The Good and Bad by Marilyn Meredith

Poppies by the dumpTraveling the road of life is never smooth. It seems just when everything is going well, a huge boulder crops up to make the way difficult.

First off, my post is late because when I was writing it on Sunday, the power went out and when it came back on I had to be somewhere else.

Health wise, I’d done really well, until I took too bad tumbles—one that required a trip to the ER, and another when I decided to stay home. After a couple of weeks I still have very sore knees and following the doc’s advice to use a cane. (Would be okay except I keep misplacing it.)

My writing career has also taken a tumble in that one of my publishers seems to have problems. Lack of communication and royalty payments has made me come to the sad decision to ask for my rights back. Which means I’ll be self-publishing one of my series, hopefully.

One of my great-granddaughters (17) had back surgery—scary, but she’s already walking and climbing stairs. (She’s a super active young woman, a mountain bike racer—that’s how she got injured, works part-time while going to school, heads up a couple of clubs, planning on college.)

One of the great-greats who lives with us (4 year-old Priscilla) has a new pet—a worm named Sylvia. How can you be upset with life, when such fun stuff is happening?

Plus after years of drought here in California we’ve had lots of rain, and now the hills are covered with wild flowers—yellow, white, and most wonderful of all, poppies and lupine are sprouting all over the hillsides.

Back to writing—I’m moving ahead with the latest book in my other series and in April I’ll be presenting at a wonderful writer’s conference in San Luis Obispo about settings and characters, and sitting on a panel about research. I’m also going to have my books for sale at a big book fair in Visalia.

Being around other writers and talking to readers about books is a great way to lift my spirits.

Happy spring everyone!

Marilyn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The World Through My Eyes

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The fifth book in the Adam Kaminski mystery series will come out this summer. I am so excited to share it with you! I’ve spent the past two years working on this book that looks at the world through the eyes of a photographer, while also telling the story of a cruise in which everyone is pretending to be someone they’re not.

One of the things I enjoy most about writing is the opportunity to look at the world through other peoples eyes. Because my series has one main character– Adam Kaminski – who always finds someone to help him out, I have the pleasure of creating a new point-of-view character for each book (that is, a character whose thoughts you, the reader, get to hear.)

In this book my second leading character is Julia Kaminski, sister to Adam. Julia has appeared in most of the other books in the series, so I’m not creating her from scratch. But this is the first time I’m writing from her perspective, describing the world through her eyes. In this case, the eyes of a photographer. There can be no doubt, we all see the world a little bit differently.

 

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A very blurry suggestion of the cover for A Pale Reflection  – the world as I might see it!

Personally, I’ve been wearing glasses since I was five (and probably needed them before that). The world through my eyes looks very different. Terribly near-sighted, without my glasses I see blurs of color without distinct shapes. Every pin prick of light becomes a giant, glowing snowflake. It’s actually quite beautiful! As long as I don’t need to see clearly. These days, I wear bifocals, so I get two different views of the world depending how I hold my head! (And does anyone hate progressive bifocals as much as I do? I couldn’t stand them.)

As an aside, I recently saw a video about very young children – one year or younger – getting glasses and being able to see their mothers’ faces clearly for the first time. The expression of joy on their faces was indescribable. How the doctors were able to figure out a) that they needed glasses and b) what their prescription was I have no idea. But it is remarkable.

 

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Bifocal and near vision only – just two of the many pairs of glasses in my life!

My husband, on the other hand, is farsighted. How strange! After a lifetime of holding things next to my face to read them, I can’t imagine only being able to see clearly when things are far away. The world he sees is very different from the world I see.

I’m pretty sure the same holds true for reading. I write a book and let it out into the world. Now it’s up to the reader to see whatever he or she sees in it. I love hearing other peoples perspectives of my books — don’t get me wrong — but I admit there are times when I hear someone describing one of my characters and I think: can’t I just give you a prescription that lets you see it the way I see it?

A Pale Reflection, my book about seeing the world – and other people – clearly, comes out this summer. Check out my Facebook page or sign up for my newsletter at my website to see the full cover soon. And follow me on Instagram to see photos of my world. I hope my perspective of other people’s perspective will keep you entranced – and wondering who the killer is!

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Who Saw That?

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Julia Kaminski, sister to the hero of the Adam Kaminski mystery series, is a photographer. A good one. She’s still figuring out how to make a living in her chosen profession. In an ideal world, she’d earn her money by showing and selling her photographs at galleries. But until that happens, she’s getting by by taking on gigs as a photographer at wedding or parties. And still holding out for her big break.

Julia’s photographs take on new meaning in book 5 in the series, A Pale Reflection. Julia finally gets a leading role, after appearing as a side character in the first four books, and jumps into the chance to use her photographic skills to help her brother Adam figure out whodunnit.

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The thing about photographs is they capture more than you might realize. You, the tourist, for example, sees a beautiful scene and snap a shot. It may only be later, as you go back to look through the photographs, that you notice someone or something in the picture you hadn’t previously realized was there. Or someone watching when you thought you were alone.

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In my family, my husband is the photographer. We just had the amazing opportunity to spend a glorious week in Rome. (Will Adam Kaminski be solving a murder in Rome in the near future? Stay tuned!).

Chuck, my husband, takes spectacular photographs of traditional scenes — statues, artwork, natural beauty and urban beauty. But he also finds joy in surprising details. For example, catching an unexpected eye.

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For us, it’s fun. We use these photographs to share our experiences with friends and family and to refresh our own memories of the time we spent there. And if we were trying to catch a killer, the “mouth of truth” pictured here would be a huge help!

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Of course, we’re not trying to solve a murder. For Julia and Adam, a photograph can mean so much more. Even the difference between life and death.

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Learn more about Jane Gorman and the Adam Kaminski mystery series at janegorman.com or follow her on Facebook. For some great photographs of Rome and her other travels, check out her Instagram page!

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Understanding Your Characters

Part of what makes a great story is great characters. Any reader can tell you that. Writers talk about developing characters, fleshing them out, giving them back story, making them flawed and relatable. These are all vital steps in creating great a character.

But once the character is created, I find I have yet one more hurdle that I have to jump: I have to understand my characters.

A young couple in Galway contemplate the evening

But you created them, you might say with surprise. You wrote their background, you devised their likes and dislikes, fears and dreams. What’s left to understand?

Lots.

Characters run the show. They get away from you, the writer, taking their own story in directions you hadn’t anticipated. Yes, I know that sounds ridiculous. Yet it happens to all writers.

In my current work in progress, I realized after finishing the second draft that I had the wrong killer. A different character was standing in the wings looking guiltily around, trying not to make eye contact with me. Ah-hah, I thought. That’s the real killer!

Trying to pull a fast one on me, I might add.

In several of my books I have another problem of understanding with some of my characters: I write characters who are not native English speakers.

My mother and grandmother in Warsaw

As we all know, language affects not just the way we talk but even the way we think. Writing a foreign character (foreign to me, that is) means not only understanding their native tongue enough to be able to replicate their thoughts, but also understanding the way they frame their thoughts in the first place.

A Pole, an American and an Irishman walk into a bar…. They’re all thinking a little differently and it’s my job to understand those differences.

A woman examines a grave in Warsaw. What might she be thinking?

I’m not complaining. I love that job! I spend time improving my language skills. (By the way, for anyone interested in learning French, I recommend the lessons by Paul Noble. They’re very good!). Extra bonus, it helps when I travel the world and meet new people. So it’s a good problem to have. And one that I hope I have succeeded in overcoming.

But you tell me. If you’ve read any of my books, I’d love to hear your thoughts on my foreign characters and how well I’ve captured their differences.

Learn more about Jane Gorman and the Adam Kaminski mystery series at janegorman.com.

In the Dark: About Titles, Writing and Eclipses

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I usually develop the titles to my books somewhere in the early stages of writing. I know the theme, I know the murder weapon and motive, and I know the red herrings that will be swimming through the story. The title usually comes from one of those. This time around, I find myself in the dark.

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My current work in progress takes place on a cruise ship traveling from New York to Bermuda. Our hero, Philadelphia detective Adam Kaminski, must figure out who poisoned the Claypoole family patriarch—and how—before the ship docks and all the witnesses (and suspects) hit the open seas. But first he has to convince himself that he still has what it takes to catch a murderer.

I really want to title the book, Through a Glass Darkly. It’s part of a verse from the bible, 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” I love the poetry of the words and also the theme it implies—being in the dark but eventually finding your way to the light. After all, isn’t that what happens in most mysteries?

It didn’t take much polling of friends and readers to realize my working title wasn’t a hit. Too many people didn’t get the reference. And my books are not religious in any way, shape or form, so I really don’t want to give the wrong impression.

That led me to working title number two, Voices Carry. It fits with one of the elements of the story. It’s short, kind of catchy. It would work as a title. But I just kept thinking about the darkness.

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Today is an appropriate day to think about darkness, obviously. I’m not on the path of the total eclipse, sadly, but I was able to see a partial eclipse. I loved watching not only the eclipse itself, but also its effect on the shadows on the ground around me. They became visibly crisper, cleaner. I’m a huge fan of shadows, so for me that was one of the highlights.

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Light and dark, shadows and sun. I need a title that captures it all. Being in the dark, then seeing clearly.

Right now, I’m on working title number three, A Pale Reflection. I’m toying with changing that to A Dark Reflection.

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At some point soon, I need to make a decision! I’m still hoping the right title with come to me, focused like an eclipse-sharpened shadow. Or perhaps a sign from above, like the blotting out of the sun.

If any of you have any suggestions, I’m open to ideas! Let me know what you think!

For more information about Jane Gorman’s books, visit janegorman.com or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

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Guest Blogger -JL Greger

Mystery Writers Are Like Scientists

No way you say.

Wait! I think I can convince you that writing a mystery novel is similar to conducting a science experiment.

  1. Writers and scientists both do a lot of sleuthing. Granted, scientists try to quantitate their observations more than writers. And writers’ descriptions of their observations are hopefully more colorful than journal articles.
  1. They both organize their observations into a whole, which writers call plots and scientists call hypotheses.
  1. They both test and refine their “whole.” Writers edit their prose; scientists run additional experiments.
  1. Both require a lot of hard work to gain occasional flashes of insights. To paraphrase Thomas Edison, they’re “one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

Why did I drag you through this discussion? I’m trying to explain why so many scientists and physicians became writers of mysteries and thrillers. Consider Michael Crichton (a physician by training), Kathy Reichs (a forensic anthropologist), Robin Cook (a physician). I’m also explaining how as a retired biology professor I came to write mystery/suspense novels with tidbits of science. My latest thriller is I Saw You in Beirut.

Through this discussion, I hope you learn how bits of science add realism to a mystery.

Did you know? In the early 1960s, scientists identified zinc deficiency in peasants in Iran. At that time, two to three percent of the villagers in some regions of Iran didn’t pass the physical for the army because of stunted growth. Dr. James Halstead, Sr. who was married to President’s Roosevelt’s daughter, Anna, headed the research team at Shiraz. Surprised?

I created Doc Steinhaus, a fictional character in I Saw You in Beirut, who worked on the project in Shiraz as a grad student. He was a logical way to “show not tell” readers about Iran and advance the plot. Let’s face it most foreign agents don’t look or act like James Bond, but they can be a lot more nuanced.

What’s thrilling in I Saw You in Beirut? A mysterious source of leaks on the Iranian nuclear industry, known only as F, sends an email from Tabriz: Help. Contact Almquist. Intelligence sources determine the message refers to Sara Almquist, a globetrotting epidemiologist, and seek her help to extract F from Iran. As Sara tries to identify F by dredging up memories about her student days with Doc Steinhaus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her work in Lebanon and the Emirates, groups ostensibly wanting to prevent F’s escape, attack her repeatedly. She begins to suspect her current friendship with Sanders, a secretive State Department official, is the real reason she’s being attacked.

Maybe, John Addegio’s comments will convince you that smart scientists make this mystery a real thriller. “Greger writes about international agencies and scientific exigencies with authority, and I SAW YOU IN BEIRUT is a thrilling spy tale with compelling female actors asserting their intelligence in both exotic and domestic, male-dominated, high-stakes political environments.”

Where can I get I Saw You in Beirut?CF I Saw You in Beruit 300 copy

The paperback at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1610092201 and the eBook from Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/i-saw-you-in-beirut-jl-greger/1123184446?ean=2940158046957

Bio: JL Greger’s thrillers/mysteries include: Malignancy (winner of 2015 Public Safety Writers’ annual contest), Ignore the Pain, Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, Coming Flu, and I Saw you in Beirut. The Albuquerque area is the home base for her stories, but Sara (like the author) travels to Cuba and Bolivia in Malignancy and Ignore the Pain, respectively. Her website is: http://www.jlgreger.com

 

Catching Up

 

by Janis Patterson

This is going to be short, because – quite frankly – I’m tired. I was away from home more than half of September. A wedding in Boston; a wedding in Alabama; a family reunion in East Texas; the Novelists, Inc. conference in Florida. Whew! My luggage has never been fully unpacked this entire month and our beloved furbabies – two neurotic cats, one prissy little dog – probably thought we had abandoned them to the boarding kennel. They’re home now, and hopefully they’ll forgive us before long.

We got in late last night and this morning I went to pick up the furbabies. Had to do two trips – three carry cages in the car is just too much; besides, I don’t really like the odds of being outnumbered three to one. Got them all home, plugged in the cat pheromone tranquilizer (wonderful stuff!) and let them run. Big cat Chloe has taken over my lap, which makes typing difficult, prissy little dog Mindy Moo is lying right where my feet need to go, and oldest cat Squeaky Boots – a tiny thing of 6 lbs who rules the house with an iron paw and a single deadly little fang – has taken over our king-sized bed by sprawling in the exact center. Yes, life is back to what we laughingly call normal.

My work isn’t, though. Sigh. Wonderful month, saw lots of people and places and learned lots of things, but my writing this month has totally gone south. Barely ten pages all month. Lots of ideas, lots of plotting, even a nifty idea for a mystery series – which has garnered some interest, believe it or not – but two books that desperately need finishing and two more ready to be self-published, all  ignored.

Well, that will change tomorrow, just as soon as I hit the grocery store and lay in enough supplies to make sure that The Husband and I don’t starve to death. Though with all the wonderful meals out we’ve had in this month that eventuality is far from being a worry. I still say that whoever invented elastic waistbands deserves instant canonization.

If there is anything that I have learned in the last couple of decades of being a writer, it’s that you can’t plan. You can make all the business models you want, set up all the spreadsheets and project charts you like, but life can and will get in the way. I guess that’s true in any other field as well, but it seems to affect writers and artists more.

Like the NINC conference – without doubt the best conference for professional working writers on the planet. In three and a half very full and very long days I learned so much that my head is about to explode. Unfortunately, there was so much that I learned – stuff that really should be done NOW for the advancement of my business – that somehow the writing of new stuff gets shoved even further back. I did take my tablet and computer to Florida just so I could work in my down time, except there wasn’t any down time. When I wasn’t in workshops or exchanging information with other writers, I was trying to enjoy a little time with my adored Husband in a tropical paradise. Work? What’s that? Sleep? Who needs it?

Anyway, I have already made and paid for our reservations to next year’s conference, and will contact the hotel about rooms tomorrow or the next day. I’m already excited.

And tired. So – please forgive if this is a less than coherent post. My mind is going off in twenty different directions, and my body is going to bed. Night!

When Readers Attack

IMG_1610As an indie author, (I love that, it sounds so  much more hip and cutting edge than self-published), every aspect of the publishing process for my Daisy Dunlop Mystery series is down to me.  I don’t have an agent to send my work to for feedback, nor do I have an in-house editor at a publishing house. In order to work out if a book is any good, or not, I am solely reliant on the kindness and honesty of others.

As I write each of my books I’m sure they’re rubbish. The plots don’t work, the characters are out of character, the ending sucks, and on and on the never ending negativity goes. When I start out I have a vague idea of what the book is going to be about, but I’m usually a third of the way in before it even starts to  make sense to me. I never have a detailed plot because I prefer my writing to be like my life, unexpected, traumatic and a never ending series of embarrassing and yet funny disasters. Honestly, I have as much fun writing the stories to find out what is going to happen as I hope readers have reading them.

I have some lovely people who critique and beta read for me, including this blogs very own Amber Foxx. These people are in my corner, and I know I can trust them to tell me when something is not working. I rewrote the end of Lost & Found because Amber said it needed more, and she was right. I also have a wonderful Greek editor, (Yep she’s Greek and her English grammar is better than mine), who edits my books at a discount for me.

My lovely Greek editor, Sotia Lazu also does my book covers, oh to be multi-talented. Lost Cause 400When this is all done, the book formatted, the blurb written, the price chosen and the book goes live I then sit and wait for an audience response. Sales of my books are never meteoric, Daisy and I console ourselves with the fact we are working on a long term plan. After Lost Cause being out for eight months I have now decided to give it away free everywhere to help Daisy get some traction. Anyway, I am now getting emails almost daily from readers.

What are they saying? Funnily enough they all like the book. Honestly! Who would have thought people who bother to email an author would be people who enjoy the book? That’s not to say they don’t have something negative to say. The people who I am now claiming as fans fall into three basic categories, ex pat Brits (all men) who love the English slang, the swearing and the feel of home my books give them. Did I mention they’re set on the South Coast of England where I grew up? The next group are UK and US readers who love everything about the book, and the third are US readers who like the story despite the slang and/or the bad language.

lostfound_02So, my dilemma, one group love the slang and bad language, and one group is not so keen. I read a lot of US books and some days I’m not sure they’re even written in English, but I muddle through. I have cut the slang back to just enough to give it an authentic UK feel and even my Irish PI is less Irish than any Irish person I’ve ever met. Maybe my readers will learn some new exciting phrases they can use at home. Reading is an adventure like world travel, it broadens the mind without the risk of Delhi belly and sunburn.

Language is unique in every culture, but you learn to adapt. When we first emigrated to Australia my husband had a job in Melbourne and one of the guys asked him what he wanted for smoko. My husband told him he didn’t smoke. The guy looked confused and said, “No mate do you want something for smoko?” My husband, “I don’t smoke.” The irrate dude, “Something to eat?” My husband, “Oh morning tea?” The rest of the construction crew now wetting themselves laughing at the pompous sounding Englishman.

So, I think, in Book 3 Lost Property which is still a work in progress, Daisy will have too continue swearing, just a little, and Solomon will have to LostProperty_05_HDkeep sounding Irish. I figure if the Greek editor can muddle through and make sense of it, then the readers can work out what is going on. Besides, if you have no idea what something in a book is make it up. That’s what I do. Whenever I read the word banquette, and it comes up more often than you would think in a US book, I imagine a massive sofa with flashing lights, or a huge feast set out for a king, like a banquet but bigger…who knows what it really is? But most times I can get the plot without having to understand every US thing in the book.  I dare you, come with me, download Lost Cause for free and come on a UK adventure that will show you an England you never knew existed.

JL Simpson

Where mystery and mayhem collide.

Website  | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon

Meet Carole Sojka

Mysterious Ladies are mysterious in many different ways. Today I’m going to tell you Carole_SisCrime_001004something about the life that led to my becoming one.

I grew up in New York City, went to Queens College there, and met my husband on a blind date. Do those still exist? Boris was exciting to me: newly discharged from the Navy, about to enter college, he read almost as much as I did, and had a taste for adventure and travel. He’d been stationed in San Diego and had lived off-duty with a friend who was a Formula One race car driver. That was the source of one of his first pronouncements: “When I get my engineering degree, I’m going back to California.” So I knew the future—and it sounded like fun. So after we married and he graduated, we moved to California—first to San Francisco, later to Southern California.

Together we spent two years in Somalia with the Peace Corps followed by six months traveling through North Africa and Europe. The Peace Corps was a great adventure for us at a time of hope in many newly independent African countries. I taught English as a second language to students who already spoke three or four languages, while I spoke only English and some “kitchen Italian” I learned from Hassan, our houseboy.

Our house in a beautiful town on the Indian Ocean had so many holes between the floor boards that Hassan cleaned by pouring buckets of water over the floor. We made friends with the town officials: the Harbor Master; the headmasters of the two local schools; the Police Chief, a large man with two wives and several stainless steel teeth; Italian teachers; and the District Commissioner, from whom everyone concealed their drinking of alcohol, forbidden to them as Muslims.

Carole-and-Gina-1ASomali children, knowing their market, dragged wild animals through town, sure we would buy them just to end their suffering. We had baboons, including Gina who thought I was her mother, and later became my rival for male attention; blue-skinned monkeys named Daniel and Nutmeg; and a beloved cheetah. One day I even bought a leopard, thinking it was a serval. Fortunately, the leopard escaped, and no leopard-related injuries were reported after he vanished.

Then we returned home to real life: adopting a baby boy we named Mark and earning a master’s degree in judicial administration that led to a career as the administrator in a public law office. We also rediscovered our love of traveling and over the years have visited thirty or more countries on every continent except the Antarctic—no museums there, I’m told.

I had avoided fiction writing ever since I overheard unkind criticism of an early short story, but I regained my courage, joined a writing group, found a terrific group leader and wrote a lot of short stories, becoming inured to rejection. I most liked writing mysteries of the kind I like to read: traditional whodunits with multiple suspects.

My first novel, A REASON TO KILL, was published in October 2014, and my second SO MANY REASONS TO DIE, just came out in April. Both are set in Florida—don’t ask—and feature a pair of detectives in a small town on Florida’s Treasure Coast.

I’m on the Board of Sisters in Crime/LA, the largest chapter of Sisters in Crime/National, a great group and very supportive of new writers. In June we’ll hold our every-two-year-CALIFORNIA CRIME WRITERS CONFERENCE, which is sold out. It should be a blast!