Friday, June 28, 2013


by Earl Staggs

Ideas for stories are not hard to come by.  Everywhere I look, I see something I could develop into a short story or a novel.  Coming up with characters to populate the story is not difficult either.  Once the story rolls around between the ears a few times, people materialize who want to be in it.  Things that happen during the story come easily, too. Once the story is underway, I come up with a multitude of things that could happen.  It’s only a matter of choosing the best ones.  Endings?  Maybe the easiest of all.  There are only a small number of places where the story could lead and how it could end.   Again, it’s a matter of choosing the best one.  
So what is NOT easy for me in a new story?  It’s where to begin. I have trouble coming up with the perfect opening sentence or paragraph. Even though I already have a good grasp on the basic plot,  what characters will be involved, what will happen as it plays out and where it will all wind up, I can’t start writing until I’m sure exactly where to begin.  I need that first scene to start the ball rolling.  Once I have that, it doesn’t take long to knock out the whole story.  At least, the first draft.

For example, I’ve wanted to write a sequel to my first novel, MEMORY OF A MURDER, for quite a while.  I knew the plot and the paths Adam Kingston, the protagonist, would follow.  My problem was, where to begin the story?

Then I thought back to that first book and about how it began.  In the opening scene, Adam is awakened by a woman’s voice saying:

          "Adam Kingston! Get your skinny butt out of that bed."
          Her voice cut through his sleep and made him cringe. He pulled his face out of his pillow, forced one eye open, and turned his head far enough for a squinting glance around. Yes. He was in his own bedroom.
          He opened the other eye and focused on the figure standing at the foot of his bed. Slim, well-dressed, skin the color of cocoa, arms folded across her chest, dark eyes boring into him. He plunged his face back into his pillow and mumbled, "Dammit, Ellie." 

After thrashing about in vain for a good opening to the sequel, it finally occurred to me I might begin it in a similar manner.  I decided to give it a try, and the opening turned out to be the same woman’s voice saying:

          “Adam Kingston, what the hell have you done now?”
          Adam grimaced and held his cell phone away from his ear.  Ellie always yelled when she was pissed.
          “I didn’t do anything, Ellie. I only called to ask--”
          “Did you pull one of those stupid practical jokes on her like you and Phil do to each other?”

Yes! That worked.  That opening brought in the main character along with an important secondary character in a situation that would allow me to open with a subplot and easily seque into the primary plot.  Once I had that opening scene, the rest of it followed along just fine.  Not that it was easy, mind you.  Writing is never easy, but once I had the opening, I was on my way.

Now you know one of the problems I have every time I begin a new story.  Maybe other writers have the same problem.  By that I mean, they can’t begin a story until they have what they feel is the perfect opening line.

Or, am I strange and different from everyone else?

Naaahhhh.  There’s nothing wrong with me.

Is there?

Move over, Reacher.  Step aside, Bourne.  Tall Chambers is in town and nothing will stop him. They murdered someone close to him.  Now. . .it's personal.

JUSTIFIED ACTION is available in print or ebook form at:

“. . .immediately engaging. . .smooth plotting and fine prose keep the pages turning swiftly. . .thoroughly enjoyable. . .” Gloria Felt

“. . .a high-octane thriller that will keep you reading through the night.”   Mark Troy

“. . .Fast action with twists and turns makes this novel a thrilling read.”  Kevin Tipple

Read Chapter One at:

Thursday, June 27, 2013

My Ongoing and Desperate Search for Discipline

by Jackie King

Discipline is something that I must strive for each day. This admirable character trait doesn't come naturally to me. Sitting or lying quietly, my head in the clouds, making up stories; comes naturally. I have always had imaginary friends and enemies living inside my imagination.

No matter how far back I look (and I can remember back to about the age of two) this was my entertainment. We had no TV, nor even a radio. No one had television, and we were too poor to afford a radio. We borrowed books from the library, but owned none of our own. I told myself stories each morning as I awakened and each night as I dozed off. This was my normal.

Later I realized that if I wrote these stories down on paper, edited them carefully, then I could earn money. But the writing down on paper (or keying them into a computer) is a process that requires discipline. And discipline, as I told you in my last post, isn’t a natural inclination for me. But it’s a very necessary quality for any writer who wants to earn a living.

When I first quit my day job (also called retirement), I worked out a system to brainwash myself into writing first thing in the morning. I was already accustomed to putting on my makeup and going to work. Figuring that, like Pavlov’s dog, I was already conditioned by this routine; I continued to put on my war-paint, sit down before my computer, and key in the stories.

This worked very well until (after 40 years in the same house) I decided it was time to move. The motivating factor: If I didn’t have to cook, wash dishes, clean, and see about the upkeep of my 4-bedroom house, I’d have more time to play with my imaginary friends.

At least that was the plan.

Alas, as every writer knows, even the dullest of life’s tasks can become a siren song, luring a girl away from her keyboard. Address have to be changed, pictures cry to be hung on white walls, untidy drawers seem to become an urgent task. Even to even to a woman with a vast tolerance for dust bunnies, such temptations arise.

This could be called Writer’s Block, but that would be a lie. It’s nothing but a pure lack of self-discipline.

I may be a slacker, but I try not to lie…at least not to myself.

So in my ongoing struggle for discipline, I have decided to use my posts to record my progress. If anyone in cyberland feels a kinship to this sort of problem, whatever it is that you struggle with on a daily basis, I’d like to know about your stumbling block. Doesn't matter if it's exercising, dieting, controlling your temper, let's work together. Perhaps we can start a sort of Discipline-Challenged Anonymous.

Let me know what you struggle with on a daily basis and your progress. I want to know that I’m not the Lone Ranger here in Okie Land.



Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Jargon – an alternative dimension

I’ve always been – shall we say, sensitive? – to jargon. So when, not so long ago, I read a particular paragraph in the Guardian, I thought it might be worth blogging about some of the remarks and writings that I’ve copied down in a book I’ve kept for many years. The Guardian’s piece quoted a communication from an organisation called the Local Better Regulation Office, which read:
“We are hosting a master class to take local authorities through the process of developing outcomes and impacts dashboards against their developed pathways. The session will focus on local authorities who have gone through the process of developing their logic model, and now require additional expertise on how to develop indicators to measure achievements against outcomes.”
We all love language, the things it can do, the magic it can unlock or create, and when it’s mangled, strangled and kicked to death by committees, evasive politicians and people who should know better, it hurts and infuriates. On the other hand, the way it sometimes transcends the atrocities inflicted on it to suggest dimensions unsuspected by the speaker is delightful.
It would be too easy to take examples from all those eminent public speakers who, rather than having a command of language, were in constant conflict with it. Equally easy targets would be those “Instructions for use” translated from another language, such as the one for a toy car, which warned “on occasion by using it as pushcart for the toddling baby about 12 months since born, the leg comes into contact with the car’s speed and accordingly the baby may be overturned” or the cleaning fluid for glasses which suggested users should “apply less than one drop to both sides of the lens”.
But I prefer examples from people trying hard to make the words work for them. Like the engineering union official interviewed on the BBC who said “our members’ mood is one of very seriousness”. And these gems from a British soccer manager famous for his loquacity. Of his team’s disappointing position in the league, he said: “we cannot expunge the last 20 games. What we can say is as a result of the last 30 games, whatever the variables, excuses or praises one wishes to implicate, our position is as it is.” He also said of another team which just managed to avoid relegation and which we’ll call Acme United: “Only a very, very few people were aware of the demeanour of Acme in 1986. Reminiscent of the eerie old haunted house that had been empty for years and was begging for life. No different to the dodo. How joyful for them not to have acrimoniated in the non-league. How delightful for them to be making a success of defeating extinction. Let us hope we are all able to be pulmonic!” Another soccer manager – again British – whose team was winning 2-0 but ended up losing the match 3-2, remarked “As I see it, if you’re going to commit suicide, you don’t do it yourself.”

In fact, British sportspeople seem to have a gift for speaking English as if it’s a foreign language. One boxer claimed that “the British press hate a winner who is British. They don’t like any British man to have balls as big as a cow’s like I have.” A Formula One driver said wisely that “the proof of the pudding is in the clock”. One reputedly intelligent footballer’s contribution to the sum of human knowledge was “Football’s football; if that weren’t the case it wouldn’t be the game it is.” And yet another soccer manager, coaching a team in Spain, who wanted to stay there because of his garden, told his interviewer: “Look at that olive tree – 1000 years old. From before the time of Christ.”

It goes on and on and on – but in each case, it’s words that provide the delights – even in my final example – perhaps the silliest of all. The first names of a succession of managers of one English soccer team in the Midlands were: Don, Johnny, Ronnie, Ron, Ronnie, Ron, Ronnie, Ron, Johnny, Ron and Ron.

Maybe it just shows how sad I am that I have a book full of stuff like that which I’ve bothered to copy.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Geezer Jokes and Care Homes Are Murder

This had been a busy year for me. My paranormal mystery, The V V Agency, came out in April and the fifth book in my Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series, Care Homes Are Murder, was released on June 19.

I had fun with one aspect of this book. My protagonist, Paul Jacobson, and his twelve-year-old granddaughter, Jennifer, tell each other non-politically correct geezer jokes. Jennifer’s mom, Paul’s daughter-in-law, objects to this, causing Paul to label himself as “the bad grandpa.” Nevertheless, he continues to “corrupt” his granddaughter as they sneak away to share geezer jokes.

This is a touchy subject in some areas. A number of celebrities have gotten in trouble for inappropriate comments recently. Jokes can be demeaning or they can allow us laugh at ourselves and the human predicament. This is the way Paul Jacobson takes geezer jokes. He gets a kick out of humor about old farts like himself.

I like collecting jokes about aging. As a member of the older population, I find humor in the aging process. There are serious issues we face, but also an opportunity to chuckle along the way.

What’s your own take on jokes about aging?

Mike Befeler

Friday, June 21, 2013

Much To Do About About Spammers

by Jean Henry Mead

I've been fortunate over the years when it comes to spammers--a few now and then, but they were easy to delete and I never had to moderate comments. However, a month ago the attack of a UK spammer began with as many as 21 comments a day on my Mysterious Writers blog.

 Most spammers leave commercial messages but this one leaves strange comments, such as the following:

Not necessarily snicker out loud hilarity kind of fun, but at the very least interesting. The device starts with that this content of Loopy Clown Posse's beats.
He has also left a variety of commercial references that don't make much sense:
A recent national poll reveals that many adults o'er age 65 are misinformed or and work your way around the build, being indisputable your screws are centered in the dining table.4. salford car hire Sue B. The Sting IS worse Than the Buzz Dec 14, 2010, 10:38pm London has been excelling at is its car hire companies. Stop by my homepage; cheap car rental uk


Users around you have become more fashionable that has time, and conform to fashion trends. Steve Morley is in control of the traditional Amer-Italian menu. Suggested the new "It" model, Andrej Pejic...the "It" Male model, rather. Yet, there seems in order to really be some defensiveness about the plan. 
I've accessed his homepage but he doesn't allow messages. I wonder why. I also wonder how many other blog sites he pesters with his nonsense.
Then there are those comments written in Japanese. How do you cope with them? 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Cornish Mysteries now in UK

by Carola

[I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because after 45 years in the US, my UK schooling is beginning to wear off.] 

All three of my Cornish Mysteries come out in the UK this week. Read excerpts at

Buy now at

They're set in Cornwall, in a fictional fishing village called Port Mabyn, which is a cross between Port Isaac (think Doc Martin) and Boscastle, and set on the North Coast between those two towns.
Eleanor Trewynn, after working all her life for an international charity all over the world, retires as a widow to a Cornish village. She buys a cottage and sets up a charity shop on the ground floor.

US hardcover

Large print
UK cover
The first book is MANNA FROM HADES: 

 Looking forward to a peaceful retirement, Eleanor's horrified to find in the stockroom behind the shop, the body of a scruffy, unknown youth.


“Adept at showing character through witty dialogue, Dunn paints an amusing picture of a small town that readers will want to visit again soon.” -- Publishers Weekly on Manna From Hades

 “Dunn has a knack for writing meatier-than-usual cozies with strong female characters, and she has another charming winner here.”
-- Booklist on Manna From Hades

“Eleanor is a wonderful, multi-faceted heroine and Manna from Hades is a first-rate story…Carola Dunn demonstrates the same smooth writing and seasoned storytelling that readers have come to expect from her.”
--- Mystery News

“Welcome to Cornwall, beautiful land of Cornish pasties, cream teas and murder. [Manna from Hades] is a modern day version of the classic English village mystery.”
--- Kirkus Reviews

 Port Isaac pics

UK edition
The second is:

US edition
Once again murder disrupts the quiet life of widowed charity shop owner Eleanor Trewynn, who's settled in the village of Port Mabyn with her Westie, Teazle. On returning from a train trip to London, Eleanor's artist friend and neighbor, Nick Gresham, discovers that someone has slashed several of his paintings in his Port Mabyn shop. Rather than go to the police, a furious Nick sets out to confront rival artist Geoffrey Monmouth, who Nick is sure is the culprit. Accompanied by an anxious Eleanor, Nick finds Geoff stabbed to death in his Padstow bungalow. When the authorities detain Nick, Eleanor determines to track down the real killer, who just might be one of the young artists living communally on a local farm. Bolstered by strong characters, the fast-moving plot builds to a satisfying conclusion. --Publishers Weekly

Waterstones uk 

Large print

VERDICT Dunn's second cozy set in 1960s Cornwall (after "Manna from Hades") is a delightful romp, full of busybodies, unscrupulous artists, and a charming Westie with character. ---Library Journal

On-line review:

 The third book is THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW
US hardcover

“The sights and sounds of the coast of Cornwall come alive in The Valley of the Shadow. The rescue of a drowning Indian man leads to a race against time to rescue his family, trapped in the smugglers’ caves on the rocky shore. Feisty retiree Eleanor Trewynn enlists her fellow villagers in tracking down those responsible for abandoning the refugees — but will the smugglers find her first? Dunn gives us a thoroughly enjoyable, cozy suspense novel — one with a social conscience.”

 —Carol Schneck Varner, Schuler Books & Music, Okemos, MI

...Dunn lives up to her reputation for cozies that take on serious stuff, allowing her ragtag bunch of investigators to unearth a story with roots deep in international politics...
--Publishers Weekly 


Rocky Valley--Gave me the idea for Valley of the Shadow

Monday, June 17, 2013

Things Could Always Be Worse

By Mark W. Danielson

Recently, one of my dear friends underwent his umpteenth back surgery.  His latest came less than three months after they sliced him in half, front and back, neck to hips because his pins and screws were already coming out.  A week or so ago they pronounced his latest surgery a success.  Time will tell.  I always think of him daily when I get that stabbing pain in my lower back.  Whenever it gets especially bad, I think of how much my friend has endured and suddenly my discomfort isn’t so bad.

Another friend lost his home in the Colorado Springs Black Forest fire.  They have yet to see the carnage and have no knowledge of whether their beloved dog survived.  As an animal lover, I cannot imagine what they are going through right now.  When I think of the computer problems, broken glasses, phone problems and my car dying I experienced recently, my problems seem petty.  My heart truly goes out to all those who have lost homes in this fire, and recent tornadoes.

Pain is part of writing, too.  Every writer experiences trials and tribulations, and no matter how bad things are, they could always get worse.  Need another example?  In 1991, flames engulfed the Oakland hills, killed over twenty people including two first-responders, and destroyed over three thousand residences.  Among the homeless was an author who had spent two years writing her manuscript.  On the day of the fire, she woke up and ran for her life.  Having no time to gather personal belongings, her manuscript burned with her house, and not having backed it up meant it was gone forever.  She never re-wrote that particular manuscript, but she turned a negative into a positive by transferring her fear onto her characters.  Only first-hand experience can capture such emotion.   

Have you ever received a rejection letter?  It’s impossible to forget, isn’t it?  But the pain of rejection isn’t so bad if it helps you grow as an author.  Sure, sometimes the person who wrote that letter was having a bad day and may have misjudged your work, but most of the time your letter arrived because your work needed improvement.  Learning from rejection not only reduces the sting, it makes you a better writer.

Whether in life or in fiction, misery is whatever we create.  Whenever you experience physical or emotional pain, realize there will always be people far worse off than you. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Desperately Seeking Discipline

By Jackie King

The most successful authors I know all share one trait. Self-discipline. Discipline is more essential for a writer than creativity. Discipline is to be desired above either talent or creativity.

A disciplined individual, who decides to write, can learn fiction and nonfiction techniques and master the craft. She/he can learn basic plot types and can use these tools to practice creating stories. Creativity can’t be taught, but a clever person could learn character development, basic plot formation and then learn to apply these techniques to produce an entertaining story. And then another entertaining story.

A creative individual, who writes only when she/he feels inspired, will be lucky to finish even one book, much less enough work to form a career. Inspiration is a fickle work tool. And many editors and publishers tend to agree with me. Mine is included in this group. Regardless of the talent involved, before a work can be edited and published, it first must be completed. That’s where discipline comes in handy. And, oh, how I wish that quality was my long suit. But alas, it is not.

So each day I must strive to put my behind in the chair in front of the computer, position my fingers on the keys, and coax pouting characters to come out and play.

These characters, like cats that have been left behind while the family vacations, are angry and refuse to acknowledge my presence. To be honest, I don’t blame them, and must continue paying penance until I am forgiven. Let’s hope that is soon.




Tuesday, June 11, 2013

TV or not TV

There’s too much whingeing online by authors who feel it’s their right to have a publisher and/or an agent. I know from experience that it’s frustrating to see the rejection slips piling up and get those two line e-mails reassuring you that they’re not suggesting you can’t write and hoping on your behalf that someone else will take your work. But the fact is that they’re busy people and the market is very crowded. Another fact is that many of the apparently unloved books are of very high quality (although some aren’t). The reason I’m saying all this is because I don’t want you to think that what follows is me complaining about anything. So this is the story.

Without my being aware of it, the BBC television drama department was considering 2 of my books for possible adaptation. In other words, my detective, Jack Carston, was going to be the next Inspector Morse. (You’ll have to allow me the occasional bit of self-indulgence.) This obviously is not something to complain about. I did nothing to bring the books to their attention and I imagine that 99.9% of authors would consider themselves privileged to be in such a position – and I do.

I first heard of it when I received an e-mail asking if the television rights for The Darkness and Rough Justice were available in principle. I resisted the urge to jump up and down, phone everybody I knew, buy a yacht and even say anything about it online. Instead, I calmly replied that they were, only realising later that instead of writing ‘Hi’ at the beginning, I’d written ‘High’. (I’m not making that up. It perhaps indicates that I was experiencing levels of elation unbecoming in a man of my years.)

I then heard nothing for about seven weeks, so I wrote again and asked what was happening. I got a very nice reply, revealing that they liked the character of my detective and adding details which showed that they had given the book a close reading. But they decided that the narrative approach in the novel would be difficult to adapt for television. I can understand why they thought that although I don’t altogether agree with them.

Naturally enough, I was disappointed. Despite the fact that I try to convince myself that nothing will come of such promising situations, there’s always a sneaking feeling/hope that it will. So rather than the satisfaction of being proved right, I had the feeling that something had been snatched away from me. But that’s not true. On the contrary, I should and do take pleasure in the fact that they were considering the books at all.

Nonetheless, the feeling was there. But then, the next day, when friends and family had commiserated and said positive, complimentary things, what remained was not a feeling of dejection, but the thought that, having got so close without doing anything at all to deserve it, I should overcome my idleness and start being (that horrible word) pro-active. If a committee is sitting discussing my books while all I do is sit with my feet on the desk, what might happen if I actually stood up?

I’m not saying that this is a new me, or that I’m preparing my Oscar speech, but it is true that this sort of abstract encouragement is all it needs for a writer to feel validated. OK, in the end I wanted to tell people about it, but I also wanted to extend its significance. I think it sums up a lot of the daily experience of being a writer. Yes, it illustrates the disappointments but it also calls attention to the privileges we have. We do the writing, enjoy ourselves, create the characters, the settings, the worlds, and send them off. And then we wait. And wait. But, as we’re waiting, we also hope – and that’s a luxury which isn’t available to everyone. In fact, if we consider the deprivations and abuses some people have to endure, hope seems a very fragile and scarce commodity.

As I’ve said, the agents, publishers, and others in whose computers or on whose desks our manuscripts are sitting are busy people and our book is one of hundreds they’ve received that week. Working their way through them is an administrative process. But while it sits there, it’s our little Godot and  can be the source of very happy dreams.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Audio Books

One of the beauties of the current publishing world is the variety of ways we can publish books. I have various editions that include hardcover, paperback, large print, audio book and e-books.

As a reader, I’m particularly fond of audio books. I got started with audio books a number of years ago when I met Jim Collins, business guru and author of Good to Great, at a graduation party. He described how he always listened to audio books when in the car. I liked the idea and began listening to audio books whenever I was driving by myself.

I’ve found that over the course of a year I listen to between twelve and eighteen books with normal driving for errands and to events around the greater Denver area. In addition, I’ve become a better driver. Rather than getting uptight when someone ahead of me doesn’t merge, I now sit back, relax and listen to the story.

I give presentations to a number of low vision groups, and audio books are popular with this audience as well.
How many of you are audio book readers?

Mike Befeler