Monthly Archives: January 2007

Looking to the future and a bit from the past.

I’m a day ahead of time because tomorrow in the very early a.m. I’m leaving for the airport. Hubby and I have to get up at 2:30 a.m. in order to be at the airport in time for our 6 a.m. flight for Seattle. Sounds easier than it is. We first must drive to Bakersfield and go through security. Every liquid and paste or gel must be 2 ounces or less and in a 1 quart Baggie. Once we do that, then we wait to go aboard our little plane. From Bakersfield we fly to Sacramento where we get off the little plane, take a bus to the terminal and try to find where our next and much bigger plane will depart from. If we’re lucky, we’ll have enough time to find the place which most likely will be at the other end of the terminal. It always seems to work out that way. Once we’re in Seattle, then we must find a taxi or van that will take us to the hotel we’re staying in.

So why on earth, are we going through all this? We’re headed to Left Coast Crime, the next to the largest mystery convention which is always held somewhere near the left coast. (Though last year they held it in Bristol, England, which is on England’s left coast. I didn’t go to that one.) Mystery conventions are lots of fun if you like to read mysteries. Lots of mystery authors go, many not so well-known like me, and quite a few big name writers. And even better, there are many readers and fans of mysteries. Because I’ve attended this convention, Bouchercon (the biggest mystery convention), and several smaller cons, I’ve made lots of friends in the mystery community, readers and writers. Going to one of these events is much like attending a family reunion.

Saturday I had a booksigning at Russo’s Bookstore in Bakersfield. This is a wonderful independent bookstore. It was raining, not a lot, but may have discouraged people from coming out and only a few books were purchased. Frankly, I’ve come to realize book signings at bookstores are not as good as other venues, like book festivals, craft fairs, and giving talks at libraries, service and social groups for actually selling a lot of books.

Monday was spent deciding how many books I needed to take to Seattle in hopes that I’ll sell some while I’m there–plus packing my clothes for the four days I’ll be gone.

It’ll be a nice break from not finding enough time to work on my next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery because I had some writing jobs that actually bring in money, doing mundane things like housework, paying bills, and sending my latest book, Fringe Benefits, out for review.

When I get back from Seattle, I’ll give you a report about what we did and who we saw.

I did get another terrific review for Wishing Makes It So which I just have to share.

In “Wishing Makes It So,” Author Marilyn Meredith pulls no punches. A well-written psychological thriller, “Wishing Makes It So” goes beyond mere horror, although it could be termed such, and may be Meredith’s finest offering yet.

Steven and Alyse Chrestman adopt a young girl, Belinda, believing that their experience as parents and Steven’s work as counselor will allow them to be a deciding factor in Belinda’s life. Far from the lovable and innocent child she appears, however, Belinda is capable of terrible deeds, especially carried out on other children. Will the Chrestmans realize the true nature of their new ward before she manages to manipulate the entire family into destroying itself?

Marilyn Meredith takes the sweetness of youth and skillfully creates a dark character that may well keep you up at night. Recommended. Four stars!
–Craig Hart, Christian Fiction Online


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Filed under Book Promotion Experiences, Book Reviews, The Writing Life

A Review of Nancy O. Greene’s “Portraits in the Dark”

Dark, dark, dark…, January 28, 2007

Reviewer: David Schleicher “Author of The Thief Maker” (New Jersey, USA) – See all my reviews

Nancy O. Greene’s short stories collection certainly lives up to its title. The nine stories are varied in form, style, and content, but all are dark and psychologically complex and full of vivid imagery the suck the reader into the murkiest depths of the human psyche.

Some stories (“A Guy Named Pierce”) are more expiremental, while others take on a “fantasy” element (“Fine Print” and “The Artificact”), while one in particular (“The Descent of Man”) seems oddly out of place in the otherwise fine ensemble of tales.

Greene is at her best when she really gets deep inside her characters’ heads. “The Affair” is a shockingly effective little piece that puts a new spin on the old “obsessive husband” story. Greene shows a deeply moving and humanist side with her “Darkened Sky” that gives us a “day-in-the-life” slice of a troubled young girl dealing with her harsh surroundings and lack of options in life. Greene shines brightest when she laces her talent for introspective first-person narration with an acerbic wit in the delightfully grotesque one-woman show of bitterness and madness entitled “Down the Rabbit Hole.”

Greene’s collection is a slim volume that can be easily devoured in one or two sittings, but won’t soon be forgotten.


Portraits in the Dark is available through Barnes & Noble,, and anywhere fine books are sold.

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Dialogue that hums


I like good dialogue in a book.

It brings the characters alive, moves the story on, adds depth to the milieu in which the characters move. And to me, good dialogue always involves conflict. Take this example, from James Lee Burke’s Sunset Limited. Our hero, Dave Robicheaux, is a cop in Louisiana, and he’s about to take delivery of a suspect. This portion of dialogue could have been omitted or it could have been a straightforward exchange where Dave takes the suspect from the deputy and says thanks. Instead, Burke uses it to characterise Dave, the deputy, and the deputy’s attitude towards Dave:

A uniformed deputy picked up Cool Breeze in front of a pawnshop on the south side of New Iberia and brought him into my office.
‘Why the cuffs?’ I said.
‘Ask him what he called me when I told him to get in the cruiser,’ the deputy replied.
‘Take them off, please.’
‘By all means. Glad to be of service. You want anything else?’ the deputy said, and turned a tiny key in the lock on the cuffs.
‘Thanks for bringing him in.’
‘Oh, yeah, anytime. I always had aspirations to be a bus driver,’ he said, and went out the door, his eyes flat.

Notice how when Dave asks the question, ‘Why the cuffs?’, Burke doesn’t have the deputy answer it – instead, he says what’s on his mind. This adds more conflict immediately and the passage begins to hum with concealed tension. Compare it with this section from Patricia Cornwell’s Unnatural Exposure, where the tension is given to us overtly. Our heroine, Kay Scarpetta, is talking to her police contact, Marino:

‘I can’t believe this.’ I was only getting angrier. ‘I have to release information to correct misinformation. I can’t be put in this position, Marino.’
‘Don’t worry, I’m going to take care of this and a whole lot more,’ he promised. ‘I don’t guess you know.’
‘Know what?’
‘Rumor has it that Ring’s been seeing Patty Denver.’
‘I thought she was married,’ I said as I envisioned her from a few moments earlier.
‘She is,’ he said.

This is a simple exchange of information. Scarpetta does her usual thing of getting angry at the flimsiest excuse (this is how Cornwell characterises her, in general), and then we learn about ‘Ring’ and ‘Patty Denver’ in a very mundane dialogue predicated on the fact that Marino knows something and Scarpetta doesn’t:

‘I guess you don’t know.’
‘Know what?’

… or that Marino is confirming something that she’s unsure of:

‘I thought she was married’ [ … ]
‘She is.’

It’s much easier to write dialogue like this, persuading yourself that you’re filling the reader in on useful information – and to be fair, a crime or mystery novel sometimes has to do this to fill in back story. But it’s not dramatic, it’s not much fun to read, and it leaves your characters speaking like robots. Just look at The Da Vinci Code to see what I mean.

So what can we learn? The lessons seem to be:

1. Resist the temptation to create ‘Call and Response’ dialogue: ‘Who’s that?’ ‘It’s me.’ It might seem to flow, but it’s dull.
2. Similarly, if you have a character ask a question, don’t let your next speaker answer it directly.
3. To prevent your dialogue being functional, add in a phrase or sentence that helps characterise your speaker – like ‘I always had aspirations to be a bus driver’ above.
4. Edit and keep the sentence-length short. Like this.
5. Never have someone tell someone else something they already know, just to fill in the reader.

Oh, and in the words of George Orwell, break these rules rather than say anything outright barbarous!


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A lo largo de mi azarosa existencia he podido conocer los más variados paisajes y, lejos de sentirme utilizado, ahora reconozco la riqueza y privilegio que ha supuesto distinguir el semblante de quien tenía enfrente. Añoro los primeros tiempos, aquellas tardes de buhardilla entre tanto lienzo amontonado, los primeros colores, manchas tímidas de aventurero trazo. Eran los comienzos, uno podía ya permanecer eternamente condenado a quedarse reducido a un boceto o, por el contrario, convertirse en un suceder de bocetos ininterrumpido. Tuve suerte de las manos en que caí y hasta donde he llegado. Esta vez el viaje ha sido muy largo, pero algo me dice que posiblemente aquí perdure con carácter indefinido, a juzgar por el modo que tienen de observarme.
Digo que mi vida es un privilegio porque nunca acabo de aprender lo extensa que llega a ser la gama de las emociones humanas. El rostro más afable puede transformarse en gesto soez, despreciable. Y, sin embargo, quien parecía distraído de pronto se desata en exacerbados elogios… El cobalto profundo del oleaje, la polícroma textura de las rocas, parcheadas, sobre el cielo diáfano, difuminado de grises limpios… Otros callan, solo miran. Estos son con quienes puedo hablar, son los interlocutores. Aún recuerdo la viva impresión que dejó en mí grabada mi primer interlocutor; siempre se le recuerda después que ha desaparecido.
Pero hoy ha sido una jornada distinta, insólita para mí. Se ha formado un gran revuelo en la sala principal y luego, en los pasillos, la gente ha circulado con prisas y desconcierto. Los guardas de seguridad han llegado dispuestos a alejar de las obras al pájaro que, quizás equivocado, vino a parar al museo. Al final consiguieron sacarlo de la estancia y todo ha vuelto a la rutinaria calma familiar. Quizás demasiado rutinaria ahora que otra mirada se posó en mí… El ave me miró, cierto, me contempló con sus ojos de pájaro, verdaderos. Pude notar sus alas golpeando la tela del lienzo, de suave roce, como el mejor de los pinceles. El ave buscaba salir, una ventana, una escapatoria y su batir de alas, intenso, me estremeció, me habló del mar y del cielo, del bosque en la montaña, de pájaros que vuelan…

El autor:
* Es una Colección “Son Relatos”, © Luis Tamargo.-

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Pushing Limits

Earlier this week an independent film titled, “Grace is Gone” was on the receiving end of some good news at the Sundance Film Festival. Starring John Cusack, the movie tells the story of the father of two young daughters who’s forced to deal with the fact that his wife was killed in the Iraq war.

The Weinstein Company purchased the worldwide distribution rights for a reported $4 million. A pretty penny in anyone’s book.

I’m particularly pleased this movie will be well advertised and widely distributed. For one thing, I’m the father of two daughters myself. Considering that, I suspect I’ll be able to relate to this movie on several levels. I’m also a John Cusack fan. Long ago, when I was a young musician struggling to make a name for myself and my band in New York City, John and I used to frequent the same bar. At least we did for a short time. It was called the Scrap Bar, located below street level on MacDougal Street. Cusack was a local, being enrolled at NYU at the time. I lived in the neighborhood too, my apartment being just around the corner on Bleecker St.

My third reason for being excited about the upcoming wide release of “Grace is Gone” is personal. There is a slight chance that my daughters and I will flash on the screen for a moment or two during a scene shot near the turnstiles of the Enchanted Gardens. I’d love to think my girls will have a permanent reminder of their youth, thanks to director James C. Strouse and the long arms of the Weinstein Company.

Proud dads. There’s no explaining us.

The film shot for a single day at an amusement park located near my home in Central Florida. The draw to allow my Hollywood crazy girls to watch and perhaps even participate in the filming of a motion picture was too strong to pass up. So I packed the two of them into the car and ushered them to the park. Half a dozen roller coaster rides later my girls found themselves pretending to be visitors to the park, walking toward the turnstiles while a film crew trained a camera on them.

In the end my girls learned a great truth – movies are exciting to watch but not quite so exciting to shoot.

I reinforced a good lesson on myself too. Writers have to stretch themselves. We have to occassionally put ourselves into situations that are unusual. At the very least we have to challenge our routine. While writing may be solitary work, the research necessary to do the job well is not. We have to go forth and interact with the world around us in a wide variety of situations and circumstances. All of which may be inconvenient from time to time, but it’s the job – and the job can be a whole lot of fun.

You never can tell. You might even find yourself participating in an Oscar worthy motion picture. Even if the experience only lasts for a few minutes, it sticks with us, lodged securely in our memory banks. We’re left with a good story to tell. And considering what we do for a living, that’s a pretty good thing. So find a challenge, an odd opportunity, a unique person that you can interact with – and participate somehow. You never can tell where the experience, or the story it leaves you with, might take you.

Jamie Beckett

Author – Burritos and Gasoline

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Can I Get Reader’s Attention?

One of writer’s eternal question is; can I get reader’s attention? We work hard on our manuscripts, go through the pain of editing, designing a cover, plan for the marketing, write our press releases, design our websites and blogs, send out e-mails, visit blogs and contact local newspapers, write articles, give out business cards, bookmarks, posters, arrange book signings, should I go on? All we want to do is to get reader’s attention for our books.

We just need the right formula, know our readers and give them what they want, right? But what do they want? That’s what we need to ask ourselves before we even write the book. According to our interests and what we know to write about, we need to know what it is our book will offer the reader, what’s in it for them. Then we need to know where they are and let them know we have what they are looking for, our book.

I’ve done a lot of what I mentioned here and continue to create and recreate my marketing efforts for Simplicity – Richness of Life. I believe it has a timeless message about learning to live the way God intended it, simple.

Yesterday I was watching Oprah’s episode My Baby or My Job, I listened carefully at how women were choosing different paths in their lives in order to provide financial and motherly support the best way they could. My heart went out to those who didn’t have a choice to stay at home if they wanted to. Others were stay-at-home but they completely forgot about themselves, they lived for others and when they were all gone they were lost. That was something I analyzed eight years ago and decided to make adjustments in my life in order to get control of it. I wrote everything on my journal and part of that journal became the book.

Right now I’m at the threshold of more changes and I need to stop and analyze one more time, it is my way to stay connected to me, not to lose sight of what makes me who I am and what makes my life complete. If I am out of loop I might as well not be there, because I’m going to be miserable in the process.

You can find out more about my book with my slide show, I’m not sure if it will get reader’s attention the way book trailers does but I prefer reading. I would love to know what readers think of it and if it is something we can continue using in our promotions.

See the Slide Show Here

We had a demonstration of book trailers earlier this week, now you have a different medium. If readers share their thoughts with authors it would simply our marketing efforts, all we want is to serve you and to find ways to show us our work. Would you tell us what you like to see?

Clary Lopez


Filed under Book, Book Promotion Experiences, The Writing Life

Are Readers Following Book Trailers?

Book trailers are popping up everywhere and with this new technology at our fingertips I just wonder if readers are following book trailers? How effective is the medium to connect to book lovers? I know I’ve seen a few and wanted to buy one of the books I saw but I failed to write down the website address and now I can even find the book trailer again.

We had a great display of book trailers here a few days ago, check them out if you didn’t see it.

I would love to hear from readers if this is something useful for authors to utilize in their promotions. To me personally, I don’t like to see the faces of the characters on the promotions, it spoils the excitement to create them in my mind as I read the book. What is your take on this? There are people who go through great lengths to make it look like a movie when in reality I’ve been disappointed more than once when a book is made into a movie.

I prefer a slideshow with captions and background music, I think it goes right with what readers are attracted to. I even thought of Power Point presentations because if offers the viewer the opportunity to click on links and be taken to the author’s page.

You can see the slideshow I made for my book here.

To tell you the truth I don’t know where all of this is going, but I hope we find a way to connect with our audience and impress them with our presentation.

Author’s mind wants to know, could you share your thoughts?

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