Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Typing or Writing Longhand

As an author, there are times I have a difficult time working through a plot point. Most of my writing process is done at the keyboard, letting stream of consciousness flow, but there are moments when I end up staring at my computer, waiting for that flash of brilliance. Those are the moments I pick up a pen and a pad of paper.

The first time I did that, it was to outline. I had a book that was going nowhere. No plot, just meandering aimlessly along, so I wanted to give it some direction. I sat down to write down the why and what and wherefore.

Another time, I was on my commute into the Big City on the train and I didn't want to pull out my computer. As silly as it sounds, putting my ideas to paper felt less permanent (in a world where you can delete on your computer without any muss or fuss).

As I've been working through the missing plot points on my current work, I realized something. For my part, when I sit down with pen and paper, it forces me to focus. What do I want to happen? What has to occur to get me to that point? What are the impacts? Like an outline, it gives me a direction to go. Generally, I write random thoughts (although I've been known to do that at my computer, as well, to give myself a road map). Too often when I'm at my computer, I can be distracted by other things. A message notification or that ebook I want to finish reading or all the other things that can take you out of the moment.

There's just something about writing something by hand, a deliberate action, that takes you out of the "what next" and lets you set ideas down to sort through. At least for me. It also helps to organize your thoughts, much like when you need to make a presentation and you can't decide which point to address first. The "spoke" method helps resolve that issue, write all the points on spokes of a wheel, and once you get them all down, it's much easier to sort through what comes first.

As a reminder - for those of you who live in Illinois, I'm going to be at the Schaumburg library on Saturday. I hope you'll stop in and say hello!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

After the First Draft

Stephen King will tell you to get that first draft done and then step away. Give it time to marinate. To gel. To set. And then go back and edit ruthlessly.

I was so proud of myself! I finished my first draft of EPITAPH 4, and I thought I'd done pretty well for myself! Sure, there were some areas that needed polishing, but this book came so fast, it was going to be easy-peasy. HAH!

I set it aside, waiting to hear back from my fact checker and going on about my daily life, except as an author, you're always writing in your head. Funny, I should have been forewarned when my subconscious wasn't ready to start in on the next project. That's normally what happens when I finish a book, I can't wait to start on the next one. Oh, I have ideas. I have two, maybe three more brothers whose stories need to be written in this series, and I have general ideas, but no characters speaking to me. Maybe that's because THIS story isn't done.

As I lay awake in bed the other day, reviewing what I'd written mentally, I realized I'd left some VERY IMPORTANT STUFF out of my story. Stuff that was going to change that "perfect" first draft dramatically. But that's why we have to let the first draft marinate, so we can go back at it with fresh eyes to see what we missed the first time around. Daunting? You betcha!

As written, I have 30 pretty good chapters. Unfortunately, the fixes start at about chapter 12, which means revamping more than half the story. The good news: this story came to life very quickly, so I have a path to follow and lots of time to play with before I have to send it to my editor. The bad news: there's a whole lot of work to be done. Just a reminder that first drafts aren't meant to be perfect, but they do give you an excellent starting point for your journey. Now is when the real work begins.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

And the Leaves that are Green Turn to Brown

Points if you know who sang the song I quoted for the title of my post!

DH and I took a trip to Virginia this month, just a few days to visit family. Long overdue, we spent our time running back and forth from one sister/brother/nephew to another, most of whom were recovering from a dreaded virus and were afraid to share their germs. We managed to escape unscathed (although DH did have a cold/allergies upon our return). Seeing family you don't get to visit often is energizing, life-affirming. I enjoy spending time with my in-laws and I know DH is happier for having made the trip.

When we came home, Fall seemed to have arrived unannounced. Over the span of those few short days, the leaves had turned to brown and red and yellow and were falling at an accelerated pace. As we took our evening constitutional, the sidewalks were carpeted with leaves big and small. Where did the summer go? As a consolation prize, Mother Nature seems to be having a last laugh by setting record high temperatures to screw with us now that Autumn is officially upon us. In just a weeks' time, many of these trees have already lost their foliage. The narrative remains the same. Time hurries on. Time waits for no man. The earth is shedding the old, preparing for the new. Soon we'll have a blanket of clean, white snow and should we be blessed with another spring, the colors will return, bursting into buds and flowers with the promise of renewal one more time.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Fact checking your work

One of the most interesting, and confounding, parts of writing is doing the research. As I comb through the first draft of my next installment in the Epitaph series, I'm working closely with my "fact checker," a friend who assures me architecture is boring (my main characters are both architects).

When asked, many of us might say our jobs were boring, and that will be true to a certain extent, but the jobs are only subplots to the book as a whole. During the writing process, I strive for a measure of authenticity, which means I have to learn about the professions I don't know much about. With COOKIE THERAPY, I interviewed a fireman I'd met in the grocery store (thank you, Mike). And a fireman neighbor. And a fireman on a writers resource loop. All for the sake of authenticity. It's amazing how four different viewpoints can differ for the same job, or possibly this author didn't quite understand what she was being told. In the end, readers did comment that they appreciated the authenticity of my firefighter's job in the story, so I must have gotten the important stuff right. On the downside, after talking with the firefighters and writing that book, I sat down to watch CHICAGO FIRE on television one night (shout out to Author Marilyn Brant who made a cameo) and for the first time in my life, I found myself saying "that would never happen" while watching a television show. I realize TV depends a lot on suspended belief - fake it to fit it into the one-hour slot - but this was my first experience with knowing the difference. You know what I'm talking about, things like processing DNA in less than a month. It doesn't happen in real life. Likewise, I knew the reality of what would and wouldn't happen on a fire engine. Ruined the show for me!

My process tends to be to get the story down and fix the details later. During preliminary conversations with my architect friend, I wrote the story to what I assumed from what she'd told me. Later, we met again and she corrected my misconceptions, and she gave me more fodder to work with. I met with her once more to run the rest of my work-related scenes by her and she gave me MORE ideas to update. In the end, some of it will be inaccurate (call it artistic license), but for the most part, I hope to get the details right. I've learned something more about what architects do and enriched my knowledge base, and an appreciation for what my friend does for a living.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Can we avoid Natural Disasters?

As Dear Husband and I weigh our options for the future, we've been considering where in the world we might like to live. Watching all the natural disasters that are overtaking the U.S. makes you stop and think. How do you decide where to live?

I'm a big fan of the desert Southwest, and I had proposed places to live like Arizona or Utah or Santa Barbara. Doesn't hurt to have a wish list, right? Watching the wildfires that are burning in that part of the country, from Arizona north through Canada, breaks my heart. I can't even imagine watching everything I own go up in smoke, and for those people affected, you have my sympathies.

And then there are my friends in Florida. What a great place to retire. What a horrific place this past month. Some of the people who live there tend to believe hurricane season is only slightly more frightening than a thunderstorm up here in the Midwest, with the threat of tornadoes. Again, I can't imagine having to abandon my home and wondering what will be left after the storm passes. The destruction that follows in the wake of those storms boggles my mind. Again, my heart goes out to those people, in Houston, in Florida and the islands that have been decimated. I can't even imagine.

Every part of the country has its own intrinsic dangers. Here in Chicago, we do get tornadoes, although thankfully not frequently. I've watched hurricane level destruction happen right here in Illinois, although tornadoes generally don't cover as much real estate as Irma did.

One of my friends in Cleveland posted at article on how that appears to be the safest place in the country to live. No floods, no storm surges, no wildfires. Do they get tornadoes there?

No place is immune from natural disaster. Tectonic plates run all through the continent, so while California might be more prone to earthquakes, that doesn't preclude other parts of the country. And what about the Great Chicago Fire? Yes, that was a very long time ago, and construction has improved since that time to prevent such widespread disaster, but the fires out west are a testament to what could still happen.

As DH and I consider relocating, I try to remember that tomorrow isn't guaranteed, and wherever we end up, Mother Nature is likely to have some surprises in store for us. We're trying to do our part for those in need after these cataclysmic events, and trying not to look over our own shoulders for when its our turn. Like a lightning strike, there isn't much we can do to avoid a natural disaster should it cross our paths.

If you are able to help those who have been affected by Mother Nature's fury, 
please consider donating to the Red Cross, 
or your religions organization's efforts, or another worthy charity.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

On Tour!

I'm taking the easy way out today - I'm doing a blog tour this week to tell the world all about THE MIRROR. Some of my fabulous hosts have asked me some fun questions, and along the tour you'll find interviews from when I started writing, to my inspirations, to my favorite movie scenes! Of course there are blurbs, and there's a Rafflecopter to win a gift card for a lucky winner (Amazon or Barnes & Noble). So pop over at any or all of these lovely blogs and join the fun. And the best part? THE MIRROR is on sale this week for just 99 cents. That's less than a buck! Pick up a copy quick.

September 4: Fabulous and Brunette
September 4: Hearts and Scribbles - promo
September 5: Christine Young
September 5: Welcome to My World of Dreams
September 6: Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews
September 6: Deal Sharing Aunt
September 7: Lisa Haselton's Reviews and Interviews
September 7: Up 'Til Dawn Book Blog
September 8: K.T. Castle
September 8: Straight From the Library

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Giveaways - Amazon vs. Goodreads

As an author, when I release a new book, I often will do a giveaway as an enticement to gain new readers. If you haven't heard my name, you might not be willing to take a chance on my books. The goal, of course, is that if you don't win the giveaway, I've at least gotten your attention and you might consider buying the book. When best-selling authors are selling their e-books for $6.99 and even up to $12.99 (for an E BOOK!), my books are a bargain for $3.99.

Here's the thing - On my recent release, THE MIRROR, I thought I'd try Amazon one more time because ... well Amazon. The results are disappointing. First off, when I actually did a search for Amazon giveaways (and how many people are aware Amazon does giveaways? I had to look HARD to find them), mine didn't show up. The giveaway must have shown up somewhere, because I did get entries. Yes, I shared the link on social media and promoted it. Most of the entrants appeared within the first couple of days. When I finally DID find how to search the giveaways page, dozens of unrelated items showed up in my search, so 20 pages of partially relevant items (none of which included the giveaway I sponsored).

Goodreads has a Giveaways tab that lets you search by genre. Almost three times as many people found my book and requested it, and most of these come in the last few days because Goodreads also sorts for giveaways that are closing soon. And by popular authors. And other sorts that are relevant to what you like.

Let's take this a step further. Of the winners, how many people actually read the book and leave a review? I ran an Amazon giveaway in 2015, and of the three winners, I received zero reviews. Okay, not everybody leaves a review, so I can't say I was disappointed, especially with a population of three, but these are people who buy and one might assume read books. This time, I did get one review that is "most likely" from one of the winners.

For the a giveaway at Goodreads, and generally I give away five books at Goodreads, I often receive reviews from the winners. Granted, Goodreads is a site designed for readers, but by that same logic (not everybody leaves a review), it might be reasonable to assume zero reviews again. However, for the GR Giveaways I've done, I've been lucky enough to receive, on average, reviews from three of those five people who've won.

Different people may have different experiences, but for me, based on the inability to FIND my giveaway on Amazon after the first week when doing a search, and based on the number of entrants, and based on the response of those entrants (i.e., reviews or sales to the people who didn't win), I'll stick with Goodreads.