Saylor's Goodreads Bookshelf

Saylor's books

Animal Farm
Where the Sidewalk Ends
The Great Gatsby
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Catcher in the Rye
Of Mice and Men
The Alchemist
Me Talk Pretty One Day
Lord of the Flies
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Little Women
A Tale of Two Cities
The Count of Monte Cristo
Les Misérables
Moby-Dick or, The Whale
The Joy Luck Club
The Memory Keeper's Daughter

Saylor's favorite books »


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Monday, December 12, 2011

Crazy Questions


“Excuse me, my name is Saylor Billings and I write a mystery series called The O Line Mysteries. I’m working out a plot just now and I just have a couple quick questions if you have a moment.”
“Is there a way I could murder someone with your organic beans?”
“Well sure, I’ve actually thought about that a lot…”

Coming up with original and inventive ways to create mayhem on the page is really a part time job. Imagined conversations, motives, underlying meanings all make for a rich interior life and if you can get it on the page all the better. There are also plenty of writer’s murder manuals out there as well. But there is always a point when you, as a writer, are standing in a store – be it a hardware shop, florist, or whatever – and it dawns on you that maybe your protagonists can defend themselves with duct tape.
I would love to write a series called the Duct Tape Mysteries. It would be about the protagonists in a bad situation and each time all they have is a roll of duct tape to save the day. But that’s not my point…
My point is you’ll have to have the conversation with someone (probably someone who, up until that moment, is a complete stranger). And you need to do it without sounding like a complete lunatic or an actual criminal. As writers we aren’t exactly the most gregarious group of social butterflies but there are a few guidelines to help guide you through until it becomes second nature.
Here’s what I do: first of all, I don’t worry about what people think of me or my crazy questions. But with that in mind I am respectful of other people’s time. Don’t bug someone if they’re in the middle of something. If someone looks busy I just introduce myself and ask if I may come back later to ask them a couple of questions about their work or product or whatever. If you are in a hurry don’t put that burden on someone else.
Secondly, don’t argue with them. I only say this because I’ve seen another writer do it. They actual called a travel agent, introduced themselves, asked their plot question and then proceeded to argue about the answer. (Ooof, some people have no shame.) But my original second point was: Secondly, try asking open-ended questions. Such as I was going to have a character work in a dog food factory and I’m wondering what type of background you look for in your employees who make up the ingredients? Is it biology or chemistry or animal sciences?
Third, thank them for spending time with you and sharing their knowledge. Whether or not they’ve been helpful. Whether or not they’ve answered your questions. If they’ve gone out of their way or inadvertently saved your bacon in some way - always thank them in the book.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The O Line Mysteries Blog: There are a lot of things happening below the surf...

The O Line Mysteries Blog: There are a lot of things happening below the surf...: There are a lot of things happening below the surface in The O Line Mystery book series. I spend a lot of time thinking up new and fictitiou...
There are a lot of things happening below the surface in The O Line Mystery book series. I spend a lot of time thinking up new and fictitious consumer level "tracking devices". How would your everyday Jo(sephine) Schmo get caught up in an international satellite spying ring using her shopping club card? These everyday accidental occurrences are definitely a running theme through out in the character’s lives and the plot lines. There isn’t one incident where I got this theme, it was a conglomeration of daily incidents that always seemed to surface. Not exactly irony, per se but kind of like how body language speaks louder than words. Also my partner and I often joke around with the phrase “just because your paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not after you”. (Which sometimes turns into ‘just because you’re angry doesn’t mean you’re not mad” and ‘just because you’re lost doesn’t mean you’re a loser” – you get the picture.) Marry those two ideas with the idea of how grocery stores hand out those customer club cards that really could track your purchases and you start to get the running theme.
BUT then I read something like this and my heart goes out to this guy. Ya know, just because he’s paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. This poor fella is screaming it from the You tube mountaintop, “HELLO I’m living in an Orwellian Nightmare! They ARE tracking us!! HELLO! This is bad! hello?”
Enter the man in a white lab coat. “On a scale of one to ten, one being not at all and ten being the worst, how would you describe your stress level at this news, Mr. Eckhart?”
“Well, I mean it can’t be good tracking our every movement. So 10 I suppose. Because I can’t shut it off – it’s embedded in the software!”
“So, do you often imagine somebody embedding a chip in you, Mr. Eckhart?”
“No, but this is just another step in the erosion of freedom of choice, don’t you see?”
“Tsk, tsk. Now Mr. Eckhart what would you say if I had something in my pocket that would make all these icky feelings go away?”
“It’s just a pill. A serene blue pill filled with re-uptake inhibitor’s. I call it Soma.”
And the next scene is Trevor Eckhart sitting in a box car with his one armed friend eating cocktail wieners from a can….
Sorry, that was so off topic. My point is what is the right answer here? So we now have these smart phones, which allows us knowledge at our fingertips. Knowledge = Power. (Just as an example I offer Egypt, but it could be shopping for the best price.) Right, so we have this vast knowledge base and it turns out someone is watching you. It’s true the ramifications of the act of tracking could be horrible OR it could just be the market trying to find trends. It is an interesting discovery Eckhart has brought to light and one we won’t know the ramifications of until it’s too late! mmmmwahahaHAHA! Enter the plot point...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Judy Blume, is THE VALIDATOR.

In a world where young readers plundered about with nothing to read but Peanuts cartoons or Little House on the Prairie books. There was one woman who picked up a pen and wrote about truth. Wielding that pen in the most fictitious ways, she cut down the shrouds of secrecy shining the light of validation on millions of young readers. Until the censors came. (Duh duh dunnnnnnn)
“You must not write truth!” They said.
“F*ck you!” She said.
No, okay. She would never say that because she’s Judy Blume and she’s way too crafty to use such base verbiage. But who among us didn’t metaphorically crap ourselves when we read “Are you there God, it’s me Margaret” or “Blubber”? Whoa, knowledge. Didn’t you feel just a little bit dangerous and worldly reading them?
I am of the second generation of Judy Blume. Her books were just a few years too old for me when they first came out, but just like every other hand me down, I grew into them. And I can honestly say I have never read anything since that made me feel as validated as Judy Blume. See kids, there was a time when we young readers didn’t really have much to read that had the least bit to do with our reality.
And time marches on, SO the other day I’m in the car taking some books back to the library and NPR is on (Talk of the Nation) and Judy Blume was being interviewed. I sat in the car listening, again feeling that ‘just a little bit dangerous’ feeling. It was like muscle memory or how a scent will send you back to a specific time in your life. It’s a really good interview, especially for writers. Because she does what she does, validates. Writing can be a lonely trade and I was so glad to have heard this interview. You can also check out her website Judy Where she makes with more of the validation and other helpful knowledge.
As a side note, I listened to the whole interview even though the “call in” section always makes me cringe. It makes me cringe because anything anyone has to say to someone like Judy Blume seems to always have more to do with themselves than Judy Blume. I guess I would ask her if she ever thought of taking on a story about gay youth or just say, “Thank you.”

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Writer's assistants.

I have two cats with me while I work, four little eyes watching my every move. Sometimes, they take turns. One will go take a nap while the other stands guard. What exactly they are waiting for or watching completely escapes my understanding.

Cat 1: She’s been sitting there for four hours. Tapping her fingers in the same places.
Cat 2: I know, the rhythm is intoxicating then she stops. I think the stopping is very jolting.
Cat 1: Have you noticed her exhibiting any unnatural behaviors?
Cat 2: Other than this? ‘Cause this can’t be natural.
Cat 1: I think she needs an intervention. I’m going in.
Cat 2: Be careful.

The printer starts printing. Both cats jump.

Cat 1: Oh! Here we go! Get back I got this one!
Cat 2: No it’s my turn! I’m taking the top!
Cat 1: Make it stop! Stick your paw in it!

“Boys! Stop or you’re both getting put out.”

Cat 2: I can’t reach it from here! It’s going too fast!
Cat 1: It’s spitting paper at us!

“Bou, get down! That’s it you’re both out.”

The door shuts.

Cat 1: I liked it so much better before she had an office.
Cat 2: I know. Those were the good old days.
Cat 1: Now what?
Cat 2: Just sit by the door I guess, what are you doing?
Cat 1: Sometimes, if I reach under the door far enough, it pops open.
Cat 2: Oh, let me help.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Discipline and Self-Publishing

Have you seen my pen?  I left it right here on this notebook.  I really need it to get started on this editing.  No, I didn’t take it into the bathroom.  It’s the silver pen with the blue ink.  I need that blue ink pen to do the editing with – because it has the blue ink.  No I don’t want the black one it writes like a magic marker and I can’t see what I wrote.  No I can’t use the black ink, the blue is for editing!  It was right here.  Let’s see, I got up and went to use the bathroom.  I went into the kitchen and made some coffee, back through the dining room and looked through the mail, thought of a funny joke and called mom.  Gave the cats a snack and opened the back door so they could go out.  Swept the leaves off the patio and decided to take out the recycling.  I really should learn to do my editing on the computer but the car looked filthy so I washed the car.  As I vacuumed the interior I realized it needed some gas so I went up the station and filled it up – oh that’s where it is I bet, I’ll call and see if I left it there.
            “Hi, I came in a little while ago and filled up the car.  I wonder if I left my silver pen with blue ink there.  Hello?”
            Maybe it’s in the car, no because I cleaned it out.  Oh that's right, the phone had rung and I talked to the Bike Repairman, what was his name?  I always want to call him Jeff.  He looks like a Jeff, nice man.  Really likes bicycles.  Jeff the bike-guy.  I think that’s how they came up with last names at some point in evolution.  He’d be Jeff Bikeman.  Depending on what part of the world his people come from, in Germany he’d be Fahrrad reparatur so he’d be Fahrradreparatur unless they were from Bavaria, cause that’s a whole other language if you ask me.  Very disciplined culture throughout the country the German’s have.  I admire that.  Is it culturally insensitive to say that I wonder?  I don’t think so, I mean you can’t exactly say that all German people have self discipline because it’s not true.  But, in general, I think it’s safe to say one admires a cultural trait.  I also like Spanish dance, like the salsa, tango and that’s not culturally insensitive. 
What was I doing?  Oh yes, I want to write a blog about discipline when you self-publish.  Time is essential and keeping to a schedule now I should really learn to outline these ideas on my keyboard but, now, where is my blog pen.  I need that other outline pen too… the one that writes really smooth…

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My imaginary conversation with the Clever Mr. Konrath

 Me:  Thanks for stopping by, ignore my cats.  I hope you’re not allergic.  I have some drugs to help if you are.
J A:  It’s okay.
Me:  Do you have pets?  I mean, besides 3 children.
J A:  I have dogs.
Me:  Can I call you Konnie?
J A:  No why would - ?
Me:  Because in my second book that’s coming out soon, Disaster Relief Club, I named one of the characters Jules but everyone calls him Julie.  I think that’s cool, kinda like how you named your main character Jacqueline but everyone calls her Jack.
J A:  Have you read my books?
Me:  Yes, I’ve read Whisky Sour and Bloody Mary.  Do you have a drinking problem?
J A:  It’s not a problem.
Me:  That’s what all the drunks say, do you have any confessions you’d like to make?
J A:  I’m worried that I might not get out of here alive.
Me:  I’m worried too -
J A:  Oh -
Me:  Words.  Like the word you coined, E-stribution, in “Be the Monkey”.  I’m afraid it’s like Kountry Cookin’ or Komfort Coach.  You see?  I just don’t want there to be any avenue to a self-publishing ghetto.
J A:  Please be careful with that word.
Me:  What, ghetto?  I will not.  The word itself is not the province of any group there have been Pink-collar, Jewish, African-American, Spanish, Gypsy, all that.
J A:  On your head be it then.
Me:  Oh Konnie, what am I going to do with you.  We’re just two self-publishing geniuses sittin’ around bullshittin’ about the biz.  Ya’ know, I have a confession to make. There aren’t enough hours in the day for me to keep up with my reading so I multi-task.
J A:  What do you mean?
Me:  Well, I can’t always do it, but when I can, I download the audio book and listen to it while I cook, or workout, or drive.  I know, it’s crazy but what do you do otherwise?
J A:  You work out?
Me:  Well sure, I find the routine and discipline is important.
J A:  The word Rubenesque does come to mind.
Me:  Hey, writers are like cooks, don’t trust the skinny ones.
J A:  I’ve never heard that.
Me:  I just made it up.  I’ve put on some weight since I started writing full time and it’s hard to keep up ya’ know?  I mean unless my ass is glued to my chair nothing gets done.  And I need those lemon wafers Konnie.  They’re my writing power jewels.  For every scene I write I get three power jewels, it’s like a video game.  Will you be my wizard?
J A:  No.  I can’t do that.  You see, I belong to the people.  They need me to lead the revolution.  All I can do is what I do so I need to keep doing and putting it out there and hope that it helps others on the same path.
Me:  I get that.  I’ll try to do that too.
J A:  No. No, Fledgling, you just take care of yourself.
Me:  But I want to help.
J A:  You will be. Just. Um, keep a lid on the crazy.  I have to go I have another imaginary meeting to get to.
Me:  Bon chance, Wizard.

How to be a self-publishing Genius

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of blogs on fiction writing, how to write a query letter, how to promote your writing, blah blah blah.  Seriously, blah. Blah. Blah.  I find it all very annoying. 
In an earlier blog I made the analogy that we, self-publishing geniuses, are like a bunch of athletes running blindfolded in an octathalon.  It is a new world for authors.  And like so many early explorers we make mistakes, often very costly mistakes.  E-publishing opened another portal to this new world and that has absolutely leveled the playing field for authors.  Authors who had previously rejected time and time and time again by publishers are now finding themselves darlings of the self-publishing world and able to actually make a living doing what they love, writing.  The idea you must have an agent and a publisher or even that there are now gatekeepers in publishing is no more.
However, with the good comes the bad.  You, self-publishing genius, are now not just an author, you are a small business owner.  And you have products on your shelves you must move.  I find all that very annoying too, so back to my point which is, where do you start with the business and marketing side? 
There is an early explorer to all that annoyance whom I believe we can all learn from.  His name is J A Konrath.  He writes fiction but that’s not the point.  He wrote “The Newbies Guide to Publishing” and this other thing called “Be The Monkey”.  Both pieces I would recommend new self-publishers (S-P’s) to read.  I am not in the business of promoting another person’s promotional work because there are a lot of promotional tools out there to help a fledgling S-P’s like Dear Author, Goodreads, etc. But in his effort to be self-less to help others and document the business side of S-P’ing he has cornered the market in self-promoting. He put himself out there warts and all.  (And if you don’t get that joke it’s because you haven’t read “Be the Monkey”.  Read it now though.)  Clever, clever monkey this Mr. Konrath and I give his efforts two opposable thumbs up.  In all that sludge out there on how to fill in the blank” I think he is your first stop in this octathalon.
But all this gushing over Clever Mr. Konrath is not going to stop me in making fun.  I can’t help it, it’s like a sickness with me.  Of course on my initial read of “Be the Monkey” I missed the bigger premise of the piece, of course.  And my first thought while I read it was, ‘Wow, what a couple of assholes’.  All that bragging and shit – ‘just two fella’s sittin’ around bullshittin’ about the biz’. That is so not how my conversation with J A Konrath would go.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Self-publishing Genius!

     Being a self-publishing genius is NOT like running a marathon.  It’s like running a super octathlon, while wearing a sleep mask.  Once you take the plunge into total responsibility for your work you are not just a writer, you are a marketer, and designer, and editor, and copy-editor, and advertising guru, and time management coach, and whatever the hell else you can pile on top of that ‘–er’ heep.  There are three different parts of your brain at work.  The left, right, and center.  You heard me, the center part.  That’s the part where a little greek chorus lives, it keeps you going against all odds, and tells you everything is going to be okay, especially if you have one more lemon wafer.  I imagine my center part is very large.
     But, I have met people who can do all these things at once.  And they are all freaks.  just kidding.  no, maybe not.  I don’t know maybe they are freaky in some way, like they have a third nipple or something.  Or maybe they are just very good at compartmentalizing, but that’s not the point.  The point is you can’t just write.  You can’t just market.  You can’t “get by” without editing.  No. No, you can’t because you don’t know the proper uses of comma’s without a “comma guidebook”.  
     It’s still a new world in self-publishing.  I don’t believe there is a single person who self-publishes and starts out thinking ‘I’m going to write a book that everyone is going to read, and everyone is going to love it, and I’m going to make millions of dollars, and then they will make a movie out of it’, because we are smarter than that.  well, there are probably a few but let’s face it their elevator doesn’t go to the top floor.  But that’s not the point. The point is in order to finish the octathalon you have to take off the sleep mask and look at the unbelievably daunting task ahead of you.  Now, instead of freaking out as you imagine all the other “blind” people bumping into each other, chart your course.  Step one.  Imagine.

Next time on Billibatt blog:  My imagined conversation with JA Konrath, a true self-publishing genius.  Full disclosure:  I’ve never met Mr. Konrath, but I think he may be a freaky compartmentalizer.  And I mean that in the best possible way, like I don’t think he has a third nipple or anything. who knows maybe he does.  it's hard to completely trust people with that much facial hair, except Santa Clause of course....

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Writer's Remorse

Writers Remorse

I’m defining a new writing stage in my writing process.  You know the general writing process and its stages: you come up with an idea, do the necessary research, you sketch it out, you outline, and maybe do some character sketches.  Then what I do is sequester myself away from the outside world and write a first draft. 
Once I finish that first draft I am elated.  Hello world! I’ve released myself from my think hole (or whatever you nickname your office).  I’ll do some shopping, clean up the house a bit, see some friends, do some reading, get some exercise…and that’s when it hits me.  Writers Remorse.  Every word on every page is utter shit!  It makes no sense.  The motivations are all wrong.  The premise is not even comical. Doom, despair, agony on me. (okay, I stole that last part from Hee Haw. sorry)  But you get my point. 
Like buyers remorse, anxiety after making a purchase (mostly big purchases), my writers remorse causes anxiety driven behaviors too.  And be careful in defining the behavior, it looks a lot like normal weekend behavior - like eating an entire family size bag of candy, or watching television for eight hours straight, or both at the same time.  Power drinking or what some more negative people call “binge” drinking.  And even more extreme behaviors like cleaning out the junk drawer or organizing the closets.  I’ll admit once I even organized all my scarves according to color and length in a fit of writer’s remorse – that was bad but I pulled through.  All the scarves are now haphazardly tossed in the wicker basket.
But how does one know if they are in the throws of writer’s remorse?  If you are looking at your DVD collection and decide it needs to be alphabetized; “cleaning” your desk of used coffee cups, old drafts, and useful scraps of paper or what I call “purging the evidence”; if you decide to re-watch your entire Mary Tyler Moore collection.  These are all typical signs you may be grappling with the remorse.
What is the healthy way to deal with writer’s remorse? I have come up with a plan and as it works for me, it’ll surely work for everyone else.  Watch some movies – no, nothing thought provoking I’m talking the career stunting crap like Ishtar, Showgirls.  Read some poorly written books such as Valley of the Dolls or a Twilight “wanna-be”.  Talk to others about what pieces of crap they are.  Then wash your hands a lot.  Not like after every time you use the bathroom, I mean 7 times each time you are at a sink with Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint soap.  With each scrubbing say to yourself “I am a good person.  Nothing bad will happen to me.”  Why 7 times and not 6 or 8?  I’m glad you asked. Because the number 7 is the number of years a body takes to replenish its cells.  Also because you can eat 7 chocolate chip cookies before you start getting that sick feeling in your tummy.
            Once I come out of the writer’s remorse and shake off those crippling anxiety thoughts, the world does look brighter.  I am able to face another draft, make necessary character changes, re-work some dialogue…do an entire re-write.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The O Line Mysteries Blog: Coming up for air

The O Line Mysteries Blog: Coming up for air: Hello World! I’ve been working on The Disaster Relief Club, Book 2 of the O Line Mysteries, and have finally found a break ...

Coming up for air

Hello World!  I’ve been working on The Disaster Relief Club, Book 2 of the O Line Mysteries, and have finally found a break in the schedule to come out of seclusion.
I do a check on the headlines, “Is Prince Charles related to Vlad the Impaler?"  ooo I don't know, is he? "Kelly Clarkson reveals why people think she’s a lesbian.” Enquiring minds want to know Kelly, please tell us!  Good to see nothings changed in the headlines.  Looks like a kid protesting with the 99 percent in the Oakland Occupy got the beans whacked out of him.  It was just a matter of time for before something most unfortunate happened with the protests.  I really hope that kid comes out the other side sound and healthy.  Oh and look the world shrugs as another torturing dictator meets his end.

Time marches on. 

The lawn needs mowed, there’s mold in the shower, no food in the fridge, bills need paying, washing to be done, wardrobes changed over to from summer to fall and winter, garden needs tending, house needs a good once over.  Flu shots to be injected.  Holy macaroni it’s only two months until Christmas!

On second thought maybe I should rewrite the last two chapters…

Monday, September 19, 2011

The O Line Mysteries Blog: Fiction vs. Reality

The O Line Mysteries Blog: Fiction vs. Reality: Right now I’m writing a mystery series and frankly I’m less concerned with who done it as I am how events throughout the story change the p...

Fiction vs. Reality

Right now I’m writing a mystery series and frankly I’m less concerned with who done it as I am how events throughout the story change the people. It's the whole chain reaction from one event that weaves and escalates into the lives of the characters.  Let me explain.  I feel that too often when I’m reading a cozy  mystery that the actual murder doesn’t really change the characters in the story.  They’re tripping over bodies left and right, yet it doesn’t seem to have the emotional impact that it would in reality.  Now there are many mystery books that do change their lead characters emotional weight and motivations, don’t get me wrong, there are some great works out there.  And that's what I want to get that right in the O Line book series (which is a huge difference from the Podcast 1st season series).  I don’t think the O Line should treat murder and mayhem like -who stole the cookies from Granny’s place and oh aren't these ginger cookies delicious?  That is where the O-Line book series  deviates from the cozy mystery mold a lot.  It's a delicate balance between an entertaining puzzle and too much reality.

As a reader, mysteries are a literary puzzle or a logic game. The crime (murder) is only a devise, an event, that gets the ball rolling.  (I think we authors choose murder a lot because it is seen as an "ultimate" crime one with a cause and effect.)  While reading, it's playtime as well as exercising our "little grey cells".  I love to be told a good murder mystery with plot twists and fun characters who evolve in the story.  I love it even more if it's solved by a amateur sleuth.  But in reality, there really are only a few reasons why an actual murder is committed.  There has to be a "reason" of course and many will argue that it is done by one who is simply crazy - temporary or otherwise.  And maybe those arguments are correct, it is a big deal to plan and execute an actual murder.  There is an emotional line that is crossed and one in which can never be undone. A change in the emotional make-up of a murderer must occur.  We all live in a manner in which is logical to each individual, so that logic too must change.    Then there is a ripple effect on the loved ones of the victim.  Their "living logic", emotional make-up, actions and reactions are changed as well.  Do they have the moxie and wits to solve the murder after the emotional impact and shock of having a loved ones life inexplicably snuffed out?  I don't know.  What an interesting person they would be.

Agatha Christie once wrote in Toward’s Zero (and I’m taking a huge paraphrasing liberty here): that sometimes the murder is the end of the story.  I couldn’t agree more.  But there are a lot of mysteries in our world, like exactly how can a politician get paid off and not get caught or what kind of person breaks into an animal shelter and steals the food (the latter’s answer would surprise you, sometimes reality really is stranger than fiction).  

As a writer, finding out what exactly Mr. Plum was doing with a candlestick in the library is just as satisfying as who did Mr. Plum in the library with a candlestick.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The O Line Mysteries Blog: I know Moscow Rules!

The O Line Mysteries Blog: I know Moscow Rules!: Where do I begin with this? Okay here goes – If you’ve listened to the second season of The O Line Mystery Podcast or even j...

I know Moscow Rules!

Where do I begin with this? Okay here goes –

If you’ve listened to the second season of The O Line Mystery Podcast or even just read the prologue in Saint Charles Place then I’m not giving anything away here.  Just how I came up with the plot lines however are a mix of the remembrance of the enjoyment I got from books like Harriet, the spy, Encyclopedia Brown, The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, etc. which then morphed (or perhaps matured) into the second season plotlines.  Which reflected my spy novel phases.  The second season was much more John le Carre,  Alfred Hitchcock (The man who knew too much, North by Northwest), etc.  But the plotlines themselves really are just a wild imagination souped up with caffeine and chocolate at 3 am as I struggled to finish scripts for self-imposed deadlines while still editing the last weeks podcast.   The closest I’ve come to international “incidents” is as a bystander.  (Or truth be told you may call me a run-like-my-ass-is-on-fire-er.) 

Okay, there’s that. Then there’s this --

I have on the O Line Mysteries website what is called Site Analytics.  Basically it just tells me how many people have downloaded a show, where the “hit” came from, and it has cool things that shows where in the world people were listening (Hallo Germany, The Netherlands, France, Ireland, UK! Wass up!), etc.  I’m sure it could tell me the color of the computer monitors too but I don’t give a rat’s axx about such things.  But here’s what was strange.  I started noticing a lot of .gov addresses in the analytics.  Every week before I’d load up the next show I looked at the site analytics from the week before.  And there was a certain growing concentration of where on the maps the “hits” came from.  So, at the time I thought nothing of it.  I kinda thought maybe they were redirects and some of the downloads were coming from people in the military who – I didn’t know – liked mysteries or just wanted to be told a fun story while patrolling or something.  Maybe the .gov and others were using their computers to download podcasts. Whatever, I didn’t think much about it.

THEN I started reading “Top Secret America” by Priest and Arkin. Holy Crap. NOW I know why I was getting so many hits from these addresses and the “certain area’s” in the second season.  I don’t want to give anything or take anything away from their book but I will say this – just in case they’re still tracking the podcasts:  The O Line is fiction.  I made it all up. And I have two cats.  One is huge and the little one is crazy, CRAZY! – there’s no telling what he’ll do.  He’s like a ninja kitty – he’ll take your eye out and show it to you. 

I don’t know what to make of it.  It’s late and maybe my imagination is running away with it all.  Maybe I shouldn’t read books like this.  I was going to blog about the second book that I’m now outlining the scenes.  But how can I – now that I know I’m being watched.  or at least they were listening.  gulp.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The O Line Mysteries Blog: Using everyday life in writing.

The O Line Mysteries Blog: Using everyday life in writing.: I am one of those people that complete strangers will come up and tell intimate details of their life too. It happens randomly, every time ...

Using everyday life in writing.

I am one of those people that complete strangers will come up and tell intimate details of their life too.  It happens randomly, every time I venture out of my home, and on vacations.  I am the person you hand your 500 dollar camera to and ask me to take your picture in front of the Eiffel Tower.  I am the person holding up the check out line because the checker has chosen to tell me about the cataract growing in her left eye - her latest health class homework assignment about her 50 or so cousins - his girlfriends dad that he is tight with. I am the person who holds up the airport security lines so they can rummage through my belongings with their filthy gloves.  (Happens every time I fly. Every time.)  I am the person you sat next to on the plane and decided to tell about you and your husbands plans to live a self sustaining life to - which apparently involved remodeling a 1967 stream liner. (Or whatever the hell it is.)  Men have sat next to me on airplanes and read porno magazines before disappearing to the bathroom for 5 minutes - yes I did time that.  In libraries people will insist on talking to me - out loud - about their grocery list and where they think they might find a cassava fruit.  (I don't even know what that is.)  At the oil change place a man will tell me about his first girlfriend, his muscle car he had when he was 18 and how he wrecked it, what I "oughta' do is", that "one" they don't like (I know, even I was lost on that one too), etc.

For a long time this annoyed me terribly.  I really just needed to get where I was going, remember everything on the errands list (which I inevitably leave at home), enjoy a vacation day without being stopped 6 times in one day to take their pictures, or get my oil changed in the promised 20 minutes.  No I didn't want to give you money, give or take advice, I can't give you medical or legal advice, I don't have any real good directions to get somewhere, I don't care what is on your mind and you feel the need to confide in me.  Really I don't.  And I still don't - but every since I started writing full time I've decided to use these experiences.  There is something wonderfully random about them.  People have their own agendas which somehow include these scraps of dialogue that tend to fall away from their conscious.  Do they go home and recount their day and think, "I told this random woman about my child's dysfunction." or "I asked this random person about my impending doom."  I'll bet they don't.  But there I am with this wonderful scrap.  What do I do with it?  I write it down.

Writing is a solitary job.  But because I am this person, I don't have a lot of "writers block"  because these experiences keep me in a constant state of "what if" mode.  In a pinch I've even been known to sit on public transit for a time and just wait.  I'll make up an errand and go into the bank - Boom, I'm being told about how a three year old child decided to drop the f-bomb at christmas dinner.

When I told my partner I was going to start blogging about writing she said, "Are you going to call it, "Random stuff people say to me?"  And of course I still hold out for someone to stop me and say, "Here's a thousand dollars.  You'll need it to start the marketing of your books, which you should do on these sites, and pay for the public relations.  And then once your finished with this series you should write the following..."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Free e-copy of Saint Charles Place

Yes, I figured out how to "gift" copies of Saint Charles Place on kindle. So, for anyone willing to write a review on either kindle or amazon I can gift you a copy through kindle.  It's easy.

1st you have to put the book in your wishlist.
2nd email me your amazon name/account info.

Then I gift you a copy from my account. That's it. But it's not really a gift is it?  I mean I'm asking you to log back in afterward and write a quick "how do ya' do" in the review.  Actually I'm giving you a copy to review.

Who started saying "gifting" anyway?  It's a bit annoying.
"I'm gifting my used socks to the Salvation Army."  "I'm gifting toys for tots." We used to say donating.
"I'm gifting you a copy of my book."  Well no, I'm giving out copies for review - that used to be called marketing and/or public relations.
"He gifted a remodeling job."  That was free labor, once.
"Gifting, Language evolution" - pfft.

Anyway, thanks in advance.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Blogging ideas


A lot of my blog posts are simply me answering questions I'm asked.  So in the interest of time here are some quick answers to the most common questions I'm asked.

Will there be a third season of O Line podcast?
        I never say never so I will just say, we’ll see.  We shall see...(cue spooky music!)

Is there really an Ohlone Island?
      No, the name Ohlone (pron. Ah-lawn-ee) is the name of an Indian tribe that is native to the island I live on in the San Francisco Bay.  The real island is called Alameda.   I simply chose that name in their honor.

I'm from Alameda, do you use real people you meet on the island in the stories?
      No.  I base nothing from my life in the stories.  That would be weird for me.  The only thing that is slightly similar is we do own two big yellow mischievous cats.

Do you base the stories on real life events from the island?
      No.  I make it all up.  I get some ideas from 

Where do you get your ideas?
     Everywhere and nowhere.  When I did the podcast I tried not to read anything for a while and instead would ride the public transit around and watch people.   The series is based on the podcast so I pretty much have all the story lines I needed to come up with the books story lines.

So, how do you make money with a podcast?
     You don't.  Unless you have a sponsor or sell a lot of advertising in your show.  I just made the decision one day not to go down that path of collecting user data and/or selling time.

Are the books available for free downloads anywhere?
     No.  A girl's gotta eat at some point.

As other question's come up in reference to the book series, I will continue to answer questions here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

From Script to Novel

I wrote about 52 half-hour audio scripts.  After the first 4 they got easy. 
After the first 28 it got hard. 
After the first 35 it got easy again. 
And the last 4, #49-52 were torture.
The thing I love about doing audio is the texture sound brings to a script.   I write:  DAY-ANNIE and LORNA walking downtown.  Then my scene setting is done.  The rest gets added through sound:  Cars pass by, people talking, footsteps are added after the voices read the script.  I get the pleasure of knowing where a scene is supposed to end and let the characters take me there through dialogue.   Once I got to know the lead characters that is when everything got easy.  It only got hard again when I tried to force a script or motivation that wasn’t natural for their nature.  What wasn’t easy doing the scripts was feeling very limited.  How do you convey a “look”?  How do you convey smell (you have to say corny things like “Gee, it sure stinks in here.  Mmm, those brownies sure smell good.)?  It’s the opposite of show don’t tell.  You have to tell everything.  However, I wish I could give a gift I was given to all scriptwriters when I first started doing the shows.  After about the fourth show I found someone to read Lorna’s character for me.  I sat in the sound booth and just listened to the work being read and it was fantastic.  They made the writing better, if that makes sense.  It was a gift that freed me to write better.

Now turning the scripts into novels has been easy in the planning stages and more difficult in the execution – because there is no one there to make the writing better, except for the editor.  I wasn’t starting from scratch.  I “lived” with these character’s for a year and a half during the podcast and I know them well.  But there in lies the rub.  How to make them sound fresh?  Well, I had to start fresh.  Look into there past, make them more multi-dimensional, and put them on a path that was different than the podcast.  A lot of novelists talk about the freedom and control you have with writing a novel.  I was not ready for that much freedom and control.  But you learn quick with these things.  You write yourself into a corner after 3 days of writing and have to throw out the work.  But you don’t make that mistake again…or you do.  I think the first draft of the first book of the series was a mere 100 pages.  Which is fine if that tells the story but after reading it I thought, uh oh I may be in some trouble here.  I didn’t paint the settings with words, I didn’t describe very much.  I used the words – he said, she said, and she thought. A lot.  I left out complete scenes and didn’t trust the reader enough.  The Lorna character came off like a neurotic pit bull.  The bones of the story was there but it was a rooouuuggghhhh draft.  

I didn’t want the novels to simply be a written account of the podcast so I took a little here and a little there from the various plots and then made an overall story arc for the series.  One of the books to be release is a short story series from the first season of the podcast.  Those are going to be more like written accounts of the shows whose plots are not used in the book series.  I don’t want to give away anything but after plotting out the series story line it does look like there could be a spin off or even a sequel.  We’ll see.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


The reviews are not in.  So, if you're a fan of the show or the first book and feel like doing a good turn for the author please write a review on amazon or kindle or nook.  It would be a great help and I would truly appreciate the gesture.

Thanks in advance.
All my best.
Take care.
Best wishes.
Help, I can't stop writing.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


I have SUCH a bone to pick with Mac computer nerdlings.  So I chose apple computers, specifically iweb, because it was (to risk insulting others who find it difficult) "Fischer Price for Website building".  As I was writing, directing, editing, sometimes acting, and producing the podcast, the last thing I needed to worry about was the website and uploading content.  So today I think hmm, I need to market the book, what's the best way to reach O Line's audience?  And my partner says, you should do a podcast - that's how they found you in the first place. Well, shoot, yes - she was right. So we take to recording a quick podcast letting our listeners know about what's upcoming and the books.
(Since beginning the podcast I have updated my computer with a shiny new Mac because I basically burned that last one down to it's last frayed little sprocket with the show, a tv series, a documentary and the daily web-surfing, tv watching and assorted other ne'r do well things I do with my computers.)

So I'm working with a new Mac and I load up the mp3 for the update and boom.  Crap.  New folders, new "arrangements" on the code for the i web.  I can't even write code for the new update and list it on the rss feed because the folders where everything is kept is completely facocked.  (Excuse my urban Yiddish.)  But really Mac?  So I  do some looking on the web, maybe there is something I can download from Mac to link the two codes. Nope.  All I find is some directions on how to replace java script, html, and the active x controls with the <embed> and <object> tags.  The WHOLE POINT of having this thing is so I don't have to worry about tags and coding.  It's supposed to be WYSIWYG website building.  But now it's a useless piece of crap.  Thank's Mac. Thanks for G*d *amned nothing!  Because now, when I go to Season 3 for the O Line.  I have to start all the hell over.   That's a lot, A LOT, of work. Which was exactly what I was trying to avoid.

Great workhorse computers, lazyass programs.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

This is a link to Goodreads. An awesome website for readers and writers alike!

Check out my bookshelves on Goodreads - where you can see what your friends are reading.

Fail Better.

 Where have I been?  I was doing so well with keeping up with the blog.  Oh that’s right I was publishing the first of the O Line series.  SO, that’s done.  Almost.  Still waiting to get the green flag from Kindle and the proof from Create Space.  In the meantime, I thought I would write a blog about how to e-publish.  (And why not, everybody who publishes are doing it.)

Step 1:  Find a quiet cave and move you’re files, sticky notes, coffee pot, generator and computer into it.  Chair and Desk are optional as you don’t want to be too comfortable.

Step 2:  After you’ve written the book by hand.  Rewrite it a few more times.  Just throw away all that other garbage and research you’ve done. Wing it and see what magic flies from your fingertips.  Let the Fraggles that are now visiting you in the cave know you are friendly.  Then make sure you type it into an obscure word processing program.

Step 3:  Formatting. Well why not at least try it.  Format it again just the way you want to read it on the page.

Step 4:  Sign up for the e-publishing websites. 

Step 5:  a) Load the newly formatted book into the programs the e-publishers provide for you.  So now you have some real jacked up formatting.  Reformat it again inside their programs.  It is important that you have a professional looking book so you’ll need to know coding; html, css, Russian. Whatever it takes.  b) Make another pot of coffee. Cry. Ask for forgiveness. Name your toes.

Step 6:  Call a help line.  Anyone will do.  I like the people at AAA auto.  Tell them Angelica sent you.

Step 7:  Now that you have it loaded up and formatted go ahead and look at the preview.  Is it exactly as you want it?  Then go ahead and publish.  It take 24 – 48 hours for them to get back to you so either repeat step 5 b) or take a long nap.  Don’t bother eating because you’re going to be too excited to do so and you may just vomit from lack of sleep and too much coffee.

Step 8: a) Realize those Fraggles you’ve been talking to are an angry mob of raccoons who don’t want you in their cave and move out.  b) You’ll have to go buy an e-reader to do so but why not, you deserve to treat yourself. Now, look at the final product.

Step 9:  Stop freaking out that the final product on the e-reader doesn’t look exactly as you imagined it would.  Go back to your formatting and do it again.

The moral of this story is to fail. Fail again. Fail better.  I hope this helps.

Friday, July 29, 2011

forgive me for I have e-sinned

Sorry about that.  I unlocked the comments section if anyone feels the burning desire to comment.

A disheartening conversation

So I went to a picnic recently and struck up a conversation with a dude.  He seemed like a nice dude.  Pleasant.  Conversant.  Light hearted.  In the course of the conversation we spoke about e-books and he asked if I was going to list them as free.  And here come’s the good part:

“No, I wish I could actually but I just can’t.  It’s not financially feasible for me.”  I said.
“But the podcasts are free.”
“Yes and I’m still paying that off.”  I said.
“That’s too bad, you should make them free.  All those e-books should be free.”
“Well, I don’t think writer’s could afford that.  I know I couldn’t.”
THEN HE SAID:  “Get a job.  That way you could list them for free.”

The only time I am dumbstruck is when two thoughts in my brain collide.  A physical instinct:  to punch him in the throat.  And the idea:  relax he’s just kidding.

So I blinked and waited a beat.  Then laughed.  Then stopped laughing.  Blink. Blink.  Questions and thoughts were racing through my mind.  Is he stupid?  Is he kidding?  If I punch him in the throat my partner and her friend who was hosting the picnic will be mad at me.  But how mad?  And finally realizing that in fact he was not kidding he is just ignorant.  Then I became fascinated by his thoughts.  He believed all art should be free.  But commercial art like going to the movies or a theatre people should pay because there was rent involved to the art houses.  He didn’t seem stoned or drunk, mind you.  He was sober while saying this.  So, what if I rent an office while I write, does that make me commercial?  I asked him.  No, he said, because I could write at home.  I don’t need an office to write.  Isn’t he clever?  He should run for president of the United States. 

I simply explained to him that writing was my job.  I work for myself.  I write, produce, and publish my work.  Therefore I see myself as a commercial enterprise and as such in would not be in my company’s interests to give away products that it takes hundreds of man-hours to produce.  I said that in one breath.  It was his turn to blink. 

I had heard of these people but had never encountered one in the wild.  He had no idea that he was being insulting and debasing to writers at large.  He was just offering his insights – to make the e-world a better place.  I could have questioned him into a corner using his own failed logic thereby enlightening him.  But I didn’t.  Everyone’s entitled to his or her opinions.  And besides I learned a long time ago you cannot argue with crazy people, two year olds, and the willfully ignorant.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ten pages a day

Let's face it, we read cozy mysteries for an escape.  But who has the time?

That's why I came up with my 10 pages a day reading diet.  (Seriously, I had to or nothing would get read.)  Okay it's embarrassing to admit but sometimes those 10 pages are read on the john.  (Oh where's your humanity, like you've never come screaming into the house, your bladder ready to burst, squatted down and read the mail on the pot!  Pfft, who do you think you're fooling here.)

I read a lot of different things not only my writing genre.  So instead of giving a reading list here's what I don't read:

Chick Lit.  - I don't get it.  Sorry ladies I support you in every other possible way.  I will come to your book signings, I will plus 1 you on google, I will "like" you on facebook, I just can't read another blessed chick lit babysitter - secretary tell all - my boss is a schmo chick lit book.

Historical accounts. - Because they bore me.  Except for Shelby Foote.  I would read cartoons by him.

Science Fiction - With obvious well circulated exceptions.

Religious Genre - I don't get it either.

Self - Help - If I needed to help myself psychologically I would go to a doctor.

Military Genre - Nope, not for me.

Romance - See Military Genre.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing I see wrong with reading or writing any of the aforementioned general subject area's. It's just not specifically not for me.  I have read several books in each category but finally came to the realization that nope, these aren't for me.

But you know who I've recently discovered?  Erma Bombeck.  She's been gone a while so the books are a bit dated however she was clever and witty and that never gets old.

My favorite thing to read?  How to manuals and text books.  (Not books for dummy's or that other one, I don't like those.)  I discovered the Time Life series when I was a kid and got hooked.  For me it was as if there was someone teaching me how to help myself.  I read everything from Apple Growing to Yodeling.  I also have several "essential knowledge" books and text books from classes I never took in college - I just wanted to read the text book.

Gay Lead Characters

My friend Suzy:  So your lead characters are gay?
Me:  Well there are four leads.  A gay couple and a hetero couple.
Suzy:  And no one has said anything to you?
Me:  Like hate mail or something?
Suzy:  Yeah.
Me:  No.  I really don't think people care.

And I really don't.  I'm sure there are those who feel strongly one way or another but they've been mercifully quiet on the topic.  I also believe the silence speaks volumes about the audience.  Perhaps it's wishful thinking but I like to think of  O Line's audience as mature, well rounded, well travelled, and educated individuals.  In other words, worldly people who have a life and care more about how we treat our differences than subjugating others to their own tenets.  I don't think there is anything didactic about the gay character's or plot lines so I think it may also breed familiarity for someone who thinks they may not know anyone who is gay.  (Or worse, someone who only sees gay characters on television.)

I made it a point not to put a spot light on the "gay" as well.  I just don't think this is the proper forum for that.  I could write a novel about the trials and tribulations of what being gay means economically, socially, and politically but then it wouldn't be a mystery (or very fun for that matter).

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How I write?

It’s a lot like cooking, I think.  When I’m planning to write I take out a huge sheet of sketching paper and plot out my main story points.  (Planning the menu?) I also put down everything I can think of pertaining to the story - who when how why where and what – everything.  Then I research and read.  Everything I can get my hands on:  shampoo bottles, magazines, blogs, how-to manuals, fiction, non-fiction, etc. (Gathering the ingredients?) 
Then I get a black and white composition notebook and two fresh number 2 pencils and start writing the draft on the right side of the pages.  I leave the left side blank for notes and changes. (Mixing the ingredients?) That’s my first draft completed. Then I put it down again. (Letting it stew?)
After that I begin to write it out on the computer and add or take away scenes, incorporating any notes I’ve made in the notebook.  I print that out and read it.  I make note cards of all the scenes and make sure the sequence is correct.  I generally move things around and rewrite at this point.  Rewrite and rewrite again. Switch scenes over and over.
I type out a second draft and give it to my partner to read.  (Serving the dish?) She tells me what’s wrong with it, in her opinion.  We debate it.  I get mad and walk away, knowing she’s right.  Then I come back and do the final draft and start handing it to my editor. 

I’m a bit picky about what pencils or pens I hand write out my draft out in.  It has to feel right.  And while I’m typing the first draft I like to be called Rita.  But I have no tricks or weird habits - nothing like that...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tuesday edits

I mentioned before about editing a manuscript. I have a lot to say about this.  Here's some of it: if I didn't have someone edit my work I would start sentences with comma's and apparently am a run on sentence addict.  Whatever.  I believe everyone should have an editor.  Even if it's just a copy editor.   Writers need someone looking over our shoulders and pointing out what's wrong.  Personally I don't want someone telling me how clever my work is or how fun I am to work with.  I want someone who'll challenge me.  Someone who'll point to every misplaced comma, misspelled word, and misused adjective.  Leave the hand holding to your partner, lover, or pet.

Which leads me to my second point.  Find someone who cares and is smarter than you.  Whether they care about you, your reputation, or themselves (if they're the named editor.)  I'm lucky enough to have a wonderful (and very smart) person acting as my editor.  I know she cares because she threatened me with excommunication from her world if I ever tried to publish something without her looking at it first.

And possibly last, but probably not:  If you don't have one, grow a thick skin.  Personally, I think everything I write is brilliant.  Not everyone agrees with me and they are not shy about sharing it.  Having my stories (at the very least) copyedited gives me confidence.  Because I know deep down I still get confused about plural, singular, singular possessive, first person plural possessive WHAT! and all that jazz.  I'm not an editor.  I tell stories and the very last thing in the world I want is for someone to put down my story because they can't understand what the heck I'm saying.

Which leads me to my final point:  if you're a writer you don't always need a publisher but you'll always need an editor.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Countdown has begun!

Starting on August 2nd, The O Line Mysteries Book series will be available on Kindle and Nook.  The paperback books will be available a couple of weeks after that.  We are VERY excited to bring the extended version of the podcast in print, whether digital print or otherwise.

There will be 6 books, the re-release of Lorna's satirical self-help book, and a book of short stories directly from the first season podcast.  The podcast isn't going anywhere, we intend on keeping it up.

And for those of you who have read my pre-edited works before, (ahem-Kelly-ahem), you'll be happy to note they are being professionally edited.