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

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Five Things You Should Know About Writing

I recently wrote this as a guest post during my book blog tour and decided it might be worthwhile to re-post. I'll let readers decide. So, here goes...

Most writers will learn as they go, make mistakes and hope to do better the next time. That’s why getting advice from those who are willing to share tips on the craft is so appreciated. Anything to help avoid those pitfalls. Right? There are lots of books on writing, from mechanics to pitching to marketing to whatever you’re looking for. It’s all there. I have a whole library of them myself. Authors networking with authors through social media or in person provides a wealth of knowledge, too. For instance, I belong to the local chapter of Sisters in Crime and I frequent author expos. Writing is such a solitary endeavor. Rubbing shoulders with other authors is like therapy.

It’s difficult to narrow down the multitude of things I’ve gathered during my career in writing—almost twenty years of accumulated knowledge—and I’m still learning, but here you go!

1) Your first attempt may not be worth publishing. Okay, that sounds harsh, but it’s reality. Your writing should get better with time. Like any skill, practice can make perfect. In this instant-gratification society we live in where most of us want to see quick results, hearing someone tell you to wait, write another book or story, try again because next time it will be better is not what we like to hear. Nonetheless, it’s prudent advice.

2) Find something to write about that you love. Here’s the catch. You may love it, but perhaps no one else will. It happens. If your goal is to get something published, understand that it’s a business. No publisher is willing to put X amount of dollars into a project that nobody wants to read and thus makes zero profit. Unless you’re writing purely for your own pleasure and never plan to sell, find something to write that you love and readers love.

3) Writing one project takes so much time, so much effort, but may gain so little reward. You can write and suffer through it enough to draw blood. It can take you from months to years to write one book. Nobody out there in the writing/publishing world cares. Readers don’t think when they consider buying your book how much time you spent on it, how many hours you sweated and slaved. They want a great read at a real bargain. Bottom line? If you love writing, you’ll keep doing it no matter what the reward.

4) It only gets harder. Did I say the writing gets better? Yes, I did. Here’s the thing. You improve and you expect more of yourself. Make sense? It’s like earning all A’s in school. Now, everyone including yourself expects A’s in the future, and forever! You can’t help it. The na├»ve writer you once were, the one who didn’t know you should be cautious of how many times you use words like that, then, would or could, or recognize the difference between showing and telling, that person has been replaced by a wiser and craftier writer. That person won’t be satisfied with mediocre. Yeah, it only gets harder, but your writing gets better!

5) Writing can become an obsession. What do you mean? I can walk away from it at any moment. Yeah, think again. If you’re passionate about it, you’ll have a tough time giving it up. I say this from my experience, but I have heard other authors argue the same. You’ll think, sleep, eat writing, create little scenarios in your head, recognize great story ideas everywhere—the six o’clock news, the man talking on the phone next to you at the bus station, the bickering couple at the table across from you at the restaurant, the stories are everywhere and you can’t stop them from invading your imagination. They beg to be written. Yep. It’s an obsession, but you’ll probably love it. At least I do.  

Enjoy your week! 

Monday, May 30, 2016

In Memory of ... a Time to Reflect

I normally don't do this, but it's Memorial Day and I'm getting older. Time does that to a person, especially during occasions like holidays, weddings, birthdays, and sadly, funerals. We remember the past. Today I'm thinking of family who served during war -- WWII and the Korean War come to mind. 

Uncle Pete (Momchilov) was my mom's brother. I didn't get a chance to know him very well. He died when I was twelve. He flew planes during WWII, was shot down a couple of times, but survived it all. Pete loved flying. After the war he went on to pilot commercial flights, small charters and such. Sadly and ironically, he died from a heart attack during one of those flights. His co-pilot was able to land the plane safely. Pete was only in his forties. He loved his country and flying. That's what I'll remember most about him.

I have three brothers, all many years older than I. My oldest, Art Schake, served in the army during WWII. I don't know anything about the time he served. I wasn't born yet, but I've seen photos. He looked so handsome in his uniform. He came out of the Army and continued to serve his country in another way, by becoming a police officer. That remained his occupation for thirty-some years. Unfortunately, he passed away in his early sixties and didn't get a chance to enjoy more than a few years of retirement. However, he lived a full and joyful life, loved by family and friends, appreciated by citizens and country. 

My middle brother, Bob, is a quiet, dignified, and intelligent man. I can't even imagine him being in a war, but he served during the Korean conflict for several years. I was only four when he sent home gifts, including the outfit you see me wearing in the photo. I loved it and wanted to wear it all the time! I imagine it was quite a culture shock living in a foreign country for years. It must have been comforting having fellow soldiers around him, giving support and boosting morale. I'm sure he came back after he served, a wiser man, more worldly. He went on to further his education on the G.I. Bill, one of the benefits of serving the military. He found a job at Firestone Tire in Akron, worked his way to the top and ended up the VP of Purchasing for Dunlop Tire. 

My youngest brother, Jim, may have wanted to serve in the military (I don't know for sure), but a health condition prevented him from doing so. He made up for it in other ways, becoming a viable and contributing citizen, raising a family, and working for a local company, Reiter Dairy. He's retired and has lived to enjoy seeing his three daughters marry and have children of their own. 

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that we all have different stories to tell, but also we have one thing in common: being proud of our loved ones who've served and knowing the sacrifices they've made helped make this country great. 

Have a wonderful Memorial Day and honor your veterans!

*I apologize in advance for any facts I may have gotten wrong. In any case, I'm sure my brothers will let me know, if I did! LOL

Friday, May 20, 2016

Let's Count ... What's in Your Toolbox?

A writer's toolbox is special. Think about it. A doctor has her medical bag. A teacher carries her briefcase of lesson plans, papers to grade, utensils, etc. A lawyer, an accountant, a carpenter, a plumber, and the list goes on forever -- all of them need tools. Right? Tools get the job done. 

A writer is no different. What's important to us may vary, but the tools are there to help us plan, create, write, edit, until we complete the WIP. I like my tools. I keep them close by and use them frequently. What are they? Well, let's take a look...

1) Laptop -- I used to write out stories longhand, then type them. Eventually, I decided going straight to the keyboard saved me time and made the changes a cinch to read! Okay, yes. I'll admit it. I can't help but edit as I write. Some say it interrupts the flow of the story. I say the story won't take one step further if I don't correct what I see as glaring errors!

2) Outline -- I'm a planner. Used to be a pantser. Planning keeps me from writing myself into a horrible, confusing corner that would take erasing several chapters and starting over at that point to fix. So, a detailed, chapter by chapter outline it is, resting next to my laptop!

3) Sticky Notes -- This is where I will sound a bit fanatical, but I use these for brief chapter notes. I know what you're thinking. I've already outlined, so isn't this redundant? Not exactly. It's true my outline is a lengthier version of my stickies. However, the most important reason for them is to help me keep track of my story timeline. On each one, I write a few words about the chapter and include the date. Then I stick them along the edge of my bookshelf where I can give them a quick glance when I'm trying to figure out how many days have passed since such and such event happened, or which event occurred in what chapter. 

4) Character List -- I like to reference my story's characters and their descriptions, especially the minor ones, which may sound illogical but these are the ones who may not appear that often in the story. Chances are I may forget their names! It happens in my world.

5) yWriters5 -- I use this software program because it's free. Yes, I'm thrifty, frugal, oh heck, I'm cheap. Otherwise I would be using Scrivener. In any case, whatever one chooses, a program where you can enter in all the fun stuff -- outline, summary, characters and their descriptions, etc. It helps a planner like me, or a pantser who needs reforming. lol

6) The Emotional Thesaurus by Ackerman & Puglisi -- Yes, I occasionally get stuck in the muck when choosing my words and expressions. I take a look through this reference for help now and again, though I do put my creative mind through a major workout to come up with my own ideas first! Can't let that brain muscle become lazy ;-) 

7) My writer's mug -- Actually, I have three now, but my favorite is this one. They're great for inspiration or just some comical relief. 

8) Writing Utensils -- I wouldn't be complete without these. I scribble across my outline all the time, in the margins, between the lines, anywhere I find white space. It's my obsession to change words and ideas constantly! 

9) Last but absolutely not least are the abstract essentials -- imagination, perseverance, confidence, and a thick alligator skin to protect against criticism, naysayers, and all around Debbie-downers. Who needs them? 

Okay, so those are my tools, what about yours? I'd love to hear. In the meantime, I'm going to be book blogging with Reading Addiction Book Tours starting in a little over a week from now. Hope you'll stop by some or all of the blogs hosting me. I'm even going to write a couple of guest posts! Should be a fun time :-) 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Authors Inspire Authors and Where You May Find Creativity -- Book Festivals

Happy Monday! I wanted to write this post because it involves all things positive. Well, almost all. A great way to jump start the week. Right? Anyway, I attended an author expo at a local library on Saturday. Somewhere around forty authors attended. Tables were decorated with books, tons of swag, bookmarks, and candy, animated chatter of authors talking to authors echoed off the walls and down the halls from floor to floor, sharing ideas, experiences, lamenting about lagging book sales, the dismal pricing of what we put so much time, effort and creative sweat into that goes mostly unnoticed. Did I have fun? You betcha!

This is my crew, my playground, my chance to reconnect with like-minded people. The book sales are icing on what's already a very delicious seven-layered cake. (Yes, I do tend to speak in dessert metaphors. Don't judge.) So, what's the deal, you ask? Here's a rundown in list format:

1) Authors think alike. We speak the lingo and completely understand one another. If you're skeptical at why this is such a big deal, try talking about books, publishing, who's in, who's out, the challenges of waiting for the CALL, where to find readers, etc. to your significant other and see the puzzled expression on his/her face. Or the response: "So what? You write a book, sell it and make lots of money. Isn't that how it goes? And penguin is a bird species. Why are you talking about birds?" *sigh* It's really like that.

2) It's a let's-trade-ideas moment, social-networking. How great is this?! I gain a lot of knowledge and writerly tips from other authors. Make new contacts, which can lead to even more writerly tips and ideas. For instance, this Saturday I learned about another site where I can buy printed materials, and also the names of a couple of local conferences. I never leave without some valuable info.

3) A chance to socialize is therapeutic. Those who write for a living know that it's a solitary activity. You admittedly resort to carrying on conversations with yourself and staying in PJs all day. And when was the last time you showered? Five chapters ago? (I'm picturing scenes of a disheveled Johnny Depp in The Secret Window.) Socializing is a chance to reconnect with someone other than your characters, though the real ones may not always agree with you ;-)

4) Inspiration, i.e. you're energized. Okay, this will sound weird, but when I visit friends and family, see their pretty, neat houses, I go home, take a look at the clutter, and then become Suzy Homemaker ... at least for the day! I guess it's no surprise that when I hear about the books and projects belonging to other authors, it inspires me. Sure enough, when I got home Saturday ... well, maybe not Saturday because after several hours of jabbering about books, I came home and crashed! Anyway, the next day I hammered out the outline for current WIP, Don't Judge a Con by Her Cover and wrote chapter one this morning! It can work like that.

Yes, good things happen at author festivals. Give 'em a chance. 

Have a great and productive week, be creative and write! 

UPDATE: Mother-in-law is doing great with her rehab! May come home at the end of the month. Here's to staying healthy :-) 

Monday, April 25, 2016

It's a Con's Life

When digging into any new project, I make a well-intended effort to do some research. I research the general topic of the story. I research things I may want my MC to have -- skills, lifestyle, mannerisms, etc. I research setting info, historical references, plausible murder scenarios, and oh, the list goes on. Yes, I do make a well-intended effort ... at driving myself crazy! It's a writer thing, after all. 

So. Here it is, the kind of weirdness my over-stimulated, over-imaginative brain comes up with late at night when I should be getting sleep. I want to write about cons. Yes. A murder mystery/suspenseful thriller/slightly comedic/insane novel series about con artists. Don't judge me. The idea has merit. AND it just so happens to be very trendy right now. (Insert evidence: Evanovich/Goldberg -- The Heist; Ally Carter -- Heist Society; TV series -- The Catch ... just to name a few). Besides, I enjoy writing such fun stuff. Humor is my thing, which I must indulge on occasion. 

Anyway, back to research. I found lots online about con artists, con jobs, heists, famous cons, names for schemes, tips to run a con, and even how to figure out if your significant other is a con in disguise. Okay, scratch "in disguise". It's redundant because ALL con artists are in disguise. It's what they do. They lie, but they convince you they are telling you nothing but the truth. They always say the right thing, romance you, please you.They are the original Smooth Operators. (Sade song reference fits well here.) So what if they are notorious liars and thieves? They do have a code of con ethics. Yep. You heard me. Cons have ethics. Well, not in the normal sense you and I have ethics, but the rules exist. Like, never con an honest person. Or, never keep secrets from your con family. I find it hard to believe that last one. I mean, they lie. Right?

Oh, and cons have their own how-to book. For instance, when focusing on a mark (that's the victim, in case you don't know con jargon) you should look for his/her weakness. It could be greed, loneliness, insecurity, and other traits easy to manipulate. You need to know everything about your mark. Their habits, likes, dislikes, family, job, even which side of the bed they sleep on, if it helps you pull off the con. Everything. Things as simple as how you should always control the conversation, all while making your mark think HE controls the conversation. Geesh

But wait. I'm not finished. I found a long and exhaustive list of the types of cons used. Yes. They have names. Like Badger Game where the mark is put in a compromising position, then the con takes pictures and blackmails the mark. Or Salting the Mine when a con plants valuable gems in the mine to convince the mark it's worth the investment. There is Mellon Drop, and Pigeon Drop, and Three Card Monte. So many to choose from! Does your head hurt yet? Mine does. I'm sure you've all heard of Cat Phishing. It's been in the news a lot. Where someone friends you on the internet, pretending to be someone he/she is not, getting you to fall in love, and probably ready to scam you for money. "Oh yes. I want to come to America and be with you, but I don't have the money. My family is poor. All we have are the chickens and the goats to trade. Please send money so I can come and we can be together, my love." Of course, it's a con and the lonely people (refer to list of weaknesses above) will fall for it. 

This brings me to what I really wanted to write. Hmm. I do take the long way around, don't I? So, with my over-stimulated, over-imaginative brain running full throttle during this research, I began to wonder what if I've been conned? Or how easily I could be, given the right circumstance and a very cagey, shifty, perhaps gorgeously handsome con artist tempting me. It could happen. They say senior citizens are the prey of con schemes like insurance fraud, fake contests, home improvement scams, etc, and all ready to be cheated out of those meager social security and pension checks. Only takes a bit of naivete and a kind-hearted soul to fall for it. 

Well, let me say this lady is a little wiser after gathering all the con-wise info. I'll just give a twist to Tip Number 2 from the how-to-con manual: Do your research and learn everything about your ... con. I may be kind-hearted and older, but I'm not stupid. At least I hope not! Okay, back to learning about a con's life and "scheming" ways to write this story! Should be fun. :-)

Happy reading and writing, all! Enjoy your week. I'm off to Medina Library on Saturday the 30th for a super author expo. If you're a local, come visit with me. We'll talk mystery, murder, and stuff about cons. ;-)

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Problem With Planning, i.e. Life

All right. First, I'm not the type to whine or complain ... especially on social media. Oh, don't get me wrong. I DO complain and whine in private. Plenty. I mean, who doesn't? Those times when things don't go well, zigged when I should've zagged, turned right when it should've been left, took the winding, curvy path when the straight line was right there in front of me. OR life took over, events totally out of my control happened with no personal choice allowed. Yes, ah yes. This is what I mean. 

I finished watching the television mini series based on Stephen King's novel 11.22.63. And before you ask, I did read the book a couple of years ago. And before you ask the other question, yes, the book is better. The book is always better. (except for Braveheart ... how such a tiny, tiny book could be made into such an epic film still impresses me). Anyway, to the point. King writes about the obdurate past, how that stubborn ass b**ch keeps messing with the MC's agenda. I chewed on that for awhile, the obdurate past concept, and finally decided it's all true. Life is full of the obdurate, only in our present and future. Forget the past. Nobody gets to fall into the rabbit hole and partake in a rerun of days gone by. Nope. Except in fiction. I love the idea and one day may write a time travel novel ... but I'm off on a tangent, again. Sorry. 

I like structure and planning, but I also enjoy the impromptu, the impulsive moments in my life. However, when I make plans I'd sure like to see them through in a timely manner, according to ... well, the plan I went to all the bother to create. Geesh. Like my writing, for instance. It would be grand if it went smoothly like this: 1)develop synopsis and outline; 2)establish a timeline to proceed with writing; 3)write chapters according to timeline; 4)edit; 5)repeat edit; 6)final reading; 7)send my precious baby off to agent; 8)start new project while I wait on news about previous project. Yeah, something like that. 

But then life happens. And you all know what I mean. Some of us are more disciplined than others. I will admit that can be part of my problem. Best of intentions and all that stuff. I'm Nemo. I'm swimming along, intent on my path, then BAM! Oh! Would you look at that? Maybe I'll take a quick peek and ... There I go, off track, zigging when I should've been zagging, turning when I should've gone straight. *Sigh* Life. 

P.S. Despite all this diversionary rambling, I have completed a second novel in my Shades of Blue mystery series. And I have mapped out a synopsis for a new cozy series: #1 entitled ... wait for it ... Don't Judge a Con by Her Cover. (Cute, right?) So, I'm not gonna be too hard on myself. Just a little hard. Okay?

**This post is dedicated to my dear mother-in-law, Dolores. She broke her hip and is doing the rehab thing in a nice facility. She's a brave, strong lady. Go Dolores! And don't take the twisty, winding path. You've got this :-

Monday, April 4, 2016

Spring Cleaning, i.e. Dusting Off the Author Props

It's spring cleaning time! No. Not what you're thinking. I'm truly no Suzy Homemaker, so the thrill of pulling out the sweeper, duster, polish, cleaners, sponges ... Yuk. Not even a hint of excitement there. Instead, I will gather my books, bookmarks, posters, book stands, fliers, sign-up sheets, my notes, and all author swag ... oh, and my roll-away suitcase to put said items into thus making it easy to transport the whole thing to my ... drum roll please ... AUTHOR EVENTS! Yes indeedy! I'm giddy just thinking about it. 

Spring is my time, my venue, the beginning of my yearly trek. Time to roll out the carpet and send my book babies out into the world of wonderful readers. I've come out of winter hibernation, yawning, sleepy eyed, and grumpy, but now I'm fully alert! 

So, ahem, I'd humbly like to share what experience has given me with regard to those glorious opportunities when authors may present their work, share their experiences in writing, in publishing, and a whole bunch of stuff readers want to know. It's not so hard really. Frightening? Yeah, it can be. Many writers are shy creatures. We hide behind our stories, or in them *grin*. It's much easier dealing with our characters, the ones we like to think we control -- what they do, say, feel. Oh, and they don't talk back! Well, most of the time. But it's not so hard. Discouraging? Well, yeah. It can be that, too. You may end up with only a couple visitors. Still, you talk to them, even if only one shows up! It's not so hard. In fact, it can be the best experience ever. Sharing what you love, talking about it to people who are truly interested, that's like the joy of Christmas, New Years, Easter, Fourth of July and all holidays put together! 

Now is the point when I say what works for me may work for you. Or not. Everyone is different. It's my nickle, so here goes:

*Think of what you'd like to talk about, (include a brief bio; readers love to know you as a regular person). Library signings give you this opportunity more so than at retail venues like bookstores and coffee shops or at multi-author events. In preparing for this, I might practice in front of the mirror. Yeah, I know, rather silly, but it helps me. Also, I try to list some possible questions people may ask. Here are a few:

    --- What inspired you to start writing?
    --- How did you come up with the idea for this book?
    --- Do you base your characters on any people in your life?
    --- How many books have you written?
    --- How do you feel about self-publishing vs. traditional?
    --- Do you have a favorite author?
    --- What are you writing now?

*And ALWAYS set aside time for guests to ask those questions.

*IF no one asks, here's where you say, "One question I often get asked is _______." And then answer it. (Classic teaching strategy I used in the classroom. It works great to kill the silence.)

*OR turn the tables on them and ask your guests questions. Who's your favorite author? Do any of you write or plan to pursue publishing a book or story? Just a couple examples.

*Consider reading a passage from your book, if there's time. (Again, this caters to library signings.) But please keep it short -- five minutes works for me. You don't want to see the guests' eyes glaze over, right? 

*Bring dollar bills. If you plan to sell your books and if people pay cash, you may need change.

*Remember to thank everyone for coming!

*Oh, and arrive early. You want to set up your space with all the pretty books, bookmarks, posters, book stands, fliers, sign-up sheets, author swag ... Yeah, you got this! Now, rock on, wonderful authors, and dig into your spring cleaning!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Time Keeps on Slipping Into the Future

We all want to fly like an eagle, to soar above the clouds, and achieve our dreams/goals. I know I do. When I heard this Steve Miller Band song on the radio, I thought about time, what I spend constructively and wisely versus the minutes and hours of, well, let's say they aren't exactly helping to achieve my goals, though the time is relaxing. I don't make excuses; I just can't shake the bad habit. Whether it's cruising through and lingering on social media, or binge watching multiple seasons of my favorite TV shows, or sleeping -- wait, scratch that. Gotta have sleep, or at least some semblance of rest -- the desire for downtime is greater than the need. 

It's partly because there's no clock ticking in the background. Not any more. Not those years which looked like this: get up at 5:30 am, write for 30 minutes, get dressed and ready to be at work by 7:00, grade papers in the evening because grades need to be reported by Friday, conference nights, faculty meetings, workshops, all of them with a scheduled day and time. An agenda to regiment my life. 

Now? Retirement has had its way of creeping up on me and taking over my discipline. I think it's the freedom, the pure joy of no more deadlines. I am still feeling it. Okay, so I do have things I still like to accomplish. I enjoy writing. I. Write. Books. Yes, indeedy. I do try and discipline myself, write a little each day, (at least more than I did when working full time), set a date to finish the current WIP ... well, sort of. I honestly can't compete with my good buddy and writerly friend whose initials are J.L. You know who you are. :-) She's a writing machine, cranking out the pages in such a frenzied pace, it's mind-blowing. I love her for that.

Of course I do have deadlines when I'm working with an editor because those publishing contracts require it. But when I'm in-between projects, I become a slug. Yes, a frightened slug. Starting something new is quite a different animal, a challenge with intimidation rearing its ferocious head. It's starting the race all over again, complete with all the hurdles. Take a few deep breaths, do jumping jacks, and sprint, or at least move a step or two forward! That's what I see and feel, even though my goal-oriented mind tells me to snap out of it and make that author dream deal with that dream publisher a reality! 

I will step forward, though. I will. It may be intimidating, but it's exciting, too. New worlds to explore, new adventures to create. So ... things are about to change. 1) I will set a schedule. 2) I will follow said schedule. 3) I will complete my new writing projects in a timely manner.... as soon as I finish binge-watching that show ... and maybe check up on Facebook, Twitter ... *sigh* Such is my crazy life... but I love it!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Name Game -- Why Should I Care?

As a fiction writer you must think about character names. For me sometimes it's easy. The name just sticks, it's perfect. In other instances I change names numerous times before the final draft. Even after I see it in print, I may say to myself, "did I choose the right one?". And rarely, after constant frustration, I'll throw up my hands and shout, "who cares?". 

Well, take note. There are lots of reasons to care. Just search for the articles. Dozens and hundreds of them, studies, research, you'll find them. Names matter. Okay, so I'm probably getting carried away. Fiction is, well, fiction. Not real life, no importance to the serious issues of anyone. However, the names authors choose can influence the names parents choose. Remember the explosion of the Twilight series and movies? Isabella or Bella became a number one choice in baby names for girls after that. 

Popularity of names aside, there are other particulars to mention, which are totally irrelevant to why authors should care but none the less interesting and fitting for this post. For instance, studies have shown that names may predict a person's future profession. Yes, I know what you're thinking. How silly is that? Hey, I'm just the messenger, reporting what I've found. Take it or leave it. Now, professions. How about women with more masculine names or gender neutral ones like Cameron or Ryan become more successful lawyers than those with more feminine names? Or take a look at the study about "nominative determinism" or in Latin, "nomen est omen" where one's name matches one's profession. Ridiculous theory? Then how do you explain: singer Bill Medley or poet William Wordsworth or race driver Scott Speed? Maybe those and other examples are mere coincidence. That almost seems a more rational explanation, doesn't it? I'm not done. There are other articles which go so far as to imply that subconsciously people choose a profession that matches letters in their names. Denise, Dwayne, and Debra will become dentists and Laura, Louis, and Larry will be lawyers. Huh. Guess I should've named my lawyer in A Deadly Deed Grows Laura instead of Mira. Then there's the conclusion made that those students whose names begin with the letters C and D will achieve low grades compared to their classmates with names like Alice and Bruce. Oh, boy. My report card was full of A's and B's, but my name starts with a K. Explain that one, you theory folks!

I drive myself crazy with all this insane or maybe not so insane information. So, I'm going to stop stressing or over-thinking the subject. Instead, I'll remember the line by Shakespeare: "a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet". Maybe I'll name my next hero Romeo. It's a thought.

P.S. If you're curious. There is a link I'm posting to an excel document. It's a naming game where you type your name and get the profession that matches. Only in fun, but entertaining just the same. And hilarious. Stephen King should've been a stand-up comedian. George Washington? The village idiot. Charles Dickens? Wait for it ... a porn star! Yes, silly, entertaining fun. Hey, my name turns up big game hunter. Too bad I am not inclined to pick up a rifle and shoot. Heck, I won't even kill a bug if I can avoid it. Geesh!

Anyway, here's the link:  https://ashallann.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/yournamedictatesyourjob1.xls 

Happy reading and writing, all!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Decisions, Decisions ... Make Up Your Mind!

Well, here's a writer's quandary, you could even call it an occupational disease. The limbo state of being. Yes, it's real. It's not fun. It's sometimes painful. It's never easy. At least for me it's not. I'm referring to the time between novels. All of you writers feel this from time to time. In fact, readers may experience it. It's when I don't know what to write next. There. I've said it. I'm like a kid in the candy store, my sweet tooth is crying out to grab one of EVERYTHING! I want to write one of EVERYTHING!

Ideas keep bouncing around in my head. I'd love to write a book about pirates and sunken treasure, aye, aye, matey. Or puzzles. I love mysteries with puzzles in them. Secret codes, ciphers, oodles and oodles of conundrums. You must solve the puzzle or die!!! And then there's history. How about an archaeologist, a female Indiana Jones who's discovered the remains of an ancient civilization, or a priceless artifact that opens the portal to another world. Oh boy, here's venturing into fantasy. Or maybe I'll write a psychological thriller. Woman goes mad, can't remember who she is, and the one who helps her? Well, he's already dead, but she doesn't know. Ergh! It's insane. And of course the list keeps piling up!

But I can't stop there. Oh, no. I worry about what will work. What am I most passionate about? What will keep me up nights? Writing, thinking, plotting. I want to know! I think about what will readers enjoy reading. Yeah, yeah. I hear you. All those who say I shouldn't care so much about what readers are reading and what sells. But come on! Get real. You can't really take that detail out of the equation. Sharing the stories you write is part of the joy in writing. It is very much to me. 

So, what will I do, which will I choose? Maybe I need to think about it a bit longer. And while I'm deciding I have to pay attention to what I do have in print. Yes. A marketing I will go ... author visits, promotions, social media, on and on. So many hats, so, so many.  

Bottom line? I'll take it. The worries, the headache of indecision, the sleepless nights planning and plotting, the endless task of promoting. I'll take it all because I LOVE it. I love what I do.

Eh-hem. Speaking of promotion, if anyone reading this is interested in winning a free hardback copy of Dean Koontz' latest thriller, Ashley Bell, go visit my author website and either register or click on the guestbook page and leave a comment. I will add you to the list of entries. My way of saying thanks to all the wonderful readers out there!

Here's the link:  Kathryn Long Author 

Happy reading and writing, all!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Searching For Childhood Book on Secret Codes, i.e. Ways to Procrastinate in Writing

You know, I am the supreme master of procrastination. Ask anyone who knows me. It's no secret, and I don't claim that lightly. Add my dorky behavior and undying curiosity to the mix, and you get a typical day like this .... 

3:00 pm: I wanted to continue my work in progress this afternoon. That was the plan. It's a mystery and just so happens to involve a secret code. I LOVE secret codes. (Insert matching character detail -- quirky, dorky, or anything synonymous.) So, I was about to write when a thought came to me. I remember I had a book as a kid called Codes & Secret Writing (see photo). I bought it through our class Scholastic book program. Oh, how I loved those fliers! Full of wonderful books, I wanted to buy them all. My parents had other ideas. Anyway, I thought about that book. It was such a fun book. I'd spend hours using those codes to write secret messages. (Yes, I know. Dork.) I decided about then to go look for that book. I saved ALL my books, much to my hubby's disappointment. I even have a rather large collection of Nancy Drew Mysteries, if you ever stop by and want to take a look. 

Now, where was I? Yes, finding that code book. I searched my toy chest (kept that, too) and found lots of goodies, including a Chatty Cathy, Tiny Tears, and Barbie along with her friends and family. That took me about an hour, ooing and ahing over all of them. But no book. 

4:00 pm: I never was one to give up, however I ran out of hiding places for the moment. So,  it was on to the internet, a true cornucopia of information. Several minutes later and ta da! There it was. The cover image had been carved, burned, etched into my brain. How could I ever forget? That beautiful cover, belonging to my my childhood memory, and I found it on a vintage book website. Easy peasy!

Of course, after all that I needed to process my thoughts, and I came up with this perhaps obvious takeaway -- Childhood can be a wonderful thing, and evidently memories over a lifetime may trigger an idea or two, which may become a part of a writer's story. It has for mine. I'd like to think my stories are made of all the details of my life experience. Each and every day, from small ones to big ones, those moments are connected, linked like DNA to form my imagination. Yeah, underneath it all, sometimes in a small way or even big, it's where I believe the story starts, with my building blocks of memories.

5:00 pm: Oh, and one more thing ... after all the reminiscing and searching? I decided to write this post. Ugh. Procrastination. Now, if I can just stay away from Facebook, Twitter, and all things cyber-like, maybe I could finish that chapter ;-)

Happy writing and reading, all!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

When It's Not Too Much

How many times has someone told you that you're overdoing it, you should take a break, or give it a rest? When I was very young, my mom would say, "quit running it into the ground". I often wonder if in a way, even though she'd hardly intend to do so, that common response squelched my spirit of enthusiasm. Nah, I was too stubborn, too energetic and willful to let that ever happen! 

All of this brings me to my point. Is there, are there, times when "too much" isn't part of the equation? I strongly believe so. Let's say you're a musician, you play an instrument, or at least may be learning to play. You practice, and practice, and practice until your entire family is shoving earplugs into their ears. Far be it that any loving and nurturing parent would take away that instrument and toss it in the trash! Not cool to do that. All the practicing has a point, right? It's obvious. You play to get better, to achieve the best skills. Hopefully, you enjoy doing so. Musicians, artists, athletes, and yes, writers strive to be the best. It's a process, a very, very long process, hard work, dedication, and let's throw passion in there. I mean, why would you ever spend so much time with something like this, if you aren't passionate? Otherwise, it sounds like a whole lot of misery taking up so much of your time. 

So when anybody dares to tell you you're overdoing it, you should take a break or give it a rest, don't listen. IF this is your passion ... music, art, sports, writing, keep it up! For me, writing brings me the utmost joy. I revel in the process, I rejoice in the accomplishment. As the quote says it best (paraphrased to suit me) "writing completes me". And mom, if you're listening, I can't stop running it into the ground. But I think for this you'll excuse me. After all, you were one of my biggest supporters!