Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Books That Help Writers

I’m in the process of preparing a workshop titled, The Art of Balancing Writing and a Full Time Job, for the Northern Colorado Writers Conference in April. In the workshop I’ll discuss a technique I adapted from Julia Cameron’s Morning Page concept described in her book The Artist’s Way. Recently when I taught another workshop, a book was recommended to me, Writing Down the Bones, Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg. I’ve just completed reading it, and it has some excellent suggestions for all of us writers. Natalie recommends a technique called a Timed Exercise to write continuous for a specific amount of time such as ten, twenty or sixty minutes. She gives six rules:
  1. Keep your hand moving
  2. Don’t cross out
  3. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar
  4. Lose control
  5. Don’t think. Don’t get logical
  6. Go for the jugular
Much like Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages, this is a way to get in touch with our creativity by diving in and writing non-stop. Try it. You’ll find the results fascinating.

Friday, February 22, 2013


I feel a rant welling up today. In the thirty-nine years I spent in the computer industry before I retired to write full time, I witnessed my share of unresponsive people and botched systems, but the publishing industry has amazed me with the black holes that requested responses drop into. Here’s the sample I’m dealing with today:
  1. I did a signing at a book store. The store made a mistake and no books were ordered so I used my own. The store was supposed to reorder books and replace mine. They forgot. After several emails and a phone call, the ordering process is in works. But they can’t get one of my books. On to #2
  2. I signed a contract to reissue the first book in my mystery series in October of last year. I found out today that the new books are not yet available. I’m awaiting resolution.
  3. I’m trying to get resolution with my publisher so the booksellers will stock my books at the upcoming Left Coast Crime Conference.
  4. I’m awaiting a contract that was promised to me three weeks ago from a publisher.
  5. I’ve been trying for two years to resolve an issue with an agent who no longer represents me.
  6. I sent an email to an author I know asking for a blurb two weeks ago. No response.
Now taking the last one first, sometimes people get sick, have family problems or die—valid reasons for not responding. This person is actively posting on Facebook so is still alive and well. I also know that people are busy. I would expect a response that would say, “I can’t do it,” or “I will get to it in April,” or “Sure, I’ll get it done within a month.” I’ve learned that when I receive email, 90% of the time I can take care of it immediately in thirty seconds or less. Letting emails sit around is like old fish or relatives staying too long. I check email several times a day, and responding immediately saves me and the other person time.

To be fair, since I started writing this rank and took a break to check email, #3 and #5 appear to be partially resolved. I’ll take that as a sign that ranting works!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Historical Mysteries

I’m currently trying my hand at a second historical mystery. The research is interesting, but it’s a difficult task to get things right for a particular point in time. My setting is Rome in the middle of the seventeenth century. In doing research on my protagonist (a real historical person), I keep finding other intriguing characters and situations to further explore. In this time period, there was a woman who was the power behind one of the Popes; Queen Christina of Sweden who abdicated and converted to Catholicism; a woman who invented a poison and was accused of poisoning over 600 men; papal-nephews who were the trusted advisers to Popes; gobs of illegitimate children attributed to Popes and Cardinals including one who became the head of the Pontifical Swiss Guard; and nepotism up the wazoo. When a Pope died, the servants often stole everything in the Papal chamber including the clothes off the dead body. Needless to say, I’m finding lots of material.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Left Coast Crime Conference 2013

This year’s Left Coast Crime Conference takes place in Colorado Springs, March 21-24. I will moderate the Meet the New Authors Breakfast on Friday and the Meet the Established Authors Breakfast on Saturday. I am honored to be one of the finalists for the Lefty Award for the best humorous mystery of 2012. Here’s the list of finalists for the awards given at the conference:

The Lefty has been awarded for the best humorous mystery novel since 1996. This year’s
nominees are:
§ Mike Befeler, Cruising in Your Eighties Is Murder (Five Star)
§ Laura DiSilverio, Swift Run (Minotaur)
§ Jess Lourey, December Dread (Midnight Ink)
§ Lisa Lutz, Trail of the Spellmans (Simon & Schuster)
§ Brad Parks, The Girl Next Door (Minotaur)
§ Nancy Glass West, Fit To Be Dead (Southwest Publications)

The Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award (first awarded in 2004) is
given to mystery novels covering events before 1960. This year’s nominees are:
§ Rhys Bowen, The Twelve Clues of Christmas (Berkley Prime Crime)
§ Rebecca Cantrell, A City of Broken Glass (Forge)
§ Dennis Lehane, Live by Night (William Morrow)
§ Catronia McPherson, Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder (Minotaur)
§ Jacqueline Winspear, Elegy for Eddie (HarperCollins)

The Rocky, for the best mystery novel set in the Left Coast Crime Geographical Region
(first awarded in 2004). The nominees are:
§ Margaret Coel, Buffalo Bill’s Dead Now (Berkley Prime Crime)
§ Chuck Greaves, Hush Money (Minotaur)
§ Beth Groundwater, Wicked Eddies (Midnight Ink)
§ Darrell James, Sonora Crossing (Midnight Ink)
§ Craig Johnson, As the Crow Flies (Viking)

The Watson, for the mystery novel with the best sidekick (first awarded in 2011).
The nominees are:
§ Juliet Blackwell, In a Witch’s Wardrobe (Obsidian)
§ Robert Crais, Taken (Putnam)
§ Chris Grabenstein, Fun House (Pegasus)
§ L.C. Hayden, When the Past Haunts You (CreateSpace)
§ Rochelle Staab, Brouja Brouhaha (Berkley Prime Crime)