Monday, May 20, 2019


From time to time we talk about life getting in the way of work, and that’s what’s been going on over the past couple of weeks. I caught the “Ick,” whatever that is, but things are getting back to normal. Sorry to have deserted you.

This week I’m here to talk about choices in books. We have hardcover books in both regular typeface and in large print. The same goes for some trade paperbacks and we have regular paperbacks. Of course, we have ebooks which seem to be pretty popular right now. I wonder what will come next. And, we also have audio books, which is my subject this week.

 A Well-Kept Family Secret and Bubba’s Ghost (both Sandi Webster Mysteries) are available in audio format now, and have been for a while. Coming up? Prudy’s Back!, another Sandi Webster Mystery. By the way, the reason there’s an exclamation point in the title is to indicate that it’s not about Prudy’s backside. It’s about her return. She was a private investigator back in the forties and fifties, and she wants Sandi to help her solve the unsolved case that meant the most to her. She just can’t let go of it.

After a narrator (in this case Viv Williams) puts the book in audio format, the author must proof the product. That means listening to the narration while reading along in the book. It’s time-consuming, but kind of a treat. Prudy’s Back! was released in 2009. After its release I moved on to other projects and didn’t give it much thought. Now that I’ve proofed the story, I remember how unique and how much fun it was to write. Sometimes looking back can be a good thing.

Prudy was based on a woman I met through someone my daughter worked with back in the day. Well, she was based on her in that she was a P.I. a long time ago. Her daughter remembered her wearing a long fur coat, cowgirl boots and smoking a long, black cigarette. When I spoke to the woman she laughed because other than the boots, her daughter’s memory was quite faulty. I liked the memory and presented Prudy as the daughter remembered her mother.

However, why would someone choose an audio book when so many other formats are available? Why would someone want to listen to Prudy? Many people like to listen to a story while they’re on a road trip and they certainly don’t want a story that will put them to sleep while driving. My mother-in-law had vision problems and she loved books. Audio stories made her day. I can think of several reasons to enjoy an audio book, like if you’re working out you can listen, but those of you who enjoy them already know why they’re your choice.

My husband and I used to listen to audio books while we traveled, and I have to make a confession. When the narrator was male, and he read female dialogue, it made me snicker. It was simply difficult to take a male voice trying to sound like a female too seriously. The reverse is true for female narrators. It’s a quirk of mine, and I can’t help it. However, I thought Viv Williams did a pretty good job of it with Prudy and the other characters, including the men.

So, if you’re looking for choices, you’ve got plenty in today’s market. I still prefer a paper book, but I find myself reading more ebooks simply because of the convenience (and the cost).

Prudy’s Back! should be released over the next two weeks. I’ll let you know when it’s available.

In the meantime, I’ve been lax about promoting my books and it’s time for that to change. I just need to come up with a new and unique idea. Yeah, like that’s gonna happen. I’m not sure there are any new ideas. Oh, well… Time will tell.

Until next time, give audio books a try. They make great gifts, too. Remember my mother-in-law. She might have had vision problems, but her hearing was fine.

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

Remember, People Lookin’ Half Dead – A Bogey Man Mystery is waiting for you. Think massive heat and homeless people disappearing.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Dialogue Style

When you write dialogue, are you mimicking anyone? Like yourself? The curious want to know. Someone asked me about this today.

 I honestly don’t think my characters’ dialogue is the way I talk. I generally try to think of the character’s personality and fit the dialogue to that. Do I know anyone with that type of personality that I can borrow from? Sometimes, but not always. There are times I have to think about the average reaction.

There are times that the protagonist in my books might use a word that I use, and that’s to be expected. We generally create dialogue that’s familiar to us; that we use or someone we spend time around uses. Do you spend time around teenagers? Their dialogue might be quite entertaining.

Hmm. That’s not always the case. For instance, a bad guy probably isn’t going to say, “shucky darn” when he’s caught. Well, I wouldn’t either. It’s up to the individual author to decide whether he might cuss, yell, moan or whatever. On the other hand, I suppose someone might say “shucky darn,” but I don’t know that person.

I have some senior characters in my books and I’ve spent a lot of my life around seniors. Well, I am one now (I like to say barely), but I’m talking about people in their eighties and nineties. They can be quite colorful sometimes. My grandmother used to say, “I can pretty much say whatever I want now and get away with it. People just attribute it to my age.” She was ninety at the time. I have that same attitude about what I eat, not what I say. Think chocolate. Give me time and I’ll probably come around to her way of thinking.

Keep the dialogue real.

“I am going to the store to buy several items. Would you care to accompany me?”
“I’m going to the store to pick up some stuff. Wanna come along?”

Which one sounds right? Either one. It simply depends on your character’s personality.

What about a character who stutters? Let them stutter, but don’t overdo it. The grandmother I just mentioned stuttered. We were very comfortable together and sometimes I’d finish her sentence for her. If it turned out she was going in a different direction than I anticipated, she’d just laugh and start over.

What about a mean or demented character? Can you create dialogue for that type of personality? Sometimes it takes research. I know someone who lives in an apartment building with some very mean-spirited women. She wouldn’t need to research meanness. It’s right there in front of her.

Maybe that’s what it all comes down to. Study the people around you, no matter where you are. Some of the things you might hear in the grocery store are mind boggling. Yesterday I was at the store and I heard a mother and her adult son in the next aisle. I couldn’t see them, but the son just about broke my heart. He was mentally challenged and he was sobbing, crying his little heart out, asking her not to leave him. She was reassuring him that she wasn’t leaving him behind and he should walk with her. She was patient, kind and gentle with him. That was the gist of it, and it was eye-opening. You don’t hear an adult male react to something like a small child every day. How did I know he was mentally challenged? You could hear it in the dialogue and tone of voice. I never saw them, and the male could have been a teenager, but he definitely had an adult voice.

Remember the things you hear. Write notes to yourself if you need to. Sometimes you don’t have to take notes because some dialogue will stick in your mind forever.

Anyway, keep your dialogue in line with your character’s personality, age and gender. And, again, keep it real.

Until next time, don’t purposely be nosy, but sometimes you can’t help overhearing conversations, especially when someone is on their cell phone. They tend to talk louder for some reason. Children often speak loudly, too, and I’ve heard a few give away secrets just because of the volume.

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

Are you looking for something new to read? Try People Lookin’ Half Dead – A Bogey Man Mystery. Think major heat wave and people disappearing, and you’ve got an interesting and entertaining story.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Change of Pace

I’ve written several posts about finding the inspiration for a story and I think it’s time to move on. I believe it’s time to discuss reading, one of my favorite pastimes. There’s no one quite like an avid reader. We live in our own little worlds. Notice, I said we. I love sitting down with a good book, a glass of iced tea and something chocolate. So read on from a reader’s point of view.
I talk about writing a lot on this blog, but realistically there’s another side to books. Surprise, surprise, they’re meant to be read. I can talk about writing until I’m blue in the face, but it doesn’t matter how much I talk if no one reads the books. Readers are the most important part of the book world.

Long, long ago, I was in a rut. I had a set of authors whose writing I enjoyed, and I’d read their books and then wait for the next one to come out. If no one was feeling particularly prolific, or if they were working on something that was time-consuming, I’d become frustrated. Believe it or not, I feel that way sometimes; patience is not one of my virtues. And then it struck me that I didn’t have to stick to my list. Who knew? There are a large number of new and fairly new authors out there, and there are authors who’ve been at it for a long time but haven’t received the break they need yet.

So I started branching out. Anyone who’s been reading my posts knows that my favorite types of books are 1) mysteries, and 2) mysteries with some humor. Consider that we’re talking about murder mysteries. In most cases the entire book can’t amuse you because of the subject matter, although some writers do a pretty good job, but I like one with at least a little humor in it. Why? There’s enough drama in real life without adding more. Easy for me to say. I read plenty of books with no humor, it’s just that I prefer something that can make me chuckle.

I’ve read several authors who are new, or new to me. My whole reading world opened up. I could list several authors here, but I won’t. I did that once and had someone write to me saying they were insulted that I hadn’t included their book and they thought I was playing favorites. I say “they” because I don’t want to name names. Of course, that was a long time ago. I glanced at the list I’d made of new authors and most of them aren’t new anymore.

What the heck? In the future I might share the names of some new authors and their work. Why not? Not all of them write with humor, but they still keep me interested and entertained.

My point is, broaden your horizons. Take a chance. Try some new (to you) authors. I always say that word-of-mouth is the best advertising, so if someone mentions reading a book they just loved, ask who the author is. If you read a book you just love, be sure to spread the word. And don’t always judge a book by its cover, because sometimes they don’t represent what’s inside. Is the title intriguing? Check out the description on the back of the book before you decide to buy or not to buy. Open the book and read the first few pages.

To add a little confusion into the mix, don’t forget your tried and true favorite authors. Just don’t sit impatiently and wait for their next book.

Now, here’s my dirty little secret. My reading time has been cut way back. I won’t go into why, but I miss my favorite pastime. One day soon I’m going to sit down with the iced tea and chocolate, and read all day long.

Until next time, I wish you a week of new (to you) authors and enjoyable reading. Do a search on the Internet for “new mystery writers.”

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

Don’t forget that A Well-Kept Family Secret and Bubba’s Ghost (both Sandi Webster mysteries) are available in audio format.

And the newest addition to the family? People Lookin’ Half Dead – A Sandi Webster Mystery.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Is a Sign Just a Sign? Or is it an Idea?

A friend once sent me an email that grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. It was a sign, sort of, and it said, “Awkward Moment: When you’re digging a hole to bury a body – and you find another body already buried there.” As a mystery writer, how could I let that pass? A germ of an idea took hold and Awkward Moments – A Bogey Man Mystery came to be.

The same friend send me another email that said, “Next time a stranger talks to me when I’m alone I will look at them shocked, and just whisper, ‘You can see me?’” Good grief! I have to admit there are times I feel like following that example, but I don’t.  When I’m sitting alone and I’m quiet, I’m usually thinking about a storyline.

I can’t use every email for a story idea, but after my smile disappears, my brain kicks into gear and ideas start forming. Sometimes ideas for stories come from the most unusual places. If you’re a mystery writer, even a greeting card can start the ideas flowing. A comment made in passing by a friend, or overheard at a coffee house can inspire an entire book. It doesn’t take much more than a fertile imagination. Well, that and a lot of research and grinding hours at the computer.

One of the things I used to enjoy about the television show, Castle, was that something would happen and he’d start spinning stories to fit the event, guessing about what might have happened. Once in a while he was right, but often he was way off base. This is something many writers do. Given a set of circumstances and without having the entire story, they’ll find a scenario to fit the the information they do have.

I have a character in one of my two series who’s addicted to chocolate. At some point she’ll want to be involved in a chocolate mystery. When she was trapped in a ghost town she ran out of chocolate and almost had a meltdown. I can relate to that. Hmm. This might involve a trip to a chocolate factory. I wouldn’t want to get my facts wrong, would I? I mean, research is research. This, happily, could be very interesting research involving some taste-testing.

At the moment I’m mulling over Sandi Webster receiving a text message she didn’t want. A text message that I didn’t want set off alarms – story-wise that is. I’ve begun to write notes to myself so I won’t forget where I’m heading with the idea.

Someone worried that by writing this post another writer might steal my idea. Let them. There are so many possible scenarios that there’s room for all of us. Someone might write a dramatic and suspenseful story, and someone like me might write something with both drama and a little humor. Another author could even turn it into a horror story.

The life of a writer is so much more than I ever thought it would be. It can be a very solitary existence, but there are moments when we come together and share ideas, and… Well, maybe we don’t share ideas, but we do share experiences and stories. Mystery writers are, in general, very generous with their time and support of each other, and I do believe we frequently march to a different drummer. Yes, we even occasionally use clich├ęs like marching to a different drummer. If you prefer, you might say that occasionally we sing a little off key? I do, anyway.

Authors have a lot of fun, aside from the hard work. Aren’t you glad they share their fun through their books? We do our very best to entertain readers and each other.

Until next time, think before you start digging a hole in the ground. You never know what you might dig up. Although, I have heard of people digging up unexpected treasures. Hmmm.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
    Just a reminder: On The Books Page, toward the bottom, are some entertaining book      trailers.
CLICK HERE for a quick trip to

Think extreme heat and homeless people disappearing, and you’ll have the basis for the story.