Thursday, December 25, 2014

Looking Back Over 2014


The end of another year is approaching. This is the time to celebrate accomplishments and to anticipate new beginnings.

Personally, I am grateful to bounce back after a heart attack in September of 2013. I’m fully functioning with no permanent damage. I’m thankful for my wife, three children, four grandchildren and good friends.

In the writing world, the sixth book in my Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series, Nursing Homes Are Murder, was published. I’m looking ahead to two new published books in 2015: Mystery of the Dinner Playhouse in January and Murder on the Switzerland Trail in September, and a year of new writing adventures.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Family Gatherings for the Holiday Season


We’re fortunate this year to be able to see all of our family over the holiday season. Since we have kids and grandkids living in other parts of the country, we don’t always see the whole clan.

We celebrated an early Thanksgiving when our son, daughter-in-law and grandkids came to visit. Then we’ll see our daughter and her boyfriend this month. Between Christmas and New Years our other son and his family will be here.

All in all a good season. Best holiday wishes to everyone.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Writers Conferences and Fan Conferences


I attend two different types of conferences: writers conferences and fan conferences. Writers conferences provide an opportunity to improve writing craft, meet agents and editors and learn how to promote books. Fan conferences focus on the readers of a specific genre, in my case, mysteries.

In Colorado I have attended four excellent writers conferences: The Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Gold Conference, The Pikes Peak Writers Conference, The Northern Colorado Writers Conference and the Castle Rock Writers Conference. These are one to three day eventss. Early on, I paid most attention to the workshops on improving writing craft: plot, character development, setting, show don’t tell. Over time I started attending more panels on how to pitch to agents and editors and how to sell your manuscript. Finally, I graduated to sessions on promoting a book. I still go to at least one writers conference a year, often on the faculty to teach one or more workshops, but I also attend as many workshops as possible. I find it important to continue to improve my writing skills so I always sit in on a number of sessions on writing craft. I’m most loyal to the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference because I sold my first novel, Retirement Homes Are Murder, as a result of a pitch session to Deni Dietz of Five Star at the 2005 conference.
Fan conferences focus on the readers and are enjoyable because, as a writer, I have a chance to mingle with other mystery writers and fans who are enthusiastic about all flavors of mysteries. I go to at least one of these a year and have attended Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime and Malice Domestic. At Left Coast Crime this coming March I will again host the Meet the New Authors Breakfast, I have particularly enjoyed moderating this event because I have an opportunity to introduce newly published authors. I’ve been doing this since 2008, and it’s great to follow the careers of emerging authors.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Stalag IV-B and the Bombing of Dresden


Stalag IV-B was one of the largest prisoner-of-war camps in Germany during World War II. In early 1945 two prisoners held there were Kurt Vonnegut and my friend, Ed, whose biography I’m writing. A few months ago, I listened to the audio book edition of Slaughterhouse Five, Vonnegut’s book about time travel and the bombing of Dresden. Vonnegut survived the bombing because he was in the basement of a slaughterhouse while on a work detail. This morning I watched the movie that I had ordered through Netflix.

The reason I returned to Slaughterhouse Five was that Ed was in Stalag IV-B at the time of the Dresden bombing. He described how he could see flashes in the sky but couldn’t hear the sound of explosions, being approximately thirty miles away. To put this distance in perspective, I live in Boulder which is approximately that distance from Denver. At ninety-five years of age, Ed is a vital man with a sound memory of past events. He mentioned that one of his fellow prisoners commented, “Oh, boy, is Jerry getting it tonight.” Only later did he learn of the immense destruction to Dresden as a result of the bombing.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving


Our son, daughter-in-law and two grandkids have been visiting. We went sledding and down slides at a warm pool, visited the Wild Animal Sanctuary and Casa Bonita, had a pre-Thanksgiving dinner and played numerous games. A wonderful family time.

We can celebrate Thanksgiving on a different day and be grateful for all we’ve been given. May this Thanksgiving bring you joy and happiness.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Back from Bouchercon


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Stories That Come My Way


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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 6, 2014

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


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

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

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

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

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

What has been your experience?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Cat in the Window


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

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

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

Thursday, October 23, 2014

E-Book Box Sets


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

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

Here is the result at http://ow.ly/D2P6E

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Bouchercon


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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Worlds Authors Live In


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

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

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

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Genre Specific or Genre Diverse

I’ve had a number of discussions with fellow writers lately about sticking to one genre or writing different genres. I read a blog by an agent recently who admonished writers to stick with one genre. That has been the traditional thinking. The rationale makes sense—establish a base of readers and continue to deliver what they expect and enjoy. On the other hand, I’ve read authors who sink into a predictable pattern that becomes boring.

I think there is also something to be said for writing different genres. From a writer’s perspective, I enjoy trying new things, and this provides both a learning experience for me and, hopefully, something fresh for readers. The cautionary note—it’s important to set and meet readers’ expectations and to provide a positive reading experience. In writing multiple genres, it’s necessary to be clear on what’s being delivered to readers so someone isn’t expecting a cozy mystery and find their reading horror.

With this said, what is your opinion of authors sticking to one genre or writing multiple genres?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Getting Older

Ever notice other living things getting older? For us this week it was a maple tree. We’ve been debating all summer whether to have an over forty-year-old silver maple tree removed. A large number of branches have died. First, we thought we’d keep it, then we considered having it replaced, but finally we had it trimmed and will see in the Spring if it bounces back or not.

We had a similar situation with our cat who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. We called our daughter (we had got the cat when she was a senior in high school) and warned her that the cat might only live for another month. She perked up and is going strong three years later..
Likewise, my wife is a cancer survivor, and I’ve recovered from a heart attack a year ago. Maybe we have more aches and pains, but so far we keep on ticking.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Life Long Learning


Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? One of the beauties of being retired is that I now have numerous opportunities to pursue new forms of learning. First of all a caveat. I retired from a high tech career into the world of writing. Since the time I decided to pursue writing in 2001, I have found many educational opportunities that have been valuable and eye-opening. Here are a few:

Citizens police academies—As a mystery writer, I have benefited from three different police citizens academies I’ve attended, two city and one county sheriff. They provide a chance for ordinary citizens to learn more about law enforcement. I’ve also volunteered as a role player for police training. I’ve been a hostage, hostage taker, assaulter, aggressive panhandler, drunk, traffic violator and illegal camper, to name a few.

Citizens fire academies—I’ve attended two programs to learn about fire fighting. Again, an awareness-building experience on the variety of services provided by fire and rescue organizations.

University classes—The University of Colorado has a wonderful program for older people. If you’re fifty-five or older, you can audit any class for free with the instructors permission. Living in Boulder, I availed myself of this and took two fiction writing courses to jump start my mystery writing.

Educational hikes—Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks hosts numerous educational hikes. I’ve learned about subjects including the geology of our region, the impact of the September 2013 flood, flowers, animals and photography.

Book clubs—I’ve periodically attended two books clubs, which both have well-read and articulate participants. As well as reading interesting books, I’ve appreciated the insights of involved readers.

Volunteering—One of the activities that has taught me the most is volunteering in our community. I’ve been on the Boulder County Aging Advisory Council, a respite volunteer and mentored/tutored kids. Talk about learning from both elders and young people.

Civic engagement—Opportunities abound to become involved in local issues. Lately, I’ve been supporting improvements to senior housing—providing a variety of housing options for our rapidly growing senior population.

The bottom line—we are surrounding by opportunities to keep learning no matter what age we are.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Hybrid Authors

At the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference this last weekend, I attended several panels and had a number of interesting conversations on the subject of hybrid authors. So what’s a hybrid author? It’s someone who is published both traditionally (through a publisher) and independently (self-published).

I’m a hybrid author in that my eight books are available through medium and small publishers, but I’ve also self-published four e-books, the first four books in my Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series because I retained the e-book rights to these. Since then my publisher has decided to publish e-books as well as print books.

The advantage of traditional publishing is that the publisher bears all the costs of editing, book cover design, production and distribution. Also, traditional publisher have established sales channels to get books to market.  The disadvantage is the author gives up control and receives a relatively small percentage of the money earned.

The advantage of independent (self-publishing) is that the author controls the whole process and gets all the money earned on sales. The disadvantage is that the author must bear the upfront costs and take the time to manage and do much of the upfront work. Also, the author must bear all the brunt of sales and marketing of the book.

The hybrid world now allows an author to pick and choose which manuscripts to publish through the traditional route and which through the independent route. This gives the author the best of both worlds depending on the particular manuscript.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference

One of my favorite writers conferences is taking place this coming weekend (Friday through Sunday) at the Westin Hotel in Westminster, Colorado—The Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference.

I’ve attended this every year since 2002, a year after I started writing. The first year I knew one other person (a writer I worked with in the high tech world), but since then I’ve made many friends there.

I’m particularly loyal to this conference because I sold my first novel as a result of a pitch session in 2005 to editor, Deni Dietz, of Five Star. She told me to email my manuscript to her after the conference. I went home, made one more editing pass, emailed it, crossed my fingers, and three months later I received a contract offer. The result, Retirement Homes Are Murder was published in January, 2007.

The conference offers something for everyone. There are workshops on craft, the art of pitching and selling your manuscript, and promotion once a book is published. I attend workshops on all three levels. I’ve learned that I always need to continue to improve my writing.

This year I’m organizing moderators for the conference, will teach a workshop titled, “Rejection Is Not a Four Letter Word,” and will host a table at Friday dinner for David Wilk, publisher at Frederator Books.

I’m looking forward to seeing friends and making new ones.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Brainstorming in the Writng Process

When I was in the corporate world, I participated in a number of brainstorming session. When I started writing, an author suggested brainstorming ideas for novels. I had never brainstormed by myself and wondered about that advice. Then I gave it a try.

Here’s what I learned. The process can work with one person. When I’m planning a new novel, I often use walking time to brainstorm. I carry a pad of paper and a pen and jot down ideas as they come to me. Like with brainstorming in a group, no idea is a bad one. Just get it down. Then I can go over these later to pick the ones I will incorporate into my novel.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Police Role Playing


I had a chance again this week to be a role player for police training. Four new police officers were in training, two with previous law enforcement experience and two brand new to the police world.

My scenario was to be a person who had been fired from my job, not allowed to take my personal belongings and had come back in to break into my old locked office to reclaim my personal stuff.

As a mystery writer I then embellished the basic scenario by adding that my employer had been stealing things from my desk and I had returned to retrieve a thousand dollar engagement ring that was in my desk and that I needed to give to my fiancée.
Needless to say, I got cuffed and arrested all four times. Sigh. One more taint to my law abiding reputation.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Editing Process


Okay. Now the rough draft is done. On to editing. Some writers rewrite as the go, but I prefer to get a fast rough draft completed and then go through numerous editing passes.

Editing pass number one: I read through the whole draft to get a feel for what I’ve written, correcting any content errors along the way.

Editing pass number two: Now I really focus on readability. How can I write things more clearly.

Editing pass number three: On to punctuation, grammar and word choices.

Editing pass number four+: I go through and search on certain words I use too much such as “about” and change or eliminate.

My final editing pass is to read the manuscript out loud. Now I catch things that my eyes have skipped over before.

Then the manuscript goes to my wife, my first reader. After she give me comments, I make another editing pass.

Next, on to my critique group. Once all those comments have been incorporated, I make another full editing pass. Now I’m ready to submit it to the publisher.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Research Trips


One of the things I enjoy about writing is taking research trips. These have included an Alaskan cruise (the setting the fourth book in my Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series, Cruising in Your Eighties Is Murder) and visits to Venice Beach, California, (location of Senior Moments Are Murder).

We just returned from a two night stay in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. I have a manuscript that takes place there, and it addition to a nice vacation at the hot springs, I wanted to check on several of the scenes I had written. Good thing. I discovered a major error. I had an important scene where my protagonist goes down to the Colorado River. The problem: the place I used didn’t work because of a small impediment: I-70 runs along the river with no way over or under the freeway at that point. By walking around, I found a pedestrian bridge that crossed the freeway and ended up in a lovely park, Two Rivers Park. With some minor editing, I can now set it right.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Setting Daily Writing Goals


Much like writers all have best times of the day to write, we all have different ways of setting daily goals. I’m a morning person so I write my new manuscripts in the morning and do editing, social networking and administrative tasks in the afternoon. I have tried a number of different approaches on setting daily writing goals.

Sometimes I try to accomplish a certain number of words a day. Other times I’ve set page targets or completing a chapter. The important part for me is merely writing every day. The only time I don’t write is when we have family functions or are visiting our kids and grandkids. Then I put writing aside.

For the most recent manuscript, I wrote at least a chapter a day. This ended up having fifty chapters, and with various family activities, I completed the rough draft in two months. Now I’m on to my many editing passes.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Gun Shoot


Last Saturday members of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America spent part of the day at a gun range in Colorado Springs. For mystery writers this was an excellent opportunity to learn more about weapons and experience shooting different types of guns.

We used three semi-automatic handguns, a revolver, an automatic rifle and a shotgun. Before shooting, we learned safety rules: 1. Point down range, 2. Finger alongside not on the trigger until ready to shoot 3. Gun is always loaded.

Some interesting statistics given by the instructor on one shot stop with various handguns:

22                    3%

25                    24%

32                    60%

38 special        63%

350                  70%

9mm                83%

45                    90-95%

I ended up with a nice bruise on my right shoulder from the shotgun and even hit the target a few times.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Operation North Wind in World War II


I always thought the Battle of the Bulge was the last major offensive by the Germans on the western front in World War II. In writing the biography of my friend, Ed, a World War II infantryman during Operation North Wind, I learned something new.

For Operation North Wind (Unternehmen Nordwind), Hitler gave orders to destroy the American forces in the Vosges Mountains.

As the German advance in the Battle of the Bulge stalled, Hitler went back to one of the rejected earlier plans. The fighting in the north had pulled Patton’s army to the Ardennes, so the new attempt at attacking the allies occurred in the Alsace region on December 31, 1944, one hour before midnight.

With the movement of Patton’s troops to fight in the Battle of the Bulge to the north, the lines of the Seventh Army were spread thin.

For the second time within the month of December, allied command was surprised by a ferocious German attack, this time on New Year’s Eve. Earlier, the British had been able to intercept and break the code of radio communications from the Germans. This worked very well when the Germans were in French territory. But after the German forces withdrew into Germany, they relied on wire communications rather than wireless that could be intercepted.  The allies had lost surveillance of a number of German units but did pick up hints of a buildup opposite the American Seventh Army. Other evidence included increased refugee movement toward the west and a break in German radio silence on New Year’s Eve.

Dissent also existed within allied command. With some of the initial signs of a buildup of enemy troops, Eisenhower had given orders to General Devers of the Sixth Army Group to retreat if attacked. He wanted to avoid another situation as in the Battle of the Bulge where the Germans had surrounded allied troops in Bastogne. The Sixth Army Group consisted of the US Seventh Army under General Patch and the French First Army under General Lattre de Tassigny. Patch had the unenviable position of defending a front of over 125 miles with six infantry divisions. Within the Seventh Army, General Haislip’s XV Corps made up of the 44th, 100th and 103rd Divisions had thirty-five miles along the Vosges to defend.

De Gaulle became aware of Eisenhower’s direction to Devers to be prepared to fall back and strenuously objected, since he did not want to give up Strasbourg, which had been recaptured by the Allies. Strasbourg lay on the French side of the border, but had been a contested city for years between France and Germany. De Gaulle knew that if the Germans retook the city, numerous French citizens would be slaughtered for defying the Nazis. Strasbourg remained second only to Paris as a symbol of the rebirth of France after German domination. De Gaulle threatened to pull the French troops out of the alliance if Strasbourg were not defended. This led to a meeting between Churchill, Eisenhower and De Gaulle. Churchill sided with De Gaulle that Strasbourg should not be given up. A repercussion was that de Gaulle lost his trust in American command, which played out years later in his independent attitude, refusal to join NATO and hostility toward the United States.

The initial advances made by the Germans early in January, 1945, in Operation North Wind were stopped, and from then on, the Allies made the advances.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Trying to Fix Something and It Gets Worse


When you try to fix something, do you run into the problem that it gets worse?

This used to happen to me often with plumbing projects. I did them so infrequent6ly that I had to learn all over again when I fixed something. On numerous occasions, I ended up breaking something along the way and had to recoup from that as well as the original problem.

I’m now facing the same thing with slow Internet speed. I called, and the technician speeded up my connection a small amount but recommended I get a new modem, so I purchased a new modem and now the speed is lower than with the old modem. After some dinking, the technician gained me back a little speed, but I’m still worse off than when I started. Now I have to wait for a repair person to come to my house to take a look.

Sigh. The wonders of the modern world.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Short Versus Long Chapters in Books

Do you prefer reading books with short or long chapters?

One answer could be: it depends on the genre. Personally, I like reading books with short chapters. You might think that long chapters lead to readers deciding to stay with the story longer at a time and finish the chapter. I’m the other way. If I’m reading a book with short chapters, I’m more apt to read another chapter because it’s short anyway versus getting sleepy and stopping in the middle of a long chapter. And if there is a cliff hanger or an unanswered question at the end of a short chapter, I’ll continue reading rather than feeling I’m going to be trapped in a long chapter.

As a writer, I tend to write short chapters as well, typically five to ten pages. My usual mystery scene is approximately five pages, and I typically have one scene per chapter. If I combine scenes in a chapter, then chapters are closer to ten pages.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Different Types of Book Editions


I’ve been fortunate to have as many as  five different types of book editions for some of my Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series. This includes hardcover, large print, paperback book club edition, audio book and e-book.

As an example for the second book in my series, Living with Your Kids Is Murder, this is the cover for the hardcover and large print editions from Five Star, an imprint of Gale/Cengage Learning:

 


The paperback direct to book club through Worldwide Mystery, an imprint of Harlequin, looks like this:

 


The audio book from Books in Motion has this cover:

 


And finally, the e-book edition has this appearance:



I love that readers have so many different choices when reading my books.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Rejection in the World of Writing


One thing is given in the world of writing—rejection. We face a plethora of rejection opportunities from agents, editors, reviewers, readers, and people who posts opinions about books. So I’ve learned to suck it up and accept this as an unpleasant reality.

Even one of the best writers of all time faced the following rotten reviews:  “Pure melodrama. There is not a touch of characterization that goes below the skin.,” “It is a play of the worst that ever I heard.” “The most insipid, ridiculous play that I ever saw in my life.”, and “It is a vulgar and barbarous drama. One would imagine this piece to be the work of a drunken savage.” These were reviews of Othello, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hamlet by William Shakespeare.

I have eight published books and two more in the publishing queue, and I still receive rejections from editors and agents as I’m trying to sell my first non-fiction book. Rejection just comes with the territory.

Here’s my advice on rejection. You get a rejection, keep writing. You get another rejection, keep writing, You get another rejection, you keep writing. You get the picture.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Nursing Homes Are Murder


The sixth book in my Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series, Nursing Homes Are Murder, has been published. This book takes place in Honolulu right after Paul Jacobson has a winter break vacation with his wife, son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter.
Don’t worry that Paul has degraded to the point where he needs to go in a nursing home. On the contrary, he’s asked to go in undercover by the police to help solve a case of sexual assault in a nursing home. When the assault turns into a murder investigation, Paul must muster all his geezer resources to escape from the killer. Along the way Paul makes friends with a member of the 442nd , the Japanese-American regiment that was most decorated in World War II; a woman with synesthesia, a condition where numbers and letters are seen as colors; a soap eater; and a wheelchair racing resident.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Words, Words and More Words


Continuing with my last post, I’ve become fascinated with when words first appeared in the English language and have been using as a source, English Through the Ages, which records when specific words came into common usage. Since I write mystery novels here are a few words that I find interesting.

I have a historical mystery set in 1919 that uses fingerprinting as a clue. Fingerprint was first used as a noun in 1860 and as a verb in 1905. DNA made its appearance in 1935 with DNA fingerprinting in 1985.

The word police came into usage in 1720. Detective and police station appeared in 1845 and private investigator and private eye in 1940.

A few other random words: prisoner of war in 1680 and autism and autistic in 1915.

I could go on forever, but this is today’s sampling.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Using Appropriate Words When Writing Historical Novels

I’m just getting into the world of historical novels. My first historical mystery, Murder on the Switzerland Trail, is under contract and is set in Boulder, Colorado, in 1919. I have also written a manuscript for another mystery taking place in the Vatican in 1656. One of the challenges in writing historical novels is using appropriate words for the timeframe.

At a recent meeting of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, fellow writer Robin Searle told me about a book titled English Through the Ages, which records when specific words came into common usage. This is a wonderful source book and should be in the library of anyone who writes historical novels.

I looked up a few words that I found interesting. Given our world of social media, I checked on the word twitter. It originated as a verb in 1375 and as a noun in 1680. Author first appeared in 1350 and writer’s block was in use by 1950.

As a mystery writer, I checked on a few other words: Murder-725, mystery (in literature)-1910, snitch-1785, hoosegow-1865, stir-1855, copper-1850, cop-1860, hoodlum-1880.

And, of course, since I write geezer-lit mysteries I had to check on the first use of geezer, which goes back to 1885.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Boulder Citizens' Fire Academy continued

This last Saturday we spent the morning at the Boulder Reservoir learning about dive rescue as part of the Boulder Citizens’ Fire Academy. The first exercise involved trying to locate a “drowning person.” A buoy was raised and then hidden again, and we had to triangulate to locate where the “drowning person” had disappeared in the reservoir. We than gave directions to a diver in a flotation suit to  get as close as possible to that location. Then the buoy was raised again to see how accurate we were at sighting the correct location.



The next exercise was to practice using a banana boat for a stream rescue. Guiding with four ropes we maneuvered the boat as if we were using it in a stream.


Then we road in a dive rescue boat equipped with sonar to see what we could locate underwater.

 
 
 
 

A final exercise was to guide a diver and communicate through a headset to sweep the bottom of the reservoir for a rescue. No body was recovered, but the diver located a number of plastic cups and piece of dock connector. The visibility is a best two feet underwater in the Boulder Reservoir, so the diver needed to sweep using his hands.
 
 

All in all, an interesting day where we gained an appreciation for key elements of dive rescue.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

World War Two Attrocities



While writing the biography of a World War Two veteran, I keep coming across interesting tidbits. Here's one that caught my interest.
During World War Two, both the Germans and Russians were inhumane to their own soldiers who didn’t obey. Those that weren’t shot on the spot were put in penal units. One notorious form of this punishment became known as the tramplers—troops used for suicide missions. In the Russian army, these troops received fortification with a ration of vodka and proceeded to be blown to bits to mark safe passage for the regular troops through the mine fields.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Boulder Citizens Fire Academy

For the last five weeks I’ve been attending a citizens fire academy to learn about fire and rescue. Last Saturday we had an all day session at the training facility near the Boulder Reservoir. Here I am in the bunker gear we wore for the day:



One of the exercises was to you spreaders (jaws of life) and cutters to get into a car to rescue a victim:
 

The following pictures shows fire fighters removing a roof after cutting off all the supports:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Then we watched a simulated car fire being extinguished and had our chance to handle the hose:


We also had an opportunity to go up in a bucket at the end of a ladder:


 
 
All in all an informative day and useful research for a mystery writer.

 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

World War II Trivia

While interviewing my friend, Ed, who is a 95-year-old World War II veteran, he described how Italians had a reputation of being lovers rather than fighters. He gave a specific example of when fighting in Libya, the Italian army had trailers full of prostitutes brought over to North Africa.

In researching this I found the following: “Mussolini, who was a self-proclaimed sexual adventurer, saw to it that his army in Cyrenaica was provided with mobile brothels for the forward troops and whorehouses in the rear areas. After Tobruk's surrender in 1941, the garrison brothel presented a British colonel with a difficult dilemma when, according to the war correspondent who acted as translator, the sous maîtresse offered to put her girls 'at the disposition of the British army'.”[An offer not accepted.] From Love, Sex and War by John Costello.]

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Photography and Writing


Many days, I take a break from writing and walk for exercise and a chance to enjoy the outdoors. Lately, I’ve been taking my camera and  shooting some pictures of the scenery.

I had an opportunity yesterday to join an outdoor photography class led by Chris Brown. We spent three hours talking about photography and taking pictures along the Doudy Draw Trail south of Boulder, Colorado.

Chris described photography as consisting of four elements: two technical left brain (exposure and focus) and two creative right brain (composing and seeing). We started the day by walking up the trail and seeing what was around us. Chris suggested we view this as an opportunity to exorcise the demons of expectation and familiarity, and it did provide an chance to see things in a new way. I noticed grass waving in the wind, the contrast of shadows and shades of green along the hillside to the east and a row of trees that looked like people marching along a ridge.

In addition to a nice walk and a time to take some pictures, this class helped me see how both photography and writing combine left brain and right brain activities. In my writing I use the left brain for language and the right brain for creativity.

A picture of the group and two of the scenery.


 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Certainty and Uncertainty

Last week at the Conference of World Affairs at the University of Colorado, I attended a panel discussion titled, The Wisdom of Uncertainty.  I found this subject very informative, because we live in a world of uncertainty, but have a natural inclination to bring order and certainty to things around us.

One panelist stated that knowledge is an unending adventure on the edge of science, where we may be mistaken, but science is self-correcting when something is proven wrong. The danger becomes when people are so certain of a belief that they cease to look at facts any longer. Another panelist quipped that Google is the greatest propagator of false certainty.

I like applying this analysis of uncertainty to the world of writing. As writers, we can’t be certain that anyone will read our work, but we can be certain that we will write and finish our manuscripts. This gets into attitude. Confidence and certainty are very different things. I can be confident in my abilities, but there is uncertainty in the outcome of the final product.

Uncertainty is necessary in a world of change. Those who are most certain are often caught off guard, when the world changes. By maintaining a sense of curiosity and constantly testing our assumptions, we can learn, grow and possibly turn pockets of uncertainty into knowledge.