Monday, April 25, 2016

It's a Con's Life

When digging into any new project, I make a well-intended effort to do some research. I research the general topic of the story. I research things I may want my MC to have -- skills, lifestyle, mannerisms, etc. I research setting info, historical references, plausible murder scenarios, and oh, the list goes on. Yes, I do make a well-intended effort ... at driving myself crazy! It's a writer thing, after all. 

So. Here it is, the kind of weirdness my over-stimulated, over-imaginative brain comes up with late at night when I should be getting sleep. I want to write about cons. Yes. A murder mystery/suspenseful thriller/slightly comedic/insane novel series about con artists. Don't judge me. The idea has merit. AND it just so happens to be very trendy right now. (Insert evidence: Evanovich/Goldberg -- The Heist; Ally Carter -- Heist Society; TV series -- The Catch ... just to name a few). Besides, I enjoy writing such fun stuff. Humor is my thing, which I must indulge on occasion. 

Anyway, back to research. I found lots online about con artists, con jobs, heists, famous cons, names for schemes, tips to run a con, and even how to figure out if your significant other is a con in disguise. Okay, scratch "in disguise". It's redundant because ALL con artists are in disguise. It's what they do. They lie, but they convince you they are telling you nothing but the truth. They always say the right thing, romance you, please you.They are the original Smooth Operators. (Sade song reference fits well here.) So what if they are notorious liars and thieves? They do have a code of con ethics. Yep. You heard me. Cons have ethics. Well, not in the normal sense you and I have ethics, but the rules exist. Like, never con an honest person. Or, never keep secrets from your con family. I find it hard to believe that last one. I mean, they lie. Right?

Oh, and cons have their own how-to book. For instance, when focusing on a mark (that's the victim, in case you don't know con jargon) you should look for his/her weakness. It could be greed, loneliness, insecurity, and other traits easy to manipulate. You need to know everything about your mark. Their habits, likes, dislikes, family, job, even which side of the bed they sleep on, if it helps you pull off the con. Everything. Things as simple as how you should always control the conversation, all while making your mark think HE controls the conversation. Geesh

But wait. I'm not finished. I found a long and exhaustive list of the types of cons used. Yes. They have names. Like Badger Game where the mark is put in a compromising position, then the con takes pictures and blackmails the mark. Or Salting the Mine when a con plants valuable gems in the mine to convince the mark it's worth the investment. There is Mellon Drop, and Pigeon Drop, and Three Card Monte. So many to choose from! Does your head hurt yet? Mine does. I'm sure you've all heard of Cat Phishing. It's been in the news a lot. Where someone friends you on the internet, pretending to be someone he/she is not, getting you to fall in love, and probably ready to scam you for money. "Oh yes. I want to come to America and be with you, but I don't have the money. My family is poor. All we have are the chickens and the goats to trade. Please send money so I can come and we can be together, my love." Of course, it's a con and the lonely people (refer to list of weaknesses above) will fall for it. 

This brings me to what I really wanted to write. Hmm. I do take the long way around, don't I? So, with my over-stimulated, over-imaginative brain running full throttle during this research, I began to wonder what if I've been conned? Or how easily I could be, given the right circumstance and a very cagey, shifty, perhaps gorgeously handsome con artist tempting me. It could happen. They say senior citizens are the prey of con schemes like insurance fraud, fake contests, home improvement scams, etc, and all ready to be cheated out of those meager social security and pension checks. Only takes a bit of naivete and a kind-hearted soul to fall for it. 

Well, let me say this lady is a little wiser after gathering all the con-wise info. I'll just give a twist to Tip Number 2 from the how-to-con manual: Do your research and learn everything about your ... con. I may be kind-hearted and older, but I'm not stupid. At least I hope not! Okay, back to learning about a con's life and "scheming" ways to write this story! Should be fun. :-)

Happy reading and writing, all! Enjoy your week. I'm off to Medina Library on Saturday the 30th for a super author expo. If you're a local, come visit with me. We'll talk mystery, murder, and stuff about cons. ;-)

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Problem With Planning, i.e. Life

All right. First, I'm not the type to whine or complain ... especially on social media. Oh, don't get me wrong. I DO complain and whine in private. Plenty. I mean, who doesn't? Those times when things don't go well, zigged when I should've zagged, turned right when it should've been left, took the winding, curvy path when the straight line was right there in front of me. OR life took over, events totally out of my control happened with no personal choice allowed. Yes, ah yes. This is what I mean. 

I finished watching the television mini series based on Stephen King's novel 11.22.63. And before you ask, I did read the book a couple of years ago. And before you ask the other question, yes, the book is better. The book is always better. (except for Braveheart ... how such a tiny, tiny book could be made into such an epic film still impresses me). Anyway, to the point. King writes about the obdurate past, how that stubborn ass b**ch keeps messing with the MC's agenda. I chewed on that for awhile, the obdurate past concept, and finally decided it's all true. Life is full of the obdurate, only in our present and future. Forget the past. Nobody gets to fall into the rabbit hole and partake in a rerun of days gone by. Nope. Except in fiction. I love the idea and one day may write a time travel novel ... but I'm off on a tangent, again. Sorry. 

I like structure and planning, but I also enjoy the impromptu, the impulsive moments in my life. However, when I make plans I'd sure like to see them through in a timely manner, according to ... well, the plan I went to all the bother to create. Geesh. Like my writing, for instance. It would be grand if it went smoothly like this: 1)develop synopsis and outline; 2)establish a timeline to proceed with writing; 3)write chapters according to timeline; 4)edit; 5)repeat edit; 6)final reading; 7)send my precious baby off to agent; 8)start new project while I wait on news about previous project. Yeah, something like that. 

But then life happens. And you all know what I mean. Some of us are more disciplined than others. I will admit that can be part of my problem. Best of intentions and all that stuff. I'm Nemo. I'm swimming along, intent on my path, then BAM! Oh! Would you look at that? Maybe I'll take a quick peek and ... There I go, off track, zigging when I should've been zagging, turning when I should've gone straight. *Sigh* Life. 

P.S. Despite all this diversionary rambling, I have completed a second novel in my Shades of Blue mystery series. And I have mapped out a synopsis for a new cozy series: #1 entitled ... wait for it ... Don't Judge a Con by Her Cover. (Cute, right?) So, I'm not gonna be too hard on myself. Just a little hard. Okay?

**This post is dedicated to my dear mother-in-law, Dolores. She broke her hip and is doing the rehab thing in a nice facility. She's a brave, strong lady. Go Dolores! And don't take the twisty, winding path. You've got this :-

Monday, April 4, 2016

Spring Cleaning, i.e. Dusting Off the Author Props

It's spring cleaning time! No. Not what you're thinking. I'm truly no Suzy Homemaker, so the thrill of pulling out the sweeper, duster, polish, cleaners, sponges ... Yuk. Not even a hint of excitement there. Instead, I will gather my books, bookmarks, posters, book stands, fliers, sign-up sheets, my notes, and all author swag ... oh, and my roll-away suitcase to put said items into thus making it easy to transport the whole thing to my ... drum roll please ... AUTHOR EVENTS! Yes indeedy! I'm giddy just thinking about it. 

Spring is my time, my venue, the beginning of my yearly trek. Time to roll out the carpet and send my book babies out into the world of wonderful readers. I've come out of winter hibernation, yawning, sleepy eyed, and grumpy, but now I'm fully alert! 

So, ahem, I'd humbly like to share what experience has given me with regard to those glorious opportunities when authors may present their work, share their experiences in writing, in publishing, and a whole bunch of stuff readers want to know. It's not so hard really. Frightening? Yeah, it can be. Many writers are shy creatures. We hide behind our stories, or in them *grin*. It's much easier dealing with our characters, the ones we like to think we control -- what they do, say, feel. Oh, and they don't talk back! Well, most of the time. But it's not so hard. Discouraging? Well, yeah. It can be that, too. You may end up with only a couple visitors. Still, you talk to them, even if only one shows up! It's not so hard. In fact, it can be the best experience ever. Sharing what you love, talking about it to people who are truly interested, that's like the joy of Christmas, New Years, Easter, Fourth of July and all holidays put together! 

Now is the point when I say what works for me may work for you. Or not. Everyone is different. It's my nickle, so here goes:

*Think of what you'd like to talk about, (include a brief bio; readers love to know you as a regular person). Library signings give you this opportunity more so than at retail venues like bookstores and coffee shops or at multi-author events. In preparing for this, I might practice in front of the mirror. Yeah, I know, rather silly, but it helps me. Also, I try to list some possible questions people may ask. Here are a few:

    --- What inspired you to start writing?
    --- How did you come up with the idea for this book?
    --- Do you base your characters on any people in your life?
    --- How many books have you written?
    --- How do you feel about self-publishing vs. traditional?
    --- Do you have a favorite author?
    --- What are you writing now?

*And ALWAYS set aside time for guests to ask those questions.

*IF no one asks, here's where you say, "One question I often get asked is _______." And then answer it. (Classic teaching strategy I used in the classroom. It works great to kill the silence.)

*OR turn the tables on them and ask your guests questions. Who's your favorite author? Do any of you write or plan to pursue publishing a book or story? Just a couple examples.

*Consider reading a passage from your book, if there's time. (Again, this caters to library signings.) But please keep it short -- five minutes works for me. You don't want to see the guests' eyes glaze over, right? 

*Bring dollar bills. If you plan to sell your books and if people pay cash, you may need change.

*Remember to thank everyone for coming!

*Oh, and arrive early. You want to set up your space with all the pretty books, bookmarks, posters, book stands, fliers, sign-up sheets, author swag ... Yeah, you got this! Now, rock on, wonderful authors, and dig into your spring cleaning!