Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Would You Eat A Dead Lady’s Food?

Join me today for a post from author CJ West. Enjoy!

Lorado Martin, star of my new novel Dinner At Deadman’s, loves to rummage around estates of the newly-deceased and prepare them for sale. He’s attracted to all sorts of collectibles, antiques, about anything lying around someone’s house that proves interesting.

The title Dinner At Deadman’s comes from a night Lorado is working in a woman’s home and decides to eat some cereal from her kitchen. I have been surprised by how revolting people find the idea of eating something from a dead lady’s home, so I thought I’d explore that idea with you a bit today.

One of my most surprising food finds was a can of peaches at the bottom of a set of cellar stairs. The can had rusted through. The peaches had seeped out and all that remained of them was a dark-colored spot on the wooden shelf underneath the can. The can must have been sitting there for several years and I wonder if anyone considered eating those peaches in the few years before I found them.

I think we can all agree we wouldn’t eat peaches from a rusty old can, but what about a can of soup in the pantry that was shiny and new? Could there really be anything wrong with soup that’s been lying around a while? If it was free, would you take it home? Would you check the expiration date first?

For me it would be an easy call. If it was canned food that I would buy anyway, I’d take any can that was in good condition. I’m not sure exactly what makes eating food from a dead person’s house weird. Is it the idea that whatever killed them might be infectious? Or is it a superstition that the food could be haunted? Or maybe the ghost of the previous owner would torment you for taking it home?

Let’s go to the kitchen next.

I remember eating cereal at my grandmother’s house. It was always stale. And she always filled bowls by hand, reaching in, grabbing a handful, and dropping it in a bowl like an excavator. That always seemed a little gross to me as a kid. The idea of a strange old lady’s hand on my cereal is enough for me to forgo an open box.

How about you? If you found an unopened box of your favorite cereal would you take it?

It’s a slippery slope once you get started. You open the freezer and see frozen steaks. The food starts to have value and in these tough economic times I think a lot of us would be tempted to take some of that free food home, especially if it was in a sealed container.

Whether this sounds like a great idea or a crazy one, I hope you’ll check out Dinner At Deadman’s and explore a sweet little old lady’s kitchen alongside Lorado.

C.J. West is the author of seven suspense novels including The End of Marking Time and Sin and Vengeance, which was optioned into development for film by Beantown Productions, LLC (screenplay by Marla Cukor). C.J. blogs at You can also find him at or at

Monday, December 17, 2012

Walking for Inspiration

Most days I take a walk after my morning writing. Other days I play platform tennis or take longer hikes. For me, the exercise helps both mentally and physically. I also use walking to brainstorm—to come up with ideas for my current writing project. I’ve also used walks to practice for presentations I give.

Yesterday, I went on a seven hour hike. I got some writing done first thing in the morning and then spent the rest of the day hiking. It was a ranger led hike through the burn area of the Flagstaff Fire that occurred last summer on the slope of Bear Peak west of Boulder, Colorado. In addition to a lot of exercise, I learned about fighting wild fires from the ranger who led the hike. If lower branches are cut away and pine trees aren’t too dense, they can survive a fire. The problem is that too many of our forests have become too dense. Below are pictures of the area we hiked through.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Men of Mystery

One of my favorite mystery conferences is Men of Mystery, which was held Saturday, November 17, in Irvine, California. Joan Hansen puts on a wonderful day-long conference with fifty male mystery writers and over 400 fans. The morning keynote speaker, Joseph Finder, described the opportunity he’s found to get “people to say indiscreet things and then write novels about it.” He mentioned with Hollywood options on novels, “You can die of encouragement.” His novel High Crimes was made into a movie, and he had a chance to play an extra in the film. At Men of Mystery, Joan carried a microphone around, and each of us had one minute to give a pitch to the attendees. After a late morning break to sign books, we reconvened at tables to have lunch and speak with the fans sitting with each of us. Three high school writers were honored (see picture with Joseph Finder) and the afternoon keynotes were given by John Lescroart and James Rollins. All in all and enjoyable day.

I also had a chance to visit my kids and grandkids who live in the Los Angeles area. Here's my granddaughter wearing my Geezer-lit Mysteries hat.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Day in Pompeii

Yesterday we went to see an exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science with artifacts from Pompeii that were recovered when the city was excavated centuries after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. It was fascinating to see the artwork, kitchen containers and Roman plumbing of that era. I also learned there was adequate warning with earthquakes and smoke coming out of Vesuvius before the city was inundated by a pyroclastic surge. The vast majority of citizens escaped but approximately 1000 stayed and were buried in ash. Much like tsunami and hurricane warnings today, not everyone evacuates when there is a pending disaster. Some don’t want to make the effort, and others think, “It won’t happen to me.”

Friday, November 9, 2012

Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America

Last night I attended the monthly meeting of the Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America at the Denver Press Club. Our speaker was retired Judge Steve Phillips who filled us in on the view from the bench. We learned that there are five acts that can be considered first degree murder:
·         Intentionally causing death
·         Killing with universal malice, e.g., throwing a bomb into a crowd
·         Causing the death of a child by one in a position of trust
·         Causing the execution of another by perjured testimony (never been prosecuted in Colorado)
·         Causing the death of another in the course of a felony

Second degree murder is killing another person knowingly or willfully such as a bar fight where the accused is the aggressor.

Manslaughter is killing someone by reckless disregard.

Negligent homicide is causing death by failing to perceive a substantial or unjustifiable risk such as a car accident by speeding.

Penalties in Colorado are as follows:
·         First degree murder – life in prison or death
·         Second degree murder – 16 to 48 years
·         Manslaughter – 2 to 6 years, or 4 to 12 years if a deadly weapon is used
·         Negligent homicide – 1 to 3 years.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Nothing Like a Beautiful Sunrise

Being a morning person, I do my writing first thing and try to get out for a walk mid-day unless I have early events scheduled. Yesterday, I had to alter my schedule because I was participating in an aging conference from 8:30-4, so I took my walk at sunrise. The benefit--I saw a beautiful sunrise. Here’s what greeted me:

Monday, October 29, 2012

Rejection Is Not a Four Letter Word

Whenever one of my books is published, I put together a new presentation to give to groups when I’m invited to speak. My next book, Cruising in Your Eighties Is Murder, will be published in December, so I’ve started collecting material for my presentation, titled, Rejection Is Not a Four Letter Word. I’ll be speaking about how, as authors, we must become immune to rejection, since it comes with the territory. I’ve collected some rejections from famous authors. Here’s one for Agatha Christie’s first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles: “It is very interesting and has several good points, but is not quite suitable for our list.” Sound familiar? Here’s the exact wording of a rejection letter I received two months ago: “We’re afraid that the project you propose does not seem right for our list.” In this one regard, nothing has changed in the last ninety years. As writers we have to have perseverance and write through the rejection. My consolation is that I have three published novels with two more under contract.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Next Big Thing

Camille Minichino included me in a blog chain answering the following questions:

What is your working title of your book?
Cruising in Your Eighties Is Murder

Where did the idea come from for the book?
My wife, daughter and I went on an Alaskan cruise in 2006. The places we visited and the shipboard life begged to be turned into a murder mystery, and so it has.

What genre does your book fall under?
Geezer-lit mystery (cozy)

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Clint Eastwood as protagonist Paul Jacobson.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
On an Alaskan cruise, cantankerous octogenarian Paul Jacobson, who struggles with short-term memory loss, must deal with mayhem, missing people and murder and use all his geezer resources to solve a case of international intrigue.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It will be published December 19, 2012, by Five Star (an imprint of Cengage Learning)

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Six months. I wrote this draft while I was still working full time. After reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, I adapted her Morning Pages technique. Every morning before going to work, I wrote three handwritten pages of my manuscript. When I came home from work, I entered these pages into the computer, doing an editing pass.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Killer Cruise by Laura Levine, Atomic Lobster by Tim Dorsey, and Murder on the QE2 by Donald Bain.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series was originally inspired by people I met when my mom and stepfather lived in a retirement home. Cruising in Your Eighties Is Murder was specifically inspired by the events of the Alaskan cruise I took.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The climax to the book takes place in Butchart Gardens in Victoria, Canada. This is a beautiful place, but you’ll never think of it the same after what happens there in my novel.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Murder Trial

This week I’ve been sitting in on parts of a murder trial. This is a cold case from 1994 that was reopened in 2011, and an original suspect is being brought to trial. What’s interesting is that all the evidence is circumstantial. There were no witnesses who saw the gun being fired, no gun found and no direct confirmation that the accused was at the scene of the murder. There is evidence that the accused bought a gun, although he told the police in 1994 he didn’t, and that he had in his possession the type of ammunition that killed the victim. He also was earlier convicted of stealing checks from the victim and forging checks. The trial will continue next week and I’m going to try to hear more of the testimony.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Financial Challenge of Aging

Since I write mysteries about older people, I’m interested in topics of aging. I’m also co-chair of the Boulder County Aging Advisory Council. At our meeting this last Friday, we heard about the Elder Economic Security Standard Index for Colorado. This showed how much annual income a person 65+ requires to meet basic needs, assuming good health. For an individual owning a house without a mortgage this is $17,664 in Colorado. For a couple with a mortgage the amount is $38,676. For elders living only on Social Security, this is an issue. The further compounding is that if an individual requires long-term care for 36 hours a week of care, an additional $43, 632 per year is required. Social Security was envisioned to be one leg of a three-legged stool of Social Security, pensions and savings. Unfortunately, pensions have dried up, and few organizations provide them. People in low economic situations can’t afford to save along the way. So when it comes time to retire, many people are relying entirely on Social Security, which won’t cover their basic needs. If you have been able to provide a complete three-legged stool for your retirement, consider yourself fortunate. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Book Clubs

I love book clubs. I’ve had an opportunity to speak in person or via conference call to a number of book clubs since I published my first mystery novel in 2007. This week, I spoke to a group in Cincinnati. The members were homebound seniors who met via a conference call organized by a librarian who also sent them books. They had read my third book, Senior Moments Are Murder. I made some introductory comments and then answered some great questions about my writing and subject matter that included homelessness. We also shared a few chuckles, comparing life experiences. I can’t think of a better way to spend half an hour. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

After a Writers Conference

Two weeks after attending the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference, I’m almost caught up. I still have a lot of new action items from the conference, but I’ve taken care of the “A” items on my to do list. This included sending partial or full manuscripts to two agents and two editors. Next will be new promotional ideas to implement and finally some research items to check out.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference

I had the pleasure of attending the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference in Denver last weekend. It’s always energizing to meet with other writers, agents and editors, attend workshops and schmooze. This is the eleventh year I’ve attended. That first year I only knew one other person. Now, I look forward to catching up on so many good friends and making new ones. On the badge is a ribbon for people attending for the first time. These are the most important people at the conference because they are taking the plunge to go to a writers conference. This conference has a balance of topics for newbies up through best-selling authors. Each year I take gobs of notes and come back with an action item list that takes me weeks to complete. This year I had a chance to officially pitch to one editor and informally to another editor and two agents for the first book in a new series. Author Cindi Myers gave an excellent presentation on Staying in the Game. She stated we need to accept failure as part of the business. She described being orphaned by publishers twice and having to part ways with two agents. After fifty books publishing, she is still dealing with rejection, as do all of us. It comes with writing. So I’m back in there pitching, writing new manuscripts and promoting what’s already published. It’s a never ending task but I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Writing Blogs

I wonder how many people actually enjoy writing blogs.  For me, it’s not the top of my interest list. It reminds me too much of writing essays in high school and college freshman English classes. On the other hand, I love writing fiction. That’s why I became a mystery writer. The neat thing is I can make up stuff. Sure, I have to make sure it’s plausible, but I can let my imagination go wild with all kinds of quirky characters, strange events and unique locations. Maybe for future blog entries I should just make things up.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Latest e-book

I recently uploaded the third book in my Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series, Senior Moments Are Murder, to the various e-book sources. The first two books in my series have been up for a while since my publisher had no restrictions on e-book distribution for those. For Senior Moments Are Murder and my upcoming Cruising in Your Eighties Is Murder, my publisher has a one-year moratorium before I can publish in e-book format. That year has passed for Senior Moments Are Murder. Having done it twice before, the e-book publishing process is straight forward. I follow the instructions on the Kindle, Nook and Smashwords sites. The whole process including three up loads and reviewing the loaded manuscripts took me less than three hours. The hardest part of the process is deciding on pricing. I’ve priced all my e-books at $3.99. With Smashwords you can select what e-book sources to distribute to. I distribute to all except Kindle and Nook since I do that directly myself. My books are available as hard cover, large print, audio book and e-book editions. However readers chose to read my book is fine with me.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Since I write mystery novels about older people, I always enjoy successes of the aging population. There’s a terrific singing group called Young@heart, based in Massachusetts that performs around the country. My wife and I had an opportunity to take in a show last Sunday night, and what a show it was. Image about twenty-five people in their seventies up to ninety, singing and dancing for a two hour show. They were terrific, full of energy, outstanding voices and an inspiration for all. It’s particularly amazing to me since I can’t even carry a tune. It was a message to all of us to follow our dreams, no matter our age. And they set an example of active, contributing seniors.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


This week I received the Advance Reading Copies (ARCs) for the fourth book in my Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery series, Cruising in Your Eighties Is Murder. The book takes place on an Alaskan cruise, and Paul gets into all kinds of trouble. My publisher sends ARCs to major reviewers, and I have additional copies to send to local reviewers and other contacts. It’s always exciting to have a book in hand, although I’ll be going through one more editing pass. It never ceases to amaze me—after all the times it has been edited including my dozen edit passes, my wife (who is an excellent reader), the development editor and copy editor at my publisher—there are still corrections to be made. So my wife and I are reading it again and I’ll be sending my final set of edits back to the publisher. The book will be published December 19, 2012. Then I can await an email from a reader who will say, “Did you notice the error on page . . .”

Monday, August 13, 2012


I enjoy watching the Summer Olympics every four years. In addition to the volleyball, swimming and track events, I had an opportunity to see some sports I wasn’t familiar with. The one that intrigued me the most was team handball. It was fast-paced and had the best elements of soccer and basketball. What I don’t like about soccer is that scoring happens so infrequently. With team handball there’s lots of scoring. What I dislike about basketball is the last two minutes of a game takes forever with all the fouling and time outs. Team handball keeps the pace going all the time.

Last week we visited two of our grandkids and I put together an “Olympics” for my five-year-old grandson The events included: standing long jump, races in the back yard, a race of pushing a block with your nose, balloon volleyball, a climb to the top of a slide, a hula hoop high jump and a rubber ball shot put. After every event he wanted to know if he had won a gold medal.

Now I’m back to writing and have Olympics withdrawal. Only four more years to wait.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Police Role Playing Revisited

Yesterday I had an opportunity to help as a role-player for the training of two new police officers. Once again, I got to play the bad guy and ended up being cuffed although I tried to talk my way out of it. The new officers go through many weeks of class training, but it’s the “hands on” exercises that really help solidify what they’ve learned. They can study all day, but when a suspect with blood on his hand tries to say he’s only a refrigerator repairman while a woman is screaming in the bathroom, that’s when they have to take action. The trainers critiqued what they did. The new officers will remember the mistakes they made and not repeat them. And as a by-product, I learned a heck of a lot as well

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


I’m back from a Hawaiian vacation with our kids and grandkids. I grew up in Hawaii, so it’s always good to get back. What made it special this time was, after two years of planning, we were able to get all the kids and grandkids together at the same time. This is a rare event with our family spread out over the country. Although my wife and I are “retired” and have the flexibility to schedule travel when we want, my kids have their work schedules and grandkid school to deal with. I don’t know when we’ll get everyone together next, but I relish the time we had together. As a writer, I took this time off because my priority was being with our family. Now that we’re back home, I’m back on my morning writing schedule and afternoon critique group work. It always takes a few days to catch up, but it was well worth it. Here are a few pictures from our trip. 

Waimea Falls: 

Kailua Beach:

Blow Hole:

Disney Aulani:

Monday, July 2, 2012


Living in a college community comes in handy when doing research for a mystery novel. Last week I needed to read some articles in the New Yorker from 1944 and 1945 so I went to the Norlin Library at the University of Colorado. After finding what I sought, I walked around the campus, which was not crowded given the summer session. I took several photos of the Varsity Lake.

Then I headed home with my research completed. The three articles I found provide an interesting perspective on the mystery genre from the mid 1940s. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Flagstaff Fire near Boulder

For the last day we’ve been watching the smoke plumes from the fire in the foothills above Boulder. Today I had a chance to see the progression of the fire when I took a hike on open space to the east of the mountains. Smoke was visible in Shadow Canyon behind the Devil's Thumb rock formation:

While watching, a slurry bomber dropped retardant in Shadow Canyon:

A little while later there was another drop on the top of Bear Peak where the fire had breached the top of the mountain:

Right now there is a thunder storm passing through. This is bringing some needed rain but also the risk of additional lightning strikes. I got some writing done today, but I have to confess it’s difficult to concentrate with the threat of fire so close to town.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Reading Old Mysteries

I’ve been doing some research and reading mysteries from the turn of the nineteenth into the twentieth century. In particular I’ve been finding some fascinating women detectives in this era. One of my favorites is Constance Dunlap in a book of the same name by Arthur B. Reeve from 1913.  This book contains individual episodes of Constance’s exploits. Constance gets involved in crime by helping her husband who admits being an embezzler. From starting on the wrong side of the law, Constance proceeds to help others who have succumbed to a life of crime. She encounters forgery, gun running, gambling and drug dealing, always staying just out of the reach of Detective Drummond. More traditional amateur sleuths include Anna Katherine Green’s Amelia Butterworth and Violet Strange. Amelia is a nosy neighbor who ends up solving a murder. Violet reluctantly agrees to investigate a number of crimes as a woman of society.  Mary Roberts Rinehart has two women protagonist: nurse Hilda Adams and adventuress Tish Carberry. George R. Sims introduces ex-actress Dorcas Dene and her bulldog Toddlekins. I found it interesting to read about these characters who predated Miss Marple.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fiftieth High School Reunion

Not to date myself, but my wife and I just returned from my fiftieth high school reunion. A friend of ours went to a fiftieth high school reunion in Los Angeles, which consisted of an evening event. Going to a reunion for Punahou School in Hawaii is completely different. Ours was a nine day event. We started on the Big Island of Hawaii for three days and then flew to Honolulu for six days. Events included: a reception at the Waikoloa Marriott Hotel, a trip to a ranch, a trip to the Arizona memorial, a kickoff event on campus where I signed books, a reception at the Outrigger Canoe Club, a trip to Doris Duke’s Shangri-la estate, a visit to Iolani Palace, a party at a classmates house, a memorial church service for departed classmates, a reception at the school president's house, a luau and two picnics. Below are pictures:

Kahua Ranch on the island of Hawaii:

Kiholo Bay:

Arizona Memorial:

Doris Duke's Shangri-la:

Before luau on Punahou campus:

Luau with class of 1962:

My wife Wendy, Russell Ching, his wife Kathi, and Russell's mom who was celebrating her eightieth  reunion:

Friday, June 1, 2012

Volunteer Work

Since I write about older characters in my mystery novels, I have an interest in the subject of aging. Consequently, I volunteered to be a member of the Boulder County Aging Advisory Council. I’m currently co-chair, and our duties include giving feedback to the Boulder County Area Agency on Aging and reviewing and approving funding requests from organizations providing services to seniors. Today, we had our monthly meeting in Allenspark in the mountains above Boulder. Here’s the group hard at work.

Monday, May 21, 2012


I’ve been doing researching and brainstorming on where I want to go with different publishing alternatives. Right now I have three books in my Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery series published through Five Star (an imprint of Cengage Learning). These are also available in large print and two of them have been released as direct to book club paperbacks through Worldwide Mysteries (an imprint of Harlequin) and as audio books through Books in Motion. I’ve also put the first two out as e-books through Amazon, B&N and Smashwords. In August I can release my third book as an e-book (I’ve had to wait because although I retain e-book rights, my publisher has a one year moratorium before I can publish as an e-book). I’m exploring two directions for this release. Should I release through all e-book channels as I have for my first two novels or should I go one of the exclusive routes through KDP Select or Nook First? One school of thought is to go for the greatest market reach through all channels. The other is to get the advantage of one of the exclusive channels that provide enhanced promotional opportunities. But the exclusive channels disallow publishing through other e-book channels, so there is a tradeoff on potential benefit for foregoing the other channels. I also have a number of completed manuscripts that I’m trying to decide if I’ll go traditional publishing or self-publish so that I can earn full royalties and control when it’s published as an e-book. The advantage of the traditional published route is professional editing, established distribution and not having to manage as many tasks myself. But since my publisher has a one year moratorium on e-book releases, I have to wait. The advantage of the current publishing world is that as authors we have more choices. The disadvantage is that it requires good analysis to sort through the various alternatives. I look forward to seeing what I decide.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Finishing Manuscript

I'm getting close to finishing the manuscript for my sixth Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery. I'm in the editing process now. For me I go through numerous edit passes. First, I reread and check the story flow and consistency. Then I go through to make sure the grammar works. Next, I go through numerous passes to eliminate pet words and filler words. When this is all completed, I reread again to make sure it still makes sense with any word changes. And the final pass that I’m on now, I read it out loud. 

Monday, April 30, 2012

Malice Domestic Conference

I returned last night from the Malice Domestic Conference in Bethesda, MD. This is a conference for fans of the cozy type of mystery novels. The guest of honor was Jan Burke shown below being interviewed by Dan Stashower.

Elizabeth Peters received the Amelia Award and is shown here signing.

Parnell Hall dressed up as one of Elizabeth Peters’s characters and is here with fellow Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America author Beth Groundwater and me.

A few snippets from speakers:
- Dana Cameron stated that she “gives herself a chance to try something new.”
- Lee Goldberg is an advocate of e-publishing but warns that it can be too easy for unedited books to become a “Tsunami of swill.”
- Donna Andrews advocates “research by wandering around.”
- Margaret Maron stated that “needed killing was a very good defense in North Carolina.”
- One speaker said, “The difference between a writer and an author is perseverance.”
- In describing the interest in paranormal mysteries, one author indicated, “Everyone wants a little magic in their lives.”
- Luci Zahray, know as the Poison Lady, gave a talk on alcohol poisoning.  A chronic alcoholic if cut off from alcohol will die and needs about four days to go through a detoxification process to avoid death.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Library Event

Last Friday I participated in the Longmont Library Festival Authors Open House. It was a terrific gathering of Colorado authors, including fiction, nonfiction and poetry writers. I had an opportunity to visit with old friends, meet new people and sell a few books. Two attached pictures. The first picture is of members of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America: Mario Acevedo, Bob Spiller, Chris Jorgensen, Michelle Black, Barbara Steiner and me. The second picture shows authors Linda Berry and Ann Ripley, both excellent mystery writers.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Break from Writing

I took a break from writing for an extended weekend to visit two of our grandkids. I had four days of playing with trucks, cars and trains; taking walks; hunting for feathers and shells; pitching baseballs; reading stories; and telling stories. Come to think about it, all good things to inspire me now that I’m back home and returning to my writing schedule.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Left Coast Crime Conference

I had the pleasure of attending the Left Coast Crime Conference in Sacramento last week. In addition to being on two panels, I had the opportunity to introduce twenty-four new mystery writers whose first mystery novel was published in 2011. Award winners included Donna Andrews, The Real Macaw, for the Lefty Award for best humorous mystery; Ann Parker, Mercury’s Rise for best historical mystery; Kelli Stanley, City of Secrets, for best novel set in California; and Darrell James, Nazareth Child, for best first mystery novel. A few sound bites: Jacqueline Winspear, guest of honor – a first draft is clay on the wheel; during a panel on forensics one of the panelists called the CSI effect “tricknology;” Elle Lothlorien described the publishing cycle through Amazon as four weeks compared to the over one year for traditional publishing; one panelist described receiving, “rave rejections;” one reader gave me a geezer line: “I may be over the hill, but I’m not under it.” Next year's conference will be in Colorado Springs.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Word Misusage

As I write more, I continue to learn new tips on word usage: correct and incorrect. Here are two I often catch in critique group manuscripts as well as in published books:
1. Blonde vs. blond – A person is a blonde but hair is blond.
2. Lectern vs. podium – I find this misused all the time. A podium is a platform you stand on to speak, but a lectern is the goodie you stand behind and put your notes on.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Authors use many different methods to brainstorm ideas for their writing. Here are two techniques I use while I’m preparing to start a new manuscript or while writing it.

1. Before going to sleep, I review what notes I’ve made or where I left off in my manuscript. This gives me a chance to noodle on it over night. The subconscious often presents me with some excellent ideas this way.

2. I’m a morning writer. After I complete my work, I often take a walk around noon. In addition to my exercise, this is a good brainstorming time for me. I take a pad of paper and a pen, and when an idea strikes me. I stop and write it down.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Juggling Writing and Editing

I only work on one new writing manuscript at a time, but I may have multiple projects in various stages of editing. Right now, I’m writing the sixth book in the Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery series. At the same time, I have two other manuscripts being reviewed by my two online critique groups. As I get feedback from my critique partners, I go back and edit these novels. Then I’ve just completed the copy edits for the fourth book in the Paul Jacobson series, Cruising in Your Eighties Is Murder. This is scheduled for publication by Five Star in December of this year. Also, I have another novel for which I’m getting feedback from readers. As I get comments, I edit this one. And finally, I’ve recently signed a contract for book five in the Paul Jacobson series titled, Care Homes Are Murder. This manuscript is completed and has gone through my edits but next will be suggestions coming back from my developmental editor. Never a dull moment.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

To Outline or Not To Outline

In my writing I have always done some amount of outlining. I’ve never been a seat-of-the-pants writer where I can just sit down and start writing. On some manuscripts I’ve done extensive outlining and for others I’ve developed only a basic outline. What I’ve evolved and what I’m using on my current manuscript is a scene outline where I briefly describe each scene. This gives me a framework for my novel but allows me to fill in a lot of detail and take diversions as the manuscript evolves.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Getting Writing Ideas

Getting Writing Ideas from NewspapersI find all kinds of interesting writing ideas in newspapers. Over the weekend we were in Los Angeles having a reunion with good friends from our UCLA days, and I happened to read an article in the Los Angeles Times about synesthesia. I had never seen this term before but now have done a little further reading about it. Synesthesia is a condition that affects one to four percent of the population where there is a cross link between different senses. In one common form called color synesthesia, numbers or letters are perceived as specific colors. Minds of synesthetes work differently than most people. It isn’t a bad condition and is reported to be neutral or pleasant to those who have it. All I know is after reading about it, I have to have a character with synesthesia in a future novel.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Trying New Stuff

One of the aspects of writing I enjoy is trying new things. Right now I’m at writing a historical mystery, which I’ve never done before. There’s a whole new dimension to writing about a time in history. Mine takes place in 1919. I’ve been reading old newspapers and learning about what was occurring in the world, in the US and in Boulder, Colorado (where my novel is set), at that time. Much like watching Super Bowl ads, I’ve become a junky of reading ads from 1919. Then there’s the whole thing of word choice and idioms. I have to keep checking to see if a phrase I want to use is appropriate for that point in time. I’m doing a lot more research than I have for the contemporary mysteries I’ve written, but I’ve learned a lot and it’s been a kick.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Bird Watching

I went on my second bird watching event yesterday, Gullapalooza in Boulder. My interest in bird watching has been inspired by fellow Colorado mystery author, Christine Goff, and her bird watching mystery series. The venue for Gullapalooza was the power plant and ponds which are ice free during the winter and therefore a home for water fowl. At dusk a large number of gulls returned after raiding food sources to the east. The attached picture is a swarm of gulls arriving.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Pet Words

When I write a manuscript for one of my mystery novels, I often, inadvertently, use a particular word over and over. My wife, my first reader, refers to this as a pet word. For some reason I get enamored with a particular word while writing, and it keeps popping up. While writing one novel, I kept using the word extract. Things were being extracted from a wallet, people were extracting themselves from a car . . . you get the picture. Rather than using a normal word, I got carried away. So, writers, review your manuscripts and extract any words that are artificial and have become pet words.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Research for Historical Mystery Novel

I’m writing my first historical mystery. I’m in edit mode and reworking my rough draft at the moment. The whole research world for a historical novel is fascinating. Since my novel takes place in June, 1919, I’ve been reading old newspapers at our local library. The daily paper is on microfilm, so I’ve learned to use the machine (with the patient assistance of the librarians). There was also a weekly newspaper at that time that is available in paper form in the archive. I’ve enjoyed reading about national events, local events, advertisements and reports about local people in the newspapers. I’ve used specific references but also a lot of the research entails becoming acquainted with that point in history, the words and phrases used, how people dressed, what they did for entertainment, etc. I’ve also perused a number of old photographs that are in the archives. Although this research could consume all my time, hopefully I’ve achieved a balance of finding what I need without going overboard.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


I always get a kick out of unexpected coincidences. Today I went to the Carnegie Library in Boulder to do research on the Switzerland Trail. One of the books I used from the reference section was titled, The Mining Camps: Salina and Summerville by M. M. Anderson. After making some notes, I returned it to the librarian to be re-shelved. She said, “Did you know the author of this book is our other librarian, Marti, sitting right over there?” So I had a nice chat with Marti Anderson who showed me a web site to track further information about mines in Boulder County.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Along the Switzerland Trail

I had an opportunity today to spot one of the scenic sights of the Switzerland Trail between Wall Street and Sunset in Colorado. Given that I’m writing a historical mystery set along the Switzerland Trail railroad route in 1919, I like to find the places I’ll be writing about. The attached picture shows Copper Rock on the north side of Four Mile Creek. The railroad had a flag stop on the south side of the creek here. If you study the picture you’ll notice a swatch of bluish-green, a stain from corroded copper.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Eliminate Politics

Too much energy is wasted in many organizations because of politics. It is idealistic to think that there will be no politics, but I believe the objective should be to eliminate it whenever it crops its ugly head. The importance of eliminating politics can be shown in a simple graphic. In mathematical terms politics result in two vectors pointed at each other.

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The result is no energy, because the energy of each vector is neutralized by the other. Without politics, you are aligned and the two vectors point in the same direction and you get positive results and energy.

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