November 27, 2011

Mystery We Write 2011 Fall Tour Presents Jinx Schwartz


Raised in the jungles of Haiti and Thailand, with returns to Texas in-between, Jinx followed her father’s steel-toed footsteps into the Construction and Engineering industry in hopes of building dams. Finding all the good rivers taken, she traveled the world defacing other landscapes with mega-projects in Alaska, Japan, New Zealand, Puerto Rico and Mexico.

Like the protagonist in her mystery series, Hetta Coffey, Jinx was a woman with a yacht—and she wasn’t afraid to use it—when she met her husband, Mad Dog Schwartz. They opted to become cash-poor cruisers rather than continue chasing the rat, sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge, turned left, and headed for Mexico. They now divide their time between Arizona and Mexico’s Sea of Cortez.

Jinx’s seventh book in her award-winning series, Just Deserts: Book Four of the Hetta Coffey mystery series, was recently released. Her other books include a YA fictography of her childhood in Haiti (Land of Mountains), an adventure in the Sea of Cortez (Troubled Sea) and an epic novel of the 30 years leading to the fall of the Alamo (The Texicans).

Jinx Schwartz: Accidental author

I did not set out to be a writer. Not once, even though I have been an avid reader my entire life, did it occur to me to write a book until I found myself afloat with no television, no job, no phone, nada. .  Over twenty years ago, my new hubby and I decided to take our boat from San Francisco to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, on a three-month voyage. Much like the crew of the Minnow, we never returned. No, we were not shipwrecked, we just decided we liked Mexico and since all we owned was the boat, we would opt out for awhile. It turned out to be a very long while.

During the summers, when the Sea of Cortez is hotter than the hinges of Hell, we returned to Texas, my native state. Okay, so it wasn’t any cooler there, but we have fantastic air conditioning.

As a ninth-generation Texan, I knew some of the family history, but that first summer back home I spent many hours in frigid libraries, putting faces to that boring genealogy chart. Of course, I
had to make up my own faces, as many were around before photography and not rich enough for portraits. Why, oh why, hadn’t someone, when I was slogging through those same History books back in school, tell me these people were my relatives?

I made my own charts, wrote small stories about each of these people with information gleaned from Texana sections all over the state, and finally focused on one couple I found especially interesting. Next thing I knew, I had written The Texicans.  Actually it took three years of research and another year of writing and rewriting and editing before I had to pull on my
big girl panties and search for a publisher. Like that was going to happen.

With spectacular naiveté, I sent a copy of the manuscript, unsolicited, to Elmer Kelton, the premier Texas writer, and since God protects fools, he actually answered and gave me great advice. (SHOW, DON’T TELL,  being the best.) Still unable to find a publisher for my GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL, I dug into the coffers and self-published The Texicans. In hard cover. I do not recommend this.

Again, someone was watching over my shoulder. (Are you seeing a pattern here?) Books in Motion picked it up as an audio book, which they rented out at truck stops all over the U.S.. I was written up in Trucker Digest!

Finally, I found an Indie publisher for the paperback. Since 2002, I have published six more books with the same publisher. Most are in audio and print, and all are in some e-book format.

What was the hardest thing to learn about writing?

Oh, that’s easy: SHOW DON’T TELL

Have I learned it well? Maybe. Switching to first person narrative certainly helped, even
though my characters TELL a story from their viewpoint. I don’t know how anyone can not SHOW when writing in first person. The reader can only know what this character knows, because only that character is allowed to think. The thinker can speculate, surmise, guess, and deduce, all the while moving the story forward, or even backward, but keeping the reader in the

The other thing I love about first person writing is the ability of a character to address the reader directly. The most famous example of this is Charlotte Bronte’s famous line from Jane Eyre: “Reader, I married him.” Love it.

Another learned skill (and there are so many) is stomping on as many past tense and passive verbs (hads, coulds, shoulds, woulds and bes) as possible. Nothing drags down a paragraph like
too many hads. Once a writer establishes that something happened in the past, no sense in beating the hads to death, is there. I’ve seen paragraphs with as many as eight hads in it. This one has four; are you ready to stomp them?

And last, but by no means least, I’ve learned there is no such thing as too many edits. Eventually I have to let my precious work go, but it drives a stake into my heart when I realize a blooper sneaked though all those many editors, and my obsessive proofing. So now, before I send this out, I will proof it ad nauseam.

The first person to detect my boo-boo today, and comment on it, wins a copy of Just Add Water, first in my award-winning Hetta Coffey Mystery series.

Jinx, thank you for this great blog today!  And folks, don’t forget to comment so you can win a copy of one of her books!  Cheers, see you tomorrow with another great author!



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12 Responses | | Comments Feed

  1. Thanks, Beth for hosting me today. Your blog site looks great!

  2. Great writing advice–tips we all need to be reminded about.


  3. I always go back and look for where I tell and don’t show. Showing is always more powerful. Great post.
    W.S. Gager on Writing

  4. Jinx, I spotted a missing question mark. Do I win? Oh, boy!

    On your subject of writing in first person, I’ve done that in short stories, but not in a novel. I like your logic about it, though.

  5. Fascinating story, Jinx, and what great settings to write about.

  6. Sorry, Earl, you are not eligible to win. However, any time you want any of my books, just let me know!

  7. I love writing in first person, although it’s hard to carry an entire book in just one first person POV. I did it, though, with Night Sounds, which is in the first person voice of one guy, jazz pianist Joe Barbarello. You can check out the first three chapters on my book page here and see how I did. Also, in Raven Talks Back, I have two separate POV’s. Raven’s chapters are all in her first person POV, and Jack’s are all in third person. I think, and could be wrong, that doing it the way I did almost gave the impression that Raven was telling the entire story. Anyhow, it seems to have worked just fine for everyone.

    Jinx, nice subject and treatment of it. So glad you could join me here today! Folks, don’t forget to comment and be eligible for free books, either print or e-book. I’ll be picking the winners of my three books at the end of this whole two weeks, so make sure I have enough info in your comments to find you. 😉

  8. Oh Jinx, those “hads” get me all the time. Thank goodness for great editors! Great post with important points.


  9. I write my Muriel Reeves Mysteries in first person and my romantic suspense series in third. As an author I prefer first, much for the same reason you do, Jinx.

    Great post!

  10. Oh, my, Jinx, your road to publishing is fascinating. And so is your dip into genealogy! All my ancestors are named either Wilson or Duncan, so I didn’t get very far when I tried that 🙁

  11. Okay, folks. Even though Earl spotted a missing question mark, no one has spotted the misspelled word. Hint: it is a very common mistake and hard to catch.

    If my fellow bloggers find it, email me so as not to tip a lucky winner.

  12. I prefer books that are told in first person.







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