Cyber-Sharing Real Life

Sunny Frazier, mystery author and acquisitions editor extraordinaire,

is here today to share some news of a personal and painful nature.

The Internet has done powerful things in our lives. We are connected and involved with each other although strangers in the physical sense. Lelia, who has supported me from the start of my career, is generously allowing me to use her blog to spill personal news affecting my life.

I found out a few months ago that I have to have dialysis. Luckily, the VA is footing the bill (your tax dollars at work!). This is the result of being poisoned by cat flea medicine in 2004. I lost one kidney then and now the other is going. Think about that, pet owners!

Anyway, the VA delivered the news in the non-emotional, matter-of-fact way we who have served are used to. Sort of a “Suck it up, sailor,” attitude. No tears allowed when you are surrounded by vets who have lost limbs in wars gone by and ones in progress.

I came home and did what writers do: I wrote clever lines that I could deliver if people wanted to feel sorry for me.

“Hey, don’t get all awkward on me!”

“Go tilt at your own windmills. This one’s mine.” (for the literary types)

“Welcome to the secret circle. We have a handshake, but it involves blood.”

“You know you’re giving me an opening to play martyr, right?”

“Now that I’m in dialysis, my dislike of vampires has increased ten-fold.” (I’m especially fond of that one.)

The man in my life said I was being hostile. Maybe he’s right. I’m not sure what the proper response is, I’ve never read it in an etiquette book. What would Miss Manners do? Fortunately, Pat Canterbury in Sacramento has been through this and is mentoring me as to what to expect. She is my life-line.

So, there it is, on the table. I have been through surgery and have a nice gash on my arm where they  expanded my veins for the procedure. Luckily, a new center was just built down the street from me. I’m going to go a few times and see what the cool kids are wearing, what kind of toys they bring to amuse themselves for hours. I plan to read manuscripts and get work done. I won’t be going to conferences and conventions much anymore. I will miss the fun.

I’ve always enjoyed being a couch potato, now I can be a recliner potato. No more guilt for not jogging or exercising regularly. I’m eating candy until they tell me it’s bad for me. I’m going to use dialysis as an excuse to get out of things I really don’t want to do, like go to weddings. I mean, who is going to argue with THAT?

One of my favorite quotes is “Life is a tragedy for those who feel, a comedy for those who think.” Horace Walpole. I can’t help if I find humor in dire circumstances. I’m already thinking of how to write a kidney-challenged character in my next book.

I didn’t blog to garner sympathy and I hope you chuckled with me along the way. But, if there is a serious message in my words, it’s this: Don’t piss away opportunity, talent or time.

Mythbusting

Camille Minichino is the author of three mystery series. Her akas are Margaret Grace (The Miniature Mysteries) and Ada Madison (The Professor Sophie Knowles Mysteries).

The first chapters of The Square Root of Murder (July 2011) and The Probability of Murder (due March 2012), are on her website: http://www.minichino.com

Camille‘s blog— The Real Me

There’s a good reason why I didn’t write my first mystery novel until I was almost sixty years old: I believed all the myths about what it takes to be a writer. I listened to the advice of authors at lectures and signings and went home dejected. I’d never be a writer.

Only when I finally busted the myths, did I realize I could do this. I could write publishable books without doing damage to my personality.

If you’d like to be a writer but don’t see yourself fitting the profile, maybe I can save you a few years – here are the big four myths and the truth about them.

MYTH #1: You must be disciplined and write every day.

Uh-oh. This is the biggest turn-off for a Gemini. At least, for this Gemini, anything that smacks of routine sets me shuddering and running for the streets. I believe I’m hard-wired to be dissipated, with an attention span measured in nanoseconds. If there’d been attention disorder pills around when I was a kid, I’d have been put on the maximum dose.

TRUTH: If you like to write, you’ll make the time and you’ll write when you can, even if it’s in small doses or only when on hold with your health insurance provider. The important thing is to write, to get that story on paper or computer screen. If you write ten minutes today, an hour tomorrow, and nothing till next week, you can still get it done.

I admit, now that I have contract deadlines, I can’t be quite so cavalier about writing time, but I still don’t stick to a routine; I just make sure I have longer times on hold.

MYTH #2 Write what you know.

How boring. Sure, your main character will be easier to write and more believable if you choose a voice you’re familiar with, and I recommend that. But a good novel has many threads and subplots.

THE TRUTH: Your book will read like a diary or a textbook if you haven’t ventured past your comfort zone.

In the course of writing 17 books, I’ve interviewed professionals and written these characters: an embalmer, a veterinarian, a medevac helicopter pilot, an ice climber, a hotel administrator, an equestrian, an elevator maintenance man. Also, I find experts in police procedure and learn about forensics, and—uh, ways to kill people. None of which I’ve done.

MYTH #3. Write it and they will come.

I’ve even heard agents say this on panels and on their websites. Never mind the market, they’ll say, write from your heart, the book you want to write. And yet, here comes the rejection from the same lady: “This is a wonderful book but I’m afraid there’s no market for it.”

THE TRUTH: you need to look at the market, see what publishers are buying, and what people are reading. This doesn’t mean chasing trends; it does mean being aware of what’s working and where you can fit in with your own special voice.

MYTH #4. Writing is a solitary profession.

Another uh-oh. I’d been a physicist for a long time. No one does physics alone, not since Newton, anyway. Who can accommodate something like a 20-mile-long tunnel to house a collider, or a 192-beam laser, in her garage? Physicists gather around huge equipment in giant laboratories these days, working as a team.

I couldn’t imagine sitting alone in a room with pen and paper, or keyboard and monitor, pouring out my thoughts and plots, in solitary confinement for days or weeks on end. So I couldn’t be a writer, right?

THE TRUTH: Writing isn’t solitary, either. Imagine my delight when I learned that writing—mystery writing especially—was a community endeavor. I discovered not only professional organizations and critique groups, but book clubs, conferences, Internet lists and groups, and blogging colleagues. Who knew?

So here’s what authors should tell you: it’s a job you can do with your own rhythm; you’ll be able to look into things you never thought you’d be able to learn; you can tap into a market that matches your passion; and you’ll meet smart, fun, and generous people.

What are you waiting for?

Book Review: If This Is Paradise, I Want My Money Back by Claudia Carroll

If This Is Paradise, I Want My Money Back
Claudia Carroll
William Morrow, October 2011
ISBN 978-0-06-204515-7
Trade Paperback

Charlotte lies in a hospital bed, trapped by a coma, listening to the conversations around her. Most are directed at her in attempts to bring her back to consciousness and she appreciates the efforts, really she does, but a little peace and quiet would be nice, too. Between her best friend Fiona’s chatter about the latest guy she met on the internet and her mum’s blathering on about just about anything, not to mention the boring music they make her listen to, Charlotte just might stay down where it’s really rather nice.

None of them know the truth about what happened right before the car accident when her significant other, James, unceremoniously dumped her after five years and asked her how soon she could move out. Charlotte was clueless, had no idea he…hmm, she can’t quite remember but it’ll come to her…and, well, she’d ignored the fact that all her family and friends had disliked him from the beginning. Looking back, she guessed she should have paid attention.

And then James comes to see her and pours on the charm, trying his best to appear terribly concerned. Unfortunately for him, no one in the room is buying his act.  Then, listening to his BS, she remembers, the Other Woman. To top it all off, he takes a call from his new honey and starts with the sexy talk, right there beside Charlotte’s bed. That’s all it takes for her to see the bright light.

Charlotte finds herself apparently dead and about to be “assessed” by Regina Angelorum (who first has to take a call with Gabriel, THE Gabriel) to see whether she’s a candidate for the AWE programme—that’s Angelic Work Experience. Next thing she knows, she’s in a classroom, learning all she needs to know to be a guardian angel.

Then she gets her earthly assignment and she can hardly believe she’s right back on earth…in James’s house. Horrified at first at the idea that James is her charge, she soon learns that there is a way she can mess with him. Charlotte is delighted with her new-found abilities until the day she learns that being an angel is not all fun and games. Fortunately, there might be a way she can redeem herself.

This is a delightful mix of laughter and sorrow, anger and forgiveness and, above all, redemption. Ms. Carroll has crafted an intriguing story and I look forward to reading more of her work.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2011.

Book Reviews: The Sentry by Robert Crais, Stettin Station by David Downing and Damage by John Lescroart

The Sentry
Robert Crais
Putnam, January 2011
ISBN: 978-0-399-15707-3
Hardcover

There are many larger-than-life, hard-boiled superheroes, some more believable than others.  Then there is Joe Pike:  A strong, contemplative, quiet, unassuming protagonist.  And his sorrowful and anguished side-kick, PI Elvis Cole, adds a more human touch. Together, they make a great team, and in this, the third thriller in the series with Joe in the lead (Elvis is upfront in 11 others), they come together like ham and swiss or hand in glove.

It all begins when by chance Joe observes two gangbangers beating up a cook in a po’boy sandwich shop in Venice, California.  Killing one ( the other runs off), he meets the cook’s niece and becomes attracted to her, deciding to meet with the gang jefe to prevent further violence in what appears to be a protection racket.  This leads to all sorts of events involving the Mexican drug cartel, Bolivian drug lords, and a psychopathic killer, among others.

Each novel in the series is notable, with this entry among the best. The author has written a solid book, with ironic observations and a plot that swerves back and forth to keep the reader wondering what follows.  He has shown that the series is a long way from running out of steam, and I can’t wait for the next one.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, March 2011.

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Stettin Station
David Downing
Soho Press ,April 2011
ISBN: 978-1-56947-919-3
Trade Paperback

The chronicle of journalist John Russell begins in Nazi Berlin a week before Pearl Harbor in this, the third novel in the series [with a fourth, Potsdam Station, just out in hardcover].  The descriptions of Gestapo tactics and the beginnings of the “final solution” are eerily chilling.

Russell is ostensibly a correspondent for a San Francisco newspaper, allowing the author to describe the machinations of the Nazi censors and propaganda machine with vivid detail, while his protagonist acts as a go-between between German and American intelligence agents, carrying messages back and forth.  He even obtains proof that the Gestapo is removing Jews from Berlin and planning to gas them, even though he can hardly publish the story.

As conditions worsen, Russell has to find a way to get out of Germany, hoping to bring his long-time girlfriend with him.  It is a tale of terror with a thrill-a-page pace.  Descriptions of wartime Berlin and the police state remind us of a period many may have forgotten, but of which we, and they, should perhaps be reminded.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, March 2011.

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Damage
John Lescroart
Dutton, January 2011
ISBN: 978-0-525-95176-6
Hardcover

Readers should not expect the author’s trademark court scenes in this novel.  Instead, it is more of a psychological study about a newly elected DA, Wes Farrell, in San Francisco, protagonists also including Chief of Homicide Abe Glitsky, Asst. DA Amanda Jenkins and others. The antagonists include Ro Curtlee, a convicted rapist-murderer released by an appellate court on a technicality after serving nine years of a much longer sentence, and his parents, wealthy owners of one of only two newspapers in town and not hesitant in using their power to influence public officials or opinion.

Soon after Ro’s release pending a new trial, the question of bail arises; Farrell takes no position and the judge grants it for a $10 million bond. And then the chief witness in the first trial is found strangled and her apartment burned.  Obviously, suspicion falls on Ro. Another murder and threatening events soon follow.  The thrust of the plot is to get Ro back in jail, and the machinations of the cops and prosecutors vs. the influence of the Curtlees.

So, instead of a courtroom drama, we have a thriller enhanced by peeks into the conflicts and complexities, including ethics, values and procedures, facing various professionals in their attempts to serve justice.  Written with insight and flowing narrative, the novel is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, March 2011.

Why An Editor Is Just As Important As My Book

Former professional poker player Glenn Gamble is an author from Chicago, IL who doesn’t have one of those inspiring stories where he goes to the state penitentiary to discover his gift for writing amazing stories. Instead, he worked on his craft during long romantic dates at Starbucks and Panera Bread with his laptop and a story. His inspiration came from friends who encouraged him to pursue his dreams to become a writer. Without a prison sentence, Gamble has managed to pen A Thousand Chances, Bon AppetitEscape, On the Run and James; and is currently writing future installments of both the Jim Money and Darius Blaylock Poker Series.

In his spare time, Gamble likes to watch Chicago Bulls games, drop twitter bombs from the sky, slam facebook with status updates, and bet on low-stakes rat and roach races taking place in various public housing project apartments across the United States.

Today I’m collaborating with Jim Money –the main character in the Jim Money series—to discuss why hiring an editor is a vital step in the book publishing process.  I believe that I’m a pretty good writer, generally speaking.  I have good grammar, communicate well on paper, and I write in complete sentences.  With all of those variables working for me I still hire an editor to proofread and more importantly, to fish out the weaker parts of my story and make suggested changes.  Having an extra set of eyes to look behind me enables me to put out the best book that I possibly can.

Jim: You definitely need the editor buddy because you tend to have me tripping over misplaced words in my scenes.

Me: Jim, who the hell asked you?

Jim: This thing is a collaboration, right?

As I was saying before I was rudely interrupted, it’s not enough to have beta readers critique your work.  You must have an editor who edits books as her profession.  A good editor will make sure that you don’t publish a book filled with punctuation and grammatical errors.  More importantly, she’ll point out some parts of your story that can be improved or eliminated to make the story move forward.  With that said, you must enter your relationship with an open mind.  Sure you are the writer and you did the heavy lifting in writing a good book, but listen to your editor because they help writers polish their books for a living.

There’s been instances where I’ve submitted a book to my editor thinking “ah ha, I nailed it this time,” only for her to point out that one of my paragraphs should be eliminated because the verbiage is unnecessary for the reader.  I’ve also had instances where she’ll highlight a portion of my book and tell me to dig deeper.  “Describe what the forest preserve was like.  Was it dark, was the ground wet, was the air cold, or were mosquitos biting everything breathing?  What was it like for that character under the duress of the situation and those conditions?”

I respect the craft of writing a book far too much to neglect these weak points in my writing by not hiring an editor, because how else would I know where I’m falling short within a book?

Jim: But you’re not short at all.

Me: Quit being a wise ass.

Glenn’s books are available on Amazon Kindle http://www.amazon.com/Glenn-Gamble/e/B002BMGSVK and Barnes and Noble Nook http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Glenn-Gamble?keyword=Glenn+Gamble&store=allproducts and Smashwords http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/glenngamble and most recently in the iBookstore for all you iPhone, iPad and iPod users.

Thanksgiving Treats—And Treats For A Pair Of Contest Winners!

Family, Friends and Food—It’s All Good!

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Congratulations to the winners of

Carolyn J. Rose’s A Place of Forgetting

Paperback—Sandi Lewis

Ebook—Malena E.

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Please support your local independent shops this Saturday!