Thursday, August 22, 2019

How Political Should Authors Be?

The question of how political authors should be has been on my mind lately with the turbulent political environment and the mass shootings. Most of my blog and Facebook posting are about writing and activities with my grandchildren. Some authors don’t post anything political and others post almost everything that is of a political nature.

My main focus will continue to be on family and writing. But there are issues that are so important I can’t ignore them. Gun violence is one of these. I will make statements as I deem necessary to try to move the discussion forward on what action should be taken.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Short Stories

When I began writing in 2001, I started with short stories. Living in Boulder, CO, where the University of Colorado is located, I learned that the university allowed anyone over fifty-five years of age to take classes for free with the instructor’s permission. I availed myself of this opportunity and took two semesters of fiction writing. In these courses we wrote short stories and critiqued each other’s work. Next, I decided to get some of these short stories published. After 111 rejections, I sold my first short story. Along the way, I also switched over to novel writing. I have periodically written short stories, but the majority of my writing has been focused on novel-length manuscripts. I have published a handful of short stories but sixteen books.

The other morning I awoke from a dream with an idea for a short story. I sat down that morning and wrote a first draft. That’s one of the beauties of short stories. I can often flesh it out in one sitting. Then I went through a number of revision passes. It’s now complete.

I will continue to write short stories. They are a challenge to write crisply and concisely. But my major writing goal is to continue to have novels published.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Enough


Enough. Here’s my manifesto. As a parent, grandparent, voter and writer, my perspective is it’s time to address the plague of hate-based gun violence. When I turn on the television news or open the newspaper every morning, I cringe at the latest examples of domestic terrorism. And that’s what it is. These aren’t acts caused by an invasion of foreign aliens. No, these are home-grown, primarily young white men who are alienated from their communities and join a tribe spewing hate of others. We need to address the causes of this plague. Let me frame this in the terms used by crime writers: motive, means and opportunity. These perpetrators are motivated by hate. Their means are readily-available assault weapons with large magazines. The opportunity is everywhere since we are an open society. The solution can be framed in these same three terms. We must embrace a motive of making this a better place for our children and grandchildren through inclusive communities that embrace diversity and take action. We have a means of using our democratic right to vote; to vote against the politicians who hide behind donations from the gun lobby, say nothing and do nothing, and to vote for politicians who are willing to listen to the will of the people and take action to stop this plague. Our opportunity is to make this a country where our children and grandchildren don’t have to fear going to school, to a store, to a concert, to a festival, to a place of worship or out on a street because they could be cut down by a hate-based terrorist with an assault weapon. We’ve heard of the police responding within thirty seconds, but still not being able to prevent carnage. Even if we had police on every corner this would not prevent these tragedies. Thoughts and prayers are not enough. We must get to the root cause to eliminate the hate and the too easy access to assault weapons. Many of our leaders are complicit in not standing against ideologies such as white supremacy and not addressing gun violence. Let’s use the power of our vote to state clearly that this is enough.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

The Second Mountain

I just finished reading a thought-provoking book that I highly recommend: The Second Mountain, The Quest for a Moral Life by David Brooks. The second mountain refers to moving past the first mountain in our life of focusing on the self to an emphasis on others through service to the community. Brooks makes a distinction between a tribe (emphasis on the exclusiveness of us vs. them) to a community that is inclusive.

Brooks points out that the first mountain is the building of the self while the second mountain deals with four major commitments: vocation, marriage, philosophy and faith, and community. His paradoxical conclusion is that true freedom is not going it alone but abandoning the self in service to others.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Mystery Conferences 2020

Each year, mystery authors and fans have a choice of a number of excellent mystery conferences. In 2020 I plan to attend two of these: The Left Coast Crime Conference and Bouchercon.

Both will be held in California so I can drive to them. The Left Coast Crime Conference will be in San Diego March 12-15, 2020, and Bouchercon will be in Sacramento October 15-18, 2020.  At both of these conferences I will be hosting the Meet the New Authors Breakfast and potentially participating in one or more panels. The Left Coast Crime Conference typically has between 400 and 500 attendees, and Bouchercon is the largest mystery/crime conference with attendance exceeding 1500.

See you there.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Using Reality in Fiction

How much reality should be used when writing fiction? As a fiction writer, I try to make my scenes credible and often mix reality with fiction. In the historical fiction I’ve written, I portray actual events and people but in a fictional context. Since we don’t know what people actually said, I invent dialogue relating to what I think they said. Typically, the main plot, often a mystery, is fictional but my intent is to keep the time and setting as real as possible.

As fiction writers we need to make our stories credible enough so the readers can suspend disbelief. When we read fiction, we know that things are made up, but they need to be made up in a credible way.

One of my recent mystery novels, Death of a Scam Artist, is available in trade paperback and e-book editions. In September it will also be released in a mass market paperback edition by Harlequin Worldwide Mysteries. This mystery is set in a fictional retirement community populated with a number of quirky characters. One of the main themes is dealing with a scam artist who is taking advantage of the retirement home residents. Some of the examples of his scams are based on actual scams. Likewise, the opening scene is loosely based on an actual event described to me by a friend who is the CEO of a retirement community.
I enjoy testing the line between fiction and reality.


Thursday, July 11, 2019

Vacation on the California Coast

We had an enjoyable short vacation with kids and grandkids in Pismo Beach, CA. This is the first time in about 40 years that we’ve gone north along the coast from the Los Angeles Area. Lots of good food and scenery and happy times with the new generations.




Thursday, July 4, 2019

Grandkid Visits

We’ve had the pleasure of seeing all of our grandsons over the last week. Our son and his family from Iowa have been visiting us, and we’ve also gotten together with our other two grandsons.

This is what keeps us young.


 

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Reversion of Book Rights

At the beginning of my writing career, I worked with Five Star who published nine of my mystery novels (six in the Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series, a theater mystery, a historical mystery and a sports mystery). Then Five Star decided to exit the mystery publishing line, so I found a new publisher, Encircle Publications. Recently, all rights to the nine Five Star books were reverted to me. Seven have been republished by Encircle as trade paperbacks and we’re discussing republishing the remaining two.

Originally, Five Star didn’t ask for e-book rights, so I published four e-books myself. With the final reversion of rights I have now republished the five remaining Five Star books as e-books.

My goal is to keep all of my books available in print and e-book (eight are also available as audio books). This way readers can choose their preferred way to read my books. Also, when I give talks to service organizations, libraries and book clubs, I always hand sell print copies so it’s important to me to have all of these still in print.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Aging Gratefully

I’ve given a presentation titled “How to Age Gracefully” about my experience writing books featuring older people. Earlier this week I was struck by an article titled, “Why I Learned to Age, Gratefully,” by writer, Rachel Moscovich, in the Los Angeles Times. As a multiple-time cancer survivor, rather than dreading aging, she has come to look forward to become older.

I share Rachel’s perspective. After surviving a heart attack in 2013, I’m grateful to be alive and to have the opportunity to age. As my stepdad used to say, getting older isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but it sure beats the alternative.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

After a Writers Conference

I have been attending writers conferences since 2002. When I lived in Colorado, I attended the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference annually. It was through this conference that I sold my first published book, Retirement Homes Are Murder, as a result of a pitch session to Deni Dietz of Five Star. Since moving to Southern California in 2015, I planned to attend the California Crime Writers Conference but was only able to go this year.

After a writers conference, I always come away inspired with new ideas. In previous writers conferences I have come up with insights that led to new manuscripts. I also have enjoyed the opportunity to mingle with other writers and to make new friends.

After the California Crime Writers Conference this last weekend, I came home with notes and action items to follow up on including new promotional and speaking opportunities. Wherever I am in my writing journey, writers conferences always provide a boost.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Are There Rules for Writing Genres and Should an Author Stick to One Genre?

Since I write primarily mysteries, I’m always interested in purported “rules” for various sub-genres of mysteries. Most of my mystery novels are on the cozy end of the spectrum. It’s often stated that cozies should have no sex, no swearing and no on screen violence. In my Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series, I violate two of these rules with geezer romance and a protagonist who cusses. I even received a one-star review for language (Paul uses hell and damn).

Here’s my take. I write what I enjoy reading and to tell the story I want to tell. When I started I didn’t even know about these “rules.” Now that I’ve heard about then, I still don’t follow them. I also don’t stick to strict genres. I have two novels that mix mystery and paranormal elements. I mix mystery and romance (I was a card carrying member of Romance Writers of America for several years). As well as my six book amateur sleuth series, other mysteries include historical, private eye, theater, professional organizer, sports, a thriller and a biography of a World War II veteran.

For me it’s challenging and interesting to try different subject matter.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

California Crime Writers Conference

I will be attending the California Crime Writers Conference in Southern California in June. This conference for writers of the crime/mystery genre is held every two years and this is the first chance I’ve had to attend it since moving back to Southern California. It took place in 2015 just before I moved, and in 2017 I had to pass because of attending my 55th high school reunion in Honolulu.

I’ll be on a panel titled Cozies on the Edge: Meeting and Subverting Reader Expectations. This is a subject I’m looking forward to exploring with fellow authors Mary Marks, Frankie Bow, Jennifer Chow and moderator Leslie Karst. I write primarily amateur sleuth mysteries, but mine are on the cozy end of the spectrum. Supposedly with cozies, there are three rules: no sex, no swearing and no on screen violence. I violate two of these three rules with geezer sex and some cussing. Most cozies feature young women protagonists whereas many of my mysteries have older characters. Also, I have one geezer-lit mystery with paranormal elements. I had one publisher turn it down because they didn’t publish paranormal novels.

I write what I enjoy reading and writing, that’s why many of my mystery novels have older characters. And besides, I started writing later in life at the age of fifty-six.

Geezers and geezerettes rule.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Giving Book Talks

I enjoy giving presentations about my published books at libraries, book stores, book clubs and service organizations such as Rotary, Kiwanis and Optimist. When I was a child I never thought this would be the case because I was painfully shy and introverted. But over a business career I learned to give speeches and now look forward to them rather than dread them.

When each of my new books is published, I develop a new presentation. My objective is to put together an entertaining and humorous speech. I typically have a theme and then indirectly tie this to my book. For example, my current presentation is about pickleball, a sport I play and one that’s featured in my latest mystery novel, Paradise Court.

Most of my talks are in person, but I also have done conference call and Skype presentations to other locations.  If any of you want me to speak to one of your groups, you can contact me at mikebef@aol.com.

 

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Pain

Over the last month, I’ve gained a new perspective on suffering from chronic pain. I had knee replacement surgery and am now recovering. The pain, the inability to sleep, difficulty concentrating were all symptoms I experienced. Fortunately, for me, I’m improving every day, and the pain is slowly dissipating. Not so for people with chronic pain. My short period of suffering is nothing compared to what many people undergo on an ongoing basis. Likewise, there is the decision to use addictive drugs or not. I was able to cut back and then eliminate the addictive drugs, but it would be a different case if the pain had not been reduced. These are very difficult problems that millions of people face on a daily basis.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

New Books Received

It’s always a treat to open the box for the first shipment of a new novel. I received copies of Paradise Court, a pickleball mystery. Although recovering from knee replacement surgery and on injured reserved at the moment, I have been playing pickleball, a sport played with a paddle and wiffle ball—a combination of tennis, badminton and ping pong. This sport is featured in this mystery novel set on Maui.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Pickleball Mystery Novel Now Available

My latest novel, Paradise Court, a pickleball mystery is now available. This is a sequel to Court Trouble.

In Paradise Court, while vacationing on Maui with his wife, Mark Yeager makes two discoveries: he finds a pickleball court and a dead body. Things go downhill as he becomes a suspect in a murder investigation, his wife is kidnapped and he gets crosswise with a local crime boss. He must sort through a cast of suspects to find the killer, rescue his wife and stay alive.


Thursday, April 18, 2019

Time Out for a Knee Replacement

Last week I had knee replacement surgery, so I’m in recovery mode right now. I haven’t been writing and using the computer, but I’m feeling better so thought I’d give an update. The surgery went well, and I’m using a walker to get around. I still have pain meds to take and simple stretch exercises to do. So far so good.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

A Successful Left Coast Crime Conference

I enjoyed the Left Coast Crime Conference gathering in Vancouver, BC last week. I had the opportunity to introduce 18 new authors at the Meet the New Author Breakfast and participated in two panels: The Thriller Panel and Writing in More Than One Genre, and the Author Speed Dating.





Thursday, March 28, 2019

Left Coast Crime Conference

This is the week of the Left Coast Crime Conference in Vancouver, BC. It will be a busy five days getting there, giving two minute pitches during the author speed dating, moderating the Meet the New Authors Breakfast, being on two panels, signing books, seeing old friends, meeting new people and flying home.

This will be the only mystery conference I attend this year. I’ve been to this conference eleven of the last twelve years. Next year, it’s in San Diego so that will be driving distance for me.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

When Do Authors Write?

When I give presentations, during the question and answer session people often ask about when I write. It’s not a simple answer, because I’ve gone through three different phases of my writing.

When I began writing in 2001, I still had a day job. I developed an approach by modifying the concept of Morning Pages developed by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way. Julia recommends writing three handwritten pages first thing every morning to get the creative juices flowing. She indicated this can be anything: a journal, random thoughts, whatever you choose to write. I modified her concept in this fashion: Every morning, I would review where I left off the day before in my current manuscript, then write three handwritten pages to continue the story. Then in the evening when I got home from my day job, I’d edit the three pages and enter them into the computer. This produced two typed pages. If you do the arithmetic, when I stuck with it, in 150 days I’d have a rough draft for a 300 page novel. This is the technique I used for my first four published mystery novels.
Then after I retired from my day job in 2007, I changed my approach to write directly into the computer. Being a morning person, I would write every morning, then exercise in the middle of the day and do editing and promotional activities in the afternoon. This was a very productive period for me and continued until the beginning of 2015. At the end of this period, I had completed rough drafts for thirty-one books. Of these, fifteen now have been published with two others under contract.
After my wife and I moved back to Southern California in 2015 to be near our new grandson, my schedule and approach changed again. I became a professional grandpa in the mornings doing things with our grandson. My writing since then has been focused on rewriting and editing my existing unpublished manuscripts in the afternoons and weekends to prepare them for publication.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Book Piracy

There’s been a lot of discussion lately on social media about book piracy—organizations that give away authors’ works for free without permission. What has amazed me is the backlash from some people thinking an author’s works should be free. I bet these same people don’t think professional athletes and entertainers should ply their trade for free. Professional writers need to be compensated for their work as any other people who work to provide a product or service.

 

Thursday, February 28, 2019

New Writing Project

After my next two books come out this year — Paradise Court, a pickleball mystery in May (a sequel to Court Trouble), and The Front Wing, a paranormal geezer-lit mystery in October (a sequel to The Back Wing), my next writing project is a trilogy set in a fictional town, Omnipodge, along the central coast of California.

This trilogy will feature a geezer-lit mystery, The Last Gasp Motel, a spoof on the detective genre, Old Detectives Home, and a spoof on the cozy genre, A Mystery Yarn.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Early Readers

Many of my author friends have been writing since an early age. Likewise, many of them were avid readers from an early age. Unfortunately, there are many children, often boys, who aren’t that enthusiastic about reading. I was one of them. Here’s my story.

In elementary school we went to the school library at least once a week. I wasn’t very interested in reading, so I’d goof around during that time. One day the librarian approached me and asked what I was interested in. That was an easy question. “Baseball,” I answered. She motioned me over to a section of books that had baseball stories. That’s how I got hooked on reading.

I am thankful for librarians with the insight to guide children to areas of interest for reading.

 

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Panels at the Left Coast Crime Conference in March

The Left Coast Crime Conference will be held in Vancouver March 28 – 31. I will be on two panels. The first is The Thriller Panel at 10:15 on Friday, moderated by Kris Calvin and including panelists Puja Guha, Glen Erik Hamilton and S. J. Rozan, a terrific group. The second is a panel on Writing in More than One Genre at 1:30 on Friday, moderated by Heather Ash with panelists Shelly Adina, Laura Benedict and C. J. Carmichael, another outstanding group of authors.

I will be busy that Friday, because I also moderate The Meet the New Author Breakfast as 7:30. Currently, we have seventeen new authors who will be introduced at the breakfast. They will each give a one minute presentation on the most important thing readers should know about their debut novel.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Medical Insurance

As a Medicare recipient for the last nine years, I’m appreciative of what it provides. With the current debate about Medicare-for-all I think this topic is worth discussion. If we ignore the rants from the far right that it would be a disaster, cost too much and put private insurance companies out of business and rants from the far left that we don’t need to worry about how to pay for it, let’s as a country explore ways to improve medical coverage. First of all, I pay for Medicare in five ways: 1. I made payroll deductions for the thirty-nine years I worked. This provided me with Part A (hospital insurance) when I turned sixty-five. Without paying into the system, I could have still purchased Part A through monthly payments. 2. I pay a monthly fee for Part B (medical insurance). 3. I pay a monthly fee for supplemental insurance through a private insurance company. 4. I pay a monthly fee for Part D (drug coverage) to a private insurance company, 5. For things not covered, I pay directly when billed by medical providers. No one is giving me anything for free. I think this model is worth exploring for covering younger people. The discussion needs to include how to pay for it.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Social Media

At the time my first book was published in 2007, I had a web site and began exploring other ways of engaging with readers. Now I have this blog where I post weekly. I participate in Facebook and occasionally Twitter.

I really don’t enjoy Twitter very much, but I do like Facebook. I catch up on friends' family activities with kids and grandkids, an occasional dog or cat picture, photos of travel and interesting events, author book activities and a political rant or two. My posts include a lot of activities with my 3-year-old grandson as well as other grandkids, pictures from walks, book activities and my own political rants.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Dealing with Unpredictable Publishers

Over my twelve year publishing career, I have worked with six different publishers. Of these, I am only working with two and a partial right now. One (Five Star) decided to exit the mystery publishing business and reverted print rights on seven of my nine books they had published. One publisher went out of business completely, one became unresponsive, and one decided to change his business model.

Change can be expected in publishing, so authors have to adapt to this. As of this moment, all of my fifteen books are back in print. Fortunately, Encircle Publications has re-released eight of my books as well as published two new novels. I have self-published two of my abandoned books.

Never a dull moment in the publishing world.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Left Coast Crime Conference

I will be attending the Left Coast Crime Conference in Vancouver, Canada, in March. This gathering of mystery fans and mystery authors is always an enjoyable event. This year I will again be hosting the Meet the New Authors Breakfast. So far we have seventeen new authors who will be giving a one minute presentation on the most important thing to know about their debut mystery novel.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Writing During Different Times of the Year

Many people make New Year’s resolution including writers. November has also been a time for some writers who participate in NaNoWroMo, national novel writing month, a time to attempt to write 50,000 words during one month. For some writers, summer may be a time of reduced writing with vacations and kids home from school. Others may cocoon during the winter and write less or more.

For me, it depends on where I am in my writing cycle and what I’m writing. For example, right now I’m not writing anything new, but I’m editing manuscripts in preparation for getting them published. Two of my books will be coming out in 2019, and I’m editing manuscripts to be submitted for 2020.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

2019


Here we are in a new year. Some people make resolutions, some reflect on the past year and others get on with their lives.

Right now, I’m getting organized for the year. In my writing world, I’ll be attending the Left Coast Crime Conference in March and the California Crime Writers Conference in June. I have two books under contract to be published in 2019: Paradise Court: A Pickleball Mystery in May (this is a sequel to Court Trouble) and The Front Wing in October (this is a sequel to The Back Wing). I also have a number of presentations scheduled for service organizations such as Rotary and Kiwanis.

On the personal front, I’m looking forward to time with my wife, kids and grandkids.

May this be a good year for all of you.