Person, or to leave a message, or even to stay on hold. At last, later that evening I got through.

The person I spoke to had never heard of a Downton Abbey promotion. He looked it up on his computer, and couldn't find anything that mentioned it. :-( 

I emailed my editor. I also asked my Facebook friends to pop into the nearest B&N if they happened to be passing and see what they could see. My editor contacted Macmillan's "B&N person," who promised to get onto it.

The responses I had from FB friends were not encouraging:

"There is a Downton Abbey display here in Naples, FL, but no Anthem for Doomed Youth."

"Checked the store in Fort Gratiot, MI. No Downton display but Anthem is on display in the new Mystery section."

"This was unfortunately the case last night at the W. 82nd location in Manhattan as well. I had called ahead and put Anthem on hold, but before I retrieved it, I sought out the Downton display to check out what else they had out. I found it on the endcap of the aisle that contained Mystery. So when I didn't see Anthem on display, I found it only a few feet away. I feigned ignorance tho just so I could ask an employee to find it for me and then mention I thought it was part of the Downton promo. I doubt it did any good, but I did want to mention it to them. Still glad to have a brand new copy of Anthem, which I hadn't read yet, but it was disappointing."

"I found the Downton Abbey display at the Ithaca Barnes & Noble - it was about 7 books on an endcap (no "Anthem"!). I caught a fellow and asked where the "Anthem" books were. He pulled out a paper with the particulars about the display, and it didn't include yours. He checked the computer and they had 5 new "Anthem"s, it said they were supposed to be in a "Cash Wrap" (?) "up front". We found them stacked on a desk; so I don't know where they are going to end up. But I did impress upon him that all your "Facebook friends" would be looking for the "Anthem"s." 

And have to laugh at this one, I guess: "Went to B&N in Woodland Hills yesterday and they were gone. Had been there just before Christmas. The sign said they closed 12/31/12."

I forwarded all these and more to my editor, at his request. Whether they helped or not I don't know, but I'm very grateful to all those who took the time to check. Three cheers for Facebook friends!

On Sunday, I returned to the local (Eugene) store. There was Anthem, right by the cash registers, with a selection of other books set in the time period! I asked if they'd like me to sign them, which they did, and even dug out some of my other titles for me to sign.

When I got home and turned on the computer, there was an email from my editor--he had found the same in his local B&N.

I'm not sure what the moral of this story is. Be patient and they'll get around to it? Or persistence pays--keep bugging till they act?

One way or another, I'm happy to announce that if you go into a Barnes and Noble store in the next few weeks, you may--or may not--find a Downton Abbey promotion that includes Anthem for Doomed Youth!

Read about the book here: 
  (scroll down a bit)

Or read an excerpt here:

It's also available as an ebook.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Reseaching Foreign Settings

By Chester Campbell

While I worked on revising the third book in my Post Cold War political thriller trilogy, I was reminded of the lengths to which I had gone in researching the locations where the story takes place. I originally wrote the book in 1992, so some of the settings were more fresh in my mind at the time. Two of the central characters in the book, Overture to Disaster, were a retired Air Force Special Operations helicopter pilot and a chief investigator for the Minsk, Belarus city prosecutor.

Col. Warren "Roddy" Rodman settled in the Guadalajara area of Mexico following his court martial for supposed negligence that resulted in the crash of his helicopter on a clandestine mission to Iran. The area around Lake Chapala, 40 kilometers south of Mexico's second largest city, was home to one of the world's largest colonies of expatriate Americans. Digging around on the Internet, I found the editor of a community newspaper that served the group and got lots of information on the area and its residents.

I used AAA maps, guidebooks, and similar sources to augment my knowledge of Guadalajara and its environs. I had attended a convention in Acapulco a few years earlier, taking a bus tour from Mexico City to the coastal resort. We stopped at towns along the way and en route saw many miles of typical rural countryside. In Mexico City I got a good taste of the metropolitan flavor.

Yuri Shumakov, the chief investigator, moves about his hometown of Minsk, with junkets to Brest on the Polish border and Kiev, the capitol of neighboring Ukraine. This was the period just after the breakup of the Soviet Union and the beginning of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose confederation of the former Soviet states. Belarus was the old Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic. To get information about the country, I corresponded with the American Embassy in Minsk. I went this route with two of these early manuscripts and found it quite helpful.

I sent a list of questions concerning particular points I needed to clarify. My Embassy contact provided details on such items as soccer teams, locations of government buildings, the status of the old KGB, all items I used in the book. I turned to guidebooks and other sources to get the flavor of Brest and Kiev.

The Special Operations helicopter mission to Iran provided an interesting bit of research. I had a book on Army Special Forces (in which my younger son had been an officer) that told about U.S. Green Berets helping victims of an earthquake in a mountainous area before the mullahs took over the country. I picked that area for my mission as the people would still be friendly to American troops. Since I had been an intelligence officer in the Air Force and Air National Guard, I felt I had a little entree to the active duty force. I read extensively about the MH-53J Pave Low III helicopter and talked to an operations officer at Hurlburt Field, Florida, home of USAF Special Operations Command. He read the section of the book detailing the clandestine flight and offered some suggestions.

I used outside reading to fashion my chapter that takes place in Zurich, but when revising the manuscript twenty years later, I called on my memory of visiting the city during a European trip in 2000. The descriptions still sounded good, though I added a couple of features gleaned from my personal experience.

Visiting foreign locales can certainly improve an author's views, but extensive research can achieve almost the same end. If you love research, as I do, either route can be exciting. And by the way, Overture to Disaster should be out in March.

Visit me at Mystery Mania

Monday, January 14, 2013

Giving Presentations

With the release of the fourth book in my Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series, Cruising in Your Eighties Is Murder, I’m in the process of putting together a new presentation. I speak at Optimist, Kiwanis, Rotary Clubs, other service organizations, retirement communities, libraries, writers groups, etc. For each of my books, I’ve developed a new presentation, so I can go back to the same groups without boring them. I keep a running file of ideas and spend a week or so going through this file to consolidate the ideas into a coherent presentation. Then I write a script and practice it. I take walks almost every day, and this is an excellent time to practice. So if you see someone on a walking path talking to himself, it could be someone on a cell phone, a person communicating with aliens or me, practicing my speech.

As an aside, I had a wonderful weekend attending my first national board meeting of Mystery Writers of 
America. I also enjoyed some great discussions with fellow Murderous Musings author Beth Terrell.

Mike Befeler

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Time to Read and Write More?

by June Shaw

Now that the holidays have come and stayed around and kept us busy running to every store we could think of --

And then we spent time wrapping our gifts and setting them out --

After taking tons of time to decorate the house --

And then we came up with menus and prepared special treats and prepared them for everyone.

Then our special days arrived. What cheer! What joy! What happiness with those we love (if we are fortunate enough to have them around.)

And after we took that day or three to recoup from doing all those fun things--

So we did them again --

In reverse.

We ran back to those stores to exchange or return most gifts we received --

And found more things on sale that we had to buy and find places for in our stuffed closets --

And we ate and we ate all those special treats we had made and others gave to us--

And then complained since our clothes got too tight. We needed to exercise. And put away all the holiday dishes until next time.

So we are less than two days into the new year. Did you get ready? Did you do it....

Have you gotten to start reading or writing new books? Both, I hope. Now please excuse me as I finally get totally in mine.

Hope 2013 is terrific for you!!! http://www.juneshaw.com

Friday, January 11, 2013


Posted by Earl Staggs

I’m pleased to host Shelly Frome. Read his impressive bio and you’ll see he’s well-qualified to talk about any phase of writing. He’s chosen Storytelling and Editing today and I’m sure you’ll find it interesting. Leave a comment and let us know if your MO is different from his.

Here’s Shelly. 

Shelly Frome is a member of Mystery Writers of America, a professor of dramatic arts emeritus at the University of Connecticut, a former professional actor, a writer of mysteries, books on theater and film, and articles on the performing arts appearing in a number of periodicals in the U.S. and the U.K. He is also a film critic and frequent contributor to writers’ blogs. His fiction includes Tinseltown Riff, Lilac Moon, Sun Dance for Andy Horn and the trans-Atlantic cozy The Twinning Murders. Among his works of non-fiction are the acclaimed The Actors Studio and texts on the art and craft of screenwriting and writing for the stage. His latest novel is Twilight of the Drifter, a southern gothic crime-and-blues odyssey. He lives in Litchfield , Connecticut . 


Storytelling and Editing: navigating the tricky waters 

by Shelly Frome 

            Years ago, in order to earn some extra credit, I took a course in creative writing at a little college in Miami. There I discovered women who were working on a novel and  had signed up for the same course over and over again. Not only that, but they were still working on their first chapter. As encouragement, the instructor and fellow classmates would make comments like, “I see so much improvement. Those hibiscus bushes are becoming more and more vivid with each draft.” At that juncture I promised myself if I myself ever tackled a novel, I would never get stuck in the hibiscus bushes. Nor would I try to please a group of very pleasant well-wishers. I wasn’t sure I’d try to please any group at all.
            But even on your own, there’s the left part of the brain that monitors and judges and the right hemisphere that just wants to carry on and be given free rein. Moreover, how on earth do you bridge the gap between what you think or hope you’re creating and the needs and responses of the publishing world? 

            And so, on my first pass, I tried my darndest to cram in as much information as possible so the reader would see there’s really a lot going on here. Scott Meredith, the noted New York agent, told me you can’t do that. No reader could possibly take it all in. Later on, I read the advice of the late novelist and college instructor John Gardner. He noted that you should always think of it as carefully feeding a hammer mill. At the same time, a popular author wrote a guide revealing his secret: you spring forward and then fall back to gradually let the reader in on what’s going on. In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott claims you should keep going until the very end. Accept the fact you’re going to wind up with a lousy first draft which the editor inside you can tackle and fix. One best selling writer believes it’s like taking a car trip in the dark: using the headlights, knowing more or less where you’re headed but allowing yourself to turn off at any time to find what’s really out there.

            There are, of course, no hard and fast rules. For what it’s worth, I myself use a variation. Though I more or less know where I’m going, I can’t seem to take another step until I’ve polished the chapter I’m on. All the while I leave myself open to discover things—what this character’s really like, some twist in direction I wasn’t expecting that’ll  necessitate major or minor adjustments. Then I’ll go back and read, say, all the beginning chapters to see if the story really hangs together with a compelling through-line.

            In any case, I try not to get stuck in the hibiscus bushes, self-editing so much that I’ll never finish the journey. Never self-edit to the point where I’ll avoid diving into some dicey scene and allowing it to “catch fire” as the playwright Tennessee Williams used to say.

When you’ve done your very best, you can send it out there and hopefully find a match with an agent or publisher. Or, just to make doubly sure, you can latch on to a reputable, professional editor who has a track record handling your particular material. After he or she gives you the green light, then you send it out. Once you’ve finally placed it, more editing will be asked of you.

However, if nothing pans out, you can still look into a decent e-publisher or one who does both hard copies and e-versions, safe in the conviction you have something worthwhile to offer.

In my own case, I spend so much time striving for a solid foundation and trying  to satisfy both parts of my brain, more often than not, my own independent publisher will accept the final draft. At that point, he’ll assign an editor who will make further suggestions. Only after all this will my final draft be as final as it’s going to be and ready to reach readers’ hands. Or again, in Tennessee Williams’ words, ready to “rely on the kindness of strangers.”         

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Featuring Linda Trout—Romantic Suspense Author Extraordinaire

Today I’m welcoming Linda Trout who writes dynamite romantic suspense stories, to tell us a little about herself and her work. Let’s start with the routine question of how you got started writing.
Linda Trout

Linda: Hi, Jackie. First, thanks for having me at Murderous Musings. I’ve always loved a good mystery and I’m a romantic at heart. I suppose that’s why I combine the two disciplines and write romantic suspense.

Even at a young age, I was fascinated with the written word. However, I didn’t take my writing seriously until later in life. Now I can’t see me doing anything else. And no matter what I try to write, there’s always an element of mystery or suspense in it.

In my previous occupation I was an accountant. So cut and dried...rather boring, actually. Guess that’s why I turned to killing people off. Well, on paper at least. LOL When I’m not creating mayhem in my stories, I’m either off riding my Harley or working in the flower beds. I live in Northeastern Oklahoma, have a wonderfully supportive husband, and all of my children are furry with four legs (2 dogs and 3 cats). Needless to say the critters rule the roost.

Jackie: Tell us about your work and the books you have available for us to buy.

Linda: My first book, GRAVE SECRETS, was recently released by The Wild Rose Press. I’m so grateful I had an editor to point out all the places where my ‘perfect work of fiction’ needed to be fixed. I have a new appreciation for all they do for authors.

Sara Adams is desperately searching for her missing baby; Morgan Daniels is trying to prove she's a murderer. Will the remains of an infant in her husband's grave prove either of them right? Or will they find there's more than one explanation?

Fate has thrown them together, but will they survive the encounter?

My latest novella, SHATTERED PROMISES in the anthology ROMANCE – THE SPICE OF LIFE, has just been released, by DIVA Press. All of the stories are romance, but each depicts a different sub-genre. My subgenre is suspense. As an extra bonus, each story includes a delicious tried and true recipe. One reason I especially love this book is that not all of the hero’s and heroine’s are in their 20’s or 30’s. Love can (and does) bloom at any stage of life.
Shattered Promises -Novella by Linda Trout

Miranda Johnson never expected to see Wade Malone again--not in this life. But after a deadly plane crash reunites them, these former lovers will need to stay two steps ahead of a kidnapper to rekindle their love and mend shattered promises.

I enjoy interacting with readers and you can find me on my website at: http://www.LindaTrout.com or reach me at LindaTrout@peoplepc.com

Both of my books are listed on Amazon and are available in either print or digital format.

Romance – The Spice of Life:  http://tinyurl.com/at64tgf

I loved visiting with you today and appreciate the opportunity to connect with your readers.

Linda Trout