Monday, September 26, 2016

Rah! Rah! Zisboombah!

Today I’m taking on the role of cheerleader. We go through a lot when we write a book, and too often there’s someone on the sidelines going, “Tsk tsk. He/she is making an awful big deal out of nothing.” How many times has someone referred to your writing as your “hobby?” Couldn’t you just throw something? Don’t do it. Prove them wrong.

What you need is someone saying, “Go for it! You can do it!” That would be me.

Is your back hurting from sitting at a computer for so long? Do you have a headache? Have you been unable to take a deep breath and let it out while you wait to see what happens to your book?

Forget it! You’ve done the best you can and it’s time to bask in your accomplishment. If no one, other than family and friends, reads your book, at least you accomplished something that so many don’t. This is huge! You’ve honest-to-goodness written a book, and you’re an author. A real author!

When I finish a book, or even while I’m writing it, I often have thoughts about whether people will want to read it and whether they’ll enjoy it if they do read it. I know I’m not alone in this because authors talk amongst themselves. Surprise! Surprise! Yes, we do talk to each other.

So I’m here to say, quit worrying. Get out and promote your book any way you can. Don’t wait to see what happens. Stay busy.

I take a break between books. I clean house, run long overdue errands, and try to socialize a little. I have to admit that I’ll mention my books to anyone who’ll listen – the checker at the grocery store, the saleslady at the mall, the mailman, and even my doctor and his assistant.

Yesterday a woman sat next to me at a meeting (not book related). By the time we left she was on her way to buy one of my books. It was a casual conversation. I asked her if she enjoyed reading and that started the ball rolling.

Don’t be pushy. Keep it casual. If someone isn’t interested, don’t belabor the point. Move on to the next casual encounter.

I’ve read a number of good books lately and I’m sorry to say I haven’t put up reviews yet. I need to let readers know I’ve read a good book, and the author needs to know he or she was appreciated, too.

I can even be a cheerleader for readers. There are scads of new authors out there just waiting to be discovered. Give a few a try. If you find you’re not enjoying a book, set it aside and move on to another new author. You’ll probably find a few that make you want to read more of their work.

You’ve just written your first book? Or your third? Either one is a major accomplishment.

I don’t know about you, but the word promotion has almost become a dirty word to me. It can give a writer the shivers, although I know others who revel in it. Not all of us have a big budget to work with, so we have to do the best we can on little money. Word-of-mouth, talking to the delivery or repair guy, sucking it up and asking for a little help from our friends – these are ways to get the word out there and they don’t cost a cent.

Offer to help others, but don’t overextend yourself. You can only do so much before it takes its toll. Inviting someone to be a guest on your blog can’t hurt.

I honestly believe that we get back what we give out. In other words, what goes around, comes around. How many more ways can I say that?

So while I’m cheering for you, why don’t you cheer for someone else? Keep it going.
Rah! Rah! Zisboombah! Okay, I’m not dating myself. That’s from before my time. However, feel free to picture me waving pompoms in the air.

“Go for it! You can do it!”

Until next time, I wish both writers and readers the best. Go for it! Write a book. Read a book. And share through word-of-mouth.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
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Coming soon – watch for it: Having a Great Crime – Wish You Were Here – A Sandi Webster Mystery.
Preview of the new book cover

Monday, September 19, 2016

Two of the Greatest Words in a Writer's Life

“The End”

Yes, those are beautiful, heartwarming words to an author and I love typing them. Then I like to sit back and read them again. It means the end of one story and hopefully the beginning of another. I’ll be completing another Sandi Webster mystery this week, assuming life doesn’t interrupt.

Is that really the end? No. Now it’s time to do some fine-tuning and hope I’m up to the task. I have three people who critique and proofread for me, and they do an exceptional job, catching both the big and little things that I miss.

Additionally, I have more research waiting for my attention. This book was difficult to research because the resources kept disappearing, or they weren’t there at all. Consequently, my protagonist has problems, too. If I can’t find the answers, how can she, short of making things up? Of course, the book is fiction, but some of the background of the location isn’t. I’ve written about research in the past. We can’t just ignore facts, even if the book is fiction. I have one more possible resource, and that’s a local historian. I hope she’s in a talkative mood.
 Possible background for book

What’s next? I can’t move on to a new book yet. I still have to create a book cover, and I think this one will practically create itself – thankfully.

The story takes place in a small town at a bed and breakfast out in the country. Since I live in a small town and there’s plenty of countryside, I’ve been out snapping pictures. I believe I ended up with a winner. We’ll see how the end result turns out. The B&B is a fictional house, so this will involve a lot of finagling. Adding one picture to another and erasing what doesn’t work. I’m not an artist, but I can say I have a lot of fun putting covers together.

Then there’s the business of publishing the book. Again, thankfully, the timing will be up to me. I changed my course a few years ago and began self-publishing. It has its drawbacks, but so far it’s worked for me. I rather like being my own boss.

What about the story? The title is Having a Great Crime – Wish You Were Here, and it involves the murder of an actress in 1936 (fictional, of course). As the story moves along, it turns out it involves a lot more than the poor woman’s death.

After each book I take a break to deep clean the house and take care of business. I’d like to make another book trailer, but I think I’d go with Choosing One Moment – A Time Travel Mystery, rather than the new story. I truly had a great time writing this one. When a book is fun to write, it practically writes itself. (Only joking. Lots of blood, sweat and tears go into every story, figuratively speaking.)

 Black Butterfly (real name, Red Admiral)

During all of this time, ideas for a new book keep popping into my head. If it will take shape, it’ll be called Black Butterfly. I can’t decide if it’ll be a Sandi Webster mystery, a Bogey Man mystery, or a standalone story. So many decisions, and I haven’t quite finished the latest project.

I’m oversimplifying the overall process, but it’s easier to deal with if I don’t go into great detail. Every author has to learn what works best for her or him, and then take the necessary steps.

Sandi Webster is finally back and having a great crime. She and Pete are also on a belated honeymoon, for all the good it does her, but they’re doing what they love best; investigating a crime.

P.S. After last week’s post about pets in books, I have to admit that Bubba stayed home with Sandi’s neighbor. No pets were used in the making of this story.

Until next time, have a great week and read a good book. There are so many out there to choose from, and I hope you find a good one.

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

Repetitive, I know, but keep your eyes open – Coming Soon: Having a Great Crime – Wish You Were Here (A Sandi Webster Mystery)

Monday, September 12, 2016

Dog Days

A little change of pace this week.

Most people would automatically think of the “dog days of summer” when reading the subject line, but in my case it means I have three needy dogs in the house. I have two large yellow Labrador retrievers and my daughter has a Chiwienie. For those who don’t know, a Chiwienie is half Chihuahua and half Dachshound. Sugar weighs in at 90 pounds and Murphy weighs in at 120 pounds. Clementine is an 11 pound whirlwind, and I’ll give you one guess who rules the roost in this house.



 Sugar and Clementine had a battle of wills initially, but Sugar finally gave up. Now she occasionally growls at the little one, but it’s half-hearted. The funny side? Clementine has a doggie crush on big ol’ Murphy and drives him to distraction sometimes.


 Why would I write about dogs? Because they play a large role in my life, and most of my books include dogs. Animals, in general, can play characters in books, and pets can add both humor and drama. Many authors include cats in their stories, but I’m a dog person. My husband used to occasionally refer to me at the Crazy Dog Lady of our neighborhood. If the shoe fits… I didn’t argue the point.

In How Now Purple Cow (which is actually about elderly spies), there’s a scene that has to do with Sherlock and Watson, two yellow Labs, being afraid of the dark. (I sure wish I’d picked different names for the dogs, but it’s too late now.) Anyway, this scene came from real life, just with different circumstances. Yes, Sugar and Murphy are afraid of the dark.

In the Bogey Man series, Sherlock often races Chris to the phone when it rings, sliding across the floor and into the wall. Real life? Yes, but different circumstances. If my daughter is out of the house and the phone rings, all three dogs go nuts because they think it’s her and she’s coming up the driveway. Weird, but true.

After moving from Arizona to Washington, the dogs seemed to forget everything they ever learned. At the moment, walking them is impossible. They’re out of control, but I’m working on a new formula for polite dog walking. Cross your fingers. In one of the Bogey books, Chris took the dogs for a walk and they managed to wrap their leashes around his legs. You can imagine what happened next. Again, a true story.

 Bubba - He didn't like the camera. I had to get him to lie on his back 
and I had to tickle his belly for this smile.

Bubba, in the Sandi Webster series, is also based on a real dog who was half wolf and half Golden retriever. He belonged to my boss and spent much of his time in the office with me. He was so big that he puts Murphy to shame. Bubba was a happy dog and he smiled frequently. Unfortunately, his smile was very toothy and he looked like he was baring his teeth at people. He was very protective of me, and when strangers came into the office he’d sit in front of me and smile. While it made me laugh, it made strangers keep their distance.

I’d be willing to bet that a lot of the dog or cat stories mystery writers include in their books are based on reality. Maybe loosely based, but still mostly true.

I believe that if a pet can participate in a story, even to a small extent, it can enhance the storyline, and I have a feeling that a small Chiwienie may soon add a new element to the Sandi Webster Mysteries.

For some reason the dogs have been very “needy” today. They’re on my mind and that’s why you’re hearing about them.

Afraid of the dark? Sliding into the wall when the phone rings? Imagine finding a King Snake in your backyard, and the dogs are so busy barking at the kids next door that they don’t even notice it. Uh, I noticed it and when I told the dogs to get in the house, my tone of voice told them I meant business – one of the few times they’d listen to me without an argument. Yes, when I tell Sugar to be quiet, she always has to get the last word (or bark) in. All I can do is shake my head.

Well, that’s enough about animals. Let me just say that I’ve read many books where a pet added a pertinent element to a story, whether it was humor or drama.

Until next time, remember how important pets can be both in life and in fiction. Watch them sometime – and take notes.

 Comedy Relief - Do you think Murphy really wanted the lasagna?

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

Choosing One Moment – A Time Travel Mystery, is a lot of fun, but believe it or not, there aren’t any pets included in the story.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Are We Having Fun Yet?

This has been one of those days. I’ve been wracking my brain (which can be kind of scary), trying to think of a new topic for a post. Nothing came to mind (which is even scarier).

Then I thought about yesterday. My daughter and I went out to lunch and had a sweet, funny and polite waitress. I left her one of my Thank You cards. You might wonder what that is. It’s a business card that I make myself. On one side it says, “Thank You for your courtesy and service.” At the bottom of the card there’s an arrow that points to the side, making people want to turn it over. On the backside it says, “Marja McGraw Mysteries” and has my website address. 
  The Thank You card has surprised me on occasion. Once, some time ago, a waitress actually chased me out to the parking lot to thank me for thanking her. True story.

I also found some great pens. They look like brushed metal and they have a flashlight in the top. I pass those out frequently, and sometimes leave one with the Thank You card. They have Marja McGraw Mysteries and my website address embossed on them.

Yeah, yeah. Someone out there is thinking, “Okay, so what’s your point?”

My point is, promotional items can help as much as promotion on the Internet. I’ve tried several different things, but these two seem to work the best. I’ve told someone I appreciate them, and I sometimes back it up with a gift of the pen.

I tried some small calendars, maybe 3” x 5”, but those didn’t seem to draw much interest. I’ve tried bookmarks, but they wear out and get thrown away. But pens? People look at them every time they use them. I’ve given pens to the UPS delivery guy, the woman working behind the counter in the pharmacy, neighbors, receptionists, doctors and a woman in line behind me at the store. I got some great letter openers, but unless someone is sitting behind a desk, most people aren’t interested. All of the items I’ve tried have my name, a reference to mysteries, and my website address on them.

I often come across as an outgoing woman. In all honesty, I’m not. It’s taken age and experience to bring me out of my shell. Well, that and working in law enforcement. Those guys don’t put up with “shy”.

I occasionally give someone a complimentary book in the hopes they’ll enjoy it and spread the word. One time I was at the beauty shop and an elderly couple came in. My stylist introduced us because the woman was an avid reader. I gave her a book and you’d have thought I’d handed her a hundred dollar bill. I found out later that she and her husband didn’t have much, and she appreciated the gesture more than I could have imagined. It turned out she told everyone who’d listen about my book – not just that she enjoyed it, but that it had been a gift.

Maybe you can’t afford to give books away, and I can’t either. However, on rare occasions, it’s worth it in the long run.

If you’re thinking about In Person promotion, think outside the box. Think up something memorable. Steal my idea about the Thank You cards. I probably stole the idea from someone else, but I can’t recall who at the moment.

And if something works? Keep doing it, and when possible, add to it.

A woman recently bought ten of my books and asked me to sign them and mail them to her friends. I included one of the pens in each package. I heard that the friends were calling this woman even before they read the book because they were so impressed with the pens. (I sure hope they like the book, too.)

I’ve only talked about three steps in the promotional trail here, but you can come up with more. Tell us about them. What works for you?

Until next time, remember that even a verbal Thank You can go a long way. It makes a difference when someone knows we appreciate them.

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

I’ve had a few reports that reading “Choosing One Moment – A Time Travel Mystery” has brightened a few readers’ days. Need a lift? Give it a try. And Thank You!