Friday, April 30, 2010

Dialogue, Narrative and Setting Descriptions

Melissa did a great job yesterday with her posting on dialogue. It got me thinking about the combined roles of dialogue, narrative and setting. My stories take place in Italy. My setting is almost another character in the story. When you are reading my work, I want you to smell the rich mushrooms floating in the pasta sauce and worry about which wine matches (or is close enough). I want you to know it's almost always okay to drop breadcrumbs on the table. The buildings, the museums, churches, the animals I’ve never seen before. I want you to get hungry, while appreciating you are spending time outside of your normal life.

This leads to my dilemma. I’ve had crit partners who have said, “Oh, I want to read more of the town and the people.” Then, I’ve had, “Your dialogue is fun. Can’t there be more?” Then, “Too much food and wine. I don't need to know the particular street in Rome. I step out of the story.”

I have spent a lot of time thinking through the balance, worrying about how to have it all- snappy dialogue, action that moves the story, and also not create a travelogue.

Has this happened to you? What are the processes you go through to have it work for your story? Each of us has writing unique styles, but I think this challenge is there in most works of fiction.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Interview with Melissa Mayhue

Good Morning! I am on family vacation, so I will not be checking in. However, I'm hoping that my wonderful partner's in crime, Liz, Kari and Cassy will be checking in for comments. If time permits in Melissa's busy schedule she'll check for questions also.

Believable Dialogue: “Hello, how are you?” The woman said. “I am fine, thank you.” The man said. What? That’s not believable dialogue, don’t you talk like this all the time? Discuss how to make your characters alive for your readers through dialogue.

Mary: Welcome Melissa Mayhue, thank you for agreeing to give me an interview on the topic of Believable Dialogue. First, will you please tell us a little about yourself and your publishing history and/or background?

Melissa: Mary, thank you so much for having me here for a visit!  A little about me… I write paranormal / Time Travel / Scottish Highlanders with a sprinkle of Faeries kind of books for Pocket.  I have six books currently available in my award winning Daughters of the Glen series.  The next two will be released in March and April, 2011.

Mary: Do you have a trick or a secret that keeps your dialogue natural instead of stilted?

Melissa: Yes.  It’s a two-part thing and even though it sounds goofy, I’ll share it. I call them Sponge Listening and Barbie™  Doll Time. 

Sponge Listening  – I’m sure everyone has heard of Active Listening – the practice of repeating back or specifically responding to what someone is saying to you to make sure you’re really understanding what they’re saying.  Well, as writers, we need something BEYOND Active Listening.  I like to think of it as SPONGE Listening. 

Find yourself a good spot to People-Listen.  [Similar to People-watching, but with different intent – and it doesn’t make you nosey or guilty of eavesdropping.  You’re doing this for a higher purpose!  It’s a work assignment].  Your goal is to soak up the rhythm and flow of conversations, the order of words, the type of words, the accents and inflections people use in real life.  That’s the rhythm and flow you want to capture in your writing. 

Barbie™ Doll Time – As an only child, one of my favorite ways to express my active imagination was through play.  I recognize now that I was creating romance stories with my Barbie™ long before I ever read one!  My dolls overcame great obstacles in the pursuit of lovely clothing and Mr. Right [Ken™].  And, in that process, they talked to each other, just like the characters in the movies I watched.

Let yourself be that little girl again, making up your world.  Visualize the scene you’re writing as if you’re actually in the thick of the action.  Listen to the dialogue in your head.  Say it out loud.  Does that sound like what that character would say?  The way he would say it?   Does it have that same rhythm and flow you heard in real conversations?

As an example, in my narrative I might write:  I would not consider that action.
But if I were the character actually saying that to someone, I’d probably say something more along the lines of:  There’s no way I’d do that.  Or even:  No way!

This second piece is by far the more important part.  When you actually PUT yourself into the moment of your story, try to feel what your characters are feeling, that’s when you’ll find your best dialogue. 

Mary: What is the best advice you can give someone on writing dialogue?

Melissa: Read what you’ve written out loud and really listen as you’re reading.  In the beginning, you might want to consider reading it out loud to someone else, maybe a critique partner.  There’s nothing guaranteed to make you LISTEN to your words harder than knowing someone else is listening to those words!

If you don’t hear that natural rhythm in your lines of dialogue, stop and think of how YOU would say that same line if you were IN that situation.  This takes you back to what I said before – get inside your characters and their story.  Feel their feelings.  The dialogue will come much more naturally from that spot.  I can’t emphasize the importance of this piece enough.

Mary: I try to write with action dialogue tags when I need to help the reader keep track of who is saying what to make scenes come alive for the reader. When might he said or she said, be more appropriate?

Melissa: Okay, Mary… I’ll admit I cheated and skipped ahead to take a peek at your next question!  But my answer to this really is going to encompass both questions. 

I like action dialogue tags, too.  I think it helps to identify speakers and, more important sometimes, it breaks up non-stop strings of conversation.  The ‘he said/she said’ could easily be inserted occasionally to alter the flow of the writing – to keep it from getting boring – or to keep it from looking like your characters are running around all over the scene doing stuff when they should be talking!

While we’re on the ‘he said/she said’ thing, let’s go ahead and acknowledge that there are two opposing camps on this particular area of writing dialogue.  One says you should ONLY use the ‘he said / she said’ tags, whereas the other line of thought is that you should use variety :  he mumbled/muttered/swore…whatever.

The first group reasons that the tag ‘he said’ becomes virtually invisible to a reader and is therefore superior to using other words for ‘said.’  Obviously, the second group disagrees.

I think this disagreement goes to the heart of author voice.  We each write in our own way.  We each write what we like to read.

As for me?  I see every ‘said’ in everything I read.  Maybe it’s just me, but even back in my reader days, long before I ever seriously picked up pencil to write, I noticed the ‘saids’… and they drove me crazy.

I like some variety in what I read, so, naturally, I put some variety in what I write.  In fact, I dislike ‘said’ so much, I personally go out of my way NOT to use it, though I do occasionally defer to my Copy Editor and stick in a ‘said’ or two. 

Mary: Does your agent see your work before your editor? And if so, have you ever had her give suggestions on dialogue that may help your work find a home? What was it?

Melissa: No.  I send a copy of my finished manuscript to my agent at the same time I send one to my editor.  I know that my editor will always have suggestions and ideas about the overall progress of the story or even specific scenes or characters, but she’s never commented on dialogue.

As for my agent, our relationship is that she handles all the business stuff and I do the writing.  I know there are agents out there who do work with the author to tweak and change, but that wasn’t what I was looking for in an agent relationship.

Mary: I’ve heard that an agent and/or editor will sometimes thumb through a manuscript to see how much dialogue there is. Do you believe agents and/or editors do this? And do you believe the amount really counts in their decisions?

Melissa:
I haven’t heard this before, but in a way, it makes sense. 

If I think about my own experience as a reader, a book that has page after page of unbroken narrative probably isn’t going to hold my interest any more than one which has page after page of unbroken dialogue. 

The best romance stories I’ve ever read, the ones that stick with me long after I’ve closed the books, are a balance of both dialogue and narrative.

Mary:
What was the best advice you’ve ever received about dialogue?

Melissa: Not to make the dialogue TOO lifelike.   Go back to that Sponge-Listening thing.  Whether you’re listening to people talk at the table next to you in a restaurant or to a  political commentator on television, one of the things that occurs in real life are those stammering, humming, repetitive noise-making sounds that humans use to fill in the space when our brains are trying to catch up with our mouths.

Fortunately for us as writers, we get to make our characters smarter and better than that by leaving out those noisy pauses!   We might spend twenty minutes coming up with the perfect line for our bigger-than-life hero to utter, but he gets to BE that bigger-than-life hero in the book because the readers never see that pause!

Mary: Is there anything about believable dialogue that hasn’t been asked you’d like to share with us?

Melissa: Only to reiterate the importance of putting yourself into the moment with your characters – feeling their emotions and motivations will allow that next line of dialogue to roll off your tongue  or,  more important,  to roll off your fingers onto that keyboard!

Thank you so much, Mary, for allowing me to share some of my writing process with your readers.  I’m open to any questions that anyone has.   

I’d also like to invite everyone to stop by my website at www.MelissaMayhue.com to see more of my writing if they’re interested.  I even have an excerpts from all six books available for readers to check out!

Thank you, Melissa Mayhue giving your precious time to answer my questions.
Mary,

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wonderful Krista Davis is back! Join us for Part 2 of her Twitter info session. I keep learning more.

Before I let you launch into Krista's new information, I'd like to point out we have a new banner on our website. We love it and hope you do as well.

Also we are launching a fabulous contest: Hook, Line and Sinker. Check out the rules on LIz's post Monday. Join us. We'd love it.

Now for Krista. Cassy

Twitter 102
FAQS


What do I Tweet?

Me, me, me becomes as tiring on Twitter as it does in person. Write your tweet in terms that make it beneficial or interesting to others.

#writing #writers #author @MosbyWriter uses 5 easy steps to develop characters. http://TinyUrlToMyBlog


Toot someone else’s horn.

#author of Dead Wrong @MosbyWriter made the Independent Mystery Bookstore Bestseller list!


Plug someone else’s blog.

I’m over the moon about review of Dead On by @SmartPerson http://SmartPerson’sUrl


Still nervous? Start by retweeting other people’s tweets! Everyone loves to be retweeted because that’s how word spreads.



Ack! All these people want to follow me. Should I ignore them?

No! That’s how we grow our followers. We want to reach new people. We want to reach people we don’t know. Follow them back.


Someone followed me and then unfollowed me. What’s that about?

Some people want to build their follower list, but they don’t want to follow you. They follow you, then soon after, they unfollow you. I’m sorry to say that some of them are writers.

Here’s another little fact you need to know about Twitter. There are limits on how many new people you can follow. If you are following too many more people than are following you, you can’t follow anyone else until your ratio evens out. Of course, that means you want to get rid of the deadbeats who pretended to follow you. I’ve tried several methods and, in my opinion, TwitterKarma is still the best. You can see who is following you and dump the others.

This should suggest to you that it’s polite Twitter etiquette to follow back. Chances are that Oprah, who, at the time this was written, had 3,274,882 followers and was following a mere 19 people, will not follow you. Most people, dogs, cats, and squirrels will follow you, though.


What if it’s a porn follower?

You can block anyone from following you. You can also report spam. All with a simple click.



I don’t have time for all this. Why am I doing this again?

To reach readers. To promote your brand. I read recently that one ought not spend more than ten minutes a day reading social media, or more than another ten minutes a day responding to and sending social media messages. That’s where Twitter is fabulous. You only have 140 characters. There’s only so much you can say. It shouldn’t take more than ten minutes to send out your message. The whole point is to bring people to your website and your blog, thereby acquainting them with your books and you as an author.

Plus, you can link your tweets to Facebook, so your message shows up there at the same time.


I’m not published yet. What’s in it for me?


Agents and publishers tweet constantly. Check out #agentsday. Look up your favorite agents. Some of them announce query contests. Some say what they’re looking for. Some post pet peeves. They even announce it when they’re attacking the query pile!

If you post useful messages, you’re also getting your name out there. You’ll be collecting followers and when the day comes to announce your book, you’ll be that much ahead of the game.


What are lists about?

You can make up your own lists to sort your followers. They can be public or private. Other people’s lists are a great way to find new followers. I was surprised recently when someone asked to be added to one of my lists. Believe it or not, there are sites that rate lists. http://www.tlists.com/ So you can even promote yourself by having the best list of something.

I find the lists useful for remembering who to mention on #WW and #MM. In addition, if someone has ditched me, I can tell at a glance and unfollow with a quick click.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tuesdays Tidbits with Kari: Featuring Multi Published Author Dianne Castell

Today we have with us, multi published author Dianne Castell. Let's see what tidbits Dianne has in store for us.

Kari: Can you tell us about your latest release and any upcoming releases?

Dianne: Hot Southern Nights comes out in May. This is set in Savannah but a stand-alone book featuring an antiquities librarian on the run from Jurzee mobsters, a race car driver just out of prison and a fire-and-brimstone preacher who's hell-bent on ruining them both. It’s a mystery and hot sex all rolled into one. I loved writing the mobster as the heroine tries to turn him into a Southern gent to hide him form the mob. So much fun.

Kari: I love your humorous sexy stories set in small town USA. Where do you get your ideas from?

Dianne: Everywhere! And with my stories taking place in Savannah visiting here is always an inspiration.

I try to think of things that make me laugh and use them in the books as well as ideas that are emotional for me. In Hot Southern Nights the hero is dyslexic. I worked with children with special needs and know how hard this disability can be and how it affects your whole life. That the hero in Hot Southern Nights has a brainiack brother and that his parents are college professors also adds to his problems. The heroine is a bit of a homebody and her mother is an adventure nut so he has her own issues to deal with. And of course there is a mystery. I loooove a good mystery!

Kari: I know what it's like to be a mom of 4, so I'll ask you what everyone always asks me....how do you find the time to write? What's your schedule like?

Dianne: For me it’s family first. That’s the most important thing in my life and I write around that. It means I get up early and stay up late and write when I get the chance. If you want something bad enough you make it happen and I love writing. Cannot imagine life without it.

Kari: Who are your favorite authors?

Dianne: I love the Stephanie Plum series and Mary Kennedy’s cozy mysteries are wonderful! I love anything with a mystery but not the blood, guts and gore. For me it’s the humorous characters that make a mystery good and not the sensationalism.

Kari: Any tips for those of us who write as well?

Dianne: Keep at it!!!!!!!!!! Never ever give up. Try and see what’s selling, listen to the editors and what they want and do it. Writing the book of your heart is great but center it around what you can sell.

Kari: Anything new on the horizon you'd like to try but haven't done?

Dianne: I’m getting into the cozy mystery genre. I have a series plotted out and cannot wait to get started!

The characters are the thing in a cozy and I’ve got some doozies. Again we’ll be in Savannah. I think I’m a closet belle! J

Thanks, Kari, for having me. I’ll give away a copy of Hot Southern Nights from the responses!!

Kari: Awesome, Dianne. Thanks so much for joining us today. You can find out more about Dianne at her website http://www.diannecastell.com/ I'll be looking for more on that cozy soon :-)

PS Don't forget about your fabulous contest. Check out Liz's post from yesterday for complete details. Make sure you follow us first, and then tune in on Monday May 3rd to post your best first lines. Good luck folks :-)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Hook, Line and Sinker Contest

Okay, first some exciting news. Mysteries and Margaritas is getting a new header, and it’s awesome. The four of us took pictures in various mystery-solving poses and our webmistress blended them together. Wait until you see it!!

To celebrate the new header and to promote a following to the blog, we are going to have an amazing contest where the first line of your story, the last line (hook) and the blurb will be judged. Here’s the schedule.

Monday, May 3rd
– Beginning at 8 AM Central (Texas time) the first fifty people who email me at liz@lizlipperman.com with a first line will participate. Do not post on the blog as that will show your name.
At 5 PM Central time, the entries will be posted on the blog even if
we don’t get fifty of you to enter. At that time we will encourage any
reader to comment on what works for them and what doesn’t.

Thursday, May 6th – The thirty finalists will be announced after three judges (both unpubbed and pubbed) cull twenty entries.

Friday, May 7th - The thirty finalists will have until 5 PM Central time to send the last line of their first chapter (the hook) to me at liz@lizlipperman.com

Monday, May 10th – I will post the thirty last lines.

Thursday, May 13th
– The ten finalists will be announced after three new judges (both pubbed and unpubbed) cull another twenty.

Friday, May 14th
– The ten finalists will have until 5 Pm Central time to send a blurb (3 line maximum) to me at liz@lizlipperman.com to be judged by Christine Witthohn of Book Cents literary.

Monday, May 24th – Three winners will be announced. The first place winner will receive a beautiful Mysteries and Margaritas tote bag with the new header on it PLUS a first chapter critique by Christine. The 2nd and 3rd place winners will each get a M & M tote.


Here are the rules. NO exceptions. The first line and the last line can only be ONE line. Anything else will be disqualified. The same goes for the blurb. Anything over three lines will get culled automatically. Any entry that is posted to the blog and not sent to me so that I can remove your name will automatically be disqualified. The time limits will be strictly followed. Again, no exceptiopns.

How much does it cost? All you have to do is sign on to be a follower of Mysteries and Margaritas blog. Other than that, it’s free and a great chance to get your work on Christine’s desk.

The kicker is that we would encourage comments from the writers watching from the sidelines. Tell us what you like or dislike about the first line and what might make it stronger in your opinion. Snarky, disrespectful or just plain old mean comments will be deleted. Of course the contest is only for unpublished authors. Current Book Cents clients are also disqualified from entering, but we really would like your comments. Every writer loves feedback.

We’ll post more on Saturday, May 1st and you’ll be able to ask specific questions then. So all of you out there start honing up your first and last lines and your blurb. It’s a free chance to have your story land on an agent’s desk.

Another thing I want to mention. We are doing this with the blessings of my good friend, Karin Tabke,http://www.karintabke.com/blog/,who has a first line contest every year on her blog. Hopefully, she’ll add a few comments for you guys.

Addendum: Sheesh, Karin. I hate it when you're right. We have had a lively discussion among ourselves about what is unpubbed and what is not. Here's what we came up with. If you even got a penny for your work, M & M considers you pubbed. BUT - since an agent is the final judge, we decided to open this contest up to anyone who doesn't have an agent. Hope that clears things up. Also, don't forget, you have to sign up as a follower BEFORE you send me the entry or it will not count. One last thing, please hold off on sending your first line until 8 AM Monday morning. I had my first entry come through already and it's a good one. Too bad I'm not judging! I've emailed her to set her alarm to wake up and post first thing Monday morning.


Okay, that’s out of the way. I thought I’d spend a few minutes talking about first lines or hooks that really reeled you in. My all-time favorite is “Which one of you bitches is my mother?” The setting is 4 friends at the funeral of a fifth when this young lady comes up and asks this question. It is the last line of the Prologue from Lace by Shirley Conran.

The first line of my sperm story is “Before the night ended, Dani Perez would have sex with a perfect stranger.” Damn! I’m good!!LOL

Jump in here and tell me first or last lines that stand out for you. Yes, it could even be your own, but if you plan on entering the contest, I wouldn’t tip my hand.

Not first lines, but others that resonate with me are:

“Who are those guys?”
“I see dead people.”
“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”
“Make my day.”
“Frankly, Scarlett, I don’t give a damn.”

Okay, can you guys tell me where those are from? I know – way too easy.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Twitter For Authors

Folks: Please welcome Krista Davis. She is the national bestselling author of the Domestic Diva Mysteries. Her first book, The Diva Runs Out of Thyme, was nominated for an Agatha award. The Diva Paints the Town was recently released, and The Diva Cooks A Goose will be in bookstores in December. Krista wrote “Twitter for Authors” to answer questions that her writing friends kept asking her. Visit Krista at http://divamysteries.com and at http://mysteryloverskitchen.com If you follow her at @KristaDavis (http://twitter.com/kristadavis), she promises to follow you back!

I am new to the social networking game. This had truly valuable information for me. It was first posted on www.cozychicksblog.com. They have generously allowed us to share it here.

This is Part 1. Krista is sharing Part 2 with us on Wednesday. Be sure to stop back!!

Krista will be checking in during the day if anyone has questions or comments. It’s clear to me, that I have a lot to learn. Welcome, Krista!

Cassy


Twitter 101 -- The Basics

MySpace was all the rage a couple of years ago. Now you hardly go there anymore. Then came Facebook. You’ve befriended your high school crush and about 3,000 other writers. Have you sold many books? Who knows? You have, however, spent countless hours befriending people and reading about other writers and their lives when you should have been writing. The last thing in the world that you need is to waste time on yet another social site.

Happily, Twitter is a little bit different. It can be used as a Facebook-like entity, but it has much bigger marketing capabilities. They call it viral, because tweets (the messages that are posted) spread in amazing ways. The other big bonus is that messages can only be 140 characters long. So while you could spend hours reading tweets, you really can’t spend too much time writing them.

It took me quite awhile to understand why Twitter is such a great marketing tool. If you have already joined and become disillusioned, I understand completely. I went through the same process. When you join, all sorts of strangers begin to follow you. Before you know it, your Twitter page seems to be full of disjointed and unimportant messages from a bunch of people you don’t know. Do you really need to know that Jane Doe is going to bed now? Or that John Doe is waiting for a flight?

Ah, but reaching people who don’t know you is key to marketing. So that’s a good thing. I like to think of Twitter as a big billboard. If you paid a small fortune for a billboard in Times Square, a lot of people would walk by it. Some would notice, others would be too busy flirting or drinking coffee or tweeting. When you send a tweet out into the world, some people will notice it and others won’t. There are a few key things, though, that increase your chances.

Joining Twitter is fairly simple. Go to Twitter.com and click on JOIN. However, do not protect your tweets! You are there to see and be seen.

The Basics

# is called a hashtag. It denotes a subject. So, for instance, if you want people who read books to read your tweet, you would put #books in the body of your tweet.

@ designates a person or company. I am @KristaDavis. If you put #KristaDavis in your tweet, it won’t do you much good. Only people searching tweets containing KristaDavis would see it. Your Twitter address will be @YourName.

Remember all those tweets that started coming in fast and thick? Imagine what will happen when you’re being followed by 1,000 people. (And you will be if you work at it!) You need a mechanism to keep track of the subjects that interest you.

Personally, I like TweetDeck. (TweetDeck.com) It allows me to break subjects into columns. For instance, since I write the Domestic Diva Mysteries, I can follow people tweeting about baking, Foodbuzz, books, reading, and recipes. It also lets me know if I’ve been mentioned in a tweet, which I want to know because it might require a return tweet. When I use TweetDeck, I’m not seeing the thousands of tweets that come in, just the ones that interest me. Keywords for writers are #book, #books, #writing, #author, #writers, #write, #litchat, #amwriting, and #tweet4lit. There are more for young adult writing, for NaNoWriMo, romance, paranormal, and countless other things. This is where you need to understand your own brand and post to the #subjects that pertain to your writing. All writers can use the broad subjects like #write, but you need to consider who your readers are and what interests them.

If you’re at a total loss, think about the things you like -- your favorite sports teams, books, movies, or hobbies. That will get you started, but you’ll maximize the advertising value if you can target subjects that appeal to readers of your books.

How do you get people to follow you? Easy. Days of the week have special designations to spread the word. Greetings are sent on #MM which stands for Meow Monday as well as Mystery Monday and Music Monday. #TT which means Tuna Tuesday. (It also means Trending Topic.) #WW for Writer Wednesday and Woof Wednesday. #FF is the most general -- Follow Friday.

It all began with #FF for Follow Friday. People started using that as a method of recommending other people. It’s sort of like you’re saying -- this is my friend who offers great tweets, you could follow him/her, too. Except you don’t have to write all that. You can simply tweet #FF @SinCNational @NYSinC @SinCNE @KristaDavis

Note that I haven’t wasted characters by using commas. To compose a message to tweet, you simply write something like:

#writers #books Super blog on pitching to agents! http://greatblog.com

That means people following the subjects #writers and #books will see your tweet. You can also bring your tweet to the attention of others by naming someone:

#writers #books Great blog by @JessicaAgent on pitching to agents! http://greatblog.com

Remember, you only have 140 characters to convey your message. Consequently, you have to be smart about it. If you write:

#writers #books #Great blog on #pitching to agents! http://greatblog.com YourName

The #s in front of “great” and “pitching” are wasted because there probably aren’t people reading tweets on the subject of great or pitching.

Another way to get people to follow you is to RT or retweet. Let’s say one of your followers reads greatblog and thinks it’s good advice. He hits retweet (usually located on the tweet itself) and he’s done. He has just sent your message to his followers. It will look like this:

RT @YourName: #writers #books Great blog on pitching to agents! http://greatblog.com FollowersName

And then one of his followers re-tweets it to her followers:

RT@FollowersName: RT @YourName: #writers #books Great blog on pitching to agents! http://greatblog.com FollowerOfFollowersName

And that’s how it becomes viral. It all started with a tweet that you sent out into the world. It was re-tweeted by one of your followers and re-tweeted again to another group of followers. Who knows how often it will be re-tweeted and whom it might reach. That’s the billboard on Times Square.

Thanks for having me join you today. Krista

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Italy Continued?

Sorry I'm so late blogging this morning.

It's my turn to blog, every Thursday. And you know it's hard to come up with a subject week after week. I call on a few friends to help me from time to time. But today I'm winging it. I had a topic picked out--Reviews. Are they fair? Or not.

But heck, the last two days have been about one of my favorite places. Italy. So....

Let's talk Italy. Venice, Florence, Rome, Milan... Oh man, I loved that place. We didn't make it to Southern Italy but plan to visit next year.

Our Italian Journey began in Milan, while I wasn't impressed with the city itself I loved the people. Our hotel manager--I'm sure they're called something else. Berated me right off the bat about not learning their beautiful language before my visit. I explained it wasn't for lack of trying. I have the CD's to prove it. I just suck at languages, even English.

From that moment he decided to teach me. He'd say a phrase to me as we'd leave for the day. And I'd say "what?" and he'd repeat. Then he'd throw up his hands. "See you later alligator!" I'd laugh and tell him I was not going to say "After a while crocodile!" in Italian. When we checked out he gave us a bottle of Barbara wine to remember him. Believe me we'll never forget him.

My other fond memory of Milan is the laundromat. Yup you heard right. We packed light and washed clothes when needed. Until Venice we had a lady who had sort of invited herself along (long story) anyway we invited her to go with us. She said "No I'm making use of that little toilet thing with the faucet on it to wash out my things." After I swallowed back the nausea, I decided I wasn't going to explain what bidet was.

My husband and I found the little place around the corner. A German man was in attendance. In broken English he helped us get started. Then offered to share his beer with my husband while we waited. For an hour and a half we enjoyed his company. He told us stories in German, we commented in English and we were in Italy. How fun is that? I have no clue what he said.

We traveled to Marghera a little town across from Venice. We were on a strict budget and couldn't afford the hotels in Venice. So every day we'd pay a Euro to take the bus to Venice. I fell in love with the place. I want to go back and stay forever. Hubby has other ideas.

One of my favorite times there was 'discovering'. In the Rick Steve's book we had of Italy it said not to visit all the tourist traps but to discover your own treasures. So every time we were lost my husband would say we're not lost we're 'discovering'. We went discovering a lot. Anyway our first night we were completely turned around. We found ourselves in a local area and the last bus of the night left in about twenty minutes.

We had no clue where we were. A nice man led us out and gave us instructions on how to read the signs of Venice. We weren't lost again after that. I saw more of Venice than most people that night.

For our Anniversary we indulged in having custom masks done. We found a shop and though we could find some we liked they were the wrong colors, or if they were the right colors we didn't like the design. So with a lot of sign language we were able to order two that would be ready for us before we left. The designer packaged them for us to carry in our back packs.



 
Our next stop: Florence. My favorite was the scenery. I loved it. But the gelato Mm. There is nothing like it in the states. And we walked everywhere. Beautiful.





We took a day trip to San Gimignano known for it's towers. We picked a day of rain. No not rain down pour! On the main street we only saw a see of umbrella's. So we veered off to side trips and found some ruins. They were roped off, but we didn't 'see' the rope and climbed to the top. The view of the valley with it's breath taking view made it worth the risk.

Then we found my favorite eating place. A little tavern above the main shopping, no one was there but us. We stayed until time to catch the bus.




Rome our final destination. History. I loved every minute of it. Though my feet did not. We didn't sleep past 5 am the entire time in the ancient city. Wanting to beat the crowds we were up and at the site before opening. I was so overweight and out of shape at the time of our trip if we had visited Rome at the first of our three week trip I can honestly say I wouldn't have made it.

We climbed the stairs of St. Peter's Basilica--The dome. Small stairwell, and curved literally. Again, well worth it. The view. Can't be described. We visited all the normal sites, but my favorite was stopping at nondescript churches. Plain on the outside, but you walked into a ornate beautiful old world church. Hard to explain.


And that sums up my trip to Italy. I cannot wait to visit again.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Italian Experiences- Continued

Patricia Winton wrote eloquently yesterday about the joys of food shopping in Rome. I decided that the topic is so close to my heart that I’d force you dear readers to put up with one more installment.

I began going to Italy when I was 16 as an exchange student with The Experiment in International Living. I ended up in Bari, which is on the Adriatic Sea right at the “heel of the boot.”

At home I had my driver’s license, did the grocery shopping for the family and was responsible for many of the family dinners. Forty years ago in the very traditional seaport of Bari, young girls never went out alone, never spoke to a boy without an escort, never used the telephone except to quickly hand it over to an adult.

In Bari, I lived in a tiny apartment with four family members. My “big sister” had to sleep on the couch so I could have her bed. The apartment was on the third floor along a busy street packed with small stores. One day I wanted to mail a letter home. The bright red mailbox was across the street. I casually mentioned to my Italian “mother” that I was going to drop the letter in the box and be right back. She refused to let me go. It was too dangerous for a young girl to leave without a chaperone. The letter would be mailed later. I finally convinced her that if she stood on the balcony and watched me cross the street, I was able to place the letter in the drop without assistance. It was a wake-up moment for me at 16, the world had different rules in different places.

One of the joys I discovered was the daily ritual of going to the open air farmers’ market. It spread for nearly three blocks of closed off streets. The fish and meat were on one side with the fruits and vegetables on the other. It was the first time I ate fresh figs. My “mother” bought them for me every day. I was transported by the carefully stacked fruit, the fish beautifully lined up, the large containers of flowers, the constant chatter of women arguing about a price or just getting the daily news from each other, the colors, the perfume of the summer. Well, I went every day. I couldn’t get enough.

Two years ago I was back in Bari. I attended the Women’s Fiction Festival (GREAT conference) in Matera. My husband joined me for the last day. At his insistence we drove the short distance north in the hopes of finding my Italian family. We located the street and the building. I was telling my husband the mailbox story, when, there it was still attached to the side of building and still as red as before. I squealed. My mailbox!

We tried to locate the family. They were gone. Where we don’t know. I stopped older people on the street to ask, just in case they knew the family. I asked in the pharmacy and the tabaccheria. We decided to try the church that was a few blocks away. Parts of the area seemed oddly familiar. Much like it had been in a dream. We reached the church, but it was locked. No hope of finding help there. It was nearing lunch time. I knew that soon our options on finding information would be gone. But we still wandered. My dear husband wanted to be sure I could see and remember as much as possible.

I started to describe how much I loved the market. What it did to literally change my thoughts about food, community, and daily adventures. My friends, we turned the corner and there it was. My market. Still bustling, still fragrant, still with the fish and meat on one side and the produce on the other. I walked all three blocks just to be 16 again.

My mailbox and my market. Italy has never stopped drawing me home.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday Tidbits With Kari: Featuring Patricia Winton

Hi folks. I've got a special treat for you today. I love Italy, and I thought it would be fun to have patricia Winton, who has lived in Italy for more than ten years, the past eight in Rome where she reads and writes, cooks and eats. talk to us today about the food and how she's incorporated that into a fabulous mystery series. So take it away, Patricia. Enlighten us :-))

Thanks, Kari, for inviting me to blog today.

The sleuth in my WIP is Caroline Woodlock, an American journalist who is building a new career as a food writer. She’s in her mother’s native Italy to write about food and to research a cookbook. When she’s not stumbling over dead bodies, she’s collecting recipes and sampling Italian food. I get to do the research. So far, I haven’t stumbled over any dead bodies, but I’ve collected lots of recipes and sampled a lot of food.

One of the joys of living in Italy is using the markets for food shopping. While supermarkets abound here, as do traditional mom-and-pop grocery stores, the markets are the mainstay of the Italian kitchen. In a market, Caroline once overheard a vital clue that helped her unmask a vicious killer.

The markets are seasonal. Strawberries in January? Never. Oranges in July? Not a chance. Law requires that the place of origin be displayed along with the price. If you come upon asparagus in December, the label will probably indicate someplace in the southern hemisphere, and few people will buy it. The first citrus will be labeled “Spain” or “Morocco” because the Sicilian crop hasn’t come in yet. Italian people have strong opinions about what part of their country produces the best of everything. The best tomatoes, they say, come from Pachino on the tip of Sicily. The label will show “Pachino” in bold letters. You’ll pay more for these than for those labeled simply “Sicily.”

In winter, the vegetable stalls are stocked with more than a half dozen different leafy greens: spinach, chard, dandelion, mustard, chicory, wild field greens, and more. There are three or more different cabbages, three different broccolis. Throughout the winter, there is an ever-changing array of artichokes as diverse varieties come into season. And the fruit stands make you weep: mandarin oranges, clementines, blood oranges, fresh citron, a vast selection of apples and pears.

Now in April, the stalls are shedding their winter coats, and spring produce is appearing. The last of the artichokes are being harvested before the weather gets too hot, so tiny ones are in the market. They’re so small that they have no chokes and are incredibly tender. The fava beans, which have been growing throughout the winter, are appearing, as are fresh peas.
Caroline has been cooking Stufato di Vedure Primavera, Spring Vegetable Stew, because the window for making it with fresh baby artichokes, fava beans, and peas just lasts a couple of weeks. You can find the recipe on my website www.patriciawinton.com, which will be up-and-running next week, I hope. She’s also going to make a risotto with the artichokes before they’ve gone from a recipe suggested by my friend Federica De Luca.

Last week, I was in the market with her. “Have you bought strawberries yet,” she asked. “Were they good.” She made me walk the length and breadth of the market to inspect every display before she selected a place to buy them. The ones she chose were from Terracino, not far from last year’s earthquake. The Italian Agriculture Ministry website says that strawberries from Terracino were praised by Ovid and Pliny. I bought some of these noble berries, too, and they were excellent. I think Caroline may try them in gelato next.

Thank you so much, Patricia. Now more than ever I am dying to go to Italy....literally ;-))

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The “You Don’t Love Me Anymore” Edits

I do love you. I really do, LY words, but you have to go. Quit crying “just”and “really”. I promise we’ll meet again in my next book. Oh God, “he said,“she said,” please don’t make me feel any more guilt than I already do.

I love you but you have to go.

Okay, maybe that was a little drama queenish, but you get the point. I’m nearly finished with the first book in my Casserole Lovers Mystery Series, and it’s time to slash and tighten – with love, of course.

The first thing I’ll do is print a hard copy of the manuscript. Computer reading is hell on old eyes, plus for some reason, errors are easier to spot when I’m holding it in my hands. Since I haven’t found a way to turn off my internal editor when I write (thus, the snail pace) my manuscript is usually clean as far as typos and grammar goes.

Adverbs and Adjectives are a whole other matter! I love certain words – use them all the time in conversation. Words like just, actually, finally, really, very, almost, even, that, smiled, realized, sighed, felt, since, still and knew. In fact, my story is flooded with them. Most have to go. That’s JUST REALLY going to kill me.

I judge a lot of contests and there are three major mistakes I see in almost all the entries. The first one is too much back story too soon. In the words of the great Donald Maass, there should never be back-story before page thirty, only hints. Number two on the take-points-off list is what I call bullet point writing. Here’s an example.

John walked into the room and slammed the door behind him. He grabbed the remote and flopped down on the couch. He flipped through the channels looking for something to take his mind off the meeting earlier with his boss. He was so angry he was about to pop.

See how everything starts with a noun? Can you see bullets before each sentence? Doesn’t this one sound better?

Slamming the door behind him. John walked into the room, grabbed the remote and plopped down on the couch. As he flipped through the channels searching for something to take his mind off the earlier meeting with his boss, he blew out a calming breath. Dammit! The man knew how to push his buttons.

And the third thing I see is what my agent calls “fluff”. This is information that doesn’t move the story forward. In the above example, it might be a description of what John was watching on TV or how he cooked his dinner then loaded the dishwasher. It could even be a funny story he thinks about that is meant to inject a little humor in the story. Again, if it doesn’t move the story forward, it’s gotta go.

Get my point?

So, if I’m going to lower somebody else’s score because of these - hello – I’d better practice what I preach.

More cuts.

We all have certain things we love about our writing and editing is not for the faint of heart. But if we want to make the manuscript as crisp and fresh as possible and keep that reader turning the pages, sometimes we have to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

And that’s another thing I like to do. I am the queen of clichés. I have to make a special pass through the manuscript just to find those. Snip! Snip! Oh crap, I forgot about repeats. Slash/bash.

I found this great site that humbles me by telling me how many times I use words over and over. I pasted in a random chapter of Ducks In A Row that hasn’t been ripped apart by my CPs yet - http://www.wordcounter.com/ I was surprised that I am not as bad as I used to be. I had 9 justs, 6 felts, 5 thoughts, and 6 saids. So I tried another random chapter and this time I only had 6 justs, 5 knews, 5 sinces, and another of my favorites – 5 stills.

Yanno, sometimes you JUST need a certain word.

Baloney, Lipperman, you know what you gotta do!

So, yes, manuscript, I do love you, but you’re too fat. Get over it.



What are some of the ways you slice and dice when you’re editing and what are your overused words?

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Risks of Getting it Right

I wrote a few weeks ago about doing research for my writing. I wish to pick up again on that topic. We all worry about getting it right. My family, though, is becoming concerned about how right I get it. My two adult daughters have started begging me to back off. Why?

Well, I tend to enjoy finding out how things work and how things happen. For instance, in one of my stories there is a fire in the basement. How would that occur? I wanted something slow and smoldering before the big kaboom. I discovered that rags soaked in turpentine or kerosene put in a tight container could ultimately self-ignite. Cool!

Then there was the time I needed a poison that was rather commonly acquired yet not usually screened for by the ME. Ah ha! Did you know oleander soup is not so good for you? I was in Rome with my younger daughter a few years ago when the oleanders were in full bloom. My first comment to her, after admiring how beautiful they were, was “Oh, boy. Do you know how many people you could kill with just a few of those branches?” I won’t describe the look she gave me.

One time I wanted to understand how to make a Molotov Cocktail. The recipe is readily available. My list goes on.

So, this leads me to the risk part. My husband, as I have mentioned before, travels extensively. His passport is the size of a small paperback. Much of his travel is to the Middle East, Asia and Europe. Many of the countries where he goes are on high risk “watch” lists. And, his wife is sitting home on her computer researching bombs, poisons, guns, and inflammatory devices.

My daughters are convinced men in dark suits will be arriving at our door any moment. They have offered the opinion that maybe I should switch to writing cozies or better yet, romantic comedy. Oh, the burdens we take to “get it right.”

If I miss one of my postings, will someone check and see if I need bail money?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Writers Retreat--should I go?

It’s April, which means it’s time for my RWA chapter's annual Writing Retreat. Every year I ponder about the merit's.

What is a retreat? I wanted to know, I mean sure everyone say’s I’m going on a religious retreat, or a writing retreat or even a health retreat. I thought I knew what it meant.

I have a curious mind so I looked up the meaning. Imagine my surprise when I searched the Webster’s College Dictionary and found the first definition:
1.    the forced or strategic withdrawal of an army or an armed force before an enemy, or the withdrawing of a naval force from action.
What?
I read further and found:
1.    a place of refuge, seclusion, or privacy: The library was his retreat.

That was more like it. Then I re-read the first one and reconsidered. Both are correct. Aren’t we forming a strategic withdrawal from our everyday lives in order to find a place of seclusion to write? It’s the perfect definition for our writing retreat.


So taking after Liz, I'm going to make a list of reasons to go on the retreat. Actually it's a Pro and Con list.

Cons - Reasons to stay home
1. I can write from home and it doesn't cost anything.
2. I can wear my jammies if I want.
3. I can access the internet.
4. I have my office with my desk top and all my available files.


Pros - Reasons to attend
1. Cost is minimal, only the room.
2. I can wear my jammies if I want.
3. I can access the internet.
4. I will have my laptop with my mini drive with all my files.
5. I have the solitude of the room to write.
6. No family demands.
7. No email—well if I'm good and do not log into the internet.
8. Retreat is at The Lodges in Deer Valley, there are the beautiful mountains to wander the paths and a hot tub to relax in, if I need time with nature to think or plot.
9. I have chapter members for support if I need a brainstorming session.
10. Workshop about goal setting and others to lend encouragement.

Okay, as you can see the Pros far outweigh the cons. And a couple are the same. So what do you think? If you had the opportunity would you take advantage?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Do You Know How to Disappear?

Folks: Today we have a real treat. Bring the questions on! If you have ever wondered how to find the guy who gets away, or lose your characters around the world, this is the man who can tell you how. Frank M. Ahearn has been hunting people down for over twenty years. His philosophy has been-- if you can afford it, he can find them, or lose them. The notches on his skip tracing belt are slashed with over fifty-thousand names that read like a who’s who of celebrities, wealthy, notorious and the down-right dangerous.

Frank was hired to monitor OJ Simpson’s assets while he stood trial for murder. Roadway trucking brought in Frank to assist when the Oscars were stolen, law enforcement only knew him as the guy from New York. When Santee Kimes cast her murderous voodoo on socialite Irene Silverman, Frank was called into the search as a last minute hope. Hired by a tabloid to find the whereabouts of a woman, Frank jumped on board and located her hiding from the public. Three hours later Monica Lewinsky and her scandal was introduced to the world.

Frank now works with clients who need to disappear and is co-author of How to Disappear. He legends have appeared in over fifty newspaper and magazines worldwide plus he has spilled his guts on over one hundred radio stations from Fiji to Finland.

Would you join me in welcoming him to Mysteries and Margaritas?


Cassy- What is skip tracing?

Frank- Skip tracing is locating people for many reasons—be it debt, tracking a thief, conman or searching for a lost love.

There are different types of skip tracers, some are what we call database hounds who only use public data and try to track people (snore). Then there are skip tracers who used pretext, which is lying for a living to get what you need.

I was the skip tracer who had a great knack for pretext so I would hit up the phone companies, utility companies and banks to get information. Pretext is a matter of posing as a person in the company or the actual subject I was hunting. From those companies I would get phone records, account records, employment, contact and what ever else the company stored. From that information hunt you down.

Cassy- What led you into skip tracing?

Frank- I always say I was unemployable elsewhere but in my early twenties, I bounced from job to job and landed at an investigative company. I was doing well there but the guy in the back was doing skip tracing and I found it intriguing and asked my boss if I could do the skip tracing. He said no. I countered with a “What if I get a copy of your phone records?” he laughed and said if I did that he would fire the other guy and give me his job. Well come Friday, I was the new office skip tracer.

Cassy- And, helping people disappear?

Frank- The disappearing came years later when I was in a bookstore and saw a guy buy offshore banking books and books about Costa Rico and paid via credit card. I thought it was silly that he was buying books about discretion and paid via something that could be tracked.

In the café, I introduced myself, explained what I did for a living, and shared how a skip tracer like me could track him down via his credit card purchases. A few days later, he contacted me and asked if I could teach him how to disappear. I really thought about what one would have to do and then I came up with the three keys of disappearing which are Misinformation, Disinformation and Reformation.

Cassy- Who are your clients? I am actually asking, who needs to disappear and why?

Frank- They range from victims of stalkers to celebrities needing more insulation from the public. It used to be when men contacted me it was a money issue and woman a safety issue from a stalker or ex, however, that seems to have changed. The female clients are now high-end business people interested in travel safety and abduction protection.

Disappearing is different to people, some see it as running off while others see it as a new start. Clients either have lost everything and are looking to leave a world behind and others came into money and are still looking to leave a world behind.

Overall people disappear because of money or safety!

Cassy- If I were to need/want to disappear, what do I need to do? What preparations do I have to make?

Frank- MISINFORMATION is the art of taking every piece of data that exist about you, deviating it and destroying it beyond recognition. The purpose for that is when a PI starts searching for you they will have various types of information about you. Be it a credit report, an old address, bank records, etc.

Your home phone number lists every call you have ever made over a period of time, your cellular phone as well. Your frequent flyer account with an airline lists every trip you logged. Car rental companies keep track of whom you are by your phone number, which leaves a record of every car you rented. Video stores keep your records by phone number, a good skip tracer can do a little social engineering and pretext the store and find various information about you. Your local Internet provider lists every website you have surfed.

DISINFORMATION is making the PI’s file thicker. Disinformation has three parts: Hook, Line & Sinker. The hook is to bring a PI into an area of choosing and have them start searching for the subject. The line is having them find information about my subject. The sinker is having the PI believe he’s on the trail of my subject and keep trying to reel them in.

Disinformation is my favorite part when it comes to teaching someone how to disappear. To me it is the sneaky aspect of leaving the breadcrumbs for the PI to find or who ever is looking for my subject. Disinformation makes the file thick and eventually causes mass confusion.

REFORMATION is the action of taking my client from point A to point B. Our goal is to be confident that who ever is searching for my client does not find them. Before I work with a client a few things I need to know, one: are they staying in the country or not.

If I am working with a client who is looking to go offshore, I need to know how THEY plan to expatriate their money. I am not an attorney nor an accountant so I do not give advice in those matters. I am very cautious in this area since there is a lot of legality and I do not want to aid anybody in money laundering.

Cassy- Once you have relocated me, how do I live my life? What do I give up? How can I find a job, a house, a sense of self?

Frank- You live your life normally, as if you simply relocated for a new job. You need to give up certain habit or social aspects like bowling team, writing clubs and other groups that keep membership information. When skip tracing a person, those are some of the thing we look for, especially if it is a national organization that keep list of members.

Employment can be an issue if you are a licensed professional like a doctor, lawyer or limo driver. However if it is a matter of safety I am sure one would not mind so much finding a new profession.

As far as a home. if you buy one it could be an issue unless you can buy property outright and shield under a corporation, If you are renting you can rent using a corporation name or even sublet where no lease exist.

Cassy- What are the major mistakes people make when they try to disappear?

Frank- They forget about the information they leave behind. Such as contact number on a utility bill, forwarding address left at employment for the final paycheck. They forget about places they emailed since email can be accessed, they forget about calls they made several months back to their new city of location. The problem with “just” disappearing is the information you leave behind can catch up with you.

Cassy- What catches us unaware that might make it easy to be found?

Frank- I don’t think it is anything in particular, skip tracing is not science where you go from A to B. It’s more like a frenetic rollercoaster where ideas pop in your head and you search that direction.

I was hunting some dead beat and for the life of me could not locate him. I went back to my client who told me he was a car buff who enjoyed autos from the fifties. I started hitting up magazine subscriptions claiming to be him and did not get my last magazine. Eight magazines later, I got a hit and located him in Atlanta.

Cassy- Do you stay in touch with people you have helped? Do they need your continued support to keep up the deception in their new lives?

Frank- I never stay in touch, not interested in being a baby sitter. I think if they use the tools and stick to the rules, they will be ok.

Cassy- We all love a good story. What was the wildest craziest case you have taken? Of course, names are not necessary.

Frank- Gosh, there are so many, where to begin, hmm….

I was sitting in my office one day when a client called me and asked if it was possible to teach someone how to disappear. My answer was no doubt yes, so he asked me how. It’s as if he wanted me to give him a checklist of things to do. At that point, I told him he should just buy a book and give to his client.

A few days later, a call came again from the same client and he asked if I would meet with his client to discuss teaching her how to disappear. I agreed. We set a meeting for the following week. I figured we would meet, have coffee, chat away, or they would buy me dinner. Wrong!

My client told me the general area we would be meeting, so that evening I made my way toward the destination. I got a call my contact and his clients were at a nearby motel. In the room, my client greeted me and a woman with an accent. Her name was Jane. After we got the formalities out of the way, Jane told me her story.

Jane was independently wealthy and an active animal-rights activist. She told me she brought lawsuits against several animal farms resulting in jail time for the people involved in cruelty acts. I asked her to clarify exactly who, what and where she refused and left it at that.

Jane continued to tell me there were threats made on her life; dead chickens on her property and most recently a slaughtered calf. My client interjected a pipe bomb was found on Jane’s property as well. Jane took all of these threats seriously, as she should. I asked about her financial situation; how she planned to make a living. She explained she was living off a European trust and was divorced so money was no problem.

As I sat listening to this woman, the first thought in my head was, “she is rather calm about this.” It felt as if she were telling me things she thought about but not things she actually experienced. I probed more. I asked to see her wallet and she flat out said no. I asked to see only her driver’s license and she said no. Finally, I asked for her Social Security Number, she refused. Considering this woman wanted my help, she was not being too cooperative.

I expressed my concerns with the situation and wanted her to explain why she was being so defiant. Her explanation was she worked for the government, work of some kind that made absolutely no sense to me. She had a top-secret security clearance and the government issued her a new identity.

When things get elaborate, I get cautious.

Jane revealed more stories of growing up in castles, having servants, and so forth. In her conversation, she mentioned a town in the UK where I had been several times. I made an open-ended comment about the town that should have prompted some type of response. She ignored my statement making me think she was never there.

The nutshell of our conversation was, she was rich and wanted to move so the animal people couldn’t find and kill her. The meeting ended on a cordial note and both parties stated we’d be in touch. My client walked me to my car and before he spoke, I said, “She’s full of shit!” My client tried to convince me she was the real thing. He saw dollar signs but I saw trouble. The meeting made me very uncomfortable and I felt like I was being played.

I had enough experience with people to know she was not from the state we met in, so I drove around the motel parking lot looking for a car with out of state tags. There was no such car in the lot. It was an isolated area, so I drove to the diner down the road. There I found a car bearing Pennsylvania tags and copied down the number.

Next day in the office, I had someone run the license plate. We came up with the same last name but a first name of Mike. I gave Eileen the information I knew about Jane.

Jane X

Bensalem, PA

Lawyer

Divorced

Millionaire child

Eileen worked on the phone and found out Jane X was dead but was married to Mike X. Turns out Mike X is an attorney in the small town. Eileen figured out the woman I met was Joan X and was assuming her deceased sister’s identity.

Eileen then contacted the press secretary for the wealthy European family. She said she was writing a small piece on the family and had a simple question about the ages of the siblings. Jane/Joan did not meet the age range of any of the children and all of them worked for their company. Nor was there a Jane or Joan in the family.

I asked my client for Jane’s cell number, promising not call her. Eileen determined it was a prepaid cell phone. Imagine that a wealthy aristocrat using a prepaid cell; I don’t think so. The only calls on the bill were to my client. Eileen then pretexted Mike X, the alleged husband, and acquired his cell phone number, as well as all the phone numbers in the house.

My client’s only point of contact with Jane was the prepaid cell phone he provided me. When we called the house, one answering machine stated you reached Mike X. The other answering machine stated Joan X and it was the same voice as the woman I met, sans the British accent.

Eileen investigated further by contacting the local police. She found there were never any complaints of pipe bombs or animals tossed on anybodies property in the town. With all this evidence, I called my client and told him everything. To make a long story short, he still saw the dollar signs. I told him I wanted nothing to do with this woman.

You are probably wondering why this woman was doing this. Eileen and I were wondering the same. Eileen was able to pretext someone to get a little history on the woman. Turns out, she had a mental illness. Moral of the story is, know thy client!

Cassy- I’m not sure where to go from here after a story like that, but I’ll try. You often work with writers to help the stories be accurate and interesting. You are very generous with your time. I can speak to that. What drew you to the world of publishing?

Frank- I like writers because all fiction is a form of deception and I like deception. Also I feel that I can be honest about the things I have done in this crazy business and not have to worry that I am sharing it with some lunatic going to use my information for crime. In addition, I have met some great people, which is the best score!

Cassy-Tell us about your website and the kind of information you offer.

Frank- The site is www.disappear.info it has various information about disappearing, people who faked their death and some cool gadgets. Anyone have any questions just drop me an email and mention the blog and I will be more then happy to help.

Thank you all! Frank

Cassy- Frank, we thank YOU!