Beginnings are always slow for me

I’ve started work on Jazzi and Ansel 10. And, as usual, the first chapters of a book are slow-going for me. I write the first chapter, and then I fuss with it. I know some writers just throw down words and don’t do rewrites until they’ve finished a book. But I can’t do that. The beginning has to “feel” right before I can move forward. And even though I’ve made character wheels and charts, I still don’t truly know new characters, so I can’t decide for sure what they’ll do in beginning scenes. And there’s always something that crops up that I haven’t thought through yet. So I write a scene, and then I rewrite it and fuss with it.

My words don’t flow. They lurch through sentences and paragraphs. Did I give out enough information to hold a reader’s interest, or did I give out too much too soon? It’s a precarious balancing act, and I’m never sure if I’m getting it right. But I’ve written four chapters now, and I’m starting to feel a little more comfortable.

In book 9, I tried to pick up the pace of the story, and I got mostly good feedback on that. But one faithful reader felt like I jumped into the murder too soon before I’d set the scene and settled the characters in place. Setting is a big thing in cozies. So are minor characters. In this book, I introduce the murder in the first chapter again, but hopefully, the characters come alive before that happens. And there are plenty of homey moments scattered between clues and investigations. Most of my friends who are writers start their books off with a bang, introducing the book’s big question as soon as possible. But cozies aren’t like that. I’ve read some that don’t have a murder until quite a few chapters into the story. In book 10, though, I hope I’m starting with a good hook and tease the reader with why Jerod leaves the hospital before he gets to see Jazzi and Ansel’s new baby. He’d never do that unless something really important pulled him away.

I’m hoping to write chapter five tomorrow. I usually dedicate the first quarter of a book to its set-up, so there won’t be any speed writing for a while yet. I’ll scratch my head a lot, question myself even more. It will be touch and go, but each chapter puts me on firmer ground. And then, I’ll feel more comfortable for a while. Until I hit the middle of the middle–the beginning of the third quarter of the book. That always slows me down again, but if writing a book was easy, it might not be as much fun.

Good luck with whatever you’re working on now. And HAPPY NEW YEAR to all. Hoping 2023 is better than 2022 for everyone.

Whew!

Christmas cards are sent. My daughter and grandson came on Sunday to bake cookies with me. Lots of them. We package them up to send to friends and neighbors. I meant to make Staci Troilo’s cookie recipe from her virtual cookie exchange but didn’t have any whiskey in the house, and the store was CROWDED. Another time.

We experimented with making chilaquiles with shrimp for supper Sunday night, and it turned out great. At first, the sauce was too spicy, but Bobby Flay always adds honey to his sauces when they’re too hot, so we did, too. And a little more chicken stock. And boy, were they good! For lunch before they left today, we marinated a skirt steak to make steak and eggs. My daughter loves poached eggs and saw a recipe where the poached eggs were cooled, then breaded and fried. A LOT OF WORK, and she loved them, but I’m not sure they were worth the mess and work. I think I’d rather have a Scotch egg. But none of that mattered. We had a lot of fun cooking together, and that’s what mattered.

The girl who grew up across the street from us and is STILL my daughter’s best friend came to see us after she visited her dad in a nursing home and brought her two boys. An extra treat. My daughter from Florida and her husband are scheduled to come on the 22nd to spend Christmas with us, but a massive storm is predicted, so who knows? Traveling over the holidays is always dicey. But there’s a reason family is so important in the Jazzi and Ansel mysteries. They get together with each other every Sunday, and Jazzi cooks the entree. Family is a wonderful blessing, and Jazzi’s family and friends appreciate each other.

If my kids make it home on the 22nd, this will be my last post before Christmas. Fingers crossed. Wish us luck.

It’s Up!

Staci Troilo’s second virtual cookie exchange is up with lots of tasty recipe temptations. My daughter and grandson are coming on Sunday to bake cookies with me. We have to give some of these a try! You might want to check them out-the pictures alone will make you drool:) I posted my recipe last night, but ALL of these look delicious!

Virtual Cookie Exchange

This year, I signed up to share a cookie recipe on Staci Troilo’s virtual cookie exchange blog. My second daughter loved these bar cookies when she was growing up. She and her husband are coming home for Christmas, flying into our Midwest winter weather from their home in Florida. So I thought of these cookies again. They’re a little unusual nuts, coconut, and maraschino cherries, so I thought you might enjoy them.

Cherry Coconut Bars

Heat oven to 350. 

For bottom crust, mix together:

1 c. flour

3 T confectioners’ sugar

½ c. soft butter

Press in bottom of ungreased 8 x 8 pan.  Bake 25 minutes.

For topping, mix together:

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 c. granulated sugar

¼ c flour

½ t. baking powder

¼ t salt

1 t vanilla

¾ c chopped pecans

½ c sweetened, shredded coconut

½ c quartered maraschino cherries

Pour over crust.  Bake 25 more minutes.

Cool.  Cut into 16 bars.

Staci’s blog will have links to more authors sharing their favorite cookie recipes, so you might want to check out her site.

Happy holidays!

Pulling Teeth

Maybe it’s because of the holidays. Or maybe it’s because Jazzi and Ansel have more to juggle than usual. They have a baby now. And even though Toby’s easy-going, babies change your life. Jazzi’s taking six weeks off after giving birth, but it’s driving her nuts not working on the fixer upper she, Ansel, and Jerod are flipping. They bought an old brick warehouse on Wells Street a long time ago, but they never did anything with it. Now, after the river walk was built, living downtown is getting popular, so they’ve decided to make it into condos. It’s a three-story building, and they’ve decided to divide it into nine condos–three on each floor with a wide hallway down each center. Two condos will be smaller and one will be large on each floor. A large parking lot is behind the building and a large green area is beside it.

Besides working on the condos, Jazzi’s offering a shoulder for Franny’s sister to cry on. She was in the middle of a divorce when her soon-to-be ex was murdered in another woman’s bed. In the wee hours of the morning. The same hours that Rachel was driving her baby up and down streets to try to get her to sleep. The cops find that suspicious and consider her their top suspect.

Between babies, the fixer-upper, and murder, Jazzi’s days are crowded. But Toby brings her and Ansel lots of joy. Trying to balance everything in the book, though, is making plotting more work for me than usual. And it’s the holidays. But I’m making progress. Someday, I might even be ready to put fingers on keys and start writing scenes.

It’s still early in December, but I hope you’re already brimming with holiday cheer. Enjoy!

For Fellow Writers

I’ve been trying a few different things to market The Body in the Wheelbarrow, my ninth Jazzi and Ansel mystery. None of it has made me rich, but it gave the book a better sendoff than the blog tours I’ve tried before, so I thought I’d share. If I’d have combined them ALL, who knows? Maybe I’d have had even better results.

First, I posted a cover reveal on my blog and on twitter. I know twitter’s worrisome right now, but it’s one of my favorite marketing tools at the moment, and I hope it stays that way. I also posted about how the writing was going for the mystery off and on. C.S. Boyack does a brilliant job of doing this on his blog to build interest in the books he’s working on. See for yourself. https://coldhandboyack.wordpress.com/2022/11/26/my-new-normal/

When I was close to finishing the book, I put it up for pre-order on Amazon. I did that wrong and wasn’t too happy with myself, but the next time, hopefully, I’ll get it right and be more organized. I know authors who post the book way ahead of time and give the date they want the book to go live, because they can fiddle with it up to 48 hours before it goes up. Be smarter than I was. They can give the book a long lead as a pre-order and then load the finished version BEFORE the date they chose. I posted on twitter that it was up for pre-order, and I think the pre-order helped build interest for my book, so I think it was worth it.

Once I put the book up for pre-order, I paid $119 for a Goodreads giveaway and MEANT to have the giveaway end the same time the book went live on Amazon to order. I screwed that up, but I still think it helped readers find The Body in the Wheelbarrow. I gave away 50 copies and hope I’ll get some reviews from the winners. They just got their books today, so I’ll have to wait to see how that works, but I still think the giveaway was worth it. Over 400 people signed up to win a copy. That’s 400 people I might not have reached any other way.

Today, I paid for an ad on The Fussy Librarian and made The Body in the Buick free for 5 days. I’m hoping more readers will find the series and want more of it. Sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn’t. I always post free days on twitter, too, in a separate post from the blog posts that automatically go there, and I always attach the book’s cover or a canva creation for the book..

I’ve shared this before, and I’m not nearly as ambitious as Debbie Macomber is about promoting her books, but it might give you some ideas you could use. She, of course, has a publisher who does a lot of the work. People who self-publish have to pick and choose how much time and money they can afford for marketing. But here’s the list: https://insights.bookbub.com/book-launch-checklist-marketing-timeline-traditionally-published-authors/

This is by no means a brilliant marketing plan I came up with, but I wanted to share what I did and how it worked with you. Good luck with your own books!

Phooey!

I hardly ever go on Facebook, but I decided to try to use it a little more often than I do now, and while I was away, too many things have changed. I had a heck of a time even trying to post a comment today. My Judi Lynn author account is now a business account, and it wouldn’t let me write a comment and hit enter unless I added something to the post. I played with the stupid thing for half an hour before I finally wrote ONE small post that worked, and it only worked because out of desperation, I added a “feeling” emoji. <sigh>.

I can’t even find my personal account right now. I keep being sent to the Tattered Book page. How did that happen? I feel like leprechauns came while I was away and screwed everything up.

I looked up “Why can’t I post on my Facebook author page?” in search and came up with so many reasons, I quit trying. I know Facebook has tried to make tons of improvements to help me boost followers, but that’s not going to happen if I can’t figure out how to use it. Aargh! There’s a reason I like twitter. It’s easy! At least, for now. Who knows what’s coming for it next?

One book finished, now it’s plotting time again

I published The Body in the Wheelbarrow, and I’ve debated about what I want to write next. I meant to write a new Laurel and Nick mystery. I even have a prologue/hook for the second book and an idea of the beginning and end, but I left Jazzi pregnant in book nine, and I sort of want to see Toby show up in book ten, so I’ve decided to write another Jazzi before turning to Laurel and Nick.

I changed my pacing in The Body in the Wheelbarrow, and most readers liked the faster pace. One faithful reader didn’t, so I hope I can come up with some kind of a mix for book ten. I hate to disappoint anyone, but I know some changes work, and some don’t. I’m adding babies into the new plot, and that’s going to change some things up, too. Jazzi’s dad and Jerod’s mom not only volunteer but demand getting to care for Toby one day a week, so Jazzi can still be involved in house flipping. I’m going to try to keep up with the balance between renovating a house, caring for babies, and solving mysteries. Fingers crossed I can pull that off.

In book ten, Franny’s sister is accused of murdering her ex-husband who cheated on her after she had his baby. He was jealous of all the time she spent on their new daughter, and instead of getting involved in caring for her, he slept with another woman. Jerod and Franny have Rachel and her baby girl stay with them while she’s out on bail. And of course, Jazzi tries to help prove that Rachel’s innocent.

I think book ten is going to be a challenge for me to write. I’m a little worried how I’m going to pull it off. But I’ll give it my best. And if I’m happy with it, I’m going to be ready to turn to Laurel and Nick again. They’re more of a straight mystery, and Nick and Laurel work together as a team to solve it. They can be a little darker than Jazzi novels. A nice change of pace.

Just as a side note, I meant to try a BookBub Ad for the new release of The Body in the Wheelbarrow, but after reading all the hints of how to make an ad work, I chickened out today. Maybe I’ll get brave and try again another day, but boy, running an ad is intimidating!