Showing posts from September, 2010

One Step at a Time, A Review

One Step at a Time by Josh Bleill with Mark Tabb

Triumph Books

Though I don't usually read non-fiction, this one I received from the publishing company and I was glad to get it. The main reason was because of the co-author, Mark Tabb. Mark used to be the minister at our little church years ago. He was interested in writing and it wasn't long before he was bringing pieces over to share and I'd give him some writing tips. Since that time, he's moved on and has written 20 books. Feeling as though I gave him a bit of a shove in the beginning, I've followed his career.

Now on to One Step at a Time.

Josh Bleill became a Marine and served in Fallujah, Iraq. The book tells about his early life, his basic training, and what it was like in Iraq. On October 15, 2006, an IED tore through the Humvee he was riding in and killed two fellow marines and injured Bleill and his best friend. He woke up in the hospital where he learned he'd lost both of his …

My Cousin Barbara at Our Family Reunion

Soon I'll have some pics to share from our family reunion.

Of course I was thrilled to see all my family members--but one it's always great to visit with is my cousin, Barbara. I only see her once a year at this event. She's eleven months younger than I am and she's not computer savvy--no email or Facebook to keep in touch.

We grew up one block away from each other. Our fathers were brothers and of course we spent a lot of time together at one house or another. One memory we shared was skating down the hill on a very steep sidewalk and to stop we ran into a neighbor's garage door. She didn't appreciate it, but we did it anyway.

Despite her reluctance to embrace technology (oh, she does have an old-fashioned cell phone) she is very adventuresome.

When her husband was alive--he was a world renowned professor of bugs of all kinds--can't spell the "e" word--and they traveled all over the world looking for bugs.

When her grandchildren turned ten one by one…

Jeri Westerson and The Demon's Parchment

The Demon's Parchment

Once a knight and nobleman at the court of the English king, Crispin Guest was convicted of treason and stripped of his land, his title and his honor. Effectively banished to the lower social reaches of the crowded neighborhoods of London, all he has left with which to earn a living is his intelligence and keen eye for detail. Now, using those wits and gifts, he has become known as the “Tracker” – a man who can find anything, can solve any puzzle and will do so for a price.

With the winter, however, have come tough times and paying clients are few. Even so, when approached by a mysterious figure, Crispin is wary of taking him on. The client is one Jacob of Provencal - a Jewish physician currently attending the Queen at court, despite the fact that all Jews were expelled from England nearly a century before. Jacob wants Crispin to find stolen parchments that might be behind the recent, ongoing, gruesome murders of young boys, parchments that someone might have…

Dumpster Dying by Lesley Diehl

Today I'm interviewing Lesley Diehl, author of Dumpster Dying.

Marilyn: Tell me about your background.

Lesley:I really was a professor of psychology and college administrator in my past life. When I retired, my partner, Glenn, and I knocked around the country in a tiny motorhome (only 28 feet long, no slide-outs) with two cats and a dog with attitude. We finally settled in the Butternut River Valley in Upstate New York where we are renovating a cottage built in 1874. It came complete with our ghost, Fred, who likes to play tricks on us such as starting the truck in the middle of the night.

I have always read mysteries and written poetry and short ditties of some sort since I was an adolescent. Before then, I thought I could write opera although I had no musical training, but only the cows knew of this fancy of mine. Although my English teacher in high school and my English professor in college encouraged me to continue writing (I did publish a story on a beauty salon in the coll…

Another Part to Being a Writer

Writers write as I've said many times. They also have to promote, which means talking about their books as many places they can think of, online, social network sites, blogs like this, in person at libraries, bookstores, social and service groups, book and craft fairs.

However, that's not all. Writers need to help other writers. It's a paying it forward type of thing.

When I first started writing, I had so many different people who helped me along the way. My sister who typed many many pages of my manuscripts--until I finally took over. Members of my critique group and in particular, Willma Gore who taught me so much about writing and gave me the courage to keep on going. Other writers who invited me to speak with them, who gave me tips, taught me many things about the business of writing. People who were friendly to me at writer's organizations and big conferences, people who became my friends.

Since that time I've tried to do the same. I've taught writing classe…

Mitchell Family Reunion

Thanks to two granddaughters and a niece, we now have annual reunions. We call it the Mitchell Family Reunion after my dad's family. Though a lot of us attend, there's not a Mitchell among us--my sis and cousin started life as Mitchells, but we've had our married names much, much longer.

The two granddaughters, married with children, make all the reservations and plans. They looked long and hard for a place everyone could afford that was also easy to get to. All the tourist spots were much too expensive. They found a Holiday Inn Express on the outskirts of Barstow that was not only inexpensive, served a free full breakfast, but was in-between the family living in Southern California, those in Central California and the large contingency in Las Vegas.

My niece (only one I have) plans the games for the little kids, but a lot more goes on too.

Two of my daughters are doing Friday night's dinner. Then we'll spend the evening visiting and playing cards. We love to play thi…

My Critique Group

Last night was our regularly scheduled meeting but we were missing two members.

Brent, our one and only man, had a business appointment. He's important to the group as he bring a male perspective to whatever we're writing. Often, it's something like, "A man would never think that way." Or he'll set us straight about something mechanical or about a car and anything to do with horses or ranch life.

Christi is our youngest member and a grammar school teacher. I love her critiques--she looks at things in a fresh and modern way. Her daughter is soon to be married and Christi has other things on her mind at the moment.

Besides me, the other two regulars in attendance were Jann who writes fantastic poetry and is far more literary than I am. She has a different view of the world than I do and has wonderful insights into what we've all written--and Shirley.

Shirley founded the group many years ago as a college class. Since that time, it has gone through many phases, …

Some of my Friends at the Central Coast Book Fest

Book Festivals are among my favorite promotional events. The one in San Luis Obispo is a particular favorite. The location in the plaza behind the San Luis Mission is ideal.

One thing about being near the coast the weather will change all through the day. It was chilly enough in the a.m. for a wrap. Midday it was warm. By the end of the festival, the wind had picked up to the point that it was actually blowing over some of the umbrellas.

As usual, I hardly took any photos--but here are two. One is of good friend Madeline Gornell. She will soon have a mystery out that is centered on the old Route 66 and she's beginning her pre-promo.

The other two gals were selling their books a the Central Coast Sisters in Crime booth, both good friends. Victoria Heckman is the president of that Sisters in Crime chapter and writes books set in Hawaii. She's also a popular teacher in the area and several of her students stopped by to tell her "hi." I've known Victoria since her boys …

Firefighter's Toys? You Bet?

by Kurt Kamm

Last week I was at a UCLA function and was talking to a woman who was unhappy because she was trapped in her car for three hours in a Los Angeles Canyon while the LACoFD battled a brush fire. Her comment was, "If the fire department didn't have so many toys to bring out, I could have gotten out sooner."

Thank goodness for the "toys." The policy in SoCal, home of some of the world's most destructive wildfires, is hit it fast and hard, with everyt resource available. Last year, an ineffective response led to a 7 week, 165,000 acre fire outside of the city of Los Angeles, which took the life of 2 firefighters.

I live in Malibu, on a hillside overlooking the water. The day after the conversation at UCLA, I received a notification of a brush fire 8 miles away. Less than 5 minutes later, I heard a familiar roar and went out onto my deck. I watched Quebec 1 and Quebec 2, the SuperScoopers fly low over my house to pick up water in the ocean to drop on the…

My First View of a Corpse Outside of a Funeral

This happened in a most imappropriate setting amongst a bunch of women all taking Early Childhood Education.

The time period was soon after California decided anyone working with children in day care, pre-schools and the like, should have some college credits in Early Childhood Education. For those wanting to be teachers an AA degree was created.

Most of the classes I took were valuable and things I could use in a classroom, Music, Crafts, Cooking, Exercise, and of course more scholarly classes about children and how they grow, physically and psychologically.

One of the classes was labeled Science for Early Childhood. I expected fun experiments that kids could do. The professor taught all sorts of science classes but obviously had not a clue what he should teach people that they could use for programs for kids.

I remember that he taught us about why there are so many fires in the foothills of California. Interesting, but not something very useful.

One night we came into the class and on e…

The Art of Murder (Writing)

Sheila Lowe gives us this good advice about writing mysteries.

Who doesn’t love a good mystery? With six of the top ten hardcover fiction books on the New York Times bestseller list in the mystery/crime genre, clearly, many readers do. And since my own mystery series has been published over the past four years, I’ve learned that a very large number of people are interested in getting their own mysteries published, too.

I’ve heard it said that there are three rules in mystery writing...but nobody knows what they dum bum.

Seriously, all fiction requires plotting, characterization, setting, dialogue, and point of view, but the mystery genre has some other special requirements of its own. Before you even get to those things, though, you’ll need to know what subgenre you are writing. Subgenre affects who your audience—your all-important market is going to be. The subgenres include soft-boiled cozy (traditional) mysteries, medium-boiled psychological suspense, and hard-boiled gritty …

What to Do at A Book Festival

Book Festivals are one of my favorite places to promote books. When this is posted, I'll be manning my table at the Central Coast Book Festival. This is one of my favorites because a lot of people who love books and reading attend. Also the festival provides tables, chairs and umbrellas--so all the author needs to bring is their books any handouts and whatever decorations they plan for their booth.

This is what I need to be sure to take with me:

Books--of course--I'm taking all my latest.

Book stands.

Crime scene tape--always decorate my table with it.

Plastic bags for those who need one.

Cash box with change.

A guest book for people to sign and put their email address if they'd like to receive my newsletter.

A notebook to keep track of sales.

My business cards to give to people whether they buy a book or not.

My husband to help with the money part. (Always a good idea to have someone else along to take the money and make change so you can concentrate on talking to people and autogr…

Heading for San Luis Obispo

While you're reading this, I'll be on my way to SLO. Of course the reason for going is Sunday's Central Coast Book Festival in Plaza Park in front of the San Luis Mission.

Anyone who has followed my blog for any length of time probably has figured out that we really like to go over to the coast. It's about a 3 plus hour drive. We take a short cut past Corcoran Prison, turning on a far road which eventually takes us to Interstate 5. We're only that for a couple of miles. We got off on 41 and head through the rolling hills until 41 becomes 46 which goes right to Highway 101 where we head south to our destination. In this case, the Apple Farm Inn in San Luis Obispo.

Though the part of California we'll be traveling through doesn't have the change of seasons that you see in other parts of the country there are difference depending upon the time of year. In the early spring, after the rains, the hills are green. A bit later all the wildflowers come out--fields of p…

Paying Your Dues as an Author

Maybe it's too easy to become a published author these days.

By paying your dues, I mean first reading the kind of books you think you want to write.

Going to writer's conferences so you can glean from the wisdom of writers who are already published.

Reading books about the different aspects of writing. Learning what works and what doesn't.

When I was first trying to get published, I found out about all the different kind of publishers--way back then there weren't so many. I bought the Writers' Digest Market book and read about each and everyone, what kind of book they published, how they wanted manuscripts or queries to be submitted. Now you can find all kinds of publishers on line--but it's still necessary to find out what they publish and how they want to be contacted.

Joining an honest critique group--one that will point out mistakes and make helpful suggestions. I've belonged to the same critique group for over 30 years. I think of these other authors as m…

Why God Matters By Karina Fabian and Deacon Steve Lambert

Though small, Why God Matters is a powerful book.

Deacon Steve Lambert and his daughter Karina Fabian share their experiences along with succinct and meaningful guides from the Bible and Catholic Catechism

I particularly liked what is stated in the Introduction. "May what you read help you on your small steps toward great faith. May you breathe in Christ's breath."

One of the topics addressed is "Simple ways to deal with Life's Trials" from the trivial irritations to the depths of dispair.

Something we all need to learn in our walk of faith is to ask for what we need rather than what we want.

There is a section on guardian angels, and another on how to keep a balance in your life.

Karina and Deacon Steve explain that's it's important to keep a relationship with God that's more than personal and how to do it.

Both Karina and her father tell how God made himself know to each of them.

There is so much in this book that will be helpful to any Christian, no…

Setting Goals

I often have friends and other authors ask how I get so much written. A simple answer is because I'm a writer and that's what I do.

Though I don't write down my goals they are fixed in my mind.

I write two series, so I must write two books a year.

This is how it works:

At the end of the month or the beginning of next, I have a new book coming out in my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series called Invisible Path. I am planning the book launch for it right now, including a blog tour.

I have another Deputy Tempe Crabtree done which I'm now reading chapter by chapter to my critique group. When I'm done with that I will do a final and thorough edit and send it off to Mundania Press for fall of 2011.

I'm in the process of writing another Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel. When I am through with the chapter by chapter reading of the Tempe book with my critique group, I'll start reading the new RBPD novel to them.

In the meantime, I'll be thinking about a topic and hopefully somet…

Planning for the Lanching of Invisible Path

The galley proof has been checked and sent back in, the cover is ready, now it's a matter of time before I'll be able to order copies of Invisible Path.

I've already set the date for the book launch at the little used book store in Porterville. It'll be Saturday, October 23rd from 1-4. I'm hoping to have one at the library in Springville the Friday afternoon before, but haven't made those arrangements yet.

As usual, I'm doing a blog tour, but have no information about that as yet.

Some of the things that are planned, are events I signed up for awhile ago knowing I'd have a new book out at the same time. The biggie is Bouchercon in San Francisco, also in October. I haven't attended the last two Bouchercons, but this one is too close to pass up.

In November, hubby and I are going on a week long mystery cruise. Of course, I'll take copies of Invisible Path as well as An Axe to Grind.

So far nothing is scheduled for December, but I'm sure something w…

Some Thoughts About my WIP

I'm about 3/4 of the way through my first draft of the new Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel. This one is starring Gordon Butler. He's fun to write about because he's a good guy, but nothing seems to go right for him.

I know exactly where this book is headed, but I've really had a lot of interruptions while writing it. I don't mean people interruptions so much as just different jobs popping up that I need to tend to.

I have managed to write a few pages every day, but sometimes I'd really like to keep going but I can't.

While thinking about this book I began to realize that nearly every car I'd described was silver. Even though I'd kept a card with the names of the cars and who they belonged to along with the color, I managed to make most of them the same color. One of the reasons, I'm sure, is because I'm not much of a car buff. I don't care about cars--only that they start when I turn the key and that they get me safely where I want to go and t…

Grandma's Bragging Rights

These are some of my youngest grandchild's high school graduation photos. Isn't she beautiful?

Unfortunately, I don't get to see her enough because she lives about a 3 1/2 hour trip away. Also, she's got a busy social life so sometimes when we go, we don't get to see her.

However, in the last few months we've had some quality time with her and got brought up to date on her exciting life.

From the looks of these photos, I think she ought to consider a modeling career. The car is her dad's--but it looks like an ad for the car.

Of course graduation isn't until next June--but they do everything really early these days.

Graduation photos are sure different then when I was a senior. The photographer came in, we lined up one by one, he took 3 shots, we got to pick the one we liked best and that black and white shot is what turned up in the year book. Can't even remember if I bought any for me or my folks. Well--I graduated way back in 1951, what do you expect.


This is a day in our recent history I hope none of us will forget. It was a day we were attacked on our own soil by a group of people who hate us so much their aim was to kill as many of us as possible.

We need to take the time to remember how horrified we were when we saw those airplanes crash into the Twin Towers. The feeling we got when we knew that it was impossible for everyone to escape, how we felt about those who sacrificed their lives trying to save people they didn't even know, how we felt over the next days as we learned about the individuals who were lost.

Remember the horrible reality of the plane crashing into the Pentagon and more lost lives. And those brave souls on the plane probably intended to crash into the White House who lost their lives preventing it.

A lot of folks think these were isolated cases, something that can never happen again. That's a foolish belief. Ever since 9/11 our enemies have been planning other horrendous events. Some of them have been pr…

My Publishers

Recently I wrote about working with small presses, now I'd like to tell you about the two I have at the moment, Mundania and Oak Tree Press, and I hope for a long time.

Though they are both small presses, they are very different. Mundania is much larger than Oak Tree and has a fairly big staff of editors and cover artists. They also have different imprints from fantasy to erotic romance--and I am one of their few mystery authors.

Mundania posts royalties once a month, though if you haven't earned $25 you won't see it until you do. Oak Tree Press does royalties on a quarterly basis. Both publishers let you know exactly what books have sold where--such as book stores (Ingram), Amazon,e-books, Kindle or from the publishers' website. This might give an author some idea of what promotion is working, but it's hard to figure out because it takes so long for a royalty to get back to the publisher.

Both publishers are quick to answer questions--but I know neither like to be bu…

What You Might Give Up When You Write

Had a conversation with a friend last night about writing time. It's a question I get asked a lot, how often do you write, how many hours a day etc.

He began to tell me what takes his time. He belongs to an active organization where he must participate weekly and often on weekends. And he has been elected an officer of a fine organization.

When I thought about it, except for family, my social life mostly consists of whatever activity the church might plan and if I'm not gone somewhere and my when I go off to do something related to writing.

Weekend after next, we're headed to San Luis Obispo for the Central Coast Book Festival. Of course the goal is to sell books, but the most fun is going to come from seeing friends. Already set up one dinner date with a good author friend and then the following night we'll spend with one of my publishers and probably other friends. We have lots of friends who live in the area that we only see when we go to the coast--and they are all w…

Working Habits

People often ask about my working habits--and to be honest, sometimes they are good and sometimes not.

Oh, I do plenty of work at the computer but too often it has nothing to do with my work in progress. I'm planning promotion, writing blogs, answering emails, and checking on Facebook--where I also do some promotion--but not working on my book.

I've learned over the years I have to write in the morning as my brain doesn't work as well in the afternoon. But afternoons are also a more difficult time to do any physical labor I might have planned: cleaning the bathroom, dusting my office and bedroom, etc. And if I do that in the morning, then I'm too tired to write, vicious circle.

Labor day I decided the first think I would do was write--and that's what I did. Got about six pages written before I pooped out. Oh, I know exactly where I'm going with this book, and having fun doing it, but I have to have a nimble brain to write and after I've written for two or thr…

Working With Small Presses

I gave a talk on this subject to a group of writers at Willowbridge Bookstore. This is the essence of what I said:

The publishing industry is changing and it's changing fast.

POD used to be a bad word—this is what’s happening right now.

Dorchester Publishing/Leisure Books is not going to publish mass market paperback anymore—only POD and e-books.

St. Martin’s just announced they are switching to POD. And I'm sure it won't be long before other big publishers will be doing the same.

Why? Economic issues mainly. It's much too expensive to print books that may end up being warehoused.

Most of the small presses have been using POD for years—and at the same time, publishing e-books.

Paper books will not disappear, but things are changing.

When looking for a small press make sure that not only do they do print books but also e-books. You want to be able to sell both.

When submitting to a small press, do exactly what the guidelines tell you. Every small press seems to have different gu…

Some Tips About Speaking in Public

Years ago even the idea of standing up in front of people terrified me. That was before I became PTA President four years in a row. I quaked a bit through my two years of president for our grammar school, but it really seemed scary to have to stand up in front of the much larger crowd of parents for the junior high. The past president gave me some advice which has stayed with me every since. "None of those people out there wants to take your place."

As time passed, I've taught classes to large and small groups, and given many, many talks about writing. It dawned on my awhile back that there are some other tips about speaking in public I should share.

Wear something you like and you're comfortable in.

Stand up. People pay a lot more attention when you stand up to speak. Also, your voice will project.

Put together a handout that you also can work from to make sure you cover all your points, but make sure you know your subject well enough that you don't have to read you…

Happy 80th Birthday, Hap!

Yep, it's hard to believe, but that cute sailor I went out on a blind date with all those many years ago is 80 years old today.

Way back then, he had beautiful nearly black hair, with a curl that always fell on his forehead--and the most gorgeous blue eyes. He reminded me--and others--of a young Frank Sinatra. He could really belt out a tune on the piano--anything that was popular and oh, could he play the Boogie Woogie.

When we met, he couldn't dance, but later, after a few years of marriage, I taught him and soon he could dance far better than I ever could.

The first years of our marriage we weren't always together because of his assignments with the Seabees. I think he loved his time in the Navy as much or more than he loved me or the kids.

We moved a lot at first, Maryland, Virginia--Norfolk and Virginia Beach, on the Navy base at Port Hueneme, with my folks in L.A., our own place in L.A., in Oxnard in an apartment, then a rented house and finally we bought our own home th…

My Hurricane Experiences

With all the talk about Katrina, I'd like to share my three experiences with hurricanes, only one with a name. (The other two might have had names, but I didn't hear them.)

First one was when hubby and I were in the process of moving me and our two daughters, 3 years old and 2 months from California to Virginia Beach. Our belongings were coming in a van. I'd flown with the girls to Washington DC (plane broke down in Phoenix) and husband picked us up and we stayed at his family home before driving to Virginia. As we progressed south we heard that a hurricane was headed toward Virginia too.

We arrived, hubby left us in a motel while he reported into the base. That was the last I'd see of him for 2 days. The hurricane was coming. The motel was deserted except for the manager and a black hotel maid We had no food. All I had was canned formula for the baby. The maid baby sat while I made my way through 50 mile and hour winds walking to a nearby store. I bought canned soups …

Happy Birthday, Sis!

Today is my baby sister's birthday. She is 5 year's younger than I am. We really didn't become friends until we were adults--and with every year we grow closer and closer.

My sis married right out of high school and still has the same husband. (Me too) She has four kids--three boys and a girl. I'm not sure exactly how many grandkids and greats, but there are lots.

Once a month she has a big birthday dinner at her house for everyone in her family. For the birthday boy or girl (or man or woman) she bakes a cake. (I do nothing like that.) She can really bake.

She's a wonderful hostess. We try to get to her home in Vegas at least once a year for a visit. No, we don't go to the strips--we do family things, and mostly enjoy each other's company.

This year we're going on a seven day cruise together to Mexico. It's mystery cruise, with three days being an on board mystery convention. How fun is that!

I'll love spending all that time with my sis.

Happy Birthd…

Proofing Gremlins

You have no idea how many times authors and editors go over their manuscripts and then the galley proofs. And it never seems to matter-when the book comes out, there are those strange typos and glitches.

Lingering Spirit was not only proofed by the publisher of Oak Tree Press, it has been proofed years ago by the first publisher, and yes, I'd gone over it numerous times.

But now that it's out in book form I've learned there are numerous errors.

All I can tell you is that there is this ugly little gremlin with green warts all over him, who gleefully jumps from page to page to see where he can leave his mark. That has to be the answer.

With my upcoming book, Invisible Path, my critique group has gone over every page, to be fair, I've done a lot of editing and rewriting since then.

But from there it went to the publisher. The editor went over it once and sent it to me with corrections, then she sent it back again with more.

The galley proof arrived and I printed it out and de…

Meet Nancy Lynn Jarvis

Bio: Nancy Lynn Jarvis has been a Santa Cruz, California, Realtor for more than twenty years. She owns a real estate company with her husband, Craig.
After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News. A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager of Shakespeare/Santa Cruz.

About Nancy Lynn's books:

The Death Contingency: Santa Cruz California Realtor Regan McHenry is an unlikely solver of mystery and murder, but when a seller turns up dead during an escrow and a Realtor friend is suspected of his murder, she has to unravel the secrets of the dead man's past to figure out why he died if she's going to help her friend.

Backyard Bones: It’s not the first time Regan has experienced déjà-vu.

But when the sensation involves finding a second body buried where one was found just weeks before, déjà-vu takes on new meaning. Someone murdered a girl …