|Posted by Jo Hiestand on August 26, 2012 at 9:40 PM||comments (0)|
Life is funny. Humorous, yes, but that's not what I mean right now. Funny, as in odd. Years ago (I decline to say how many) I lived in England and heard the Scottish folksinging group The McCalmans on the radio. Their sound bowled me over and I was hooked. I bought their records; I saw them in concert. I was their US agent for one summer and got them two weeks' of gigs in the St Louis area. Non-paid position, btw. Just because I wanted to help them become known in the US. I put them up at my place and fed them and showed them St Louis. Fun times! We got to know each other and became friends.
Fast forward to 2010. I went to Edinburgh for their very last concert -- Ian McCalman, the leader, was retiring from the group.
Now to this past week. When I finished the first draft on the McLaren book ROCK SONG I wanted two of my Scottish characters to speak in a more realistic Scottish voice than my poor attempt that probably had them sounding like sad music hall imitators. I asked Ian if he'd mind reading the manuscript and making the the two characters' speech authentic. I emailed it to him and he red pen-ed it quite thoroughly and sent it back. The characters jump off the page, so alive and refreshing that it's fun to read their dialogue.
I guess what I'm trying to say from this little piece is that life is full of twists and turns and you never know where you'll get help. Or how long back into time you will have to reach to get it. I had no idea in December 2010 that I'd be emailed Ian in August 2012 to read my manuscript -- that's not the reason I went to their last concert. But I guess if I learn anything about the long friendships and links with people it's that it pays to be friendly with everyone and not let friendships slide. Which sounds more calculated and cunning than I want it to -- I'm not saying keep all matey with everyone because you might want something from them one day. I'm saying that what goes around comes around: do good deeds and favors, stay cheerful and friendly, and your thoughtfulness and good nature will be returned to you.
As it did with Ian. I can't thank him enough.
|Posted by Jo Hiestand on August 12, 2012 at 9:35 AM||comments (0)|
Three weeks or so since I last wrote anything for this site. I didn't mean to be so tardy, but I've been busy. Busy pulling teeth. Figuratively, not literally. I just finished the first draft on Rock Song, the fifth McLaren novel. It has been a struggle nearly since the day I began writing. The problem is that it's set in Scotland. Now, while I've been to Scotland several times, I don't have the detailed knowledge about the country that I do with Derbyshire. I had to stop every few paragraphs to look up something: sunrise time in Edinburgh in December, brand of Scottish beer, name of a particular crime in Scottish law, what's the name of a mountain near Balquhidder... Goofy things but essential to the book.
I don't like to 'fake it.' I know there will be mistakes in my books -- I believe there are mistakes in a lot of other authors' books. It inevitable when you write about places or things you haven't seen or done. You believe "it must be like this because that's what I've seen here or done" but you're probably wrong. Take Scotland -- just because it's called something in England doesn't mean it's the same name in Scotland. Especially police procedure or law. There are different terms for crimes in Scotland than in England, different pleas and sentences.
I really like Rock Song. It's going to be a shorter novel than the previous four, which concerns me, but that's how the story developed. I hope to add a scene or two during the second draft, add description -- the usual things I do when I go back. I don't do it during the first writing marathon because I'm in a hurry to get things down before I forget the idea or the thread. But now that the skeleton is complete I can put on the flesh.
As with books two, three and four, I have a song for Rock Song that I'd like recorded by Webster University music students. I try to make different styles of music for each CD recording. I have an idea this song will be jazz in the style of Marian McPartland, Eddy Duchan, or Steve Allen. Start out with the simple theme of the folk song so listeners can identify it, then have the trio run with the jazz interpretation, and then end with the simple rendition of the song, perhaps solo piano. Of course I'll discuss that with the musician later this year. I want to give her/him a semester to write the jazz variation -- I understand there's also school work she/he must do. I think this will be a super addition to the growing McLaren songs on CDs. I hope people will like it...and like Rock Song as much as I do.
|Posted by Jo Hiestand on July 23, 2012 at 1:15 AM||comments (0)|
I have a theory.
Authors, by personality, tend to be solitary folk. If not solitary, at least seek out quiet and relative obscurity. Writing, by its nature, is a solitary activity. Yes, some people do collaborate. Like fellow mystery author Cathie Wayland and her writing partner Theresa Garrido. Or the mother/son team of Charles Todd. Or the infrequent time I team up with my sporadic writing partner. But for the most part it's an author alone at the keyboard.
Which leads me to my theory. I think if we were more outgoing, more demonstrative in our emotions, by our very nature we'd all be actors. Acting out what we feel instead of putting it on paper.
Most authors hold solitary book signings. Yesterday, at Sage Books, I sat with five other writers in a community signing. It was great fun for me, but now, on looking at the photo, I wonder if our line-up looked rather daunting. Like an inquisition board. Or a panel of judges. The poor shopper was confronted by a line of authors who might or might not pounce if the unsuspecting book buyer came too close. Perhaps it would've been less intimidating for the shopper if we'd been scattered about the room, two at each table.
I don't know. I can't ask the customers. But I felt secure with my fellow authors. Someone to talk to when customers weren't at the table. The commraderie and the conversation at low points during the signing lifted me out of my usual discomfort zone which I sometimes get at lone book signings. But I didn't look at it from the customer's POV.
All in all, both are theories and who's to say if I'm right. But it's an interesting topic for conversation.
|Posted by Jo Hiestand on July 18, 2012 at 8:10 AM||comments (0)|
Just a week or so until Cider, Swords and Straw sees the light of day. It's the companion book to the Taylor & Graham series, giving synopses of the plots, details of the customs on which the plots are based, party and menu ideas, and over three hundred recipes.
My publisher and I are having fun making some of the recipes (not all, thank goodness!) and then photographing the resulting dishes. The photos are up on the website page for the book: www.lldreamspell.com/CiderSwordsandStrawPhotos.htm
It's been a challenge taking some of the photos. Like the Poppy Seed Zucchini. Do you know how hard it is to focus the camera on a slice of zucchini in a bowl, a slice that's surrounded by other slices? I did my best.
One-surface foods are the easiest, of course. Like the Lemon Velvet Tea Cake and the Lime Grilled Fish Steaks and the Parkin. But I've got Bob's Spinach Salad coming up in the next day or so -- photographing that will be like the zucchini, I'm afraid.
There was a brief period in my youth when I considered going into food photography as a career. This is my first time doing it on a fairly large scale, preparing and snapping away at a dozen or so recipes. I like it.
I like thinking up place settings and getting props that work with the food or the month that presents the food in the book.
The only negative I've come across is that the hot dishes are cool by the time I've finished photographing them, and the cold dishes tend to get a tad warm. I guess I'll have to get faster with my set ups. But eating the food is probably the best part! Hope you enjoy the recipes, should you get the book!
|Posted by Jo Hiestand on July 7, 2012 at 10:00 AM||comments (0)|
The ole adage came true yesterday. Around 6:45 a.m. the toilet float arm broke off. Within seconds the water overflowed the tank and cascaded onto the floor. There is no shut off valve on the water line going into the toilet, of course... And behind the hot water heater in the utility room there are nearly 1/2 dozen valves, some for the old radiant floor heating system that no longer works. Besides being unable to figure out which valve to turn, I couldn't even get to some due to the water heater sitting in the way. Panic! By now the water covered the bathroom floor. I placed old towels and scatterrugs on the floor to sop up the water. I got a saucepan and scooped water out of the tank and poured it down the sink. As soon as I got one saucepan of water out, the tank immediately filled. I scooped out more water and finally got the volume below the stack’s top. I assumed I'd bought myself a few seconds to leave the room. I phoned my neighbor across the street for help ‘cause he’s a helpful handyman type. Of course he wasn't home. I phoned the emergency service number of the first plumber I found listed in the phone book. Someone would be out between 8 and 10 a.m., but until then I should phone the non-emergency number of the fire department and they'll send a guy out to turn off the water. I tried to. The fire department office wasn't "open for business" at that hour. So, when all else fails, phone your police department. I did. The dispatcher said she'd send out an officer and would contact the fire department for me. I hung up, opened the front door, and raced back into the bathroom to bail some more. The floor was sodden, the baseboards wet, the towels and scatter rugs fast approaching saturation. Water still poured out of the tank. I wondered what would happen when the towels and rugs became saturated -- water pouring across my hardwood floors and into my living room carpet? A minute later the fearless, unruffled police officer arrived. While my hero looked for the water valve in the utility room, one GLORIOUS yellow firetruck and three handsome, knight-like firefighters arrived. They looked in the bathroom, then in the utility room. One firefighter turned on the kitchen faucet and the others twiddled with knobs until the water flow from the faucet stopped. Water off. All four left. One hour later, at 8:11, the plumber arrived. He looked at the toilet and the water line and mused, “They don’t make them like this anymore,” which wasn’t a yearning for the good ole days. Simply stating all new toilet water lines now have a shut off valve -- required by law. He replaced all the parts inside the tank and installed a shut off valve in the water line running to the toilet. All to the tune of $339. But that was actually music to my ears. Nothing against the police officer and three firefighters, but I'd rather meet them in a more social setting. And all this going on prior to Hannah and Nick arriving at 10:00 a.m. to discuss “Your Parting Glass,” the song for my book Hit Song. Funny, but while playing with the saucepan, I figured Hannah’s and Nick’s recording should more aptly be “Wade in the Water.”
|Posted by Jo Hiestand on June 24, 2012 at 9:10 AM||comments (0)|
I realize this may not be exciting for anyone but me. In fact, it could border on the ho-hum, or even elicit 'So what?' for you. But I think it's pretty cool. A few days ago my UPS delivery guy brought three boxes to me. I couldn't figure out what they were, for I hadn't ordered anything recently. When I saw the big diamond design and Harlequin on the boxes I hardly dared hope they were copies of Siren Song, my first McLaren mystery novel. My publisher, L&L Dreamspell, had negotiated months ago with Harlequin to bring out Siren Song in mass market paperback size -- you know, the little 4"x6.75" books that used to be called pocket paperbacks. Last I'd heard, Siren Song was slated for publication end of the year or even next year.
On opening the boxes I found the new edition of Siren Song staring up at me, it's moody cover immediately conveying the mysterious story I hope readers would like. I picked up up and read the synopsis on the back of the jacket. Incredibly good! And correct! Don't tell me someone from WorldWide Mystery (the mystery imprint of Harlequin) had really read the book!
I emailed my publisher, wanting to share my excitement. She replied that it was, indeed, exciting, especially because she didn't know the book was coming out this early, either. She figured their copies of the book were waiting at their office. I'm glad it was news to both of us: I like to know that they hadn't forgotten to let me know!
In the smaller of the three boxes were a half dozen more copies, plus three versions of the book in large print. This is something new -- at least, it's new since On the Twelfth Night of Christmas, my third Taylor & Graham mystery, was publishd by WorldWide Mystery last December. What a cool idea!
On the Harlequin website, I see Siren Song is slated for release July 1. Just one week. Besides the book cover art, there will be an enticing synopsis for the potential book buyer to read. I like to print these out. I think WorldWide Mystery does an outstanding job with writing these jacket blurbs and also with their cover art. A talented bunch of folks working there. Too bad they're headquartered in Canada -- I'd apply for a job with them.
Anyway, I'm excited that McLaren is now out in mass market copies and will reach thousands of readers. I think he's kind of special...as is this book version. Good job, WWM!
|Posted by Jo Hiestand on June 18, 2012 at 9:30 PM||comments (0)|
I'm all for research. I may have stated this before. But there's nothing like experience to make detailed writing. This past weekend I carried research too far. I returned home Sunday and discovered ten ticks on me.
I got to the Walgreen's Take Care Clinic when it opened and was seen by a nurse practitioner. She looked over my entire body and removed the ticks but had to use a hypodermic needle to dig into my skin to get them. Conversation was strained, running to phrases like "Just have to get this one's leg" or "Got him except for the head." Comforting. Soothing. She apologized several times for digging about with the needle. I wanted it over with and pretty much gave her leeway to use anything up to and including a machete. I was pretty much repulsed by the whole thing. Ticks are not my favorite animal. In fact, I don't understand why they were invented. What good to they do? If you say chickens eat ticks, fine, but chickens could eat something else, if you want my vote, and let's do away with the tick invention.
Today, nearly 36 hours later, I'm running a low grade fever, several of the red mounds have blisters like you get from chigger bits, the areas itch, and my stomach's slightly upset. I guess that's to be expected from a needle gouging your skin and ten tiny ticks sucking your blood and injecting a non-coagulating serum into your body.
As I said, I'm keen on reserach and will no doubt use this in a book -- maybe Mark searches through the bushes for a bad guy and ends up with tick bites. Do they have ticks in Britain, by the way? But right now I kinda wish I hadn't gone overboard with the camping. Maybe next time I can research flavors of ice cream.
|Posted by Jo Hiestand on June 10, 2012 at 8:45 AM||comments (0)|
May 26, 2012 is a date I won't soon forget. Lola Hennicke and Bryan Toben joined me for a book signing-live music event at Big Sleep Books. It was a combo book launch for TORCH SONG (the new McLaren mystery) and the companion CD of "Never Leave My Side," the song Lola and I wrote. The lyrics appear in the book but I thought it'd be cool if readers could actually hear Janet Ennis (the character who was famous for the torch song) sing the song. Anyway, that's how and why Lola and I eventually met and wrote the piece. She and Bryan came to the shop, set up electric keyboard and guitar, and sang two 45-minute sets during the signing.
Frankly, I was amazed at the number of folks who came. I sold a lot of books and CDs, which of course was nice. But the best part, from my point of view, was chatting with friends and meeting new people. One man wanted to know a bit about the book, so I gave him a quick summary. He said it sounded interesting and bought a copy. One woman bought all three books in the series. Many people bought the CD. I think when they finish reading the novel and they play the CD, Janet's character will really come alive. Lola did such a fantastic job of writing the melody and performing the song -- Janet Ennis can't help but become real to listeners.
Ed King, owner of Big Sleep Books, had champagne for customers. I supplied non-alcoholic bubbly grape juice, a blue cheese-pistachio spread and crackers, and a friend supplied cookies. The store was packed for the first hour, then dwindled into comfortable breathing room.
Due to the space needed for Lola, Brian and their instruments, and the small table holding the food and non-bubbly, Ed put the books on the checkout counter. I sat in a chair in the corner, pen in hand, ready to sign any books, if requested. It was strange not sitting at a table with books before me. In fact, it must've been strange to two ladies who came, for they looked around the store, perhaps expecting to see the afore-mentioned sight, and then finally asked me where the author was.
I hope to have the same type of signing next year at the same time. Hannah and Nick, two other music students, are in the midst of arranging the new song for the new McLaren book. They hope to record it later this summer. I know it's early, for the book hasn't been accepted by my publisher yet, but I felt Hannah and Nick couldn't wait until next May to learn, arrange and record the song -- the book will (hopefully) be out in May 2013. If the CD comes out in August, that's a tad long to wait for a "new" book to be launched. So we're putting the CD before the book and getting the CDs recorded and printed right now -- they'll be ready for the new book release next year. And I hope Nick and Hannah will be able to sing the song live at a signing or two next year -- I love how the book and related character come to life when that happens. About as good as it gets for an author.
|Posted by Jo Hiestand on May 27, 2012 at 11:40 AM||comments (0)|
I don't remember who it was -- a friend, I know, but the person is hazy -- who said he had written something in his book and later it struck him that the situation wouldn't work. The character could easily do something else.
I'm at that stage. I have a great idea for McLaren to "talk in code" and I'm anxious to use it in the new book. But then I realized, well, duh, if he could talk, why couldn't he just tell the information in plain English?
The code idea is too fun to let go. I have the code figured out -- not word for word or anything like that, but the method. I think it would give the reader a kick to be part of it, and I think it's different. Even if another author has used it, it can't be that widespread that the reader would yawn and say "Not that old thing again." So I want to use it.
But, there's the problem my friend ran into. I have to think of a way around that. But I won't make the situation bend to my code. I dislike contrived situations that are ludicrous, just to make something happen in the plot. I try to make my books realistic...as far as fiction will allow. So the code scene is a problem.
If I could use the code in print form, like in a newspaper ad or article, that would be no problem. But McLaren's situation doesn't call for that. He is with people and it's happening right then. So the question remains how to have him talk in code to the listener?
I hope I figure it out. I'm enthusiastic about it. But if I can't do it in a natural, believable way, I won't do it. Maybe I just have to think some more.
|Posted by Jo Hiestand on May 23, 2012 at 8:10 AM||comments (0)|
It happens so infrequently, best laid plans and all that usually happening, that I have to comment. Last Saturday, May 19, the Great Book and CD Launch of Torch Song and the accompanying CD of "Never Leave My Side" went incredibly well. I'd never been to The Map Room, and I wasn't disappointed once I saw it. It's small and eclectically decorated. Lola Hennicke and her group set up outside in the brick courtyard, so I set up my table of books there. The evening was super and the garden was blooming with butterfly bush, various hostas, and other flowers. A dozen or so strands of light bulbs were strung across the courtyard, about ten feet up, and when dusk settled over us the lights were quite magical looking.
Lola, Bryan and Tony played their sets, with Bryan hawking the book throughout the evening. He was a great salesman...I think I'll hire him to sell my other books!
Many of my friends came, including Bob Chamberlin, my former music professor at Webster University and the man who linked up Lola and me. I met Lola's family and Bryan's sister -- no doubt they wanted to see who had brought about the song. Speaking of which, she received a loud round of applause when she sang it.
I hope the song does well for her. I like it immensely, but my viewpoint may be slightly colored. Perhaps I'll bring Janet Ennis (the murder victim in Torch Song and the singer of the song) back in another McLaren book. I'd love to have another Lola Hennicke song attacked to another of my books. She's such an incredible musician.
Until then, I'm content with what we've produced. And I'm very thankful we met on that June 2011 day.