Chapter 35’s up

Chapter 35

Wouldn’t you know it?  Just when things opened up for him, Randie was busy.  When Lucas got off work on Monday night, he called his brother, Dylan.  December had started out mild, not even the hint of a snowflake.  But it never lasted.  The weatherman was predicting two inches of the white stuff later this week, which reminded Lucas that Christmas was right around the corner.

“Don’t know about you,” Lucas said, “but I haven’t bought the kids’ Christmas presents yet.  Want to come with me to shop for them, and then we can grab something to eat?”

“I just got home.”  Dylan sounded rushed.  He must have just walked through the door.  “Give me a minute to change before you pick me up.”

“See you soon.”  Lucas spent a few minutes playing with Hercules, tossing and tugging on his braided rope, before feeding him and heading to Dylan’s apartment.  The chihuahua hated it when he came home and then left a short time later, but Lucas wouldn’t make this a late night.  He and the dog would be on the sofa, watching TV in the early evening.

It was only a fifteen-minute drive to Dylan’s.  His brother lived in an apartment complex close to Toby.  The real reason for him living there, though, was the nearby city park.  Dylan loved being outdoors and in Nature.  Lucas had tried to talk him into buying a piece of property outside of the city, but Dylan had decided it would be too lonely.  In the city, he could walk nature trails and still be around people.  Not that he’d ever interact with them.  He might like to see other people, but he tended to avoid them.

Dylan’s apartment felt claustrophobic to Lucas, but his brother rarely spent time there.  He was usually out and about, alone.  Lucas often wished that Dylan would find his Miss Right, someone who was as warm and caring as he was, but who enjoyed solitude.  He had no idea how that could happen, though, when he mostly kept to himself.

When Lucas pulled in front of Dylan’s apartment, his brother walked out the door, pulling on his wool coat.

“Getting colder,” he said.  “Supposed to get snow later this week.”

“Got anything in mind to buy the kids?” Lucas asked.

“Dulcey told me she’d bought them a few big things, and she was hoping we’d buy a lot of stocking stuffers and small things for them to open.”

With a nod, Lucas headed to the outdoor mall on the southwest side of town.  There were a few stores that would have toys.  The bookstore was there, too, and he thought he’d buy them a few books and some puzzles and games.  On the way, it occurred to him that he’d like to buy Randie a present, too.  Not jewelry.  That was too serious.  And no candy or flowers.  Too mushy.  And then he thought of it.  She talked about cookbooks with reverence.  There was a new one she wanted but hadn’t bought yet.  He’d buy her that, along with a few cooking magazines.

Dylan startled him out of his thoughts.  “I met a really nice woman today.”

Dylan?  A woman?  “Where?”

“I’m plumbing this new house—a huge place—and the owners hired Amelia to paint three murals on the walls.  She came to see the spaces and take measurements.”

“How old is she?”  He shouldn’t get his hopes up.  Amelia was an older name.  Maybe she had gray hair and eight grandchildren.

“Early thirties?  She has this short, sandy-colored hair that bounces around her face like little springs.  It looked like if you pulled on one, it would curl right back again.”

When had Dylan ever described a woman’s hair before?  “Is she nice?”

“She almost felt other-worldly, like she didn’t see things the way the rest of us do.”

“Is that a good thing?”

Dylan smiled.  “I liked it.”

“Would you ever ask her out on a date?”  He was treading on thin ice, but he could at least throw the idea out there.

“A date?”  Dylan looked startled.  “No, but we’re going to meet by the big sycamore tree at the park.  Amelia’s never been there and she wants to see it.  She paints and sells a lot of nature scenes.”

“So, she probably tromps around as much as you do?”

“She goes out every weekend to take pictures of different things that strike her fancy.  Then if they tug at her, she paints them.”

“Every weekend, huh?  She must be single.”

“I guess so.”

Lucas ticked things off in his mind.  Curls.  An artist.  Single.  “You’ve gone to a lot of odd places to hike. I bet you have some ideas she could use.”

“We talked about that.”

Lucas decided to leave it alone.  If he pressed too much, he might scare Dylan off.  They moved on to work topics before he pulled into the entrance to the mall.  They spent the next hour and a half shopping.  When they finished, Jordy and Beth would have lots of things to unwrap under the tree and some fun gifts in their stockings.  Lucas was especially happy with yoyos that lit up when you used them.  And he’d have a present for Randie he thought she’d like.  He’d ended up buying her four cookbooks and as many food magazines.  She’d told him she loved to flip through recipes.

They stopped at Five Guys to buy a quick burger before Lucas drove Dylan home.  When he finally got back to his own place, he was feeling pretty satisfied with the world.  Nothing might come of Dylan meeting Amelia, but then again, it might.

He and Hercules settled on the sofa, content to watch mindless TV and chill together.  He wouldn’t see Randie again until Sunday, but after that, they both had some free time.  Soon, school would be out and she wouldn’t have to get up to go to work in the mornings.  He usually had down time the week before Christmas, too.  People didn’t schedule repairs when their kids were home for the holidays, and any new building projects could wait.  If he played his cards right, maybe he could talk her into spending the night.

Not Enough

I got notes back from one of my critique partners.  More red than usual.  I wasn’t surprised.  I was trying to change an old–and not so wonderful–writing habit.   I’m more than happy to write:  She smiled.  He frowned.  And more times than should be humanly possible: He sighed.  A friend at writers’ club called me on it.  “We can do better than this, can’t we?”

Yes, yes, I can, but only if I work at it.  The problem?  My brain only seems capable of concentrating on so much.  In this book, I wanted to step up my tags and step up my pacing.  And as usual, things I normally do fairly well sagged a bit from neglect.  Not the end of the world.  Red ink circles show me what I need to fix.   Thank you, Mary Lou!

On my next book, my learning curve should go more smoothly.  The old and new should blend better.  AND, I should have enough ideas, witnesses, victims, and suspects to reach 70,000 words without panicking.  Plotting mysteries, for me, takes more than plotting romances.  Now, I know, I’m addicted to plotting when a lot  of my friends don’t even have to bother with it.  But for my mysteries, I’m not plotting enough.

I’m not sure why, but if I came up with 40 chapter ideas for the urban fantasies I wrote a long, long time ago as Judith Post, I could pound out 80,000 words if I wanted to, no problem.  Urban fantasy craves more description, battles that escalate the longer the book goes, and strong characters.  All things that demand words, so that word count grows organically.  It just happens.  It flows.

When I switched to writing romances as Judi Lynn, I used the same format–40 plot points, but this time, I only needed 70,000 words.  For romance, characters interacting with each other made up the majority of the words I used.  And 40 plot points morphed pretty well into 70,000 words for me.  The same hasn’t held true for mysteries.  I sang a sad dirge when I reached the end of this book’s first draft and was 10,000 words short.   I struggled to hit 70,000 words for my first mystery, too.

Now, I have friends who can cough up 100,000 words with no plot points with no problem.  And yes, I’m jealous.  They’re wonderful people, or I wouldn’t like them anymore.  But every writer’s different, and for me, starting a book with no plot points is like traveling across country with no maps or GPS.  I’d be lost all the time and take a winding, unusual route.  I might never reach my destination.

When I write mysteries, I’ve found that my chapters are shorter.  And I need more subplots.  I also need more suspects.  In this book, I introduced a perfect suspect and then didn’t do anything with him.  I gave him an alibi before I found the next body.  Shame on me.  When I figured out I’d made a mistake, I had to go back and add him in more scenes, and then, I had enough pages.  But going back and threading in scenes is a pain in the derriere, so I don’t want to do that again, if I can avoid it.  So, for my next mystery, I want to have 50 plot points before I forge ahead with the book.  And I want to list the victim/s, family members affected by the murder/s, witnesses, suspects, and anyone who might interfere with finding the killer.   And who knows?  Maybe I’ll end up with more words than I expected.  But at least, I’ll have plenty of material to work with.

Whatever you’re writing, and however you write, have fun with it!  I’ll be deep into editing this week.   Happiness is making words better!

My webpage (and I put up chapter 33):

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Twitter”  @judypost     (I’d love to hear from you!)

A new chapter

I just posted chapter 28 on my webpage.  I’m in the wrong season–Lucas and Randie are prepping food on Wednesday night for Thanksgiving the next day.  Lucas is distracted enough by her low neckline that he’s lucky he doesn’t lose a finger.  His knife skills aren’t that great:)  This scene made me hungry for stuffing, but then, I’m always hungry for anything with bread.  Oh, how I love carbs!

2017: Nothing to Brag About

I’ve worked hard on my writing for the last few years.  The first year I signed with Kensington, I had three romances come out.  Three more came out in 2017.  When I finished the last romance, I wrote a mystery and turned it in.  The Body in the Attic will come out in November 2018.

Nothing I’ve tried, so far, has worked the way I thought it would.  Way back when I got my agent–who’s with a great agency and really good–I thought I’d sell books and start being more successful.  But I was writing urban fantasy back then, and the market was glutted, so she let me put up digital books (the agency did that for me), and I marketed them myself as Judith Post.  I did EVERYTHING wrong, because I didn’t know any better, but I learned a lot, so I was feeling pretty good about myself.

Then my agent suggested that I write romances, because there was a market for those.  I’m not suggesting that writers should chase markets.  But my particular market was almost impossible to break into at the time, so I was willing to try something new.  And I found out I liked writing romances.  And Kensington offered me a contract for three e-books.  My agent really liked the romance I’d sent her.  My editor really liked all of my romances, so I was feeling pretty successful.  But I took a mis-step on that, too.  Kensington did a beautiful job of promoting my first Mill Pond romance, so I assumed they’d do the same for the rest of the books.  Not so.  My second book came out, sat around for a while, and then fell.  I meant to pay for a blog tour for my third book, but my publicist said that she’d already signed me up for one.  It used the same excerpt and blurb for each stop and didn’t do much.  My fourth book came and went, and I finally paid for advertising and promotion for my fifth and sixth books, but I did too little, too late.  I was hoping romances and a publisher would jump start my career, but not so much.  I hope my mysteries start out stronger.

I thought when I got a publisher, I’d sell more books.  Not really.  I should have hit the ground running, promoting myself more, but I didn’t.  Marketing, for me, is as tricky as always.  I’ve been happy with the blog tours I did with Gallagher Author Services and The Goddess Fish promotions.  I chose tours that offered unique material for each stop.  They’re more work, but I think they’re worth it.  The first Facebook ad that I placed did well, but the second wasn’t as effective.  Not sure why.  I tried Tweet ads, but they didn’t work for me.  The truth?  No marketing has made a big difference in sales except Book Bub, and it’s a miracle if they accept new authors anymore.  So I feel stymied with markets, too.  I know I need to promote myself, but it’s a crap shoot if whatever I choose works or not.

I write a blog once a week, I put something new on my webpage once or twice a week, and I tweet, but I’m not sure that any of that leads to sales either.  I enjoy sharing and staying in touch with fellow writers and readers, but I can’t really call it marketing.

For the first time, I joined a group author giveaway during December as an experiment.  B. L. Blair organized it and did all the hard work, spoonfeeding the authors who signed up for it.  She’s wonderful to work with and is starting to look for fellow mystery writers.  Here’s her blog:

With the giveaway, I got a lot of e-mails that I can add to a mailing list (if I ever get off my duff and start a newsletter).  And the giveaway was a great experience, but I have to be honest.  Most of the authors took their turn on the giveaway and then didn’t support any of  the other authors.  That confused me.  I thought the whole purpose of joining together was to WORK together.  I tried to retweet each of my fellow writers, but only a few of them retweeted each other.

To wrap up, I accomplished a lot this year, but I’m ending 2017 with more questions than answers.  Maybe 2018 will be the year when everything comes together.  I hope 2018’s a great year for you–and happy writing!



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Twitter:  @judypost