Thursday, June 22, 2017

Audio Books

I love audio books. Whenever I’m in the car alone, I listen to an audio book. Some people find listening to an audio book in a car distracting, but I find it has a good effect on me. I relax and pay attention to the road while listening to a story. I’ve found that I’m a calmer driver when listening to an audio book. If there is a delay, I don’t get uptight because I can listen to more of the story.

As a writer, I’m delighted that my books come out in so many different formats including normal print, large print, e-book and audio book formats. Six of my thirteen published books are now available as audio books.

So writers keep writing, and readers keep reading (and listening).

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Summer Fun

Summer is upon us. We returned this week from a trip to Honolulu for my 55th high school reunion. We had a great time getting together with old friends, the operative word being “old.” Then at the end of this week, we have friends visiting from Colorado. These are our young friends, and we plan to go to Disneyland, California Adventure and the beach. Another activity in Lakewood, CA, where we live, is a series of weekly concerts in the park.

Then in October we plan to visit our son, daughter-in-law and two grandsons in Iowa City.
On the writing front, my geezer-lit mystery, Death of a Scam Artist, is scheduled for publication in August. This introduces a whole new set of quirky characters who live in a retirement home. Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Writers: Build a Portfolio of Manuscripts

One piece of advice I give to new writers is once you’ve finished your first manuscript, keep editing it but also start writing your next book. When you complete this one, write the next. It’s important to keep improving a manuscript, but it is equally important to write more.

Authors rarely publish their first book. From my own experience and hearing other author’s accounts, I would say it averages approximately the fourth manuscript. Writing takes lots of practice. One author stated that you need to write a million words to learn the craft. I have written over a million words, and I’m still learning.

Another advantage of writing more books: you can build a portfolio of manuscripts. In today’s world of numerous publishing options including large publishers (requiring an agent), small and medium-sized publishers who will accept submissions directly from the author and self-publishing, if you have a portfolio of manuscripts, you can choose the best path for a particular book.

Although I have thirteen published books and one more due out in August, I have a number of other manuscripts I’m tuning and will be getting published in the future.

What I’ve learned about writing can be summarized in two rules:

  1. Start writing
  2. Keep writing

Thursday, June 1, 2017

High School Reunions

Do you go to high school reunions? I went to my 25th and since my 40th I’ve gone every five year. This year is my 55th and I’ll be attending. My wife has gotten to know my classmates and she will join me. It helps that it’s in Honolulu.

One of the events at the reunion is an Alumni Art and Literary Show so I’ll be signing books there. I’m looking forward to catching up with old friends, operative word being old.

 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Reading Preferences and Alternative Publishing Formats

In what form do you like to read a book? Fifty years ago this meant print or print. Today we have a variety of options including print, audio and e-book. Within print, there are hardcover, trade paperback and mass market paperback. As an author, I have books published in all of these formats. As a reader, I prefer print and audio. Since I spend time on the computer writing and on a smart phone communicating, when I have a chance to read at home, I like curling up with a print edition to read. When I’m in the car by myself, I always listen to an audio book.

When e-books first arrived on the scene, they were preferred by younger readers. But e-books are now popular among all age groups because they are very handy when traveling, and for older people with diminished eyesight, the font can be enlarged. I will read books in electronic format when I am reviewing, judging a contest or editing, but my preference for home reading is still print.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Author Events at Libraries


Since moving to Southern California two years ago, I’ve had the opportunity to do a number of library events including Cerritos Library’s Mystery on the Menu luncheon, an author open house at the El Segundo Library, the re-opening of the Glendale Library, and presentations at the Iacoboni Library in Lakewood, Friends of the Costa Mesa Library and the library at Leisure World.

I will be speaking again at the Iacoboni Library, 4990 Clark Avenue, Lakewood, CA, on Monday, June 5 at 6:30 pm. This will be a book talk about my international thriller,. The Tesla Legacy. In this novel, retired mathematics professor and conspiracy nut, Elmore Kranz, bombards the police with his predictions of disaster until one of them actually happens. Even with the assistance of his one ally, rookie cop Brittney Chase, people start dying around Elmore as attempts are made on his life. Following up on inventions from eccentric genius, Nikola Tesla, Elmore and Brittney team up to solve a hundred year old puzzle while trying to thwart a secret government agency and an Afghani terrorist group who seek to get their hands on a weapon of mass destruction invented by Tesla.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Importance of Libraries


I love libraries. Since I was a kid, I’ve enjoyed going to the library. I recently read a book about Dewey, the library cat in a town in Iowa and how he brought the town together. I’ve been taking my 21-month-old grandson to children’s library programs at two libraries in Lakewood, CA. He listens to stories and songs and plays with toys there. It’s become a fun part of our time together to do this. As a writer, I have participated in a number of programs at libraries including panels and book talks. Libraries are a vital part of our communities and deserve our support.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Right Age to Start Writing


On Monday, I was on an author’s panel at the reopening of the Glendale Library. I also listened to two other panels. Something that struck me about the other authors’ comments—a number of them had started writing at about eight years old.

Thinking back over my own writing career, my path was different. Sure, I guess you could say my first published work was a story in second grade titled, “The Hurt Bird,” that Mrs. Russell printed on a mimeograph sheet, but my serious decision to write began in 2001 and my first published short story, “Never Trust a Poison Dart Frog,” appeared in an anthology called, Who Died in Here? in 2004 and my first novel, Retirement Homes Are Murder, in 2007 when I was sixty-two. By then I had some life experiences to apply to fiction writing.
There is no right or wrong time to start writing. The important thing is to start and keep writing

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Writing at Any Age


I didn’t start writing until I was fifty-six years old. When I lived in Colorado, I mentored a middle school student who was working on his first novel. We all have our individual paths to writing. For me, the timing was right as I approached retirement to dedicate myself to something I could retire into.

This last Saturday at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Morrie Markoff had a booth and signed his book, Keep Breathing. With the hundreds of authors signing at the festival, what set Morrie apart was that he published his first book at the age of 103. He’s an inspiration and a model that we can begin writing at any age.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Presentation for The Tesla Legacy

Whenever I have a book published, I put together a new presentation to give at events and signings. With the recent release of my international thriller, The Tesla Legacy, I have developed a speech about the genius inventor, Nikola Tesla, whose inventions play a key role in the novel. Tesla was a fascinating dichotomy. He was a pacifist who invented weapons, invented things in his mind without a blueprint but held strange ideas about transmissions from Mars and eugenics, was brilliant at inventing but poor at business, was a cleanliness nut but kept pigeons in his hotel room and was on the autism spectrum with his strange quirks, one of which was doing things in multiples of three and staying in hotel rooms that were divisible by three.

I will be presenting and signing The Tesla Legacy at Mystery Ink, 8907 Warner Avenue #135, Huntington  Beach, CA, on Saturday, April 29, 2017, at 3 PM, and at Gatsby Books, 5535 E. Spring Street, Long Beach, CA, on Sunday, April 30, 2017 at 3 PM.

 
Picture a retired mathematics professor and conspiracy nut with a butt-kicking, surrogate-daughter sidekick. Elmore Kranz bombards the police with his predictions of disaster until one of them actually happens, to the point that he’s implicated in the plot. Even with the assistance of his one ally, rookie cop Brittney Chase, people start dying around Elmore as attempts are made on his life. Following up on inventions from eccentric genius, Nikola Tesla, Elmore and Brittney team up to solve a hundred year old puzzle while trying to thwart a secret government agency and an Afghani terrorist group who seek to get their hands on a doomsday weapon.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Grandson Lessons – Inventing Games


As a writer, I’m interested in the creative process. As a grandfather, I enjoy watching my twenty-month-old grandson invent games.

At his young age, he’s constantly trying new things and showing how early the creative process comes into play. Once he masters a new skill, he likes to add a new twist to challenge himself. Here are some examples:

Now that he can walk, he no longer confines himself to a smooth path. Instead, he walks on the curb adjoining the nature trail to see if he can balance on it.

At the playground he has learned to go down the slides. Now he has invented a game where he takes a stick, leaf or toy up the steps with him and sends them down the slide before he slides down.

On the swing at the playground, he enjoys being pushed but now wants to go into the swing holding a ball. He then throws the ball to me while swinging and catches it when I toss it back.

At the playground there are four metal picnic tables, end to end. He has turned this into a race track where he pushed his toy car around on the seats of the picnic tables.

When we play with plastic blocks, instead of carrying them from one place to another in his hand, he uses a long plastic spoon to balance the blocks.

He loves jars and cans. He will fill up a can with pegs and dump the can into another can, and then dump the contents back into the original can.

Each time we get together, I can’t wait to see what he invents.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Reversion of Rights



I have six published books in my Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series. Print rights have reverted to me for five of these books, with one more in December of this year. One of these has already been published as a trade paperback and I will be working with another publisher on getting the others back in print.

This all came about because my previous publisher, Five Star, decided to exit the mystery book publishing business. With rights being reverted, I now can take the necessary steps to keep the books in print.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Grandson Lessons – Sharing Toys


Several days ago my twenty-month-old grandson was playing at the park with two other little boys. They had all brought sand toys along. Each was playing with someone else’s toys. The other kid’s toys are always more intriguing than your own.

The good news is that he’s learning to share. He still grabs things away at times but now is more apt to let someone else use one of his toys while he plays with the other kid’s toys. I guess it’s all part of the civilizing process—at least until you get into politics.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Left Coast Crime Conference


I had the opportunity to participate in the Left Coast Crime Conference in Honolulu last week. This gathering of mystery fans and mystery writers is one of the highlights of my writing year. I get to meet other mystery authors and fans and chat with old friends.

One of the events I enjoyed was Author Speed Dating. We teamed up with another author and gave two-minute pitches to sixteen tables of readers. Robert Downs and I were a team. By the end we could give each others’ speeches. Here’s Robert in action.



I was also on a panel about heroes and villains with Colin Cotterill, Susanna Calkins, Augie Hicks and Penny Warner. We had a lively discussion on villainous heroes and heroic villains.

I enjoyed introducing thirteen new authors at the Meet the New Author Breakfast and even had a chance to get in an ocean swim and visit the three outdoor pools at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Great event and kudos to Lucinda Surber, Stan Ulrich and Gay Gale for a well-run conference.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Meet the New Authors Breakfast at the Left Coast Crime Conference


Kicking off Thursday, March 16, 2017, is the Left Coast Crime Conference in Honolulu. This conference is held annually in February or March in different cities in the western part of the United States. It provides an opportunity for mystery fans and mystery writers to mingle, attend panels and share their love of the mystery genre.

I have the opportunity to moderate the Meet the New Authors Breakfast at this conference. This year we have thirteen new authors to introduce to the fans. These are writers who have published their first mystery/crime/suspense/thriller novel within the last year.
This is the tenth year of holding this event at the conference, the first being in Denver in 2008. We have had anywhere from twelve to forty-four new authors in attendance. Each of the new authors gives a short presentation on the most important thing readers should know about their debut novel. The new authors shore their enthusiasm of being published, and the fans have a chance to meet these authors who now have launched their mystery writing careers.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Fake News


I have listened to the President deride fake news, but it seems he is one of the major perpetrators of fake news. I find this a very disturbing trend. Politicians lie, but the big lie seems to be taken to a new level within the United States from birther, to thousands of Muslims cheering 9/11, to illegal votes, to Obama wiretapping. I want to believe in the integrity of the Office of the President, but I find it difficult when these types of statements come out of the President’s mouth or his twitter feed and then his surrogates attempt to explain them away.

As a mystery and thriller writer, I am aware of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. When no proof it given I am suspicious. If proof to these claims is provided, I am willing to admit my mistake, but up to this point these claims all fall within the realm of fake news.
I am currently reading I Am Malala. She spoke out when lies were told about educating girls in Pakistan. I have held my tongue, giving our new President time to set his agenda, but his statements are becoming more and more detrimental. He doesn’t admit a mistake but instead doubles down when caught stating fake news. We need a role model for our children and grandchildren in our leader, and I find his statements go against the values children should be taught and seen modeled by important adults.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Writing Multiple Genres


As a writer, most of my published novels have been mysteries. Even within this genre, I have pursued multiple sub-genres including geezer-lit, paranormal, historical, theater and sports mysteries.

Why do this? I have many interests and become intrigued by different stories. My six-book Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series features an octogenarian protagonist with short-term memory loss who becomes an amateur sleuth. I enjoy writing about older characters who can display the wisdom they have accumulated over their years. I wanted to try something different and then wrote two paranormal mysteries. My family has been involved in theater, so I had to write a theater mystery. While hiking on what was once the railroad bed of the Switzerland Trail railroad in Colorado, I was inspired to set a historical mystery on this railroad. I love playing racquet and paddle sports, so I wrote a mystery about platform tennis, one of the sports I have played.

I also wrote a non-fiction book that was the result of meeting a World War II veteran four years ago. His story just had to be told.

My most recent book is an international thriller, The Tesla Legacy. I have always enjoyed reading thrillers and wanted to craft my own. I was inspired by the fascinating historical figure, Nikola Tesla, and wondered what if he had hidden plans for a destructive invention and the wrong types of people tried to get their hands on this invention.

What’s next? Coming out later this year is a new geezer-lit mystery with a different cast of characters. The protagonist is a forty-something financial guy who takes over a struggling retirement home to turn it around. He dislikes old people, animals and kids and has a life transforming experience in the world of geezers and geezerettes when a dead body turns up in the loading dock of the retirement home. Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Tesla Legacy, An International Thriller


If you have never read about Nikola Tesla, you're missing a fascinating inventor. I became intrigued with him several years ago, and the result is a new  novel titled, The Tesla Legacy, An International Thriller (ISBN 978-0-692-84423-6), that will become available this month in print and e-book from Wooden Pants Publishing. e-book link is http://bit.ly/1teslale
 
 
Picture a retired mathematics professor and conspiracy nut with a butt-kicking, surrogate-daughter sidekick. Elmore Kranz bombards the police with his predictions of disaster until one of them actually happens, to the point that he’s implicated in the plot. Even with the assistance of his one ally, rookie cop Brittney Chase, people start dying around Elmore as attempts are made on his life. Following up on inventions from eccentric genius, Nikola Tesla, Elmore and Brittney team up to solve a hundred year old puzzle while trying to thwart a secret government agency and an Afghani terrorist group who seek to get their hands on a doomsday weapon.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Grandson Lessons – Tough Guy Face

My eighteen-month-old grandson has very expressive facial features. Most of the time he is a happy guy, but once in a while he will let us know when he is displeased. He doesn’t hold back whether happy or unhappy.

But there is one facial expression that always makes me laugh. I refer to it as his tough guy face. He scrunches up his nose like a tough guy in a TV show. He may not be all that tough, but he knows how to disarm me.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Left Coast Crime Conference 2017

In March, one of my favorite conferences takes place—The Left Coast Crime Conference. This year it’s in Honolulu, so darn, I have to force myself to go back to where I grew up. This conference features mystery writers and fans and is an action-packed four days of catching up with old friends and making new ones.

I have the pleasure of being on a panel titled, Favorite Heroes and Villains: Why Do We Remember Them, which will be moderated by Penny Warner and include other panelists Susanna Calkins, Colin Cotterill and Augie Hicks. With this great group of authors we’ll have a lively discussion.
I’ll also be moderating the Meet the New Authors Breakfast. This is an opportunity to introduce authors who have published their first mystery/crime/suspense/thriller novel within the last year. Each of the new authors will describe to the fans at the conference the most important thing to know about their debut novel.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Grandson Lessons – Friends and Strangers

Our eighteen-month-old grandson has an opportunity to meet people at the park, library and other places we go. Some are people he knows and some are strangers. I enjoy watching his reaction to other people.

People he knows he greets with a smile. When there is a stranger, he tends to stay close to me and watch for a while. I sense he is assessing the person and situation. Nothing wrong with this in our day and age. Unfortunately, little kids have to be cautious about strangers.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Grandson Lessons – Testing Limits with a Smile


One thing little kids are good at is testing limits. I’ve watched this with my eighteen-month-old grandson.

There are some that are non-negotiable, such as holding Grandpa’s hand while crossing a street. Of course, when he gets older this will change, but for now this is the rule.

Our grandson is very good at trying to negotiate less critical limits. As an example, I have a bookshelf in my home office that he can reach. He loves pulling out books, which I have asked him not to do. His response—he gives me a big smile and keeps doing it. I will say in a loud, authoritative voice, “No!” He grins and pulls out another book. He knows this technique is more effective than throwing a tantrum. We usually reach a compromise of leaving my books alone and giving him a pickleball to play with instead.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Grandson Lessons – Being Alone versus Socializing

While observing my eighteen-month-old grandson, I keep learning interesting lessons. Today’s deals with being alone versus socializing.

He now enjoys playing with toys by himself at times. Still, he doesn’t like being left completely alone. His ideal is having time to himself with my wife or me close by. This way he can decide what he wants to do, but has someone to check in with periodically. Then when he’s ready to interact with us, he comes over to indicate he wants a book read to him or would like to build blocks together.
I can identify. I like time to myself but also enjoy socializing.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Grandson Lessons – Playing with Cars

Boys and their cars. My seventeen-month-old grandson loves playing with his toy cars. We have a corner of the kitchen where we keep his collection of fifteen toy cars lined up. When he comes over to visit, in addition to books, blocks and empty bottles, cars are on his priority list of items to play with.

But it isn’t just pushing the cars and carrying them around that interests him. There is a step between the kitchen area and the living room. What is more fun that sending the cars careening over the step as if going off a cliff.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Grandson Lessons - The Best Toys

Some people relish expensive toys—cars, boats, airplanes. Kids sometimes buy into the same paradigm by asking for expensive games and toys. I’ve learned from my seventeen-month-old grandson, that you can have just as much fun with an inexpensive toy.

He has an ample supply of toy cars, trucks and airplanes. We have a corner of the kitchen with his collection of cars that he plays with. But another toy location is a cabinet where we keep empty plastic bottles and containers. He entertains himself by taking bottle tops off and putting them back on, carrying an old jar around with him and putting things inside and dumping them out. Kind of like Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh with his useful jar to put things in. Our grandson will often abandon the more expensive toys for the simple joy of playing with the bottles and containers.