Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014: A Year in Review & Top Blog Posts

Another year is almost over and a new one is about to begin.  How did this past year work out for you?  Did you accomplish what you expected or are you going to continue tracking your goals into the next year?  For me, it’s a little of both…

After having published the first two books in the Jorja Matthews mystery series, No Mother of Mine in 2012 and Best Kept Secrets in 2013, I got to work on the third book in the series, Ties That Bind, expecting a release date in 2014.  Obviously, I made the 2014 release date, even after hiring a new editor and working around her busy schedule, but my goals did not stop there.  I also wrote and published a short ghost story, 1313 Psycho Path, which was released earlier in February 2014.  I initially wrote the book and gave it to my boys as a Christmas gift in December 2013, but then we decided it was something we wanted to share with others.  I have since been asked to write a sequel to the story, and because it was such a fun story to write, it is on my list of possibilities.

The first half of this year was spent publishing 1313 Psycho Path and completing Ties That Bind so that it could be sent to the editor for review.  The second half of this year I spent time taking part in Camp NaNo during the month of July so that I could complete another short story I had also hoped to have published in 2014.  The rest of the year was spent completing Ties That Bind, and then anxiously waiting for word back from my editor after her review of the book, which occurred in late September.  The book was returned with edits in October, and the book was published in November.  Having published so late in the year, it was difficult to schedule book events with the holidays in November and December literally taking up most of our time so I will plan an event next year.  I already have a fun idea for a book event and, while it may be a challenge, I really hope it will work out as I imagine.

I took part in only a few book events this year, a pretty low key schedule actually.  The first was a speaking engagement at a local senior center the first half of the year.  I just love senior citizens and I adore how much they adore my books.  When I meet with them, I am reminded of my grandmother and I very much wish she had lived long enough to see me publish my first book.  I know she’d be both tickled with joy and extremely proud.  Another event that took place the second half of the year was a craft fair I decided to join in on for the fun of it.  I hadn’t actually intended on selling any books at the fair, as I had actually made some ornaments and scrapbooks for the event, but my third book in the series came out just before the craft fair and I was given permission to use the event to offer the books I had available for sale.  It turned out to be a fun event and, while I didn’t have copies yet of the third book with me, it was a great way to promote the series.

What I wasn’t able to complete this year was the final publication of my second short story I wrote during Camp NaNo.  It’s just about ready to go but since Thanksgiving and due to the busy time caused by the month of December, I’ve had very little time to work on my writing.  That is about to change and I look forward to getting back into my writing routine.

I may not have completed everything I intended to this year but I’ve come pretty close.  I feel very accomplished by the fact that I published two books in 2014 and began working on two more.  I will continue to track my goals from 2014 into the New Year, as I also add new ones to the mix.  Completion of my second short story and scheduling a book event are two goals I need to complete, as I also continue working on the fourth book in the series so that it can be published in the fall.  I also plan to join Camp NaNo in April again so that I can focus some more time on a YA novel I hope to publish sometime next year.  It will be a challenge but I look forward to working on something completely different. 

To finish off this post, here’s a short list of some of my most popular posts for 2014:
This will be my last post for 2014. I always experience a combination of feelings this time of year… sadness that another year has passed so quickly but excitement at what a new year will hold.  For me, 2014 was a good year overall with more ups than downs, and that’s always a good thing.  I truly hope yours was as well!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Making a list…and checking it twice.

I don’t know about you, but this has been a busy month for me and that’s on top of all the holiday prep, shopping and events we always deal with this time of year.  And we’re only half way through the month!

The third book in my series, Ties That Bind, is now out.  Of course, that’s not news to you if you follow this blog or my Facebook page.  It’s always an exciting time when another new book is released and then…I finally get my head out of the fog so that I can focus on the list of to-do’s I need to complete once the book is finally out.

What kind of list?  Here’s just a sample of some of the tasks I needed to complete:
  • Send out group e-mail about the new book to everyone I know
  • Blog about new book release
  • Update blog with new title and where to purchase the book
  • Update Amazon author page
  • Make new book available on Barnes & Noble as paperback & eBook
  • Update Facebook cover photo
  • Look into scheduling book events/signings
  • Research my name and book names to see what pops up and where
  • Take a peek at author rank, just because it’s fun to see that spike when sales happen

There’s more to the list, I just can’t remember all of them right now.  So how have I done with my to-do list so far?  Not too bad, actually.  The group e-mail went out, I blogged about the new release, my blog has been updated so that my books are now listed on a separate tab, my Amazon author page has been updated, and I finally replaced my Facebook cover photo with a new one today.

The book event was tricky.  It’s a terrible time of year to try to schedule book signings because of how busy our schedule is between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.  I really didn’t expect to be able to squeeze any events in this month and had planned on focusing on scheduling a book signing sometime after January.  However, I had already signed up for a craft fair taking place the first week in December so I was able to use that event to promote my books.  Even though I didn’t have any copies of the third book available at the time, it turned out to be a lot of fun and I was pleased with how well the event went with regard to sales of my prior books and with how I was able to market my new book. 

I try to research my name and my books on line every few months throughout the year, and especially after a new book is released.  I do this to see how quickly someone can find me, either by looking for my name or the titles or series name of my books.  When I ran a search for my name and my books just after Ties That Bind was released, I was upset to discover that the newest book in the series had already been pirated.  The digital format was being offered for free by a company actually located in my home state and which is subject to US copyright laws.  I immediately sent the company an e-mail regarding the copyright infringement, to which they replied:  “Thanks for your report!  Links was removed.  Kindly yours.”  That’s it, bad grammar and all, but I checked the site and found the book was no longer available.  The problem here is that dealing with companies who pirate books is like playing whack-a-mole.  You can hit one over the head and make it disappear, only to have another one pop up in a different spot.  Some authors view it as free advertising, while others go the length of hiring attorneys to deal with the issue.  I’m just dealing with it as it comes up but I don’t want to let the issue completely consume me.

Book ranking                                 Kindle ranking
Checking my author ranking is something I used to do all the time when I first released No Mother of Mine – I spent too much time watching the numbers go up and then go down, all the while trying to figure out exactly what made them go up and down.  It can give you a headache.  And it’s really not a good way to spend your time as a writer.  However, I now look at my author ranking about once every quarter, just to see when the ranking dips and when it spikes, whether it’s after a new release, after a book event, a holiday, cyber Monday…you name it.  

Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason but either way, it can be a good tool to use, as long as you don’t let it completely control how you view your worth as an author.  I checked my ranking for the first time today after months of not taking a peek and it was great to see that a spike did occur right after Ties That Bind had been released.

Overall, I’ve tackled my to-do list pretty well.  Based on the list above, I’ve covered them all except for one, which is to add the book to Barnes & Noble’s website (and I apologize to anyone out there who uses a Nook).  There are more tasks I can add to the list, as always, but I feel good about where I am with my to-do list at this point. 

So, for the rest of December, I think I can now focus more on my writing and also spend some time checking over my “other” list…my Christmas shopping list.  We’re at 11 days and counting – the holiday will be here soon! 

Good luck if you also have your own holiday list to check off and have a great week!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Jorja Matthews, Book #3, is published!

This has been a long year for me and it has taken a bit longer to get the third book in the series published, but the time has finally come…Ties That Bind is now available in paperback and as an eBook! 

Why did this book seem to take longer?  It was a number of things, from my schedule to the editor’s schedule, to the additional time it took to review the book, run through the edits and then review those edits.  The cover took me a little time as well – starting with a test cover, just so that I could order a proof copy of my book, which meant that I later had to spend the following weekend working on the real cover. 

I’m now in that place with my writing that I enjoy…I’m moving on from one story and completely moving on to another.  I’m in the same series, of course, but adding new characters and new mysteries to solve.  I’m away from the review and revise status of writing that can really drain me.  I can finally take that deep breath as I move to the beginning of the line and start the process all over again with a new book.

So if you’ve been waiting for Ties That Bind to finally become available – it’s here.  In paperback and as an eBook on Amazon, in paperback via my eStore and at some point in the near future, I will also take care of making the book available on the Barnes & Noble website, as well.  That, I believe, is the last thing to do on my current to-do list.

Next on my future to-do list will be to schedule a book signing or two but because of the time of year, it won’t be happening anytime soon.  We’ll have to get through the holidays and into next year before I can even think about when and where we might be scheduling a book event. 

For now, if you read the book, please let me know your thoughts, leave me reviews on Amazon, or Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, or where ever you frequent, post on my Facebook page…whatever works for you.  I’d love to hear the feedback. 

And last, but not least, thanks for following me on my journey as a writer.

Have a great week – I know I will!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Ties That Bind – Cover Reveal!

After making some changes to the initial cover, the proof of Ties That Bind with the new cover was finally delivered yesterday.  Really, even Christmas has a hard time comparing to the feeling I get when I discover there is a box with my latest book waiting for me at the post office.  I feel like a kid opening a gift every time.

Ties That Bind by P.J. Howell
Now that the cover is complete, I can check that task off my list as we move closer to the publishing date.  Since I am nearing the date   when the book will finally be available on line, I’d like to share the book cover with you – here it is:

I would ask what you think of it…but I won’t.  Right now I like it and that’s what’s important at this point.  If I keep second guessing myself, this book won’t get published before the end of the year and I fear many of you will never forgive me if it isn’t available to you before Christmas!

I will admit to something I should have put more thought into when my first cover was revealed, and that’s the fact that I wish I had stuck to a certain look that could have carried over from book to book so that it was apparent they were part of the same series.  While I like the fact that they each have their own character, as far as covers go, I think it would have been better if they had a similar look (and it would have been easier and less time-consuming too).  Now that I’m three books into the series, I’m past the point of no return; however, I was at a local bookstore the other day and I was reminded of the fact that not all book coves are set in stone.  That reminder came from the Hunger Games when I saw that all the books recently got a face lift – new covers with a different look.  I’m already thinking ahead to how fun it might be to redo all the covers for my series once (if) I reach an end to the series so that they all have a similar look.

But that’s obviously a long time from now so I will focus on the covers as they stand.  Now that I have the proof and have thumbed through it again and again, I do feel happy with the result so that I can move forward with finally getting this horse out of the gate.  There are just a few more details to finish with and right now the expectation is that Ties That Bind will be available next week (December 1st is the plan). 

Just one more week! 

I will post an update during Thanksgiving weekend – until then, have a great week.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

NaNoWriMo, not really for me, no

I shouldn’t be so negative – I’m only half way through NaNoWriMo but based on how the first part of the month has gone, I am fairly positive I won’t be able to complete the contest this year. 

I do have good reasons for not being able to write, so I really shouldn’t give myself a hard time.

The best reason for getting behind on my writing is that I’ve been working on completing the steps necessary to publish the third book in my series.  It has taken me and others time to review the paperback edition of the book, in order to spot any errors that may have snuck in during the editing phase (and I very much dislike that they do sneak in!).  In addition, there was a fair amount of time I had to spend on putting together a decent cover because I absolutely hated the first version.  I like the second version of my cover much better – I hope everyone else will like it too. 

Another reason for not writing so much involves the family – last weekend I spent a day away to search the streets of Portland for books, gifts and food, and this weekend I spent another day away north of Seattle to celebrate my niece’s first birthday and my nephew’s eighth birthday.  Obviously, writing must take a backseat to such events.

Since the day job takes up most of the daylight hours during the week, I’ve only been left with weekday evenings and Sundays to actually spend any time on my writing.  And here comes my other reason for not writing as much as I’d planned…I was sick with a head cold at least four days last week and by the time I arrived home after work at the end of each day, all I wanted to do was cuddle up on the couch under a blanket with my tissues and a cup of tea.  The creativity just couldn’t flow out of me when I was fighting a constant sinus headache, sniffles and tired, itchy eyes.

Thankfully, I’m on the mend.  We still have half of the month left, so I will do what I can to add as many words to my word count as possible, even given the fact that we still have more family gatherings to attend before the month is up.  Whether I complete NaNoWriMo this year really isn’t going to be an issue for me because at this point, I’m happy with the fact that I’ll finally have the third book in the series published and I’ll have a good start on the next book, regardless of the actual word count.  That’s progress and the fact that I’m moving forward in a positive way is not something I can be negative about.  

So off we go…we’ll see how the second half of November treats me and I’ll do what I can to keep up the progress! 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

It’s that time of year…the time to declutter!

It’s the time of year to prepare for colder weather, upcoming family gatherings, extra baking and cooking, shopping, fighting traffic and also fighting longer lines at all your favorite stores.
But that’s not what I’m thinking about right now.

What I’m preparing for is what decluttering my desk actually means: it means moving on from one book as I finally get to focus on the next. 

I seriously enjoy this particular time of “year” – I enjoy the fresh start and I completely enjoy the fact that I finally get to play with all the ideas that have been running through my head with regard to old characters, as well as the new characters and mysteries I plan to bring to the series.

Creative Chaos
My desk has been an absolute mess while I finished going over the edits my editor proposed and also while I was formatting the manuscript so that I could obtain a printed proof copy of the book for review.  But the mess was all part of the creative chaos required when it comes to making sure I check off all the tasks I need to complete before I finally ordering a proof copy.

Now that the proof is on the way via snail mail, I’m moving onto the next book in the series and with that means a new clean notebook, new ideas to research and a new folder to fill up with printouts of all my research and anything this next book might include. 

To prepare for the decluttering, I had to spend valuable time cleaning my desk and organizing all my notes and printouts relating to Ties That Bind in order to dig out that work space I haven’t seen in quite awhile called a desktop – the old-fashioned kind, as in the working surface of a desk, not the digital version.

Well, I finally found it…my desktop.  

Where the Magic happens!
I know have a nice clean surface to work from.  I have the story mapped out, somewhat, as I know there will be many twists and turns as I work through this next book.  It just happens that way since I’m more of an organic writer.  I like it when my characters surprise me and I’ll never stifle them from doing so by limiting my books to a set-in-stone outline.  The prologue of this fourth book in the series has been pestering me for quite awhile and I’m glad I can finally use it in this next mystery involving Jorja and the rest of my characters.

While I will still be spending some time on Ties That Bind so that I can finally get the book published and out to everyone who’s been anxiously waiting for it, I can also spend the quality time on my new book without the added stress involved when I feel buried at my desk.  Now is not the time to feel buried, while I do what I can to participate in National Novel Writing Month, because I want to get a really good start on the fourth book during NaNoWriMo.

I know my desk will soon be a mess again as I move into the creative chaos phase but it’s so nice to have a clean surface to work from again! 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

NaNo, yes? Or Nano, no?

It’s that time of year again…when writers who are in for a huge challenge enter the National Novel Writing Month during the whole month of November.  I don’t know who originally decided November would be a great time to plug away on a computer in an attempt to come up with 50,000 words, but I have to say it’s not always the best time of year to suddenly become less available to your family.

That being said, I have taken part in NaNoWri Mo two separate years now. I won with Best Kept Secrets but ended up short on the monthly required word count with Ties That Bind

So I had to make a decision this year…enter for the third year in a row and hope for the best?  Or pass up the challenge and just write as I find the time during, or even after the busy holiday months finally end?

I guess I’m just one of the thousands of writers who are just crazy enough to take on the challenge – I decided to join.  I have two books I’m ready to get started on, Jorja Matthews #4 and a young adult book I’ve decided to finally write.  For NaNoWriMo, I decided to stick with Jorja #4 (haven’t figured out the name just yet) since it’ll be easier to get my word count in after having just completed the third book in the series.  I’ll begin the young adult book sometime after the New Year, I think.

I will admit…I’m not sure if this will be a good month for me when it comes to finding time to write.  I’m still finishing with Ties That Bind, the third book in the series – although it’s pretty much complete.  I’m just formatting the book so that I can order a proof for review and I plan to have it ready and available to publish sometime this month.  But I’m also completing my second short story, titled 1111, and I’m formatting it so that it will also be published this month in paperback and as an eBook. 

If I have any real complaints about the writing process, I guess formatting my books for publishing would be it.  The time and effort it takes to format my manuscripts so that they can be published both in paperback and in eBook form is a bit time consuming and also frustrating because there are many steps I always seem to forget about until I’m stuck trying to remember how I did it so well the last time.  It can be so simple, and yet so difficult, all at the same time.  I think it’s because there is just too much involved, after the book is written and edited, before you can really say your book is truly ready for print.  Just little things like tabs, margins, font size and type, headers/footers (hate them!), widows and orphans, extra spaces, extra returns, section returns, and beyond…it never fails that I forget to do something or something I do changes something else I already thought was perfect.  And this time I learned something new, about the program wanting to keep all the lines together so that if I had any large paragraphs, they automatically ended up on another page by themselves, leaving the previous page only about half full…that took me some time to figure out.

However, this does mean my books are that much closer to being ready for print.  I’ll be receiving proofs for review soon and then I’ll make any necessary changes before committing to actually publishing them.  In the meantime, I’ll fit in whatever writing time I can so that I can do my best to make my goal of 50,000 words on my next book!  

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Editing – learning the tricks of the trade give me, and readers, a treat

The act of writing books is broken up into separate tasks…you have an idea for a story, you use that idea to write a book, and eventually you publish your novel for others to enjoy.

But there is so much more to writing than that!

The ideas are the easy part, at least for me.  They hit me at various times, day or night, and I just have to pay attention, write them down, and use whichever idea is the most persistent.

Writing is the fun part.  You learn about your characters and make discoveries about the plot you thought you already knew as the story unfolds and provides you with exciting surprises.

Before a book can be published, it must be read, reviewed, tweaked, reviewed again, added to, taken away from, read and reviewed again before it’s finally ready for publishing.  The trick is to know when it’s finally ready. 

And that’s not always an easy trick to learn.

I’ve dealt with the editing part of writing a few different ways…I’ve used proofreaders, beta readers, my own reviews and a professional editor.  All are good but I’m learning as I go and I agree with the consensus out there…it’s better to use all rather than only one.  Doing so is the best way to reassure the writer that the book may actually be ready for publishing.

I hired someone new to edit the third book in my mystery series and I have to say this…it has made the editing part of writing less stressful than ever.  I enjoyed her feedback, the tips she shared, her insight as a first-time reader of my work and her professionalism when it came to how to make the story read better.  It still takes time, and I still have to keep my patience when it comes to this process, but this time around my patience was tested less because the editing process was much easier and also more beneficial for me in the long-term.

I’m learning more this time around, and that’s a good thing.  The tricks I’m learning from the editor with this book will help me as I move on to the next.  The difficult part, I think, is that I want to go back to my earlier books and use these tools to make those stories even better.  Maybe, someday I will. 

Until then, I’m going to continue to write more books and I’ll continue to use the tricks and tools I’ve learned to make each book better than the next.  I’ve had so much fun with the third book in the series, not only while writing it but also while reviewing it again as I complete the edits, and I can’t wait to share the story with everyone.  I know I keep saying it’ll be published soon…so now I ask for your patience.  The word “soon” is a relative term, I realize, and in the publishing world, doesn’t quite mean the same as it might in the real world.  So bear with me…rather than using the word “soon,” I’ll say the date is near and the book will be ready as soon as possible given the remaining tasks at hand. 

A bit ambiguous, I know.  So here’s something with less ambiguity…I hope you have a wonderful week! 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

What’s your scare threshold?

Halloween is now less than two weeks away and the stores are filled with candy, costumes and all the decorations you can imagine that will turn your Home Sweet Home into a Haunted House of Horrors.

Or not.

Some can do without Halloween, whether they don’t enjoy it, don’t have kids to beg them to go out trick-or-treating, or they just don’t believe in it.  And that’s okay.  It’s not a season everyone has fun with.

Personally, I enjoy Halloween.  When my boys were little, we had a lot of fun carving pumpkins, decorating, dressing up and going out trick-or-treating.  I also love scary movies, although I really don’t care for really gory films.  You know the ones…no real plot, cardboard characters and plenty of gore for shock value.  I can watch scary movies anytime I want all year long but it’s just much more fun during this time of year, especially when a few cable channels give me plenty to choose from with their 30 days of Halloween fright fests. 

Besides the movies I can choose from if I feel the need to watch a scary flick, I also enjoy watching two of my favorite shows which both started a new season recently and are perfect for this time of year.  We’re talking about The Walking Dead and American Horror Story.  Zombies…that’s a given when it comes to what might frighten people, real or not, but my new favorite scary character?  I’ve never had a fear of clowns but the clown character in American Horror Story beats them all, hands down, even Stephen King’s clown from his novel, It, and that was a clown that kept some people up at night.   

Of course, if I enjoy scary movies, I also enjoy books of the horror, thriller or supernatural genre.  Stephen King and John Saul are two of my favorite authors.  I can’t count the number of novels by both authors that I’ve read more than a few times.

While mysteries are actually my favorite genre when it comes to reading, and writing, I decided to take a chance and write my own ghost story, 1313 Psycho Path.  It was a story I wrote for my boys for Christmas last year and because we liked it so much, we decided to publish it for others to enjoy.  For me and what I’m used to reading, it’s not all that scary.  But I really enjoyed writing it.  And so far, others have enjoyed reading it; except for the few I heard from who couldn’t make it past the first few chapters.  I have to admit, it makes me feel like I accomplished a great trick when I discovered I can write well enough to actually scare readers, even if their scare threshold isn’t as high as mine.

So what’s your scare threshold?  Do you enjoy Halloween?  Do scary movies and books thrill you or do you avoid them because they keep you up at night?  Whatever your threshold, I hope you are enjoying the season, whether it’s bursting with Halloween delights or completely fright free! 


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Projects are getting close to completion!

We’re nearing the end of another year and I’m about to publish not one, but two more books…the third book in the series and another short story.  It can be such a slow process, both for myself and those who look forward to reading my books, but I know I’m doing well considering what it takes to complete a novel and the amount of time the day job consumes.  By the end of this year, I’ll have written and published three novels and two short stories in three years and these are accomplishments I am very proud of.

I’ve heard the question from many over the past two years since my first novel was published…how do you find the time to do what you do?  It’s a simple question but not always easy to answer.  Sometimes I can’t believe how much I’ve accomplished in just a few years but sometimes I wish I could do more. 

And I will do more…it will just take time.

So how is it that I find the time to work, raise a family and write books? 

There really is no easy answer other than that I just do it.  It takes finding the time, staying focused and having strong goals.  Like others who start a new business, train for a marathon, vow to lose one hundred pounds, save every penny they can for their dream vacation or decide to go back to school to gain a degree, I have a passion to do something more for myself. 

The idea behind it is so easy and yet difficult at the same time.

The easy part is the idea.  What is it you really want to do?  The hard part is making it happen.  But it doesn’t have to be difficult if you stay focused when it comes to your goals and just take it one step at a time.  Long-term goals are great but you can only reach those goals if you also focus on completing the short-term goals first, one after another.  And that’s what I continue to do…I can think ahead to where I want to be ten years from now, and I will strive to make that dream happen, but it will only happen if I continue to reach the short-terms goals I have set for myself. 

And I’m about to reach another short-term goal to add to my list of what it will take to reach my long-term goal.  Even better than that, rather than one book, I’m going to publish two books to share with readers.  Both have been edited and are going through some final revisions and then I’ll be working on the covers and book blurbs.  I can’t wait to get them published…it really can’t happen soon enough but, as I said, it is a process.  And then, very soon, once those books are published I’ll be working on another story.  That’s what it takes and how I do what I do.  I just take it one step at a time!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

When books become movies, do we love them any less?

I remember seeing an article recently about books making it to the big screen.  It’s quite the process, sometimes a long time in coming for some authors and very quick for others.  And, I’m sure, it might seem like a dream come true for anyone who eventually sees their story on the big screen.

But what must it be like, to pour your sweat, blood and tears into a project only to have someone else look at your creation with a critical eye and then change whatever they want before it’s put out there for a whole new audience?  It would be like someone taking your child for a few months, only to return them with a new look, new mannerisms and even an accent.

I also recently read an old interview of one of my favorite mystery writers, Mary Higgins Clark, where she was asked how she felt about film adaptations of her work.  What she said makes sense, that it’s like giving up your child for adoption and while you wish it well, you lose control because it’s a different medium and there isn’t any way someone else can take your book and reproduce it exactly as it was written. 

The Lord of the Rings
The Return of the King
Producing a movie adaptation of a book gives the author’s work a whole new life, and hopefully it’s a good version rather than a bad one.  Because it’s a different medium, it is likely to draw a whole new audience and that’s not a bad thing, especially when a new audience might become interested in other work created by the author.  A movie adaptation will also thrill fans of that author when they get to watch one of their favorite stories come to life.  I especially love the movie adaptations of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, as these movies bring a fantasy world to the tips of our fingers and the recesses of our imagination in a way that I believe is better than what J. R. R. Tolkien would have
ever imagined.

But what about the readers who completely dread the idea of movie adaptations because there’s rarely a movie that completely follows the story they fell in love with on paper in the first place? 
I can understand where they might be coming from.

My youngest son and I both read The Maze Runner series and, as with The Hunger Games series and Harry Potter, as well as The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, the idea of seeing these worlds come to life on the big screen is something we always look forward to, even if the movies don’t quite follow along with the whole story created by the authors. 

I only recently finished The Maze Runner series and my son and I just recently watched the first movie based on that series in theaters.  While I do enjoy watching another series come to life on the big screen, I have to admit it is difficult to follow along with a movie based on a book series after having just read that series, especially when some of the changes the director made aren’t minor.  I think, moving forward as a reader and a movie-goer, I’d prefer to let some more time pass between reading a book or a series and watching the movies based on those books.  It just makes for a better experience, in my opinion, because I don’t want to leave the theater wishing that the director had just stuck to the original script.

So what if one of my books became a movie?  I’ll admit it’s something I’d love to see happen but it’s a dream that’s somewhat like winning the lottery…and it also takes putting out the right breakout novel to get you noticed.  As an author, you just never know when that might happen or what story will finally draw that sort of attention.

But authors are inspired by dreams because it is the idea that motivates us in the first place - - the idea of a story, the idea of new characters, the idea of a setting or a whole new world, the idea of others enjoying our stories, the idea that this (writing) is what we’re supposed to be doing because we’ve seen evidence from so many others about how much they appreciate what we’ve created for them.

So even if the movie-version of our books never happens, all the other ideas that motivate authors are certainly enough to keep us going!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Recess is over…time to come back inside

The change in seasons is here and it’s a time of year that I enjoy – the weather is changing, it’s time to put away the garden and summer items and there will be more cozy days inside as we prepare for the upcoming holidays.  It’s the same feeling I get when I’m nearing the end of a long project and getting ready to start something new.  I get to clean up my desk and my notes and start working on new character and story ideas on brand new blank binders and paper. 

During the past two months while I worked to complete my latest projects, my break from social media took a longer stretch than I anticipated but sometimes, a break is what we need to re-energize and focus on the tasks at hand.  During my break, I continued to work on my books, took part in a class to learn something new about marketing and I even went on a much-needed vacation with the family. 

Disney California Adventure Park
First, the much-needed vacation – did we go someplace to relax by the beach while we read our most favorite books?  No, we went on a road trip down through California.  Yes, I did say “road trip”…it’s just something we like to do as a family.  This particular trip we’ve taken before but it was quite awhile ago so we were all excited to do it again.  We visited places such as Crescent City, The Redwoods, San Francisco and Alcatraz, Monterey Bay, Carmel-by-the-Sea and Marina del Rey before moving over to Anaheim where we hit Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, Knott’s Berry Farm and Universal Studios.  The coastal cities were beautiful, as was the weather, for the most part.  The lines at the parks weren’t too outrageous but the weather sure took a turn and gave us 100-degree weather three days in a row while we roamed the parks and zeroed in on rides that took us inside an air-conditioned building or man-made mountain.  From there we drove down to San Diego and visited the zoo.  Even with the warm day we had (although much cooler than to the north), the animals surprised us and were all pretty active and available for terrific photo opts.  The Koalas were another matter…they were all asleep, as they are pretty much most of the day, but they’re so cute even as they nap that I can’t be upset with them.

I also took part in a training course before I left for vacation and while the class focused on many sorts of business models, it was a great resource for writers.  The focus of the class was on how to be passionate, purposeful and prosperous, with tips on building a better foundation for your business, cultivating relationships, launching explosively and selling a product others will appreciate.  I haven’t had much time to review  or use what I’ve learned from that class, since I only returned from vacation last week and I’ve been pretty busy since then, but I look forward to using some of the tips I’ve learned as I move further along with my writing career.

And finally, I’ve been working on my books to complete them for publishing. 

So, where am I with the writing projects? 

The third book in the Jorja Matthews’ mystery series, Ties That Bind, has been shipped off to the editor for review.  This book took a bit longer to complete and with a new editor who is very busy, I also had to wait until she was available to review my book, so the publishing date will be later in the year than I had originally planned.  But I’ve also completed a second short story and the expectation is to have that story published by the end of October.  I will be sending out a notice soon when that book is finally available.    

A season has ended and a new one is about to begin, both outside and at my writing desk.  The creative-side of things is pretty much complete with both the novel and the short story and from here we’re going to be deep into the technical side of editing, formatting, publishing and marketing.  So what will I do now that these projects are close to completion?  I’ll be looking forward to a new season of writing…not only with the fourth book in the series, but also a whole new project, to include a new book, a new idea, new characters and even a stab at a completely different genre. 

It’s a new season, so it’s the perfect time to try something new!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Silence…both deafening and golden

It’s been awhile, I know…over a month since I last blogged.  I’ve been very quiet and you may have wondered why or maybe you’ve been too busy yourself to notice.  The reason for my silence has been for various reasons, including:  the beautiful summer weather our region was treated to this year, gardens to tend to, family outings and events, the celebration of our wedding anniversary and time spent working on the completion of two books. 

But why would those reasons prevent me from blogging? 

I’ve been busy before; heck, I’m always busy but I usually find the time to blog so that I keep up with my weekly schedule.  But this past month was a different one for me.  Even though it’s been a busy month, I also used this time to sit back and think…and that time spent was very productive for me.

That’s what silence will do to you sometimes.  It can be deafening, to the point that you have no choice but to listen, and then it becomes golden, so that you finally learn what has been hidden from you behind the noise.

This past month I’ve learned a few things about what I want and what I don’t want, what steps I need to take to make things happen, what sort of message I’m trying to share, when to compromise and when to be selfish and finally, how important it is to continue on the path I’ve chosen because it truly is what makes me happy. 

Am I going through some kind of mid-life crises?  No. 

Not yet, anyway.

I think the reason for my break was to really take stock in something that had been bothering me.  It wasn’t whether I was doing the right thing, or whether I should continue working towards what I truly want to do with my life.  It was how I could do what I truly want to do when so much else seemed to always get in the way. 

I had forgotten my motto when I first started this blog…don’t let life rule your passion.

And that’s what has been happening lately – life has been ruling my passion and I’ve been letting it happen.  I shudder at the thought of getting to the point where the mechanics are there but the passion has faded or died off.  And that could happen should I forget that someday the tide will turn and all this work won’t be for nothing.  This journey I decided to venture on is not a sprint but a marathon, and I have to remember that.  Getting where I want to be will take hard work, dedication and patience (guess I’m still learning) and the potholes in life should only add flavor to my writing, not take away from it.

So I’m going back to my motto of not letting life rule my passion and I’m moving forward with a better understanding of what I need to do to make that happen.  Thanks for the patience you’ve offered as I took a much needed break and I hope you’ll continue to stick with me as I move forward on this journey towards my dream.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

When characters speak…we listen!

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was looking at my calendar and planning for the month of July, making preparations for the 4th of July holiday and making lists for my upcoming summer projects.  My main project for July was to take part in Camp NaNo and to write at least the first 25,000 words for my next short story.  Considering how busy the month has been, I was getting a little worried that I might not actually make my word count but after today, I know that’s not going to be an issue.

Today was a great day for writing.  It’s a day I wish I had every day.  Not only was I able to do extremely well with my word count, it was one of those days when the characters just took over.  I didn’t have to think about the story at all because they had no problem cluing me in to what I had been missing before. 

I love it when that happens.

I’m used to that happening with the Jorja Matthews books; the characters are pretty good about telling me where the story’s going to go, whether I expected it to go there or not, or what it is they want to do, whether I want them to do it or not.

The short story I’ve been working on for Camp NaNo was a different matter.  My main character is different than Jorja and most of my other characters.  Her voice isn’t as loud to me.  She hasn’t been that strong and her story seemed pretty much black and white.

Until today.

Today I was able to watch as my character blossomed and certain points in the story began to change. While I thought I knew what the fate of this character was to be, I’ve seen the layout of a different plan for her.  At the same time, two other characters helped me out by finally sharing information that will shed more light as that plan begins to unfold.  I always thought I knew the ending to this story.  Today, I was given a glimpse of another, very surprising, ending and I’m excited the characters have finally come out to play.
And that’s what makes writing so fun!

Unless you’ve dabbled in writing at all, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about and you might think it sounds just a little insane. That’s okay; writers get away with being a tad eccentric.  A tad…that’s all I’ll ever confess to.

But other writers get it.  I read a blog post today on The Write Practice that struck home for me when the author offered this little gem that I’ll quote here:

“The story isn’t mine.  I’m just the conduit.”

I’ve read other posts and articles by writers who also write the same way I do…no outline or maybe just a rough outline…then the story begins and the characters eventually take over and fill in the blanks to lead us down the path they choose so that we can tell their story for them.

When it works like that, it means the characters have come out to play, and when the characters speak, we have no choice but to listen or the story will not unfold as it was meant to be.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Research on the Web…might make a writer look psycho

Now that I’m completing the third novel in my mystery series, I’ve come to realize just how much research a writer conducts.  What’s funny is how that research might make a writer look a little psycho to anyone who got a peek at their browsing history.  Most of the details involved with our research doesn’t actually make it into the books and that’s largely due to the fact that many of those details would be too much information or just completely unnecessary for the reader.  My main reason for research is to make sure what details I do include, even if minor, aren’t totally off the mark so that the story is more believable.  I may be writing fiction but that doesn’t mean the dirt in the details shouldn’t have a ring of truth about it.

Today, as I was researching how long it takes a body to begin to smell once someone has died…I know, gruesome…I was struck by the thought that someone who didn’t know me as a writer might really wonder about my frame of mind.  But to write a story, and to hopefully make it believable, although it’s completely fictional, is really something a writer has to grasp and hang on to as the story unfolds.

My research has taken me from the mundane to the macabre, which is good since I prefer a variety. 

The most mundane was when I researched what might really be involved with opening a small business, especially with regard to a bookstore.  How much money would it take?  How much inventory would you need?  What’s involved when you offer coffee and food to your customers?  Can someone really survive financially from a bookstore business?  I’m sure you know the answer to that.  With the many bookstores closing left and right, even the larger chains, it’s obviously a difficult business to be in but since I wanted my recently unemployed character, Jorja, to be the owner of a coffee shop bookstore, I decided I had to improvise.  I did that by giving her access to other funds, from a deceased family member and a side job, so that she didn’t have to completely rely on the bookstore to pay the bills.  I want this series to be about mysteries involving crimes and characters, not about how to keep your head above water with a failing business.  

I’ve also researched floor plans of Victorian homes because I wanted to find an actual floor plan I could work with and visualize when I wrote about what Hillcrest might actually look like.  I have to admit, researching various Victorian homes of all shapes and sizes was really quite fun.  And more recently, I’ve researched the details about planning for a wedding, but while it’s fun to do the research, I’m not sure how much detail about the wedding plans will or should be used in the books.

But beyond the safe zone of business models, house plans and wedding details, I’ve dug deep into what’s involved with other subjects I’ve included in the first three books or which may be included in upcoming stories.  Some of that research has related to missing and unidentified persons, the medical necessity for inpatient mental health treatment, patterns of serial killers, paternity testing, DNA relating to humans as well as animals, weapons, poisonous plants, drugs, fibers, sentencing guidelines, phobias, body decomposition and write-ups for obituaries and news articles relating to vehicle accidents. 

It’s quite the mixed bag, isn’t it?  But just based on the above list, it’s probably a good thing I finally came out as a writer…or my husband may have come to the conclusion that it might benefit him to sleep with one eye open for awhile.  Read the list again, tell me you don’t agree. 

It’s true, then, that not only do writers need to be interested in everything, they also need an understanding spouse!

I’ve conducted a lot of research over the past three years, and I expect to have many more odd items pop up in my browsing history as I continue to research details for future stories and books.  It’s one of the things I love about writing, besides the act itself, which is the knowledge I gain as I research and continue to learn. 

What’s not to love about that?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Summer Projects Underway!

We’re about half way through the month of July and also about half way through summer and it’s definitely been a busy one so far.  Of course, it’s not hard to keep busy because there’s always something to do.  Right now my time is divided between work, gardening and writing, spending time with family…and relaxing or playing in the sun.  

Misty - enjoys hanging out with me when I work in the gardens
I’m still going through revisions on Ties that Bind before I finally hand it off to the editor for review and I really can’t wait until this book is published.  It’ll be the third book in the series and I’m looking forward to the feedback I’ll receive from those who have been following the series from the beginning.  Personally, I know I’m growing as a writer and I believe each book will continue to be better than the last.  I’m already putting together ideas for the fourth book and I can’t wait to begin working on it once the third book is published.

But before that, I’m working on my new short story I hope to also have published before the end of the year.  I joined Camp Nano so that I could commit myself to a certain word count for the month on this new story and while I believe I will reach my word count, I’ll admit it’s been difficult the past week or so to keep up a steady stream of creativity.  It wouldn’t be so difficult if we weren’t having the heat wave of the century here in the Pacific Northwest.  Okay, maybe not really of the century, but it’s hot and muggy…not really our type of weather (and I like it).  When it gets as hot as it’s been, which is about 10 to 15 degrees hotter than normal this time of year, it can be really difficult to make myself stay in place in front of the computer when I’d much rather be outdoors enjoying the weather or avoiding the heat wave my office can cause on its own.
But it’s okay.  I’ll get a good start on the short story and because I limited my word count to 25,000 for the month, I’m certain I’ll make my goal.  You may be wondering what this new short story is about…it’s not another ghost story.  At least, I don’t think it is.  Actually, there are some spiritual elements to the story, now that I think about it, but the main issues for the character involve two things.  First, how to deal with a difficult marriage after a tragic loss and second, how to deal with a phenomenon the character can’t quite explain.  The phenomenon involves an element which readers may or may not be tuned in to, and that would be numerology.  If you’ve never experienced the relationship between a number and a coinciding event, you might not understand the concept behind the story, but for those who have experienced the phenomenon involved with numerology (what’s your number?), you’ll possibly understand more about what the character is going through.  Either way, whether the reader believes in numerology or not, has experienced the phenomenon or not, I hope they will enjoy the story I’ve developed as they root for the character to find the truth behind the message before it’s too late.

That’s just a little teaser for you.  I really can’t explain the story any further until it’s ready for publishing.  I might end up jinxing myself and I’m a bit superstitious about talking too much about a story in the works.

Now I’m off to enjoy some more of the wonderful sunshine we’ve been getting.  And I will enjoy the day without guilt because even with the sun coaxing me outside more often, I’m still finding time to revise and add to my word count so that my summer projects will continue to move even closer to completion.  However, while I do enjoy the fun summer brings, I look forward to what the next season holds when my projects move into the next phase and even closer to the hands of readers.       

Until next time, have a terrific day and a great week!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

No Rest for the Weary

This was a crazy, busy weekend and I’m more than thrilled that we still have today to try to catch our breath before we move on to the work week.  We celebrated the 4th of July with a bang, taking part in multiple family gatherings over the course of two days, while remaining constantly busy, eating way too much food and not getting enough sleep.

In a word…I’m exhausted

As much as I’d like to be lazy all day while taking part in the Walking Dead marathon, I can’t completely shut down just because the past few days have completely drained me.  As the saying goes, there is no rest for the weary.  While I would love to avoid the Sunday chores I need to complete in order to clean up after a fun-filled weekend and to prepare for the work week, they are chores that cannot be ignored.  And when the chores are done, you might think I could move on to losing myself with Rick and the others as they continue to fight zombies, but I have my own characters I need to spend time with and for me, that’s actually a great way to relax. 

I guess I could completely shut my brain down in order to rejuvenate but I don’t like the feeling of doing nothing for too long.  Some can take a power nap and feel reenergized but when I try that, I feel even more tired and groggy.  Instead, I feel reenergized when I immerse myself in my writing and my creative side is stimulated by conversations, plot twists and questions that need answers.  That’s one reason why I had to stop writing late at night because I finally figured out that when I stopped writing in order to go to bed, I couldn’t shut my brain off when the story and dialogue continued to run through my head. 

So I will use this day of rest to relax the best way I know how, and that’s to continue to work on my books.  I’m adding to the word count of my new short story as I also continue to work on revisions in Ties that Bind.  Staying behind in one story, with Jorja and the others, while becoming acquainted with a new character in another story is fun.  I’ve discovered I enjoy having two stories in motion and I really enjoy having the ability to move back and forth between the two books, depending on my mood. 

That being said, it’s now time for me to go and relax…

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Crazy Organizational Fiend in Me

June is just about over…just one more day and then we’re moving on into July, where I’ll be busy with a new writing project along with the time I’ll need to continue with revisions on the third novel in my mystery series and also to complete my Series Bible to help me stay on task when I begin the fourth book in the series this winter.

There’s something about preparing for a new project that makes me want to remove the clutter around me.  If I don’t, it will constantly distract me and remind me of the other stuff I need to take care of when I’m not writing.  It’s a distraction I can do without so for the past few weeks, I’ve been very focused on organizing the clutter.

Or hiding it, whatever works best in the moment.

Overall, I’m happy with the progress I’ve made the past few weeks…

I updated my scrapbook so that I don’t have to look at the pile of memorabilia any longer, and I’ll try to keep up with it as new memorabilia needs to be added to the book;

I organized all my scrapbook material so that those items now have a proper home and are no longer piled on my bedroom floor;

I’ve done my best to work around the rainy weather we’ve been having lately so that my gardens are looking nice and only need a little TLC every couple of days to keep the weeds away;

I tracked down items in various rooms that are taking up space but that don’t really have a purpose or that I’m tired of looking at and I’ve put them away to either donate or make use of in some other way;

I finally went through the large stack of school paperwork my son dumped on my desk and I found some good stuff to add to his high school portfolio; and

I even cleaned out the “school drawer” – this is a large drawer in my roll top desk that was completely overflowing with pens, pencils, paper, notebooks, glue, erasers and rulers.  You know, all those school items you tend to buy every year while forgetting how many you had purchased and was still unused from the year before.  I’m now fairly certain we won’t need many, if any, supplies for this next year.

But the biggest task I took on to get organized was my office…I had to do something that I’ve been putting off for quite awhile now.  My writing books and notebooks and other material has been sharing space with all my investigative books and notebooks and other material and I finally realized, I need to let the writing side of my life take over where my office is concerned.  I’ll still use some of the investigative books and other material but a lot of it is outdated or can be stored away or even thrown away altogether.  To be honest, it was a difficult task since I’m shedding what has been an important part of my life for so long.  But as I continue to work on my books, I need to have in my writing space what will keep me focused and inspired. 

Now that I’ve just about organized most of the clutter around me, there is nothing to distract me from the upcoming writing project I’ll tackle during the month of July at Camp NaNo (more on that later), while I also finish with revisions on Ties that Bind.   

Okay, I know there will still be a distraction or two (July 4th is coming up!), but at least it’s a start!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

When will there ever be enough time in the day?

I took part in a speaking/book event recently at a local retirement center and, as always, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  I had such a good time that by the time my time was up, I felt like I’d only been speaking to the guests for no more than a half hour when it had been closer to an hour and a half.  Speaking engagements still make me nervous but I’m glad to say the fun I have during these types of events has begun to overshadow the fear of speaking in public.  My high school speech teacher would be so proud, even if it has taken a few decades to finally reduce my fear of public speaking.

Anyway, during the event one of the guests asked me how I find the time to write if I also have a day job.

That’s certainly a good question.

Since the day job takes up SO many hours of my week, I could easily find the time to write if I let the laundry pile up, refused to clean and vacuum, never bothered to garden, ignored my kids completely and became a complete recluse in my office at home when I wasn’t in my office at my day job.

But I’m no Emily Dickinson…

And while I do hope to call writing my full-time career some day, I can’t allow the regular side of life to linger and wait for me until I decide I’ve finally reached my goals as a writer.

So, the laundry will get the attention it deserves, because I certainly can’t afford to buy new clothes just to avoid cleaning the dirty ones;

The house will continue to receive routine cleanings while at the same time, be well-lived in.  For anyone who doesn’t like kids or dogs, they shouldn’t expect an immaculate home because I’ll never have time for that;

As long as I have the space available to me, gardening will be my hobby of choice during the summer because it’s one of those physical tasks that lets my mind wander and as a writer, that’s a wonderful thing to make time for; and

I’ll always make time for my kids, and my husband, period.  No explanation needed.  It’s just the way it will always be.

So with the job and all the other stuff life brings, where do I find the time to write?  Some days, there really aren’t enough hours in the day but I find them when I can and so far, as I am now completing my third novel in three years, I think I’m doing pretty well at finding the extra time to write.  There will come a day when I’ll have more time to write but we work with what we have and for now, I’m good with that.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Can you describe your Dad using just 3 words?

Today is a special day for the special men in our lives; whether it’s your real dad, a step-dad, or maybe a grandfather or uncle who raised you, this is the day when we celebrate our dads.

What makes a great dad?

A dad’s job is never-ending but here are just a few characteristics of great dads:

He listens when you need advice or just a shoulder to cry on;

He shares his wisdom when you need it, even if you don’t want it at the time;

He never hesitates to show how proud he is of you and your accomplishments;

He can make you smile even as you shed the last of your tears;

He offers relief when you’re worried; and

He comes to your aid when things go wrong.

A dad is someone who will be there for you, always, and especially when you’re in need, for no other reason than because you need him.  And, of course, because he loves you unconditionally.

There are many words we can use to describe our dads.  A great dad is, among so many other things:

D – Devoted
A – Affectionate
D – Dependable

What three words would you use to describe your dad? 

However you would describe your dad, I hope you get to enjoy this day with him in order to express what he means to you and, if you are a dad yourself, I hope your day is also spent with your own children as they express what you mean to them. 

Happy Father’s Day!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Series Bible…’bout time I made one

Book three in the Jorja Matthews’ mystery series is currently in the middle of revisions and will soon be in the hands of an editor to assist me with making necessary editorial changes before I finally complete the final draft of Ties That Bind.   I’m going to be working with someone new for editing during this book and I’m very excited about this new business relationship.  It’s going to be some months before the necessary edits and revisions are complete but while that takes place, I’ve decided that as I work on revisions, I also need to finally put together a Series Bible.

What’s a Series Bible?

It’s a very useful organizational technique crucial to staying organized while writing a series.  The series information is contained in one handy binder (before it becomes two or three or more) that the author can thumb through when needed to quickly confirm details about the characters, the setting, arc or plot points, information obtained from research, a timeline for each individual book’s story and for the series as a whole, and whatever else the author feels will be helpful to stay on task with the series.

I’ve got all that information for my series but it’s contained in multiple notebooks and folders and it’s not always easy to find what I need at a moment’s notice while I’m in the middle of writing the next book in the series.  I read about creating a Series Bible sometime while I was writing Best Kept Secrets but I was just too busy writing to worry about putting all the information into an organized binder.  And at the time, I only had the information from No Mother of Mine to thumb through and it didn’t seem all that cluttered.  I could have made an attempt to create the binder while I was revising Best Kept Secrets, but I just didn’t seem to have the extra time.  Now, three books into the series, I’ve accumulated quite a lot of notes, printouts, photos and research information so that my folders are becoming very disorganized.

I love being organized and it’s beyond me how I’ve written three books without becoming annoyed by the fact that the bulk of my story information is in such a disorganized fashion.  Well, it’s finally beginning to annoy me.  Now that I’m in the middle of revising Ties That Bind, I’ve decided that I am going to make the time to finally complete my Series Bible.  I feel better knowing that I can swiftly move into the fourth book in the series without faltering when specific details are not quite within the grasp of my memory.

It’ll be a time-consuming project but it’ll be a fun project and it will help me as I continue to write the series, which is the most important reason for keeping a Series Bible.  Since I really have no idea when this series is going to end, if it ever does, I know it’s about time I get serious about organizing all my notes before it becomes a monster of a project!

Now it’s time to get moving.  The sun is finally out and I have a book to work on so I’m going to work on my book and Series Bible while I soak up some Vitamin D.

Enjoy your day!   

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Getting geared up for summer!

It’s the beginning of June already and the way our weather’s been lately, it feels like summer’s coming in with a bang.  I enjoyed myself this weekend, taking a break from the computer and spending most of Saturday and Sunday working outside in my gardens to finish with the last plantings, lots of weeding, rose feedings, overdue watering and garden decorating.  It’s the time of year I really look forward to…when the gardens and lawn look inviting and we can finally move all our lawn furniture outside. 

I took a break from the computer, not only to get the necessary work done in my gardens, but also because I’m finally editing the third book in my mystery series (yeah!) and I felt I needed to take a break before I begin to review the manuscript.  I’m further behind with this draft than I planned to be but because November didn’t pan out completely as far as writing the series goes and December was mainly focused on 1313 Psyco Path, I wasn’t able to really get into the third book until January.  Even so, considering the first and second books each took four months to write, I guess I’m doing okay.

June will keep me busy as I edit my book and work on necessary revisions before I can make it available for the next phase of edits with a professional editor.  Now that my gardens are looking and smelling so nice (the herbs…they are wonderful for the senses) and my patio table and umbrella offer an inviting retreat nearby, my hope is that the weather stays fairly nice most of the month so I can edit my book outside when I’m home.  The trick for me is knowing when to read and when to weed and when I’ve done enough of one before I get back to the other. 

I don’t really plan on participating in too many book events this summer but I am scheduled to take part in another book event this month.  It’s a meet and greet book signing event scheduled for next week at a local senior center and I’m really looking forward to it.  I’ve also decided to sign up for Camp NaNoWriMo in July so that I can begin working on my next project.  It’s like what I took part in for NaNoWriMo in November 2012 and 2013 but on a less rigorous scale.  You can write as few as 10,000 words or as many as 999,999.  My word count goal is at least 25,000 so that I can work on another short story I’d like to have published by this November.  I’m really looking forward to beginning a new project.

So, let me think about this more clearly…I’m taking part in only two events that I know of this summer but just those two events will monopolize 32 days of the summer? 

Well, that’s okay.  I’m ready for anything right now.  I’m ready to dig deep into editing.  I’m ready for a fun event with the senior citizens.  I’m ready for a month of participating with other writers in a virtual creative retreat where the community spirit and encouragement will keep me excited about my next project.   
And I’m ready for summer. 

How about you?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Out with the old blog into the new? Not quite yet.

Lately I’ve been doing a little more research about how other authors have built their author brands and platforms or how they promote and market upcoming releases.  It would be so much easier if there was a one-size-fits-all marketing approach when it comes to selling books but what works for one doesn’t always work for another. 

What I focused on this past week was how other authors market themselves via their blogs, websites or Facebook pages.  I focused mainly on female authors who wrote mysteries, from suspenseful to police procedural to cozies.  I even accidentally researched some authors who wrote in the romantic suspense genre; not my favorite type of read but it was still interesting to see how they market their books.    

What I discovered was a huge range of techniques, some I liked and some I didn’t.  But that was the whole point in researching the other sites; not only to compare them to my own but also to see if there were some good ideas I could utilize or some techniques I’d like to avoid. 

A few techniques on some blogs and websites I found where I was immediately put off included the following:
  • The use of black backgrounds – even if I like the author or their books, I would avoid their site like the plague because I just can’t stand trying to focus on words with a black background
  • When the sites are SO busy I have a difficult time finding the basic information I need
  • Any sites that look like they were typeset directly from a typewriter (i.e. they just look outdated) and with no graphic art or visual stimulation to keep me interested
  • Offering outdated information even if a book was published in the current year
  • When moving around the site proves difficult so that I’m not able to easily move from one page to another

A few techniques on some blogs and websites I found where I enjoyed my stay included the following:
  • Good visual background that doesn’t slap my retinas and that had stimulating graphic art
  • Information is easy to locate whether by tabs or gadgets and movement around the site is user friendly
  • The attitude and personality of the author is evident and not cookie-cutter style
  • The sites make it easy to connect with the author, whether via e-mail, their blog, or social media
  •  The site is actually fun (these are few and far between)

My research also took me to the Facebook pages of authors who do use Facebook.  I’m actually surprised when I discover authors who still don’t use any sort of social media beyond their website or blog but then there are probably a few who wonder when I’m finally going to get into Twitter or Pinterest.  I’ll be honest and say that I have no interest in Twitter and can’t say that I’ll ever try it but I’ve thought more about using Pinterest only because I believe it would be a great way to visually share information with regard to the series, the characters and the setting.  It’s an idea but I just haven’t taken the time to really get involved with making the concept happen.

Anyway, with regard to social media, there are definitely different styles when it comes to authors who promote themselves.  Some share personal information about their days and their families, others are much more business-like and tend to only post about their books and then there are many who are the in-between.  A little dash of personal, along with a snippet of business, while mixing in a good assortment of this or that relating to everything in-between.  Those are the pages I enjoy – author pages that include a good mix of everything, not too much of one thing or another so that I don’t get bored.

So what’s all this research mean for me? 

I’ve wanted to make some changes to my blog but I have to actually make a decision on what I want to do and then set aside the time to do it.  My Facebook page will probably continue as is except that I’d like to try to post on a regular basis rather than erratically.  As I get closer to a publishing date for the third novel in my series, I’m hopeful that it will also mark the date when I’ll have made some necessary changes to this blog.  It’s the idea anyway and something to look forward to because I’ll enjoy promoting my new book on a blog with a new look.      

Until then, the old look will remain but I’ll continue to envision the new!