Spicing Things Up comes out March 21!

This week has been a mixed bag.  My grandson came home on a 10-day leave from marine basic training.  Our family was all excited about seeing him.  The poor kid came home with “recruit crud.” He said it’s common.  Luckily, his first night home, I had a family welcome home supper for him, including steaks, macaroni ‘n cheese, and chocolate chip bar cookies–his favorites.  We all thought he had a bad cold until two days later, his temperature spiked to 104, and his mom took him to the health clinic.  He had “community pneumonia.”  Also common, I guess.  After a super shot and antibiotics, he started to feel better–and that’s when his mom, my husband, and I all started coughing and feeling crappy.

We’re taking meds now, and we’ve watched lots of movies together.  Nate’s feeling almost up to par, so his brother drove from Indy on Friday to drink green beer with him on St. Pat’s day, but it hasn’t been the warm homecoming we expected.  Still, we got to see him.  He leaves tomorrow to go back to Indy to catch his airplane early Monday morning.  He’s going to be gone a while this time.  He says he’s going to try to come home healthy next time.

I had page proofs to finish while he was here, but did those around his schedule. Everything got done on time.  Nate leaves on Monday, and then my book comes out on Tuesday.  I hope that lifts my spirits.  Anyway, I thought I’d include a snippet from the book.  I hope you like it:

 

Autumn rain didn’t have the joy of its spring counterpoint.  It served as a foreboding for worse weather to come.  When they walked inside the bar, warmth greeted them.  There were more empty tables than usual, and Daphne saw Paula sitting at a table by herself.  She waved them over.

Mom tried to hide a grimace.  She didn’t approve of Paula’s small eyebrow ring and the stud in her cheek.  She glanced away from her tattoos.

But Paula was all smiles and cheerfulness.  “Hi!  I hear there’s a trip in your near future.”

Mom’s eyebrows shot up, surprised.  “Where did you hear that?”

“Tyne told us.  He said you’re going to Carolina.”

The eyebrows furrowed into a frown.  “Really?”  She shot a dirty look at Daphne.

Daphne hung her raincoat on a nearby peg and held up her hands in surrender.  “He asked me about meeting him for supper next week, and I said I could, because you’d be out of town.”

Her mother didn’t look happy.  Her dad looked downright nervous.

Daphne shrugged.  “I didn’t know your trip was a secret.”

“It’s not.”  Mom left it at that.

Paula looked back and forth between them, confused.  “What’s wrong with having Tyne feed your daughter?  He’s one hell of a cook.”

“We’ve heard.”  Mom’s tone could form glaciers.

Louise Draper came to take their orders.  Paula already had a hamburger, and they each ordered one, too.  Of course, Mom and Dad ordered theirs plain, no bun.

When Louise left, Daphne decided it was a good time to change the subject.  She turned to Paula.  “Tyne’s brother is a chef, too, isn’t he?”

Paula’s lips twitched.  She recognized a dodge tactic when she heard one, but Daphne had to give her credit.  She answered quickly, “Holden’s won lots of awards.  Of course, that’s what his parents expected.  They always thought Holden would do well.  He was a straight-A student and excelled at culinary school.  They never expected much out of Tyne.”

Daphne could feel heat rush through her veins.  “Why not?  It’s hard to miss his talent.”  Her voice held more of an edge than she expected.  Her mother narrowed her eyes.

Paula glanced at the bar where Chase was taking someone’s order.  “Tyne does things his own way, like Chase.  Neither of them care if they impress anyone or not, and that didn’t impress Tyne’s parents.  They’re big into status.”

Daphne fiddled with the paper napkin on her lap.  What was wrong with Tyne’s parents?  How could they miss how wonderful he was?  She’d have never guessed Tyne had any challenges in his life.  He seemed so sure of himself, so successful.  She’d assumed everyone encouraged him, like her parents encouraged her.

When no one said anything, Paula went on.  “Tyne came to Mill Pond to get experience, so that he can open his own restaurant someday.”

Mom breathed a sigh of relief.  “So he doesn’t plan on staying here?”

Louise returned with their drinks—water with lemon for Mom and Dad, wine for Daphne.

Daphne gulped down disappointment.  Most people moved to Mill Pond and never left.  They fell in love with the area.  But Tyne wasn’t like most people.  Her heart lurched, surprising her.  She didn’t want Tyne to leave.  She realized she’d liked him from the moment they met, when he wanted to rent the apartment above her shop.  It was an instant click.  She often found herself watching for him on the nature trail that wound behind her cabin.  Not because she had a crush on him or anything.  He was just fun to be around.  He was a good person.  A friend.

 

http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/book.aspx/34332

Branding

A good post on branding yourself as an author. If you’re struggling with marketing, this might help.

Story Empire

Craig here again. It’s a challenge to write these tips and tricks every time, because so many of the items are debatable. I hate to take a hard line stance, but I do for the sake of the comments that trickle in during the week. The topic today is branding.

Not that kind of branding. The kind where authors promote products. As you appear across cyberspace, what kind of recognizable materials do you use so the masses will recognize you? Chances are, you’ll have a blog, the popular social media accounts, and possibly a newsletter. What kind of branding do you use to tell people this is some of your work?

You will also make guest appearances on blogs, maybe blog talk radio, the occasional video of some kind. While these post are all different, your branding is what sews them all together as you – the author.

My first…

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What Is Scrivener?

A writing tool.

Story Empire

What is Scrivener? It’s a good question. Maybe you’ve heard other writers talk about but you’re not exactly sure what it does or if it’s for you. Very simply, Scrivener is a software product from Literature and Latte designed as a highly flexible writing development tool. It has 3 main parts to help you develop and write a project.

First there is the corkboard which allows you to create the beginnings of your writing project with some folder or documents. Here, you can essentially do some white-boarding and play around with your main ideas and get your basic plot, scenes and chapters in a sensible order.

Next, for those who like it ( and for those who don’t but need to do it lightly) there’s the outliner. You can use this to work on your more detailed ideas for the project. You can do as much or as little outlining as…

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Tension

Okay, I just read a blog post by James Scott Bell, and he explained very well what I’ve always felt, but in a vague–somewhat nonverbal–way.  And he made it SO clear.  Every book has to have tension, or no one would turn the pages.  It’s easy to point to the tension in a thriller or suspense novel.  The bad guy might kill someone or lots of someones if the hero doesn’t stop him.  Same for horror, only who knows who or what the villain might be.  In a mystery, a hero is trying to solve a crime and restore justice.  But what’s the tension in a romance?  Or a literary novel?

Bell says that conflict is best if there are “death stakes” for the protagonist/s.  But he divides death stakes into physical death, professional death, or psychological.  That makes so much sense!  In a romance, every time the hero and heroine can’t work things out, it builds tension.  If they can’t get together at the end of the book, they suffer psychological death–the death of happiness:  http://writershelpingwriters.net/2017/03/conflict-and-suspense-belong-in-every-kind-of-novel/?utm_content=buffer7ce91&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Conflict drives a story, moves it forward.   And the stakes have to keep getting higher every time the reader turns a page.  That’s why there’s the old adage:  Things can always get worse.  They have to, or your story stalls.  During the set up, the author says what the protagonist wants, and he spends the rest of the book making sure he has to work harder and harder to get it.  Here’s a good link by Samantha Stone to build conflict:  http://www.creativewritingsoftware101.com/articles/how-to-create-conflict-in-your-story.php

I used different types of tension in my romances than I’ll need for my cozy mystery, but I still want a romance subplot, and I want to work hard at developing characters readers will care about.  I enjoyed writing Babet and Prosper so much for urban fantasy that I’d like to do something similar for my River Bluffs novels.  I want my characters and setting to be as fully formed as the mystery.  We’ll see how that goes:)

At my writers’ group last week, one of our members tried to decide what each of us needed to do to write a bestseller.  I give him credit.  He believes in all of us, bless him.  And I think we’re all good writers, too, but I have less faith in finding the “secret” that makes a book sell.  Lots of advice says that you need to write a “big” book.  The higher the stakes, the more readers you’ll attract.  That might be true.  I don’t know.  I think the heavens have to align and there’s a lot of luck involved.  And I found this article that sort of agrees with me.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-winkler/how-to-write-a-bestseller-formula_b_1542587.html

In the meantime, happy writing!

 

My webpage:  (a free snippet from SPICING THINGS UP–our March 21–and a free short mystery):  http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

author Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/

twitter:  @judypost

 

 

 

 

 

 

Switching genres

Remember that WAY back when I started this blog, I warned you to do what I say, NOT what I do?  Well, I should remind you of that, because I’m thinking of doing the UNsmart thing again.

It’s like this.  Way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I wrote short mysteries.  I even sold some to Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen’s mystery magazines–not so easy to accomplish.  But cozy mysteries were dead in the water, so I decided to try writing urban fantasy.  It was a hot market at the time, but of course, by the time I finished mine, the market was glutted.  Which is why it’s tricky to follow trends.  But from someone who knows–because she’s learned the hard way–trying to sell a genre that editors have decided is passe’ is a hopeless task.  EVERYTHING’S stacked against you.

Which leads me to my unsmart move.  I seem to be drawn to write whatever isn’t popular at the time.  I didn’t give up on urban fantasy even when my agent said it was dead.  She let me try it as a self-published author on Amazon.  She hoped if I hit the right niche, I might get lucky, so I tried three different series.  I even tried novellas and novella bundles. And then she suggested I try to write a contemporary romance.  So I did.  But I went for smalltown romances with a cozy feel.  And guess what?  Kensington took them for their e-book line, but the market for them is limited.  Who knew?  I sure didn’t.  My editor liked them enough, though, that he asked if I’d ever be interested in writing a mystery for him.  Now, I really like writing mysteries.  BUT…the other thing I’ve learned on this journey, is that it almost always takes time for an author to build an audience, and you don’t build an audience when you keep changing genres.  BUT…I really like writing mysteries.  When I asked my agent about it, she recommended that I write what calls to me the most.  And she warned that cozy mysteries are still dead, but that my particular editor still likes them. So if I like working with him, which I do,  then I could give it a shot.

So…I’ve started work on a mystery.  And we’ll see what happens.  It’s still early on. Nothing’s nailed down yet.  BUT if you’ve paid attention, I’ve given you THREE genres you might want to avoid if you’re a new writer and want to sell to a big publisher:  urban fantasy, sweet romances, and cozy mysteries.

Since I apparently am no good at picking the right markets with appeal, I did a quick search and got this:  https://medium.com/applaudience/fiction-trends-to-watch-for-in-2017-and-beyond-408fef67c07f#.mizi0o1vl

And from Kirkus Reviews:  https://www.kirkusreviews.com/proconnect/word-on-the-street/

Whatever you’re writing, good luck with it.  And enjoy the process!

webpage: http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/

Twitter:  @judypost

 

Deadlines & Writing

I did it!  I finished romance #6.  I met my deadline.  Time to toast myself and celebrate. This was the romance I thought might never end.  I kept thinking of new scenes to add to it, so it grew from 63,000–what I expected–to 73,000, which should make my editor happy.  He wanted me to make my books longer–if I wanted to.  I didn’t think I did, but this book disagreed with me.

I’m not suggesting that you can write a sprawling epic.  Every editor/publishing house has specific lengths they accept, and if you go too far under or over those, your book will be a hard sell. But I knew my editor wanted 70,000 words even though my contract was only for 60,000.  Those extra 10,000 words take longer to write, so if you have a deadline, it’s wise to write a little faster.  Which leads me to a little kernel of thought that I’ve rolled around in my head for most of this week.

I recently read a blog post that implied if writers wrote more than one book a year, they weren’t serious writers.  I guess we don’t sweat enough, suffer long enough to produce  good books.  I used to write one book a year when I had kids and my husband worked second trick, and there was ALWAYS someone underfoot, needing to do this, go there.  The kids are grown now.  I have more time.  And now, I write three books a year and squeeze in some short fiction, too.  Remember, I’m talking about 60,000 to 70,000 word books.  The good news–I’ve been at it long enough, (and that  makes a difference), that I actually think my writing’s BETTER when I write faster to meet a deadline.  I don’t ramble around as much.  Now, I aim for 10 pages a day, every weekday.  That gives me plenty of time to plot a book before I start it,  rewrite as I go (essential for me, even though it messes up other writers), give it to my critique partners, and then do a serious rewrite when I get back their comments.

This sounds good on paper.  It hardly ever works that smoothly.  I lose writing days when people come to stay and visit with us, when I get sick and can’t function, when the sky’s blue and I HAVE to play hooky, or I get a chance to go out for lunch.  But regardless of what happens, I have to meet my deadline.  And that pressure keeps the book in the back of my mind.  Writing faster also makes me more conscious of pacing, how the book’s moving.  I can FEEL it.

I’ve read novels by some of my favorite writers where I can almost tell they wrote TOO fast, that they were rushed and HAD to get a book done.  Things get lost in the shuffle–like characterization, telling details, description.  But Elizabeth George–yes, my goddess of writing–wrote her first book A GREAT DELIVERANCE–(which I consider  flawless)–in three-and-a-half weeks.  I’m guessing it had lived in her mind for so long, it gushed out.  But, in truth, there’s no perfect time schedule to write a book.  It’s according to how complicated the story is and if the story flows or fights you.   Some books come to you almost whole and you have to write fast to keep up with them.  Others, well, there’s a push-and-pull that takes longer.  One book a year or three books a year can both be good. Find your own rhythm.  Do what works for you.

Any thoughts on the subject?

I found this link from Elizabeth George on writing.  Lots of good advice:  http://www.elizabethgeorgeonline.com/faq_writing.htm

And for you pantsers out there, I found an article on Linda Howard about how she writes: http://www.gadsdentimes.com/news/20130201/author-linda-howard-reflects-on-prolific-30-year-career

We have a solar eclipse this Sunday (we can’t see it in the U.S.).  I hope the planets inspire you.  Happy writing!

My webpage:  http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

My author Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/

Twitter:  @judypost

Three Ways to HOOK a Reader & Never Let GO

A great explanation of how to hook and keep a reader. Thought I’d share.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Image courtesy of Randy Heinitz via Flickr Creative Commons. Image courtesy of Randy Heinitz via Flickr Creative Commons.

How do we sell our stories? That is the big question. It is the reason for craft classes and editing and cover design and agents and editors and all the time on social media. And while platforms and covers and algorithms do matter, there is one tried and true way to sell more books.

Write a great story.

And not just any story, but a story that hooks from the very beginning and only continues to hook deeper.

Think of great stories like concertina wire.

The danger of concertina wire is not just in one hook, but hundreds. And it isn’t even in the hundreds of hooks. It is the tension created by the coiled structureIf a person is snagged even a little, every effort to break free (turning a page for resolution) only traps the victim deeper in…

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#SonofaPitch…Thoughts and My Votes

My friend and awesome writer, Kathy Palm, participated in SonofaPitch and generously donated HOURS of her time. She’s lived through it and here are some of her thoughts. Writing is subjective. As writers, it’s hard for us to accept that sometimes, but ALL art is subjective. Kathy explains that really well.

Finding Faeries

As the second round of Son of a Pitch wraps up, I sit here smiling…tired and my mind a bit frazzled, but very happy.

I read 51 entries, which included a query and the first 250 words of the manuscript. I hosted eleven of them on this little blog! It was an honor. I read some once, others…after revisions were posted…twice, and some more than that. I gave all my opinions. I squeed at some of the words. I smiled at others. I gasped. I laughed. I sighed. From horror, to fantasy, to sci-fi, to romance, to women’s fiction, to literary…YA, NA, and adult…everyone brought something different to this event. Everyone came to learn. Everyone united to help.

Son of a Pitch is my favorite writing competition. Everyone gets feedback. Everyone participates. Everyone is involved. #sonofapitch has been my favorite hangout these last few days.

I am so proud of…

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