Blog posts about the Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mysteries and their author Rabbi Ilene Schneider

Archive for December, 2014


Check out my new guest blog, hosted by Lesley Diehl, “author of cozy mysteries featuring sassy, country gals who enjoy snooping,” at Lesley asked, “What’s so funny about murder?” My answer: “Humor is subjective.”


Today’s guest blogger is fellow Oak Tree Press author Janet Greger, who writes as J. L. Greger. Although she is no longer a professor in biology at the University of Wisconsin, Janet likes to include tidbits of science in her medical thrillers/mysteries, Coming Flu, Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, Ignore the Pain, and Malignancy.

Cover of Malignancy

At the beginning Malignancy, men disguised as police officers shoot at Sara Almquist twice in one day. The real police suspect Jim Mazzone, a drug czar who has tangled with Sara before, will order more hits on Sara. Thus when colleagues in the State Department invite Sara to arrange scientific exchanges between the U.S. and Cuba, she jumps at the chance to get out of town and to see the mysterious Xave Zack, who rescued her in Bolivia. Maybe, she should question their motives.

Malignancy is available from Amazon: and from Oak Tree Press:

Janet and Bug

Janet and Bug

Janet’s two great passions are Bug and travel. Bug is her Japanese Chin and the inspiration for the Bug in her novels. She’s included her travels to Bolivia and Cuba in Ignore the Pain and Malignancy. When she’s not traveling, Bug and she live in the American Southwest.

You can visit her website at

On Janet’s previous visit to my blog, April 17, 2013, her post was titled “Eat! Eat! Die! Die!” and discussed her then newly published book Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, not a new method way to slim down.  On this, her return visit, she is discussing the process she uses to avoid “bad” words in her latest book to feature the sisters, Malignancy. And once again, her title “Avoid Ten ‘Bad’ Words” is a bit misleading.

I admit I use all ten of these words. But they’re not what you’re thinking. For the words you’re probably guessing, you’d have to check out Talk Dirty Yiddish. For Janet’s list of taboo words, read just about any novel.

 Avoid Ten “Bad” Words

Get your mind out of the gutter! I’m not talking about curse words. I mean the words many of us use too much. These words add blandness and not clarity to our writing.

My thriller Malignancy was published in October. That means I’ve spent the summer and early fall editing the adventures of my heroine epidemiologist Sara Almquist as she tries to escape the clutches of a drug lord and accepts a precarious assignment arranging scientific exchanges in Cuba. I guess all Sara’s risky behaviors put me in the mood to be foolish enough to “give” advice on editing.

The “bad” words are: that, just, very, really, still, some, perhaps, maybe, which, and since. What words do you want to add to the list?

When I finish the first draft of a novel, I like to tidy the draft up a bit before I edit the text for gaps in logic, bungled time sequences, and unnecessary characters.

I do a “find and replace mission” that includes the following steps.

  1. Eliminate my “bad” words. I think the “Find” option in the Window’s Edit list is my best friend during this process.
  2. Convert sentences from a passive into an active voice.
  3. Replace weak verbs with action verbs.
  4. Change run on sentences spliced with a comma into two sentences or one sentence spliced appropriately.
  5. Find “-ing” words and evaluate their usage.
  6. Look for common misspellings missed by Spell Check, such as form for from.

This process is a humbling experience and keeps me from rhapsodizing about my “beautiful prose.” Then I look for gaps in logic.

I start with the easiest task first. I reduce the number of named characters. Any name, mentioned less than ten times in a manuscript, I delete completely or at least eliminate the character’s name. Now I’m a bit contrary on this point. Some authors reduce the number of named characters in their books so much, I know who the villain is after the first thirty pages because he or she is the only extraneous named character. In other words, I like a few “red herrings” in my books.

I check time sequences. I can’t be the only author who discovers Character A knows something before it occurs. At this point, I often delay or reduce clues to sharpen the suspense in my thrillers.

I repeat the find and replace mission (mentioned above) because gremlins creep in and reinsert problems.

As I do second, third, and fourth edits of the novel, I look at manuscript in different ways. My dog Bug thinks I’m being strange when I read dialog out loud, but it helps me smooth out conversations.

After I think the manuscript looks pretty good, I print it out. I always find hundreds of points that I didn’t notice on the computer screen.

Next I send the manuscript to a professional editor. Then I pray that together we’ll catch all the errors, but know I’ll probably catch more errors when I read the galley for my novel. Somehow errors not obvious in my typed manuscript glare at me from the printed galley.

Now it’s your turn. What do you look for when editing your work? I hope you’ll read Malignancy, and find I did a good job of editing it.


In honor of Chanukah (starting the evening of Dec. 16), CHANUKAH GUILT is only 99¢ on Kindle for 2 weeks (today to Dec. 23).

Now there’s no excuse for not buying the 2nd edition if you already have the 1st. And you get the bonus of a rewrite that allowed for appending an alternate solution.


When I first began to work as a spiritual support counselor for Samaritan Healthcare and Hospice, I was given a piece of advice that turned out to be all too accurate: When planning your visit schedule, figure on at least an hour more than you think you will need for each patient.

On October 20, I posted a blog here about a new/old book I planned to have up on Kindle, and possibly as a self-pubbed print book, by Chanukah. That’s Chanukah, 2014. That’s Chanukah, 2014, beginning on October 16, 2014. Not 2015.

The book is old in that a proposal for it, complete with outline and sample answers to sample questions, has been lurking on my laptop’s “ISS/Writing/Books” folder since around 2008. It’s new in that it has never been published in any format.

I figured I had plenty of time. The five weeks until December 1 should be enough time, I thought, even though I’d be spending two days with friends from my old neighborhood and another week in California. It’ll be easy and quick to finish the book, format it for Kindle and CreateSpace, do promo, and watch it shoot up in sales.

I was delusional, and not just about the sales projections. My self-imposed deadline was the worst miscalculation I’d made since I volunteered the end of last February to compile and edit Recipes by the Book: Oak Tree Authors Cook! “How long could it take to put together a cookbook?” I thought. “A couple of weeks?” Sure, that’s all it took, if “five months” is equal to “a couple of weeks.” And it’s still awaiting publication. (The formatting is more complicated than the publisher anticipated. At least, I’m guessing that’s the reason for the delay. Plus it’s probably at the bottom of the to-be-released list, below all the other terrific books OTP releases.)

The first problem became apparent as soon as I opened the file for the first time in six years. I discovered I had not answered as many sample questions as I had remembered.

Fortunately, I enjoy research. Unfortunately, I enjoy research. “That looks interesting,” I think as I click on a hyperlink. Which leads to another hyperlink. And another. Which leads to two hours of research that boils down to a two-sentence answer.

I subscribe to the philosophy of Matt Groening in School is Hell:  “The simple way to avoid the stomach-churning agony of having to finish your thesis: read another book; repeat when necessary.” Substitute “book” for “thesis.” (Have I ever mentioned it took me ten years to finish my doctoral dissertation? Maybe I shouldn’t have had Groening’s “advice” taped to my computer monitor.)

Why 9 antlers - I mean candles - for Chanukah?

Why 9 antlers – I mean candles – for Chanukah?

So, when will the book, titled Why Nine Candles For Chanukah? Answers to Questions You NeverThought to Ask,  be done? Maybe by next week. That will still give me a week until Chanukah starts. Or maybe in two weeks, during Chanukah.

Or there’s always 2015.

In the meantime, I just found another fascinating link. Ooh, and look at all the Chanukah songs on YouTube!


On the Oak Tree Press blog: some of my thoughts about Bouchercon.