Fast and Fun, then Slower and Satisfying (and I’m talking about writing)

First of all, I wanted to share that my daughter Holly drove up from Indianapolis on May 10th to get on Allegiant with us to fly to St Pete’s.  That’s why I was missing in action on social media.  We went to visit my second daughter and her husband.  It’s been a while since HH and I have gone to Florida to visit Robyn.  She came up a couple of times to see us last year, and the year before that, I spent the spring recuperating from having my gall bladder out.  The year before that, Robyn flew up to be in a best friend’s wedding and could hardly get any more vacation time from work, so we made the most of her visit home.

This year, it was fun to fly to see her and Scott and see how they redid their kitchen.  It’s gorgeous now–white cupboards, butcher board counter tops, and a granite island top.  We made it a short stay, leaving on the 15th.  Holly’s a nurse and had to get back to the hospital, but we had a great time.

Robyn and Scott took us sightseeing, and we spent time in their pool cooling off.  Holly sent me our mother-daughters picture, so I could prove that we had a good time.Holly, Robyn, and me in Robyn's pool

And here’s HH and me waiting for a table at a beach side restaurant:

John and I waiting for a table in Florida

But vacation’s over now, and it’s back to hitting the keys.  I’ve decided to pound out Muddy River Three as fast as I can, and then spend a week outlining my Jazzi 5 novel before I start work on that.

Muddy River books are fast and fun to write.  They remind me of my old Babet and Prosper urban fantasies.  There’s enough action that the words almost fly onto the pages.  Every book is work of one kind or another, but these are shorter and faster without the intricacies that go into a Jazzi book.

Jazzi novels, on the other hand, take months to write.  The plot moves along at a slower pace and there are more characters and subplots, more twists and turns.  And I love them every bit as much.

In my mind, I compare them to the seasons.  I love all four of them, but spring and autumn feel shorter–like my supernatural stories–and I’m always trying to enjoy them before they flit away.  Summer and winter linger longer and bring a whole different rhythm and unique challenges–like my Jazzi novels.

For now, I’m in fast and furious work mode.  By the time July rolls around with the dog days of summer, I should be ready to slow down and pace myself for the long marathon of Jazzi 5.  And talking about the dog days of summer, Kensington designed a meme for The Body in the Wetlands that they’re placing in pet magazines in June.  Here’s the link:  Modern Dog-12 pg-Summer 2019.   I think it’s pretty cute!

With all of the bad weather people have been pummeled with lately, I hope the skies soon turn sunny for you and the temperatures are warm and wonderful.  And happy writing!

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Not one, but two…making a mishmash of things

I’ve decided to write two series.  The Jazzi Zanders books are cozy mysteries.  The Muddy River books are supernatural/urban fantasy type mysteries.  I think I’d burn out writing just one type of genre over and over again.  I even have to switch up the types of books I read.  If I read cozies back to back to back, pretty soon I can practically chart the rhythm of the stories, etc.  So I like to jump around from one type of book to another.

Accordingly, if I can make it work–and it always sounds better in theory than in actuality–I want to take turns with my books.  I’ll write a Muddy River, then a Jazzi, then a Muddy River, etc. AND if all goes well–which it never does because life happens–I’ll still be able to meet Kensington’s deadlines.  The good news?  I’m self-publishing Muddy River, so if I screw up, I’M the one who determines when my next book has to come out.  And I can give myself wiggle room.  Hopefully.

I just turned in Jazzi 4, and I don’t have to turn in the outline for book 5 until July 15th. Even better, I don’t have to turn in the manuscript until Nov. 4.  So, I have time to squeeze in Muddy River 3 IF I don’t dawdle and I plant my fanny in chair and make myself write the words.  Even though it’s summer.  And even though I like to play in my flower beds and take the dog for walks and…well, I love to goof off more in the summer.  But the Jazzi books always take me longer to write.  They’re more involved with more different types of scenes.  The Muddy River stories go faster.  They’re shorter and they’re more direct.

That said, I’m MAKING myself write a plot point for every single chapter I mean to write for Muddy River 3.  And it’s a good thing.  The idea that bloomed in my head for this story felt brilliant and wonderful, but trying to make it stretch into 32 plot points has caused some serious cussing and stalking from my office to the kitchen, remembering that I haven’t organized my sock drawer and picked lint out of my bellybutton.  Uggh!!  I’ve made it to point 19, and I’ve kept things moving in the plot and more clues coming to light, but I still have 13 chapters to plot.  Making myself write them all can make me crazy, but I’d rather fight with them now than hit that spot in my story where I know I don’t have enough of anything to finish the book.

I’m lighting incense (not really) for inspiration and struggling with patience I don’t normally have, but I’m going to FINISH these things!  And then, I can write!  That’s where the real fun starts.  I even like rewrites because that’s when I pick up a drab leaden story and polish it to a brilliant shine.  (Or as close as I can get to that).

I might fuss about plot points, etc., but the only part of writing that I really dread is the final proof copies I have to read through for Kensington for the Jazzi books.  I don’t mind the initial edit copies, but that final proof–the one I just read and can’t change unless it’s to correct mistakes–is painful.  If I could duck out of that, I’d do it.  Because by that last proof of a galley, I’ve looked at the book so many times, the entire thing sounds like garbage to me.  And I see all the things I could have done better, but can’t fiddle with anymore.  Luckily, it’s a long time between returning that galley and the book actually being published.  If enough time has passed, I actually like the book again.  And I’m excited for readers to find it.

Alas, I have a LONG time before I’ll rewrite and rework Muddy River 3.  Right now, I just need to finish plotting it.  And then I need to WRITE 32 or more chapters… And then I need to polish it and send it to my critique partners….  And then I need to rewrite it again.  And then… thank the heavens, I’ll be ready to post it on Amazon and hope for the best:)

Wherever you are on your book or project, good luck.  And happy writing!

Hitting it Hard

My second Jazzi Zanders mystery comes out next Tuesday, April 23, and Kensington has been ON IT with the publicity and promotion.  When I published my six Mill Pond romances, they didn’t get much love, and I watched them sink lower and lower in sales and rankings every day.  It was sad and frustrating.  But Kensington restructured their publicity teams, and right now, I’m ecstatic with the pushes they’re giving my mysteries.  They even paid to put The Body in the Attic (Jazzi 1) on BookBub.

They’ve signed me up for a blog tour that starts on book two’s book birthday–April 23 and runs through May 2nd.  I love blog tours.  It’s a great way to meet readers and get feedback.  Bless book bloggers.  They do a lot of work and put in a lot of time to promote authors.  On the flip side, it takes a decent amount of work and time to get ready for a tour.  I lost count of how many 300 word blogs I’ve written, how many character interviews I’ve done, and how many Q & As.  Once the blog goes live, I try to visit every host who’s volunteered to support my book–sometimes up to three a day, and if someone comments on the blog, I try to respond.  This time, my publicist added something new.  I’m going to do an author chat from one to two p.m. on April 29 on Kensington’s Between the Chapters Facebook page.  That one makes me a little nervous.  I’ve never done one before, but I guess it’s time.

I mentioned before that I use canva.com to make twitter headers and twitter posts, as well as Facebook headers, to promote books.  I’ve done that for The Body in the Wetlands, too.  I started a countdown of days until the book goes up for sale and created a new twitter post with an image and a short blurb for each day.  I made a different twitter header for each month for the last six months.

I still don’t do everything Debbie Macomber suggested on her post for BookBub, but I do more than I used to.  I’ve shared her post here before, but in case it slipped past you, here it is again.  https://insights.bookbub.com/book-launch-checklist-marketing-timeline-traditionally-published-authors/?utm_source=guest-debbie-macomber&utm_medium=email.  And before I leave this week, I want to share one of the posts I created on canva for twitter.  And happy writing!  Have a wonderful Easter.The Body in the Wetlands, twitter 6

I only think I’m prepared

I like to be organized.  Maybe a little too much.  We go to the grocery store twice a month these days.  Well, actually, HH only goes to pick up the groceries we’ve ordered online.  I always worry I won’t have enough (not that we’ve EVER run out) and that we have all of the ingredients I want for each meal, so I make out menus.  I plan our suppers for every night before we’ll order groceries again.  And when I scribble down each night’s meal, I list the ingredients we’ll need for it.

For example, for our last list, I served chicken piccata, buttered noodles, and green beans on Monday; BBQ ribs, mashed potatoes, and broccoli on Tuesday; salmon with fried rice and brussel sprouts on Wednesday; almond noodle bowls with ramen on Thursday; etc.  When I’m done, I know I’m prepared.  Even though there’s always something we run out of between each trip to the store–milk, juice, bread–those pesky everyday things.

The same holds true with my writing.  I’m so far from being a pantser, I’d probably break out in a rash if I just sat down and decided to wing it.  A lot of people can do it.  It’s not in my nature.  So I make a plot point for every chapter of my book.  I include the things that I think are important that I should cover.  And when I finish, in theory, I have enough plot twists, clues, interactions to have a novel.  For Muddy River One, it took 34 plot points to come up with 57,000 words.  This time, for whatever reason, I expected each chapter to be longer, more involved.  I wrote two or three different scenes for quite a few of them.  I had two subplots.  So I only listed 26 of them.  And guess what?  There’s no possible way I can reach my word count unless I come up with more.

So, I sat down tonight, after much fussing–my poor husband–and redid the last ten chapters of Muddy River Two.  It looks great on paper, and I should have enough, or at least, really close to enough to meet my goal, but who knows?  Every book is different.  The mystery’s rogue incubus is a lot more clever than I expected, and he’s a lot more ruthless, too.  Suspects that I thought Raven and Hester could question end up dead before they get there.  Now that blows a few nice scenes.  You can’t interrogate a person who’s been drained dry.  But even though I do my best to whip my characters into shape to obey me, they don’t always listen.  And if they don’t get too crazy, I’m willing to give them some leeway.  Then I need to stop somewhere in my writing and restructure the story.  Which I did.  And hopefully, it works.  It should this time:)

Nag, nag, nag

A while ago, over on the Story Empire blog, Staci Troilo was host and asked What is the Favorite Book you’ve written and why?  I read all five of the writers’ answers who take turns hosting the blog to see which book they chose and why it was their favorite.  Their answers were interesting.  You can find the link here:

https://storyempire.com/2019/03/29/bonus-friday-favorite-book/

At the end of the blog, Staci opened up the comments section to other authors to share. I tried to think of the favorite novel I wrote, but I couldn’t settle on one.  I love every book I write, or else I’d never be able to slog through 60,000-100,000 words to finish them.  But then–and every writer will know this feeling–the question just wouldn’t go away.  It rattled around in my head and kept nagging me.  Until I finally came up with an answer for myself.

If I had to choose, I’d pick FALLEN ANGELS, an urban fantasy I wrote as Judith Post.  It was my first true attempt at urban fantasy.  Not that I got it right.  Every editor who commented on it said that NO humans should play a major part in an urban fantasy.  And what did I do?  I made Danny, the detective, work with Enoch, the fallen angel, as a partner.  I did a few other things wrong as well, but I learned a lot while I muddled through it.  And mistakes and all, I was really proud of that book when my agent finally approved it.  First, every time I redid a scene, the book got longer.  It’s the longest book I’ve ever done.  I’d never written a battle scene before, and I had all kinds of them scattered through the story.  I had Enoch–the angel who tackled his friend so he couldn’t join Lucifer’s rebellion–watch Caleb get thrown to Earth as punishment anyway.  And when Caleb bites humans to drink their blood to sustain his own energy, he infects them with his immortality and creates the first race of vampires.  Who don’t behave well, so Enoch’s sent to Earth to clean up after Caleb.

I liked the ideas I played with for this story.  And I was happy that I’d created a character–Enoch’s best friend, Caleb–who was so selfish, but charming–that you waffled between hating him and cutting him some slack.  I tried, but didn’t completely succeed, to create a romantic interest who was so hurt that she pushed everyone away.  That was trickier than I imagined.  Some readers felt sorry for her, and others could have done without her:)

I guess the reason I’d choose FALLEN ANGELS as the favorite novel I’ve written is because it challenged me to leave my comfort zone and write things I’d never tried before. Enoch was a protagonist who didn’t want the job he’d been given.  He didn’t want to be a hero.  All he wanted to do was convince Caleb to go Home with him.  But Caleb LIKED the freedom he’d found on Earth.  He never wanted to repent and be forgiven.  So Enoch was stuck.  Probably for a long time–a brooding hero.

What about you?  Which book would you choose?  And why?  (Be careful.  If you don’t answer, the question might nag you for a long time).

Happy writing!

Treasure Trove

Our daughter’s visiting us this weekend, so this blog is going to be shorter than usual.  Planning on lots of play time:)  I’ve been working on rewrites for my fourth Jazzi Zanders book, though.  So my mind has been playing with her, the people she hangs with, and renovating old houses.  And as always when I’m putting the finishing touches on one book, my mind starts wandering to the next book in the series.

And that’s where a good friend of mine and my husband’s has proven a treasure trove of ideas.  Ralph used to buy old houses and renovate them to rent.  Now, Ralph isn’t the type to just slap paint on walls and make a space liveable.  He’s a perfectionist.  He makes everything he works on the best it can be for the price he can put into it.  And when I told him that I was writing a series about a woman, her cousin, and her romantic interest who flip houses, he suprised me with one idea after another of how flipping a house could dig up clues to old murders.

I’ve already used a few of the things he’s shared with me.  Like finding an old, loved tool box in a basement with all kinds of antique tools no one can find anymore and a person’s initials burned into the beautifully carved wood.  That’s how Jazzi and Ansel knew Joel had been in Cal’s house in book one.  For book two, Ralph told me about how an older man walked past a house he was renovating every day at the same time, and how he came to watch for him, until one day he didn’t come.  And Ralph wondered about him.  Was he all right?  Had something happened to him?  I used that idea for Leo walking his dog past the roof Jazzi, Jerod, and Ansel were working on, and Leo would stop to talk to Jazzi every chance he got because he was lonely.  And then one day, Leo didn’t come.

For book five, Ralph intrigued me with a story he told about finding a woman’s treasure box in a closet while he was gutting a house.  She had stones she’d collected when she was a little girl, grade school class pictures, a yearbook, letters from friends, pieces of jewelry, and ribbons and awards, among other things.  For book five, I have Jazzi, Jerod, and Ansel fixing up one of the old “grand dame” houses in Auburn, a town north of where I live.  And I keep thinking about what Jazzi will find in a treasure chest of the girl who grew up in that house, but when Jazzi tries to return the box to her, she finds out the girl died soon after her senior prom, and no one ever solved what happened to her.  And that, of course, sets up the mystery she tries to solve.

Ralph’s given me lots more ideas, and I’ve written them all down and keep them in my own small box of treasured story ideas for later use.  Who knew flipping houses, in real life, could stimulate so many plots?  But I’m grateful for all of them.  And if I’m lucky, I’ll have lots more Jazzi Zanders mysteries to write.

And for all of you, happy writing!

 

What is a supernatural mystery anyway?

When I tell friends that I finished Muddy River Mystery One and put it on Amazon, they ask, “What is it?”

Well, a mystery.  That’s in the title.  Muddy River is the town on the Ohio River that the supernaturals settled.  They found a nice, hilly, secluded area in southwest Indiana, far from mortals, to call home.

“The supernatural?” they ask.

Yup, witches, vampires, shapeshifters, and demons, among others.  Most friends know that I used to write urban fantasy.  And now I’m writing mysteries.  So I decided to combine the two.  Sort of like the Babet and Prosper novellas that I used to write.    Prosper was a bearshifter and his partner on the force, Hatchet, was a Druid.

I like writing about Druids.  Of course, I jazz them up a bit.  My Druids can call on lightning to strike and their tattoos are alive and writhe when they’re angry.  It’s Prosper and Hatchet’s job to solve crimes committed by supernaturals who break the rules.

Prosper teams with Babet, a witch, to solve a murder.  In Muddy River, Raven Black–a fire demon–teams with Hester Wand– a witch–to solve the deaths of thirteen young witches who were just starting their own coven.  Of course–no suprise here–while they work together, they fall for each other.

“Oh, a paranormal romance!” someone says.

“No, wrong emphasis.  A paranormal romance has the romance as the story’s main focus.  Raven and Hester’s relationship is more of a subplot.  The mystery forms the main plotline in my story.”

“Why is it different than an urban fantasy?  You started with those.”

“Urban fantasies are about the bad guys, usually evil, bumping heads with the good guys–the protagonist and his friends.  The battles escalate until it’s life or death at the end of the book.  This book, even though it has a few battles, is about solving the mystery.”

This is when my friends usually scratch their heads.  But fellow writers–they’ll understand.  The main plot line is what distinguishes one kind of story from another.  And this story is …a mystery with a romance subplot in a world peopled by Fae, Druids, witches, vampires, shifters, and one banshee.  And it was really fun to write!  As fun as Babet and Prosper.

A close friend and fellow writer still looks at me, bewildered.  “But why?  Your cozy mysteries are doing so well.”

All writers know that it’s dangerous to switch genres.  People who read cozy mysteries might not want anything to do with a fire demon for an enforcer.

Well, I didn’t know how well The Body in the Attic would sell when I started my second series, did I?  It came as a wonderful, happy surprise.  But I’m not sure it would have made a lot of difference.  I tend to lose interest if I read one author, one genre, over and over again, back to back.  Sorry to say, but that holds true of my writing, too.  I really do love the cozy mysteries I write, but I need to change it up once in a while, or else my writing goes flat.

I have no idea if I can find success with Muddy River, but I’d written three cozies, and I needed a witch or two to break things up.  And it worked.  I’m ready to dig into serious rewrites for Jazzi and Ansel’s fourth book now.

Whatever you’re writing, whatever your writing habits, have a great week of it!

 

Great Advice For Reading To and Writing For Middle Grade!

My fellow Scribe and good friend, Kathy Palm, just finished writing a book for Middle Grade and is sending it out to agents now.  I wish her great luck.  I got a chance to critique it, and there was nothing much to critique.  The book was WONDERFUL.

She shares her view on Middle Grade books here.  And it’s great advice!  If you read to your kids while they were growing up, this will give you the warm and fuzzies, like it did me.

https://www.katejfoster.com/talking-middle-grade/its-about-possibilities

What Was I Thinking?

In my head, it would be a piece of cake to write two different kinds of books as Judi Lynn.  One in first person POV.  The other in third.  I even considered writing on the cozy mysteries Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and then switching to the supernatural on Thursdays and Fridays.  If I’m good–with not a lot of distractions–I can almost always write a chapter a day.  And then, when I got a little bit ahead, I’d concentrate on the supernatural since it’s only going to be about 56,000 words.  And when I finished that, I’d concentrate on the Jazzi books that have to be a little over 70,000.  And then, I’d take turns.  It sounded simple.  It hasn’t been, but I need to switch things up once in a while.  If I write too many of the same type of thing back to back, I get stale.  So why not write a cozy and then write mysteries peopled by witches and fire demons?

Only it’s turned out to be a bit trickier than I anticipated.  All sorts of things look good on paper.  This was one of them.  But I can’t be so neat and tidy about what I write.  I forgot to add in writing promotion materials–character interviews, Q & As, etc. for blog tours.  I forgot about days when everyone calls and wants to touch base on the same day, so that I spend more time on the phone than on the computer.  Days when I spend more time on marketing or when the desire for a special treat tugs me into the kitchen to whip up something.  And I forgot that every once in a while, my dear loving husband thinks we should have a day during the week when we should actually leave the house and do something fun.

Schedules are flexible.  I have lots of things that matter to me, and writing’s only one of them.  Even when it comes to writing, I forgot that it’s not so easy to jump from writing first person to third person without getting them mixed up.  And boy, does that stand out when I go back to do rewrites.

So, I took my neat, tidy little schedule, scrunched it into a ball, and threw it in the trash.  It made me of think of C.S. Boyack’s blog.  He’s working on two books at the same time, too, but he bounces back and forth between them.  I might give that a try and see what happens.  He’s honest about his writing time, and somehow, that’s comforting.  He has good days and bad days.  Here’s a look at one of his blogs:  https://coldhandboyack.wordpress.com/category/writing-2/  

I have to accept that writing isn’t ever as organized as I’d like it to be.  But then, what is?  I’m still going to write two books.  I’m just not sure how I’m going to do that.  But I’ll figure it out along the way.

And while I’m at it, wishing you happy writing, too!  Have a great March.

 

 

Plot Points make my brain hurt

I finished writing the supernatural mystery that I’ve been putting up, chapter by chapter, on my webpage.  It ended up being 56,000+ words, and I grew really attached to it.  So, I decided to leave it up for this week, and then I’m taking it down over the weekend.  I like it so much, I’m going to format it and buy a cover so that I can load it on Amazon for 99 cents.

I’ve already started Muddy River Two, though, and put up the first chapter today.  And now, because I shiver with fear if I don’t have plot points, I’m plotting the whole book out.  I knew what the first chapter would be and I had a vague idea for chapter 2, and then blank pages stared at me.  I hate blank pages.  But once I know what the book’s about, and where I want it to go, I need a roadmap to get there.  So I’ve been sitting in front of my computer, writing down ideas for one scene or chapter after another.  I didn’t number them this time, because invariably, when I’m actually writing the words to bring the scene to life, more ideas to come to me.  And then all of my carefully planned cause and effect gets littered with small side trips or scenes I never expected.  And that’s fine with me, as long as they fit in the story line.  And with plot points, I do know each mark the story has to hit.

The problem is, that actually writing out all of the plot points–for Muddy River One, I had 34 of them–just makes my brain tired.  I finish one point and then ask myself What Should Happen Next?  But I don’t want the expected.  I want something with a little twist I didn’t see coming or a little layer that shows characterization or relationships.   I want it to be like life.  Nothing ever goes exactly according to plan.

When plotting, I leave my office and walk to the coffee pot in the kitchen a lot more than normal.  I think of three ideas in a row and then my brain stalls out.  I eat more snacks than usual.  I’ve gained two pounds in the last two days.  My husband knows my routine.  He made Rice Krispie Treats this morning so that when I wandered into the kitchen, I’d find something fun.  Not the best thing for my diabetes, so I had to take more insulin today, too, but it was worth it:)  I whined on twitter, and my writer friend Kathy Palm sent me invisible cookies to help out.  They did.  Because after I mentally enjoyed them, I came up with my last three plot points.

Relief.  The book’s planned out, at least as much as it needs to be to make me feel secure enough to write it.  This time, things are going to get a little jiggly, because next week, I need to look through the entire fourth Jazzi and Ansel novel and write the last chapter.  And then, I have to plot points for Jazzi and Ansel book 5.  Groan.  For the cozy, I can take my time and only fiddle with a few plot points a day.  And while I’m plotting book 5 for J&A, I can be writing book 2 for Muddy River.  At least, that’s the idea.  It looks good on paper.  I’ll see if it works:)

No matter where you’re at on your WIP, good luck.  And happy writing!