Monday, July 28, 2014

Meeting Your Favorite Author

I know some authors blog every day. I don’t know how they do it. I only blog once a week and every week I’m sure I’ll run out of ideas by the following post. This blog is no exception. And believe it or not, I’ve been doing this since 2010!

I wasn’t sure what I was going to blog about so I asked my daughter a question, thinking it might open some creative doors. She’s an avid reader and I asked her, “If you were face to face with your favorite author, what question would you ask?”

 After a few moments, her response was, “I’d ask her if she’d sign my book.”

That’s it? She had no burning questions about where the writer’s ideas came from? How long it takes her to write a book? How many books has she written? What’s the author’s favorite book? Anything? Nope. Just “Please sign my book.” She made me laugh because her answer was so simple.

Apparently all she cares about is that the author writes a good book that entertains her. I know other readers would have more questions, but my daughter’s reaction brought home the fact that no matter what else an author does, he or she needs to write a book that makes the reader come back for more.

I have favorite authors and plenty of questions. How do you come up with so much humor? How do you keep your stories fresh so they don’t all run together? How do you manage to come up with so many unique characters? How do you manage your time so you can make so many personal appearances? What do you find is your most effective marketing tool?

Lastly, I’d have to ask, “Would you please sign my book?” I guess my daughter and I are more alike than I realized.

Just for the heck of it, here are a few questions and answers from me that haven’t been asked yet – or maybe they have.

What’s my favorite genre? Mysteries, of course, but I’m pretty sure I’ve answered that before. I particularly enjoy the ones with a little humor in them.

Do vintage movies inspire my writing? Absolutely. My characters also enjoy old black and white movies.

My favorite book? I know I’ve answered this one before – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I even owned an antique store/tea room once and it was called The Mockingbird. By the way, this brings up something else. I read that someone wrote an unauthorized biography about Harper Lee. The author’s name is Marja, but I want to assure you I’m not that author. I don’t recall what her last name was.

Who is my favorite author? There are just too many to pin it down to one writer, especially since I’ve started reading authors who are new to me.

Why do I include dogs in my stories? Because I love dogs, and they often add an element of humor to a story.

 Smooth, creamy chocolate

What do I have to say about chocolate? I’m laughing as I write this. I’m a chocoholic. “Chocolate is the answer. The question is irrelevant?” I found that on a calendar. And let’s not forget, “I Never Met a Chocolate I Didn’t Like.” That’s actually the title of one of those little books you find in gift shops.

Okay, that’s enough. I’ll come up with something new next week. (I’m open to suggestions.)

Until next time, feel free to ask people questions this week, and I hope you enjoy any unexpected answers you might receive.

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

COMING SOON: What Are the Odds? – A Sandi Webster Mystery

Monday, July 21, 2014

Look Up, Look Down

They Call Me Ace - A Bogey Man Mystery is now available in both ebook and paperback format. CLICK HERE if you're interested.

 ~ * ~

An ex-cop (my husband) said one of the most important things he learned while attending the police academy was to “look up, look down, look all around.” And he’s right. As a mystery writer I need to remind myself of this advice from time to time.

If I were at a crime scene, I wouldn’t want to miss evidence or a clue. I wouldn’t want my protagonist to miss anything, either. You never know where something important might turn up. And, as a writer, I need to remember to leave clues for the readers to follow.

Have you ever lost your car keys? Probably. You looked everywhere, you thought, but they didn’t turn up. Look up, look down, look all around. Sometimes they turn up in the most unexpected places. Do you have small children? If one of them picked up your keys, they could be anywhere. Gotta love those innocent little minds and hands.

We really need to pay attention when confronted with situations. Okay, I’m going to give you a silly example. Over time I’ve mentioned Gertrude from time to time. She was a roadrunner (bird) who came to our yard every day, looking for a handout. We fed her and became accustomed to her. She was so used to us that she’d sit on my patio chair, even while I sat on it. She was an unusual bird and came around for four years. She’d “talk” to me in her bird language. She was very entertaining and imitated the sounds of other birds, which surprised me. She’d eat out of my hand, and with that sharp beak I was really glad she was gentle.

And then she disappeared. I never saw her again.

In her place, another bird starting making the daily visits. I called her Gertrude II. She wasn’t as friendly as Gertrude I, but still, she came every day.

Gertrude II kept taking her food and leaving, which usually means the roadrunner is feeding babies. It turns out something unexpected was going on. Gertrude wasn’t Gertrude. She was actually Larry. (Don’t ask me why we name the roadrunners. I have no clue.) Anyway, when a roadrunner wants to mate they take a “gift” to the female bird and try to entice them into some, uh, lovemaking. Yes, Larry was a horny little male bird. I should have paid more attention to the things he was doing, like the tail feathers swinging back and forth, a sure sign of… Never mind.

The point is, things aren’t always what they seem. I didn’t look all around, or I would have seen Larry offering a female his gift of food while his tail feathers went wild.

Enough of the birds.

In Old Murders Never Die, Sandi and Pete find a clue on the floor of an old cabin over a hundred years after a murder was committed there. How? Pete looked up, down and all around.

When putting a mystery together, let the reader look all around through the eyes of the protagonist. Let the reader feel like they’re right there, on the scene, searching with the character. The reader would like to participate in the story, and this is one way to let them inside the situation.

Even if you’re not a writer, looking everywhere is good advice. Don’t leave anything to chance and don’t assume what you want will be in a specific place. Be aware of your surroundings and the people near you.

If you’d like to leave a Comment and offer some investigating advice of your own, please do. Sometimes our books make investigation sound too simple, and it’s not easy at all. Okay, sometimes in my books…

Until next week, look up, look down, look all around, and see if you can do it without being obvious. It’s good practice.

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

COMING SOON: What Are the Odds?  - A Sandi Webster Mystery

Monday, July 14, 2014

Elaine Faber, Guest Author

This week Elaine Faber is my guest author. I’ve always said that a blog is a good showcase for an author’s writing style. Such is the case this week. I think you’ll enjoy reading what Elaine has to say. Welcome, Elaine!

Why Do Writers Write?

I’ll bet if 100 people were queried, at least 75% of them would claim that someday they plan to write a book, most likely a memoir. The remaining 25% likely would admit, humbly, that even though they may never get around to it, and the world will be the lesser for it, deprived of reading about their fascinating lives, they could if they wanted to. The thousands of hours required to write, edit and format a book for publication never enters into the equation. Yet a frightening number of us do spend the time and energy, and a zillion books DO get published every year. Most of them get posted up for sale on Amazon where they are buried as deep as a sticker in a cow plop among the other millions of Amazon books for sale. Occasionally, one actually sells!

Now, instead of becoming a writer, where was I when someone got the bright idea of creating a website where anybody could sell his book, and the website would earn more on the sale of the book than the publisher and the author combined. What a concept! I was probably standing behind the same door when someone said, ‘Do you want to invest in this driving-sleeping thingy we’re calling Winnebago?

Now, I’ve become one of those people who decided there was a book in me that the world would be the lesser for, did they not delve into its pages. After about a skillion hours of writing, rewriting, editing, mentoring, and more rewriting, my novel was finally completed, formatted, published and made available for sale to the millions of folks clamoring to be amused, entertained, charmed and delighted by my scintillating characters. I called this cozy mystery-romance Black Cat’s Legacy

In this yet to become a New York Times Best Seller, there is even a nonplused cat who knows where the bodies are buried. He wants desperately to share his knowledge with the inferior humans who are either too busy running afoul of the antagonist, or preoccupied with trying to solve a 25 year old murder without sullying anyone’s good name…good luck with that… Well, it’s quite a ride involving jealousy, greed, unrequited love, a smattering of downright stinkerisms and a cat that is appalled that these no-good-niks can’t understand a clue when he puts it right under their inferior noses. And yes, it’s available on Amazon in e-book for only $3.99. 

So, why do I write when the hours are long, the glory is nonexistent and the financial rewards are few and far between? 

I guess I write, because these characters are in me, screaming to get out and even if I don’t have a Best-Seller, many of those good folks who have read Black Cat’s Legacy come back and tell me about their reading experience. For just a little while, they could leave their own troubles behind, travel to a little resort town and experience my make-believe world where the good guy wins. For a few hours, they frolicked through the pages with a cat determined to help Kimberlee solve her father’s cold case murder. Then they tell me how much they loved it and ask, “When is the sequel coming out?” 

That’s when I know. That’s why I write. That’s why it’s all worth it.


Elaine Faber is a member of Sisters In Crime, California Cat Writers, and Inspire Christian Writers where she volunteers as an editor for their annual anthology. Her stories have appeared in multiple magazines and anthologies.

Elaine enjoys talking about her debut novel, Black Cat’s Legacy, on mystery panels and at book signing events. The sequel, Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer, featuring Thumper, a cat that plays ‘cat and mouse with murder’ will be published in the fall.

Elaine is currently putting the finishing touches on a WWII novel, where Ms. Agnes Odboddy, an eccentric widow woman fights the war from the home front. She gets involved with a missing fortune from Hawaii, a casket company, six roosters and an old lover from her past.

Find more of Elaine’s stories on Facebook and at
CLICK HERE to find Elaine’s books

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

Monday, July 7, 2014

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

 When I switched blog sites, I lost the archives with old posts. During a fleeting moment of boredom, I started looking through some old blogs and found this one. My feelings haven’t changed, so here goes nothing, although there are a few minor changes. This was posted by me back in 2010, during the monsoon season. (Sometimes it pays off to keep hard copies of things.) Interestingly, it’s thundering outside as I write this, and just starting to rain.

Opening a story with, “It was a dark and stormy night,” has become kind of a joke to some. Many say it’s too much of a cliché to use in a story. Okay, so how about, “It was a dark and stormy day?” That doesn’t seem to have quite the same punch, and it may not be as scary as what’s hiding in the dark and the storm.

I live in Northern Arizona and we had a monsoon storm of good proportions today. It started around six o’clock this morning, and although the sun is out for the moment, it looks like there’s more to come. The rain came down by the bucketful. (I can exaggerate like that because that’s what I do for a living.) However, it did rain pretty hard for quite some time. The lightning and thunder were awesome to see and hear.

At one point there was lightning all around us, which meant there were constant strikes and the thunder was continuous. It sounded like it rolled from one end of the sky to the other. The storm was directly overhead for a while, and there was an ear-splitting crack before the thunder boomed. Our electricity went off for several hours, which rarely happens in our neighborhood.

Sounds like the setting for a story to me, but it should have happened after dark. And it did, not too long ago. This is our monsoon season.

If the electricity hadn’t gone out I would have put a movie in the DVD player. It would have been a mystery that began on a dark and stormy night – what else? It would have been appropriate to what we were experiencing firsthand. What could be more mysterious and suspenseful than a dark night, loud thunder, and a sudden scream? Well, probably a lot of things, but I would have enjoyed it. Hmm. Maybe add the sound of forceful winds blowing.

Somehow a bright and sunny day just doesn’t say mystery to me. Mind you, I’m talking about the plus side of the stormy night in a mystery, not the plus side of a beautiful day. I’ll leave that for a different post. Menacing things can certainly happen during the daylight hours.

I mean, really, think about it. If there’s a sudden knock at your back door when you’re not expecting anyone, is it going to be more suspenseful during the day? Or at night, during a storm, when the back porch light has burned out? And you live in the country far from your neighbors – or you live in a nice neighborhood, but your neighbors are gone on vacation. The scenarios are endless during nasty weather.

Maybe your vehicle has broken down on a lonely road and a black car pulls up behind you with the lights out. And just maybe he nudges your car with his front bumper. Uh oh. You see someone exit the car in your rear view mirror. He’s wearing a hoody and you can’t see his face – and he walks funny. Is he a bad guy, or is he a bad driver with a sprained ankle who happens to be wearing a hooded sweatshirt because he’s cold and really wants to help you?

Watch some vintage mysteries. Many of them start out with a storm and pouring rain. It adds to the suspense. Oh, yes, it really does.

Anyway, after sitting through the storm today, dark and stormy nights were really on my mind. Just thought I’d mention it. By the way, many readers love a good storm to read by. Or, which to read.

Until next time, wishing you bright and sunny days with no strangers showing up at your back door unannounced.

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