Thursday, May 30, 2013

Superheroes and Superhumans

Do you watch Superhumans on the History Channel? We’re inherently intrigued by people who have special powers. I think back to when I was a kid and how much I enjoyed comics about superheroes.

We have a game we play with our grandkids and other young friends called Heroes Unite. It’s a card game featuring Spiderman, Hulk and Captain America. Needless to say, it appeals to all ages.

And speaking of age, since I write mystery novels about geezers, I like collecting examples of older people who exhibit superhuman capabilities. Here are a few:

Hiroshi Hoketsu was the oldest competitor at the 2012 Olympics in London, competing in dressage at the age of 71. He’d like to be in the 2016 Olympics but is concerned because his horse is getting too old.

Lucile Bledsoe is still flying and giving flying lessons at 90.

Eamon de Valera was president of Ireland at the age of 91.

Olga Kotelkko, age 93, holds 17 world records in the Senior Olympics age category 90-95 including every track and field event.

Nola Ochs graduated from college at 95.

Herman Wouk published his latest book, The Lawgiver, in 2012 at the age of 97.

Father Geoffrey Schneider is the oldest active teacher in the world at 99.

Grandma Moses was still painting at the age of 100.

What are your own examples of super humans?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Character Names

Where do authors come up with character names? Sometimes I will come up with a name before I start a manuscript. Other times I will search for names using a phone book or brainstorming on appropriate names. I also keep a list of names as I write a manuscript so that I don’t have ones that are too similar.

Yesterday, I was editing a manuscript I wrote four years ago. I came across a name I had used for a minor character—Matthew Krawley. Something struck me as familiar about this name. Then I remembered that in the last year, my wife and I had watched all the Downton Abbey episodes on DVDs ordered from Netlix. I Googled Downton Abbey and up came the character Matthew Crawley. I had come up with almost the same name, years before I saw the series. Needless to say, I’ve now changed the name in my manuscript.

Have you ever used a name that was too similar to a well-known name or come a cross an example in something you’ve read?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Mystery Series

I just got word that the sixth book in my Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series will be published by Five Star in May, 2014. With four books out and the fifth, Care Homes Are Murder, being published next month, it’s nice that there will be slightly less than a year between books.

The book coming out in 2014 is titled Nursing Homes Are Murder. You might think that my protagonist, Paul Jacobson, is slipping in health and needs to enter a nursing home. Not so. In this book he’s asked by the police to help with an investigation of a sexual assault at a nursing home by going there undercover as what Paul would call, an “inmate.” His snooping gets him in trouble and he has to use all his geezer resources to stay alive and help catch the perp.
In addition to this series, I now have my first paranormal mystery, The V V Agency, published. It’s been busy with a lot more to come.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Waving My Hand under the Manual Towel Dispenser

Do you ever become so automated that you can’t function properly?

I spent 39 years in the computer industry, but I don’t consider myself a gadget geek. In fact I’m happy to get by with my laptop, email, Word for writing my novels, and the Internet. I don’t text, and a cell phone is to use for emergency calls and when I’m traveling.

I recently read a book called The Paradox of Choice on how we become overwhelmed by choices in our modern world. Rather than a few breakfast cereals to consider, we have a whole six-foot high aisle in the supermarket.

But the subject at hand. We also have become dependent upon tools of automation. When my laptop went through its death throes two years ago, my writing suffered, and I had a panic attack.

But we can all enjoy some humor with this world of automation. In the old days, restrooms had paper towel dispenser where we pulled out the towel by hand. Now we have automated genies where we wave our hand underneath and the towel appears. The problem is, not all buildings have converted over. I finally have become used to the new dispenser, but, recently, I found myself waving my hand under a towel dispenser, and nothing happened. I shook my hand more vigorously until I finally noticed that I was trying to convince a manual towel dispenser to operate as an automated one. No wonder it wasn’t cooperating.

The lesson—I’ve got to pay attention.

How have you been led astray by technology or lack thereof?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My Secret Life as a Romance Writer

In addition to writing geezer-lit and paranormal mysteries, I’m now a card-carrying member of Romance Writers of America. This is only natural since I have geezer romance and paranormal romance in my mystery novels. My writing friends, Lynda Hilburn and Karen Graffenberger, have been encouraging me to join RWA, and I finally succumbed and also signed up for Colorado Romance Writers as well.

This last Saturday, I made my first foray into the world of romance writers by attending a mini-conference put on by CRW and Heart of Denver Romance Writers. Lo and behold, I found fellow mystery writers and online mystery critique partners, Becky Martinez and Darla Barton, attending.

And another surprise—one other attendee of the male persuasion, a brave soul who joined me in the group of fifty plus (number not age) romance writers. I was not alone.

The conference was terrific. Speaker Kristen Lamb wowed us with her insights and recommendations into the effective use of social media. I took copious notes, including a full page of to-dos, and came home to immediately update my blog site. I’ve also vowed to finally use Twitter (groan) effectively. Yes, I’m officially twitterpated. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

What Were Your Fantasies As a Child?

When I was young, I had two wishes. I wanted to be able to fly and to become invisible when I wanted to. I remember dreams of flying over field in Hawaii where I grew up, soaring above the ocean, dipping and diving. This gave me a sense of complete freedom. Even as an adult I still have dreams periodically of flying.

Then to be invisible. I was a shy child, and the idea of being able to turn myself invisible and to sneak up on people and listen to conversations appealed to me. This desire has played out in my novel, The V V Agency, where one of the characteristics of my transvictus shape-shifter is invisibility. I guess that idea percolated in my writer’s brain for over sixty years before appearing in a story.

What were your fantasies as a child?

How have these changed now that you’re an adult?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Why I Write

Why do I write? I’ve given this some though recently in all the flurry of completing a manuscript, releasing a new book, signing a contract for another, and, oh yes, trying to promote existing books.

So why do I write? For me the answer is that I have stories to tell and I enjoy communicating with readers. I like writing and allocate every morning I’m not traveling or doing an event to working on my next manuscript. This plus editing other manuscripts and participating in an online critique group fill out my writing priorities.

Then it’s on to promoting, an endless task that always requires more time than I have to put into it. I like giving presentations, doing library events, attending reader conferences and conducting signings, but I must say I’m not a fan of all the social media tasks that bombard me. Facebook isn’t bad, I participate in three blogs including this one, but Twitter has never made much sense to me. I tweet periodically, but don’t have time to read the barrage of tweets that come my way.

I’m writing because I enjoy it and not focused on trying to make as much money as I can. The money thing becomes more of a measure of the acceptance of my books. But here’s the rub. I always feel there is more I can be doing to promote my books. Then I become frustrated in the circular aspect of social media. Example: post on a Yahoo group that I’ve blogged, so people will read my blog and then go to my website, find information about my books and buy them. This seems inherently convoluted to me. I guess I’m old school. I like meeting with readers in person at events and chatting with them. That may not be the most efficient way to build awareness, but I certainly find it more enjoyable.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Writing and the Creative Process

Like many authors when I give talks, an inevitable question I hear is: Where do your ideas come from? I always answer that ideas can come from anywhere: the newspaper, television, an overheard snippet of a conversation, a dream, a scenic spot, a person I’ve know, an experience from my life or something that just pops into my head.

In my most recently published book, The V V Agency, I have invented a new type of shape-shifter called a transvictus. I was recently asked where the idea for this came from. To be honest, I can’t exactly remember. I know this. At the time I started writing it. I had an agent who suggested I read a specific paranormal mystery. As I read this book, the idea struck me that I could write something similar. That got me thinking and somewhere as I began brainstorming with myself for an idea for a paranormal mystery, the concept of the transvictus emerged.

My first published novel, Retirement Homes Are Murder, was inspired by people I met when my mom and stepdad lived in a retirement community. The idea for the current historical novel I’m writing occurred when I read an article about Athanasius Kircher, a seventeenth century Jesuit priest who claimed to know everything and wrote on a vast number of subjects.

All I know is that when I take walks, I carry a small notepad, because weird ideas are always occurring to me, and if I don’t write them down, I lose them.