Wednesday, May 30, 2012

May is Physical Fitness Month

May is Physical Fitness Month

I'm not sure why May was picked for this honor. Maybe dancing around the May Pole brings physical activity to mind? Kids running out of schoolyards, released for the summer?

Are you physically fit? Can you dance around the May Pole, run around a schoolyard, keep up with an energetic kiddo? If you are, I'll bet it's in spite of your job.

There are loads of occupations that tie you to a desk, and one of them is--writer. I'll bet writers, as a whole, aren't the most fit people on the planet. In order to write, nowadays, you have to be sitting in a chair at a computer. Or perhaps curled up somewhere with a laptop or netbook or even an AlphaSmart. It doesn't work to be walking around while you write. But you CAN do exercises at your desk.

You just need to schedule mini-breaks. When I think of it, I turn on my timer for 50 minutes. I work until it goes off, then get up for at least ten minutes and do something besides sit and type.

Here are some suggestions:

You can do these without leaving your chair.
Put your palms on your lower back and lean backwards to stretch your spine backwards. Then lean forward and grab your ankles. Pull your ears as close to your shoulders as you can, to stretch your neck. Reach up as high as you can, then, holding your arms straight, reach behind you. Do some shoulder rolls, wrists and ankle circles. I like straightening my knees and holding my legs straight out for at least 20 seconds.

Look at your clock and run in place for a minute or so. Do some lunges, go pick the newspapers and/or shoes up off the floor, walk around the building or up and down some stairs, if you're lucky enough to have them.

I like to do eye rolls when my eyes get fatigued. I imagine my eye as a circle with eight points, up, down, left, right, and four points in between those. I first look up, then move clockwise around the circle, stopping for a second at each point. Then I repeat that counter-clockwise. It feels good to gently massage the bony socket around the eye, too. Also in a circle pattern. You might find sore spots that need an extra bit of massage where your eye muscles are strained.

Do a search for "desk exercises" or "chair exercises" and you'll find dozens of others that you can tailor into a routine that suits you. The worst thing you can do is sit for three hours straight! I know this because, well, you can probably figure that out.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


I'm going to cop out this week and merely refer you to a couple of excellent articles that contain a better discourse on commas than I could ever do. Since I'm reformatting CHOKE for paperback, this is timely. I'm going to refer to this source to get my commas all straightened out!

Both articles appeared in the NYTimes, one in April, and one this month. They seem like companion pieces, so I'll put both links here for your reading pleasure and edification (in case you needed that).

My thanks to Ben Yagoda for both of these fine references.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Finished the First Draft!

I did it--I finished the first draft! Again! This ain't my first rodeo, but it sorta feels like it every time. Once, about ten years ago, I wrote a whole novel. That surprised me because I don't think I believed it would ever happen. (This isn't counting the two I wrote before that, because they're really novellas, or maybe long short stories and…well, not very good at all.)

I'm not sure how long it took to finish that project, but it was years. After that I queried it for five years. I only sent out 2 queries in 2002, the first year, and 15 queries in 2003, but stepped it up after that, until I sent out 95 in 2007. I had a request for a full in 2004 and two more in 2007, but eventually it became clear that this was not getting me anywhere.

While flogging this horse, over and over and over, I became frustrated enough to return to my first love, short stories, and sold one in 2005. Then another, then another.

But that novel was like an itch I just couldn't scratch. I wrote the sequel to the flogged horse, and queried it. Finishing another novel was just as big a surprise as finishing the first one. Started querying it in 2008. Then I got bored. Wrote a completely new project--wow I wrote another novel! Queried it until 2011.

By this time, finishing a first draft should not have surprised me, but I just finished the first draft of the third Imogene Duckworthy book. It's terrible (it's a first draft), but it's there!

All of this is to point out how surprising it is to be able to write a whole book, even if it's just the first draft. And I know the first draft is a baby step--there's a long ways to go after this. But I can't go there until the dreaded FD is done, and it is!

Only other writers know what a celebration this calls for. And now, excuse me, I have celebrating to do. Then pages to edit.

Here are some thoughts I found on first drafts:
This one is on what it feels like to finish that first draft
This post lets you know what you're in for if you've not gotten beyond that first draft stage yet
And how hard is it to finish that first draft?
Finally, some concrete tips on what to do with that first draft, if you're at sea at that point

Happy first drafts to everyone who isn't there yet! Whether it's your first project or your tenth.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Fork in the Road

I'm headed in a new direction this month! I'm very excited about the future. Mainly Murder Press published my first mystery, and I'll always be grateful for that. They enabled me to get a book of my own into print, and also to receive an Agatha nomination for Best First Novel.

But I decided to part ways with that publisher and head out in a new direction this month, the one-year anniversary of my publication. The paperback will probably become unavailable from MMP around June 1st. I hope to be able to get it available through Createspace by then. I've had some success with publishing there, having done my short story collection and a children's book. So I hope it won't be too difficult to get CHOKE done in the next couple of weeks.

The publisher did only the paperback and I've been selling the ebook all along. That won't change, except that I've signed a distribution contract with Untreed Reads!

The people at Untreed Reads are marketing dervishes and are able to make ebooks available in places I never would think of. This can only be good for this author!

The other good thing about signing with Untreed Reads is that the second Imogene Duckworthy book, SMOKE, will be out very soon! There's a Fourth of July theme, so I want to get it out by then at the latest. Karen Phillips, who did the cover for CHOKE, is working on the cover of this book at this very moment.

Here's a bit about SMOKE: Imogene Duckworthy, who yearns to be a PI, has landed a job assisting a real PI in Wymee Falls, Texas. During a sidetrip while bringing home a pot-bellied pig as a birthday gift for her daughter, Nancy Drew Duckworthy, Immy discovers the owner of the local jerky shop dead, hanging from a meathook in his own smokehouse. The pig breeder, Amy JoBeth, is implicated, so Immy feels compelled to try to find the real killer. That gentle, somewhat depressed swineherd couldn't have killed Rusty Bucket. Could she?
I hope to follow up with BROKE in the fall. I'm almost finished with the first draft. Then it will need polishing, editing, and a cover. This one happens around Halloween time, so October is my goal for it.

Wish me luck as I forge a new path, turn a new page, boldly go where I haven't gone before.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Peg Herring, Guest Blogger!

Peg is here today with a very different kind of interview. What is below is just part of the whole. The interviewee is kinda different, too. Read on for details and for a chance at several prizes!

Thanks for letting me travel along, Kaye!

Introduction: Peg Herring’s Blog Tour for May (and one post in June) consists of a mix of interviews with Seamus, the Dead Detective, with posts on writing. Yesterday’s post was at The Stiletto Gang,  The next post will be at Melissa’s Imaginarium on May 7th.  A complete schedule is posted at Peg’s blog, It’s A Mystery to Me

When the tour is over (June 11th), the complete Seamus interview will be posted on Peg’s blog.

Prizes: People who comment on any blog post on the tour will be entered in drawings for several prizes: Dead Detective T-shirts, copies of THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY and DEAD FOR THE MONEY (paperback or e-books available), and the chance to be a character in the third of the series DEAD FOR THE SHOW. Multiple winners will be drawn.

Bio: Peg Herring lives in Michigan and writes two series, the critically acclaimed Simon & Elizabeth (Tudor) Mysteries (Five Star Publishing) and the award-winning Dead Detective Mysteries (LL-Publications). When not writing, Peg enjoys directing musical groups, gardening, and talking about writing.

A Dead Guy Talks about You
Interviewer: We’re here again with Cross-back Detective Seamus, who investigates suspicious deaths for the dead by coming back to earth and inhabiting the bodies of living humans. Thanks for joining us again, Seamus.

Seamus: Part of the job, they tell me.

Interviewer: We were talking about what it’s like to be inside someone’s head. Can you elaborate a little on that?

Seamus: Well, I don’t think many people know that their general outlook on life has an effect on how they see things.

Interviewer: What do you mean?

Seamus: If a person is depressed or if he tends to be a negative type, what I see through his eyes is gray and kinda faded-looking. If I jump to someone more positive, everything brightens up, like the lights came on or the sun came out.

Interviewer: So mood affects everything?

Seamus: Yeah. It’s just that a person can’t see his own mood. A guy might know one day that things seem better than they did the day before, but he doesn’t notice it most of the time. We talk about brighter days and a lighter step, but most people don’t realize they’re not just figures of speech.

Interviewer: Does that apply to everything a person experiences?

Seamus: It does. Speech, for example. Now, it’s awful to listen to any of you, but—

Interviewer: What do you mean, awful?

Seamus: To us, you people sound like records played too slow on a phonograph, like a 78 played at 33 1/3, you know?

Interviewer: (with a nervous laugh) I’m afraid I don’t. What do those numbers mean? And what’s a phonograph?

Seamus: Never mind. I just meant the sound drags out.

Interviewer: So our speech seems slow to you.

Seamus: And there’s interference, too. Things you guys ignore, like the refrigerator running or the traffic passing outside, we hear. Your brain learned a long time ago to filter all that out.

Interviewer: But once you’re left earth, you have to relearn it.

Seamus: (Chuckles) I once hosted with a guy who’d just got hearing aids, and his experience came close to what we get, all those noises at the same volume as whatever you’re trying to listen to. It takes a while each time to kinda fine tune things.

Interviewer: It sounds unpleasant.

Seamus: You get used to it, or you don’t cross back again.

Interviewer: You’re saying a cross-back must do whatever it takes to get the job done.

Seamus: The good ones do. We don’t have to do the job at all. It’s always up to us.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

That was a fun trip!

The Malice Domestic convention was fun and exhausting! I didn't win the Agatha, but am so gratified, hearing from all the people who said they voted for me. My signing was really, really fun! One of the nine Guppies nominated brought home the teapot--Leslie Budewitz for her non-fiction legal writers' companion. There's a nice picture of her on facebook.

So many lovely things happened to me, I don't know where to begin. Krista Davis gave me a tiny teapot, just in case I didn't get another one. Good thinking, Krista!

At my signing, I met brand new readers and fans. One gal had already ready CHOKE and told me what her favorite part was. That warmed those heart cockles!

I tried to get some pictures of fellow Guppies on Friday, but they're all pretty fuzzy. Our own Hank Phillippi Ryan interviewing Dana Cameron. 

I had a great time hanging out with Dru Ann Love and her coterie in the bar in between panels and things.

The panel of nominees for Best Short Story, including Krista and Daryl Wood Gerber (2nd and 3rd from left), and Roberta Isleib on the right, moderated by Barb Goffman. 

Two shots of the Saturday Guppy lunch:

I had the very best people at my table for the Saturday banquet. Bonnie Steven's husband, Dennis, got a bottle of wine for the table to toast me right before the announcements.

Sue Evans is across the table, then Lynn Farris's husband and Lynn. Lynn Farris wrote the five-star review that appeared in the Malice nominee program. She and her family live in Costa Rica!

This is my daughter, Jessica, Kathleen Owens, and Anna Castle.

The Farrises and author Janice Hamrick.

Here's the complete list of nominees and Award winners.

Best Novel:
The Real Macaw by Donna Andrews (Minotaur)
The Diva Haunts the House by Krista Davis (Berkley)
Wicked Autumn by G.M. Malliet (Minotaur)
* Three-Day Town by Margaret Maron (Grand Central Publishing)
A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny (Minotaur)

Best First Novel:
Dire Threads by Janet Bolin (Berkley)
Choke by Kaye George (Mainly Murder Press)
* Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry (Crown)
Who Do, Voodoo? by Rochelle Staab (Berkley)
Tempest in the Tea Leaves by Kari Lee Townsend (Berkley)

Best Non-fiction:
* Books, Crooks and Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure by Leslie Budewitz (Linden)
Agatha Christie: Murder in the Making: More Stories and Secrets from Her Notebooks by John Curran (Harper)
On Conan Doyle: Or, The Whole Art of Storytelling by Michael Dirda (Princeton University Press)
Wilkie Collins, Vera Caspary and the Evolution of the Casebook Novel by A. B. Emrys (McFarland)
The Sookie Stackhouse Companion by Charlaine Harris (Ace)

Best Short Story:
"Disarming" (PDF) by Dana Cameron, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine - June 2011
"Dead Eye Gravy" by Krista Davis, Fish Tales: The Guppy Anthology (Wildside Press)
"Palace by the Lake" by Daryl Wood Gerber, Fish Tales: The Guppy Anthology (Wildside Press)
"Truth and Consequences" by Barb Goffman, Mystery Times Ten (Buddhapuss Ink)
"The Itinerary" by Roberta Isleib, MWA Presents the Rich and the Dead (Grand Central Publishing)

Best Children's/Young Adult:
Shelter by Harlan Coben (Putnam)
* The Black Heart Crypt by Chris Grabenstein (Random House)
Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby (Scholastic Press)
The Wizard of Dark Street by Shawn Thomas Odyssey (EgmontUSA)
The Code Busters Club, Case #1: The Secret of the Skeleton Key by Penny Warner (EgmontUSA)

Best Historical Novel:
* Naughty in Nice by Rhys Bowen (Berkley)
Murder Your Darlings by J.J. Murphy (Signet)
Mercury's Rise by Ann Parker (Poisoned Pen Press)
Troubled Bones by Jeri Westerson (Minotaur)
A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear (Harper)