Category Archives: writing

Why? For every book?

Some people turn on the spigot and words pour out.  They can reach over 100,000 words, then have to cut.

Not me.  My words are stingy, little boogers that make me work for every single one of them.

As always, for every book I write, when I reach the near end of the second middle (near 54,000 words), I look at my plot points and panic.  I just know I don’t have enough ideas and twists to reach 70,000+ words.  I think that EVERY time.  And guess where I am in Jazzi book 5 now?  Yup.  Almost 54,000 words.  And I’m worried.

I have more plot points, mind you.  More ideas.  More suspects and questions and clues.  But at this point, my writing momentum starts to fizzle.  I always start out strong.  The first fourth of every book is an adventure, introducing new characters, new subplots, a new murder to solve.  And then the middle muddle starts, but my middles are sort of divided in half.  The second fourth of the overall book leads to a new turning point.  And often–sadly–since I write mysteries, I end up with a second dead body at the middle of the book–a victim who changes the direction of the story, makes my protagonist rethink her original opinions.  It’s the third fourth of each book that slows me down.  It feels like pulling teeth to keep the momentum going, to keep interviewing one person after another and keep it interesting and keep subplots chugging along.

I’m almost to the last fourth of the story, and that’s when things start to pick up, when my story gathers speed and clues start coming together.  I’m almost there.  I can feel it.  And then the days of sitting fanny in chair and plodding and sweating will pay off.  By next Monday, I’ll be ready for my fingers to fly over the keyboard again.  Until then, well . . . I have a little more to go.

Wherever you are in your work, keep at it, and happy writing!

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Twitter and Me

I’m not very good at Facebook.  I’ve connected my blog to it, so that every time I write a new post, it automatically loads on my author Facebook page, so I should have something new up at least once a week.  Occasionally, I’ll post some great writing advice I find online, and when my publisher asks me to promote a sale or new release, I do.  But that’s about it.  I’m worse at keeping track of my regular Facebook account.  I can lose a lot of time there, scrolling through all kinds of people and news I don’t know.

I do better at this blog.  I try to write a new post every Thursday, and recently I’ve started putting up a Muddy River snippet every Monday and a Jazzi snippet every Thursday, but I haven’t decided if that’s worthwhile or not.  It’s too soon to tell.  On my webpage, I used to put up free books or short stories, but I ran out of those.  So…I’m trying snippets.  I do have two short stories to share in October, and two more in December.  I’m tinkering with a Thanksgiving one, but I’ve had too many things interfere to give it the work it needs.  I didn’t get enough feedback on the one I did for Labor Day to decide if that’s worth the time and effort.

I know every author is supposed to be serious about branding, but I don’t think I’ve nailed that yet.  I really enjoy twitter.  It’s quick and easy to scroll through some of my favorite writers and to find some interesting tidbits and pieces of writing advice.  If I like it, I usually retweet it, so other people can enjoy it, too.  I’m not overwhelming the world with followers with this approach.  But it makes for a fun ten minute break when my brain’s drained of any words, and I need to recharge it.  Often, when I finish writing a scene, and my little grey cells are spinning for a transition and the next scene, I zip to twitter for a fast refresher.  And if I see something I like, I retweet it.  Often, it’s something about writing.  Sometimes, it’s about cooking.  (I love to cook).  I’ve even retweeted Tarot card meanings.  They intrigue me.

I’ve noticed most other authors don’t retweet as often as I do, though.  If they like something, they mark it with a heart, a “like.”  Maybe that’s so that they don’t dilute their own brand.  They keep their tweets mostly concentrated on their own news.  And maybe that’s smart.  It’s something I should probably think about.  But for now, twitter is like a playground for me, a place to play before I have to get back to work, writing another scene, another chapter.  And if the scenes are like pulling teeth, I spend more time on twitter than I should.  That’s called stalling.  I don’t want to leave my chair because if I stand up and wander off, it’s even harder to come back and get in gear.  But my brain can wander away while I sit in front of my computer if I flip to twitter.  And even I, the queen of distractions, can only take so much of the people who scroll past me.  So, before long, I’m headed back to my WIP.

Someday, probably sooner rather than later, I need to rethink what I post.  But for now, I enjoy posting news about my favorite authors.  I mean, if I enjoy them, other readers might, too.  I enjoy posting snippets.  And I’ll never get tired of recipes and pictures of food.  (But I could argue that IS “branding,” since I have Jazzi and Ansel cook together.  So do Hester and Raven.  Or is that stretching it?)  Any ideas?  Is there a smart way to tweet?  I read somewhere that an author should write five original twitter posts a day.  That’s hard.  Interesting retweets are easier.  I do know, though, that I’ve come across some authors that I want to retweet, but I can’t find anything original from them.  So there needs to be some original tweets mixed with the others.

Things for me to ponder.  In the meantime, if you happen to be in Columbus, OH, I’ll be at the mini-con for Kensington writers at Pierogi Mountain from 11:00 to 1:00 on Saturday.  And as always, happy writing!

Changing Things Up

Years ago, there was a romance writer that I found, and I got a kick out of the blurb for her book, bought it, read it, and loved it.  I went right out and bought the second book in the series.  When I read it, it was still fun, but it was SO much like the first book, it felt like I’d just changed the names and a couple of plot points and everything else was the same.  But I didn’t let that discourage me.  I bought book three.  And…same old, same old.  That was the last book of hers I bought.

But, on the other hand, I had a mystery writer who was an automatic buy for me until–and I’m guessing on the reason here–she decided she didn’t want to write straight mysteries.  She wanted to write something more serious with more angst that tackled bigger subjects, and her characters had to suffer more.  I endured that book and bought the next one, hoping the change was just a fluke, but nope.  The next book tackled subjects that were grimmer than the previous book’s, and I was over it.

I buy certain books to suit my moods.  I like Lynn Cahoon’s Tourist Trap mysteries as much to visit South Cove as to guess who dunnit.  I want to hear the banter between Jill and her sheriff/boyfriend Greg.  I want to know what Jill’s aunt is up to this time.  When I want a warm read to lift my mood, Tourist Trap does the trick.  Another automatic read for me is Anna Lee Huber’s Lady Darby books.  Her mysteries steep me in Gothic atmosphere.  I enjoy sinking into the world of 1830’s England, Scotland, and Ireland.  I enjoy the growing relationship between Kiera and Gage.  I expect long descriptions, mixed with history, and a moody vibe.

Are there some things that feel repetitious?  Sometimes.  Do I care?  Not that much.  They settle me back into those worlds, the feel of the books.  Can too much repetition drive me nuts?  Only if it feels like every book is a rehash of the one before it.  And what changes that up?  New plots, new characters.  Different questions for the new book to answer.  I want a new story that’s not like the old story every time I visit that author’s world.

I’m new to the J.D. Robb In Death series.  Do I have certain expectations when I start one of her books?  Oh, yeah.  Eve Dallas is tough and gritty.  The murders are visceral and grim.  Roarke is richer than Midas with a lot more connections and a questionable background, and he’d move heaven and earth for Eve.  I’m only now finishing book three, but even though the tone stays consistent for each book so far, the stories keep surprising me.

Can a series book change too much?  It can for me.  When I pick up a book and it doesn’t come close to my expectations, the reason I chose to read it, I’m not a happy fan girl.  So, the trick is to keep each book fresh in a series but to keep the tone and feel of the book similar to the last one I read.  That doesn’t mean one book can’t be more serious or more humorous than the last one, but it can’t feel like some other author usurped my favorite author’s name and tricked me.  Simple, huh?  Hah!  Nothing about writing is easy.  At least not for me.  But think about why you keep buying books in a series.  What keeps you coming back for more?

Whatever you’re working on, happy writing!  And have a great Labor Day weekend.

P.S. I put up a new snippet on Monday for Muddy River and another new snippet on Thursday from The Body in the Gravel, if you’re following either.  And I forgot to pin the Jazzi snippet to my twitter page.  (Shame on me).

Why I Don’t Write a Newsletter

I’ve read over and over again that the best way for a writer to connect with readers and find a kazillion fans is to write a newsletter.  I even started one once, and a few people signed up for it.  But what the heck do you say that’s even halfway interesting that I haven’t already posted in my blogs or on twitter?

The truth is, I’m a pretty boring person.  It’s even hard to make myself sound interesting for a clever bio.  When I started high school, eons ago, I got the brilliant idea of keeping a journal.  But almost every day of my life was like the one before it.  I went to school.  I came home.  I ate supper.  I did homework.  I watched TV with my mom and dad and sisters.  I wrote entries like “Lots of homework tonight, took me two hours to finish it.”  “Loved Latin class today.  We’re studying The Odyssey.”  “Barb B got a new haircut, and I like it.”  Exciting stuff.  So I started making things up.  “Our school bus driver decided to kidnap all of us this morning, and instead of taking us to school, she took us out in the country and gave us each a pocketknife and told us to look for moss on the north side of trees and find our way home.”  Lots more fun.  (Maybe I should have suspected I’d be a writer someday then, but it didn’t occur to me).

My life isn’t much more exciting now.  My characters have all the fun.  I plop my fanny in a chair and write about them.  My hobbies aren’t exactly exciting either.  I love to cook.  I garden (badly).  I love having friends over for supper, and I read almost every night before bed.  Yawn.  Okay, all of those are interesting when I hook up with someone who’s as passionate about them as I am.  But newsworthy?  Not exactly.

So my blog ends up being full of whatever I happen to be thinking about that particular week.  And lots of writing stuff, because …well…I’m a writer.  And sometimes, I talk about marketing because…again…I’d like to sell some of my books.  I even include snippets each week and some short stories when I get inspired to share what I’m working on.  BUT I haven’t tried to be your personal friend…yet.  And you should be thank me for that.  Because I read Anne R. Allen’s blog post this week, and it cracked me up.  At the same time, I lit incense and said thank you prayers that this hasn’t happened to me yet.  So, I think I’ll just stick with my blogs and twitter…and leave you in peace.  You’re welcome:)  And happy writing!

https://annerallen.com/2019/08/what-readers-want/

 

Getting excited

I signed up for two conferences this year, both near the end of conference season.  I went to Magna cum Murder in Indy at the end of October last year and decided to go back for their 25th anniversary.  25 years!  And last year, when the hostess asked people to raise their hands who’d come from Day One, a LOT of people raised their hands.  Now that’s a dedicated crowd.  I’m not the type of person who makes instant friends, so I’m looking forward to seeing who’s there again this year and what they’ve done since I saw them last.

Magna cum Murder isn’t aimed for writers.  There were no panels on the state of the industry, poisons, or how to market.  The panels were geared for readers, but oh, were those readers prolific.  They knew their stuff.  I love talking shop with fellow writers, but I love talking to serious readers, too.  And this conference is packed with them.

The second event I’ve signed up for is “CozyClub Mini-Con Midwest.”  My publisher, Kensington, organized it.  It’s on Saturday, September 7–the weekend after Labor Day– from 11 a.m. to 1:00 at Pierogi Mountain (German Village) 739 S 3rd St. in Columbus, Ohio.  Okay, pierogis instantly caught my attention.  But then I read the list of authors who’ve signed up for author signings, and I’m going all fan girl.

I’m sure every author is wonderful, and one might be your favorite, so I’ll list them, but a few of my favorites are going to be there.  Here are the names:  Alex Erickson, Amanda Flower, Anna Lee Huber, C.M. Gleason, Cheryl Hollon, Christin Brecher, Debra H. Goldstein, Ginger Bolton, J.C. Kenney, J.R. Ripley, Julie Ann Lindsay, Lynn Cahoon, Olivia Matthews, Annelise Ryan, Rose Pressey, Sherry Harris, Carlene O’Connor, Kate Dyer-Seeley, Lena Gregory, Winnie Archer, and ME.  At least, that’s the line-up for now.  The book seller is The Book Loft in Columbus, Ohio.

If you read my recommendations on BookBub, you’ll know that I’m hooked on Anna Lee Huber’s Lady Darby series and Lynn Cahoon’s Tourist Trap series.  And J.C. Kenney has written two mysteries, and I liked them both.  https://www.bookbub.com/authors/judi-lynn?list=reviews&review_step=search

I’m dragging my poor husband with me to both conferences (lucky him:), and I have an old friend who lives in Columbus that I hope to meet up with and maybe go out for supper with once the mini-con is over.  And my daughter and grandson both live in Indy, so both conferences are a win/win for me.  Sometimes, I do well at conferences and sound halfway intelligent.  Sometimes, I get nervous and it’s dodgy.  But it’s nice to leave my writing cave once in a while and see what’s out there, to meet fellow writers in the flesh instead of just reading their blogs or twitter posts.

I have writers’ club this Wednesday, and it feels like sitting down with old friends, talking plots, dialogue, pacing, and word choice.  They keep me on my toes.  But it will be nice to meet some new people and see what they have to say.    Whether you’re locked in a little room by yourself, sitting in your gazebo or by your pool with your laptop, or meeting up with fellow writers, all the best.  And happy writing!

What is Success?

When I first started writing, and knew that I was new and had a lot to learn, I felt like a success if I could just finish a short story and have all the parts in the right place with no big  problems.  If the story came together well enough, I’d read The Gila Queen to see if it might fit anywhere.  (The Gila Queen’s a marketing newsletter that I subscribed to.  It’s still available online, but I haven’t looked at it for a long time.  If you’d like to:      https://hellnotes.com/gila-queens-guide-to-markets-166/   )

I really enjoyed The Gila Queen, because it listed small magazines that were looking for short stories and paid in copies, as well as established publications that paid cash for each word.  If I found something that looked like a good fit, I’d mail (yes, snail mail) my story off and hope for the best.  If the editor wanted it, I felt like a success.  Now, mind you, success might mean that I received two free copies of the mag with my work in it.  I didn’t care.  Someone wanted my work.  Sometimes, success meant that a respected editor took the time to write a thoughtful rejection about why my work didn’t fit their magazine.  To me, that meant my writing was good enough to warrant a bit of their time.  And I was grateful.

Another reason I liked Gila Queen was because editors looking for stories for anthologies would list what they were looking for or the theme for that edition.  And often, those themes gave me ideas to try.  And sometimes, those ideas came together in a story that the editor took.  Eventually, those small sells led to bigger sells to bigger magazines, and after that, I got brave enough to try to write a book.

My first stab at a novel only stretched to 20,000 words–what some might consider failure.  I considered it success, because I’d never written anything that long before, and I’d learned a lot from the experience.  My second “novel” came in at 40,000 words and a tiny press in Baltimore bought it to print as newspapers for passengers to buy at airports to read on their flights.  Success.  Of course, no one ever heard of Gourmet Killings, but the editor liked it and passengers bought it.  Good enough for me.

These days, I still measure success with a slide rule.  For my Jazzi series, I look at numbers–rankings and sells.  But for Muddy River, I’m letting the series build slowly, so if my numbers are tolerable and I hear a good review, hey–success.

Why am I going on about this?  It’s a fluke, really.  John Tesh just happened to be on the radio when I was listening to it to pass time.  And what waa he talking about?  Success.  His message?  People say, “I’ll be happy when I’m successful.”  But success is hardly ever exactly what they thought it would be.  Or it comes at a higher price or more work than they anticipated.  He believed that the cause and effect should be reversed, that “happiness brings success, not vice versa.”  Because we  measure it differently.  We count one success at a time and are happy when we reach the next one.

I’m not saying disappointment doesn’t flatten me sometimes.  We all get frustrated and mumble about quitting, giving up, it’s too hard.  I felt like I was beating my head against the author wall when I wrote romance after romance that couldn’t get any traction.  But when that happens, it’s time to stop and rethink, to try something else.  And sometimes, we have to realize that we’re aiming for an impossible goal.  A near miracle.  We’re setting our goals and dreams too high.

That’s what Ilona Andrews’ blog was about today.  Sometimes, we’re simply unrealistic. http://www.ilona-andrews.com/on-writers-self-validation-of/ We don’t reach the pinnacle of success, so we consider ourselves failures.  Instead of embracing what we’ve done right or well, we look at where we’ve fallen short.  I’m not saying to quit trying.  We should always do our best.  We have to give ourselves the best chance we can to reach our goals.  But when we don’t, it just means that that particular effort didn’t work.  So we have to try something else and try again.

Keep hitting those keys, and happy writing!

 

 

 

No More Webpage

I’ve had a weebly webpage for years.  I used it to put up free chapters of books I wrote and never did anything with.  That sounds odd, I know, but I played around with different genres here and there, and sometimes, I liked them, and sometimes, one YA book or one caterer married to a cop mystery was enough.  I don’t regret writing them.  I enjoyed all of them.  I was never convinced offering free work online was a brilliant idea, (and I’m still not convinced it is), but I enjoyed sharing work I wouldn’t publish with readers.

I still love Verdanta–the island home I created for nymphs and sprites who invited a small group of mortals to stay with them one week a month to let the beauty of the island and the energy of their magic help “fix” them after Life hit them a little too hard.  I still love Chintz and Callum–the caterer and cop–because I wanted to try my hand at a Murder Club mystery, and it was FUN.  And I’ll always have a soft spot for the YA book, THE FAMILIARS, with Zoe–the witch–who could take off her shoes and stand barefoot in a park, then watch lush, green grass grow in all directions where the ground was once dead.

I used the webpage to write free short stories, too, so that I could cling to characters I’d grown too attached to but no longer wrote about in books.  I don’t know how many Babet and Prosper stories ended up there.  A lot.

But the sad truth is, to keep the stories moving so that readers didn’t forget the first chapters before I reached the last, I had to put up chapters or scenes at least two or three times a week.  And I am now officially out of books cast in drawers, and I don’t have time to write that many free short stories any more.  So this Tuesday, I hit the “you can never go back” button and deleted the entire webpage.  It was bittersweet.  All of those stories no longer available.  But they’d have just hovered in cyberspace and gone unnoticed anyway, if I didn’t keep up the page, so it was a good thing.

I still intend to add snippets and the occasional short story on a page I created on this blog, and I hope readers find them and enjoy them.  But deleting my webpage was a turning point for me.  It means I’m serious about staggering two series and still hitting deadlines.  And I’ve experimented enough, I’m ready to settle down to two kinds of mysteries I really enjoy writing.

Whatever you’re working on, I hope it’s going well.  And happy writing!