Monday, November 28, 2016

Book, Book, Book, Book, Book

I sometimes feel like my family, friends and pets aren’t getting enough attention. There are many times when I feel like I’m neglecting those I care about the most, or even worse, driving them nuts.

My husband and I used to have a dog named Buddy. He lived to chase or catch the tennis ball. There was nothing he enjoyed more than chasing that yellow toy, and he’d race after it until he dropped if we’d let him. Ball was the number one word on his Doggie List of Favorite Things. My husband used to say that if he could read Buddy’s mind, he’d hear, “Ball, ball, ball, ball, ball. Where’s my ball? When is my person going to throw the ball? I know I’m in my hunting stance, but I can’t help it. I’m patiently waiting. Ball, ball, ball, ball, ball.”

My husband once told me that I was just like Buddy, except if he could read my mind he’d hear, “Book, book, book, book, book.” He was right, too. I can’t help it. It’s like a disease of sorts; you can’t stop thinking about that next scene, or even the next book. Is anyone going to buy my new book? Will they like it? Will I handle the marketing and promotion the way I should? Will anyone show up for my events? Thankfully, my husband was a very patient man.

I used to be an avid reader, but I don’t have as much reading time as I used to. So I read books when I can, and in the meantime I read everything from the newspaper to blogs to cereal boxes.

As a writer I people-watch, looking at personalities and mannerisms, debating whether or not they can be used in a book, and wondering if my characters are believable. Everything makes me think of books and writing.

Then there’s my daughter. She has to listen to my ideas, whether she wants to or not. She listens when I write my blogs and tells me if something sounds, well, dumb. She listens to me talk about marketing and promotion. She checks out my website to be sure everything looks good. And, bless her heart, she tells everyone about her mother, the author. She even gives my books to friends as gifts. Thankfully, like my husband (God rest his soul), she’s a patient woman.

My relatives, in-laws and friends aren’t safe either. I share thoughts and ideas and tell them the latest tidbit about what’s been going on. Either they’re very good actors, or they actually listen. More patience.

This is almost laughable because I’m such an impatient woman.

So I frequently try to step back and think about what I’m saying and doing, for all the good it does. I’m a good listener though, even if my mind does wander from time to time. Advice is as far away as the telephone if anyone needs it. Oh, yes, I’ve got more advice I’m dying to impart than anyone could possibly need. Every once in a while someone actually listens to me. I try; my intentions are good.

Frankly, I’m astonished that none of these relatives and friends avoid me. I might be tempted if I were them. But I love each and every one of them, and I’d give them the stars if it was possible. However, I can’t, so I guess I’ll just have to muddle along as best I can, and remain thankful that the people in my life are so wonderful.

Oh, dear, it’s the holiday time of year. One of these days I’ll think up a good storyline dealing with Thanksgiving or Christmas. I have an idea, and… Nevermind. I’ll write it down somewhere for later use.

Until next time, I wish you a week filled with family and friends who understand you and who have lots of patience.

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

Looking for something to fill up those hours between work and Christmas shopping? (ha ha ha) You might give Having a Great Crime – Wish You Were Here – A Sandi Webster Mystery a try.

And don’t forget, books make great Christmas gifts.

Monday, November 21, 2016

It's the Little Things


~ * ~

My tagline, or motto, or whatever you want to call it is, “a little humor, a little romance, A Little Murder!” Someone once asked me what they’d find in my books and that was my reply. It made them laugh and become my motto. It’s worked well for me.

Okay, there’s nothing funny about murder, but you can find humor and maybe a little romance surrounding the characters in the story. In my books I concentrate more on the mystery and the characters more than the physical crime.

Sometimes when we’re trying to figure out what to do to be unique we forget things like a motto. 

The Bogey Man book covers all have one thing in common; branding. A friend of mine, Andy Kohut, created a silhouette of the Bogey Man for me and it appears on each and every cover, effectively branding them for me.

I came up with something for Old Murders Never Die, too. The book is about being stranded in a ghost town. I had some cloth shopping bags made up, and they have a picture of the book cover and a tagline on them. The tagline? “What Happens in Ghost Towns, Stays in Ghost Towns.” This is reminiscent of Las Vegas, but it sure serves my purpose.

I create all of my own book covers. Once in a while I want a person on the cover, but I still want the reader to use their imagination when visualizing characters so I use silhouettes. Let the reader see the character the way they want to, not the way I want them to see people. I’ve used photos of animals when I include one or more of the characters’ pets. In my books the pets are dogs, and who needs a silhouette of a dog? The real deal works quite well.

Another aspect of the covers is that I make sure to depict something from the story. I’ve bought books with covers that have absolutely nothing to do with the story and it didn’t set well with me – a personal problem for me. I want to look at the cover and have at least some idea of what I’m in for if I read the story.

Honestly, I’m not all that artistic, but I know what I like and what I hope readers will like. (No, I’m not fishing for compliments. Trust me.)

What about book trailers? That’s something newish and different. I’ve made a few and they were fun to work on. I’m not that much of a techie, but at least I can say I enjoyed what I put together and in the process hope that they’ll be eye-catching. Sometimes the music can make the whole book trailer. Picking the right background music can be tricky.

I would imagine many authors wish they could write a good (or great) book, and then sit back and wait for readers to flock to them. If wishes were dollars we’d all be wealthy. There’s still a lot of work after the author has typed The End.

Figure out what works for you. I do most of my own work and I’ve learned a lot in the process. Trial and error has played a large part in what I do. If something doesn’t work, move on and try something else.

Authors: What are some of the unique things you do with your books? Readers: What have you seen an author do that stuck in your mind and made you remember him/her?

Imaginative minds want to know.

Until next time, pay attention to mottos on products and books, and think about why it makes you want that product or book. Homework? No, just fun.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website (You can find the book trailers on The Books page)
CLICK HERE for a quick trip to

Take a break from the daily drudgery and read “Having a Great Crime – Wish You Were Here.” It might just help you escape the day for a while.

Monday, November 14, 2016

When Should a Series End?

That’s a really good question. I’ve thought and thought about the Bogey Man Mysteries, and I think it’s about time to end the series.


In all honesty, I’m running out of ideas for stories and for the characters. I’m currently working on the last Bogey Man mystery. I just started this one, so it'll be awhile. These are special characters with ties to the 1940s due to the fact that Chris Cross looks very much like Humphrey Bogart, and he tends to emulate the movie star. He walks the walk and talks the talk. In the latest story, How Now Purple Cow, the Crosses retired from amateur sleuthing. They’re coming out of retirement for one last case which, interestingly, involves the Black Butterfly. I’m afraid you’ll have to wait to find out what or who the Black Butterfly is.

While there is a following for this series, I can’t entertain readers if I run out of ideas. At least for the moment, I believe I’m out of Bogey inspiration.

I know from comments that a few people are tired of the forties slang used in the books. I have to admit, I’m not tired of it at all. It’s certainly more fun than some of today’s slang, and less offensive. However, that’s life.

Realistically, there are younger readers who can’t relate to the Bogey Man character. That’s a shame because the “old days” were fun in their own way. On the other hand, there are some older readers who love this series because they can relate to the stories and the time periods involved.

 The Sandi Webster series is another matter. Readers keep asking for more. I’ll oblige because so far the ideas related to Sandi and Pete (her husband and partner) keep coming. They’ve handled some old-time cases, but they have a different take on things than the Crosses.

Both series sometimes involve working on cold cases, but that’s not always the issue. They become involved in current cases, too.

I can honestly say there are a few (very few) series that I got tired of reading. Sometimes an author can’t quite come up with a new and unique idea. The stories start sounding too much alike – repetitious. I don’t want that to happen with either of my series.

Of course, there’s always room for standalone books. I’ve done two of those and truly enjoyed doing something different for a change.

Overall, these are simply some random thoughts about continuing or discontinuing a series. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll come up with an idea for a third series. Stranger things have happened.

In the meantime, there are series I read that I never get tired of because the authors manage to come up with something new and out of the box time after time.

I’ll miss the Bogey Man, his wife Pamela and their son, Mikey (aka Ace), but it is what it is – time to move on.

Thank you all for stopping in today and letting me share my thoughts.

Now I’ve got to get back to the Black Butterfly.

Until next time, have a great week and read an installment from your favorite series.

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

I mentioned two standalone books, so here they are:       

Monday, November 7, 2016

Opinions are Like... Well, We've All Got One - Part II

On Veteran's Day, and all year through, I'd like to say thank you to all who've served the United States of America in order that we might maintain our freedoms. Thank you!

~ * ~

A couple of years ago I wrote a post about opinions and political correctness. I guess you’d call that Part I since I’m bringing it up again.

There’s a huge difference between being polite and thoughtful and being politically correct. It seems to me that political correctness has crossed a line. I read an article in yesterday’s newspaper about a Secretary at a corrections facility who sent a memo to staff saying “Those serving time in prison will no longer be referred to as prisoners, offenders or convicts. Instead, they will be called students if they are in some type of class and patients if they are in the prison infirmary.” A spokesman said “…if no other moniker applies, they will be identified as incarcerated persons.”

I’m sorry (she said facetiously), but I intend to call a prisoner a prisoner, a convict a convict and a criminal a criminal. Chances are they were convicted of a crime or they probably wouldn’t be in prison.

Some of the stories I’ve heard on the news about new college rules make me glad I’m not going to college today. I won’t repeat some of those rules because they’re simply ridiculous.

Frankly, I’m tired of feeling like I have to watch every word I say in public. One of the reasons I enjoy being a fiction writer is that I, or my characters, can say what they want. Mystery writers tend to include crimes in their books. Are we supposed to pussy foot around what happened to create the mystery? Are we supposed to be politically correct with our words? If we aren’t, are the Word Police going to show up at our doors?

The way I look at it, books are like television in that if the story is upsetting the reader, they can get rid of the book just like they can change a channel.

I wrote the original post because I read that a number of colleges had students requesting “trigger warnings” on books. That means if there’s a controversial crime, or even a non-controversial crime in the story then there should be a warning on the cover. Someone could read the book and be upset over what it says. It could bring back bad memories. If that’s the case, don’t read the book.

If a book contains specific and graphic violence or graphic sex, maybe it could be in the blurb on the back of the book. Reader beware. Read the blurbs on the back cover.

When did common sense fly out the window? Many of the things written in books would never be tolerated in today’s real life situations, even if they’re innocently said. Have people become that thin-skinned?

I recalled reading about a kindergarten boy kissing a kindergarten girl on the cheek and it was considered sexual harassment. When I was a kid that simply would have caused giggling among the children. So the little boy has to pay a price for kissing a little girl on the cheek? Give me a break.

How hard is it to change a channel or set a book aside if you find it offensive? How hard is it to acknowledge that children will be children?

If you disagree with me, that’s your right – just as it’s my right to speak up. Enough is enough, and I certainly hope this political correctness, at the lengths it’s reached, is dealt with soon. Yes, be polite when it’s called for and, yes, be thoughtful when possible. However, don’t try to dictate to everyone else how they should act or speak.

Okay, this deserves some discussion. Do you feel things have gone too far? Do you feel things are out of balance? Does it affect your writing? Do you ever change something you’ve written because someone might not accept it (in terms of political correctness)? Or do you write what you feel is right?

Until next week, try not to judge me too harshly. I do frequently use my common sense, although maybe today I should have kept my trap shut. It just felt like it had to be said.

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

Having a Great Crime – Wish You Were Here (A Sandi Webster Mystery) is just waiting for some new readers. Give it a try.