Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Back on Track

It's fall and, well, it's FALL! How did the summer flash by and I didn't notice? Busy life. Busy writing, busy with personal stuff. Busy. Not an excuse. Just an explanation. So, what do I post today? 

I've been struggling a bit with my current WIP. Or maybe it's me struggling with my writing overall. My motivation has suffered. I can guess why. I've always been the singular-focused kind of person. I spend twenty-four seven on one goal. All others end up with my leftovers, which isn't much. And for the past four months the goal has been to get my work published. I have queries and submissions going out in every direction to agents and publishers. It's grueling, disheartening, discouraging, but I'm always ending with a "let's stop whining and send out some more emails!" It's the kind of attitude which throws you into a revolving door situation, but it really helps. You don't quit.

Now back to that WIP. I think I've found something to keep me on track. It's called Pacemaker. No pun intended, although I would say the program has been able to "jump start" and revive my pulse to write on a regular basis. Pacemaker is a free word count tracker/planner. You set the word count goal and your target date to finish your project. And zap! You're good to go. 

Each day, I have a word count to complete and each day I record whatever gets done. And each day I hope to meet that goal. The planner will adjust accordingly for the remaining days' word count. If anything, it's put me back on a schedule. I'm writing steadily instead of once or twice a week at best. With any luck, I'll have my WIP baby finished by November.

I know this post is short, but I'm itching to get back to writing and meet my word count! Go Pacemaker! Here's the link...


Try it out!

Happy reading and writing, all :-)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Who Reads What? Some Interesting Stats

Being that author person, the one who always wants to know what's on the other side of my mirror or window or door (choose whichever metaphor you like), I seek out articles on readership, who's looking at what. Does anybody actually read anymore? This question posed by someone who obviously doesn't. *sigh* Yes, it is sad. I feel badly for those who think that way, for all they are missing...but let's move on. The Article. I stumbled upon one published a couple years ago, (see link below) that focused on Nielsen ratings regarding mystery/crime readers. That is my niche, so if you aren't into reading mystery, don't write mystery, you may want to move along. :-) 

Nielsen colleagues dove into the task to gather stats, asking questions... How do you acquire your reading material? What type of mysteries do you prefer? Where do you discover new authors? Interesting results given in a beautifully illustrative graph (again, see link below) show a couple of important facts--at least for me as an author of mystery. One, over 60 percent of readers are ages 45 and up with 28 percent being 65 and older. Makes me think about my story details like how old should my characters be? Does it make a difference if I use modern slang or references to modern culture that the older crowd may not understand? I'm thinking not. After all, I'm of a certain age, and those things don't bother me. Another fact finding detail: 70 percent of those readers polled were female. 

Here's the real gut-puncher, though: many frequent readers aren't buying books. They get them free. Probably waiting for those deals on Amazon or participating in book swaps where you trade in your book and get another in return. Oh, and of course, let's not forget libraries. I'll admit, I get the budget urge to find bargains, freebies, and such. Confession: I don't use the library as much as I used to because I can't seem to finish a book in time before I have to return it, or I'm on a long, infinitely long waiting list. Also, it didn't surprise me to find that 69 percent of heavy buyers are expert readers. Reading does that to a person. Frequent reading = expert reader. 

The concern stated by the author of the article is that if the mystery audience is the older crowd, what happens when they, well, are gone? As he puts it, the genre will need some new victims. Yes, I can see that. However, what's to say that the younger crowd, when older, won't turn to mystery? I've certainly gone through my stages. For ten years or more, it was horror/suspense with King, Koontz, and Saul at the top of my list. When I was in my early twenties, it was romantic suspense with such classic greats as Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt. Yeah, I was certainly a romantic. Then, for the past twenty years I've pretty much stuck to mysteries of all sorts -- gritty crime, psychological thrillers, legal thrillers and of course, cozies for my "be amused and laugh and get all warm and fuzzy" moods. Authors like Patterson, Cornwell, Johansen, and Brown on the more serious side. Evanovich and Joanne Fluke, to name a couple, on the lighter side. 

So, what's an author to do if he/she wants to grow a younger audience? One suggestion is Wattpad. Yes, I said Wattpad. Authors like the one mentioned in this article ( Elizabeth Spann Craig) tried it out and gained lots of readers. Caution: readers, not necessarily buyers. It's an interesting social media forum where you can upload chapters of your work and readers will flock and send you all kinds of nice comments, questions, etc. With luck, the trolls will stay far away. Below, I've placed another link to tips on using Wattpad, for those who'd care to check it out. 

As for me, I'll trudge along, cranking out story ideas, writing those mysteries, hoping people will notice, enjoy, and read more. As you might know, often, it's not how great your book is. It's getting noticed. If you're not, then who will ever discover how fantastic a writer you are? (Says any author who doesn't find their work rise in the Amazon rankings!) 

Cheers all. Happy reading and writing!

Who is Reading Mysteries?

Learning about Wattpad

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Stuck in Limbo and All Those Other Uncomfortable In-between Moments

Stuck in the middle, hanging by a thread, twiddling your thumbs, caught in limbo... all these expressions and many more describe those moments in everyday life where you WISH you were moving BUT you're really sinking in quicksand, treading water ... okay, I'll stop with the metaphorical phrases. And it doesn't matter what it is you're trying to accomplish, you will find yourself in those in-between moments where nothing seems to be going anywhere. It's a struggle, and it's a gift to figure out what keeps you in that place and how to get out of it. Some people use mind over matter. You think positive and then you move forward, or at least in some direction other than standing still. Make sense? Okay, let's try it in reverse. Matter over mind. You see that obstacle in front of you, the one keeping your feet planted, growing roots ... sorry, at it again ... that obstacle, the one that won't budge? Well, back up, find some other "matter" to work with, i.e. another item on your to-do list, another goal you have in mind, and tackle that. Maybe your obstinate stinker pushing your buttons will give up and fly away. OR maybe you will come up with another solution later on to tackle your stubborn buddy. Never know.

Of course, there are plenty of situations where you have no control, someone else is in the driver's seat and you must be patient and wait. I got that. You all see that. Doesn't make it any easier being in limbo, but at least you know it's not your move. Ball is in their court. Wait for it. Keep busy doing something else. (How many times have you heard that one?!) Sure, you'll want to move on to the next step, the step somebody else needs to take care of, and there's nothing you can do to change the process. So, you wait for it. What's that other saying? Patience is a virtue? Says the person who had all the patience of a hundred people, I'd imagine.

Now, I get to the tie in... writing. It's a process. A very, very long process. You write. You finish a book. You query said book. You wait. And maybe wait some more. A process. And all the editors, publishers, and agents know this, too. Here's another tip--overused, overcooked, but totally true: get busy doing something else! Write another book. Plant a garden. Build a tree house. Do something! After all, a watched pot never boils. Okay, okay, I'm done. No more adages. Just saying good luck to you all, whatever your goals may be. Cheers!

Here's a post with a few more tips on how to cope with the query waiting game:
Tips for Query Waiting

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tis the Season for Inspiration, Reflection and Hope -- One Writer's Message

Writing is most difficult when you're a writer. Sounds contradictory, doesn't it? Well, think of it as examining something under a microscope. You see all the imperfections, each and every detail, whether attractive or unappealing it's there. Writers do much the same thing with their words. They view them with extreme scrutiny, as if "under the microscope". Still, they write, and editing becomes part of their therapy. However, during that process they sometimes stumble, lose faith in their ability, and even consider quitting.

There is value in those experiences. As the saying goes, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. With each success, when writers cross the finish line and type "the end", that's something to remember. In fact, it's something useful to pass along to others who might need some "hope" and "good cheer" to help them survive similar struggles. 

I've had my share of inspiring stories since I started writing. I guess they wouldn't work for everyone, but I'd bet some writers who are reading this will understand what I mean. For instance, there are moments when I've felt encouraged by other writers' good fortune. There's no envy involved to spoil the moment. It's more like their joy is contagious, and I just want to soak it up and share in their happiness. It positively makes me want to grab my laptop and write like a madwoman! I'm a believer. If others can do it, there is hope for us all. 

A few days ago, I attended a holiday party given for our local chapter of SinC. (Sisters in Crime). Each of us took a turn sharing what we've accomplished in our writing. As my sisters spoke, I felt proud of each and every one of them. I'm blessed and honored to be a part of such talent. There were those who announced novels recently published; those with works in progress and who are still waiting to hold that first book with their name on it; those with happy stories, and those with struggles they'd managed to get through, sometimes with the help of fellow authors. I enjoyed hearing all of them. They show courage, perseverance, and tremendous love for writing. What more could I ask for?

So, this holiday season--a time for reflection, hope, and giving--I'm wishing everyone will find inspiration within themselves, share it with others, and enjoy each others' successes. Tis the season, after all. 

Happy Holidays, everyone!


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

What Struggles Do Your Characters Face?

'Tis the season when we may share our kindness and our generosity. It's the time to give joy. And there's nothing like this opportunity to discover the good in us. We all have shortcomings, human failing being what it is. However, we know life is full of struggle. The important thing is how we handle it. Some will ignore their failings, others will strive to improve them. So, yes, there's no better time than the holiday season to discover what's good in all of us. 

It's funny, but I've come to recognize the struggles my characters have are similar to mine. Yes. A full disclosure moment. *sigh* ... For instance, self-confidence. I struggle with that at times. And it makes for awkward moments in social situations. Relationships may suffer. Conversation may sound clumsy. Or I might appear snobby when I'm really shy. Still, I try to make an effort. One greeting at a time. LOL. My character, Lilly Milanovanovich from the Lilly M Mystery Series, has issues like this. She bungles through life, saying the wrong things, making the wrong choices at the worst possible moments. Yet, somehow she manages. She has a generous heart, a loving soul. She strives to help people with their problems, even at the risk to her life.

Another struggle I have is being critical. Especially of myself. Even if the strive for perfection can give me positive results, it's a rather impractical notion to expect this all the time. Always? Yes, it's exhausting. Hadley Brennan--from my current work-in-progress, It's a Con's Life--struggles with this problem. She's been wanting the perfect life with the perfect job, believing it's the path to her happiness. It takes a lesson or several to show her how finding happiness comes from within, no matter where she is or what she has. 

I guess, when I write about my characters, giving them problems to work through, it's almost therapeutic. Their solutions sometimes become mine, and along the way, hopefully, we will all find happiness. After all, everyone loves a happy ending. Right? 

Happy holidays, everyone! 

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Musical Sense of Emotional Triggers

Years ago I was watching an episode of the TV series, Warehouse 13. It's a bit weird and not for everyone. Heck, not sure it is for me! I quit watching after season one. However, some points stuck with me. For instance, this particular episode titled "Resonance" proposed the idea of certain melodies having the ability to create a feeling of euphoria. Now, that isn't so weird. Right? 

Regarding writing, I have many colleagues who insist listening to certain types of music helps create whatever mood their story is in at that moment. I myself need either silence or instrumental tunes when I write. Song lyrics get mixed up with my story vocabulary and turn out all kinds of nonsense. Not a pretty picture. That's not to say I don't use music. I have lots of music in mind when I write. I include music references in certain parts of my story. Case in point, in one of my unpublished works -- Grave Maker Blues -- the lead male character is a blues singer and the female character owns the bar where he plays. It's been lots of fun researching blues music and finding the perfect song for each scene. 

Even though it's hard for me to listen while I write, I have been known to listen to certain music if I'm having trouble with a scene already written. Maybe the words aren't conveying the mood I want to achieve, something like that. Play the right song and voila! Come on. Think about it. Who puts on romantic music when it's date night with a girlfriend or boyfriend? Or how about when you go to an exercise class? Want to speed up the tempo of those aerobics, you play fast tunes. During a cool down, slow, easy, calm will do the trick. If I'm feeling a little discouraged about writing or really anything... those favorite songs get me back up! Hey, it even helps when I'm tired! And so much more fun than chewing gum to keep me awake. 

Now, as for using a particular melody to hypnotize people into a euphoric state while bank robbers manage to get away with the loot? Well, please don't :-) Let's keep it positive and productive in a good way, shall we? 

By the way, while writing this post, I've been listening to the instrumental version of "Don't Disturb This Groove" a throwback to the eighties by The System. It's one of my feel good songs. Enjoy! 

Happy writing, everyone!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Let's Play Concentration: Plug In and Tune Out

This morning I read an article on tips to increase productivity posted by a certain brilliant agent I know *wink, wink*. This started a discussion about one of the tips warning how multitasking is counterproductive. Another author and I tweeted that it's kind of hard not to. It's how we are programmed nowadays. Multitasking is everywhere. Working jobs, busy lives, media devices all contribute to the need or desire to try doing several tasks at once. And it's okay sometimes. After all, the clothes washer will do its thing while you sweep the carpet or cook dinner or write that next chapter or do your homework. That's not the kind of multitasking we're talking about here. 

Think brain work. Try to watch your favorite television program while doing homework. Every kid knows, every adult remembers, it doesn't work well. Oh, I'm not saying you won't get your social studies paper finished or answer those questions in Science, but how long you spend on it or how well you've done it is the problem. Taking away the TV, finding a quiet place without people or other noises to distract you, and the job is finished quicker and better. Media has spread way beyond your living room, though, and it's messing with your brain. It goes with you everywhere. Smart phones, iPads, Kindles, game systems, and so many other devices will grab your attention in unhealthy ways. There are studies done how the average teenager has a short attention span that's growing even shorter as I write this blog post. In a flash we all can flip from one page to another, skip over what doesn't hold our attention and we move along. Our brains are crying out to us, "Stop! Please stop and slow down." Taking time to enjoy the moment, to process, to focus is the way to exercise your brain. It needs it because it's become a saggy, lumpy blob, out of shape and in need of a tuneup.

With that said, I will admit there are people I know who can concentrate on what they're doing -- reading, writing, etc.-- in the middle of chaos and NOTHING about it distracts them! Go figure. I'm not wired that way. When I write, I need quiet. I'd say I'm not even one of those who typically listens to music while tapping the keys. I especially need solitude and no distraction when I read. But that's me.

So, I decided to find an article on what really helps me, besides no multitasking. I found one on how to improve focus. Author David Rock* says we need to train our brain, if we want to improve focus. I say improved focus and increased productivity go hand in hand. Right? Anyway, Rock claims there are three parts to brain training: 1) Do creative work first; 2) Allocate your time deliberately; and 3) Train your mind like a muscle.

I love number one. All writers do! This one advises you do the creative tasks while your mind is well-rested and alert. Save those easier tasks like reading your email for later when your brain doesn't have as much energy. With number two Rock states how we only have a few hours a week when we're truly focused, and those times are usually in the morning or late at night. So, capitalize on those times. And finally number three is part of the whole media frenzy thing I mentioned earlier. Our attention spans are damaged along with our lazy brains. Rock advises to train the mind you need to start small, maybe a few minutes, when all distractions are removed and you just concentrate. Build on the time gradually. It's like you have to rewire or reprogram your mind to do what it used to do, or for the younger crowd, what it never has done but should. 

I'll admit I am as guilty as the next person. I spend so much time on my phone or computer that it's become a problem. I don't know about you, but I'm gonna start training my brain and build my focus!

Here's to writing that next great novel! Happy reading and writing, all. Enjoy your week. 

How to Stay Focused: Train Your Brain