Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas Magic

I'm not a Grinch or a Scrooge.  I like the holidays. I enjoy the decorations and the occasional gathering of family and friends. I'm not a fan of Black Friday sales, or the insanity that comes with shopping for the perfect gifts, but overall I welcome the holidays.  Decorating the tree and stringing lights outside always triggers memories of Christmas past. Here's one that always jumps to mind.

When my sons were young, maybe seven and four, we had the usual pile of presents around the tree for them. But knowing that our efforts to cleverly wrap each package, using special Santa paper for those gifts from the jolly elf, wouldn't last more than five minutes once the guys got started. Soon a mountain of paper would cover the floor and the mad rush would be over. So we decided to prolong it with a little misdirection.

We took one special gift for each guy and hid it in the house. Then I drafted a series of clues, sending them on a treasure hunt. These were fairly simple, like 'where the clothes come out warm' for the dryer and 'better check the tub' or words to that effect.  There were about six clues, leading them at long last to that special gift. To my surprise, the guys loved it. The treasure hunt became a Christmas tradition, right up there with the orange Danishes for breakfast after the presents were unwrapped.

One year when the boys were in their teens, I'd forgotten all about the treasure hunt. Travis, my eldest, approached me after church on Christmas Eve and asked if we were still doing it. When I told him we could, he turned and said "Can you make the clues rhyme?"  I knew this was getting out of hand, but somehow muddled through. Dr. Seuss had nothing to worry about.

A few years ago, we gathered for Christmas. Travis was out of the country, so he called in on Skype and got the play by play as we opened our gifts.  Then Cameron, his kid brother, handed my wife and I our first clue. The tables had been turned. The brothers had worked out a treasure hunt for us. After we wandered the house, gathering the extra present, Cameron looked at me and said "writing those clues was a pain in butt."  I could relate.

I'm sure we each have our own special holiday memories. There are others, but that's one that always makes me smile.

May the holidays be filled with laughter and love, shared with friends and family.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Just Breathe

The last few weeks have been pretty much nonstop activity.  I'd swear there has been so much going on, at times I had to remind myself to take a step back and just breathe.

Before Thanksgiving, we flew from Michigan to Tokyo, Japan. My oldest son, Travis, was getting married. This was my first opportunity to experience the culture, see many historic sites and to meet his beautiful bride and her family. What followed was ten days of excitement as we tried to squeeze as much as possible into our visit.  I was very impressed with the people and the culture. Everyone was extremely friendly.  And the trains run on time!

Upon my return to the states, I began dueling with the devil known as jet lag. He didn't seem to bother me much on the flight there, but I've been paying my dues for the last week, trying to get back to Eastern Standard Time.  With everything said and done, there has been little time to do any writing, although a number of story ideas have been percolating in my brain since the trip began. We'll have to wait and see which one makes it to the surface.

I learned yesterday that one of my publishers, Secret Cravings, is having a sale on print copies of their catalog for the holidays. So on Sunday, 12/14 and Monday, 12/15 you can get $ 3 off any print copy by including the code BV5JK96G.  I'm sure you'll want to check out copies of my two Jamie Richmond novels.  They make great gifts.  The link at the bottom should take you there.

Happy holidays.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Fleeing Beauty review

I don't know whether I have a twisted form of ESP or some kind of psychic connection. Maybe it's just that impish muse that occasionally perches on my shoulder and she's flicking her nails against my ear lobe. Or maybe it's indigestion. Who knows?  But when it happens, I have to pay attention.

Yesterday was a perfect example. I'm not one to check on my books daily. Once in a great while, I'll check out Amazon or Barnes & Noble to see if there are any reviews or comments left from a reader. With a free moment, I stopped by Amazon and was pleasantly surprised to see a 4 star rating on "Fleeing Beauty" with the following comment:

This book is full of twists and turns! Jamie has Malone look for some pieces her father hid before his death. Sparks end up flying between them and it is hot! Mystery, suspense, sex....what more could you ask for in a book? 

That kind of feedback is what every author strives for. While I know it's impossible and unrealistic to try and please everyone, it's encouraging to get this kind of response.   Occasionally I'll post an excerpt from the story. This seems like the perfect time to do so.  The passage below packs a little heat, so be advised. I hope you enjoy it.

With one arm around my waist, he held me close. I felt his other hand cup the back of my head as he held me still, driving me crazy with a long, slow, wet kiss. I was squirming on his lap with excitement now. And he knew exactly what he was doing to me.
       He released me head, drawing his hand slowly down to my breast. I tipped my head back. He was licking and kissing my throat. Electricity was running wild through my core. And then just as suddenly, Malone was standing, holding me in his arms. This was no easy trick, getting out of the clutches of the aunt. Without a word, he eased me down until my feet touched the hard wood floor.
       “Hush, Jamie. I want you to do exactly what I say.”
       He stepped over and switched off the light. For an instant I was nervous, until I saw the mischievous sparkle in his eyes. Now he turned me around so that I was facing one arm of the sofa. Malone guided me back to the cushions, only now I was kneeling with my back to him.  I could feel the stubble of his beard lightly scratching my shoulders. He turned his head enough to inhale the perfume I’d splashed on when changing. It wasn’t strong, but it lingered. I felt a tingling sensation race down my arms as Malone’s hot breath warmed my shoulder blades. He tugged the tank top. Now his lips were slowly moving down the ladder of my spine.  I couldn’t move. Even if I wanted to.
       A solitary fingertip lightly slid down the back of my arm. He was barely touching me, but oh, baby, where he was touching and how he was touching was setting me on fire. He shifted lower. I felt the bottom of the tank top move up, exposing my stomach, the small of my back and my ribs. I cried out in surprise when Malone nipped me with his teeth, lightly grazing the spot on my back where my kidneys were. The fingertip continued to graze my arm.
       I felt his lips move back to my spine. Now his tongue flicked out and danced the rest of the way down, pausing at the waistband of my shorts. His fingertip was gone now, darting quickly in front to undo my shorts. Somehow he shoved my shorts down until they were bunched up by my knees. Then his fingernails were lightly scratching my legs from the hips to the thighs while he continued to kiss the bottom of my spine. I was shaking. Again I felt a fingertip glide across the back of my knee.
       “Take me, Malone. I can’t stand it.”
       “Soon, Jamie. Soon.”
       “Now, Malone, please!”
       I felt his palm squeeze my left calf. My orgasm was building so intensely, I was afraid I was going to implode. His lips danced across the cheeks of my ass. He nipped me again.
       “Malone! You’re killing me!”
       He pulled back for a heartbeat. Somehow he managed to free himself from his jeans. I felt him press against me. I was so wet, so aroused, I screamed when he entered me. My body was quivering, delightful spasms causing my whole being to quake. Never before had I experienced something so intense, so overpowering. And still he held me, driving me forward, urging me on for more. I screamed again as he exploded inside me.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Follow along

This last week I had the opportunity to speak at a club luncheon about my efforts as a writer. About thirty people gathered around for a mediocre meal. After taking care of business, they invited me up to talk about what it's like being a novelist.  I described the challenges of a writer, shaping a good story, creating memorable characters, the importance of character names, conflicts, dialog and the use of humor.  Then I took a few questions.

One asked me how detailed my outlines were. They were stunned when I admitted to never using an outline.

One lady was almost indignant. "But that's crazy! How else can you write a novel?"

I described my process. Usually I begin with one or two key characters and a vague idea of some type of mystery or crime. I make sure I know my characters well, how they will react to situations, what makes them tick, and then I put them in motion and kind of follow along. While I may have a glimmer of an idea about what's going to happen, the story usually takes a number of twists and turns along the way.

Now I'm not saying this is the only way to write a story. Many great authors use outlines or draft each scene's activity before they ever get to the keyboard. Others will use a whiteboard and spin what looks like a flow chart, where one scene leads to another. But that's the beauty of creative writing. We all find the approach that works best for us. I tried to write using an outline before and it was a painful process. The resulting story was dull and dry and boring. So I chucked it.

Many years ago I had the great good fortune to meet Elmore Leonard. 

We chatted for a few minutes at a book signing he was doing. I asked if he still wrote using a legal pad. Leonard admitted that he would spend an entire day working on one scene, scratching it out with pen and paper before he was satisfied. Then he would sit down at the typewriter and write the finished product.  The system worked for him and he had more bestsellers than I can ever dream of.

So I just follow along. I give the characters a nudge, point them in the general direction of mayhem and run beside them, jotting it down. It may be crazy but it works for me.

On another note, I learned this morning that my paperbacks are now available on a site called Books a Million.  The link below should take you there.  Turns out I'm not the only Mark Love who is a writer. Imagine that. I wonder if the other ones use outlines.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Few Twists Down the Road

Recently at my 'regular' job, I was asked to facilitate a fiction writer's workshop. This wouldn't be for employees but for customers who come in to the operation to utilize our programs and services. Now other than conducting training sessions on work related issues, I don't usually get the chance at work to dip into the creative side. So here was an opportune moment to do something more enjoyable. I planned out a three session workshop and figured we'd see what happened.

Seven eager people attended the first class, anxious to learn more about the writing process. I'm no expert, but since I've been writing for a long time and have been fortunate enough to publish both short stories and novels, it was a chance to offer some suggestions and guidance.  The first week, we talked about characters and how to make them memorable and different.  I handed out copies of a  profile sheet that I've used for years, where the writer can fill in as much detail as they'd like when creating a character. Knowing that staring at a blank computer screen or a blank page can be intimidating, I worked up the opening to a short story (with some help from author M S Spencer) took it to a point of conflict and stopped.  I gave this out as an assignment and explained it was up to them as writers to continue the action. They could change the narrative, introduce new characters or whatever they pleased.  We would read their results aloud next time.

The second class had four new people who were quickly brought up to speed. Most of the others read their efforts. I was pleased to see so many different paths were taken, or as one guy said "A few twists down the road."   After everyone had a chance, we discussed the importance of a settings, including the time period when the story takes place. Similar to the character profile, I gave them all a sheet for creating settings. That week's assignment was to describe a setting for their own story.

Week three brought even more people to the party. Several read their efforts at settings, one of whom went on to incorporate that into a humorous short story that had everyone laughing.  We talked about plot, using humor even in the most serious stories and how to weave conflicts into a chapter or a short story.

As we reached the end of our time, I was pleasantly surprised by the reaction. The group begged to continue. 'Three weeks is not enough', one fellow complained. 'This is just like a book. You've got us interested and wanting to keep going.'

After working out a few logistics, I was able to grant their wish. Now we will continue to meet periodically but the focus will be on providing them the opportunity to workshop their own efforts and gain valuable feedback from the others.  I'll be curious to see how it all shakes out as we follow those 'few twists down the road'.

My own writing efforts were rewarded again this week with the release of "Fleeing Beauty". This is the third installment in the Jamie Richmond series.  I hope you'll check it out.  And if you get a chance, stop by M S Spencer's blog to see what she's been up to.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Crazy Times

I think it was Henry Ford who once said "Never complain and never explain."  I'm not sure if those are real words to live by but every once in a while, they seem to make sense.  But for the most part, when things tend to get a little crazy and I am remiss about something like posting, an explanation seems in order.

Lately my time to write has been very limited. I work a full time 45 hour a week job and I also teach one night a week. That part sounds easy, since I have office hours at school for about an hour then spend on average 2 1/2 hours in the classroom. Sounds simple, right?  But that doesn't take into consideration the numerous hours of preparation needed to make it happen. I also received the final revisions for my approval on my next book and had to race through them to meet the deadline. Then there are occasions when I want to be writing but I need to do some form of promotion to help raise awareness of my books and generate sales. Hey, as my protagonist in WHY 319? would say, 'sleep is vastly overrated'.

So today was mostly spent doing promos, exchanging emails with potential fans and taking care of a few business things. Now it's a chance to write a little blurb about 'Fleeing Beauty'.  This is the third book in the Jamie Richmond series.  I like to think each one is a little better, a little snappier, where a bit more of the characters are developed. What continues to be a challenge for me is that these are written from Jamie's perspective and as a guy, it's not easy to think like a woman.  But somehow, it seems to work.

Here's a little snippet from the book, which is scheduled to be released Tuesday, October 21.

I don’t want to die.
I’m not ready for it. There are too many things I haven’t experienced yet. Places to go, people to meet, adventures waiting to be discovered. I want to gaze at the stars over the Mediterranean Sea while making love with Malone. I want to fly in a sailplane. I want to stand on a beach in Key West and dip my toes in the ocean and the gulf. I want to travel to exotic lands, dine on their cuisine and dance my little ass off to the local music. I want all of that and much more.
But I don’t think any of that is going to happen.
We’re all going to die.
Once this gang gets what they’re after, there is no reason to leave us behind. They’re not going to lock us in a closet and make a run for it. We’ve all seen their faces. We know their names. We can identify them. There is no way they will let us live. Their leader has a violent streak and it’s only a matter of time before he lashes out again.
My mind is flashing on ways out of this. But nothing makes sense, nothing that will allow me to stop them, to guide us out of here safely.
I don’t want to die.
But there is nothing I can do to prevent it.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Update: Why 319?

Occasionally I'll go to websites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble to see what's happening with some of my titles. I try to do what I can to help promote my books. Sometimes I'll give away a copy of an eBook to generate interest or as part of an event with the publisher. But what always gets my attention is when someone takes the time to write a review.

I learned the hard way a long time ago that you can't please everyone. There are some people in this world who just ain't happy unless they have something to complain about. You could make them a wonderful dinner with a nice steak grilled to perfection, a tossed salad filled with fresh veggies, a baked potato the size of your fist and a heaping bowl of fresh fruit.  After they enjoyed their fill, they might look at you and say 'What, no dessert?'  You know the type. We all do.  So as a writer when it comes to reading reviews on your work, you'd better have a thick skin.

Sure enough on Amazon there are currently 8 reviews for "Devious" the first book in the Jamie Richmond series.  Most of these are very positive, three, four or even five stars. Yet one unsatisfied customer ranks it with one star.  As Chuck Berry and Bob Seger would say, 'C'est La Vie.

Now my latest mystery "Why 319?" about the serial killer on the loose in Metro Detroit, has only been out for a month now.  To my surprise I found two reviews on Amazon for the book, both ranking it for five stars. Gotta love that.  To make it even sweeter, it's now available as an eBook.  Here's a link to where you can find it.  I hope you enjoy it.  And if you'd like to write a review, go for it. Good or bad, your feedback is welcome.