Monday, October 29, 2018

Patricia Gligor, Guest Author

This week my guest is Patricia Gligor, my friend and author of the Malone Mysteries, a series I really enjoy. Have you ever thought about walking in someone else's shoes? This post will let you do that. Welcome, Pat!

Imagine  This 

One of my favorite movies is the 1996 “A Time to Kill,” starring Matthew McConaughey and Sandra Bullock. 

In the movie, Jake Brigance, a young white lawyer, defends a black man accused of murdering two white men who brutally sexually assaulted his ten year old daughter. During the trial, it isn’t a question of whether or not Hailey committed the crime; several people saw him do it. What Jake hopes to do is to convince the jury that the case never would’ve made it to trial – if Hailey was white. A daunting task in the racist culture in Canton, Mississippi at that time. 

As the trial progresses, Jake tries everything he can think of to convince the jury to find Hailey not guilty but it isn’t looking like that will happen. Until the summation when Jake prevails upon the jurors to close their eyes and “Imagine this.”

Obviously, I can’t ask you to close your eyes so I’ll simply ask you to “Imagine this.”
You’re a thirty-two year old stay-at-home mom. You live on a quiet, tree-lined street on the first floor of a beautiful, old Victorian in a peaceful, family-oriented neighborhood with your husband and two adorable young children – a boy and a girl. You love the house and, most of all, you love your family. You’re living an idyllic life, right?


Your husband, an alcoholic, is drinking heavily and his behavior toward you is erratic. One minute, he’s the kind, loving man you married and, the next minute, he’s cold and cruel to you. You want to “fix” your relationship but you don’t know how. Your little boy is diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) but your husband refuses to believe it, which causes even more arguments in an already tense household. Your mother-in-law constantly pokes her nose in your business, always siding with her son, blaming you for everything and bringing more discord into your marriage.

To top it off, it’s the week of Halloween and there’s a serial killer murdering women in their homes in your neighborhood. Some of your neighbors have decorated their yards for the holiday but you hardly notice as you find yourself looking over your shoulder wherever you go. You’re nervous going out in broad daylight. But how do you feel about going out at night? Do you double and triple check the locks on your windows and doors before going to bed? Does every little noise startle you?

What you just imagined is a brief glimpse into Ann Malone Kern’s life. If you’d like to read more, you can order “Mixed Messages,” the first book in my holiday-themed Malone mystery series, in eBook format at


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Monday, October 22, 2018

What Is It?

I really need to update my photo. One of these days.

I’ve been reading the blogs written by others for quite some time now. Every once in a while someone writes a post about blogging. How many times a month should you blog? How do you find subjects to write about? Should they be personal or impersonal? What, exactly, is a blog?

I found this in the Business Dictionary: “A website, similar to an online journal, that includes chronological entries made by individuals…. Blogs typically focus on a specific subject… and provide users with forums (or a comment area) to talk about each posting. Many people use blogs as they would a personal journal or diary.”

A diary? I never looked at it that way, and I’ve been blogging since 2010. Personally, I think it’s all in your intent. I definitely don’t consider my blogs to be a journal, but more like articles. For me, and this is just me, a blog should entertain or inform the reader. I believe it’s a place where authors can showcase their writing styles and let the reader know a little about themselves in the process. Unfortunately, if you’ve read all of my blogs, you probably know more about me than you ever wanted to know. (I actually called myself eccentric in one of my blogs.)

Going back to take a quick peek at blogs I’ve written in the past, I see that I’ve written about everything from dark and stormy nights to marketing and promoting to writing humor, and everything in between. I’ve written about authors who’ve entertained me with their books, and I’ve been entertained by guest authors who promote themselves and let you learn a little about themselves. I’ve done some blatant self-promotion, but after all, I’m trying to encourage people to read my books.

I’ve written about some of the How To’s of writing, and used silly examples to make a point, making at least a few people laugh in the process. I’ve discussed holidays, put up banners supporting our troops from time to time, and usually tried to keep it light.

So why am I blogging about blogging when I could be writing about so many other subjects? I have no idea. Maybe reading other blogs about this topic made the thought attach itself to my little pea brain.

Blogging should help an author get their name “out there.” I sometimes wonder if it works. If you went to a social event and someone introduced you to a little blonde lady named Marja McGraw, would the name sound familiar to you? Would it make you think of books? Or would you say, “Nice to meet you,” and leave to hit the snack table? I’d probably be waving my hand after you, yelling, “Hey, I’m really a nice person and I’d love to talk books. I write them, you know. Yoo hoo.” If only my mother had named me Mary Higgins Clark or Rhys Bowen or Janet Evanovich. (I’m sighing, by the way.)

After all is said and done, I blog once a week. I figure that’s all I should subject anyone to because… I’m not being honest. I’m afraid that if I blog more than once a week I’ll run out of subjects or I’ll start repeating myself. Actually, I’ve already started repeating myself. Some of my posts are updated and reposted.

My daughter tells me that will never happen. You see, I make her read each blog before I post it. She thinks her mother is prolific. I appreciate my daughter because she’s honest. She’ll either tell me it works, or she’ll tell me it stinks. After that, it’s all up to you, the readers, to decide if it’s worth coming back again for another visit. (Thankfully, if I repost an old blog, she doesn’t remember it and I hope you don’t either.)

So far, so good, and thank you so much for dropping by every week. You really have no idea how much I appreciate each of you.

Until next time, I hope you have a great week. You can probably find a blog about any subject you’re interested in, so have fun reading some posts.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
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I mentioned self-promotion, so let me give you an example.

One Adventure Too Many –A Sandi Webster Mystery, is funny, mysterious and a charmer.

Taking a vacation can lead to an unexpected case for private eye Sandi Webster-Goldberg. Taking a vacation with your menopausal mother, an eccentric aunt, a pregnant friend and her husband, and a flustered husband can lead to total chaos.

Pete Goldberg and Stanley Hawks take a leisurely walk in the country, only to discover an abandoned house. When Sandi, her mother, Livvie, and her Aunt Martha decide to explore, they discover that the house isn’t quite as abandoned as previously thought.

A young woman and her baby are hiding out from unknown danger. She needs help, and the three women are more than happy to oblige her.

Monday, October 15, 2018

An Extra Degree of Difficulty

I read a lot, mostly mysteries, and so often the protagonist goes through plenty before solving the case. He or she may be threatened, beaten, run off the road, locked in a dark room, or any number of things. What happens when the protagonist has something else working against them besides a bad guy?

How many books have you read or movies you’ve seen where the sweet young thing is being chases through the woods, trips and falls, and sprains an ankle. It’s been done over and over. However, I have a feeling if someone was chasing me I might not see the tree root sticking out of the ground, or the hole some critter dug, and I’d probably trip, too.

Now let’s take this to a different level and add the extra degree of difficulty. What if the character has a sprained or broken ankle before the chase? He or she is going to have to be pretty creative or there won’t be a chase. What this means is the author is going to have to be pretty creative.

Let’s say the character is sitting out on the patio, babying a bad case of allergies. She’s sneezing, sniffling and blowing her nose. Her ears have stuffed up from all the sniffling.

Now the bad guy is sneaking around the side of the house, weapon in hand. I’m going to say the protagonist lives in the desert and has a yard full of gravel rather than grass. (Grass doesn’t do well in the desert heat.) No matter how hard the antagonist tries to be quiet, the gravel crunches under his feet. He stops and listens, but all he hears is a sneeze. Onward bad guy.

Meanwhile, between the sneezing, blowing and stuffed ears, our innocent allergy sufferer doesn’t hear his arrival. Oh, and let’s say she doesn’t have any pets who might warn her of the impending danger. What’s a girl gonna do?

The bad guy leaps around the corner of the house and comes after our girl. Here are a few things she could do. She could throw her box of tissues at him, but that probably wouldn’t do much good. She could wait until he’s close enough and start squeezing her nasal spray toward his eyes, repeatedly. Or, since this is a mystery and she may have had some idea that something might happen, she could reach for her own weapon which is lying conveniently in her lap or on the patio table next to her. The bad guy has a knife and she has a gun. Never bring a knife to a gunfight. Well, she could have a container of mace or something similar. I’m partial to a can of bear spray. It’s supposed to spray for something like thirty feet.

Changing the scenario just slightly, our female is still blowing her nose and sniffling, but this time she has a dog who’s sitting next to her on the patio. Through her teary eyes she sees the dog stand and stiffen. The hair on his back stands up, and although she can’t really hear him, she can tell by his face that he’s emitting a low growl. The bared teeth are a dead giveaway. When the bad guy steps round the corner of the house, he finds a woman with a gun or bear spray pointed at him and she has a phone in her hand. She’s just called 9-1-1.

I realize these examples are silly, but sometimes making the protagonist more vulnerable makes the story a bit more exciting. What if, as I mentioned before, he or she had a broken leg before the confrontation? Remember the Hitchcock movie, Rear Window? If you’ve never seen it, you might want to check it out. Very creative self-defense. However, unless your protagonist is accident prone, I wouldn’t overdo it. One broken leg per series would be plenty.

Would you like to know what brought on this particular post? My daughter sprained her ankle yesterday when her thick-soled flip flops twisted and she fell off of them. Once again, real life sparks ideas.

Until next time, I hope you have a healthy week with no falls, no allergies and no bad guys.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
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Here’s hoping you’ll take the time to give One Adventure Too Many – A Sandi Webster Mystery a try. The biggest accident in this story is a visit from Sandi’s busybody mother and aunt who want to help solve a murder.

Monday, October 8, 2018

The End

In vintage movies, when the story was over you’d see The End on the Screen. You knew without a doubt that the movie was over. It was time to leave the theater. How is it done in books?

I’ve read many articles that tell writers they need to start their story with a hook. You need to grab the reader right away. That’s true. When I wrote Awkward Moments – A Bogey Man Mystery, I started the story with the panicky voice of an eight-year-old boy calling to his mother while digging a hole to bury a dead bird he’d found.

            “Mother? I think you’d better come see this.”

As a mother, I’d go running based on his tone. Most mothers would. Why would a child be upset about digging a hole in the ground? They love doing that kind of stuff. The use of Mother, instead of Mom, was always a dead giveaway for me, too.

But what happens after the reader is hooked? You’ve written a good story and kept the reader entertained, but what about the ending? I’ve read books that leave you hanging so you’ll buy the next book. Sorry, but in most cases I don’t care for that type of ending. It’s fine to leave an opening for another book, but when I read I want a conclusion – a very definite conclusion. Wrap up the story. Make sure all the loose ends are neatly tied up. Let your characters take a deep breath and ready themselves for another day and another dilemma.

Believe it or not, Awkward Moments ended with a short line; “We left quietly.” Sometimes less is better.

Let your reader feel fulfilled when they put down your book. If they enjoyed the story, they’ll look for another book you’ve written. Let the ending be as good as the hook you opened the story with, and you’ll be glad you did.

Which of these two endings would you prefer?

“Okay, we solved the case. Now what? Wanna go to dinner?”


            Too bad the authorities didn’t know about Wolf Creek. Annie and the others might have lived to a ripe old age. But what happens in ghost towns, stays in ghost towns. (From Old Murders Never Die – A Sandi Webster Mystery)

Here are a few endings I enjoyed:

The Dark Wind by Tony Hillerman: “I won’t tell,” Horseman said. His voice was loud, rising almost to a scream. And then he turned and ran, ran frantically down the dry wash which drained away from the prairie-dog colony. And behind him he heard the Wolf laughing.

The Snow Queen’s Collie by Dorothy Bodoin: The Snow Queen’s collie. Rejected by her breeder, sold for a pittance, rescued from an unthinkable fate. Her story was just beginning.

The Ghost and the Dead Deb by Alice Kimberly: I’ll see you in your dreams, baby, he whispered. Then I felt the cool kiss of his presence temporarily recede, back into the fieldstone walls that had become his tomb.

This post isn’t something earthshaking. It’s just a reminder about closing lines. Make them as interesting as opening lines. I believe the ending can be every bit as important as the beginning, even though the mystery has already been solved.

Any comments? Yes? No? Indifferent?

Until next week, think about some of the books that had memorable ending lines you loved.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
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Need a good laugh? Try One Adventure Too Many – A Sandi Webster Mystery and see if you like the last few lines.

Coming one of these days (only ten chapters done so far): People Lookin’ Half Dead – A Bogey Man Mystery.