Guest- L. Lee Kane

California Drinkin’

I decided I wanted to write a book about the Central Valley, where I’m now from which is a vast, hot, 300- mile-long expanse extending from Sacramento to the north and the San Joaquin Valley in the South, and has the most fertile areas in the United States for growing grapes. We produce a full 60 per cent of all the agricultural products in California and we crush 75 per cent of all wine grapes. Wineries are huge. And so are the crops.

One of the core differences between the wine industry in California and that in Europe is the people who run it. The California wine revolution of the 1960’s and 1970’s was largely initiated by men and women who were not from winemaking families. After the Prohibition, which lasted 13 years there were few people to train the newcomers, including Ernest and Julio Gallo, which makes close to 70 million cases, including popular inexpensive wine and Robert Mondavi Woodbridge wines which make slightly more than 6 million cases a year. The interesting thing is that these three self-made men were self-taught. Everything they learned they read out of a book.

  • More than 90 per cent of the wine made in the United States is made in California.
  • The state’s incredibly diverse climate and geography allow California wines to be made in a profusion of styles from dozens of different grape varieties.
  • California’s winemakers are among the most innovative and open to experimentation in the world.

Of course, my book, ‘Death on the Vine’ is not so factual, I have romance, murder, intrigue, lots of money, a socio path, and revenge. Some of this has some true parts in it but for the most part, it’s fictional. I will have a sequel to the book, I haven’t quite decided on a title but again it’s set in the small town of Oakhurst, California not too far away from Yosemite. Daisy, Frisco, and a whole host of characters will play a part…and another socio path.

I think you can see from my bio that I have familiarity with socio paths and quirky characters.

I have a contest running on amazon for a free book for Death on the Vine and if you read it, review it, I’ll want to put your name in my next book and maybe we can have a contest for a new title.

Murder on the Vine picture

Murder on the Vine

Just before high school graduation, Daisy Murphy returns home from a football game and finds her mother standing over her abusive boyfriend’s body—holding a bloody hammer. In the aftermath, Daisy flees her home and eventually establishes a new life as an expert winemaker in the Central Valley of California. But as hard as she tries to get away from her past, the effects of that horrible night travel with her.

Detective Jake Frisco has unearthed a murder at the vineyard where Daisy is employed as the winery’s expert winemaker. It doesn’t take long to discover that Daisy is haunted by her past and carries a heavy burden. It seems that possible involvement in an unsolved murder is part of her life’s baggage. Does this put Daisy at the top of the suspect’s list? Can he put aside his growing feelings for her and follow the leads in the case, even if they take him straight to her as the murderer?

Can Daisy finally face her past and trust that the truth she offers the Detective will be enough to save her? Will she find the courage to ask for a future beyond the sorrow of her youth—a future filled with love and self-worth?

linda and Shari- croppedLinda L. Kane MA in Education, PPS, School Psychologist, and Learning Disability Specialist, is the author of Death on the Vine, Chilled to the Bones and an upcoming release of the The Black Madonna. She lives with her husband, three dogs, one bird, and eight horses in California.

www.lindaleekane.com

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THE JOYS (?) OF EDITING

DSC_0196            You’re probably wondering why I have a question mark after “Joys” in the title of this blog. And if you’re a writer, you know that editing is not a joy. It’s a painful slog through verbiage which seemed well-expressed and literate when you first put it on the page, but which, when you review what you’ve written with a view to just making it a little clearer, more literate, a better expression of what you wanted to say, has become idiotic, banal, and thoroughly uninteresting.  Not to mention inexplicable.

That’s where I am now. I’m editing the third novel in my series set in Burgess Beach, Florida, featuring Detectives Andi Battaglia and Greg Lamont.  It’s called REASONS TO DISAPPEAR, and the mystery concerns the disappearance of Captain Bradley, Andi and Greg’s boss, and their efforts to find him.  It seemed like a good idea at the time I conceived it, and it’s still a good idea. The problem is that although I know why he disappeared, I need to give him more motivation to do that. Duh!

Because I am a pantser and write without knowing the plot but simply start with an idea—Captain Bradley disappears—when I go back to edit the material, I often find I have insufficient motivation on the part of one or more characters. Not just insufficient motivation but perhaps incredible motivation: Why would he do that?

So that’s why the editing. Now if I were plotter I would know what had happened and why in advance before I even started writing. But then of course I couldn’t surprise myself with the answer to the question of why Captain Bradley disappeared or what’s going to happen to him. And I really like to be surprised, in my writing as well as my reading. I don’t like to read mysteries where I know the guilty party too early on. Spoils the surprise! And so I like to surprise myself, too, in my writing.

At a presentation I attended at a local bookstore, a panel of writers talked about how they worked and whether they knew what was coming in their books. One of the authors was a television writer who was used to writing tight scripts where everything—plot, characters, ending— was known in advance. The other two writers were pantsers who didn’t know what was coming next. One of the panelists confessed that she had had to rewrite her entire book because she was deeply dissatisfied with the person she had appointed as the murderer. He just wasn’t the right person. So, she went back, rewrote the book, and added a character, one she was confident was indeed the murderer. And was happy with the result.

I guess it would be easier for me if I had all the plot lines figured out in advance. Then I wouldn’t be stuck with not knowing who the murderer is and why. However, I’m afraid that’s the way I write. So I edit a lot and figure out why the characters behave as they do. Then I edit again. Then, again. Again and again. Finally, I’m done.

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When Words Matter

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I was working on my current manuscript the other day, when the idea for a short story came to me. I’m not a short story writer. I’ve tried. I did not succeed. But I was struck by the idea, wondering why it came to me. At this point, I’m more interested in the idea than in writing the actual story.

The story would go something like this: an average guy accidentally gets involved in a battle between good guys and bad guys from the future (yes, I’m a Sci-Fi fan). He doesn’t have the skills or knowledge that the future warriors do, but he has a good heart and a lot of courage. He joins the battle and helps the good guys win. They invite him to join them, to travel to the future with them, where he can have a better life. He’s thrilled. He’s got no family he’ll miss (maybe his wife just died in childbirth or something tragic like that).

He travels to the future with his new friends, excited for the life that awaits him. When he arrives, he’s processed into his new community. You know the type of thing: paperwork, blood tests, analyses to make sure he’s safe. To make sure he’ll assimilate well. Everything goes great, until they get to the final page of the questionnaire.

“What is—well, ahem, I suppose I should say what was your profession? What can you do to contribute to our society?” The future agent man asks him.

“I’m a writer,” our hero replies. “I write fiction. Books. Stories.”

Future agent man blanches. He stands, the papers he holds shaking in his hands. He glances at the two-way mirror on the wall and jerks his chin toward it in some sort of signal.

Our hero, for the first time, starts to worry about his decision. Two burly men in white suits carrying long, silver tubes enter the room.

“I’m sorry, but we can’t let you stay,” future agent man explains apologetically. “Writers are too dangerous. Too subversive. We don’t allow those types here.”

Our hero doesn’t feel a thing as he is humanely euthanized.

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Sometimes I feel powerless. Sometimes I feel like I’m just a cog in a machine that I can’t control. But we all have our own way of moving our little part of the machine. Maybe we can’t steer, maybe we can’t even control our speed, but for each of us there’s something we can do. For me, it’s writing.

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The author in her natural habitat

I love the fact that I can build my own worlds, create my own characters, heroes and villains. Bad things happen, but they generally end well. (Alright, not for the people who get killed, obviously. But usually for everyone else!)

When I write, I need to remember to do it with intention, with thoughtfulness (my fellow Lady of Mystery, Amber Foxx, might say mindfulness). Because what I write matters.

I think my idea was connected to the fact that today is Martin Luther King Day. He was a man who knew how to use words, as well as actions. His words had power. They still do.

I’m inspired by him in many ways. One of those ways is recognizing that words matter.

To learn more about Jane Gorman and the Adam Kaminski Mystery Series, visit her website at janegorman.com or follow her on Facebook.

Adam-Kaminski-Mystery-Series

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Fairy Tales, The Easter Bunny and a New Touchstone

by Janis Patterson

Every year I look forward to the holiday season. I love Christmas – the decorations, the carols, the promise and reassurance of my faith, the bonhomie, the electric excitement in the air. New Year’s is the symbol of new beginnings and though I have never been able to keep a New Year’s resolution for more than a few weeks there is always a clean, untried ‘blank-slate’ feeling to a new year.

Every year I look forward to the end of the holiday season and the return of real life. While wonderful, the holidays are exhausting and pretty much take over your life. Parties to give and attend. Presents to buy. Calls to make. Lunches with friends. Wrapping presents. Visiting family for extended gatherings with out-of-town members. Taking down and putting away decorations. Getting the house back to the familiar chaos we call ‘normal.’ Thank-you notes to write. Yes, it’s tiring, to say the least.

Now we’re eleven days into the New Year, which makes it not so new any more. And, usually after all the holiday hubbub dies down, it’s not so different from the year before. I still have deadlines and stories crying to be written. The laundry pile stays pretty much the same no matter how many loads I do. Since the holiday leftovers are long gone I must contrive something for dinner every night and fix a lunch for The Husband to take to work. Not so different from last year and many years before that.

Still, there is something about the turn of the year – as artificial a delineation of time as it might be – that makes us think. Personally I want to make it a touchstone for upping my career game. A touchstone, not a resolution. Resolutions are usually regarded as hard things, immobile things, things you must do every single day for the rest of the year. I don’t respond well to hard, immobile and must do. Never have, and probably never will.

So what did I do? In between huge meals with family and much-needed naps I spent New Year’s Day thinking about what I wanted to accomplish career-wise in the new year and what it would take to get it done. Of course I thought about a few things that are definitely ‘wish list’ and probably never going to happen, but I did try to keep things ‘real.’

First of all, I know that no matter how much I hate it, I’m going to have to do a lot more publicity. I have an extensive backlist in several genres and yet my sales would have to work for a week to get up to pathetic. It’s all about discoverability, and that means getting your name and your work out there.

For a long time I followed the fairy tale that if your book is good, it will sell. (I refuse to tell you how long I believed in the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny…) As nice and tidy as that would be, it doesn’t work. People don’t buy what they can’t see, and well-promoted garbage will pretty much always outsell a good book buried in the ever-increasing tsunami of available books. While a writer can live in the ivory tower and do nothing but write (my personal dream) it’s time for me to realize that if I want to be a selling writer, I need to get out there and sell. The Tooth Fairy has retired.

Neither can you live on your backlist alone. New releases feed the machine. It’s the genre writer’s version of publish or perish. Readers – especially genre readers – are exceptionally voracious, with some reading more than one book a day. Writers can no longer afford the luxury of doing just one book a year if they want to keep their name in front of the reading public.

Last year I wrote five books. This year I have to get them all out. (Last year was an ivory tower year for me for several reasons.) This year I hope to do – and release – four. Remember what I said about a touchstone? I didn’t promise myself or make a resolution to write and release four; that’s too solid, too demanding. During the year when I hit a wall, when my career seems more trap than joy, I’ll think back to that food-stuffed, family-surfeited New Year’s Day and remember what I thought about the forthcoming year. Then I can decide if it is still what I want, still feasible, still relevant to my current reality.

I hope it will be. But it doesn’t have to be. But whatever I decide, though, I have to do what needs to be done to make it come true.

 

 

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A New Year, A New Excitement! by Paty Jager

Funny kidsI feel like the little kid who has a secret and can barely keep from blurting it out. And I don’t really have a secret, but I do have three new Shandra Higheagle books that have me bouncing in my desk chair as I think about all the possibilities in the stories. And I will start writing the new mystery series this year. By mid-year I’ll start revealing bits and pieces about Gabriel Hawke, my new sleuth.

While I started out 2018 with a head cold given to me by my adorable grandchildren, I am beginning to pick up steam and getting more and more things accomplished in a day. That is what makes me happy and excited. The more I can accomplish, the more I can show my readers what I’ve been working on.

I know readers get excited about the next book in a series that they love, but writers, do you also get excited about revealing a new book to readers?  I’m giddy thinking about the book I’m working on, Artful Murder, and the other Shandra books that will come out this year, and I’m giddy knowing I get to start a journey with a new character.

Starting a new series and getting to know the main character(s) is like dating or getting to know someone who will ultimately become your friend.  First you see their physical qualities. Do they have flaws? Does that make you nervous or curious? Then you get to learn their personality. Is it flat, humorous, dark? Are they someone you think you could get along with? Do you want to spend time with them or do you want to learn more about them but keep them at a distance? How do they treat others? Animals? Do you like their voice or does it grate on you? What do they think of the subjects you are concerned about?

These are all the questions I’ll be asking my new character as I slowly build him in my mind and get ready to start his first book. But the fun part will be introducing him in book twelve of the Shandra Higheagle Mysteries. It will be interesting to see what Shandra thinks of Hawk and how they work together to solve the death of a hiker.

An FYI, you can now purchase Murderous Secrets, book 4 in the Shandra Higheagle Mystery Series in audio book at these audiobook outlets.

AudibleAmazonAppleNook

And these:

audio book vendors

If you listen to audio books and put up reviews, leave your email in the comments section, and I’ll send you a code to download Murderous Secrets from Audible US or UK.

SH Mug Art (2)

 

photo source: Deposit Photos

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A new year, a new look

By Sally Carpenter

 Happy New Year and welcome to 2018! I hope this will be a happy and fulfilling year for everyone. May readers find many new authors to enjoy. May writers publish a bounty of good stories.

Many use this time of year for fresh starts. As for me, a near disaster led to a good change.

A couple of months ago, the hosting service of my blog (which I will refer to by its initials GD) send an email that they were moving my website to a new server. I hadn’t checked on my blog in a long time, so I went there to add a new post. To my horror, all I saw was a blank page with an error message!! GD had apparently lost my site.

GD doesn’t offer a toll-free number for tech support, so the first time I called I would have to pay for a minimum 60-minute wait; I hung up. After two live chat sessions, GD still hadn’t fixed the problem and seemed clueless that my site was even gone.

I contacted the web designer who had built the site. She came through and not only recovered the site but updated the code, made a backup, and added new security. She discovered my site had been hacked years ago; GD should have alerted me about that.

Since my designer was already working on the site, I took the opportunity for a revamp. Much had transpired since I opened the site and what I had no longer suited my needs.

The site was established as a Sandy Fairfax fan page in hopes that it would become a place for readers to interact with the character. However, that never materialized. And people were confused and thinking that Sandy Fairfax was my name.

In the beginning I only had one book, so I ran the book covers in a sidebar. But as I published more works, the sidebar became cumbersome and the page looked cluttered.

I failed to keep up with the blog, so opening the home page with months-old posts was not a good idea.

My bio was outdated as well. I had a new series ready to start; how would that fit in with the Sandy Fairfax theme?

In the site remodeling, I moved the focus off Sandy and onto me. I took his name off the header and put in mine. My headshot was moved off the sidebar and onto the header.

The sidebar was eliminated and the book covers were arranged in neat rows by series and anthologies. Readers can easily see all my works.

The blog was moved to a back page. I freshened my bio. A new page was added to introduce my upcoming series. The “email contact” page was removed, since nobody was using it. I just put an email address on the home page for people to use.

The basic retro-look of the old site remained with the same fonts and header styles. That aspect didn’t need an overhaul. I like the bright, vivid colors; many mystery writers’ websites are dark and gritty. The hearts-and-notes background stayed because that design was already on my business cards and bookmarks.

Even though the site is now about me and not my original character, I kept the domain name http://sandyfairfaxauthor.com because that addy is on my cards, bookmarks, numerous blog posts and other places. Besides, I’m still Sandy’s author; I’m just adding other characters along the way.

I like the new look. I’m amazed at how I started with one book and now have eight covers on my site.

If you have a website or blog, has your site changed as you’ve grown as an author?

BTW, in a month or two my contract runs out with GD and my designer and I will move the site to a new hosting service.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Better Late Than Never

 

My day to post was Christmas–I think you’ll all understand why I didn’t. Beside what people usually do who celebrate Christmas we had guests with us.

One of my blog mates has already posted about New Year’s resolutions, so I won’t do that, but I will write about what I plan to do this coming year.

  1. Spend more time with those I love. None of us know how long we’ll be here and each moment is precious. Besides my husband, I’m going to enjoy every moment my great-granddaughter’s interrupt me while I’m writing.
  2. Enjoy my writing life and not stress over it. What a privilege to be able to spend time doing something I’ve enjoyed doing for so many years.
  3. I’m not going to worry about the fact that I’ve never made much money from my writing, instead I’m going to rejoice in the readers who have told me how much they enjoyed one or more of my books.
  4. Be thankful for my fellow writers who are so generous with their support.
  5. And give my support to my writing friends and new writers who come to me for advice.
  6. Be thankful for all my blessings and there are many.

I’d love to say I’ll be better about posting on the 4th Monday of the month in 2018, but I doubt that will happen as I yet have been able to conquer WordPress. I seldom can get it to post on the day I’d like it to happen.

I have had some exciting things happen this past year. Some of my old books that hhave been republished on Amazon, and Aakenbaaken & Kent are redoing all the books in the Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series. The first in the series, Final Respects, is re-edited and available on Amazon in paper and for Kindle.

Re-editing was an interesting process as the book was written in the early 1980s and so much has changed since then. But the publisher and I decided not to update it.

If you haven’t read the series yet, this is a good place to begin.

See you next year!

Marilyn

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