Friday, January 25, 2013


When I was a new writer I was impressed by an established author's promotion idea.  She had purchased small bottles of bubble bath, created a new label with her book cover and glued it over the label on the bottle. It was approaching New Year at her book signing and she gave the bottles with her books to "celebrate with a little bubbly." It was clever and successful.

A similar idea came to me when I purchased  a  small tea bag caddy at a craft show. There were a lot of tea drinkers in my series so the idea of using a tea caddy  giveaway seemed a good promotion. The verse  was perfect:
I cannot sit and chat with you the way I'd like to do, so brew yourself a cup of tea, You'll think of me, I'll think of you.   I added 
       Tea goes best with  PROMISE KEEPER.
I made templates of the verse and thumbnail image of the book cover, 10 to a sheet, and printed them. Preparation and materials included fabric, bows, using pinking shears and my sewing machine. I glued the verse on the front and the cover on the back. Everyone liked receiving this tiny memento.
Stretch your imagination or be a copy cat and I'm sure your readers will be impressed !

Monday, January 21, 2013

Edit is a four letter word.

Edit is a four letter word, and that implies that it may be a bad thing. The reality for authors is that Editing is where you find the really good stuff. (Not too technical, I know, but you get my meaning.)

No one writes the perfect novel the first time through. Even the greats edited, some to extreme (I'm thinking Hemingway here), but the resulting stories were always so much better. One of my writing mentors said that editing is finding gold in the garbage. One of my writing buddies said that editing is making the swirls in icing of the cake. (Don't you just love writers?)

Sometimes it's really hard to figure out when the manuscript is done. We edit and edit and edit some more, then realize that, hey, maybe this would sound better here than there and we start over editing again. At some point you have to say, okay, the cake is done, the icing is pretty and swirly and now it's time to send it out. YIKES! What if it's not good enough? What if I misspelled something? Did I put all my commas in the right places?

That's what our readers are for, guys and gals. Stephen King's wife, Tabitha is his reader and she points out all the things he missed when he edited it himself. (I'm making an assumption here - but I don't think my neck is stretched out too far...) Critique groups are good helpers, and there are even professional editors out there that will help for a fee. If you're like me you do your writing in your spare time, on a very tight budget, so paying an editor is sometimes hard to manage. But if you really want your manuscript to SING, have someone else take a look before you submit. It's worth it!

One parting comment. The bottom line is this, your manuscript is yours and any outsider recommendations should be thought through thoroughly before you make them. You will be editing again by any reputable  publisher, but it's important to send them the best product you can. Enjoy the journey!

Monday, January 14, 2013


The first book in my mystery series is set in Sweden, in Queen Christina’s court. Her army brought back a significant number of treasures from Rudolph II’s castle in Prague, and while researching for the book, I became intrigued with the capital city of the Czech Republic. For this reason, when I saw a trip over New Years that would take me there, I quickly enrolled. Looking back, it was a wise choice.

Unlike other large European cities, Prague escaped most of the devastating bombings that ruined other old buildings. Only minor damage was done to one of the newer buildings, according to our guide, and the residents are justly proud of the architecture, examples of which can be seen throughout the city, from Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and Classicism, to Neo-styles.
Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square

The impressive Old Town Square is still the center for all major events, as it was during the Middle Ages.Twisty narrow streets lead to stone houses and monasteries. It was in this square where I saw one of three extant astronomical clocks, and the only one still working. We walked through the
Ceiling fresco Strahov Library
Old Jewish Cemetery, Europe’s oldest and best-preserved Jewish burial ground, which dates back to the 15th century.

Christmas Markets in the Old Town and Wenceslas Squares offered Czech food, including sausages and potato pancakes, and always the roasted chestnuts and mulled wine.

Strahov Monastery entrance
I did get to see parts of the Strahov library, where old manuscripts are kept. The oldest parchment gospel-book is from the ninth century. There are also Dutch globes from the seventeenth century in the hall. Because of the holiday week, tours had been suspended, but from the open doors we could see the high shelves of early books and the beautiful fresco ceiling, pictured to the right.

Part of Rudolph II’s huge collection can be seen in the newer part of the building. He collected valuable paintings, stones, bird feathers, and everything imaginable, including wildlife specimen and exotic cats. The Silver Bible iin his collection, taken by Christina's army, inspired the first mystery in my series.
In the Grand Hotel Bohemia I attended a Mozart/Dinner where between each course, we were treated to various Mozart pieces, including arias from his popular operas. The dinner was served by candlelight in a neo-baroque, historically protected ballroom, not normally opened to the ublic. Another evening we splurged and bought box seat tickets at the State Opera House to enjoy Verdi’s Il Trovatore. That evening was worth the whole trip to this opera lover.

For further reading about Prague and it’s interesting history, I recommend The Magic Circle of Rudolph II: Alchemy and Astrology in Renaissance Prague, by Peter Marshall, or Prague in Black and Gold; Scenes from Life in a European City, by Peter Demetz. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

How Long Does It Take?

Anyone who writes (or admits to it to those who don't write) can expect to get the usual reactions.

            "Oh, I meant to do that one day."
            "I have a great story idea for you. Can I be on the title page?"
            "I suppose you write about the people you meet and make us look bad."
            "Is it hard?"
            "Does it take long to write a book?"
            "You don't count on making any money, do you?"
            "So, do you have a real job?"
            "Oh, you write? I don't like to read."
            "Do you know (give the name of the most famous writer of the moment)?"
            "Are you world famous?"
            "Have I ever heard of you?"

I have been faced with each of these questions (and more) in the last forty years. I usually need a moment to get past the absurdity of the question before I come up with something polite and non-committal; otherwise, I'm liable to say what I really think, and then I would be famous.

I started writing Last Call for Justice some years ago (I have to track down the original file to know when--so long ago that I can't seem to remember the year), and set it aside. I went back to it a number of times, reworking it to get it to be the story I wanted it to be. This is the sixth in the Mellingham series, but the first time I had written about Joe's family.

This is the story of Joe's family and a crime that lingered for decades, hanging over the family though each one managed to move on and apparently leave it behind. But in the end, people like to see things settled before they say goodbye. That was Joe's father's motivation in rounding up his children for one final reunion, one last chance to settle the truth of that old crime.

While I was working on this book I did get the question, How long does it take? That felt like a punch below the belt because this book was taking a long time, and not only because I kept taking breaks to write other things (the Anita Ray series, for one). In the Mellingham book I was exploring an entirely new world and a new dimension to Joe, and I wanted to get to know these characters.

So, to the woman who asked me, How long does it take? Here's my answer. It takes as long as it takes. And that's just fine.

You can find the sixth Joe Silva/Mellingham Mystery for Kindle (and Nook) at  Last Call for Justice.