My first author takeover

Standard

Last Saturday evening, Jan. 21, I participated in my first author takeover hosted by the Facebook group Romance Readers Recommend. Of course, I was there uauthor-takeover-e1420810985728nder my romance author persona, Haley Jordan, but made it known that I was actually Jon Dalton mystery writer.

My first take on the experience?

It was like running a three-ring circus for my hour time slot.

Upon a few days of reflection, there was at least one thing I could have done differently. And that was having some prepared comments ready to go that I could just cut and paste. That would have freed me up to engage more with the participants who were there. I’d already received the advice to have my bio, links to the book, some games and eye candy for the women attending, which I did have ready.

So, would I do it again?

Absolutely.

I’m firmly committed to the belief that engaging with our readers, or potential readers, will bring an author far more goodwill than constantly hammering them with constant barrages of buy my book, buy my book. In this new digital world, for indie authors, engaging with your readers so they get to know you, feel a connection with you, will provide more benefits than we might think. After all word of mouth will probably help sell more books than anything else.

Sure, I gave away, a few copies of the book as contest prizes, but hopefully that means I will get some good reviews out of it. I do know that I acquired several new friends, who will now receive my various status updates, which again lets them get to know me.

So, if you have the opportunity, do an author takeover. Meanwhile, I’m contemplating doing one of my own.

A Heart Divided

Standard

Anyone who knows me well, knows Christmas is my favorite time of year. The holiday decorations, the music, the sense of wonderment all make this a special time of year.img_0455

But Christmas also reminds me of how divided my heart is at this point. Physically, Florida is my home but my heart is in Ohio where most of my family is. And this year, especially, it’s difficult for me as I know the prospect of losing my mother looms on the horizon. While she’s still here physically, her mind is locked away behind the horrid disease of Alzheimer’s.

And then, there are my sons and granddaughters whom I miss terribly.

Thus, a divided heart, one can go into an emotional tailspin upon hearing “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” or any other nostalgic song.

And for good measure, let’s pile on the loss over the last few years of Scudder, Tessa, Holly, Bubbles, and Apache, all faithful companions over the years.

Happy, sad, happy, sad. You understand the gamut of emotions I’m feeling. Almost like Clark Griswold when he realizes his perfect Christmas has descended into chaos and he asks where the punch is.

Yes, Christmas will always remain my favorite holiday, but I celebrate with a heavy, much-divided heart.

It’s a school zone stupid!

Standard

Race car drivers know when they see a yellow flag or a flashing green light, it means caution, slow down.

So why can’t regular drivers observe the flashing yellow lights at a school zone and slow down to the posted legal limit?Slow-School-Zone-Sign-K-6539

I went out to run errands this afternoon, just as it was near time for school to dismiss for the day (this was the first day of school in Hillsborough County). Local TV news had run stories for days, warning people to be aware that school was in session again and to be careful when entering school zones. Yep, the yellow lights were flashing so I slowed down. Next thing I know, here come two drivers racing past me on either side oblivious to the fact they were in a school zone.

Unbelievable.

I don’t care if you’re on the phone to your Aunt Tillie, your broker, your BFF, or your significant other. Or your busy answering the latest text on your phone. PAY ATTENTION! It’s the law. You’re supposed to slow down.

I really wish the sheriff would dispatch his deputies to all school zones morning and afternoon, and begin ticketing people. From what I’ve observed around here, they’ll make a bunch of money. Or even get the school resource officers out of the hallowed hallways and let them do some traffic enforcement, and let the schools pocket the money. They could certainly use it.

Okay, end of this rant for this time. Thanks for reading.

Of Waterspouts and Dying

Standard

I was leaving one of our local libraries this afternoon, when I saw a fountain gushing water into the sky, and there it was. This epiphanic thought — this particular blog title.

So what do waterspouts and dying have to do with each other?waterspout

Blast if I know, but I’m a writer, and as my fellow
writers know, inspiration can come from anywhere, and somewhere in the subconscious these two things are linked. Somehow.

Earlier in the week, I read a news story about a soldier who was killed in 1950 in the Korean War. Identity unknown, the soldier was buried in Hawaii. His family back home was told at first he was missing in action, then later, that he had died. But no body returned to them, no closure, until this week. Thanks to DNA testing, his remains were finally identified, and the soldier returned home to his family, many of whom never knew him, except for his 80-year-old sister.

So that stoflag draped casketry has been on my mind all week, my subconscious probably doing the writer thing of “what if?”

Can I make a connection between the two?

Perhaps.

There might well be a mystery there, a body revealed as the waterspout comes ashore and rips a house apart. Or a romance for my alter ego, Haley Jordan, to write. A woman in her eighties remembering the first love of her life.

We’ll see. But for now, I can look at it this way. Out of two disassociated things, I manged to produce this little essay.

Write on, my friends.

Expect the unexpected

Standard

I think I’ve mentioned before that I write without an outline. I’ve tried it in the past and found that I’m very constrained. Besides that, I’m lazy and I’d rather write the story rather IMG_0034than spend the time outlining the story, then doing the work all over again.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t write without some expectation of where a story will go. Generally, I write in a linear fashion from A to Z and do have a notion of where the story will go, or I’ve made some rough notes of the next few scenes.

Such is the case with my current Wolf Mallory novel, Dancing with a Dead Man. This is probably the most complex of the Wolf books I’ve written so far, picking up loose ends from the previous book, Can’t Dance Forever, and weaving them into this story which roughly involving a murder and the lost gold of the Confederacy. And of course, as in the other two books of the series, things are not always as they seem.

Given several stops and starts along the way, I’ve managed to write about half the book by this afternoon, and felt my path to the end was fairly clear. That was until these characters surprised me again and my yellow brick road suddenly turned to a morass of wet sand bogging me down.

So now, Wolf is caught in his own web of deceit and about to be exposed. And again, I have to wait for him to tell me how he’s gonna explain his way out of this one.

And to me, that’s the joy in writing. No matter how much I think I know, or how I expect things will go, there’s always that sharp turn in the road that leaves you in a breath taking moment of joy.

So, unless you’re married to an outline, play with your writing. Let it flow, and watch how the expected may turn into the unexpected.

 

John D. and me

Standard

Talk to a Florida mystery writer, and eventually, you’ll hear the name John D. MacDonald mentJDMioned, as in paying homage to one of the genre’s greatest writers. Over the past few months, the Sarasota Herald Tribune has published a periodic featured titled “John D. and Me” in which Florida authors reminisce about the great man or his influence on their own works.

By Googling the title, you can find many of the pieces by Stephen King, Randy Wayne White, and Jeffery Deaver among others online.

You’ve probably heard of John D. MacDonald, and if not him, certainly Travis McGee. MacDonald, who lived in Sarasota for a majority of life, started his career after World War II writing for the various pulp markets and making a name for himself. In 1964, in The Deep Blue Goodbye

“The Deep Blue Goodbye,” MacDonald introduced to Travis McGee, a salvage consultant living aboard his houseboat, the Busted Flush at Slip F-18 in Bahai Mar. According to the JDM website, McGee “undertakes to recover for its rightful owner moBusted Flushney or property of which the owner has  been wrongfully deprived and has no other hope of recovering, taking half its value as his fee.” Twenty more books, each with a color in the title followed.

I honestly can’t tell you which of the McGee books I discovered way back in high school, but I was hooked. MacDonald was a masterful story-teller, sparse with his words, but giving you just enough to feel, hear, well experience, McGee’s world.  And all of those McGee books have influenced me as well, in the creation of Wolf Mallory, spinning a tale that’s believable, and even in the titles with the use of the word dancing or a variation of it.

So if you want some good beach reading this summer, I’d highly recommend MacDonald, or one of the many other Florida authors he has influenced.

 

 

 

 

It’s only make believe

Standard

I read a blog the other day in which the author posed the question, research or make it all up?

The blogger land-of-make-believe-signwas posing this question in terms of paranormal stories and the realities from scientific research. But it got me to thinking that the question was just as applicable to the mystery/thriller field as well.

I can’t speak for other authors (and I’d love to hear your thoughts), but it seems to me that the details matter, no matter what we see on TV or the big screen. I know I’ve often been brought up short when I see an author writing about something that is flat-out wrong.

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t have some leeway in the worlds we create.

Wolf Mallory’s world is entirely made up, but it is based upon locales or places I’ve seen in Southwest Florida. But within that world, I can play fast and loose with some details. The other day, I had a reader ask me if SEOPs, the secretive agency Wolf belongs to is real. Nope, it isn’t.

But maybe it is? Who knows what’s contained within the black budget. (Go ahead, Google that, I’ll wait on you.)

Despite that, I’ll warrant you there are enough readers out there familiar with the equipment, devices and investigative techniques, that I need to make them as realistic as possible to create the illusion of reality. I fear if I don’t, I’ll lose readers, which I can ill afford to do.

Anyone have thoughts you want to share?