Three Simple Things You Can Do Right Now To Become Rich and Happy

I’ve been asked to give a TED talk.

It sounds like a big deal because it is, and I’m excited. Really excited. But I admit I’m also kind of nervous. Here is me, a nobody, giving a presentation at TED. What makes me so special? Well, I’ll tell you.

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. Through a process that has yet to be shared with me, certain people are selected to give a live talk about their books, their life’s work, or their innovative ideas, usually accompanied by a slide show. They get to hold a cool little remote that controls the slide projector. When I step out on the TED stage, I’ll be holding the same little remote held by an impressive roster of world-renowned luminaries, among them Bill Clinton and Jane Goodall, Malcolm Gladwell and Al Gore, Bill Gates and Bono, Gordon Brown and Richard Dawkins (whoever they are, I just lifted this from Wikipedia), and many Nobel Prize winners.

I won’t forget where I came from though, nor all the people I left behind. In fact, I still haven’t forgotten you. That’s why, here exclusively for the Femme Fatale readers, is a sneak preview of my entire presentation, slides included, except the first one which will be a picture of me. I’ll be, like, on a yacht or something with several dogs of the same breed, or some models in bikinis, or Leonardo DiCaprio. (I haven’t taken the picture yet. Please send me an email if you have a yacht and/or are Leonardo DiCaprio.)

[SLIDE 1 (to come)]

Hi, my name is John Clement. Thank you for inviting me to TED. Believe it or not, once upon a time I was just like you: Unhappy, alone, struggling to find meaning in an empty life as I crawled like a worm to my inevitable grave. Just like you, I was a miserable loser. But today, your luck has changed, because in the next few moments I’m going to share a secret — a secret so huge, so revolutionary, that your life may never be the same again.

YOU… can be fabulously rich.

YOU… can be happy.

YOU… can be a WINNER.

How? I’m here to tell you how: By becoming a writer.

Yes. I said writer. I know what you’re thinking. “John, you’re fantastic but money doesn’t buy happiness.” We’ve all heard that before, right? Over and over again? But let’s stop and ask ourselves: Is is true? I mean, really true? Can money actually make us happier? To help us find an answer, let’s take a look at the homes of a random selection of writers, some known, some not so unknown.

[SLIDE 2] 

Here’s Edith Wharton’s house…

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Not too shabby, right?

[SLIDE 3]

And here’s Robert Graves’ house…

Robert graves

Of course you’d rebuild, but what a view!

[SLIDE 4] 

Here’s J.K. Rowling’s house…

Jkrowling

Hey J.K., mind if I Slytherin?

[SLIDE 5] 

And finally, here’s Paris Hilton’s bedroom (yes, she wrote a book)…

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Now ask yourself: While it might be somewhat altogether not untrue that money can’t buy happiness, if you were in Edith Wharton’s mansion right now, wouldn’t you be just a teensy bit happier?

How about if you were in J.K. Rowling’s castle?

What if you were in Paris Hilton’s bedroom?

What if she’s not there?

By now you’re saying to yourself, “John, this is brilliant and you’re handsome, but how does it help me?”

Well, I’m going to share with you three simple steps you can take right now to put yourself on the road to becoming a fabulously rich and ridiculously happy best-selling author.

[SLIDE 6]

Clemen merriam dictionary

Step #1 — Buy my new book, The John Clement-Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

With a photocopy of an autographed, handwritten introduction by me hand-tucked under the front cover, the John Clement Merriam-Webster Dictionary is a must-have for all writers. It has all the words you need to create your own international bestseller. Available exclusively from me for $199 while supplies last. Order now. (Don’t be misled by the substandard so-called “dictionaries” available online and in bookstores for ten dollars or less. I don’t vouch for them, and they DO NOT include my handwritten intro.)

Step #2 — Choose the words to go in your bestseller. 

I’ve done the research, and I can tell you with confidence that practically every word in every best selling book in the history of the English language is included in the Clement-Merriam-Webster dictionary. So just start picking words and have fun!

Of course, the obvious question is: If the words in all the books are all the same, why are some books destined for the Dumpster in the parking lot behind the church the morning after the annual civic association fair, while others have their own dedicated wings in Amazon distribution centers to keep up with the ever-expanding demand from adoring readers and Hollywood producers?

That brings us to the third and perhaps most important final step…

Step #3 — Write the words in the correct order. 

This may sound tricky at first, but we can easily get the hang of it by examining the work of other writers who’ve already figured out how to do it. Let’s start with Elizabeth Gilbert. Here’s the opening to her internationally acclaimed bestseller, “Eat, Pray, Love” which sold a trillion copies and was made into a major motion picture:

“I wish Giovanni would kiss me. Oh, but there are so many reasons why this would be a terrible idea. To begin with, Giovanni is ten years younger than I am, and — like most Italian guys in their twenties — he still lives with his mother.”

Now, here are the same exact words, but in a less successful order:

Most guys in their twenties wish Giovanni would kiss his mother. Like, there are so many reasons why. To begin with, I am Italian and I would be ten years younger than Giovanni.  Oh, but he still lives with me. This is a terrible idea.”

See how the order of the words in the second instance just doesn’t have the same zing as the first? And yet, they are exactly the same.

[SLIDE 7]

Knowledge_is_Power_KPAIS

Let’s try another. Here’s the opening from SALEM’S LOT, one of a trillion best-sellers written by Stephen King that’s sold a trillion copies. It was made into a movie along with a trillion other Stephen King novels:

“By the time he had passed Portland going north on the turnpike, Ben Mears had begun to feel a not unpleasurable tingle of excitement in his belly.” 

And now the same words, but in a less commercially viable order:

“The turnpike going north to Portland was not unpleasurable, but by the time Ben Mears had begun to feel a tingle of excitement in his belly, he had passed.”

See that? Not nearly as good. In the second instance, our novel’s lead character has expired in the opening line. The chances of this becoming an acclaimed bestseller now are almost nonexistent, which further proves that you can’t underestimate the importance of Step #3.

At this point, you may be looking up at me on this stage and asking, “Why share your secret with us? Why don’t you just shut up and go write your own bestsellers, idiot?” Believe me, I’ve asked myself that very same question over and over again, but with more vulgar epithets.

The answer is simple: There are plenty of bestselling novels in this world. What we need is more bestselling authors.

Now go to it. You can thank me in the acknowledgements.

Gizzy’s Cozy Kitty Corner

John Clement:

A beautiful review from the Chick Lit Cafe (plus a cute pic of Gizzy the cat)…

Originally posted on Chick Lit Cafe:

019 (2)We may be in the dog days of summer, but this long, hot August has gone to the cats! Gizzy says that if you want to beat the heat, grab yourself a fruity umbrella drink and a cozy mystery filled with fiendish killers and feline shenanigans!  Here are a couple of his favorites from my summer reading list.

The Cat Sitter’s Nine Lives (A Dixie Hemingway Mystery #9)

18404321Even though Blaize Clement has passed on into the great beyond, her gifted son is keeping the beloved cozy mystery series alive. Dixie is still stumbling into mysteries in her trademark white Keds and cargo shorts. Her humble abode overlooking the tranquil ocean in Siesta Key is just as cozy as ever. Her boy troubles continue to get more and more complicated. Her regular customers are still counting on her to deliver quality service to their cherished pets of all shapes, sizes…

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What, exactly, is a cozy mystery?

This originally appeared on the very excellent blog, DearReader.com. If you don’t know DearReader, I highly recommend you take a look at it! It’s one of the very best resources for finding new authors and new books to read…

 

Recently, I was asked to speak on a panel at a writers conference. The topic was “What is a Cozy Mystery?” If you don’t know what a cozy mystery is, welcome to the club. I don’t either, even though, technically, I write them…

I didn’t plan on being a cozy writer. My mother, Blaize Clement, didn’t either. In fact, she didn’t plan on writing cozies until she’d already written one. It was Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter, the first of what became a very popular series set in Siesta Key, a sleepy island off the west coast of Florida. The books follow the adventures of Dixie Hemingway, an ex-sheriff’s deputy turned professional cat sitter, and much like Jessica Fletcher and Miss Marple before her, Dixie has a curious talent for tracking down murderers.

My mother passed away in 2011, just as she was putting the finishing touches on her seventh book. She had asked me to continue the series, and because I’d been taught to mind my mother, that’s exactly what I did. (I wrote about it in a little more detail here.) The eighth book came out last year, the ninth is in stores this month, I’ve just finished final edits on the tenth, and I’m currently hard at work on the eleventh.

The point is: I ought to know what a cozy is by now.

The panel consisted of six authors, all of whom had been chosen because they supposedly write cozies, and all of whom when given half a chance denied it (albeit with varying degrees of certitude). We all agreed that the term “cozy” is just plain terrible, but we did manage to come up with a basic set of rules that defines the genre:

1) The main character is female;
2) She lives in a small, quaint village;
3) She is an amateur sleuth, not a detective or officer of the law;
4) The amount of sex and gore, on a scale of Zero to Zilch, is Nada; and
5) The maximum number of curse words is (see #4).

The problem with all these rules, of course, is that every one of them has been broken, often very successfully and by very successful authors, chief among them Agatha Christie, the grandest of the grandes dames of cozy writers. And while I’ve gotten a few letters accusing me of using certain “naughty” words my mother would never have approved of, she herself broke rules #4 and #5 on a regular basis–way more, in fact, than I have.

But one idea that came up during the panel has stuck with me. It’s that in a really good cozy, the writer creates an intriguing world where, simply put, the reader wants to be–a world you want to go back to again and again and again. A world that feels like home.

I love that idea.

I think it explains the popularity of cozy mysteries perfectly, especially given how uncertain the “real” world feels sometimes, and it’s exactly why I’ve gotten so much joy writing about Dixie. And since I’m now in the habit of thinking like an amateur sleuth on a regular basis, I can’t help but take an even closer look. It occurs to me that I myself am living in an intriguing world created for me by my mother–the world of the cozy writer.

I still don’t know what the heck a cozy is, but it’s a world I’m very, very happy to be in.

 

My Interview with Jenny Milchman

From the August issue of The Big Thrill Magazine:

Let me say this straight out. I am not a cozy reader. Hey, this is THE BIG THRILL, and we’re all fans of International Thriller Writers, right? But I met John Clement at ThrillerFest 2013 and I knew that whatever this guy wrote would be something I’d want to read. Not only did John give the funniest sixty second intro ever heard at a Debut Breakfast, but the story behind how John came to be writing turned out to be as meaningful as the books themselves.

The Dixie Hemingway series pushes the envelope in a lot of ways for murder mysteries, and that’s probably because the author tends to push the envelope in his own life as well, seeking to challenge himself, and never backing down even when the prospect might be daunting. I hope you’ll be as impressed as I am by the open, honest answers that follow, and join me in celebrating the release of THE CAT SITTER’S NINE LIVES.

There is a very poignant background to the way you came to write your first Dixie Hemingway mystery, THE CAT SITTER’S CRADLE. Can you tell us something about how it all happened?

It’s funny. Now, looking back on how it unfolded, I can see what a bizarre story it is, but at the time it all seemed perfectly normal… probably because I was still in a bit of shock. My mother, Blaize Clement, published her first mystery, CURIOSITY KILLED THE CAT SITTER, back in 2005 with St. Martin’s Press. She then went on to write six more books in the series, which follow the adventures of Dixie Hemingway as she struggles to piece her life back together after the loss of her family. It sounds dark, and at times it is, but it’s also hilarious and witty and has lots of cats so it fully qualifies as a cozy mystery, even if it slightly pushes the boundaries. In 2011, after about a year of battling with cancer, my mother’s doctors told us there was little hope of survival. She elected to discontinue treatments. We moved into a hospice home in Sarasota, Florida, and it was there that she put the finishing touches to her last book, THE CAT SITTER’S PAJAMAS.

It was truly a time in my life that I cherish. She had made a decision to—as she put it—“die well,” and in the almost sixty days we spent in hospice, that’s exactly what she did. We laughed, we talked our heads off, we read to each other, we did crossword puzzles. She put all her energy into willing the anger and grief to melt away, and I did my best to follow her lead. We lived in the moment… and then her long-time friend and editor at St. Martin’s Press, Marcia Markland, called with a proposition: Would she consider letting me continue the Dixie Hemingway series?

I was horrified. I’d been writing most of my life—screenplays, short stories, non-fiction features—but never, ever had I even considered writing a full-fledged novel, especially a mystery. My first reaction was, “No. I can’t do it.” My mother’s first reaction was, “Yes. Yes you can.”

I’m a good boy. I pretty much always have been. And it wasn’t exactly the right time to stop minding my mother, so I finally relented, and then we spent our remaining time together talking about Dixie and what the future held for her. When my mother passed away, she left me with a few chapters for the next book, and a lifetime’s worth of notes, memories, scenes and story ideas.

This is an article in THE BIG THRILL, which raises some interesting questions about the expanding parameters of the thriller genre. Do you believe there’s a distinction between the categories of mystery, suspense, and thriller, or do there tend to be elements of all three in most books? How about in the Dixie Hemingway series in particular?

I’m probably less qualified to answer this question than most (or all) of THE BIG THRILL’s followers, since to be honest I don’t read a lot of thrillers and mysteries. I know—that’s pure blasphemy here—but I have to be very careful. My brain is messy and jumbled, like a file cabinet turned on its side: Everything’s completely accessible, but I have no idea where it belongs or how it got there. For example, in THE CAT SITTER’S NINE LIVES, I had a very clever little idea for a plot twist that I was particularly proud of until I realized I had unknowingly lifted it right out of Laurie King’s THE BEEKEEPER’S APPRENTICE. I had to delete an entire chapter and start all over.

That being said, I think essentially the answer is yes, there are very strong differences between mysteries, thrillers, and suspense novels (although of course the best books will have elements of all three). For mysteries, and especially “cozy” mysteries, the lines seem even more clearly drawn. There’s an implicit understanding between the author and reader that nothing will get too dark, too depressing or too grisly. In the world of Dixie Hemingway, my mother often took it right to the edge of that line, and I’ve tried to do the same. It creates a nice tension that I think the readers appreciate.

Tell us about your latest release, THE CAT SITTER’S NINE LIVES, a story about a Samaritan whose good deed has unexpected consequences. Is this release something of a departure for the series or very much in keeping with it?

I think a little of both. I work really hard to remain true to my mom’s vision—for me it’s a way of remembering and honoring her—but her fans and readers have been overwhelmingly supportive. I get emails every day thanking me for continuing the series, and yet encouraging me to keep going and make it my own. With NINE LIVES, I wanted the voice and the structure to feel like a seamless progression from the previous books, so it starts out with a bang that Dixie’s fans will recognize, but I also wanted to delve a little more into Dixie’s past… we’re learning a little more about what makes her tick with every book.

Let’s talk about the road less traveled. Is this what you expected to be doing right about now, and if it isn’t, what impact have the surprises and detours had on your life?

No! This isn’t what I expected at all. I’ve written my whole life, but never once did I think I’d have the privilege of writing a mystery series, and frankly I’m having a blast. As for what I expected, I kind of thought I’d be a musician—I studied classical viola and piano for about a decade. And then I kind of thought I’d be an actor—I was part of a professional acting company in New York and then in Philadelphia for another decade. Now, I kind of think I’ll be a writer. If I can do that for another decade I’ll be very happy, and if that doesn’t pan out, I’m thinking I might like to be a supermodel, or maybe a professional hockey player.

What’s next, for Dixie and for you?

THE CAT SITTERS NINE LIVES is in stores this month, and I’ve just sent in the second draft for the tenth Dixie Hemingway mystery, THE CAT SITTER’S WHISKERS, which is slated for publication by St. Martin’s/Minotaur in March of next year.  I’m also in the middle of writing the eleventh book, the title of which is still a closely-held secret. God willing and the creek don’t rise, we’ll see that one on shelves in 2016.

As for Dixie’s future? Well, you’ll just have to read the books to find out…

 

Jenny Milchman is the author of the Mary Higgins Clark award-winning novel, COVER OF SNOW, as well as numerous short stories published in such magazines as Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Jenny is the founder of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day and Vice President of Author Programs for International Thriller Writers. For two years now, Jenny has gone on what Shelf Awareness calls the world’s longest book tour. Her second novel, RUIN FALLS, came out in April to starred reviews.

DEADLY INK MYSTERY CONFERENCE

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I’ll be at the Deadly Ink Mystery Conference this whole weekend, rubbing elbows with both mystery fans and mystery writers, and I’ll be signing copies of the latest Dixie Hemingway mystery, THE CAT SITTER’S NINE LIVES, with my deadly ball-point pen. For a schedule of events, click here.

And if you find yourself in New Brunswick (or within a reasonable driving distance… say 200 miles), please come by and say hi!

A super scary book giveaway…

It doesn’t come out until July, but this week I’m giving away two signed advanced reading copies of the next Dixie Hemingway Mystery, THE CAT SITTER’S NINE LIVES.

Here’s how to win one:

Today, I’m a guest on Allison Brennan’s blog, Murder She Writes. Since Allison writes thrillers, I thought I’d share the story of the first really scary movie I ever saw. Add a comment there about your first scary movie (or anything else that strikes your fancy), and I’ll randomly pick two lucky readers at the end of the week.

You can read it and leave your comment here.

Good luck and happy reading!