Monday, June 18, 2018

Public Views

Today we are dealing with the question of “the great divide”—how we handle putting our views “out there” in public.

Since I’m right about everything, it’s no big problem for me to spout my views. Okay, seriously, I handle it by saying exactly what I think and try to back it up with facts (remember back in the old days, when facts meant something?) I write letters to the editor of both the NY Times and the Chronicle and I freely post my opinions on social media.

I have never had to deal with a flame war, but I have had to moderate some very divergent opinions on my Facebook posts. I refuse to unfriend people whose opinions differ from mine because then not only will I not know what they are thinking (yes, I use the word "thinking" loosely), but the opposite is true as well. If I unfriend them, they won’t ever see my posts. I want them to see what I have to say. I want to argue with them. Maybe I won’t ever change any minds, but at least people know where I stand. They know I have strong opinions and that I am not afraid to air them.

That last statement says something very important to me. I think fear drives a great deal of what goes on in the country today. I constantly read opinion pieces discussing why we are in such a perilous internal war, about why he-who-shall-not-be-named got elected, why people are so angry. I have my own ideas about it. I think fear drives a lot of the division, and I think that fear can be traced back to 9/11. Many of our supposedly brave citizens reacted with abject terror to that event and the fear has been growing unrestricted ever since. To understand the stupidity of that fear, consider how many more people die every year from poorly monitored guns than died on 9/11. How many more people die of opiates; how many more die from smoking; from automobile accidents.

So, if I’m right, it means the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 won. They won by dividing the country into those who let fear guide them and those who are not afraid of “the other.” The other consists of: people without the same religious beliefs; people with a different skin color. But it also means scientists; journalists; questioners; people who refuse to follow blindly. Fearful people are afraid to step out of line. That's a dangerous problem, and I intend to fight it. It may not be judicious for my professional life, but I think this time in our country is more important than my career.

Just like gun owners who proudly proclaim, “They will take my gun when they pry it from my cold, dead hands,” I proclaim, “I’ll shut up when they tape my mouth closed, tie my hands behind me, and drag me offstage.

Friday, June 15, 2018

I Got My Ticket for the Long Way Round

Do you think a regular writing hiatus would be good for you? (no writing/reading/reviewing/marketing etc.) How long would you like to take and what would you do during it?)

by Paul D. Marks

Before I get to the question at hand, I was researching some things the other day and came across a list of the “Top 50 Crime Novel Blogs For Crime Readers & Authors” at Feedspot. So out of curiosity I had to check and see if we were on there. And we are. At #22. The last update is May 30, 2018, so this is a pretty current list. Not sure how they chose these blogs, but Congratulations fellow Criminal Minds and thank you to Feedspot.

And now to today’s question:

I don’t know if a writing hiatus would be good for me, but I’m not sure it’s something I could do even if I wanted to. Though it might be good for my marriage, because writing is like having a mistress, who takes up a lot of your time and energy.

Clearly we all take breaks from writing. But no writing? No reading? What kind of torture is this? But okay, maybe no reviewing or marketing. So, what are supposed to do? For example, if we travel, I don’t know about you, but I know whenever I travel I always have good intentions to get some writing in. And I never do, so even that might work. But no reading – we’re supposed to take time off and do what? Watch TV all day, stare at our phones all day texting all the important things that people must text about every minute of every day. Or maybe cure cancer in our free time – yeah maybe. But my chemistry set is notoriously out of date.

I do get asked to do a lot of blurbs and reviews, so much so that I often don’t have time to read for pleasure so I’ve had to put a moratorium on blurbing. So I’d be happy to get a break from that.

The solution is a compromise: Yes, a break or hiatus. A cruise, but not on a cruise ship. That is my idea of H-E-DOUBLE-HOCKEY-STICKS: HELL! HELL! HELL ON EARTH! HELL ON THE HIGH SEAS. And, while the food might be good, the idea of being stacked like pancakes or in a multi-layered ant-hill of drunken partying fools would make me want to jump overboard or walk the plank, be hanged—hung?—strung from the yardarm. If I go to sea—and I have been—to enjoy the ocean and peacefulness a cruise ship is not peaceful. It’s like Las Vegas but where you need a Dramamine fix every few hours, not from the rolling waves but from the rolling drunks.

I don’t think today’s cruise ships are the epitome of sedate, luxurious travel like we might see in the old movies on Turner Classics. People have changed. These days they see a cruise ship as the perfect place to get rid of that extraneous wife or superfluous husband. So they might be a good place for an Agatha Christie type story, Death on the Nile or Murder on the Disney Cruise Express.

Many freighters or cargo ships carry passengers, but usually a limited number. As an old salt, I love the sea. I’d bring a laptop and tablet, lots of books and movies. And Amy and the dogs. Now I know in reality you’re not allowed to bring dogs unless you ship them as cargo, but since this is my fantasy I can do whatever I want – and damn it, the dogs are coming!

How long would I take? Forever, as long as I had satellite internet to send my stories out, ’cause I’d cheat and get some writing in after all.  -----  What about you? Hiatus or no hiatus? And what would you do?


And now for the usual BSP:

Check out my recent interview with Terri Lynn Coop on The Blue Plate Special on Authors on the Air Radio:


Broken Windows is coming (September, 2018) from Down & Out Books! And you might be able to get an Advanced Reader’s Copy at Net Galley. It’s FREE, you just have to agree to their terms and agree to give a fair and honest review. Their terms are not onerous. But there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to get a copy.

Broken Windows is the sequel to my Shamus Award-Winning novel White Heat, which Publishers Weekly calls a “…taut crime yarn.” It picks up where WH leaves off: A woman jumps to her death from the Hollywood Sign. A disbarred lawyer places an ad saying “Will do anything for money.” A day laborer is murdered. And Duke and Jack, the P.I.’s from White Heat, have to figure out how it all ties together. – In a nutshell.


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Thursday, June 14, 2018

All aboard!

"Do you think a regular writing hiatus would be good for you? No writing/reading/reviewing/marketing etc.) How long would you like to take and what would you do during it?"

Catriona writes: Thus week I'm taking a blogging hiatus, well, I'm turning my day over to Linda Lovely, who's on a blog tour to celebrate the launch of PICKED OFF, the second in her South Carolina goat farm mystery series, the follow-up to the giggle-fest that was BONES TO PICK.

Over to Linda:

Here’s how old I am: I recall taking vacations from my full time job and packing only clothes, money, and, if we were driving to the coast, maybe beach towels. What didn’t I pack? Cell phones and laptops. All communication with my employer (early on) and partners (later) ceased. If my firm went bankrupt and I lost my job, I’d learn about it once I returned home. Meanwhile I was on vacation and couldn’t give a hoot.

Old fogey that I am I look back on this era as the good old days. Now when friends and family come to visit (often since we live on a very pretty lake), most never entirely escape work and worries. Colleagues call with questions. They answer texts. They check social media and websites several times a day. They never unplug.

That means they miss the joy of a total sabbatical—a timeout to do absolutely nothing or to lose oneself in a fantasy adventure. A chance to recharge our minds and bodies, give free reign to our imaginations. The real world calls us back soon enough.

So do I think a regular writing hiatus would be good for me (and others)? Absolutely. However, I can’t include reading in my potential list of retreat-from-authorhood prohibitions. I was reading for pleasure and escape long before I started writing fiction, and I’ll still be devouring books if I ever quit. Reading is part of the bedtime ritual for my husband and me. We always read for an hour or so before it’s lights out.

How long a hiatus makes sense? Depends on the individual. Some folks are so addicted to their cell phones that I doubt they could spend a day unplugged without psychotherapy. It would be torture, not vacation. For me, I’m a fan of the traditional two-week vacation. One week isn’t long enough. I’m usually worn out at the start of a vacation due to frantic efforts to put out any fires and get ready—even if my trip doesn’t involve leaving home. Three weeks is too long since playing catch up on my return to author responsibilities would just rekindle whatever stress I felt pre-vacation.

What is my ideal escape? Perhaps a train trip across Canada with my husband, if we had the freedom to disembark whenever and for as long as we chose. It’s been too long since we’ve visited with out niece in Saskatchewan who lives on a wheat farm. I’d love to revisit Quebec City, Toronto, and Nova Scotia. And I’ve always wanted to see Banff National Park, Calgary, and Vancouver. (Note to self, you do need to renew your passport for Canada.)

I think fear is the biggest reason we don’t unplug for any length of time. Some folks with nine-to-five jobs may fear their employers will realize they CAN function without them. For authors, it’s fear that should we abandon social media, our fans will move on or our publishers will decide we’re poor team players and undependable or poor communicators.

What I fear more is that if I don’t disconnect from the writing world at least once a year I’ll miss out on experiences and emotions that are what the good life’s all about. And those experience might just provide the inspiration for the best book I’ll ever write.

Linda's Bio: Over the past five years, hundreds of mystery/thriller writers have met Linda Lovely at check-in for the annual Writers’ Police Academy, which she helps organize. Lovely finds writing pure fiction isn’t a huge stretch given the years she’s spent penning PR and ad copy. She writes a blend of mystery and humor, chuckling as she plots to “disappear” the types of characters who most annoy her. Quite satisfying plus there’s no need to pester relatives for bail. Henery Press just released PICKED OFF on June 5. It’s the second humorous installment in her new Brie Hooker Mystery series set on a goat farm in Upstate South Carolina. An active member of Sisters in Crime, Lovely served as her local chapter’s president for five years. She also belongs to International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Breaking up is hard to Cathy Ace

LIFE: Do you think a regular writing hiatus would be good for you? (no writing/reading/reviewing/marketing etc) How long would you like to take and what would you do during it?

In three words - yes and no. 

Let me try again - I'll break down the different functions listed, so I can give a fuller answer. 

I do already take a sort-of hiatus from writing during March-May, because I attend Left Coast Crime, Malice Domestic and CrimeFest UK during those months (adding in a couple of weeks with Mum in Wales when I go to the UK) and therefore find it impossible to get a lot of writing done, so I’d rather do none at all. 
Interviewing Guests of Honor William Kent Kreuger, Naomi Hirahara and Todd Borg at Left Coast Crime 2018
I also fit in a vacation during those months (by which I mean lolling about in the sun on the deck of a cruise ship) so these are my months when I take “down time” from writing. However, I’m still plotting like a fiend, making notes and plans, and even carrying out research all that time. 

One of my favorite spots on a cruise ship - the library!

Reading? I only stop reading when I’m writing – not because I’m afraid I’ll pick up another author’s “voice” in my own work, but purely because I am so immersed in my own make-believe world that I don’t have room for anyone else’s…so I read most during the three months I’m not actively writing. I read on paper, Kindle and Kobo…yes, all three!
My rather splendid new Kindle cover!

I don’t do much reviewing – I have discovered I’m pretty poor at it, and few people ask me for blurbs simply because I’m not well-enough known for my opinion to count for much. Those requests I do get seem to mostly come from publishers/authors who have clearly never read what I write, because there’s little/no connection between my readers and theirs, so I (politely, I hope) decline.

Marketing’s a different thing – I NEVER take a break from it. Never. Ever. Even when I’m on vacation. Why? Because I've invested six years into building a presence, and I think it’s best to not stop now! it comes...please, consider reading one of my books? Thanks! 

Cathy Ace writes the Cait Morgan Mysteries and the WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries. Find out more about Cathy and her work here:

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Time Out by RM Greenaway

Q: Do you think a regular writing hiatus would be good for you? (no writing/ reading/ reviewing/marketing etc.) How long would you like to take and what would you do during it?

Since this is my question, the answer is probably obvious: Yes.

Seems like sacrilege, betrayal, and admitting I'm not a real writer, but yeah, one month out of twelve away from the blessed written word with all its frigging ups and downs would be good for me. I love it all, but sometimes the stress turns into a belly ache.

And in writing that last sentence, I've just realized: it's the fear of not being good enough that I need a break from, more than the written word itself. I just have to get past that dumbass insecurity, like everybody else in this boat, and I'll be okay.

Anyway, taking a break is not an option for the foreseeable future, if I plan to succeed. And I do plan to succeed. Because it's so great to be here, regardless of ulcers. I guess the correct answer is, "Hiatus from writing? What does that even mean? Writing IS a hiatus."

By the way, this is my 58th 7 Criminal Minds post, and I will soon have a total of three short stories published, and I'm writing my fifth book (the best part about writing is writing), so I'm doing something write. Tada!


PS: Forgot second part of question. What would I do in my one month off? Badminton.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Will Work for Success

Q: Do you think a regular writing hiatus would be good for you? (no writing/ reading/ reviewing/marketing etc.) How long would you like to take and what would you do during it?)

- from Susan

A: No! In fact, I just did it, not so much by design as by the necessity when you’re traveling and doing tourist-y things all day, and I am currently trying to get my mojo back. A couple of distractions:

Maybe if I had written 8, 10, 15 books in a series, a hiatus might be good to refresh my brain and make sure the next one wouldn’t be merely a rehash. But I’m nowhere near productive enough, popular enough, or successful enough to deserve a vacation from writing. Not only that, but writing can be its own vacation, or at least a soul-nourishing, exciting, energizing activity when it’s going well. When that happens, the last thing I want is to close the laptop and go out to ski or hike, or shop on Portobello Road.

As to marketing, taking a vacation from it is dangerous these days. I’m thrilled that I was offered (and instantly accepted) a handful of event and blog opportunities while I was in England and that will help me stay somewhat visible with the new French village book that came out only on May 1. It garnered some good professional reviews, some nice out-the-gate publicity, but now I have to get out there and give it a push.

DRESSED FOR DEATH IN BURGUNDY is out in hardcover, e-book, and audio book formats now! LOVE & DEATH IN BURGUNDY is now available at a reduced price on Amazon and is also an e-book and an audio book!

Kirkus: : "A comedy of errors full of amusing characters, a fine feeling for life in small-town France, and a suitably twisty mystery."

So, as you see, a hiatus isn’t what I need or relish so much as inspiration, motivation, book sales (please) and the collegial support of my writer friends.

Friday, June 8, 2018

In My Mitts

"No, I don't want a tote bag. Is it free? Fine."

Unfortunately, audiobooks never caught on with me. It's generational, maybe. All those tapes in that plastic package that always found a way to get cracked and dented just looked so unnecessary, not to mention the batteries. Buy the book, save the money on Duracells. What's more, I remember a large component of reading comprehension taught as seeing what's happening on the page in your mind as you read. Audiobooks accomplish the bulk of what want to read a new book for in the first place. Listening to a fiction audiobook is like having my food chewed for me.

Not that I haven't enjoyed them. Pierce Brown's RED RISING is a very well-done audiobook. The YA fantasy series set in a feudal mining colony on Mars held my attention on a long driving trip with someone significantly younger than me. George R.R. Martin's A SONG OF FIRE AND ICE failed to engage me as much. It loses me around the time they start naming generations, who begat whom and so forth. Before then, it worked well. In both cases, an audiobook isn't something I'd reach for but it wasn't a bad audience in which to be a captive.

Some non-fiction audiobooks have worked out for me. Especially with research outside of my writing career. I've taken to increasing my sophistication with finance and audiobooks here are an immense help. It has the feel of a lecture, where I can pause the instructor, dig into detailed notetaking and get back to the class without missing anything. It helps if the non-fic book is read by someone with some talent, especially in finance or world history. Those audiobooks will put you to sleep if they don't get an engaging narrator.

I find audiobooks never really save me time. For me, reading is about examining the author's intent, so I'm always flipping back and forward, reading the same passages, something occurs to me and I revisit it, make information connections. I can't put Post-It notes in an audiobook or write in its margins. If all my flipping were audio scrubbing, I'd never finish a chapter.

My performance career informs my notion there are words that are meant to be read and words that are read in order to be spoken and often they can be found in the same pieces. With an audiobook, prose that worked perfectly well on the page must turn into copy. I know from reading my own stuff aloud in performance, some paragraphs just feel like marbles in the mouth.

Still, they're a boon for our industry, and for those who need greater access to the books they wish to read. Audiobooks are in my writing future, I'm certain of it, and I'm excited at the prospect, but my experience with them is I want the pulp in my mitts.


For those interested in the works to which I frequently refer, check out these titles at your local bookseller, your local library, or online where you enjoy purchasing your print and e-books. As always, thanks for your support and encouragement.