Behind the Scenes at the Tucson Botanical Gardens

Sunday, January 26, 2020
Roberto Burle Marx Tucson Garden

I do a series of blog posts that I refer to (and tag) as Behind the Books. This covers where I get my ideas, some of the research I’ve done, what inspired a particular plot. I’m not sure how many people read those posts but I believe that in some cases, people really do want to know how the sausage is made. I’m one of those people.

So it should come as no surprise that when the Tucson Botanical Gardens sent me an invitation to attend a Behind the Scenes tour of their newest exhibit, I signed up immediately. Now Roberto Burle Marx isn’t well known. I’d never heard of him. Even the curator admitted that when he was asked to design an exhibit for him, his reaction was, “Who?” But as far as I was concerned, it didn’t matter what the subject was, I wanted to learn how the gardens decided to do a special exhibit, how they gathered materials for it, and what obstacles they had to overcome.

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Amusing Suggestions from ProWritingAid

Monday, January 20, 2020
There are several tools authors sometimes use to improve the quality of their writing before (or instead of) sending a book off to an editor. I regularly used a program called AutoCrit when writing my African Violet Club Mysteries. But then they significantly raised their prices, so I had to find an alternative. (They’ve recently added a Free Forever plan. I suppose there were a lot of authors like myself who just stopped using them at all.)

You’ve probably heard of Grammarly since they do a lot of advertising. I use the free version, but not generally on my novels. No, where I find Grammarly most useful is for error-checking online posts, which I usually make in a hurry and are prone to typos. But it isn’t totally reliable.

Two years ago, I subscribed to ProWritingAid, which has functions similar to AutoCrit, but a much lower price. I haven’t used it in a while, but decided I should put my new novels through it to find out what it flagged. Unfortunately, these were some of PWA’s suggestions:

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Short Stories

Sunday, January 12, 2020


There’s been a slight detour from the novels of my new mystery series. In revising the one I’d been thinking of as a prequel and something to give away to people who sign up for my newsletter, I discovered that it was longer than the one I’ve been calling the first in series!

I’ve always given away short stories before, although some authors regularly give away novels. I haven’t got enough finished novels in my inventory to start giving one away yet. Writing, revising, editing, and proofreading a novel takes months of work. Then I have to pay for software to create and edit it, copyright registration, a cover, advertising, mailing list fees… well, you get the picture. If I give one away, it’s the same as giving away months of income. Unfortunately, I’m not independently wealthy.

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Victorian Transformations

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

When I decided to write a new mystery series set in the Gilded Age, I had no idea I’d be led down so many paths of exploration. All I knew was that I wanted to write classic mysteries rather than current cozies with their reliance on pets, recipes, and quirky characters.

I’d discovered the first five seasons of the Perry Mason television show on Amazon Prime Video, and that most of the books were available from Kindle Unlimited. I think I was also missing Downton Abbey, which I watched faithfully (after finally giving in and binging the first couple of seasons to catch up with what everyone was talking about) and still rewatch episodes on DVD or via PBS’s portal for subscribers. And then, of course, there was the colorful history of Hull, Massachusetts, which ever since I lived there, I’ve thought would make a terrific milieu for a novel.

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