Sunday, December 26, 2010

Font-an Pen

After a great Christmas with the family and eating good food, I’m back to doing a little catch up today. In looking back over notes I’ve made, I came across one that gave me a chuckle. This happened when I had breakfast with a friend of mine and showed him a pen I had received as a thank you for giving a talk to a Rotary club. The pen had a window on side, and every time you clicked it, a cylinder inside would rotate to display one of six messages about the Rotary goals. My friend told me that he had once put together a pen with this same message capability. He called it a Font-an pen. In the window displayed the names of six different fonts such as Times Roman, Arial, Courier, Calibri, Cambria, Gothic. He would hand the pen to people and tell them to click to the appropriate font which the pen would then write with.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Old Lions and Finding a Place for All Skills

I was told an interesting story about old lions at a presentation I gave on aging this last week. It seems old lions can’t move as well as the young lions, but they can still roar loudly. So when lions are hunting, they position the old lion in one place and the young lions in another. When game approaches, the old lion roars and this scares the game away from the old lion, right toward the young lions, who can quickly run down the next meal. As I become older, I guess I’ll have to work on my roar.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Volunteering and Anti-oxidants

Volunteering and Antioxidants

Yesterday I helped out by delivering holiday gift baskets to elderly and disabled people in our community. The baskets were colorful and full of fruit and other scrumptious goodies. When I went to sign in, I struck up a conversation with a gentleman standing in line in front of me. He was a spry fellow named Bill and as we talked he admitted that he was ninety-five, older than nearly all the people who would be receiving gift baskets. I asked him the secret of how he had aged so well and he replied, “volunteering and antioxidants.” In addition to taking gift baskets to those in need, he volunteers for Meals-on-wheels and at the local hospital. Before it became popular, he started eating foods high in anti-oxidants. After I received my list and baskets to deliver, I drove away thinking about the good advice Bill had given me.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Challenges Along the Writer's Journey

One of the key attributes I’ve learned of being a writer is perseverance. When I began writing I started submitting short stories to magazines and anthologies. On my 112th submittal I sold a story called, “Never Trust a Poison Dart Frog,” to a publication titled Who Died in Here? which was a collection of stories with a death or a murder taking place in a bathroom. Then I bridged into novel length material and in 2005 pitched the idea for my novel to two agents and two editors at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference in Denver. Two months later I got a contract offer and in January of 2007 my first novel, Retirement Homes Are Murder, was published. None of this would have happened if I had given up after the first hundred rejections. And many authors have gone through this saga of hundreds of rejections before achieving success. On the other hand, I want to stay away from becoming compulsive and obsessive about my writing. I have a wife, three kids and four grandchildren who I want to spend time with. Writing isn’t the only part of my life. I write almost every day, but when I’m traveling to be with family I rarely write. That’s family time. The other challenge is adversity along the writer’s journey. Rejections, bad reviews, brutal critiques, agent issues, publishing snafus, etc. I’m reminded of the Stockdale Paradox that Jim Collins described in his book, Good to Great, which describes the experience of Admiral James Stockdale when a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Stockdale stated: “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” We have to persevere but also address the reality of our situation.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thoughts on Aging

Yesterday I went to see a play titled, “Swimming Upstream,” put on by a group called Viva. Most of the actors were in their sixties through eighties. The audience was liberally sprinkled with seniors in the same age range. While waiting for the play to start, I heard the following comment made behind me, “That doesn’t ring a bell with me, but my bells are kind of rusty.” The play dealt with topics of aging, the theme being “living against the current with heart and humor.” In one scene, a middle aged daughter was telling her mother to be careful of this and careful of that. The mother finally had enough and burst out, “You’re not the boss of me.” Then they laughed at how their roles had reversed. In another scene one of the actors commented, “Remember when thongs were things we wore on our feet.” After the play I took a walk along the Boulder Bike Path and noticed how I still paid attention to cracks in the sidewalk going back to when I was a kid and the saying was, “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.” How many of you remember this and still unconsciously or consciously step over sidewalk cracks?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Words of Wisdom

Here are some more words of wisdom and jokes that people have shared with me when I’ve given presentations:

Don’t lose an hour in the morning and spend all day looking for it.

Live every day as if it is your last, and one of these days you’ll be right.

A man went to his doctor and after a series of tests the doctor met with him and said, “There are two things wrong with you. First, you have short-term memory loss.” The man nodded. Then the doctor continued, “And you have diabetes.” The man smiled and said, “Well, at least I don’t have short-term memory loss.”

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Geezer Humor

Some more geezer humor that people have shared with me:

Snow is like old age sex. You don’t know when it will happen or how long it will last.

Definition of ROMEO: retired older men eating out.

A young man was teamed with a geezer in a golf game. On one hole the young man's ball ended up behind a tall tree. The geezer said, “When I was your age I hit a ball from this same spot over that tree.” Not be outdone, the young man tried the shot, and it hit the tree and bounced back to where it started. When the young man expressed displeasure at the geezer’s comment, the geezer added, “When I was your age the tree was only three feet tall.”

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Wisdom on Writing and Aging

I continue to collect little snippets that people give me when I give presentations or that I run across in my reading. Here are some of my recent favorites:

I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers down. – Steven Wright

How to stay young: When you hit 32, go to the Celsius scale.

Wisdom is knowing what to say and not saying it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Men of Mystery

I had an opportunity to participate in Men of Mystery in Irvine, California, last Saturday for the second year. This is an enjoyable event where 50 male mystery authors and approximately 400 fans gather for the day. Each of us gave a one minute pitch and listened to guest speakers Gregg Hurwitz, Christopher Rice and Don Winslow. Don spoke about how addictive writing becomes. The longest break he has taken is five days. He can’t not write. And the big benefit—every morning he gets to ask “what if?” We signed books and then over lunch schmoozed with the fans sitting at the table. For equal opportunity, there's a comparable conference held for women mystery writers in May.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Meet the Spirits

Last Sunday I attended the Meet the Spirits program at the Columbia Cemetery in Boulder. Actors recreated the lives of a number of the celebrities buried there. The victim of a 1954 murder, who remained buried as “Jane Doe” for many years, was only recently identified after her body was exhumed and DNA testing performed to match with a relative. This case was documented in Silvia Pettem’s book, “Someone’s Daughter.” As an aside, Silvia gave an excellent presentation at the last Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America dinner in Denver about her research into finding the identity of Jane Doe. Some other reenactments included Tom Horn, a gunslinger; Rocky Mountain Joe Sturtevant, a photographer who took pictures of Boulder at the turn of the nineteenth into twentieth century; Mary Rippon, the first woman professor at the University of Colorado; and Dorothy Gardiner, mystery writer. This was a great preparation for Halloween and an excellent way of learning more of the history of Boulder.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Citizens Police Academy

I attended the Boulder Citizens Police Academy several years ago, and the alumni group meets once a week. Last night the speaker was Mark Beckner, chief of police, discussing current and future issues in policing. With the current budget crunch one area of emphasis is doing more with less. In 2000 the police department had 64,289 calls for service, and in 2009 there were 77,735 calls. This represented an increase from 371 calls per officer to 454 calls per officer. The challenge going forward will be to maintain service with reduced staff and funding, which will require improved online reporting, better use of data and crime analysis, regionalization of some functions such as the bomb squad and SWAT and improved technology. He expected immigration and language issues will require more multi-lingual officers. With the graying of America, there will be fewer young violent criminals but an increase in white collar crime such as fraud, identity theft and internet crime.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

What I Learned This Week

I continue to pick up new tidbits of knowledge when I give presentations. Here’s what I collected this week:

Rotary International has a goal of eradicating polio. There are four countries to go: India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. This will be the second disease eradicated, the first being smallpox.

From the exalted to the mundane. Here are three facts I heard: 1. A flink is twelve or more cows. 2. Duct tape was originally called duck tape. 3. It’s illegal to carry ice cream cones in your pocket in Kentucky. Go figure.

But my favorite for the week was this. After a presentation, a man came up to me and said he had graded my talk. He held up a piece of paper with a large zero on it. My first reaction was thinking to myself that people had laughed and enjoyed my speech, so I asked him to explain. He said, “I keep track of how many times a speaker says: um . . . ah . . . and . . . You had zero. Good job.”

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Author Fest of the Rockies

Yesterday I attended the Author Fest of the Rockies in Manitou Springs, Colorado, and lead a workshop on Mixing Humor, Mystery and Older Characters. I had a chance to catch up with other author friends and attend several workshops.

Esri Albritton led a session on high concept and defined it as having two elements: 1. It quickly and clearly communicates what your book is about, and 2. It makes people go “ooh.”

Ann Parker discussed the six elements of fiction: 1. Action, 2. Dialogue, 3. Physical Description of Setting, 4. Physical description of character, 5. Internal thinking, and 6. Internal physical sensations. An interesting exercise was to think of two characters in conflict and then to quickly write a sentence each using the six elements in this order (using the numbers above): 2, 1, 2, 4, 3, 5, 6, 2, 1. All the participants did this and read the results and it was very intriguing how well the sentences flowed. Give it a try.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

More Tidbits from Conferences and Speaking

Whenever I’m speaking or attending conferences, I jot down interesting tidbits that people say or give me. Here are some recent ones:

Nothing happened in Great Britain or any of its possessions (including America) from September 3 through September 13, 1752. People weren’t bored out of their minds, it’s just that those dates never occurred. The reason being that Great Britain changed from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar and the date went from September 2, the last day before the change, to September 14 on the new calendar.

A man donated things to a garage sale and his wife went and bought them all back.

Quoted from W. Somerset Maughan: There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no knows what they are.

How do you know your wrinkle cream works if you don’t have wrinkles?

An older couple went off on a SKI holiday: Spending Kids Inheritance.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Rejection

At the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference a week ago, one of the speakers mentioned some of the famous writers who have had a large number of rejections. When I started writing I submitted short stories to magazines and anthologies and on my 112th submittal sold my first story, “Never Trust a Poison Dart Frog,” to a publication titled, Who Died In Here? which was a collection of short stories with a death or a murder taking place in a bathroom. That ties James Lee Burke who was rejected 111 times for The Lost Get Back Boogie which, when published, was considered for a Pulitzer prize. Other ones of note: Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance had 121 rejections; Jack Canfield and Mark Vitor Hansen had 134 rejections for Chicken Soup of the Soul and Louis L’Amour had 200 stories rejected and more than 350 rejections before making a first sale; John Creasy had 774initial rejections. So the message is very clear—perseverance. As writers, just like sales people, we have to move past being told no, and the next one may be the one that’s accepted.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Week That Was

This last week was like drinking from the proverbial fire hose. On Labor Day we flew to Orlando to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter with our son, daughter-in-law and two of our grandkids. The travel went well, uneventful and we actually arrived ahead of schedule. We stayed at the Loew’s Royal Pacific which was within a short boat ride or walk of the Universal Studio Islands of Adventure where the Harry Potter rides reside. We had a three day pass and by staying at on onsite hotel we were able to get into the Harry Potter part of the park an hour early each morning as well as have express passes to avoid the longer lines on many of the rides. The town of Hogsmead and the Hogswart castle were impressive. We had butter beer; I particularly liked the frozen version which was like a cream soda slushy with cream on top. By getting in early we avoided the long lines through Hogswart castle and could enjoy a leisurely stroll through the castle. Since our grandson is sixteen months old, we did the child swap where one of us could wait with him and then swap out to go on the ride. I had done my homework the week before and finished the seventh book in the series. The ride takes you swooping through the castle, out on a quidditch pitch, chased by a dragon and dementors, spit on by giant spiders and all you could ask for in a four minute heart-pounding adventure.

We got back on Friday, again a flight that arrived early, and then I was off the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference in Denver. This was an opportunity to catch up with friends, meet a number of new people, attend workshops to improve my writing craft and promotional skills and to enjoy a few laughs. A couple of sound bites. One of the speakers quoted Nora Roberts: I can fix a bad page but not a blank page. Another: one of the rules of writing: Just do it from the philosopher Nike. When I have a chance to unbury, I’ll review my notes and post some more observations.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Stream Hike

When I take a break from writing and speaking engagements, I like to walk. Recently I have taken a new kind of hike—a stream hike. Rather than walk on a path, I walk in a flowing streambed. The first time I tried this, I used reef walkers but found my feet got sore when walking on the stones in the stream. What worked much better was a pair of old hiking boots. I went in a stream that was low flowing and not more than two feet deep. Being the end of August and beginning of September, the water wasn’t that cold. Several things I learned. It’s important to use walking poles for balance. Use mosquito repellant. Do it when the sun is out so you can see the bottom of the stream. Following these guidelines, it can be an enjoyable form of exercise with beautiful scenery and no crowds. And your feet don’t overheat.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tidbits from Recent Presentations

I have recently given a number of presentations to service organizations and retirement communities. Here is a sampling of stories and information from audience members:

One family trained an older family member that when she told the same story over again, her relatives would raise the number of fingers to indicate how many times that story had been told.

After one presentation a woman waited to speak to me. When her time came she informed me that in my talk I had said, “jump off of,” which is grammatically incorrect and should be, “jump off.” I concurred that she was right. She noted that these things are very important because she used to be a proofreader. I guess I’m going to have to join a critique group for my presentations as well as my writing.

I liked this quote I was given by one person, “Our children are our investment and our grandchildren are the interest on the investment.”

Another quote, “There’s never enough time unless you’re serving it.”

At some of the service clubs, members like to josh each other. One man was telling the audience his background and stated that he had attended a particular school for three years. An audience member piped up, “Yeah but it’s only a two year school.”

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Blog Radio

I had an opportunity to be interviewed this morning on a blog radio program. We discussed topics of aging and my Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series. For those interested check out:
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/christine-miller/2010/08/19/aging-and-other-minor-inconveniences-an-interview-

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Back to Work

After ten days playing nanny to our two grandsons, I’m back to work, editing a cozy mystery. I also gave a talk earlier this evening and once again picked up a good geezer joke. Joe meets Gladys in a retirement home and asks her to marry him. She says yes. The next morning Joe wakes up and can’t remember if Gladys said yes to his proposal. He finally goes to see her and asks her if she said yes. She beams at him and replies, “I did but I’m glad you came to see me. I couldn’t remember who asked me.”

Friday, August 6, 2010

Speaking

Again I had an opportunity to give several presentations this week. Speaking to one group of seniors after I gave my list of how you can tell you’re growing older, one woman added the three advantages of having short-memory loss: 1. You meet new people all the time. 2. You can hide your own Easter eggs. 3. I forgot the third.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Presentations and People

This last week I gave presentations to two Rotary Clubs, an Optimist Club and a retirement community. For the service organizations, I’ve been donating 20% of the proceeds from book sales to their current charitable project. This encouraged people to buy books and also provided additional funds to worthwhile causes. Some of the tidbits shared with me by people I met include the following: A boy is separated from his grandfather in a crowd and a kind woman after hearing the boy’s predicament asks him, “What’s your grandfather like?” He responds, “Wild Turkey and wild women.” I was given this saying: “Judgment comes from experience but experience comes from bad judgment.”

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Stories and Jokes People Tell Me

While giving talks this last week, numerous people shared their stories and jokes with me. Here are some of my favorites. Old people don’t get the West Nile virus. They get C-Nile. A retirement home received a letter addressed to Jerry Atric. Andres Segovia was asked why he still practiced three hours a day in his eighties and answered, “I’m beginning to notice a little improvement.” While singing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” a woman Alzheimer’s patient instead sang, “He’s got the whole world in his pants.” In my presentation I give a list of how you can tell you’re getting older. One older gentleman gave me a new item to add to my list: You know you’re getting older when what doesn’t hurt, doesn’t work. Another saying given to me: Wisdom can’t come without age, but age can come without wisdom. Finally, after I spoke about using walking sticks as a good form of exercise, someone piped up and said I could title the next mystery in my series, “Walking Sticks Are Murder.”

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Presentations

I’ll be giving quite a few presentations over the next few months. I always enjoy speaking to new groups and meeting people. This last week I spoke at an Optimist Club. I like Optimists—they’re so positive! I also presented at a retirement community. During the questions and answers session at the end, an older gentleman raised his hand and said he had a story for me to use in one of my future talks. Three people were discussing when life begins. The first said at conception. No, the second answered, it’s at birth. The third jumped in. No, you’re both wrong. Life begins with the kids move out and the dog dies.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Speaking Events

As a writer and speaker, I often do events for service organizations such as Optimist, Kiwanis, Lions, Sertoma and Rotary. The presentation I give is titled, “The Secret of Growing Older Gracefully—Aging and Other Minor Inconveniences,” which promotes a positive image of aging. I received a useful suggestion when selling books at these events, and I’ll be trying it out this coming week. I’ll provide 20% of the proceeds from books I sell at these clubs to the charity that they are supporting. I’ll let you know how this works out.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

More Police Roll Playing

Last Wednesday I participated in another half day of roll playing to help train new police officers. This is always an opportunity for me to learn more about police operations for my writing while contributing to the training of new officers. My assignment this time was to panhandle in a park. I traded off with one other person—one time being the panhandler and the next being the person accosted. Panhandling isn’t a crime. A crime occurs with what is termed “aggressive begging”—when the panhandler doesn’t take no for an answer the first time and keeps pestering the other person. In the city of Boulder, Colorado, where I live, the only other offense is panhandling on a median divider of a street. This is considered unsafe. During my stint as a panhandler, I received two citations and was arrested and cuffed once. I had a pocket knife and that was confiscated the time I was arrested. So panhandling follows the same rule as sexual encounters. One someone says, “no,” it’s time to back off.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Break from Writing

I’ve taken a hiatus from writing for the last week as our three kids and four grandchildren came to visit. What a week! With grandkids from ages one to nine, we went swimming in an outdoor pool, in a plastic pool in the backyard and at a rec center with a lazy river and slide; several trips up to the mountains including a stop a new carousel; lunch at Casa Bonita with its indoor waterfall, gorilla act, divers, piƱata, games and cave; playing board games in the evenings; numerous restaurant trips; and lots of rolling around on the carpet with the little ones. This is the first time we’ve been able to get everyone together since December of 2007 so it was quite a treat for the grandparents. Now I’m ready to jump back into writing. I’m close to finishing a rough draft of a new novel so have that project and several editing jobs to work on this coming week.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Reunions

June is a good month for reunions. That’s when my high school in Hawaii always has a luau and reunion. I’ll be going back to my fiftieth in 2012. In the last two weeks I also went to reunions for employees of two companies I used to work for. It’s always great to catch up with people you haven’t seen in years. The challenge is recognizing people who have lost hair, changed shape or morphed into new identities. I’m looking forward to another reunion next week. All of our kids and grandkids are coming to visit. I’m going to take a week off from writing so we can do lots of family activities.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Retirement Homes

Since I write about older characters some of whom live in retirement homes, I visit many retirement communities. Yesterday, I went to the 50th anniversary celebration for the Frasier Meadows Retirement Community in Boulder, Colorado. In addition to great food and interesting people to meet, I heard Larry Minnix, President and CEO of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (AAHSA) speak. He made excellent comments about the aging population and opportunities ahead for the older population. I got a kick out of a story Larry told. His mother was in a retirement community and after becoming a floor leader, she commented to Larry about senior romance saying, “I’ve bit off more than I can chew. You wouldn’t believe what goes on in this place after dark.”

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Writing and Walking

My usual schedule is to write in the morning and then spend the afternoon doing editing, critiques, administration, email and events. The two parts of the day are punctuated by getting some exercise around noon. At least three days a week, I take walks at this time. I find walking gives me a good break and time to think. I’ve started carrying a pad of paper and a pen with me, so when ideas strike me, I can jot them down. This is when I do some of my best brainstorming for plots of books I’m writing. I usually walk with walking poles so I’ll be jaunting along when an idea pops into my head. I stop at the side of the trail, take the poles off my wrists, pull out pen and paper and scratch a note. People must wonder what I’m doing but then again with all the people either mumbling to themselves or talking on cell phones, I may go unnoticed. When I get home I look through my notes. Then my challenge is reading my hen scratching. Most times I can decipher what I’ve written and I’m rejuvenated and have something new to add to my novel.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Optimists

This last Thursday I went to a kindergarten graduation and then gave a presentation at an Optimist Club. What both events had in common: the pledge of allegiance. It struck how few places still give a pledge to the flag. I remember doing a pledge of allegiance when I was in grade school but now the only other place is at service organizations. One of the things I like about Optimist meetings (and I have spoken at approximately ten different clubs) is the positive Optimist Creed that the members recite at the end of the meeting. There are ten tenants of which one is particularly appropriate for all writers: “To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.”

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Surveillance Duty

I’m writing a novel that has a private investigator in an urban fantasy setting so I wanted to get a feel for the life of a PI. I contacted a fellow member of Mystery Writers of America who is a PI and spent part of the day being an assistant PI. My assignment was to be on surveillance in my car watching one end of an alley to see if anyone drove up and entered a particular house off the alley. I was briefed on my assignment, given a sheet with instructions, met the client who described the three people we were looking for and then parked where I could watch anyone enter the alley. At first I was nervous, particularly since someone across the street was working on a lawn and kept walking back and forth. I expected at any time for this man to stroll across the street and ask what I was doing sitting in my car for a long period of time. I didn’t know what to do while I waited so I started writing on my notepad observations about the neighborhood: a redwood fence around the house where I was parked, another car like mine in the driveway ahead, birds chirping, the sound of a train whistle in the distance, sun shining on my car so I had to open all the windows a crack, etc. Then a car turned into the alley and I started fumbling to get on the two-way radio to send an alert. I was asked if I could identify anyone in the car. I couldn’t. I saw the car was silver but didn’t get a good look at the make of the car. I got a partial license plate but couldn’t remember all the numbers and letters as I wrote a note. My partner drove through the alley from the other end and verified that the car stopped at a neighboring house and not the one we were interested in. I realized that I needed to step up my observation skills. The next car that drove down the alley, I got the type of car, color and license number but again couldn’t see the occupants because of tinted windows. Turned out to be a false alarm as well. I learned that nearly everyone driving in this neighborhood had tinted windows. Made it hard to spot someone. After an hour we swapped ends of the alley. I was becoming more comfortable being parked there watching. On this side there was more traffic but no one doing yard work. Several cars started into the alley and then turned around. I guess it was a good place to change direction if needed. After the second hour we swapped ends of the alley again. I parked in a new place. Now there were two men on the corner talking. I tried to act non-obtrusive. Finally, it started to rain and they each got in a truck and drove off. I had the place to myself. I wrapped up the surveillance with two more false alarms. We found that no one entered the target house during our three hour surveillance. Surveillance work is much like playing outfield in baseball. Ninety-nine percent of the time boring, with a few moments of panic.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Humility

As a writer, I can become self-involved in my novels and promotional activities, but the one thing to bring about a sense of humility is to play video games with a nine-year-old. My granddaughter always challenges me to WII games when we visit her. I used to be a competitive tennis player, but let me tell you, she always clobbers me at WII tennis. And it’s not just because I’ve aged. I can still hold my own in real racquet sports but with the video games, I’m just cannon fodder. Oh, well. I can write it off as helping her with her self-esteem. But what about mine?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Older Americans Month

This is Older Americans Month. The theme this year is: Age Strong! Live Long! I’m on the Aging Advisory Council for Boulder County, Colorado, where I live. Yesterday we had a meeting in Nederland which is up in the mountains from Boulder. Arriving after several inches of snow had fallen from a May snowstorm, we learned about the operation of the Community Services Department of our county government. Wrist bands were handed out with the theme of the Older Americans Month, so I’m proud to wear mine and take my place with other older Americans.

Older Americans Month

This is Older Americans Month. The theme this year is: Age Strong! Live Long! I’m on the Aging Advisory Council for Boulder County, Colorado, where I live. Yesterday we had a meeting in Nederland which is up in the mountains from Boulder. Arriving after several inches of snow had fallen from a May snowstorm, we learned about the operation of the Community Services Department of our county government. Wrist bands were handed out with the theme of the Older Americans Month, so I’m proud to wear mine and take my place with other older Americans.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Introver versus Extrovert

A lot of writers are introverts yet we have to promote our books and venture out to meet the public. Introverts gain energy when by themselves which is important when you spent months in front of a keyboard writing a manuscript. Extroverts become energized when around other people. In addition to tests like the Meyer-Briggs that indicated where you fall on the introvert-extrovert scale, there is another simple indicator. At the end of a hard day of work would you rather curl up by yourself or go to a party? When I’ve taken Meyer-Briggs tests in the past, I always place just past the middle on the introvert side. But over the course of a career in marketing and now promoting books, I’ve learned to be more outgoing and now enjoy giving presentations. I’ve also thought there could be other scales to consider. Maybe a refinement of the introvert-extrovert measurement would be the activert-relaxavert to measure if you spent your spare time in activities or relaxing. Or the Emotovert vs. Holdinovert on how we show our emotions. How about the Takeovert compared to a Giveovert on a me versus you orientation? And then there is the Talkovert-Listenovert scale on whether we are talkers or listeners.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Terrorism

I’ve been writing a thriller that deals with terrorism. Recently I read an interesting article in the April, 2010, issue of Smithsonian magazine about Indonesia. According to the article the Indonesian government has made great strides against Islamic terrorism through a three fold policy: 1. Aggressively pursue terrorist, 2. Undercut the popular appeal of militancy by exposing it as un-Islamic, and 3. Ensure that the government doesn’t create more terrorists by treating prisoners brutally. This makes all the sense in the world. A stand must be taken against terrorism, and just as there are Christian and Jewish extremist, there is a core of Islam that doesn’t buy into violence. Brutal treatment of prisoners leads to martyrs and a hardening of sentiment against the government. This is a lesson that regimes around the world must learn.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Writing Rules—There Are None Or Are There?

After years of going to writers conferences, speaking with other authors about what they do and even after my last post, I’ve reached the conclusion that there are no writing rules. Here are several examples. 1. I’ve often heard authors wax poetic about how they know they’re really into the flow of their writing when their characters take over. I haven’t had this experience but I guess it’s like channeling someone else’s thoughts. Recently, I heard best-selling author, Stephen Cannell address this topic. He quoted Janet Evanovich who when asked if her characters ever run away with the story replied, “If they do, I shoot the sons of bitches.” 2. Another rule often stated is to write what you know. This is definitely helpful when getting started, but one of the joys of the writing process is to experiment and try new things. That’s when learning takes place. 3. Some people state that using a prologue is verboten. I find many thrillers greatly improved by the prologue that sets the stage in the past and then plays out in the present. 4. Character description. Some people advocate extensive character description while others keep it to a minimum to let the reader’s imagination fill in the blanks. We’ve all seen excellent examples of both approaches. 5. Outlines versus seat-of-the-pants. Here’s one where you’ll hear opinions ranging from extensive outlining to just sitting down and writing. Either extreme or any gradation in between can work. It’s up to the writer to figure out what’s best for him or her. I use a basic outline but then always find that the story takes off in a direction I never would have predicted. I need a starting structure but then can enjoy the discovery of new alternatives as I write. 6. Write it right the first time versus extensive rewrites. I happen to be in the camp of many rewrites. I can write a fast first draft but then need to do numerous rewrite passes. But there are others who labor over that first draft and then that’s it. Hey, whatever works for you. Rules? Okay, so I really think there are two rules to writing. These are: 1. Sit down and get started, 2. Keep going.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Conference on World Affairs

Every April the University of Colorado sponsors a Conference on World Affairs and this last week I had an opportunity to take in two sessions. One session was titled SuperGeeks Changing the World. One of the speakers talked about crazy billionaires who change the world. The formula was arrogance plus money equals innovation. Some of the super rich are turning their attention to new endeavors or philanthropy. Another point was made that we’re all becoming participants in the media with the Internet providing more democratization of news dissemination. An example is WikiLeaks which publishes information that has been leaked from classified sources such as the recent video of collateral death in Iraq including two Reuters News people. I also attended a session on Writing—The Process. One of the panelists made the statement that less than five percent of authors earn a living from their writing. Another described the writing process as four steps: 1. The madman—write everything down, 2. The architect—take material and put it together, 3. The carpenter—use the architect’s plans to build, and 4. The judge—do the editing. A web site recommended to writers: aldaily.com. It stands for Arts and Letters Daily and is an eclectic set of information. I checked it out and found that it is fascinating—a web site I could spend hours on if I allowed myself to read all the interesting tidbits. One of the presenters mentioned a list of writing rules attributed to Elmore Leonard and others which, paraphrased, included: 1. Never start a book with weather, 2. Never use an adverb, 3. Leave out the parts readers tend to skip, 4. If it sounds like writing, rewrite, and 5. Never put a picture of a famous author on your desk, particularly one who committed suicide.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Twitter

I’ve been on Twitter for a while but haven’t really spent the time to use it effectively. At the Northern Colorado Writers Conference last weekend, I attended a session on Twitter and received some good recommendations. Then this morning I participated in a webinar put on by Harlequin on Twitter (I’m a Harlequin author since my two geezer-lit mysteries are out in a book club edition through Worldwide Mysteries, an imprint of Harlequin). Once again I learned that I need to be more proactive with my Twitter usage. They also recommended using your real name as a username in Twitter. I used to have my user name as geezerlit in Twitter but I’ve changed it to mikebefeler so readers can find me more easily. One of the useful recommendations for social media is to follow the 12:1 rule. Put out twelve messages with information for every message that promotes yourself. I’m being dragged kicking and screaming into the world of Twitter. Look out. I’m going to really learn how to tweet one of these days.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Social Media

I attended a teleconference put on by Harlequin earlier this week on the subject of social media. I was invited because my two books, Retirement Homes Are Murder and Living With Your Kids Is Murder, have been released by a Harlequin imprint, Worldwide Mysteries, for direct to book club editions. The session covered an overview of the various forms of social media including web sites, blogs, Facebook and Twitter. One of the interesting statements made concerned the 12:1 rule, which is, post information that is useful to others twelve times for every self-promotion post. This makes all the sense in the world. If we engage and are active in whatever forms of social media we choose, then it’s perfectly acceptable to do blatant self-promotion (BSP) once in a while.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Northern Colorado Writers Conference

Next Friday and Saturday, March 25-26, 2010, I’ll be attending the Northern Colorado Writers Conference at the Hilton Fort Collins. One of the things I like about writers conferences is that they offer three types of workshops: 1. Improving your craft, 2. Selling your manuscript, and 3. Promoting your book. When I attended my first writers conference in 2002, I was solely focused on developing my writing skills. Then over time I gravitated to learning how to pitch to agents and editors. Once I sold my first novel, then promotion became the highest priority for me. Still, I always attend sessions on honing writing skills. No matter where we are in the writing/selling/promoting cycle, we can all benefit from learning more on how to write. At the upcoming conference I’ll be teaching two workshops titled, “Establishing a Marketing Platform” and “Mixing Humor, Mystery and Older Characters.” This looks to be an excellent conference with a keynote given by Stephen Cannell. I heard him speak at the Left Coast Crime Conference last weekend, and the audience is in for a treat. Also, for anyone attending who wants to learn more about Mystery Writers of America, I’ll be buying coffee at the Starbucks in the Hilton lobby at 2 P.M. on Friday, so stop by.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Left Coast Crime Conference Wraps up in Los Angeles

I just got back from the Left Coast Crime Conference in Los Angeles, in addition to an enjoyable conference I had a chance to see my kids and grandkids who live in the area. I didn’t win the Lefty Award for best humorous mystery novel, but Rita Lakin who did, is a good friend and deserves the award. I had the opportunity to introduce nineteen new authors (two more added at the last minute), moderate a Freshman Panel and moderate a Geezer Lit Panel. I always come away from mystery conference inspired and ready to jump back into writing. I had a chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones. Next year Left Coast Crime will be in Santa Fe. The program committee is already working ideas for a wide variety of interesting panels. I’ve signed up and will be attending again.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

New Authors at the Left Coast Crime Conference

At the Left Coast Crime Conference in Los Angeles I’ll be introducing seventeen debut authors at a breakfast on Friday, March 12. These are all writers whose first mystery/crime book appeared between January 1, 2009 and March 1, 2010. Their work represents the spectrum from cozy to noir; mystery, suspense and thriller; and take place all over the world. The authors and their debut books are:
Annamaria Alfieri - City of Silver
Eric Beetner - One Too Many Blows to the Head
Rachel Brady - Final Approach
Graham Brown - Black Rain
Teresa Burrell - The Advocate
Kate Carlisle - Homicide in Hardcover
Rebecca Cantrell - A Trace of Smoke
Adam Eisenberg - A Different Shade of Blue
Jamie Freveletti - Running from the Devil
Lenny Kleinfeld - Shooters and Chasers
Deborah Ledford - Staccato
Sophie Littlefield - A Bad Day For Sorry
George Mastras - Fidali’s Way
Ken Mercer - Slow Fire
Diana Orgain - Bundle of Trouble
Linda Reid - Dead Air
Stephen Jay Schwartz - Boulevard
If you’re looking for a good read, you can pick up any on this list.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Freshman Class Panel at the Left Coast Crime Conference

One of the panels I’ll be moderating at the Left Coast Crime Conference in Los Angeles in March is titled Freshman Class. This is a group of five authors whose first mystery novels were published within the last year. The panelists and their novels are: Rachel Brady-Final Approach, Jamie Freveletti-Running from the Devil, Lenny Kleinfeld-Shooters and Chasers, Sophie Littlefield-A Bad Day for Sorry and Ken Mercer-Slow Fire. So far I’ve read A Bad Day for Sorry and Shooters and Chasers, am in the middle of Running from the Devil with Final Approach and Slow Fire on my reading table to complete before the conference. From the two and a half I’ve read so far, this is an outstanding group of debut mystery novels. Sophie has a kick-butt protagonist, and Larry tells a tale that kept me turning pages. Larry and I share the same publisher, Five Star. I’m looking forward to my reading ahead, and then we’ll have quite a panel at LCC.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Author Signing Events

Author signing events are a crap shoot. You never know how many people will show up or what the weather will be. But if it’s a group signing, there’s the opportunity to share stories with other authors. Last Thursday night authors Linda Berry, Beth Groundwater and I did a signing event at the Mont Blanc Boutique in the Cherry Creek Shopping Center in Denver. This is the second time in two months that the three of us have been scheduled together for an event. And guess what? It snowed both times. In December the weather was so bad that only Linda made it through the snow. This time all three of us braved the elements and appeared. We didn’t have a very large turnout, but I enjoyed the camaraderie of catching up on what we had all been doing in the last several months. Group signings are always more fun than sitting at a table by yourself.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Left Coast Crime Conference

Over the next month I’ll be reading a whole bunch of mystery novels. At the Left Coast Crime Conference in Los Angeles in March I’ll be moderating two panels: a Geezer Lit session with Rita Lakin, Cynthia Riggs and Margaret Grace and a New Author panel with Rachel Brady, Sophie Littlefield, Lenny Kleinfeld and Barbara Graham. I’ll also be Master of Ceremony for the New Author Introduction Breakfast. I’ve read books by Rita, Cynthia and Barbara and am looking forward to becoming familiar with the other authors. I have a big stack of book sitting on a table next to my easy chair in the living room. I’ll be watching some of the winter Olympics but also immersing myself in a fine list of mysteries.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Writer's Life

I have a number of writing projects going on. I just finished a thriller that I sent off to my agent. We’ll see what happens with that one. I’m now in the process of rewriting and expanding the first novel in a new geezer-lit mystery series. I’m also working on a short story to submit for consideration for a Mystery Writers of America anthology. Then I’m preparing two workshops to give at the Northern Colorado Writers Conference in March. I continue to give my presentation, Aging and Other Minor Inconveniences, to groups—one retirement home and two service organizations scheduled next week. I was thinking this morning about the contrast between having a day job and being retired to write full time. One difference I can find is now I work seven days a week instead of five. But it's on my terms!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Writing a Synopsis

I enjoy writing novels and even like coming up with short, punchy blurbs or tag lines. But crafting a synopsis is a different story. I start with a basic outline when I’m beginning a novel. I then print this out to use as a guideline as I write. But my stories always go off in their own direction so when a novel is completed, I look back at my outline and find only part that has remained true to my original concept. I then use this outline to write a synopsis after the novel is completed. I write over the outline and have to change a great deal because of how the novel evolved. When I look at the first draft of a synopsis, I want to throw up. It’s a boring cut-out. Then I have to rewrite it to put some life into it. My druthers would be to skip a synopsis completely. I prefer someone reading my novel and getting caught up in the story and characters rather than having to digest a two-page summary.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Living With Your Kids Is Murder is a finalist for the Lefty Award at the Left Coast Crime Conference

I just received some exciting news. My novel, Living With Your Kids Is Murder, is a finalist for the Lefty Award at the Left Coast Crime Conference, taking place in March. The Lefty is given to the best humorous novel published in 2009. I'm in great company. The other finalists are:
Donna Andrews Swan for the Money
Denise Dietz Strangle a Loaf of Italian Bread
Rita Lakin Getting Old Is a Disaster
Kris Neri High Crimes on the Magical Plane

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America

I’ve just been elected vice-president of Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America. As president, Mario Acevedo, says we’re the largest and smallest MWA chapter—largest in geography and smallest in number of members. It’s a great group of people, and we have monthly meetings at the Denver Press Club, the second Thursday of the month (except for June through August) which feature fascinating speakers and dinner. This last Thursday Dr. Joe Gentile, Forensic Odontologist, spoke on solving crimes through dental identification. Next month Lieutenant Sanchez of the Denver Police Department’s vice and narcotics unit will speak about the seamy and dangerous business of prostitution. In October Silvia Pettem will describe the Boulder Jane Doe case from 1954, and in November Detective Chuck Heidel will recount the Tantra Rapist case that was solved after eleven years of persistence. In December we’ll all be going to the Adams Mystery Dinner Playhouse for our holiday party. Anyone who is in the Denver area is invited to join the meetings. Visit http://www.rmmwa.org.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Aging and Other Minor Inconveniences

In conjunction with my writing, I’ve been giving a presentation titled, Aging and Other Minor Inconveniences, to organizations around the Colorado Front Range. Yesterday I gave a talk to a great group of people, the Boulder chapter of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE). The Colorado Federation President, Frank Impinna, also attended to initiate the new officers of the Boulder chapter. I enjoyed his presentation, and he shared several indicators of how you know you’re getting older. You know you’re getting older when someone compliments you on your alligator shoes and you’re barefoot. You know you’re getting older when getting lucky means finding your car in the parking lot. You know you’re getting older when a little action means taking fiber. You know you’re getting older when your sweetie says let’s go upstairs and go to bed and you answer, pick one.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Writing During the Holidays - 2

I try to write everyday and have been pretty good about it during most of the holidays. Over the Thanksgiving week when we were in Los Angeles, I only wrote two days. Too many activities with family scheduled. I have a set of priorities I follow: top priority is family emergencies, then work (writing) emergencies, then normal family activities, then normal work (writing) activities. I set my schedule when I’m at home and can stay with it pretty well, but on the road I’m either at a conference and spending time with other people or with family and spending time with them. Still, I got in a lot of writing time over the last month. I completed the rough draft for a thriller and am now in editing mode.