How Much Can a Head Hold?

For whatever reason, I’ve been hungry for cabbage soup, so I made two big pots of it today–one for John and me, one for my sisters (who love soup, but hate to cook).  I used two Dutch ovens, and they LOOK about the same size.  Except they weren’t.  By the time I sauteed the sausage slices, added onions, carrots, potatoes, and diced tomatoes, along with seasonings and broth, one pot had room for the sliced cabbage and one didn’t.

At the moment, my head feels like pot number 2.  If I add anything else, something is going to overflow and spill out.  John and I love people, but we’re not exactly social.  Most nights, we’re just as happy staying home as going out.  But September has been a buffet of friend delights.  Our calendar has never had as much ink on it for things to do.  I’ve loved every minute of it, but when I sit down to write, I can tell there’s more jiggling around in my brain than usual.

I always rewrite whatever I wrote the previous day before I let myself write anything new.  I have to.  I’d never put in the time to do it right if I had to rewrite an entire manuscript.  It’s too daunting, so I rewrite in stages.  Polish yesterday’s chapter before I start a new one.  Polish a fourth of my manuscript before I move to the next one.  And I can tell I’ve been busy, a bit distracted.  There are sentences with missing words.  The ideas are there, but little things haven’t stuck to the page.  They’ve spilled out.  Or I’ve used the wrong name for the wrong person.  Little things.  Things you can mop up and clean.   But things that don’t usually happen.

I know this story is far enough in to find its own way.  I wake up in the mornings with tweaks and new scenes in my mind.  The characters take turns I didn’t expect.  The book can hold its own with everything else that’s happening this month.  But if the writing holds its ground, something else has to give. I forget to put the chicken out to thaw or my foot goes in my mouth and I sound as intelligent as a hamster when I open my mouth.

Have I reached the point that if something pops into my brain, something has to fall out?  Not usually, but I’ve never been a multi-tasker, and when life gets busy, little things bite the dust.  We all lead busy lives these days.  I hope you juggle better than I do.  Happy writing!

Webpage:  (I posted a novella on it):

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Twitter:  @judypost


Newsletters–yea or nay?

My friend, M. L. Rigdon/Julia Donner just spent time setting up a newsletter with mailchimp.  She sent out the first one, and I enjoyed reading it.  I’d link it here, but I can’t find the link.  (Hint, hint, Mary Lou, if you’d like to put it in a comment for us).  I’ve seen more and more writers offering newsletters.  Do any of you?  I started one a long time ago, but fizzled.  I just couldn’t figure out what a reader would want to hear from me.  I already have this blog and a webpage and an author Facebook page.  I thought that was probably more than most people would want to bother with.

I read that authors often provide something free for people who read their newsletters. I wrote many free stories for my webpage.  And I had lots of visitors.  I don’t have the time to do that now, but I’m putting up excerpts.  And thank you to the people who still visit my page!

So, I’m asking:  what makes newsletters better than other author sites?  Are they more fun to write?  Do readers enjoy them more?   I’m curious.

I finally turned in my first mystery for Kensington and I’m working on my second one. They won’t come out until 2018, so if I wanted to start a newsletter, I have plenty of time to play with ideas, etc.  How often do you send a newsletter?  How do you make it special?

Thanks for any feedback!  And happy writing!



author Facebook page:

Twitter:  @judypost




Business…and…Mysteries with Romance

I finally got my official contract from Kensington.  It takes what feels like a long time between receiving a 3-book deal to getting the official 20+ page tome of subject heading after subject heading that I mostly have no clue about.  That’s when I’m grateful I have my agent, Lauren Abramo, from Dystel, Goderich, and Bourret.  I think most of what Kensington offers is set in stone–like the Ten Commandments–but what I concentrate on are my writing deadlines. And when do my books come out?  I know my deadlines–and I’ve given myself more time between books now that I’m writing mysteries, but I still don’t know when my books will come out.  Kensington won’t decide that until 2018.

My 6th and last romance, SPECIAL DELIVERY, is due out Nov. 7th, and I wanted to give it a fair shot, so I paid for a blog tour.  In truth, I thought Kensington would promote my romances, but not so much.  MOST writers have to promote themselves these days.  That was a learning experience for me, so I’m promoting this one a little myself.  Of course, BookBub is the BEST, but I can’t afford it, and it’s harder to get accepted by BookBub than to pass through the eye of the needle these days.  The price for my tour isn’t terrible–$60.  But it takes a day or two to decide which tour you want and to get everything ready for it if you want each blog stop to be unique with a different excerpt or blog at each spot.   And, yes, this is time well-spent.  You want to start a good two months before your book comes out.  I’m using Goddess Fish Promotions again, and they’re great to work with.

Now, with the business stuff behind me, I can concentrate on my favorite thing–writing. The first mystery is done and sent.  And this time, probably because I just finished writing them–I’ve added a romance subplot to the clues and red herrings.  This is where it got a little bit tricky.  I’ve been reading (okay, I’m a little obsessed with) Jenna Bennett’s Savannah Martin series.  She mixes mystery and romance into almost a fusion.  There’s lots of TALK about sex (nothing graphic, though), lots of steam, and gritty murders.  It makes for an intoxicating cocktail.

This is the thing, though.  I’m finishing book #10, and Rafe and Savannah still aren’t married.  It almost feels like the TV show Castle.  The chemistry is intoxicating, and they keep growing closer, but how long can you flirt with HEA and not deliver?  I’m thinking they get married in the next book.  Thank God.  But this prolonged tease let me know that even though in romances, the HEA comes at the end of the book, that’s not the way it works in other genres.

I make no secret that I’m an Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs fan–from the days I wrote urban fantasy.  And werewolves and werelions don’t just walk in and sweep the heroines off their feet either.  It took a few books before the hot guys won the hotter women.  So, I didn’t let my characters–Jazzi and Ansel–walk down the aisle in book one and have their HEA.  I don’t think I can come up with one diversion after another for 10 books, but I know that stalling is a good thing.  And dead bodies are great distractions to keep heroines and heroes too busy to plan ahead.  But what happens after the “death do us part” clicks in?  Do things get (yawn) boring?  I’m thinking of Castle and other TV shows.   Can you keep them interesting after marriage?  What do you think?  I was a sucker for Tommy and Tuppence, Nick and Nora, and marriage didn’t hurt them.  Any opinions?

Happy Writing!


My webpage (posted every Thursday):

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Twitter:  @judypost






We hear about so many injustices, we forget the American Indians. This is so well said. And if this created Jake in your new book, no wonder he’s so mesmerizing. Can’t wait to see this book available for my Kindle.


In 1973, I visited the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Lame Deer, MO, drawn there by a character in a story I was writing who was half Cheyenne. Forty years later, after endless rewrites and title changes, Avenue to Heaven is finished. Back then, I’d thought I’d done a lot of research but learned within moments of stepping inside the reservation trading post how phenomenally ignorant I was.

A lady behind the counter greeted me without words. Her stance was familiar from all I’d read about Native Ameican cultures. (A teacher at the grim parochial schools Indian children were forced to attend wrote of how disturbing it was to speak to a classroom of the tops of bowed heads.) I accepted that I was wicaśaśni, one of the takers, and a stranger on her land, and browsed, bought a lovely wristband, and mentioned that I loved the book on display,

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Our grandson lives in Indianapolis.  He’s young and rents a house with a friend of his. He invited us down last Sunday to see the house, meet his roommate, and grill for us.  My daughter’s a traveling nurse in Indy and bought huge steaks and baking potatoes for the meal.  My sister, Mary, came along for the fun.  And it was fun.  When my family gets together, we tend to tease each other, catch up, and laugh a lot.  The next day, Ty called and said that his roommate thought we were hilarious and ruthless.

Okay, I had to think about that.  Hilarious?  We do love to give each other grief.  And it’s possible each and every one of us is a tad eccentric.  Ruthless?  Well, nothing much is sacred.  Everything’s on the table.   And our approach to life?  If something’s wrong, deal with it.  If life hits you hard, throw a pity party, get over it, and decide what to do next.

I read a blog on Triberr today about writing characters, and it made me think of my family.  The blogger–a writer–said that knowing GMC isn’t enough.  Each character in the story should have a different attitude. And after thinking about that, I agree.  People might have common goals, maybe even beliefs, but they’re approach to those could vary a lot, depending on their attitudes.  Lots of things shape a person’s life, and all of those combine to determine a person’s attitude–how he sees what happens around him and how he feels a person should react to it.

The blogger said that if you listen to character A and she sounds exactly like character B, you haven’t made each character unique enough.  And to do that, think about each of their attitudes.  People in families all have different personalities.  They’ve experienced the same of many things–parents, experiences, schools.  But that doesn’t equate to the same personalities.  Why?  The oldest child usually is more adult motivated.  The second child is often more in tune with his older sibling and other kids than his parents.  So birth order comes into play.

My sister Patty and I are only ten months apart.  My parents were young, and money was tight.  They were busy and had too much on their plate to shower us with attention.  But my sister Mary came along twelve years later.  Mom and Dad were more comfortable financially.  Mom was ready to just enjoy raising a baby, but she was older.  By bedtime, she was tired, so Mary would pester me for bedtime stories and wake me up when she had nightmares.  The dynamics had changed.  Having a sister twelve years younger than I was felt like getting a new doll, only better.  I could play with her, have fun with her, but I didn’t have to raise her:)

Parents and birth order are only part of what makes attitude, though.  I was the oldest child, but only for ten months.  Then poor Mom had two of us to deal with.  And we were nothing alike.  Are most brothers and sisters?  I loved school.  Patty didn’t.  I made top grades, and Patty tried to flunk achievement tests so that she’d get put in easier classes.  (Yes, she was smart enough to try to work the system:)  I liked sports. Patty hated them.  With my grandsons, Tyler was easy-going.  Nate had ADD/ADHD and struggled through school, hated it.  Ty couldn’t wait to start college.  Nate never wanted to see the inside of a classroom again.

Many things go into developing character and all of those things create a person’s attitude.  I think attitude might be the thing that distinguishes interesting differences for writing.  When I outline my next book, I might list what each person’s attitude is.  I’m pretty sure that would make each person’s approach and dialogue different from each other’s.  Just a thought.

Happy Writing!

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Twitter:  @judypost





Historical Western

Mary Lou Rigdon, writing as Julia Donner, writes Regency romances that I love.  She’s decided to try her hand at historical westerns, which I also love, and submitted her book AVENUE TO HEAVEN to Kindle Scout.  For them to accept it, it needs votes.  An easy decision for me.  Receiving a coffin from your ex-husband hooked me right away.  I voted, and it IS easy.  Here are the details:

(from Mary Lou):

I’ve decide to try a Kindle Scout campaign, which means I’d love your support. To win my book Avenue to Heaven needs nominations. It only takes a few minutes and is easy.

Click on this link:
When a coffin arrives on Annie Corday’s doorstep she knows who sent it—her former husband, one of Chicago’s most vicious crime lords. Desperate, she decides on a radical solution. If a man can advertise for a wife, why can’t she arrange for a bodyguard and temporary husband? Jake Williams isn’t looking for a wife when he comes to Chicago to buy cattle but ends up roped into a loco marriage contract. And worse, he can’t stop his headlong fall into love with a woman who will eventually leave.


To vote for Avenue to Heaven click on the blue box “Nominate Me.”

A five thousand word excerpt is provided if you want to read it. If I get enough votes, Avenue to Heaven will be published and Amazon will send you a free digital copy when the book is released.

If you like women’s fiction…

One of my writer friends, Karen Lenfestey, just released a new book.  At our writers’ group, we call Karen “the queen of drama.”  She hits her characters with serious stuff!  One of the things that I like about Karen’s writing is that she slams her characters with tough choices, and then just shows how they cope.  She never hints how we should feel about one character or another.  She shows them in action, and we have to decide for ourselves.  It keeps things interesting!

Anyway, happy book release to Karen!




The Set-Up

I’ve just finished writing the set-up for my second River Bluffs mystery.  There was a time when I tried to follow the 5 Acts of Storytelling, but it never worked well for me, so now I have my own rhythm for writing books.   The first fourth of most books (I bend my own rules when I want to) is the set-up.

My mystery will be about 70,000 words, so my goal for its first fourth is about 17,000. I know there are people out there who can splash down that many words in a week.  I’m not one of them.  Especially at the start of a book.  Opening chapters are like tiptoeing on quicksand for me.  It’s like meeting half a dozen people to set out on a journey, and you only know a couple of them.  The rest are strangers or acquaintances.  Do I like them? Trust them?  Do I want to spend time with them?  They can’t all be nice, because I need conflict.  And sorry, poor innocent newbie, but I’m going to kill you in chapter 10.  I’ve already plotted it out.

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Writing a book’s first sentence, first chapter, and first page all make me sweat.  The opening is what hooks the reader.  I don’t need to trip over a body right away.  Mysteries create a certain mood.  Subtle hints can assure me I’ll find a corpse eventually. If EVERYBODY hates the book reviewer who slams writers?  He probably won’t be among the living a few chapters in.  I can wait. Because I know that the setting, the people I bump into, and little tidbits of information will all eventually contribute to the guessing game of who done it.

I like the long, slow games of mystery as much as the quick and dirty.  I just finished reading Jenna Bennett’s Past Due.  Bodies dropped so fast, I had trouble keeping up:)  I’ve started book 9, and so far there’s only one body.  People are dying at a more sedate pace. Doesn’t matter to me.  I like them both.

A set-up needs certain elements, though.  A hook.  An inciting incident.  Introduction to the main characters.  The book’s big problem (the mystery).  An internal problem the protagonist must face.  Some minor characters (a friend or two, antagonist, villain, or romantic interest.  For mysteries, some witnesses victims, and suspects.)  A setting.  And I like to throw in two sub-plots that fit the story’s theme.  Another element that makes a difference to me is tone.  Authors have unique voices, but they can change tones.  The same author can write humorous or dark.  It’s a matter of word choice.  And a riveting tone can keep me turning pages.

Anyway, I’ve finished writing 17,000 words and I can cross off all the necessary elements for the way I like to write a set-up.  You can do what you want, and if you do it well, I’ll probably like it.  But I’m happy with my book’s set-up.  The crucial ingredient?  At the very end of the set-up, I want to write a twist, a turning point, that drives the book in a different direction and ups the ante.  And I’ve got that, too.

Now all I have to do is write the next fourth of the book.  I’m not fast at that either:)

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On twitter:  @judypost



Curated Content for Writers August 25th

Story Empire has great links for writers! I always find one or more that interest me. Enjoy!

Story Empire

Happy Friday, SE Readers. It’s time for another round of writing tips we’ve found around the web. If you haven’t read Mae’s post, Understanding Tribes on Triberr, and Staci’s post, Classic TV as an Inspiration for Contemporary Fiction, be sure to check them out.

And now, for this week’s curated content.

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This Monday is a big event!  The solar eclipse falls on our wedding anniversary.  Yes, I’ve been married to the Old Poop for a long time.  (He got the nickname after the girls and I watched the movie On Golden Pond.  And yes, Henry Fonda earned the title.  And it fits my John pretty well, too:)  It’s an endearment, and he actually likes it.  Knows I’ll love him even in his worst moods.

For years, we’ve driven to The Retreat on Lake George to celebrate our anniversaries. We used to rent a lake cottage for a week up there each year when the girls were little. When summers got too busy for that, we enjoyed driving up for a day, looking out over the water and eating the really good food the restaurant served.  But The Retreat burned down last year, and we have no choice but to start a new tradition.

This year, we’re driving to Sylvania, Ohio–over an hour away–to eat at The Seafood, a restaurant our longtime friends told us about.  We’ve never been there before, have no idea what the ambience is, but we’ll enjoy each other’s company, no matter what.  AND, it’s the one time in our lifetimes that a solar eclipse falls on our anniversary.  A good omen, don’t you think?

There’s no good writing advice or yakking today.  Just time with my husband.  So I hope your word count is multiplying, and happy writing!  Hope the eclipse showers you with creativity.