Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Typo Honesty

by Bethany Maines 

Recently, I was going over the edits from a beta reader on my forthcoming mystery novel - Against the Undertow (sequel to An Unseen Current). I was excited to read over the notes because the reader had been pretty enthusiastic verbally about the book and I was looking forward to easy edits (for once).  Beta readers usually give critiques on story elements, spot plot holes, and generally let an author know if something is working or not. They can do line edits and spot typos, but frequently that’s a separate gig because the mental focus for each job is quite different. Because of that, I usually tell my beta readers to treat typos like terrorists on the train in New York – if you see something, say something – but don’t go looking for them. Which is why I laughed when I got to this note:

I didn’t take note of typos except for one I thought I’d mention: on p. 76 you meant perennial and instead wrote perineal. 

That is indeed a typo worth mentioning and I promptly laughed and shared it with about eight people. But it got me to thinking about some of my other slips of the fingers. Here’s a couple that I thought worth noting.

He knew he would get some carp for it. Yes, because fish are often given as a sign of disapproval.

Stalking feet. Because he has those feet that just will not stop violating restraining orders.

I’m going as troll. Many problems here. Including missing the word “for” and a misplaced space around the S. But if you want to go for a stroll as a troll, apparently I will let you. Gotta look out for those trolls.

Desserted is not, repeat not, the same as deserted. I wish it was. I wish I could be desserted ALL the time. But cake is not a healthy breakfast choice.

As I continue to write, I’m sure I will make many more typos. I hope that at least a few are as good these ones. What about you? Have you spotted any awesome typos lately?

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mystery Series, Tales From the City of Destiny, San Juan Islands Mysteries, Shark Santoyo Crime Series, and numerous short stories. When she's not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some serious butt with her fourth degree black belt in karate, she can be found chasing her daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel. You can also view the Carrie Mae YouTube video or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Mystery Conference Talk

I recently attended a MWA-NY event “Making The Most of Mystery Conference” held at the Club Quarters in New York City. Triss Stein and Radha moderated this event with Nancy Bilyeau, Edith Maxwell Jeffrey Siger, and Shawn Reilly Simmons, talking respectively about ThrillerFest, New England Crime Bake, Bouchercon and Malice Domestic.

Each panelist was introduced with a recap on how they became involved and the one key factor that played in most was “the bar.” So, if you want to become part of the inner workings of these mystery conferences, head to the bar.

Then during the next 30 minutes the audience got to hear about each: Malice and Bouchercon are reader/fan conventions while New England Crime Bake and ThrillerFest are writer’s conferences.

Bouchercon is the only one of this group where the location varies each year. This year, the conference is being held in St. Petersburg, Florida, while New England Crime Bake is in Boston, ThrillerFest is in New York City and Malice Domestic is in Bethesda, Maryland.

At the fan conventions you get to mingle with authors and other readers; you attend panels and have a cornucopia of activities for your choosing. Same holds true for writer’s conferences as well as learning more about the craft of writing.

To be on a panel at Malice and Bouchercon, you have to check the box when filling out your registration. At New England Crime Bake, authors are invited to be on a panel and at ThrillerFest, they try to accommodate all authors attending.

In terms of sizes, Bouchercon is the largest with 1,500 attendees, followed by ThrillerFest with 800; Malice at 600 and New England Crime Bake at 300. All numbers are approximate.

They also talked about the costs and it can be a bit expensive: New England Crime Bake ($199 for SinC/MWA members; $229 public); Bouchercon ($225 for St. Petersburg, FL); Malice ($345 includes banquet; $295 Basic) and ThrillerFest (ranges from $150-$1,000+).

All in all, it was a good talk and gave me more clarifications between these four conferences which I was lucky to have attended.

On dru’s book musings, I posted a list of 2018 mystery conferences, click here.

What conferences have you attended in the past? Are you going to any this year? I am and I look forward to seeing you there.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Juliana Aragon Fatula: A Performance Artist Who Writes

I love this photo at Penn State in the late 90's. I had all my teeth and I quit dying my hair black and went grey. I look like my mom in a similar photo. We're both chingonas. 

I love this photographer, Tracy Harmon, so much she became my cover artist of my books. Crazy Chicana in Catholic City and Red Canyon Falling On Churches.

I'm preparing my blog for the next deadline February 22, 2018. I'll be on a road trip that weekend to Crestone, CO.  I've never been there and I'm thrilled to be reading some of my poetry with two incredible female writers. I'm reading from my Crazy Chicana in Catholic City and Red Canyon Falling On Churches books. I'm also teaching a writing workshop with the locals and invited guests, students...

I live for these events. They complete me. I live in a small town and stay home and mind my own business. I don't socialize. I stay home and write, but occasionally we throw a mean hootenanny in my Chicana Garden when the yard is in full bloom.

But, I'm a recluse sometimes and like to just be home alone enjoying my husband, my son, my two dogs and two cats.

So when I'm invited to present or teach or just attend a festival, I'm like ready to throw down. I'm a performance artist who writes. My main skill stage presence. I love reading poems by  Shakespeare, Maya Angelou, Sherman Alexie, Mary Oliver, Maria Melendez my readings. I especially love performing Maya Angelou's Phenomenal Woman. Love it.

When I'm on stage, all my fears, worries, cares spin off into the cosmos. I'm alive, energized, animated, hilarious, dead serious about writing and my workshops are fun. Or, so I'm told. I love working with all ages, senior citizens and K-12 and college students. They feed me the honey that my body and mind require to continue doing what I do. I love writing. I love teaching. I love performing.

When I teach, I incorporate music, movement, dance, chants, drums, belly laughs, and silence. I'm possessed by the muse and when I'm finished, I have no idea how I did it. But I do.

After a performance, and that's what it is, I am famished. I need water, food, and quiet, peaceful to regain my sanity. It's like leaving my body, going on vacation, leaving my mind on auto pilot and watching myself run lapses, jump, shout, sing, and dance. And in between, I bond with my audience and get them to relax and enjoy the class/show.

They realize, no matter their age, that I'm just a Mexicana Cantiflas. If you don't know who that great comedienne from Mexico is, look him up. Google his ass and you'll learn about his comedy.

I was raised on comedy. It seeps from my soul and leaks gooey stuff on anyone who gets near me. All I need is an audience, even one person in the audience and I come alive. Usually I'm pretty sedentary. I like to read. But when I perform, my reward comes from making my audience laugh and cry simultaneously.

My heart soars when a guy approaches me after a reading and hugs me and says, "You remind me of my Mom, my aunt, my sister, my cousin...and you made me laugh/cry fill in the blank. When the audience gives you their feedback, I die and go to heaven. It's manna from heaven, man.

The best tour, a show in 1995 for the Department of Defense after Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf. It was peace time where we were stationed, mostly. We did go out in the desert one night to take the show to the troops. We performed for men and women who protect us from harm. Young, very young men and women. Beautiful people from all cultures and colors, working, living, and loving in harmony.

We were the entertainment for October 1995 Department of Defense Presents Four Chigagoans from Colorado, wait, what. No we were the Latin Locomotions, three vatos from the northside of Denver, ese. Keep it real, holmes. I experienced something challenging, exciting, scary, fun, empowering, healing...I've never been the same since. On the island, I was just me, Juliana with Manuel and Sherry the Latin Locomotios Comedy Troupe. Vaudeville. Cantiflas.

It was magical. It was like I imagined for the Bob Hope Tours. He made them laugh and so did I.

I tell my cuentos, my stories and sing a cuento all borracho and my ancestors come and help me perform. They whisper in my ears, "Don't be afraid, jita. Go on stage and knock em dead with the comedy.

I imagine all my loved ones in the cosmos looking down on me with their blessings and love. They tell me, "Jita, te amo. We're so proud of you. You're telling our stories. Our history.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

My Mysteries' Deepest Theme—Female Friendship

by Kay Kendall 

According to most literary criticism I’ve read, authors typically have an underlying theme that they grapple with. In the first book or two, the theme may not be obvious. In fact, the author herself may not be conscious of it. Over the course of more books, however, a consistent thread shows up.  

This concept intrigues me, but I only recently discovered my own deep theme. And it is not what I had thought it might be. Here it is—put most simply:  
The importance of friendship with—and support from—other women is key to a woman’s well-being. Or, to paraphrase words the inimitable Ringo Starr sang way back in 1967, “She gets by with a little help from her friends.”  

I am a relatively new author. My first mystery came out in 2013 and my second two years later. Now my third is nearing completion. I had thought I knew the themes in my murder mysteries, but now realize I was wrong. After three outings, I see something else is at work. Oh sure, the substance of my stories hasn’t changed, but another theme unwittingly crept into all three manuscripts. Close and sustaining friendships among women appear in each book, and none of these had been part of my plan. A quick tour through my books will show you what I mean. (No spoilers here.) 

In DESOLATION ROW, a young Texas bride named Austin Starr follows her husband to a foreign country only to find herself alone and in peril when he is jailed for murder. Certain of his innocence, alone with no friends or relatives close by, Austin cannot even call home to talk to relatives for support. The time is 1968, and long distance calls are exorbitant. Then, in the nick of time, another young woman—Larissa, the daughter of Austin’s professor—befriends her, and together they hunt down the real murderer.  

My second book, RAINY DAY WOMEN, begins one year later. Austin is a new mother, and Larissa travels across the country to take a summer job. One day Larissa phones Austin in the middle of the afternoon. This shocking act tells Austin immediately that her friend is in big trouble. As luck would have it, Larissa herself now stands accused of murdering a coworker at her temporary workplace. Because their ties are now strong, Austin with infant in tow flies across the country to support her dear friend—with Larissa’s dad footing the bill.  

In both these books, there are also older women who provide sage advice and comfort to Austin. In DESOLATION ROW a middle-aged church secretary takes Austin under her wing and is so kind that her sympathy brings tears to Austin’s eyes. In RAINY DAY WOMEN Larissa’s aunt is so dauntless and dogged in her pursuit of justice for her niece that she threatens to run away with the plot.   

Of course there are male characters too—both good ones and evil—but what became clear to me as I began writing my third mystery is how the females keep insinuating themselves into my stories. In my prequel about Austin’s grandmother set in small town Texas during the Roaring Twenties, there’s another strong-minded aunt—and even flappers and floozies who make a surprisingly good impression on my heroine. My female protagonists in all three mysteries are in their early twenties, still figuring out what they want to do with their lives and who they want to be. Because of that shared characteristic, I had thought my overarching theme was how women find their way in life. But over and over again, I find myself writing about how my protagonists are steadied and supported and protected by other women. While some of these female friends are the same age, others are older and somewhat world weary. The older ones share what they have experienced in their longer lives.  

Taken together, the secondary female characters are the ones who make my heroines’ stories possible. They ensure the heroines’ success—whether it is finding the bad people and serving justice, or living a fuller, more fulfilling life.   Getting by with a little help from female friends is the theme to watch for in my mysteries. Try as I might to do something a bit different, this pattern continues. It seems I just can’t help myself. Or, blame it on my subconscious, I guess. And, gosh, I hope I haven’t spoiled any surprises by giving too much away.  

Meet the author
Kay Kendall is a long-time fan of historical novels and now writes atmospheric mysteries that capture the spirit and turbulence of the sixties. A reformed PR executive who won international awards for her projects, Kay lives in Texas with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Terribly allergic to her bunnies, she loves them anyway! Her book titles show she's a Bob Dylan buff too. Rainy Day Women won two Silver Falchion Awards at Killer Nashville in 2015. Visit Kay at her website <>or on Facebook <>.


Monday, February 19, 2018

Do You BuJo?

by Paula Gail Benson

Have you heard about bullet journaling or “BuJo” as some practitioners call it? I hadn’t until I read an announcement from Fiction Addiction, an independent bookstore owned and operated by Jill Hendrix in Greenville, S.C. Jill is offering a course about bullet journaling on Thursday, February 22, at 6:00 p.m. The cost is $25, which is redeemable on a purchase of supplies available that evening in the book store. If there is sufficient interest, an afternoon course will be offered.

Advertisement for the Course Offered by Jill Hendrix
From the advertisement, I could see that bullet journaling could be used for keeping a calendar or agenda. I wondered, why offer this course in February instead of at the beginning of the year?

Then, I began reading about the subject. At, I learned that bullet journaling was described as “the analog system for the digital age.” It was developed by Ryder Carroll, a “digital product designer living in Brooklyn, N.Y. Mr. Carroll has trademarked the names “Bullet Journal” and its abbreviated form “BuJo.” Rachel Wilkerson Miller, a writer, editor, and blogger, also based in Brooklyn, N.Y., has written several books about the technique, which she calls “dot journaling,” maybe because practitioners are encouraged to use notebooks with dot grids as a guide for their own creations. Ms. Miller has been criticized in her Amazon reviews as appropriating trademarked information that Mr. Carroll has available free online. You can take a look at her website at and compare it with Mr. Carroll’s site to see what you think.

Anyway, bullet or dot journaling is a do-it-yourself organizer that can include as much or as little information and structure as the preparer wants. Ryder Carroll has some great videos to explain how to get started in his online section Bullet Journaling 101. They are simple, straight-forward, and concentrate on the focus--how to be efficient in organizing your life. They set out the method without complicating it with any artistry a preparer might wish to bring to the process.

What is the method? According the Mr. Carroll, through bullet journaling you can track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future. First, number the pages of your journal. Second, label the first few pages as “index” so that you can list where you’ve written certain items throughout the journal. Third, create a future log, diving two pages into a six-month or longer organization where you keep lists of tasks and events that must be handled. Fourth, use two pages to make a monthly log, with a calendar on one page and a task list on the other. Fifth, through a short hand system, you can list what you need to accomplish. A filled in dot is for a task (which later can be “x-ed” when the task is completed). A star next to a dot means the task is important. An oval signifies an event (and can be colored in when the event is over). Indicate notes (things you need to remember) by a dash. Sixth, at the end of a month, set up the next month’s log. If you have tasks that have not been completed, consider “migrating” them, either forward into the next month, or back into your six month projection. Mr. Carroll uses a greater than sign > if the task goes to the next month’s list and a less than sign < if it goes back into the six month projection.

Many aspects of one’s life can be included in the bullet journal: obligations for home, work, or school; routines or patterns such as exercise, diet, or writing; and personal reflections, like journal entries. A cottage industry seems to have grown up around bullet journaling, very similar to accessories for scrapbooking. You can purchase books, pens, and stencils to help you create a very unique product.

In some respects, I see this as a natural off shoot of the adult coloring books, only instead of being just relaxing, bullet journaling combines creativity and productivity. Not to mention it encourages a generation that grew up with computer graphics to take a chance on using those old fashioned tools of pens, pencils, and rulers to sketch out their own destinies.

After learning about the method, I understand how it’s adaptable and can be started at any time. I’m tempted to try it. How about you?

Friday, February 16, 2018

Five Tips for Debut Authors

by Shari Randall

I just debuted my first novel, Curses, Boiled Again! It’s the first of the Lobster Shack Mystery Series from St. Martin’s Press. Yes, there is an exclamation point in the title. That’s how my publisher rolls.

As any author who is lucky enough to hold a copy of their book in their hands can tell you, the debut experience has been exciting, wonderful, mystifying, and exhausting. I thought I’d prepared by reading blog after book after blog, and still I went into the whole thing feeling like that toddler at the beach who rushes down the sand to the water and gets knocked down by the wave. It’s fun but, whoa! What just happened?

So, I’m sharing a bit of my experience here to help any other authors anticipating their debut, and I hope other experienced authors will offer advice in the comments. Because I can sure use it.

Some things I learned, from big picture to small, and Why Didn’t I Think of That?

1. Pace yourself. Juggling a signing, a library panel, a Facebook party, and a bunch of blogs in one week taught me my limits. Maybe I’d overestimated my energy level a teensy bit. Especially when I noticed I was doing everything except writing. Schedule lots of fun, but make sure to schedule quiet moments, too.

Donna Andrews, lucky debut author, Sherry Harris

2. Be meticulous about your calendar so nothing falls through the cracks. Nobody warned me that there could be – and there was – a writer's perfect storm. I was doing promo for Book One, edits on Book Two, and writing, sort of, Book Three. Having a calendar devoted just to writing goals and events was a life-saver.

3. Ellen Crosby shared that at a book signing, it’s a good idea to have readers write down on a Post it note the name of the person they want the book inscribed to – that way you avoid potential Kathy, Cathy, Cathie mix ups. She also provided the Post its. Thank you, Ellen!

4. Do not look at your reviews. Well, do what I did and designate a Review Reviewer or Review Buddy. This person (thank you, Charlotte!) scans Goodreads and all those other sites and reports back on when it’s safe to take a look.

5. Two quotes became my mantras. One is from Elizabeth Harris about reviews. “You can have the sweetest peaches in the world, but if someone doesn’t like peaches, they won’t like yours.” My book won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. And that’s okay.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” This quote from Theodore Roosevelt is my mantra as I learn about other author’s sales and reviews. I’m lucky enough to have published a book and held it in my hands, and I've received great reviews and kindnesses from fellow authors. For all that I am so grateful and I can't wait to pay it forward.

Authors, any advice to share for newly published authors?