Tweaking

I’m always surprised how little it takes, at times, to make something so much better than it was before.  Last weekend, I knuckled down and rearranged our closet and bookshelves, tossed things we were “going to look at”…someday…but never got to.  And dusted and scrubbed.  When I finished, the house looked happy and sparkling.

When I cook, a little spice or an herb, a simple sauce, can make all the difference.

This Saturday, my husband helped me tidy up two flower beds.  We clipped off dead stems and cleaned out withered leaves.  The beds needed extra work since I neglected them completely last year.  I couldn’t put any weight on my broken leg.  I still have to use a cane, but now, I can weed and deadhead and even rake.  I just can’t sit on my knees or shovel yet.  And I wanted to plant two new cone flowers and two Shasta daisies.  So I needed Mr. Muscle:)  After pulling dead iris and daylily stems, trimming phlox, and cutting back money plants, the beds look attractive again.  Next year, they’ll look even better.

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Tweaking does a lot for writing, too.  I started work on my second mystery.  I let myself write the first four chapters to get a feel for the flow of the story and to hear my characters.  Then on Friday,  I went back to do rewrites.  I changed sentence sequences, added description here, tightened there.  Took out a few things that will work better later.  And just like my house, my cooking, and flower beds, some studious tweaking made a world of difference.

Whether you tweak as you go or wait till The End, small things can make a big difference.  Happy Writing!  And have a great August.

 

 

Managing your time…your life?

I’m a procrastinator, but I know it.  I’m also driven, and I’ve come to terms with that, too. I have discipline…sometimes.  So it’s always a challenge for me to find balance.  I try to cram too many things into too small a time frame, and then I get frustrated.  So I try to come up with ways to manage my time and life, to work everything in.

I do better in life, as well as writing, when I have structure.  I’m not saying it always works, but it gives me something to aim for.  And when I fail, I don’t beat myself up.  Life happens.  But now that two sets of kids have grown up and moved on, I have the luxury to write every day of the week.  I start out with a half hour or hour on social media while I sip my coffee and let my brain turn on.  Then I rewrite whatever I wrote the day before, and then I start writing the new stuff for each day.  I’m not fast.  I’m slow, so it might take me most of the day to hit ten pages I like.  My friends write faster.  Some of them write better.  But I’m me, and I plug away.

Everything else in my life follows pretty much the same pattern.  I clean the house and piddle around in the yard on Saturdays or the weekend.  I love to cook, so I cook suppers almost every night.  And I have a method for that, too.

A friend, who had moved away and moved back recently, reminded me that I’d taught her my method for meal planning.  “I still use it,” she said.  My menus came because my daughter had 37 allergies (some mild, some not), and I had to be careful of everything she ate.  They also came because my husband is spoiled.  (He spoils me back). But he doesn’t like to eat the same meal twice in the same month.  So if I cook chicken piccata on the 3rd and I cook it again on the 27th, he says, “Didn’t we just have this?”

I love it, because I get bored cooking the same things, so I started saving recipes, buying cookbooks, and making menus–but I have a method that makes it easier for me.  Most Saturdays, I cook beef.  It can be ribeyes, skirt steak, hamburgers, meatloaf, or roasts. Doesn’t matter.  It just has to be a different recipe every Saturday. On Sundays, it’s pork–chops, tenderloins, roasts, Italian sausages, or ham; Mondays are ethnic–Italian, Mexican, or Chinese, etc.; Tuesdays are chicken; Wednesdays–soup/salad/sandwiches/or one-dish meals; Thursdays are fish or seafood; and Fridays, I DON’T COOK.  We go out.  If company comes over, I can switch things, trade one night’s meal for another.  I make a grocery list while I plan the menus, so I have all the ingredients I need.  The thing is, I have a starting point to work from. And that makes it easier, and I end up with variety and new recipes to try.  Just like when I make plot points for my writing.

Menus don’t work for my daughters.  They like spontaneity, surprises.  I’m not a big fan of suprises.  I  think they can go either way.  And plot points don’t work for most of my writing friends.  I might be a little too security minded, a little too cautious. Whatever. But to each, his own.  And however or whatever you do, happy writing!

 

 

Changing

I just wanted to let everyone know that I’m going to start posting my blog on Mondays again, like I used to.  I’m clearing my Saturdays to do stuff around the house–it needs it.

Also, in case any of you are bird lovers, like I am, I looked out my window at the bird feeders and suet Friday morning and saw my beloved tufted titmouse, my nuthatch, a catbird, too many kinds of sparrows to worry about, a cardinal, starlings fighting over the suet, and grackles grabbing peatnuts, besides fox squirrels and black squirrels and our greedy chipmunk.  An abundance of nature!  Oh, and two rabbits.

Have a great weekend and happy writing!

Sometimes, I don’t want angst

When I’m yapping to my friend and fellow writer, M. L. Rigdon, about my idea for a new book, and I rattle off a list of things that I can see happening in it, she always stops me and says, “That’s all well and good.  You love plotting.  But…”  And then she lists the sacred mantra of character development:  1. What does the character want?  2.  Why does she want it?  3.  What will she do to get it?  Mary Lou starts books with characters who tug at her.  I start books with ideas.  A good book needs both. No matter how you start, you have to end up with both.  And you have to find balance.

Mary Lou, who used to perform on stage, has no problem whipping up fully developed characters in her nimble, supple brain.  She has no trouble developing angst either.  After all, the ebb and flow of drama pulses in her veins.  Her Regencies (written as Julia Donner) drip with angst.  And wit.  And humor, thank God, to offset it.

For Julia Donner’s books:  https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=julia+donner

One of my other fellow writer friends, Kyra Jacobs, writes contemporary romances, like me.  I like them, along with lots of other people.  I’d love to visit the Checkerberry Inn, but she’s partnered up all the hot men there in her three book series, so I’d only get to look and drool.  But her books are fun, fast reads with heartwarming characters that lift my mood.

For Kyrs’s books: https://www.amazon.com/Kyra-Jacobs/e/B00E5PIJ04/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1 

That’s what I tried for when I wrote my Mill Pond romances.  I wanted to create characters who hooked me and life challenges I could relate to.  So I think I balanced the characters–what do they want, why, and what will they do to get it–and the plot (all the things that get in their way), but I still get feedback occasionally that my romances don’t have enough angst.  Now, I know I”m never going to please everybody.  I also know that I purposely tried to write fun, light romances–quick “feel good” reads, because sometimes, that’s exactly what I want.  Sometimes, I get damned sick of baggage piled on top of baggage. That’s why I’m not very good at deep, literary novels.  I’ve had enough baggage in real life.  I sure don’t want to read about it.  But the first time I read that my books could use more angst, I tried to add some.  Let’s face it.  No one gets through Life with a free pass.  But I got the same comments on that book.

So, I thought I’d add more angst between my protagonist and her romantic interest.  And I think I did a better job on that.  But I got the same review on that book as the earlier ones and fewer stars.  Sigh.  I’m grateful for every review I get (okay, maybe not EVERY review.  There are some I could do without:)  And I even think maybe I have a glimmer of what the reviewer meant, because–and I know this sounds strange since I’ve never met her–but I like this reviewer.  I’ve learned, though, that what one person calls “angst” might not be what I would call “angst.”  And if I ever write another romance, I’d fiddle with my next theory, but now I’m off to try my hand at mysteries.  Kensington offered me a three-book deal, and I’m pretty happy about that.  But let’s hope they have enough angst. Because I don’t have a theory on that yet.  And I’ve noticed that my least favorite book in a favorite author’s series is the one where she was the most depressed.  Bigger sigh.  I still haven’t made up my mind, I guess.

How do you define angst?

For my romances:  https://www.amazon.com/Judi-Lynn/e/B01BKZDQ68/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1501354126&sr=1-2-ent 

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

My author Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

On Twitter:  @judypost

Hooked

I mentioned once before that I’m studying cozy mysteries again.  I read them for years, and then sort of got sidetracked by urban fantasy and then romances.  Now, I combine them all in a big stew of happy reading and watching with an occasional steam punk thrown in.  I’d never watched the Hallmark mysteries, so I’m catching up on those, and it’s fun to see that a romance subplot is thrown into almost every single one of them.

I’ve read some mystery authors who are new to me, too.  And that’s what got me in trouble.  I stumbled onto Jenna Bennett’s Samantha Martin series.  The only time that I’ve been able to read one author, back to back, over and over again, was when I discovered James Fenimore Cooper when I was in middle school.  I admit it.  My young teenage heart fell in love with Natty Bumpo, also known as Hawkeye.  He was so brave with so much honor.  This quote might prove it.   It takes a Mohican only minutes to bury his dead…but many moons to bury his grief. He’ll wander the hills alone until he’s ready to come down.  If anyone could walk in another man’s moccasins, it was Natty Bumppo.

It pains me to admit that the reason I’m reading one Samantha Martin mystery after another is because I’m crushing on her romantic interest–Rafe Collier.  Rafe is brave, too, with honor, but it’s buried under many layers of sexy bad boy.  And what a combination that makes!  If Rafe Collier quirked his brow at me and drawled the word “darlin’,” my knees might melt.  Now bad boys, in general, don’t interest me, but GOOD bad boys, who are heroes under all the naughty things they do….well, they’re pretty darn hard to resist. At least, on paper.  And it’s so easy for an author to get them into trouble.  Talk about tension waiting to happen.

I’ve never written a bad boy.  I don’t think I’m frisky enough to pull one off.  My protagonists are always pretty squeaky clean and above board.  They win the heroine because they’re so dependable and good–like Natty.  So it’s fun for me to read someone whose character is used to people assuming the worst of him, and who’s fairly happy to reinforce that opinion.  In fact, Rafe has a natural gift for it.  If you have a thing for bad boys, here’s a link for Jenna Bennett’s:  jenna bennett savannah martin series.

I’m about ready to do rewrites for my first mystery, and as usual, my protagonist falls for a good guy.  I got comments back from my critique partners, so I’ll finish it way ahead of my Oct. 2nd deadline.  And Ansel Herstad, the tall, blonde Norwegian who’s Jazzi’s love interest, got good reviews.  I like him–a lot.  Will he make female readers swoon like Rafe does? Probably not.  But like I said, I don’t think I can write a bad boy and pull it off.  So I’m happy with Ansel.

Do you write mostly “good” characters?  Do you have a favorite love interest who makes you keep buying books?  Did you ever write a “bad” boy/girl for one of your stories?

It’s hotter than blazes in Indiana.  If you’re sweating, too, hope you get to hibernate–like I have–and write.  Happy Writing!  Judy

 

Webpage:  http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Author Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel 

Twitter:  @judypost

Do Some Genres Crossover?

The first books I published were urban fantasies.  I was proud of myself.  I’d gotten an agent.  Dystel and Goderich formatted my e-books to put online.  But I’d always written mysteries before I tried my hand at UF, and when I read a chapter of Fallen Angels to my writers’ group, they looked stunned.  Every person started his/her critique with, “I don’t really know this genre…” and then they asked why the only protagonists were fallen angels, vampires, werewolves, and witches.  Weren’t there any humans?  Etc.  Etc.  After this happened enough times, I pretty much knew that urban fantasy wasn’t and never would be their thing.  So I sort of stopped volunteering to read.  Which didn’t bother me.  We have such good writers in our group, I’m happier to listen.

When my agent pushed me to try writing a romance, so that I could get a publisher, I signed up to read again for my group.  And it didn’t really surprise me when my romance chapters didn’t impress them either.  I got more of the same feedback.  “I don’t ever read these…”  Which I knew they didn’t.  My group is made up of serious writers and serious readers.  That’s why I like them.  And my romances are lightweight, not serious.  If you ask many romance writers, a lot of them struggle to get respect.  Hell, I don’t read that many romances, but when I do, I can appreciate the skill that goes into writing them. The same goes for sci/fi and fantasy, memoirs and noir.  They might not be my thing, but I know that it’s hard to write anything well.

I write a webpage, as well as this blog, and when I first started posting a few romance blurbs between other posts, I got such a kick out of a reader’s comment.  She said that she really enjoyed my urban fantasies and was even going to reread some of them, but she just couldn’t make herself read a romance.  When I mentioned that I was going to try to write a mystery, she commented that she’d follow me to mysteries.  She liked those. And the truth is, that made me happy.

I completely undersand how she feels.  Some things appeal to you.  Some things don’t.  It doesn’t matter how good the writing is.  It’s just not your thing.  But I’m hoping that the readers who liked my urban fantasies might crossover to mysteries.  I never expected them to be romance fans.  It’s still iffy, though.  I’m not writing hardcore mysteries. Amateur sleuths might not excite them either.  But that’s what my editor likes:)  And I like them, too.  So I’ll cross my fingers and toes and see what happens!

 

P.S.

I put up chapter 7 for a Babet & Prosper story on my webpage:  http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

My author Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

On Twitter: @judypost

 

 

 

Kyra Jacobs!

Hi, all!  I’m so happy to spread the news that Kyra Jacobs’s third and last book in the Checkerberry Inn contemporary romance series will be out on July 17th, and it’s available for pre-order now.  I love Kyra’s writing–both her romances and her dragon series–so I asked her to do a question and answer for us and to tell us a little about her new book.  Here goes:

Questions for Karen:

  1. This is the third and final book in your Checkerberry Inn series. How did you enjoy writing a series?  Did it have any challenges?

I love series writing, and being able to draw on the supporting cast from prior books to help drive new stories. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to plan ahead. I’ve got to be careful not to make a future hero/heroine act contrary to what you want them behaving like in their upcoming books.

  1. You tend to write about feisty heroines. Freudian, maybe?  A little bit of you sneaking into your fiction?

Hah! I’m pleading the fifth, here. Pleading. The. Fifth.

  1. Besides writing romances, you skip off to write PNR novels, too. How did that happen?

Honestly, I don’t know. The dragons struck me out of the blue (re-releases coming 7/31!) , as did my latest fantasy/PNR novel (work in progress). But I’ve found that keeping a foot in each genre tends to help balance me out, crazy as that may sound. With my contemporary stories, I have certain plot rules for romance to follow, as well as making the story/setting/characters believable. With fantasy, I get to break all the “normal” rules while I create new ones that shape my alternate worlds.

  1. Your third book features a female chef. Do you love to cook?  Are you a secret cookbook hoarder?

Ha! No, not a cookbook hoarder. Though, I’m certainly a cookbook/recipe user. If I don’t have directions to follow, I’m lost. Maddie, the chef in my story—she’s a wiz in the kitchen. Me? Not so much. I do love to bake (again, all about following the recipe) and have been trying my hand at grilling this summer. So far, so good!

  1. What about the hero, Cole? He’s a musician, isn’t he?  Can you tell us a little about him?  You’re a little addicted to music, aren’t you?  Do you listen to it while you write?

Ah, Cole. He’s such a sweetheart but so misunderstood. I was glad to bring him a much-needed HEA. And yes, I do love music. If I’m in the car, I’m singing along. Working in the yard or on a walk, headphones are likely in (but I spare the neighbors from hearing me sing). During writing time, though, the music stays off. I need quiet for the stories in my head to make it onto my keyboard.

  1. Okay, tell us a little about you. If you were gifted a perfect day, what would it be?

Oh, wow. There are so many “perfect day” scenarios to choose from! I’m thinking one that has a little of all my favorite things in there—time with my boys, time in my flower gardens, time writing, maybe even a bit of yoga thrown in the mix. And something tells me, music will be included as well. 😉 

Thanks for visiting my blog!  Can you share your new book’s cover, a blurb, and excerpt with us?

Thank you so much for having me here today, Judy!

herunexpectedhero-900px

Blurb:

Maddie Frye, the Checkerberry Inn’s snarky, introverted chef, just wants to be left alone. But with the inn’s upcoming gala, Maddie’s boss has matchmaking on the brain. So when the gorgeous new guy in town helps her out for a night, she comes up with the perfect solution to her problem…

Cole Granville is looking for a fresh start. When a part-time job opens in the Checkerberry’s kitchen, he takes it without a second thought. The only catch? He’s got to help his sexy new coworker snag a date for an upcoming dance. But as he coaches Maddie on attracting her crush, Cole realizes he’s the one falling for the curvy brunette. 

 

Excerpt:

“Hey! You!”

Cole froze, his heart racing. The last time he’d heard those words, they were followed by “Stop! Police!” Resisting the urge to run, he turned toward the voice and stared. The Checkerberry’s spitfire of a chef was running toward them, apron flapping in the wind.

“Uh-oh,” said Brent. “What’d you do to make Maddie leave the kitchen at this hour?”

“No idea, I haven’t seen her since church on Sunday. Maybe she’s yelling at you?”

Brent chuckled. “Looks like we’re about to find out.”

She came to a stop a few feet back, her peaches and cream complexion flushed from exertion. “Hey, hi. Cole, right?”

The men exchanged a glance. Brent offered him a victorious smirk.

“Yes, ma’am. What can I do you for?”

“Ma’am? Good grief, I’m not ninety. Even if I do feel that way sometimes. It’s Maddie. Just Maddie.”

She put a hand to her chest. Cole’s gaze followed the movement but he did his best not to let it linger there. He’d admired her curves from a distance many times, but never this up close. Today, her top was unbuttoned farther than it usually was on Sundays…

She cleared her throat and brought the hand down to plant on her hip. “You still looking for work?”

Cole stared at her, momentarily dumbstruck.

“Work.” She waved a hand in front of his face. “Are you still looking for work?”

He blinked, trying to clear the fog of surprise from his mind. “Yes, ma’am—I mean, Maddie. Did you need help moving something? Or lifting?”

“No. More like washing dishes. You got two working hands and arms?”

“Yes, ’um.”

“Then you’ll do. Please tell me this was your last run of the day.”

“It is.” More like his only run of the day. Probably wasn’t even necessary, but Old Tom hated to see him sit around bored on the days he filled in at Granville’s Hardware. Not that he’d ever complain—those days were what graciously supplied the roof over his head until Cole got on his feet financially.

“Perfect. You finish with Brent, I’ll call your grandfather.” She hurried back toward the inn, leaving the men to themselves once more.

“Come on,” said Brent with a grin. “I’ll help you unload so you can get to our queen bee.”

Cole smirked. “Thanks.”

“I hope you didn’t have any plans tonight. Big gathering up there, lots of old biddies. They stay longer than you’d expect.”

“Nah, no plans.” Cole looked back toward the inn, seeing it for the first time as a possible ticket to success. Who knew? If washing dishes paid a decent wage, maybe he’d find a way to stay longer than expected. And a cash advance.

In fact, his dream studio was counting on it…

 

 

 

Plodding at Plotting

An idea kept tugging at me for a second mystery.  Actually, it was an idea a friend gave me, and I’ve been wanting to use it since Ralph shared it with me.  When I first decided that I’d like to write a “house flipper” mystery, I had no idea there were already some out there.  I always buy my favorite authors and I’ve looked at a few others–found Jenna Bennett’s Southern Belle mysteries and love them, but didn’t know she wrote a Do-It-Yourself series as Jennie Bentley until I stumbled on one.  I’d never watched Hallmark mysteries either until other friends recommended them.  And guess what?  There’s a fixer-upper house amateur detective on those, too.  It’s fun to see how other writers mix niches with murder.  Guess it just goes to show that every idea’s probably already been taken, so you just have to write what you want and put your own spin on it.

For my first mystery, I came up with a set-up, a few plot points for each fourth of my book, and an end.  Then I sort of winged it.  I like how it turned out, but I did a lot of rewrites.  This time, I want to take my time and have 40 steps to keep my story afloat. Our friend, Ralph, used to buy old houses and fix them up to rent.  He can answer any questions I have about house repairs.  I invited him for supper one night–yes, a bribe, and he knew it, so I had to spring for ribeyes–and he had lots of ideas that I would never have thought of.

He said that once, he worked on a house for a few months to divide it into an upstairs and downstairs apartment, and he watched an old man across the street leave his house at the same time every day, walk down the street, and return about an hour later with a grocery bag from the local butcher shop.  And then one day, the man didn’t didn’t leave, and Ralph worried about him.  He didn’t see the old man for the rest of the week, and he couldn’t believe how relieved he felt when someone dropped him off, along with a suitcase, and the old man returned to his usual routine.  That idea stuck with me.  So I played with it and came up with an idea for a mystery.  I’ve fiddled with that until I have a set-up for the first fourth of my new book.

I like to have a subplot for my books, too, so I’ve mapped out one for Ansel, the contractor who just moved in with my female protagonist, lucky girl.  And for the moment, that’s as far as I’ve gotten.  But it’s time that I zero in on the criminal.  What does he want?  And what makes it worth killing for?  How is he going to interact with my characters? Can you hear me rubbing my  hands together, plotting away?

Ideas aren’t tumbling out of my head, but that’s okay.  They’re stewing, and eventually, they’ll end up making a tasty whodunnit.

 

Happy Writing!