Monday, July 17, 2017

Good News and Not So Good News

This weekend I decided it was finally time to update my website. After all, I have a new book out and I needed to add it to the site. As long as I was there, I thought I might as well update everything.

First I’ll tell you a little about the book, another Sandi Webster Mystery.
“Sandi Webster-Goldberg and her husband, Pete, are definitely out of their comfort zone when they become involved in kidnapping, Internet hacking, cybersecurity, and domestic terrorism.

Sandi’s cantankerous Aunt Martha arrives for a visit at the most inopportune time and discovers that the kidnapping victim is someone from her past; a former student and friend.

Who’s behind what could end up becoming the crime of the century, and can Sandi, Pete and Aunt Martha rescue Andrew Trapper, billionaire, before it’s too late?”

This story was both fun to write, and informative for me. I learned a lot about the world of the Internet, although I didn’t include enough information to bore the reader. After all, this is a mystery, not an over the top learning experience.

When you have a new book, you want to promote it. One thing I did a long time ago was build a short video that shows each book cover in the two series I write. I had to update it and add Entrance to Nowhere - A Sandi Webster Mystery. Therein lies the problem.

I discovered, quite by accident, that an extra frame had been added to the video containing photographs. The frame supposedly indicates places I’ve visited and the viewer can click on the photos to see more videos (not mine). I’ve never visited sites where most of the photographs came from, and one of the photos included a very scantily clad woman. There was another photo of a dog biting someone’s hand. Since my two series include dogs, this is not a good thing. Need I mention that I was upset about this added frame? Oh, I also learned that different people get a different last frame. Go figure.

I called the company I used to build my website. With their newest program, you can’t download your video from your computer. You have to upload it to a specific Internet site and then download it from there. Notice how polite I am about not mentioning company names? Anyway, the video site is the one who adds that last frame, not the website people. I tactfully suggested that the website builder program needs to add an alternative to downloading from another site.

So, when I finish the work on my website, I’ll take down the video altogether.

Writing a book is only part of the process. When you start promoting and marketing, often there are surprises waiting for you. That video of book covers has been up for at least a year, and I’d never played it through on my website, only on my computer. Of course, I wasn’t expecting anything unusual. Surprise!

Last, but not least, I'm happy to say that Marja’s Mystery Blog won a spot on the list of the Feedspot Top Fifty Mystery Blogs ( on the web (#29). You may have seen the Badge at the beginning of this week’s post.

I started with good news, moved on to a mini rant, and ended up with a compliment. That’s it for this week, folks.

Now I’ve got to get busy and finish the update to my website, including deleting the offending video. Well, at least the last frame is offensive (to me).

Until next week, have a good week. It’s summer, and with any luck you’re getting ready to take a relaxing vacation. If not, enjoy your weekends.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website (Hopefully you’ll see the updated site)
CLICK HERE for a quick trip to

Enjoy Black Butterfly – A Bogey Man Mystery, and when you’re done with that, give Entrance to Nowhere – A Sandi Webster Mystery a try. The first book revolves around an elderly woman who may be a retired Hit Lady. The second book includes kidnapping, hacking, cybersecurity and a domestic terrorist. Hint: The Sandi Webster book also includes a cantankerous aunt. You’ll love her.

Monday, July 10, 2017

From Beginning to End

The two most fulfilling moments while writing a book, at least for me, are the beginning and the end. Big surprise, right?

At the beginning I’m full of enthusiasm and ideas. It seems like everything around me is an inspiration.
Then comes the dreaded (for me) middle, where I’m trying to keep all of my ducks in a row, trying not to lose sight of where I’m going, and hoping I don’t leave any loose ends. I have notes all over my desk. That’s about the time I think, “Oh. I think I want to go in this other direction. Will it work? Should I do it? What does my protagonist want?”

Yes, I think about what’s going to work best for my protagonist. Sometimes I think she knows more than I do. Scary thought.

I have to admit that my latest book, Entrance to Nowhere, took a few turns that I hadn’t anticipated. In this case, I wasn’t surprised. The story touches on topics I hadn’t thought about too much. Okay, that’s not true. It touches on topics that I’ve thought about and read about and that we hear about frequently on the news, but hadn’t applied to my own life.

Sandi Webster gets caught up in kidnapping, Internet technology, hacking, cybersecurity, and a domestic terrorist crosses her path. Oh, and her Aunt Martha comes for a visit at the most inopportune time. This is the same moody Aunt Martha who’s been mentioned in other stories, but this is her first actual appearance. Sandi is most definitely out of her comfort zone.

This story taught me a lot about what’s going on in today’s world of technology, although you don’t have to be a computer nerd to understand the story. It’s simple. Someone wants to bring down the electrical grid in America, and he needs the brilliant mind of Andrew Trapper to help reach his goals.

I wrote, I learned, I added a touch of humor where necessary, and I finally completed the story on July 7th.
That’s where The End comes in. There’s something so fulfilling about typing those words. As a writer you (the general “you”) worry, you fret, you wonder if this story will appeal to anyone, and you’ve done the best job you can while hoping for results that will make you smile.

Unfortunately, it may be the end of the story, but the work isn’t done yet. Now it’s time for final editing and creating a book cover. The cover won’t be too much of an issue because I found the perfect Entrance to Nowhere just down the street and took pictures. You’ll see what I mean when I post a picture of the cover, coming soon.

I have to admit that it’s difficult to make a sharp turn from writing to marketing and promoting. I’m not good at these things and it’s been a long time since a fresh idea slapped me in the face and said, “Do it!” Oh, well, something new will come to me.

Do you get the feeling this talk about The Beginning and The End is just an attempt to self-promote tactfully? Okay, you’re onto me. I’m self-promoting. It’s all part of the marketing experience.

To writers, feel free to promote your latest title or an upcoming book.

To readers, what types of books do you enjoy reading? Is there something in particular you look for in a story?

Until next time, remember that summer reading can be soooo relaxing.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
CLICK HERE for a quick trip to

COMING SOON: What would you do if faced with a nationwide disaster? Get a few tips from a man named Griz in Entrance to Nowhere – A Sandi Webster Mystery.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Happy Fourth of July!

This holiday falls on Tuesday, and I’ve been hearing fireworks going on since last Thursday. Yes, it’s annoying because most of the dogs in the neighborhood are having fits, including mine. There’s not a lot of sleeping going on at my house.

However, this makes me wonder. Are these people celebrating the Fourth of July or are they celebrating the fireworks? Is it just an excuse to do something loud and exciting?

I could go into great detail about the occasion of our country’s independence, but if the story wasn’t learned in school, what’s the point?

When I grew up we celebrated on the holiday, the fourth day of July, and it renewed our patriotism. It was, and is, a reminder that this country fought for its independence from a foreign power.

Our military has continued to fight for freedom, and along with remembering and celebrating the reason for this special day, we should also remember the men and women who sacrificed so we could be what we are today.

My mother and father were very patriotic, and it rubbed off on me – so am I.

My husband was a patriot, too. One year he brought home a red, white and blue sign and hung it on the front door. It said, “A Proud American Lives Here… With His Little Miss Liberty”. One day I hope to pass that sign on to another patriot who has a little Miss Liberty at home.

There’s a lot going on in America right now – some good and some bad – but I hope in the end people will stop bickering and remember that the Fourth of July represents a time in history when people earned the right to be free.


CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw's website
CLICK HERE for a quick trip to

I'm not promoting a book this week -- just patriotism.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Do the Shoes Fit?

There’s an old saying about never judging someone until you’ve walked in their shoes. That’s great advice. However, for a writer that saying can have a whole different meaning.
An author can write fictitious mysteries, and they can create all kinds of havoc and adventure. We can set the scene whether something is happening indoors or outside. We can tell you how a character is dressed, or how their hair is combed (or not combed), and we can make it believeable if we play our cards right.

There’s one thing that a writer needs to handle very carefully – people’s reactions and emotions. They can make or break a story. People need to react to a situation realistically, even if the reaction is somewhat inappropriate. If the reaction is inappropriate, then the author needs to convey why the character didn’t do what was expected.

I’ve made a number of comments throughout these blogs about observing people. As a writer, I figure this is one of the most important things I do. For purposes of this post, I’m going to use a funeral as an example. You might see so many different emotions. So let’s say that Cousin Gertrude passed on unexpectedly last week, and it’s time for the funeral.

Gertrude’s daughter may cry uncontrollably. The death was unexpected, after all, and mother and daughter were close. Gertrude’s husband may appear completely lost and a single tear may slide down his face. Hubby is lost because Gertrude was his best friend in life. He’s visibly shaken.

What about Cousin Gerard? Why does he have that smirk on his face? He never liked Gertrude, and they had a falling out a month before her death when he asked to borrow money and she told him no. He feels like she got what she deserved. He doesn’t know that Gertrude didn’t have the money to lend him. She didn’t share that with him.

Here comes Justine, Gertrude’s granddaughter. Her face is drawn, but her eyes are dry. Why isn’t she crying? She adored her grandmother. Could it be that she’s in shock? Or maybe she simply doesn’t want anyone to know just how badly she’s hurting inside. She may hang her head and not look anyone in the eye. There are also some people who simply don’t cry – about anything.

Gertrude’s best friend, Cynthia, is sitting in the rear or the church. A small giggle escapes her lips and she places her hand over her mouth. Ah, she’s the nervous giggler. Whenever disaster strikes, she begins to laugh. It’s her way of dealing with a crisis. She’ll jump up and take charge in an emergency – laughing all the while.

Buster is sitting next to Cynthia, fidgeting and not paying attention. Is he jiggling his knee? Pulling at the collar of his shirt? Repositioning his behind on the seat every few seconds? He finds Cynthia’s giggle annoying, and he wants to go home to watch the big game. Gertrude meant nothing to him. He’s only at the funeral for Cynthia’s sake.

Everyone reacts differently to each situation. That includes humor. What one person finds funny may make another purse her lips and make a tsk tsk sound. The lip purser may think the humor was in bad taste, while it’s just exactly what the doctor ordered for the laughing person.

So put yourself in someone else’s shoes and decide which reaction is appropriate to a particular situation and character. Even though you might curse and yell if you hit your thumb with a hammer, someone else might actually just say, “Shucks.” Yes, I’ve seen and heard that reaction, although it wasn’t me. Keep it real, but make sure the reader knows why someone is emotional, or emotionless, by their actions and reactions.

Until next time, if you read a book this week pay attention to the characters’ reactions and see if they make you feel an emotion in conjunction with what the character is going through. And have a piece of chocolate to see if it perks you up. Perking up is an emotion, too, and chocolate is my answer to everything.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
CLICK HERE for a quick trip to

Entrance to Nowhere – A Sandi Webster Mystery is in the works and nearing completion. In the meantime, you might try Having a Great Crime – Wish You Were Here, another Sandi Webster mystery.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Sometimes a Big Mouth Can Be a Good Thing

Having a Great Crime - Wish You Were Here - A Sandi Webster Mystery (ebook version) will be free on on Friday, June 23, 2017 through Saturday, June 24, 2017.

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I was talking to a friend recently, also a writer, and we talked about – what else – books. We also talked about promoting said books and creating a buzz, something I’ve posted about in the past. Today I’m focusing on readers, not writers. Yes, most writers are also readers.

I firmly believe word-of-mouth is the best advertising. Think about it. How many times have you read a book or watched a television show because a relative or friend, or maybe a neighbor, said it was the best thing since sliced bread? They’re enthusiastic and want to share their excitement with you.

Let’s say you recently read a book that you truly enjoyed. Did you tell anyone about it? Here’s something I read, but at the moment I can’t recall where. Think about how many people you know. We’ll use the number fifty for today, including friends, relatives and acquaintances. You’ve read a book that was both entertaining and memorable. Now imagine you tell every one of those fifty people about the book. They read the book and enjoyed it as much as you did, and they tell every one of the fifty people they know about the book. That fifty reads the book and ends up telling all of their connections, and on and on and on. The word spreads like wildfire.

By the end of the week (or month or two) the author’s name could become a household word. I’ve read some really good books because of word-of-mouth. Honestly? I’d never heard of some of the authors until a friend told me about them.  Rhys Bowen is one of those authors and I can’t get enough of her books now. I heard about her through word-of-mouth.

Authors can be a Big Mouth about their own books, but unfortunately sometimes that can get old quickly. We do what we can to get the word out, from personal appearances to book signings to any event we can attend. We post on the Internet in as many places as possible. We talk to total strangers and find out we may have something in common with them. We make new friends along the way. Okay, I have to admit that I’m not above asking a clerk at the store or the receptionist in an office if they enjoy reading mysteries. If they do, I usually give them a promotional item with my website address on it.

A lot of personal connections happen at conferences. Many attendees go home and tell their relatives, neighbors and friends about what fun it was to meet a real live author. There are a few people I’ve stayed in touch with, and I’ve enjoyed the interaction.

I’m no different than anyone else. When I go to writers events I come home and talk about the people I’ve met and things I saw and heard. I can remember a few times when I’d come home and my husband’s eyes would glaze over, so I’d turn to someone else and repeat the stories. I’m excited, and without meaning to, I’m creating a buzz.

I’ve met some famous authors, which is exciting, and I’ve also met some relatively unknown or new authors whom I liked, and I soon found myself trying one of their books. They were enthusiastic and friendly, and that’s what generally makes me take a look at their work. (Don’t forget, readers, that there are conferences who welcome readers as well as authors.)

Let’s not forget reviews. If you really enjoy a book, write a review. It’s just another form of word-of-mouth. In the case of a review, you’re blabbing to strangers. It still creates a buzz, although I’ve heard that some people won’t even bother to read reviews. Personally, I tend to check them out. I’ve even read a few books that got bad reviews. The storyline sounded good, even if the review didn’t. So far, I haven’t been disappointed.

As a reader, what do you think about creating a buzz? Do you have a big mouth? Can you recommend a good book? I love it when I set a book aside and sigh, thinking how much I enjoyed it and what a satisfying ending the author created.

Until next week, if you’ve read a good book, start buzzing about it. Tell a friend, and have fun connecting with other readers.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website (sorely in need of updating)
CLICK HERE for a quick trip to

If the idea of an elderly “hit woman,” the mob and a little humor appeals to you, you might give Black Butterfly – A Bogeyman Mystery a try.