Wednesday, May 15, 2013


There will be the usual gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over the new Dan Brown thriller, Inferno. I’ve downloaded it and will (along with six other books on my ebook stack) try and enjoy the book as much as I have with most of Dan’ past adventures with Robert Langdon. I say gnashing and rending because many of the critics can’t wait to jump all over this book racing to be the first to trash it. Me, I’ll wait. I know what it takes to write a book, I know about the fun of the research and the thrill of uncovering a story line or a tidbit of a tale that will lead you on the next revelation. And I don’t give a hoot about the “reality” of it all (i.e. city map of Rome in Angels and Demons comes to mind). You want reality watch Survivor (and is that really reality?).

What is the lurking shadow hiding behind a trashy review? Jealousy, in all its green and purple shades. The most flowery prose is couched as a twisty knife. They attack facts (remember this is fiction), the writing style, the lack of a pedigree, anything to discredit the success of the book. Even to the sad point of maligning the writer himself. Sad, too sad. It’s terrible to be a wildly successful writer (ask their financial consultant, he knows the horror of it).

What makes a best seller? I haven’t a clue. One man’s trash is another’s best seller. The list is too long to try and needle out a reason, Fifty Shades of Gray, Harry Potter, Michener, Ludlum, Baldacci, and Jack Reacher (to mix books, authors, and characters). If there is one constant it’s that the writer had one great hit and then built on it, and in some cases got better, good example is Michael Connelly. Reread The Black Echo and then The Black Box and you will know what I mean. They all write on a dependable schedule and meet the demands of their publisher. But then again maybe trash and best seller have a lot in common.

It’s the story stupid (to wreck a political moment)! An engaging story that the reader can identify with and feel as though they haven’t wasted their time – that’s it, period, full stop. Were they entertained? Lots of ways to do that (horror, love, intrigues and dangers, a nasty villain) Were they engaged with the story, I hope so. I have a stack of books that the critics loved and I couldn’t get past the fifth chapter. Even a train wreck of a book, if it engages you (ahem), can be a best seller (Fifty Shades of Whatever).

The characters, that’s the secret. Do you want to dress and talk like them? Do you wish you were bullet proof and god-like handsome (Jack Reacherish)? Multi-faceted like Gabriel Allon (art restorer – Israeli spy)? Baldacci’s Will Robie - damaged beyond help but we love him anyway. The list is endless. We often see our lives through these phantoms, ask any girl about Hermione Granger and she will get all puffed up and smile. Characters, the more real, the more better. You have to read about them; it’s like going out to a long dinner with a close friend and discovering something new with every sip of scotch.

Every once and a while a literary bestseller manages to push aside Patterson (either one, Richard or James) and Nora Roberts to find a momentary place in the sun on the NY Times Best Seller list. But they almost never reach the sales numbers of thrillers and romance (I know, I know, A Game of Thrones can lurk out there but George R.R. Martin is just too weird). Just click here and see the potpourri of writers and stories out there on the best sellers lists. I rest my case.

We read to be entertained and that is very difficult considering all the alternatives and distractions: TV, movies, games, gardening, clubbing (and I don’t mean baseball which is also a distraction). We choose to read, to maybe balance a small piece of ourselves with all the Sturm und Drang flying about. The world of a book is in our heads – nowhere else. You make the colors, you make the sets, and you make the characters in your image. Kind of god-like don’t you think?

More later . . . . . . .

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Horn Tooting

Every once and a while you just have to blow your own horn, especially in the self-publishing world. Below is a review I received for 12th Man For Death from Readers Favorite. I have to admit that Readers Favorite has been a favorite of mine and my heroine, Sharon O'Mara. They like her moxie.


12th Man For Death by Gregory Randall is everything you’d expect from this exciting author. Catherine Voss is murdered while taking her revolutionary new trimaran for a test sail. Her twin brother wants answers so he calls in Sharon O’Mara, Facilitator, to solve the mystery. This tough, genuine woman is ready for the challenge, even though she’s not so keen on water. This is a far from simple case - matching her own far from straightforward life - that takes her to several exotic locations while searching for the answer. As with many of the mysteries she becomes entangled with, she is drawn into contact with some powerful, menacing people - “rich crazies” - and finds herself in danger but refuses to back down. A surprise, much larger than she could ever have imagined, awaits Sharon at the end of the story, and the reader is left awaiting her next adventure.

As with all the Sharon O’Mara Chronicles, this novel is fast-paced, meticulously researched and fascinating. Randall’s attention to details ensures that every scene is realistic and factually accurate. We’re there on board Catherine’s hyrdofoil, in Paris, in Iraq, in Venice. We’re also there with Sharon, seeing inside her head and sharing her struggles and successes. She is a complex human being, with flaws and idiosyncrasies like the rest of us; she’s someone we’d like to know. Along the way she meets other equally convincing characters, although not all as likable as she is. The plot is imaginative and plausible and doesn't let up for a second. This is altogether an accomplished and absorbing novel.

Stephanie Dagg for Readers Favorite

On another front the new Sharon O'Mara book is under development - meaning I'm working as hard as I can on the damn thing. So fans, Sharon asks you to please be patient.

I am also into the last few hard edits and revisions of my new historical novel Wars Amongst Lovers. It is a great story so look here for more information in the coming months on publication.

More later . . . . . . . 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Writer’s Tips in a New World

Here are ideas to help you in your writing, most deal with background and research but there a few tidbits that just might help you write better and more engaging stories.

A quick source for finding that synonym or word that has to be just right is Word Hippo. Incredibly simple, I use it all the time to shake just the right word out my head. It’s not a replacement for my old Roget hardcover, but it does help when on a writer’s nonstop creative bender.

Many of my stories include foreign language phrases to add some color and texture. As they say, “When in France …” Idiomatic phrasing is available through many sites on the web, but I use Google translate to retrieve a quick translation. It is always a good idea to find a native speaker to make sure you have the right translation during editing. Remember, perro (dog), puta (hooker), puro (cigar), and punta (tip/nib), all sound similar as I found out when I was trying to find a cigar in Mexico. You can image the confusion on the clerk’s face when I asked, Tiene perros? and then proceeded to try the others. Ain’t language great?

Google Earth is one of the most brilliant pieces of software imagination - ever. With its various layers, especially Photos, I have found a safe-house for my story in Paris, graffiti on the walls of the Grand Canal in Venice, and obscure baseball fields in Cuba, all making my stories more interesting and readable. Most of the imagery is recent, especially in the U.S. and Europe. With Photos you can actually see what people are wearing in the location you are writing about. And with its 3D Buildings feature you can literally jump roof top to roof top. Very cool!

Microsoft’s OneNote has become indispensable for helping me to keep my research organized and easily accessible. This software usually comes with the MS Office Suite package. There are a few bugs about it but it does enable you to copy and paste your online research from sources, such as Wikipedia, directly into pages and folders, as well as scans from others sources. As in all research you need to be organized but the quick access while you write is easy and seamless. And it’s good for pulling together those footnotes and bibliographies for you non-fiction writers.

I am continually amazed by those that fight through Microsoft Word and use it as the formatting software for their final book layout that will go to the offset printer or print-on-demand printer. Sure it can work but the aggravation is endless and, like dominoes, a mistake can push through the manuscript from one end to the other. Invest in InDesign and some of the other excellent software in the Creative Suite family from Adobe, such as Photoshop and Illustrator. If you are a self-publisher these are critical tools for your profession, learn them – it isn’t hard. And your final product will look the better for it.

I would like to hear about other tricks and short-cuts that you writers use. Post a comment and share.

More Later . . . . . .