Attack of the M’s, Part II

Today, I turn the coveted blog chair over to a wonderful woman I’ve met at Killer Nashville and didn’t get to spend as much time talking with as I would have liked. Today she honors me by stopping by my place on her blog tour to promote her latest endeavor, Murder In The Worst Degree. So be nice to her or I won’t let you play in my neighborhood anymore.

Where My Titles Come From

Sometimes a title jumps out at me when I’m writing the book. The first book in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series has its big climax at a funeral. Final Respects seemed most appropriate.
Next came Bad Tidings and the main character in this one has to deliver bad news to many and gets some of his own. Obvious title—at least I thought so.
Fringe Benefits is all about a bad cop who uses his job for nefarious purposes. No trouble coming up with that title.
My cop son-in-law gave me the idea for Smell of Death when he told me books, movies and TV did not do a good job of depicting how bad dead people smell.
No Sanctuary was another no-brainer. It is about two churches, two preachers, two wives and a murder. A lot of the action goes on at both churches.
A beheaded corpse and the murder weapon quickly brought to mind An Axe to Grind.
Angel Lost refers to two major happenings in this mystery, one of them being the mysterious appearance of an angel in a store window.
Not everyone in my critique group was happy with my choice of title for No Bells, but it is what someone says toward the end of the book and I thought it was perfect. Since I was the author I got to choose.
I couldn’t think of a title for this one, and one of the members of my critique group came up with the title Dangerous Impulses and it fits.
And now for the latest, Murder in the Worst Degree, a friend suggested the title before I’d written anything. I thought it was a great title, I just had to think up a plot that fit—and I think I did.
So you see, I don’t have a magic formula—some titles come easy and others don’t.
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.
Webpage: http://fictionforyou.com/
Blog: http://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marilyn.meredith/
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 I’ll be visiting Janet Greger at http://jlgregerblog.blogspot.com/

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Attack of the M’s, Part I

I was going to title the next two weeks’ worth of material Attack of the Marylins, but then I realized that this week my guest’s name is spelled Marilyn so…

Actually, this first week is another in the award winning (or so to be award winning, or rather, deserving to be known as award winning) series Around the Globe with…

This week I pick up my featured author and we’re off to her fabulous villa in Cote d’Azur overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. HER villa? Well…okay then. As long as the sun shines and the drinks are free.

1. Who are you and what makes you the most fascinating person in your city?
I’m Marilyn Levinson, and I write mysteries, romantic suspense, and books for kids. My curiosity makes me the most fascinating person in my town. I enjoy hearing people’s stories and learning about new things. All fodder for my books.

2. Without revealing a deep dark secret (unless you want to), what one thing would people be surprised to learn about you?
While I’m very social and enjoy chatting with people, I love the time I spend alone at my computer. I love writing (when it’s moving along) and knowing that my fellow writer friends are only a keystroke away. When I’m alone, I enjoy the freedom to jump from one activity or subject to another.

3. What interested you to become a writer rather than something else such as a movie star?
I started creating stories as soon as I learned how to write. I never wanted to be a movie star. Performing never appealed to me, though I’ve since discovered that I enjoy reading aloud to a group and do a pretty good job of it.

4. Writers are readers. With which author(s) would you enjoy sharing dinner? Why?
I believe Mark Twain would be an entertaining dinner companion. So would Oscar Wilde.

5. If I were stranded on a deserted island or suffering from a four hour layover at the airport, why would your book(s) be great company?
My books, regardless of genre, are reader friendly. I get immediately into the story. My characters are three-dimensional and appealing, and my plots surprise. I don’t like being bored, therefore I don’t bore my readers.

6. Share your process of writing in regards to: plot and character development, story outline, research (do you Google or visit places/people, or make it up on the spot), writing schedule, editing and number of rewrites.
Ah, I could write a book discussing these topics. If I’m creating a new mystery series, I think about my sleuth until I see her clearly in my mind. How old is she? Where did she grow up? What was her family like? What kind of work does she do? My protagonists all have personal issues that affect the way they function. For example, Lexie Driscoll, my sleuth in Murder a la Christie, finds herself housesitting in an upper income neighborhood where her best friend lives. She’s not completely comfortable living among the wealthy. I create more characters. Since this is a murder mystery, at least one person is murdered. Who? Why? Once I know this, my plot takes on a life of its own. I create more characters – friends of my sleuth, enemies of the victim. Suspects. My characters react with one another. They all have secrets. Readers love secrets.

Setting is very important to me, and I think about this very carefully before I start to write. While many of my novels take place on Long Island, the home location of each series is unique. I consider the terrain, the housing, and the economic level of the town’s inhabitants. I generally create a town or village, placing it in close proximity to real places and landmarks. This allows me creative license yet grounds my novels in reality, something my readers like.

I do write from an outline. I like to have a guide as I go along, though I often deviate from it.

As for research, I look up information as needed. I recently set a children’s book in the South of France, which I’ve visited a few times. I Googled many villages and towns, then created my own village among them. I don’t know if I would feel comfortable setting a novel in a place I’ve never been to.

My writing schedule is erratic. I do most of my writing in the afternoon. I edit as I go along. I don’t rewrite books, but I will go over the book after I’ve finished writing it. And then there are the revisions and edits that one’s publisher requires.

7. “I think I have a good idea for a story, but I don’t know where or how to begin. Your process may not work for me. Any advice?
Think about your characters and your story, then write a scene about them. It doesn’t matter where the scene takes place in your book. You’re writing to get the sense of your characters, your plot, and your theme. It used to bother me that I usually don’t begin my novels in the “right” place. What I end up scrapping is valuable to me. It’s what I’ve written to familiarize myself with my characters and every aspect of my novel.

8. I saw an amusing T-shirt the other day which read, “Every great idea I have gets me in trouble.” What is your philosophy of life?
I don’t know about my philosophy of life, but my philosophy about writing is that it’s an ongoing process as well as a way of life.

9. Please tell me you’re not going to stop writing? What’s next for you?
I don’t intend to stop writing any time soon. I’ve sent out a series proposal to agents. If and when it’s taken, I’ll be writing a new mystery series. Meanwhile, I’ve four manuscripts I need to go over before submitting them to publishers. And I want to continue writing more books in my three existing series.

10. Where can people find more information on you and your projects?
My website is: www.marilynlevinson.com
I blog the first and third Monday on MakeMineMystery,com
And, of course, there’s my Author’s Page on Amazon.

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Computer Dependency

computer_dependencyI know, I know. I didn’t post last week. First time in years.

Well, all I can do is humbly ask for your forgiveness and explain the reason. I didn’t have a computer from which to post. Why? Because for a number of weeks it’s been giving me problems and this last week it gave up the ghost.

I remember working with computers in high school. I don’t recall exactly for what class. All I remember are the cool games we played. Zork and a really simple Stark Trek game that I really enjoyed but never could find it again after graduation.

In college I didn’t work with computers. Graphic design for the newspaper was cut and paste. I worked with a primitive computer at my first job which was to program songs and commercials. But the songs were on reels (like film reels) and the commercials were on cartridges that looked like 8-track tapes. Remember them, Johnny?

I owned my first computer when I moved to Oskaloosa long about 1990 or so. An Apple. The Internet was barely out of the starting gates and chat rooms were the big thing. I really enjoyed Apples because they didn’t seem to have as many problems (viruses, malware, etc.).

When I hired on at the newspaper we worked with Macintoshes which I learned to love because of the graphic design program. Photoshop was brand new as was HTML but I never really learned either. I took an intro class to HTML which, surprisingly, I remember all these years later upon which to expand.

My second motel job I started with Windows ’95 which conflicted with the DOS program and the computer experienced glitches about every two weeks.

I’ve owned an E-machine, a Dell laptop, a Lenovo laptop, (all of which went !@##!!^$* after awhile) and currently I am working from an HP workstation laptop and have a HP desktop waiting for me to play with at home.

I enjoy computers and what they do, the benefits, how they ease life in so many ways. However, I really don’t like the fact we have become so dependent on them. What did I do before computers? Well, as a writer, I wrote stories. Watched television. Read books. Since I’ve owned computers I’ve transferred my longhand stories into Word documents, watched television from downloaded shows, and have listened to or read books on the computers through Media Player, Kindle, or Calibre. Currently, I’m taking online courses to improve my graphic design skills.

So, what happens when my computer is broken or experiences problems as it has been for a couple of weeks? I revert back to paperback books, print out written stories to edit and wonder if I’ll have a computer to make the deadlines for my assignments. I do my duties at work in silence because I don’t have an audio book playing. (And I’ve discovered the small radios around here don’t pick up crap.)

I truly believe we have become too dependent on computers. They’re everywhere and as been discussed elsewhere, they’ve taken us away from ourselves. Families at restaurants don’t talk to each other because they’re all plinking away on their phones or the kids are playing with tablets. Children go nuts without their playstations or hand-held video games. (Crimeny, my sister and I read books, slept or teased each other on trips when we were kids. We didn’t have DS’s or whatever the hec they’re called. We play car games. Remember the license plate game? I spy? Okay, most of the time we picked on each other.) Car mechanics don’t fix your car with screwdrivers and wrenches. Instead, they hook your engine up to a diagnostic computer to find the problem. I don’t want to get political here, but Obamacare has forced doctors and hospitals to learn all new medical coding (over 70,000 new codes) and they’re spending more time inputting information onto computers and less time with actual human patients. Nearly every week you hear a news story about identity theft.

I enjoy some of the books and movies where the world has gone through a technology crash usually because of a super EMP somebody let loose. Or those various versions of the old movie, The Forbin Project with Eric Braden (Victor on Young and the Restless) where the computers take over the world. I think we’re too close to those fictional scenarios becoming truth and it may be only a matter of time before something along one of the above two lines actually occurs.

I’m glad I have a computer again but there are times I wish I didn’t require one to function.

Or at least give me my old Star Trek game back.

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Coming Soon

coming soonThis week I wanted to let you know about two upcoming series of blogs to be put into the semi-sort of rotation that I have and to ask for some input into them.

1. Complaints. I believe I saw these on Facebook or maybe somebody emailed them to me. Either way, it is a list of 19 actual complaints registered by tourists. I don’t know if they’re all directed to the same travel company, cruise ship, or if they have been gathered from different sources. I thought, like the adult truths, they were humorous enough to write about. However, whereas I’ve related the truths to writing, I’ve decided to branch out and relate them to various things in my life. Some may include writing stuff, but from a personal viewpoint instead of a lecture about the craft of writing.
2. Restaurant reviews. Here in the Des Moines area, there is a plethora of places to eat. Some good, some average, and some I wouldn’t recommend. Now, I know that there have been other restaurant reviewers who’ve published their articles in the local Thursday extra of the Register and that’s fine. However, as I have discovered in the last few months, a lot of eating places close and more open up. What I want to do with my reviews is have three characters (and maybe more) from my books-Mallory Petersen, Harry Reznik, and Lori Campisi-and have THEM visit the restaurants and share their experiences. I’ll list some of the special menu items, some prices, what each chose to dine on and any tidbit of information they want to share. For instance, how cold one place was or annoying patrons at another. I experimented with a couple of them by trying to turn each into a short-I mean really short-story. In the case of Lori, I’ll present her evenings out as emails to her contact back in Washington.
 
What I wanted from you, my loyal followers, are suggestions. Regarding the complaints, I can’t really entitle them Complaint #1, Complaint #2, etc., as I do the Adult Truths because although the opening line is the complaint from the tourist, the subsequent material won’t-necessarily-be a complaint from me. So I’m open to titles for this series.
 
For the restaurant reviews, what would you like to see included in the reviews? I’ve mentioned a few things but want to keep it interesting, especially for those who aren’t in the Des Moines area. For those of you who are or are going to be, I’ll take requests to visit a particular restaurant.
 
So, I have the infrequent author interviews/guest blogs, Adult Truths, Life Skills, Complaints, and Restaurant Reviews. Plus, the all-inclusive spur of the moment topic if something unique happened during the previous week.
 
Thanks as always for reading and keep checking back for some fun.

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Adult Truth #13

#13I’m always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page technical report that I swear I did not make any change to.”

Yeah…I get this a lot on my documents. I’m tempted to hit Control-Z so it will erase any change I supposedly had made, but that scares me even more.

This truth made me think of note taking and how I change not only documents, but outlines and entire stories.

I’ll detail outlining in a future Truth, but one of the rules to keep in mind if you are scared of outlining is: don’t be governed by your outline. Unless you’re Jeffrey Deaver and produce a 200 page outline knowing every single detail, your story is going to change. In fact, I’ll wager that Deaver’s changes as he moves through the story, if even minutely.

I am constantly making notations on my outline. Questions about certain locations or other information pop up so I jot a note to find time for research. I think of additional scenes or things to add to a scene. Recently while jogging, I thought out all of the details regarding a future fight scene my heroine Mallory will have. When I finished my run, I immediately wrote the choreography of the fight. Sometimes I run into problems, usually time related and I’ll make a note to review the day’s activities within the story and either change a few things around or create new scenes to add. I don’t like lag time. I don’t like hours passing without knowing what is happening, even if my character is sleeping. I remember a particular book I read for review. I don’t recall the title, but I thought the story flawed because literally days would pass within the story where nothing happened. However, the plot was such that-since it was a murder mystery with a killer on the loose-SOMETHING needed to be occurring. The detectives just didn’t sit around all day. The author thought he could jump ahead to the action scenes but threw off the reader because nothing happened. I would have loved to have seen this guy’s outline if it existed.

Ideas can occur anytime, anywhere. In the shower, while dreaming, while sitting at a bar slugging back martinis. (Uh, I’ve never done the latter, mom, so you don’t have to worry. Besides, I don’t like martinis.) You hear about authors writing notes on napkins and paper menus. Even on their own hand. I don’t get that exotic. Scrap paper usually does the trick. The challenge is putting those scraps in a place where I won’t forget about them. Yes, I have forgotten some notes, discovered them later and was unable to either remember why I wrote the note at the time or couldn’t understand to what I wanted to refer.

Katherine, an author friend I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, saves everything. She has emails she’s never opened dating back almost a year. I know this because I once sent her an email regarding a marketing plan and I subsequently lost mine. A year later, she found the email. She also saves each rewrite of her manuscripts. This is not a bad idea for some people. If you remember what changes you made the previous times, you can retrieve the information if needed in future rewrites.

The key to note taking, I think, is to not let the idea sit in your head until you can find time or material to write it down. Don’t wait. Have a notebook with you constantly or have access to something at all times. If you wait even an hour until you have paper/time, you may risk losing the completeness of the thought. I know this from experience. Get it down on paper fast because to wait means other distractions intruding and designating that awesome idea to the background where it may become watered down or, heaven forbid, forgotten.

Whether it’s a story idea, the germ of an idea, a news article that strikes your fancy, a scene change, a chapter addition/deletion, or a complete rewrite plan, get it down.

Save it. Save it again just to be sure you have it.

Then save it again.

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Control Your Power

Control your powerI know, I know, you were expecting something early yesterday. Well, late Thursday night, I had computer problems and although I still haven’t returned to where I was, I was able to access enough enough to upload this week’s blog. Thanks for being patient.*****

“Flow with whatever is happening and let your mind be free. Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate.”
Chuang Tzu

I thought of all the aspects of this topic. Of course, the obvious one concerns physical strength and skill. In taekwondo, I instruct how to control the kicks and punches so as not to injure a classmate or a competitor. In another lesson, I may teach how to use one’s strength to break a board. (It isn’t muscling your way through that is the key, rather it is proper technique.) Of course, when in a physical confrontation and needing to defend yourself, you want to use the correct amount of power. I teach the kids about the levels of threat from a simple pushing or verbal assault to a knock down to the ground fight. There are different responses for each level.

In trying to decide which part of power control to discuss I thought of a way to relate it to writing. Words, of course, have power. Words mean something. The way you use some words must be controlled because of the power behind them. For instance, if you hear the word ‘bitch’ what is your first thought? Now this word is perfectly fine depending on the circumstance. When you read this word, what came to mind first? An insult to a woman? A complaint? A female dog? Maybe a slang usage for an inferior?

I guess I wanted to delve into the author’s role of controlling the power of words. I think more than anybody, writers can affect anything from personal habits to global events. And I’m not just talking about newspaper reporters or so-called ‘journalists’ who seek to skew the truth for their own personal agenda. I’m talking about thinkers and philosophers and fiction writers who have an opinion and want to share a perspective.

Personally, I’ve always avoided many fiction authors who try to insert a deep meaning into their works, a moral lesson, or who go out of their way to evoke a long lasting ‘feeling’ that can be experienced and remembered. Blech! I read fiction for enjoyment. Can I learn something? Sure, teach me some history by throwing it into an adventure. Show me the wonders of technology by having the thriller bad guy spy use it for his evil means. I don’t want to read about a family or a teen or a divorcee who struggled in youth through the Depression or other hard times, influenced by racism or discrimination, fought against disease and betrayal and emerged on the other side with a better life. (Does this sound like most of the books on Oprah’s list?)

Okay, before you start slamming with emails about how good these books are, I’m not saying they aren’t. I’m saying I don’t read those because they’re not entertaining for me. Do they have power in the words and the stories? You bet. They’re meant to convey that power as forcefully as possible.

I disliked having to read this stuff in school. The Scarlet Letter, Death of a Salesman, The Pearl. Romeo and Juliet. Blech! (Okay, I’ll admit to liking Macbeth but only as a story and not immersing myself too deeply into the moral or philosophical lessons.)

As authors we have power. When I was writing Beta, I contemplated the amount of graphic detail I wanted to include. That’s power. I think by not providing every little detail was better.

Think of the oft heard concept of ‘not seeing the monster is scarier’. Why? Because once you see it, then you have little to stoke the imagination. That’s why most horror films of today are stupid rather than scary. Once the killer breaks through the door wielding the chainsaw, there’s nothing left to anticipate. H.P. Lovecraft was a master at building up the suspense and leaving you wondering just what it is that was seen.

That’s control of power.

I also struggle with the amount of profanity I use. Many books have unnecessary profanity. If you look at some of the early mysteries, the classics, you won’t see any f-bombs. But they’re still good mysteries.

However, Robert Pobi’s first thriller, Bloodman, practically erupts with profanity. But it’s a certain type of book. In other books, I would have been turned off by so much, but this one captured me and the profanity became part of the story rather than thrown in just because.

That’s control of power.

So, whether you’re teaching a martial class (or taking one), or writing a novel, remember you have within you power to accomplish great things.

Use it wisely.

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Around the Globe with DEBBIE ROXBOROUGH

On this last day of February we might reach a high in the 20s, but this weekend will be frigid. The cold is one of the reasons why I love this week’s featured author…because we get to go away from it. I hop in the transporter and pick up Ms. Roxborough and in no time we’re lounging on a secluded beach in Hawaii where there is nothing but sun and sun and warm temps and did I mention sun. Sipping pina coladas  and munching crab cakes, shrimp, and lobster and I’m never going to leave…well, until I have to go back to my job in frozen Iowa. Oh well, on with the interview.

1. Who are you and what makes you the most fascinating person in your city?

I am a single mother of three adult children and six awesome grandchildren. I have been an artisan since the age of 6 and love creating beautiful things for others to enjoy. I love meeting new people and enjoying new experiences, so I am also an entrepreneur and partner in a couple of businesses that allow me to do both of those. I love to teach what I know and share the gifts I have been given with the world.

2. Without revealing a deep dark secret (unless you want to), what one thing would people be surprised to learn about you?

I think that people would be surprised to know that I am not always as confident as I appear to be, or as strong. Most of my close friends I think see me as unshakeable most of the time, but that’s not really true. I have just learned to hide it well.

3. What interested you to become a writer rather than something else such as a movie star?

Even in school I always enjoyed writing and seemed to be pretty good at it. After a break up with a common law husband, one of my daughters suggested that I should write a book about my rather interesting life. Coincidentally, several years before I had begun making notes with that intention. After hearing it from someone else, I started working diligently on a series about my life with the hope that my experiences would help and empower others as well. I felt that my story needed to be told in order to raise awareness on some very controversial, but serious issues.

4. Writers are readers. With which author(s) would you enjoy sharing dinner? Why?

My favorite author to have dinner with I think would be Stephen King. I’ve read all of his books I think, and often wondered what kind of a mind could write the way he does, I mean where do some of his ideas come from? It would be very interesting to find out!

5. If I were stranded on a deserted island or suffering from a four hour layover at the airport, why would your book(s) be great company?

It would take just about 4 hours to read through my book, perhaps a bit longer, so it would be perfect for a layover. A desert island would be a great place to reflect on some of the issues that come up in my book. Most readers have told me that they could relate to my experiences in some way and were able to start working through some of their own. What better time than alone on an island?

6. Share your process of writing in regards to: plot and character development, story outline, research (do you Google or visit places/people, or make it up on the spot), writing schedule, editing and number of rewrites.

My story is 100% true, so I didn’t have to do any kind of research. For many years I saved small pieces of memorabilia and photos, so I started by using those to build a timeline. I just wrote about experiences that I remembered from those, and put them in order of when they occurred. From those notes I just started writing. I’ve always had a great memory, so once I started writing I could almost take myself back to the time I was writing about. I had a full time job, so I would make notes by hand during my breaks and then expand on them when I got back to my typewriter. That’s right, I started with hand written notes and graduated to an electric typewriter. When I finally moved to a computer it got a lot easier and faster. Most of my writing was done evenings and weekends, whenever I could fit it into my schedule.

7. “I think I have a good idea for a story, but I don’t know where or how to begin. Your process may not work for me. Any advice?”

If you haven’t done much reading, I suggest doing that first. I have read some books that make me wonder if the author ever read a book before trying to write one. Then just start writing. Take notes, jot down ideas, anything that pops into your head. Let the idea formulate and when you are ready to start actually writing, do it when you will not be distracted. Most authors I have talked to say the same thing, once they start writing the words just seem to flow out of them. When you aren’t writing new material, read over and revise the original. If you have a close friend that you can trust, try brainstorming some of your ideas with them and build on those. Spend some time in meditation and just let the ideas come as they will. Then write, rewrite & edit until you are happy with the result.

8. I saw an amusing T-shirt the other day which read, “Every great idea I have gets me in trouble.” What is your philosophy of life?

I heard a couple of quotes many years ago that have become my philosophy. “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf” – Jon Kabat Zinn & “A ship in a harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are for”. John A. Shedd. I face everyday challenges with a positive attitude & enthusiasm, much like catching a wave. I take leaps of faith and encourage others to do the same, instead of being afraid to live life!

9. Please tell me you’re not going to stop writing? What’s next for you?

No I am not done writing yet. And Sew it Begins – The Intricate Pattern of Incest was the first book in my series Shadows of the Mind. I am currently working on the second book Between the Crack – Journey of an Addict and hope to publish it this spring/summer. Then on to the third book, title undecided as of this writing.

10. Where can people find more information on you and your projects?

Thanks so much for asking

Author website – http://shadowsofthemind.webs.com

Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Shadows-of-the-Mind

Twitter – https://twitter.com/DebbieRoxboroug

Google+ – https://plus.google.com/debbieroxborough

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Ignore The Pain

I love authors, I really do. However a very few of them…well, let me explain

I’m sitting in front of my computer this morning wondering what topic I wanted to discuss. Should I throw up another Adult Truth? Or another taekwondo life theme? How about I introduce my new series of blogs on Tourist Complaints and how they relate to my life. Or maybe even the new series of restaurant reviews featuring some of my books’ characters.

Suddenly, (and I know an author is supposed to NOT use that word. Too cliche.), the door burst open, and a woman with a dog trot right into my apartment. My cat dashed into the bedroom to cower under the bed and I splorked smoothie out my nose. (Second time in a couple of weeks I’ve done that.)

The dog, a little yapper of a thing, though still pretty cute, chases me from my chair, the woman sits, and before I can clean my shirt and my face, types out the following. The dog licks smoothie from the floor and soon it and the woman exit with a wagging tail and waving hand.

You know, all she had to do was ask to be a guest blogger this week. No need to scare my cat.

***

Beginning a Journey with Ignore the Pain

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” (Laozi, ~600 B.C.). Begin your journey to excitement and maybe a little better understanding of South America by reading the medical thriller Ignore the Pain.

First let’s start with a quick sketch of Ignore the Pain. Sara Almquist couldn’t say no when invited to be the epidemiologist on a public health mission to assess children’s health in Bolivia. Soon someone from her past is chasing her through the Witches’ Market and churches of La Paz. Unfortunately, she can’t decide whether to trust any of her new colleagues, especially the unsavory Xave Zack, as she learns more about coca production and the god Tio of the silver mines of Potosí than she ever wanted to know.

Why is a medical thriller set in Bolivia?

I wanted a setting with real public health problems. Bolivia fits the bill.

Over 6% of the children born in Bolivia die before five years of age. That’s a big improvement; in 1990, 12.5% died before five years of age. Hence, I have Sara serving as an epidemiologist on a team sent to assess factors influencing childhood mortality and morbidity in Bolivia. My background is as a scientist and I have served as a science consultant overseas, so I made the consulting situation realistic.

I wanted to expose readers to a different culture. The majority (62%) of the people of Bolivia are of indigenous ancestry; much of the rest (30%) are mestizos (mixed European and indigenous heritage).

In Ignore the Pain, you get a taste of Bolivian culture at the Witches’ Market in La Paz. Native women in black bowler hats and layered brightly colored skirts sell bags of popped corn, cheap mementoes, and llama fetuses for offerings to the gods.

Sara guides you through Iglesia de San Francisco with its façade sculpted with stern natives with headdresses and then across the roof. The tour is a bit unusual because Sara is being chased by someone determined to kill her. The description of the roof is realistic – I’ve been there.

One aspect of the culture is Bolivia is the ubiquitous presence of coca, the raw material for cocaine. If you doubt me, look at the tea bag cover I brought back from La Paz. Coca tea is available in most restaurants. Bolivia is the third largest producer of coca in the world.

That doesn’t mean that most Bolivians are spaced out zombies; their use of coca is often logical. Thus in Ignore the Pain, Sara learns laborers in the silver mines of Potosí carry little food or water into the mines. In order to endure the pain caused by thirst, hunger, and heavy exertion at a high altitude (13,000 feet), they chew coca leaves. The active ingredients in coca leaves are stimulants, which help users ignore pain. Those facts are also basis for the title of the novel.

How does Sara step back into the US?

I don’t want to give away the plot, but throughout the novel I show at least one of Sara’s past neighbors is also interested in Bolivia, but for very different reasons. He sees it as major source of illicit drugs to bring to New Mexico.

Take a first step. Read Ignore the Pain. Then decide if you want to visit Bolivia. I guarantee both are excitin

Bio:For more on JL Greger, check out her website: www.jlgreger.com and blog: JL’s Bugs at http://www.jlgregerblog.blogspot.com. The Bugs in her blog aren’t insects. They are her real life Japanese Chin dog, who is a pet therapy dog in hospital in the Albuquerque area, and the fictional dog featured in her novels.

Here are thumbnail sketches of the two previous novels in this medical thriller/mystery series. Learn whether the Philippine flu or a drug kingpin caught in a quarantine is more deadly in Coming Flu.Discover whether an ambitious young “diet doctor” or old-timers with buried secrets are killers in Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight.

The novels are available in paperback and Kindle formats from Amazon.

Coming Flu: http://www.amazon.com/Coming-Flu-ebook/dp/B008WDL84O/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1372715303&sr=1-1&keywords=Coming+Flu 

Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight: http://www.amazon.com/Murder-New-Lose-Weight-ebook/dp/B00DFCC3IM/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1372715439&sr=1-1&keywords=Murder%3A+A+New+Way+to+Lose+Weight

Ignore the Pain: http://www.amazon.com/Ignore-Pain-J-L-Greger-ebook/dp/B00HOODVTW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1390779199&sr=8-1&keywords=ebook+Ignore+the+Pain

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Around the Globe with D. R. RANSDELL

So, I have to watch it on the roads this morning because (and this will be no surprise to many readers) it snowed again! Blech! This is why it took me so long to get home and be able to hop in the transporter to pick up this week’s featured author. Where are off to? Anywhere there isn’t snow, which omits most of the continental United States.

Ms. Ransdell manipulates the controls and soon we’re sitting by the Rialto Bridge in fabulous Venice. And what goes with Italy, but wine, so I’m sipping on some dry white while my featured guest decides to get a little wild and crazy with Coca Cola. Whoa now! Don’t over indulge.

She throws a wadded up napkin at me and points out that it’s the time of day to watch all the gondolas and a few vaporetti (steam boat buses). Just fabulous. I could just relax and enjoy the rest of the day…and then I get hit with another napkin and I’ve forgotten I need to conduct the interview. Better get to it. (Man does she have good aim.)

(Oh, by the way, we’re going to discuss her new book and I think if you look reeeealll closely at the cover, you might just see a familiar name. No, I mean besides hers.)

1. Who are you and what makes you the most fascinating person in your city?

I do the biggest mix of things! I’ve lived in Mexico, Italy, and Greece. I love speaking foreign languages, and I especially love the challenge of having to go back and forth between Spanish and Italian. I love to travel too—people ask me for help if they want to be talked into going somewhere. Given that, it’s not surprising that I spend a lot of time playing in a mariachi band, but I also play in a community orchestra. Next month we’re performing Brahms Symphony #1.

2. Without revealing a deep dark secret (unless you want to), what one thing would people be surprised to learn about you?

I love my new role as being an Auntie! My sister’s daughters are six years old and three years old. They are hysterically funny—that’s how kids are. They don’t moderate what they say. Instead they tell it like it is. I only see them every six months or so, so they’ve always grown a lot in between my visits. I’m waiting until the oldest is ten, and then I’ll have an energetic travel companion.

3. What interested you to become a writer rather than something else such as a nuclear scientist?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I say always, but I mean since about second grade. What, you mean, there are other professions? None seem as important. Put another way, I’m no scientist. Can’t seem to add two and two and get a consistent answer. But where I feel I can make a small contribution in life is via entertainment. Whether by playing music or writing novels, I’ve been able to keep some people entertained. Given that most people have hard jobs and need a way to kick back and enjoy themselves, providing entertainment is an honorable enterprise. It’s also a way to provide a unique contribution. Any other author might be able to write mysteries about a mariachi player, but none would have my same background of playing for twenty-five years in a local group. I must have performed “Las mañanitas” (the traditional Mexican birthday celebration song) a few thousand times!

4. Writers are readers. With which author(s) would you enjoy sharing dinner? Why?

J.R.R. Tolkien, come on over and have dinner with me! I want to know how the hobbits came to him. I want to know when and where he composed the poems, especially the one that starts “The Road goes ever on and on.” I want to know what he was thinking when he was walking around Oxford. Was he talking to Gandalf? And I particularly want to know how could he stand to wait so long to publish the trilogy; it came out some seventeen years after The Hobbit. How could you manage to sit on that material for so long and not just be bursting to have someone read what you had written? (Perhaps his friends saw some of his work at the time.)That man had the patience of a saint. However, he shouldn’t come to my house for dinner—as one boyfriend used to complain, I was the only person he knew who could burn quesadillas. Better to take a picnic and sit along the Oxford Canal.

5. If I were stranded on a deserted island or suffering from a four hour layover at the airport, why would your book(s) be great company?

Andy Veracruz gets into trouble because he’s too observant for his own good. If you were stranded on an island, you’d want to practice your powers of observation because let’s face it, you wouldn’t have a whole lot else to do. (By the way, a four-hour layover is not soooo bad. When else do we have concentrated time to read?)

6. Share your process of writing in regards to: plot and character development, story outline, research (do you Google or visit places/people, or make it up on the spot), writing schedule, editing and number of rewrites.

I do the Peter Elbow method of writing. I write fast and then wind up with all the wrong words in all the wrong sentences. I have to go back and change everything, but that’s the only way I can get my ideas out of my head and down on paper. When I started MARIACHI MURDER, the characters just came to me, as if they were already there waiting. I simply started writing. Several times I sat back and thought about the plot and the storyline. I drew pictures or made outline notes. I was surprised that every day that I sat down to write, some words came to me. I did, however, make a special point of arranging my day so that I’d have at least an hour to write, and ninety minutes if possible. MARIACHI MURDER had about seven rewrites, some more extensive than others. Most I did myself, but towards the end of the process I asked a couple of good friends who are also good readers to give suggestions, and I wound up tweaking a few more things at that point.

7. “I think I have a good idea for a story, but I don’t know where or how to begin. Your process may not work for me. Any advice?”

Stop procrastinating, sit down, and write. You don’t like that? Stop procrastinating, sit down, and make an outline. Still not happy? Sit down, brainstorm by writing a few words on paper, perhaps in a picture of some kind, and see what happens. WHAT? Still not satisfied? Maybe you’re not ready to write yet. In some cases, though, procrastination is actually a kind of preparation. The ideas are rolling around in your head. Once they need more space, they’ll burst out whether you have a pen ready or not.

8. I saw an amusing T-shirt the other day which read, “Every great idea I have gets me in trouble.” What is your philosophy of life?

Be nice to people, be productive, and have fun. Keep in mind that lo bailado no se le quita—what you’ve danced, they can’t take away. I try to get the most out of everything I do. When I’m traveling, I try to see as much as I possibly can. I try not to waste a single opportunity. Perhaps this is why it’s hard for me to go to bed early. I’d rather get just a few more things done.

9. Please tell me you’re not going to stop writing? What’s next for you?

Island Casualty, the second book in the Andy Veracruz series is in Billie Johnson’s hands. (She’s the owner of Oak Tree Press.) But poor Andy! He’s doomed to keep having ideas that get him into trouble—perhaps he was wearing that T-shirt you saw. I’ve also been working on some travel pieces, but I think it’s much more fun to write fiction. You can design the world the way you want it to be without bothering about reality.

10. Where can people find more information on you and your projects?

I’m glad you asked!

 

Author Site http://www.dr-ransdell.com

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/diane.ransdell

Pinterest http://www.pinterest.com/drransdell/boards/

Twitter https://twitter.com/dr_ransdell

Music & Writing Blog http://drransdell.wordpresss.com

Youtube Videos for MARIACHI MURDER http://goo.gl/2Ks05F

Categories: Uncategorized | 4 Comments

The Snork Effect

Snork effect picOne of the early blogs I wrote (on another blog site) discussed a certain college (that shall remain nameless) who refused my offer of an author appearance. One of the reasons mentioned in the person’s email was the fact that my first two books were eBooks and the quote was: “Ebooks don’t count”. This was a statement saying that eBooks weren’t quality material. I suppose as opposed to the “in-depth, philosophical, dramatic, world-changing” type of literature of most of the authors featured at this college, okay, my entertaining mystery books certainly would be, well, more fun. I won’t rehash that post but I couldn’t believe the message.

Last week, I encountered another you-have-to-be-kidding-me moment. Since the recent move I’ve been looking to promote more in the area. I’m scheduled to be at an authors’ fair in April and attending more of my Sisters in Crime meetings and functions.

I’d heard of some local authors appearing at book discussion groups/reading groups to discuss either their books or writing, publishing, etc. So I gathered a list of some of the local libraries and their reading/book discussion groups and emailed those I could and called the others for information and to inquire about interest in an author appearance.

One library (again this particular library shall remain nameless) representative gave me the information on when the group meets and then to my inquiry about my making an appearance said, “Well, they’re really getting tired of authors.”

Um, I’ll wait until you reread that last statement.

Maybe you had the same reaction I did which was to snork my drink back up and out through my nose.

A reading group tired of author appearances?

Let me get this straight. A book discussion group that reads books, written by-and I know this may be difficult to fathom-authors, and then discusses the book-and I’m assuming this means various points of writing style, plot, characters, etc-is tired of having authors stop by to discuss…their books?

This is like saying a restaurant critic is tired of having waiters serve food. This is like saying a hotel desk clerk is tired of people coming wanting rooms for the night.

Well, I certainly don’t want to go anywhere where people are reading books to discuss…my book. My heavens, the sacrifice the group must endure. I mean what are they wanting?

“Hey Bob, instead of our reading group discussing this book tonight and instead of having a writer come in and talk about writing and the books he’s published, I thought we’d discuss the migratory patterns of sea snails.”

“Sounds good to me. Next time let’s scrapbook.”

“No, that has ‘book’ in the name.”

Am I being a bit too cynical here?

I ended up giving my information and the person said it would be passed along and I’d be contacted. Upon hanging up I eased back in my chair flabbergasted.

Maybe the problem is the authors who’ve visited. I don’t know.

“Hi, this is Jeffrey Deaver and I’ll be passing through the area next week and saw that you’re having a reading group meeting. I had some free time and wondered if I could drop by and talk about my books.”

“That sounds interesting, but we’re really tired of authors showing up.”

Uh, can’t see that conversation happening.

Maybe it’s the presentations of the authors that are driving this group to exhaustive boredom. I offer two presentations – a general discussion of my background and writing history (and no, it’s not boring, I even add humor) and a simple self defense seminar (which includes audience participation). Pick one. Pick a combination of the two. Hey, they’re both free.

Or maybe it’s me. The person at this particular library said I wasn’t to blame, but I’m beginning to wonder.

I’ve had one librarian cancel my appearance two weeks before I was supposed to visit (I was told it was because not enough publicity had been done but I knew the truth-that the person, for some reason, really didn’t want me in the first place. When I dropped by to inquire about an appearance, the person acted like a scared bunny to a wily fox. I didn’t think I came on that strong.)

Another librarian didn’t bother to research me and called to say no because the library doesn’t cater to self-published authors. When I mentioned I had gone through an actual publisher, I was told that information would be passed around to the other branches. Which meant the person forgot me two nanoseconds after our conversation.

I’m beginning to think there’s a conspiracy. I hear other authors’ successes. But when I try the same thing I swear some black helicopter type secret agent calls up afterward and tell lies about me. Or somehow my name is on the S-list at these places written in bold letters, highlighted in bright red. DO NOT RESPOND POSITIVELY TO!!!

Okay, I have been at several libraries and events and have enjoyed them all and I thank each for allowing me the opportunity.

I’m not going to stop trying to promote, but when I hear that a readers’ group is tired of authors’ visits, it kind of confounds me.

Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments

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