We’ll see….the time between books

I finished the first draft of my mystery.  I like it, which is unusual.  I usually can’t stand a book by the time I finish it.  This worries me.  Am I not being hard enough on the mystery?  But I rewrote so many scenes so often, maybe I worked through the hate earlier and got it out of my system.

I tried a couple of new things with this book, which I’m not sure about.  That’s one of the joys of having great and brutally honest critique partners.  If something doesn’t work, they’re happy to tell me.  And I want to know.  I enjoyed writing my Babet and Prosper urban fantasies so much, I wanted to put a few of their touches into the mystery.  I wanted to really bring my characters and their world to life.  I wanted the setting to be a strong element in the story.  But I was worried about getting the balance right.  I didn’t want to detract from clues and suspects.

I’m so close to the story, I can never tell what worked and what didn’t.  So I’ve sent it off to the joys of red ink.  If it comes back bloody, it’s not personal.  My friends are determined to make my book as good as it can be.  And sometimes, they don’t agree.  One person writes “loved this,” and another writes “this has to go.”  I know them so well, I usually know what’s going to bug whom.  The thing to remember, because new writers who join Scribes sometimes look at the red ink and get overwhelmed, is that you’re still a good writer, but screwed up.  It happens.  It’s not the end of the world.  You can fix it.

While my friends mark up my book, I’m giving myself a break from all thoughts of it by writing a a short novella, chapter by chapter, for my webpage.  I always try to switch gears at the end of a book.  I need distance.  I need to think about something else to gain perspective.  And yes, I turned to Babet and Prosper.  There’s nothing like a dragon that tunnels underground like a trapdoor spider and waits for tasty mortals to “drop in” to jostle me out of my routine.  And how do you track and fight a demon dragon?  Yup, this story’s just plain fun time for me.  B&P are my feel-good go-to between longer works.

When I finish the novella, I mean to start plotting my second mystery.  I’m going to take longer at it this time.  I forgot how intricate writing a mystery was.  I need a clue or red herring or suspect/witness, etc. in nearly every chapter to keep the mystery plot moving. I don’t want to try to pull those out of my Muse’s creative genius on demand.  My Muse got a bit grumpy about that this time.  So I’d rather have 40 stepping stones along the way.  I figure that’s enough to keep the mystery from sagging.

I’m enjoying a little Inbetween Books time right now.  I hope you have a wonderful Fourth.  And happy writing!

The Liebster Award

liebster

It’s been a long time since I’ve been nominated for an award post.  My blog’s gotten older.  It’s not new and shiny anymore.  And that’s okay.     But I read Mae Clair’s blog every week (https://maeclair.net/blog/ ) because I enjoy everything about it!  And she reads mine.  She was nominated for the Liebster Award first and wrote a wonderful blog for it, and then she nominated me.  I hope my answers live up to her expectations:) Before I talk about the award, though, I’d also like to mention that Mae’s one of the writers who contribute to the blog The Story Empire.  I’ve reblogged their content occasionally and posted it on my author Facebook page, I think it’s so useful.  You can find The Story Empire here:  https://storyempire.com/blog/.   

For the Liebster Award, the rules are:

  1. Acknowledge the blog who nominated you and display the award.
  2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger gives you.
  3. Give 11 random facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 11 blogs.
  5. Notify those blogs of the nomination.
  6. Give them 11 questions to answer

11 Things About Myself:

  1. I’m tall: 5’9″
  2. My grandfather was a Dark Dane (his family moved here when he was young).  He told us thunder was Thor knocking down pins at a bowling alley.
  3. I raised pigeons when I was a kid.  Still love ’em.
  4. I played on our basketball and volleyball teams in middle school for 3 years.
  5. I love to cook.
  6. I broke my leg June 17, 2016 and they say I’ll heal by this August.
  7. My younger daughter lives near St. Petersburg, FL, and keeps inviting us down.  She calls in February and says, “How’s the weather?” because she’s sweet and devious:)
  8. My husband’s great-great (maybe another great?) grandfather stowed away on a boat to leave Ireland and come here because he poached a rabbit and had to run.
  9. I never wear toenail polish because I dropped a wheelbarrow on my toe and permanently lost the nail, so it looks odd.
  10. I’m addicted to Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series.
  11. My favorite food is scallops, and I don’t share apple dumplings.

 

The 11 questions Mae sent me:

  1. You’ve been given a working time machine.  What era of history would you visit?  I’d travel to ancient Rome.  I took Latin for four years in high school.  It’s a dead language, but I loved the history and the myths.  If I had my way, I’d own a shop that baked bread and I’d visit the Pantheon–for all the gods–and the baths while they were in their glory.  And I’d rock a tunic and sandals:)
  2. What is your totem animal? (Inspired by a post Mae recently saw on Jan Sikes’ blog).  Hmm, I have a thing about birds and cats, but I wasn’t really sure, so I took an online quiz to find my spirit animal, and I got the owl.  I’d make a great team member for Christopher Robin, Pooh, and Piglet:)
  3. What was the first story you wrote?  The very first?  That was a long time ago, and I don’t think I have it anymore.  But it was about two boys who were just starting to dabble in breaking and entering.  Neither can remember exactly what happens, but a man catches them and drags them to a huge, open field, then forces them to run a gauntlet. People with heavy sticks form two lines, and when the boys try to make it to the end, as unscathed as possible, the one boy falls and is getting pounded, so his friend goes back to help him.  The boy who fell realizes the people with sticks will concentrate on the easier target, so trips the friend who saved him.  That way, he can make it to the finish line.  At the end, the boy who got there first steps onto a podium, and it sinks and disappears.  The second boy, beat up and bleeding, crawls to his podium of safety and it goes up.  The boys had died, shot as intruders, and the gauntlet had been a test to judge their souls.
  4. Beach or mountains?    Beach.  I love water and the sound of waves.
  5. What is your favorite time of year?    I love seasons.  If we moved someplace that was always warm, it would be a hard adjustment for me.  But I get plenty sick of winter by the end of February.  That’s why I love spring.  I can’t wait until the snow melts and flowers start poking their heads above ground again.
  6. Name someone from history you find intriguing.  Once I saw the bust of Nefertiti, I wanted to know her history.  She was married to the Egyptian Pharoah Akhenaten, who tried to change Egypt from worshipping many gods to only one–the sun.  A lot of mystery surrounds Nefertiti, but it seems that she was not only beautiful, but also powerful.  She was involved in her husband’s politics, often pictured as standing behind his throne.  He referred to her as His Beloved.
  7. What is your favorite fairytale?  Snow White with the evil stepmother, the seven dwarves, and all the forest animals.
  8. When was the last time you played a game of chess?  Never.  Never learned it.  I’m more of a Yahtzee and Euchre type girl.  More low-key.  I don’t have to think too much when I play.
  9. If you could travel to any city or country in the world, where would you go?  Holland when all the spring bulbs are blooming.  I’ve visited Holland, Michigan, but it’s not the same:)
  10. Name your favorite cartoon when you were a kid.  This is embarrassing.  I don’t remember the Saturday morning cartoons I watched.  When my kids were little, though, I got hooked on Dungeons and Dragons.
  11. What mythical creature do you wish actually existed?  Is Dobby, the house-elf, a mythical creature?  I was pretty taken with him.  But just in case, I’d choose dragons, but I want them to be vegetarians:)

 

My 11 questions for those I nominate:

  1.  Are you a cat or a dog person?  Or both?  Or other?
  2. What are 3 of your all time favorite movies?  books?  songs?
  3. Let’s say you’re single and can run off with one fictional hero (if you’re a gal) or heroine (if you’re a guy).  Who would it be?
  4. If you could be a master of anything (besides writing), what would it be?
  5. What’s something on your bucket list?
  6. Whom do you consider to be the most memorable villain in literature?
  7. If you had to move and could resettle anywhere, where would you go?
  8. What’s your favorite food?
  9. What was one of the hardest lessons you had to learn in life?
  10. What makes you happy?
  11. What’s the last or next book you have coming out? Or you’re working on?

I know not everyone I nominate will have the time to do this, but here goes.  There’s no time limit, and if you want to pass, no problem.  I had fun with it this time:

  1. M.L. Rigdon aka Julia Donner @ https://historyfanforever.wordpress.com/
  2. Kathy Palm @ https://findingfaeries.wordpress.com/
  3. Les Edgerton @ http://lesedgertononwriting.blogspot.com/
  4. Rachel Roberts @ http://www.rachelsroberts.com/
  5. Kyra Jacobs @ https://indianawonderer.wordpress.com/
  6. C.S. Boyack’s Entertaining Stories @ https://coldhandboyack.wordpress.com/
  7. Christina Rowell @ https://devilslayingamongstotherthings.blogspot.com/
  8. Sue Bahr @ https://suebahr.wordpress.com/
  9. Rita Robbins @ https://raslone.wordpress.com/blog/
  10. Karen Lenfestey @ http://www.karensnovels.com/
  11. Liz Flaherty at WordWranglers @ https://wordwranglers.blogspot.com/2017/05/powering-through-liz-flaherty.html

 

Happy Writing, All!

 

 

 

Marketing

I joined three friends to give a writers’ workshop on marketing and promoting your book yesterday.  It was a beautiful Saturday.  We had a small audience, but that’s never bothered me.  I know and respect some of the writers who came to hear us.  I love and respect my fellow writers on the panel.  A win/win for me.  And then we went to the Outback to eat when the panel was over, and what can I say?  I can be had for a bloomin’ burger.  And the company?  There’s nothing more fun than talking to fellow writers.

All four of us have been writing for a while now.  Kyra Jacobs, the newest and shiniest writer in the group, is probably more savvy than I am at marketing.  I try, but I’m no whiz kid.  The thing that struck me is that we’re all good writers–all in our own way–and it’s just plain hard to get your name out there and find success.  The other thing that struck me is how willing writers are to help each other.  If we learn something that works, we’re happy to share.  We WANT to see other writers succeed.

We shared sites that had worked for us when we advertised.  Of course, the best site is BookBub.  It’s expensive, and it’s HARD to get them to accept your book, but if they take you, it’s worth it.  At most sites, you have to have a set number of reviews to be considered.  Not always true of BookBub.  They factor in lots of things.  And often, you have to have an average 4.0 ranking.  That led me to thinking about reviews.

Every author needs reviews.  If you reach 50 reviews on Amazon, you get more visibility. Amazon might even spotlight your book.  The only time I got 50 reviews was when I was active on Goodreads and BookBub accepted my urban fantasy novel, FALLEN ANGELS.  I ended up with 67 reviews, most of them good.  I really enjoyed Goodreads, but for whatever reason, the group I was in sort of trickled apart and I still haven’t plugged into a new one.  My fault, but I’m writing more, and it’s hard to find the time.  The thing is, good reviews make a difference.  They open doors for authors.  We have more options.  I like advertising at The Fussy Librarian, but you have to have 10 reviews and a 4.0 average ranking for them to accept you.  Since I started over with a new pseudonym, I have trouble getting 10 reviews.

There’s another reason having more reviews helps an author.  It’s sad, but true, that your book just isn’t going to click with every reader.  That’s all right.  You can’t please them all. But some readers are more than happy to write the worst reviews they can to let you know how much they didn’t like your book.  It hurts.  I know people who just don’t read their bad reviews, and maybe they’re smarter than I am.  I still read mine.  I’m curious what worked and what didn’t for readers, but a really bad review feels like an open wound that takes a while to recover from.  On top of that, those reviewers give your book a low rating.  If you only have six reviews to start with, your average rating is shot. When you get a new review that’s positive, you feel like someone gave you a dose of sunshine. It affirms that you might be doing something right.

The other thing that I noticed on our panel yesterday was that every writer on it is hopeful.  We all think that the time is coming when we’ll “make it,” whatever that means to each of us individually.  For Kyra Jacobs and I, we both want to see our print books on bookstore shelves.  For M. L. Rigdon–she loves self-publishing and making all of her own choices–so she just wants to make more money.  And for Les Edgerton–well, he’s already pretty darned successful and writes pretty much what he wants to–he’d just like to sell more, too.

And so, I wish each and every one of us success.  And I wish you success, too, whatever that means to you.  Happy writing!

 

BTW, my 5th romance, FIRST KISS, ON THE HOUSE, comes out June 27th.  It’s available for pre-order now.  I think it’s pretty darned fun!  http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/book.aspx/35025

cover 5 judy

And, if you’re interested, I started a new Babet and Prosper story on my webpage:

http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Paring Down

My bookshelves are filled.  Again.  And I’ve bought more books.  I have a book habit.  And some of the new books I’ve read, I want to keep.  So it’s time to do my once a year shelf cleaning that shouldn’t take lots of time, but always does, because it’s hard to part with old favorites to make way for new favorites.  Books aren’t just about reading, for me, they’re about emotional attachment, too.  But I’ve made a firm rule for myself.  If a book doesn’t fit on my shelves, I pass it along to someone else.

I have a friend who just keeps buying more and more bookshelves to hold her collections.  If I were better at dusting, that might be an option, but since I avoid it as long as possible, I know better than to think I’ll dust more.  Besides, I rarely reread books, so I’m only keeping them because they touched me and when I look at them, they bring back memories of what they store between their covers.  I grow attached to them, to the characters who walked their pages, and I want to keep them in my life.  Books in my Kindle are different.  I’ve actually loved some of them more than books I’ve held in my hands, but I don’t get the same emotional attachment when I stare at their covers on my Kindle screen.

My husband rarely buys a book, but he visits the library every week.  He flies through novels while I’m savoring only one.  The only books he saves are tomes on famous historical figures, so that he can recheck his facts.  I can’t say that the books I save are because they’re especially well-written or deep or pithy.  I save them because they touched me somehow.  One of the oldest books I have was once my mother’s–BETTY ZANE, by Zane Grey.  She loaned it to me, and when I told her how much I loved it, she told me to keep it; it was mine.  Now that Mom’s gone, I love that book because it moved me and because it reminds me of Mom.

Different books on my shelves remind me of different periods in my life.  I read Nancy Pickard’s mysteries when I was trying to sell cozies and our girls were finishing grade school and middle school.  My daughter Holly read every cozy that I wrote and would stay up late at night with me to watch English mysteries that I’d recorded on PBS.  My daughter Robyn loved me, but not mysteries.  I stayed up with her to watch comedies and Weird Al Yankovich music videos.  I have two shelves that hold all of Ilona Andrews’s Kate Daniels series and Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson novels.  I read those when I was writing urban fantasy and my grandsons lived with us, and I read chapters of Harry Potter to them every night.  I have an entire shelf of Elizabeth George novels because…well, to me, Elizabeth George is a goddess of literary mystery writers.  I have 3/4 of a shelf of Martha Grimes, too.  And then are cookbooks.  Don’t ask.  And a shelf full of books written by the people in my writers’ group.

I have several shelves full of books that I just thought stood head and shoulders above the rest for writing and plotting and pacing.  So…how to choose?  But choose, I must. We’ve been in this house a long time, and it’s full of things we love, but my hub and I both hate clutter.  If something new comes in, something has to go to make room for it.  Sigh.  This is going to be a tough week.  I hope, when I pass the books I have to part with along, someone else loves them as much as I did.

 

 

 

Babet & Prosper

My daughter has been (sort of nicely, but only a little) bugging me to write a new Babet and Prosper.  I’ve been busy.  I’ve been making my fingers thin trying to pound out my new mystery.  Yes, my fingers should be in great shape.  My fanny?  Don’t ask.  But Holly didn’t care, so I thought of a new story to put on my webpage.  It probably has mistakes and might be rough.  I’ll try to polish it this weekend, but I sort of promised to put something new up this Thursday, and well…  here goes.  Hope you like it.

http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Boring (and long), but I need this

Okay, this is sort of sad since I’ve been writing for so long.  You’d think I’d develop a natural rhythm or something, but it hasn’t happened.  When I started my mystery, instead of plotting out every little thing like I usually do, I just jotted down main points and trusted myself to fill in the rest.  That was a bust.  I hadn’t thought the plot through enough, so I stopped writing and did what I should have done in the first place.  And then I got a little gung-ho and made a serious list for myself to follow from now on.  This list, hopefully, is not for everyone.  If you’re lucky, you don’t need it.  But I do.  Maybe it can help somebody else, too, so I’m sharing it.  But if you can think on your feet–or fanny, since you’ll probably be sitting down–faster than I do, ignore this.

First, I start every book with an idea.  I ignore it for a while to see if it’s serious and REALLY wants me to write it.

Second, I think of the people who can tell the story.    Do they interest me?  Do they start yammering in my head?

Third, I write three chapters and see if the story and characters grab me.  If they don’t, they’re toast.  Even if I pound hard, I probably can’t make them walk and talk.  But if they come to life and I want to know what they do and how they do it, I commit to them.

Fourth, I draw out character wheels so I get to really know my characters.

Fifth, I write out plot points.

And finally, I try to bring those plot points to life and start writing.

From now on, this is what I’m using for ME–(and if it helps you, yay!)–to plot my stories:

PLOT POINTS FOR BOOKS (60,000 TO 80,000 WORDS)

The first fourth = set-up:  10 chapters (so that word count = ¼ of total for book) (my chapters can be numbered or not, short or long, one scene or more, depending on length of book) :  so, write out 10 plot points that include:

Chapter 1:       INCITING INCIDENT

introduce the MAIN CHARACTER through action

                        introduce book’s BIG PROBLEM (external motivation—what the protag must fix)

Intro. INTERNAL PROBLEM protagonist must face: WHY he has to face problem

Chpts. 1-10:      Introduce MINOR CHARACTERS (a friend,  antagonist, romantic interest, etc.)

Intro. 2nd problem protag must solve (1ST SUBPLOT ties in with plot & theme)

Intro. 3rd problem (2ND SUBPLOT = ties in, too) *I need 2 subplots to reach 60,000+

Ground the story in SETTING—shown through protag’s eyes, why it’s important to him, right feel for story

At end of 1/4th: Protag learns something new that throws him/her (1st plot twist) *KNOW THIS

The second fourth of book (chapters 11-20, will take you to halfway word count for book)   SO, plot 10 more plot points.

Protag sets out to fix problem with a new plan

What seemed easy isn’t, doesn’t quite work

Things get complicated and worse

Subplots get complicated, too

At end of fourth, there’s 2nd plot twist.  *KNOW THIS  Plan fails, or person they suspected has solid alibi, or a new body shows up, or learn something new that throws off everything, so they have to go in a new direction)

The third fourth of book (chapter 21-30).  Write out 10 more plot points:

                         Protag starts work on a new plan, new direction

Looks like he might fail, afraid he’ll lose

One, last plot twist & new direction to end book *KNOW THIS

The last fourth of book (chapers 31-40+)  Write out last 10 (or more) plot points:

                         Resolve smallest subplot, then bigger subplot, then book’s big question

Resolve romance

Wrap up any loose ends, etc.

 

If I start writing a book with all of this done beforehand, I’m in a lot better shape.  Hope this helps you, and if you don’t need it, good for you!

How Many Bodies does it take?

I’m working on a mystery.  I finally reached the third turning point (three-fourths through the book–and yes, I do construct my plots that way), and I’m heading into the last 80 pages.  This is when I look at my remaining plot points and pray that I have enough twists and turns to make it to the The End.  If not, a little creativity is in order.

Almost (there must be one out there that breaks the mold, but I can’t think of it) every mystery starts with a dead body.  A crime would work, too, but it’s not as common.  The body doesn’t have to be on page one.  It doesn’t even have to show up by page five.  But someone usually stumbles upon it by the end of chapter one.  Not always.  Mystery readers, especially for cozies or traditionals,  know that while they’re hanging out with the protagonist and getting to know her and the book’s setting, a dead body will show up eventually.  It’s worth the wait.

Martha Grimes, in her early books, grabbed her readers with a hook–a prologue. They’re frowned upon now, but I liked them.  Some nice, oblivious person would be walking along a street or locking her front door, and we KNEW she’d be dead by the end of the chapter.  A great way to build tension.  A lot of thriller writers use that technique–showing the victim in a way that we know they’re already doomed.  It works.  If you’re not writing a thriller, though, you have to space out victims more sparingly:)  You don’t off somebody whenever the pace slows down, so you have to come up with different devices to keep the tension high enough to turn pages.

The thing I loved about witing urban fantasy is that you could write a battle every time you wanted to up the tension.  Pitting your protagonist against someone who could kill her works really well.  I just finished reading Ilona Andrews’s MAGIC SHIFTS, and it was a FAST read because there was a battle in almost every chapter.  Lots of action.  I loved it, but that doesn’t fly in an amateur sleuth mystery.  Protags don’t wield swords or shoot magic.

What does work?  Having the sleuth at the wrong place at the wrong time.  Having her get nosy and digging through a desk that’s not hers when someone walks into the office.  I’m halfway through a mystery by an author who’s new to me:  A Cutthroat Business by Jenna Bennett.   I’m loving it so far!  First, her protagonist is a Southern Belle.  I haven’t read one of those since the last Sarah Booth Delaney cozy I read by Carolyn Haines. Bennett’s protagonist is a real estate agent…so, of course, she takes a client to a showing and finds a body in the last room they stop to view.  See?  The nice, bloody corpse comes at the end of the chapter. More fun that way!

Also, of course, the police show up and the client who wanted to see the house doesn’t seem to have any money, but he has done some prison time–and the protag knew him when they were growing up–a smartass, sexy ex-con. Bennett finds one clever way after another to keep her protag involved in the investigation.  Eventually, though, (and I hate to say this), another body is needed to boost the pace near the middle of the book.  Sacrifices must be made for every novel, and for mysteries, well…. someone must die.

I’m sorry to say (and my daughter wasn’t happy with me, because she fell in love with a certain character when she read the pages I’ve done so far), I had to kill off someone, too, for the second plot twist in my book.  And that made me wonder:  how many bodies does it take to keep a good book going?  In urban fantasy, you’re lucky.  Very rarely does one of the good guys have to die, and you can kill bad guys at random, on every other page if you want to.  In mysteries, though? Bodies are up for grabs.  Good guys die as often as not-so-good guys.  I’m thinking–and I haven’t researched this–that it takes at least two bodies to move a mystery plot.  The first body happens at the beginning of the book and somewhere later, the pacing and clues start to fizzle, and an author has to stick in another victim.

What do you think?  Can you think of a mystery that only has one victim and the entire plot goes from there?  Okay, maybe in a P.I., because usually the private eye gets beat up close to the time a second body would pop up in a traditional mystery.  LOL.  This is probably why it was so hard for me to write romances.  I couldn’t kill anybody:)

Jenna Bennett:  https://www.amazon.com/Savannah-Martin-Mysteries-Box-Set-ebook/dp/B00A6UMNRM/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1496516485&sr=8-8&keywords=jenna+bennett+savannah+martin+series+kindle+kindle

Ilona Andrews’s Magic Shifts:  https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Shifts-Kate-Daniels-Novel-ebook/dp/B00OQSF7GY/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1496517298&sr=8-3&keywords=ilona+andrews+kate+daniels+series

My webpage (with a new creepy short story):  http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Twitter: @judypost

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