Oh, My, This Way and That

Because I have two books that will be appearing shortly, plus other publishing work—I’ve been going this way and that. It’s been important to try and prioritize, not always easy.

My next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery is due out this month, I’ve seen the cover and approved it. I’ve a blog tour coming up starting in October—so I’ve spent lots of time gathering hosts and thinking up topics to write about.

The first of the blogs are:

October 26   http://jlgregerblog.blogspot.com/  Character Development

October 27  https://lornacollins-author.blogspot.com A Sane Person Would Have Given Up

October 28   https://www.susantuttlewriters.com  Why I Love Speaking Engagements

October 29   https:amymbennetbooks.blogspot.com Where Some of the Ideas Came From

October 30  https.www.jtzortman.wordpress.com/  Rocky Bluff the Setting for Tangled Webs

The short blurb for Tangled Webs is: Too many people are telling lies: The husband of the murder victim and his secretary, the victim’s boss and co-workers in the day care center, her stalker, and Detective Milligan’s daughter.

October is a month of public appearances too. October 1, I’ll be speaking with other authors in front of librarians. On the 13th, I’ll be at the Great Valley Bookfest in Manteca, and I’ll be on a panel at 3 about Getting Published. On the 14th, at 6 p.m. I’ll be over on the coast with other crime writers speaking to group of retirees.

That’s not all, there is a lot going on with my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series too. The next mystery will be coming out soon too—Spirit Wind. The publisher is redoing the first five books in the series, and they’ve been reedited too, so I’ve had to go over the galley proofs for them.

Here’s a sneak peak of the cover:

Spirit Wind cover

At the moment, I haven’t made any special plans for the debut of that book, though I certainly will when it comes closer to time.

And in the meantime, as if I didn’t have enough to do, I’ve been working on a plot for the next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery.

One thing about being so busy, I am never bored.









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What Inspired You?

me at Marti's class.

Many of us can look back and remember that defining moment when a person, event or experience inspired us to do what we do best. For me, it was a high school English teacher and a college professor.

I wrote my first poem at the age of five, and for months my parents hung it on our refrigerator. That was great encouragement, but as much as they appreciated my creativity and were pleased when I brought home “A”s in English, they  looked at writing as something I could never turn into a career. You can’t earn a living that way was the message I got, but when my mother died last year at the age of 92, I found poems and short stories she had kept that I had given her for birthday presents along with books and articles I had written or edited.

When I was growing up, girls in my neighborhood were expected to go to college and major in something that, after we found ourselves husbands who would support us throughout our childbearing years, we could use as a fallback when our children were grown, or if our spouses died unexpectedly. That never made sense to me, and I chose to major in English. My parents were dismayed. I did it anyway, confident I would be able to support myself when the time came.

And yes, I’ve spent my entire adult years working in jobs that required me to write, and now I’m writing fiction. Recently I’ve been reflecting on the circumstances that inspired me. And what I realized is that, in some small measure, I do what I do today because of those two teachers who had faith in me.

The first was Mr. Oshry, my ninth grade English teacher. Relatively young, he was brilliant, creative, encouraging and fun. He demanded excellence and pushed his students, including me, to do our very best. Many years later our paths crossed, and I was able to tell him how much he had influenced me.

The second was Professor Taube. He criticized fairly, praised lavishly, and championed those of us who had a passion for the written word. He also was a hugely supportive. I was in my senior year, getting ready to graduate. I already had a job lined up when my advisor informed me that through a clerical error I was one credit short for graduation. I panicked.  He suggested I contact a professor who might be willing to work with me to get that credit. I contacted Dr. Taube, wrote a thesis on the themes in the collected works of D.H. Lawrence and passed with flying colors. And I graduated with my class!

So, think of what gives you pleasure, what you excel in, and try to remember what or who inspired you. Hopefully we can show our gratitude to those who cared by inspiring others.

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The ‘M’ Word – Motivation

by Janis Patterson

Last month on the Make Mine Mystery blog I wrote about the plethora of book ideas that always seem to overcome and sometimes swamp me. ( https://makeminemystery.blogspot.com/2018/08/an-embarrassment-of-riches.html )

This resonated with a lot of my writer friends who seem to have the same dilemma, but a comment from my good friend, mystery writer Nancy J. Cohen, author of the fabulous Bad Hair Day mysteries, especially touched me. In part, she said “I agree that ideas are out there… My problem currently is lack of motivation to pursue these ideas.”

I could not have said it better. I sold my first novel in 1979 and have been writing ever since. Not constantly, as life has interfered much too often, but I always seemed to be writing something, if nothing but jotting down ideas. That’s a loooong time to be tangled up with words, with creating worlds and populations out of nothing but imagination and caffeine.

Lately I too have been suffering that same lack of motivation. As I have talked about here and there recently, I have been ‘slothing’ since a couple of surgeries at the end of last year – and enjoying it thoroughly. (I even changed my Spirit Animal to the sloth.) Eight months, however, is long enough to recuperate from surgery! But I haven’t. Oh, I’ve healed just fine. And I’ve fulfilled all my contracts, but it lacked the joyousness that writing always held for me.

My friends and readers have wished me well, assured me that this was temporary, and that the joy of writing would return. And it has – sort of. Instead of being a business, writing has become a self-indulgence, a pixilated form of daydreaming, and nothing connected with professionalism. It’s also very handy for avoiding housework! (Did I mention that I totally lack the housekeeping gene?)

All of which results in a cache of six manuscripts, all originally intended for self-publishing, most of which have been edited, and all sitting on my hard drive gathering metaphoric dust. I cannot seem to get the slightest bit interested in getting them out. Of course, if my sales were better I might be more enthusiastic, but unless things pick up soon I’ll have to start paying people not to read my books, and that is not an incentive to putting more out there!

Maybe this is just another step in my ‘healing’ process… I hope so, but I must tell you, right now I really don’t care. And that’s terrible. I’m working on it, I really am… and I’ll get right on getting those dormant manuscripts out… soon. Yeah, I promise. Soon.

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Bringing Fact & Fiction Together by Paty Jager

2017 headshot newThe current Shandra Higheagle book I’m getting ready to publish has needed many different people to make it a realistic story, not only for plot and story line, but also setting and characters.

Book eleven revisits the Colville Reservation where Shandra’s paternal family live.  Because of the setting, I had to send the story off to my friend who lives on the reservation to make sure I gave a factual representation of the culture and the setting. Thankfully, she only found a couple of things I had to fix.

I also brought in the Seven Drums religion that is having a comeback with the Nez Perce. While I used information from a book written in 1997, the elder who was quoted in the book had spent time in sweat lodges with the elders who had been in the war of 1878. He told how the Indians were made to lose their heritage and become “white”. The clergymen back then and even the Indians who became Christians banned the Seven Drums religion because they didn’t believe you should pay homage to the animals and the world around you, only to the one God.

The elder had become a Christian and later in life, returned to his roots and became a shaman who presided over traditional funerals and ceremonies.

I enjoyed learning the bits and pieces I could find about the religion and adding elements I’d discovered and put my own spin on things. Thankfully, my friend okayed my spins. 😉

Logistics, modus operandi, and discerning the victim and why they should die were other factors that made this story a lot of fun to write. I love the discovery of things as I write as well as having laid a path that can take abrupt twists.

But my favorite part of writing any story is the interesting things I learn as I research and add to my story to not only make it believable but hopefully a learning experience.

Keep your eyes peeled for Dangerous Dance book 11 in the Shandra Higheagle Mystery series.

Dangerous Dance 5x8Jealousy… Drugs… Murder…

At the reservation to make final arrangements for her upcoming wedding, potter Shandra Higheagle gets caught up in the murder of a young woman about to turn her life around.

Having no jurisdiction on the reservation, Detective Ryan Greer pulls in favors from friends in the FBI to make sure there is no delay in their wedding.

However, the death occurs in a sacred place and could place the nuptials on hold. And following the clues may not only stop the wedding…

But separate Shandra and Ryan for life.


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Guest Blogger- Wendy Tyson

Giving Back Gives Back

By Wendy Tyson

My family moved from Philadelphia to Vermont last year, and I’ve spent the last ten months getting further acquainted with our new hometown. Small-town living is quite different from life in the sprawling suburb where we used to live. Everyone has been welcoming, and I’ve had the chance to get to know many of my neighbors, including the local florist. She and I found we have a mutual interest in plants and gardening. One conversation led to another and we decided to do a joint event: a book sale and signing at her shop with proceeds of the sale going to a local food bank. She would promote my books through consignment sales, and I would promote her shop by advertising the event. Hopefully the real winner will be the food bank we sponsor.

This obviously is a small event, and writers paying it forward is nothing new. Dean Koontz, Jonathan and Faye Kellerman, J.K. Rowling, John Grisham, James Patterson…these are just a few of the authors who have made donating to charities a priority. But giving back doesn’t have to mean major philanthropy. Looking to get more involved? Here are a few ways I’ve enjoyed contributing to the larger writing community—and the general public:

  • Get to know local libraries and independent bookstores. If I’m lucky enough to have a great indie bookstore nearby, I visit it frequently—attending events, buying books, mentioning it online, and offering to do signings.  Same for public libraries.  I’ve found local libraries to be a great support and resource.  You can offer to help the library by holding workshops and participating in speaking events. I’ve also donated signed books and Greenhous Mysteries-related items for raffles and auctions that benefit the library.
  • Mentor other writers. Once published, other writers will reach out—for guidance, support, even endorsements.  Taking the time to respond to them will mean a lot, even if you can’t do what they’re asking.  We’ve all been new authors at some point.  It can be difficult deciphering the confusing world of publishing, and new and aspiring authors appreciate the benefit of others’ experience.
  • Teach a class. Sharing your insight is a great way to give back. This can be done individually, but also through workshops and at conferences.  If you have a particular skill, offer to teach a class. Writing festivals are often looking for workshop leaders, as are libraries. Teaching is also a great way to make connections.
  • Visit book clubs. I love book clubs, and I’ve found book club visits to be a terrific way to connect with readers.  Plus, in my experience, book club members are incredibly appreciative of an author’s time.  Every time I attend one, I learn something new about my own work—and I make new friends.  You don’t have to go to someone’s house.  You can offer to meet in a public place (such as a library, coffee shop, or bookstore), or you can do it online via Skype or another platform.
  • Help kids. One of my favorite ways of giving back is by teaching kids and talking to kids about writing.  I’ve found kids of all ages eager to learn and excited about the possibilities.  Stop by your local schools and offer to talk to students, or reach out to local libraries or camps.
  • Do you write about a particular hobby? Children’s’ books? Does your day job offer a special skillset? Find a way to use your platform to raise money for a worthy cause related to your work—or a cause close to your heart. I love to raise money for a local animal rescue at my signings. Sometimes fund raising can be as simple as doing a book signing at a nonprofit event or donating proceeds on a given date to a charity of choice.
  • There really are endless ways you can volunteer to use your writing abilities to benefit others.  From taking on a role in a writing organization, to writing brochures for a local charity, to donating your time during a writing convention, you’ll likely find people eager for your help and expertise.
  • Organize around a cause. Last year I was invited to write a short story for an anthology that would benefit survivors of violent crime, especially domestic abuse survivors. The task was straight forward: write a short story that touches on domestic violence. The result was Betrayed: Powerful Stories of Kick-Ass Crime Survivors. Twenty-two crime authors, including Allison Brennan, donated their time and words to the anthology, and many other people gave marketing, design, or other expertise. The book came out last November and I can honestly say it was one of the most rewarding things I have been part of as an author. It all came together because of one woman’s vision and passion. Don’t be afraid to rally the troops for a good cause—or contribute to another’s project.

For me, a writing career has been a life-long dream. The chance to pay that opportunity forward? Priceless.



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Cage match! You against your subconscious!

JordainaHey y’all,

What’s the happs where you are? *listens* Cool. Uh-huh, yep. Okay. Let’s talk about me now!

Let me tell you what the happs are ‘round here. The biggest happ is that I have finally finished alllllllllllll of my courses. WOOP!

No, I’ve not just become a fully trained dentist/gardener/pilot/bounty hunter/Tasmanian devil catcher. (FYI, I am a fully trained Sports Massage Therapist and an EFL teacher and some other stuff, but that’s by the by.) The courses I’ve finished were writing-related courses. I say “writing-related”, but that’s a really loose description. I bought them because I thought they could help me with my writing career, but they weren’t necessarily directly related to writing in the sense that they taught you how to write a book.

When I was first starting out I spent thousands and thousands of pounds on these courses that promised to teach me how to do everything! How to write emails, how to get newsletter subscribers, how to master Facebook messaging, how to run AMS ads, how to conquer some other new fad. Every time something like that was advertised to me, I was like “Hell yeah! This will be so useful to me! Quick! Take my money!”. Because when you’re starting something new, it’s overwhelming. And you need a guide.

So, I bought them but never watched the videos or did the work. Ridiculously, right? I was working a day job, trying to steal moments to write so my writing career can take off … and yet, all that knowledge was just sitting on my hard drive, twiddling its thumbs, getting lonely and waiting for me to check in and find a use for it. Why? I was self-sabotaging. I can see this now.

And that’s a big thing to try to overcome because you’re not always aware of it. I wanted to be able to quit my job and write full-time, but a part of me, my subconscious that tries to keep me safe, didn’t think that it was a safe bet. So, she sabotaged me.giphy-10

I know that sounds crazy. And you might be one of these very lucky people who has a carefree subconscious who throws caution to the wind and you go on crazy adventures together. #Luckyyou My subconscious is more like, “Ooooh, do you see that cracked paving stone? Be really careful when you step on it. You might get your shoe caught, trip, completely lose your balance, hit your head on the curb as you fall, roll into traffic and get squished by that oncoming steamroller. Don’t you regret not wearing matching underwear today?”. Which is totally at odds with my conscious mind who happily lets me skip along over all the broken paving stones I want to.

So I’m taking steps to correct it (that makes it sound easy—it’s not easy, it’s an ongoing process!). See, my fully conscious mind was buying these courses because she saw the value in them, but my subconscious mind prevented me from actually completing them because she saw the “danger” in them.

Now, the “danger” was just that I’d get to quit my job and write full-time. And that’s an unknown situation. Hence my subconscious sounding the “Danger! Danger!” alarm.

So, if you have something you’re putting off, courses sitting on your hard drive, a conference, joining a writer’s group, doing something not writing-related at all, then take a moment and think about whether it’s your over-protective subconscious preventing you from doing it or if your reasons for not wanting to do it are genuine.
Now I’ve finished all the courses (there were eighteen!!), I feel awesome. It was hard going cajoling my subconscious the whole time, but I think it’s important to point out that we all self-sabotage. You just have to recognise it.
Until next time …

Jordaina 🙂

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Nowhere man

By Sally Carpenter

My current writing project is putting my first novel, “The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper,” back in print. Before I send the file to my publisher, I’m editing it for corrections and style. I haven’t read the book since it was published in 2011 and I had forgotten some things about my character, such as the fact he has a scar on his cheek that disappeared in the later books!

Being a little more experienced than where I was ten years go when I started writing mysteries, I’m more aware of clunky writing such as “He called the desk clerk on the room phone.” I changed it to “He phoned the desk clerk.” The story is set in 1993, so the protagonist had to use the hotel phone–cellphones were not yet commonplace.

The story takes place at a Beatles fan convention in which a member of the tribute band has been shot. The setting brings to mind the infamous “Paul McCartney is dead” hoax that has bewildered and amused fans for years. Like a detective story, various “clues” were uncovered that seem to prove the story.

On October 12, 1969, Russ Gibb, a DJ for radio station WKNR-FM, received a disturbing phone call from a caller who claimed if he listened to certain Beatles songs, he would hear proof that Paul McCartney was dead.

Shortly thereafter, Alex Bennett of WMCA-AM in New York told listeners of his radio show that the Beatles themselves had left “clues” pointing to the cute one’s demise.

Apparently Paul had stormed out of Abbey Road studios after an argument with the other Fabs and was decapitated in an auto accident on his way home. Apple Corps covered up the death to keep record sales alive. The missing bassist been replaced by a man named either William Campbell or Billy Shears, who had plastic surgery to resemble Paul. The band stopped touring so people wouldn’t notice the substitution.

In fact, Paul was involved in a car crash on November 9, 1966 while driving home after an all-night recording session, but he survived with minor injuries. In 1993 he poked fun at the hoax with an album named “Paul is Live.”

But the various “death clues” seem conclusive. On the “Sgt. Pepper’s” album cover, a funeral arrangement of flowers forms the shape of a left-handed bass, Paul’s instrument. The small statue in front center is an East Indian goddess, a symbol of rebirth.

Paul holds a black (the color of death) clarinet while the others have gold instruments.

A man has his hand raised over Paul’s head, a sign of blessing.

On the back of the “Sgt. Pepper’s” cover, Paul has his back to the camera while the other three face forward. George is pointing up at a song lyric that reads, “Wednesday morning at five o’clock,” the time of Paul’s death. The back cover is red, the color of blood.

The patch on Paul’s left sleeve says “OPD” (officially pronounced dead). Paul claimed the patch really meant “Ontario Police Department” and was an item he just picked up in a costume shop.

On the “Abbey Road” album cover, Paul is out of step with the other three Beatles and holds a cigarette, which is often called a “coffin nail.” He is barefoot, a sign of death. He wears burial clothes. John is dressed in white as an angel, Ringo wears an undertaker’s suit, and George is in gravedigger’s clothes.

The white VW to the left of the cover has a license plate “28 IF.” If Paul had survived the crash, he would have been 28 years old.

On the back of the “Abbey Road” cover, the word “Beatles” is painted on a wall. A crack runs through the word, a sign that the group has split apart.

The song “Come Together” says “one and one and one are three”—only three Beatles are left. “Come together over me” refers to the survivors gathered around Paul’s burial plot.

In the fadeout of “Strawberry Fields,” John seems to say, “I buried Paul.” But John has always claimed that he actually said “cranberry sauce.”

The sound montage of “Revolution No. 9” from “The Beatles” (White Album) has the sounds of a squealing tires, a fire, and a man saying “Get me out!” as if Paul were trying to escape from a burning car. A voice says “number nine” repeatedly which, if played backwards on an old-fashioned record player, sounds like “turn me on, dead men.”

The original “White Album” vinyl records included a photo poster. Paul’s headshot shows a scar above his lip—the result of plastic surgery on his replacement. (In reality, Paul injured his lip in the auto accident). Other photos on the poster show Paul’s apparently separated head floating in a bathtub and white ghost hands reaching out to grab him.

The amateur sleuth in my book discovers some interesting Beatle-ly clues as he tries to clear his name and find the killer. I’m having fun solving the crime with my hero again.

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