Thursday, November 20, 2014

Back from Bouchercon

Bouchercon 2014 in Long Beach, California, was a terrific mystery conference this year. Some of the headliners included Jeffery Deaver, J. A. Jance, Eoin Colfer and Edward Marston. We had ample opportunity to talk with fans of the mystery genre as well as the leading mystery and crime authors.

Here are a few sound bites. On one panel, the moderator asked the panelists at the end, “Are there any last words?” One of the panelists responded, “Are we going to be killed?”

Eoin Colfer described how he like to put things in his children’s books that would make a dad laugh when reading the book to a child. One example was a character named Colin Oscopy. Eoin explained that a father reading that would laugh and the child would ask what is so funny. The father would have to think, “There’s nothing funny about a colonoscopy.”

I had an opportunity to host the Meet the New Authors Breakfast, where we introduced 53 new authors who had their first mystery/crime novel published in 2014. Here’s a picture of the audience.

One Sunday morning I took a walk and watched sunrise with the Queen Mary in the distance.

Later that morning, I was on a panel titled Sleuths at Every Age. Here’s a picture with Becky Masterman, me and Thomas Perry on that panel.

All in all, a wonderful five days. Now back to writing.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Stories That Come My Way

One of the wonderful things about being a writer is the stories and ideas that come my way. A common question that people ask when I give presentations is where do I get my story ideas? The answer: everywhere. I have come up with story ideas from newspapers, television, people I meet, friends and waking up in the middle of the night. A reader emailed me an idea that I used in one manuscript.

Also, when I give speeches, people occasionally share stories and jokes with me.  Here’s one. I was told about going on SKI vacation—Spending, Kids Inheritance.

Then one of my current projects, writing the story of a World War II veteran, came about because a mutual friend introduced us. After hearing his wonderful stories of being an infantryman in Europe, prisoner of war and liberated by the Russians, we began a collaboration.

What I’ve learned—keep the eyes and ears open and enjoy the discoveries.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Communication in the World of Writing--Hello Are You There?

Having spent a 39 year career in business, I learned the importance of responsive communication. To negotiate a contract, close a deal, hire employees, or develop a successful product all required clear and consistent communication. As I entered the publishing world with my first book released in 2007, I found many instances of communication that became one way or nonexistent. I refer to this as speaking into the void.

Here’s one example. Agents used to send form letters when they rejected a writer’s query. A success would be a letter that had constructive suggestions. Now many agents don’t even bother to reply. On numerous web sites agents merely state that if you haven’t heard from them in six weeks they’re not interested. I can understand how this situation came about. Two years ago at a writers conference a literary agent described how her agency had received 36,000 query letters in one year and out of these signed seven new writers. Clearly, they couldn’t respond to all these queries without having a large staff. But from a writer’s standpoint, it’s frustrating to get no reply.

I also hear from publishers that one of the things they look for in authors is the ability to meet deadlines and keep the publisher informed of progress. My experience is that the authors are better at this than many of the publishers.

There are many reasons that writers turn to self-publishing, but the main one is control. When self-publishing, you have to manage the editing, cover art, production and distribution, but these items are under your control. Still, communication and meeting deadlines are needed from people hired to perform services.

On the flip side, in traditional publishing, it’s wonderful to have others bear the upfront expenses and manage the process if there is good communication.

What has been your experience?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Cat in the Window

At a recent Boulder Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association meeting, a detective described a burglary ring that had been broken up several years ago. The bad guys broke into a number of expensive homes and were not caught for a long time. When finally apprehended, the perpetrators described the techniques they used to identify homes to hit. One of the signs they looked for was a cat in the window.

They would case a neighborhood after dark and when they spotted a cat in the front window of a house, they would target it. The reason—if the owners of the house were out for the evening, the cat would sit in the window and await their return.

In the group hearing this presentation, there were three mystery writers including myself. When we heard this story we all looked at each other. Our immediate common reaction—ah ha, the title for a mystery novel.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

E-Book Box Sets

At the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference I attended in September, a speaker described e-book box sets. She had published several of these, combining books from a series to be purchased as one item. The idea intrigued me, so I add this to my to do list.

Finally, this week I got around to completing this project. I own the e-book rights to the first four books in my Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery series: Retirement Homes Are Murder, Living with Your Kids Is Murder, Senior Moments Are Murder and Cruising in Your Eighties Is Murder. I concatenated the four Word documents, added hyperlinks pointing to my other published books and hyperlinks from a table of contents at the front to each book. My daughter-in-law had designed a book cover for me. With all of this set, I loaded the manuscript on Kindle and published.

Here is the result at

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Bouchercon is the largest mystery conference, typically around 1500 attendees, and this year it’s taking place in Long Beach, CA, November 13-16. I’ll be attending and participating in a number of events. I’m partial to the location since we lived in Long Beach before moving to Boulder, Colorado, thirty-seven years ago.

On Thursday morning I’ll be giving pitches to groups of readers from 8:30-10:30 during the Author Speed Dating event.

On Friday morning from 7-8:30 I’ll be hosting the Meet the New Author Breakfast where I have the honor of introducing fifty-three new authors who have published their first mystery/crime novel in 2014.

On Saturday morning from 8:30-10:30 I will be participating in Men of Mystery, were each of us in a group of male mystery writers will give a one-minute pitch.

On Sunday morning from 8:30-9:30 I’m on the panel titled, Sleuths of Every Age: Young, Old, or In-Between, They’re On The Case. I’ll have the pleasure of participating with authors Allen Eskens, Janet Dawson, Becky Masterman and Thomas Perry.

It’s a good thing I’m a morning person.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Worlds Authors Live In

I remember years ago when working in the business world and raising a family. I had numerous roles to play including a businessperson, husband and father, Now that I’ve retired into writing, I still retain a number of those roles, but have added a number of new dimensions—the writing worlds I live in.

To effective write a novel, I have to immerse myself in the story. This entails putting myself into the role of the protagonist, feeling what he’s feeling, seeing, hearing and smelling his environment, in other words, living in that world. Writing has been therapeutic for me, giving me a chance to capture the ideas swirling around in my head. Although I didn’t start writing until I was fifty-six years old, I had a lifetime of ideas ready to get onto paper or into a computer.

What are some of the worlds I’m living in right now? First thing in the morning I work on my new manuscript. At the moment it’s a sequel to my paranormal geezer-lit mystery, The Back Wing. This new one is called The Front Wing and takes place in a retirement home where this is a front wing with normal but snobby people and a back wing with friendly but extraordinary residents. In the afternoon I’m working on two revision projects, making rewrites to a manuscript called Court Trouble, a mystery novel that involves the game of platform tennis, a sport I play. Then I’m also editing the biography I’m writing of a World War II veteran, titled, The Greatest Chicken Thief in All of Europe. So every day, I’m in these three worlds as well as my real life world. Keeps me busy.