Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Writing by the Numbers and Playing by the Rules

Today's Wednesday's Guest is Stanley Schatt who is here to share about how his mystery, Silent Partner, came to be. Sometimes we writers to like to give a bit of the backstory. We are all influenced by other writers whose books we enjoy, and the story ideas don't always come out of thin air. I do enjoy finding out from other writers where their ideas come from, and I hope you do as well.

I forgot to ask Stan what he might like in way of refreshments, so I decided to go with what I would like this morning, and that is a cup of coffee and a Danish. Help yourself if you'd like and settle back to enjoy....

Every genre has its own rules. Try writing a fairy tale without beginning with “Once upon a Time” and see what your audience’s reaction will be. Try writing a love story in which you change the formula from “boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl” to  “boy meets girl and they hate each other and never meet again.” Your readers will boo you out of the library. Similarly, try writing a modern mystery in which you use some of the gimmicks found in the old Perry Mason TV show. Have someone no one ever suspected as the killer suddenly jump up in court and confess.

Readers today have certain expectations. When they sit down to read a mystery, they expect the writer to follow certain rules. They want to follow detectives as they try to solve a crime, look over their shoulders, and guess right along with them.. They don’t mind being led astray by a few red herrings, but they expect to see the detectives solve their cases by using logical deductions and modern police procedures. Readers don’t want an entirely new character to appear in the last chapter and confess. That’s cheating! If a couple of very suspicious characters turn out to be good citizens, that’s okay because all of us misjudge people on occasion.

So, you can understand my dilemma when I sat down to write a police procedural mystery with a paranormal component. I couldn’t have the ghost perform any tricks to help solve the crimes. I couldn’t have the ghost whisper to Josh Harrell that Mr. Jones is the killer. What kind of experience would that be for my readers? Instead, I had to make absolutely sure that Detective Frankie Ryan solves the case logically so readers can guess along with her and feel they haven’t been cheated.

What I wound up doing in Silent Partner was to have a two-pronged search for a killer. Frankie uses modern police procedures while Josh gets occasional hints from his spiritual guide. As long as they both wind up at the same place at around the same time, the process works.

Having said that, I want to point out a number of other elements of my novel that fit neatly into the modern police procedure mystery; I’m talking specifically about the detective-hero, the protagonist in so many modern mysteries. Think of Harry Bosch in the Michael Connelly novels as an example. The detective is generally a loner, even if he or she works with a partner. The detective often is at odds with departmental chiefs because they are more concerned with protecting their jobs than in solving cases. Similarly, the detective often disregards departmental rules for the greater good.

Most detectives have personal problems; they tend to be a lonely group that drinks heavily. They are very moral, though, and incapable of selling out. They are fearless and relentless when it comes to solving a case, even if that means putting themselves in danger.

Often detectives relate best to the “little people” within the department, the hardworking CSI technicians who aren’t political. Detectives are very bad at politics. They don’t have the heart to kiss up to those above them. They frequently are in danger of being fired or demoted; other officers don’t understand their passion for their “mission” and think of them as a bit deranged.

So, even though I did add a paranormal element to my novel, I followed the rules for the most part when it came to my detective. She’s a female version of a long line of detective-heroes leading up and including Harry Bosch. In fact, my intention in writing Silent Partner was to create a female Harry Bosch.

I hope you enjoy reading Silent Partner and following the clues strewn throughout the book. I’ve certainly seeded the trail with plenty of hints. See if you can discover the killer before Detective Frankie
Ryan or reporter Josh Harrell do.

You can find out more about Stan on his WEBSITE, where he has a blog and follow him on TWITTER     His publisher is offering a 15% discount of the $14.97 cover price for pre-orders that will ship on September first. You can order from the Pen-L Publishing Website

Monday, August 18, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

WHAT I'M READING: Hangman by Faye Kellerman. I do love her ongoing series with Detective Peter Decker and his wife Rina Lazarus. I have read almost all of the books since the first in the series, and enjoy spending time with them and their family.

WHAT I'M SMILING ABOUT: Some good news on the publishing front - my publishing front. Friends Forever, My YA novel for young teens has been updated and re-released by a new publisher, White Bird Publishing. The official release date is September 16, but it is available for preorder for Kindle and Kindle apps. The new cover was made by the talented Dany Russell.

 WHAT I"M DISMAYED ABOUT: The violence and looting in Ferguson, Missouri following the police shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black teen who was unarmed. Why do some people think the best response to any perceived injustice is violence? I have never understood it, and agree with this man who was at the scene. "It's not serving the purpose," said James Bryant, a 31-year-old from St. Louis, as he watched a young man rummage through a mobile-phone store after smashing a glass door. "The cause was to prevent police brutality."

Kudos to Michael Brown's family and friends who have been holding peaceful demonstrations and vigils and call for an end to the looting and rioting. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon imposed a curfew on Saturday in hopes of stemming the violence.  "This is a test, the eyes of the world are watching," Nixon said in an interview with ABC News. "This is a test to see if this community can break the cycle of violence and replace it with peace."


AND NOW JUST FOR FUN: The following is from the comic strip Luann by Greg Evans.

Luann's parents, Nancy and Frank, are sitting on a sofa watching television. Nancy hears the bip, bip, bip, of some electronic device going off, and she says to Frank, "Your phone is bipping, Hon. I think you missed a call."

"That's your phone. I changed my "bip" to "bloop" cuz you were using "bip" for calls."

"No," Nancy says. "I use "whoosh for calls. I thought you used "bloop" for your alarm."

"I used to. But it sounds too much like "zoop." So now I use "doink"."

"You can't use "doink" honey. I use that for calendar alerts."

"I thought you used "poing" for that."

In the next frame the parents have their phones out and Nancy says. "Ugh! We need to re-coordinate. I'll change my "doink" to "tinkle"."

"I use "tinkle" for mail. Do you use the "dong"?"

Luann pops in from the kitchen. "Did you guys make popcorn? The microwave's bipping."

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Book Review - Silent Partner by Stan Schatt

Silent Partner
Stan Schatt
Published by Pen L Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-940222-45-5
Release date 9-01-2014
246 pages

Haunted by her past, Detective Francis “Frankie” Ryan must race against time to solve a double homicide and find a sadistic killer. Besieged from all directions, the only person she can trust is Josh, a tabloid reporter who also writes the Midnight Whisperer’s psychic column, Ask Miss Myrna. He finds to his surprise that he not only has psychic abilities, but that only he can see the sexy ghost serving as his rather inept guardian angel. Is he crazy if he develops feelings for a ghost?

This mix of standard police procedural and paranormal was something new for me, as I am not fond of mixing genres like that. However, this story worked and the ghost was quite a likeable character. The scenes with her and Josh were some of the best in the book, and I really became intrigued as to how that relationship would be resolved.

The law enforcement side of the story was pretty much what one expects, and that was handled nicely for the most part. Frankie came across as very capable and three dimensional, but her partner, Landry was too much the typical male cop who doesn't like being partnered with a woman and has little respect for her abilities. 

Readers who enjoy the mix of genres in a mystery will find this a good book to add to their wish lists.

Stan will be my Wednesday's Guest this week to give some background on how the story came to be, so please do try to come back and make him feel welcome.

His publisher is offering a 15% discount of the $14.97 cover price for pre-orders that will ship on September first. You can order from the Pen-L Publishing Website

Stan Schatt is a futurist, technologist, novelist, and a person curious about many things. His writing takes advantage of his wide-ranging work, from autopsy assistant to police department administrator, salesman, literature professor and telecommunications professor, technology analyst, and research director. He has always loved technology and politics almost as much as writing. Stan is also volunteer job acquisition facilitator for the unemployed in San Diego. He writes mysteries in Carlsbad, California, where he lives with his wife, Jane.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Lovely Summer Evening

Since I got swamped with a lot of work and did not have time to put together my usual Friday offering, I thought I would let Slim Randles come over to entertain you. This is a particularly nice piece that warrants a slow, easy read. Let the mood wash over you like a warm summer breeze. Since most folks take a cool glass of something out to the porch of a summer's evening, I thought we could share some good ol' Texas sweet tea.

The evening was one of those that come back to you time after time, year after long year. It comes back and whispers of how good life can be when you’re well fed, enjoying life, and a good friend shares the front porch with you on a summer’s evening.

It was that way with Doc and Steve the other night. Doc thought he might have to do a scientific paper on the soporific effects of ice tea, fried chicken, and corn on the cob. As long as it didn’t take any effort.

So when this huge meal had been bull-snaked down, the two grinning friends came out to the porch to watch the sun go down behind the trees along Lewis Creek. The air had that orange and russet glow, and the breeze, that little one that caresses the neck, came slowly down from the hills and made their shirt collars wiggle ever so slightly.

It was like taking a dry bath in paradise.

Doc sidled up to one of the porch posts and gently tested it to see if it could hold the extra weight he was carrying with that meal. It stood fine, so he leaned against it seriously and looked out on the evening’s warmth.

Steve, who was enjoying having a fine meal that someone else cooked for a change, leaned against the post on the other side of the steps.

And then they just stood quietly, watching the day make beautiful skies as it ended.

The shadow on the ground foretold the presence of the circling bird. Doc and Steve paid no attention at first. Then a few minutes later, it was joined by two more circling birds over Doc’s house.

“Buzzards,” Steve mumbled.

“Yep,” said Doc.

They circled some more.

“I think one of us should move a little …” said Doc.


“Well … to let them know … you know.”

Steve sighed, then glanced over at Doc. “Flip you for it.”

Slim Randles writes a nationally syndicated column, Home Country, and is the author of a number of books including  Saddle Up: A Cowboy Guide to Writing. That title, and others, are published by  LPD Press.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Some Mid-Week Family Fun

Let's all grab our sippy cups and welcome Meredith Peters Hale as today's Wednesday's Guest. She is the author of the humorous look at motherhood, Mommy A to Z: An Encyclopedia of the Joys, Wonders, and Absurdities of Motherhood, which I reviewed last Sunday. The point of the sippy cup will become clear as you read the fun interview with the author, conducted by her children, and you can put the beverage of choice in your cup. Mine will have coffee, and as you can see, I have a tippy cup, which is what I remember calling a sippy cup when my children were young. But that was so long ago, who can trust my memory?

While Meredith and her children are entertaining us here, I am attempting to entertain readers at The Blood Red Pencil with a few jokes about writers. Come on by if you get a chance. 

The following is an imaginary interview with Meredith, conducted by her five-year-old daughter and one-year-old son. The children were not compensated for this interview, unless you consider string cheese and free room and board for eighteen years to be compensation.

Daughter: Today we are interviewing my Mommy, who wrote a book about me.

MPH: Well, actually, honey, it’s based on you and your brother. But it’s really about all mommies, and what it’s like to raise small children. From those moments when you feel complete, unbounded joy, to those times you want to lock yourself in the bathroom—except you can’t, because your toddler’s already locked himself in there, and you’re waiting for the locksmith.

Daughter (whispering): But Mommy, it’s mostly about me, right?

MPH: Yes, honey. It’s mostly about you.

Son: Ma-ma! Ma-ma! Cheese! Cheese!
(Interview pauses while Mommy gets cheese for Toddler, who has climbed onto the table and is jumping up and down like the gorilla in Donkey Kong.)

Daughter: So, what made you write a book about me?

MPH: Well, it’s not all about you, honey . . . never mind. One thing I talk about in the book is how I never planned to pursue humor writing. For a long time I wanted to write a great work of literary fiction, exploring deep, existential issues. But when I sat down to write this masterpiece, I found myself writing about . . . sippy cups. Motherhood had become a part of my life, a part of me. Suddenly it felt unnatural to write about anything else. Sippy cups it was!

Son: Cup! Cup! Cup!
(Interview pauses while Mommy gets cup for Toddler, who has climbed onto his sister’s head and is trying to eat her hair.)

Daughter: Are there princesses in the book?

MPH: No, no princesses. But lots of things that mommies can relate to, like attending three princess birthday parties in one weekend, or surviving the grocery store, or making small talk with your kid’s imaginary friend. Mommy A to Z is also about the joyful moments of motherhood—like when your baby bursts into giggles at his first game of peek-a-boo, or when your daughter blushes with excitement as she blows out her birthday candles, everyone she loves cheering her on. Because ultimately, while motherhood is full of chaos, it’s also filled with unimaginable love and happiness.

Daughter: Are there stickers in the book? Good books have stickers.

MPH: Well, it’s an eBook, so no stickers. One of the fun things about the book is that it’s organized as an encyclopedia. So, you have twenty-six chapters, one for each letter of the alphabet, with short entries designed to fit into a mom’s busy schedule. Entries cover all the day-to-day experiences of motherhood, such as “A is for Art Projects,” “B is for Birthday Parties,” “C is for Conception” . . .

Daughter: What’s “conception”?

MPH: Um . . .  did you have any other questions, honey?
(Interview pauses while Mommy chases Toddler, who has grabbed a roll of toilet paper and is proceeding to redecorate the hallway.)

Daughter: Will kids like the book?

MPH: It’s really a book for mommies, although there are also entries about dads and grandparents, and what makes those relationships so special. I love when readers tell me how relatable they found the book—how it captured the realities of motherhood while making them laugh.

Daughter: How do you get a book? Does it cost a hundred dollars? I have four dollars in my piggy bank, but I wanted to buy a My Little Pony.

Son: Pony! Pony! Cheese!

MPH: The book only costs $5.99, and I think the nice lady that invited us here today has links for people who want to buy it. It's available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble  and the Apple iBookstore. 

Daughter: OK, that’s all. Now I’m going to dress up in my Frozen gown and freeze my brother forever.

MPH: That sounds nice, sweetie. Don’t forget to clean up your room when you’re done.
About the Author:
Meredith Peters Hale is an editor and writer whose work has appeared on sites including The Huffington Post, and She has recently launched a new humor blog based on her book, Meredith currently resides in Westchester, New York, with her husband and two feisty (and energetic) children.

You can connect with Meredith on her  BLOG, FACEBOOK, GOODREADS, TWITTER and at her WEBSITE

 Buy the book at Amazon *** Barnes and Noble *** Apple

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

R.I.P Robin Williams

I could hardly let the passing of one of the great talents of recent times go unmentioned on my blog. Robin Williams was such an amazing actor, and I remember when I saw him in "Good Morning Vietnam" the contrast between his comedic and dramatic scenes was stunning. That's when I realized the full scope of his acting talent. Not many could be so good at making us laugh or making us cry.

I don't know the source of this picture. It was posted on Facebook, and I thought it conveyed something special about the man and the entertainer.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

Good Monday morning. I hope everyone had a great weekend. Mine was busy with auditions for our fall production at the Winnsboro Center for the Arts. We are doing an original play, "Bonnie & Clyde in Winnsboro" written by a local actor, Randy Lindsey, who has given me the freedom to adapt the play and direct it. Anyone who has any connection to theatre and playwriting knows what a generous gesture that was on his part.  The story is based on historical fact. The infamous couple stopped in Winnsboro often as they made their way east from Dallas to Louisiana, and the play puts those facts into dramatic form.

WHAT I'M READING:  Prayer by Phillip Kerr. I'm not sure I would finish this one except for the fact that I am leading a discussion of the book for an online mystery book club to which I belong. The central charater, Gil Martins, is an FBI agent, but except for the fact that he drops the F-bomb quite frequently, he doesn't come across as a law enforcement professional. And even some of them don't feel the need to bomb every line of dialogue.

WHAT IS MAKING ME LAUGH: Two squirrels chasing each other up and down the big pine tree just outside my office window. In fact, it is so distracting, it's taken twice as long to write this blog post.

WHAT I'M DISMAYED ABOUT: That we're once again interfering in Iraq, and it looks like that interference is going to go on for a lot longer than first anticipated. No doubt we needed to give the humanitarian aid to the refugees, but that should be the extent of our involvement.

AND NOW JUST FOR FUN I thought I'd share an excerpt from my humorous memoir, A Dead Tomato Plant and a Paycheck. It's been a while since I posted an excerpt, and I forgot to get the Sunday paper with the good comic strips.

This excerpt seems appropriate since school will be starting soon in many parts of the country. Gee, I remember when school started in September. What about you?

The beginning of each new school year is always met with varying degrees of eagerness and excitement. There are some kids, like Jason in the comic strip Fox Trot, who live for each school year so they can amaze a whole new set of teachers. Others go begrudgingly because in some respects it is better to have something to do every day than be home with Mom who might find some unsavory job to do, like clean the toilets.

Mother’s are generally thrilled to have the kids gone most of the day, but first there is the mad rush to get them all outfitted with a few new clothes and the 10-page list of school supplies.

One year, a couple of days before school was going to start, I went up to our local grocery-drugs-everything-under-the-sun store to get those school supplies. When I arrived, I discovered that I wasn't the only one who'd waited until the last minute to perform this little task.

The aisles were crammed with shopping carts, harried mothers and a multitude of kids, which created more confusion than in the pits at the Indianapolis Speedway. The mothers wore a grim look of. determination which clearly said, "I can only suffer through this indignity because it is all for a greater good," as they jiggled crying babies, fought their way up and down the aisles, and did their best to ignore the earnest pleas of their kids.

"Oh, Mommy, please! Can't I have this organizer? See it has Star Wars stuff on the front and this neat thing for paper. And I won't ask you for another thing extra, I promise."

"I know it's not on the list, but I really need these felt-tip markers, and the big box of crayons and some of these notebooks."

For the first time in my life I actually had the presence of mind to think ahead and only brought one kid with me on this shopping trip, and he had masking tape over his mouth. So I was in a position to see a little humor in the human drama occurring around me. Although I did have to hurry to cosmetics if I felt a laugh coming on to avoid the risk of being attacked by a horde of irate mothers armed with wooden rulers.