Thursday, January 31, 2013



The most important life event happened with my birth as it does with all of us. I was named Gloria because my mother admired movie stars with that name, but I like to think my dad went along with the name because he was religious and thought of his first born child as a glory to God. At least I believe that, and in my egocentric way, every Christmas when the refrain of Christmas carols resound with my name, I like to think the whole church is singing my glory. Of course, there were the birthday celebrations – not elaborate in my family. Mom fixed whatever meal the birthday child wanted and there were a few gifts. The only one I remember was a green parakeet named Petey. Today I receive cards and a few gifts on or somewhere around my birthday and my sister-in-law and sisters take me out to lunch. I’m perfectly happy with that. After all my only accomplishment is living another year.

Then there were the graduation events. My high school graduation included a cake and a few relatives coming with cards and money. Certainly nothing like the high school graduation events put on today. When I graduated from college later in life, my parents and siblings took me to dinner, and my kids put on a party for me with a lot of close friends and family coming.  I can’t remember anything when I got my Master’s degree, but we probably went out for dinner.

A wedding is always an important event. I had the white gown – borrowed from an aunt, flowers, cake, reception in a small hall and food prepared by an aunt and uncle. Another uncle took snapshots with his camera. My father-in-law paid for a band that played mostly polkas. The wedding was preceded by a shower at an aunt’s home, a modest house so the guest list was small. Of course, there were cards and gifts for the wedding (3 electric skillets) and many best wishes and congratulations. But thinking back, what major accomplishment was getting married? So I got a man. Big deal. So did almost everyone else.

In a little over three years, the children started coming. Believe me, that was a life changing event with four in less than five years. Of course, I always loved and wanted children so I was happy with each one. Again the cards and gifts of congratulations came, but having children is no great accomplishment, although raising them well is something to be proud of. And I am proud of my children.

Teaching third grade was both rewarding, very time consuming and at times difficult.. After I’d been teaching for 15 years, I received the Portage County Elementary School Teacher of the Year Award. I was both honored and embarrassed by the award because there were teachers in my small school who I felt were just as qualified or even more so for the award, and I knew there had to be hundreds of other teachers in the county just as deserving. There was a banquet that also honored the junior high, high school and college recipients of the award. My family, friends and some I taught with were there. I had to give a speech – my first ever in front of a microphone. The person preceding me was tall and I’m rather short, and I didn’t know I had to adjust the microphone to my height,so only the people sitting at tables close to the stage heard my speech. Oh well, it probably wasn’t that good anyway. I will say when the banner in my school came down at my request and things got back to normal, I was relieved.

When I retired, my kids again had a celebration for me in a banquet room at a restaurant. The only gifts I wanted were stones. I didn’t want anyone to spend money on something for me because I’d quit teaching. I’m a gardener and use stones throughout my gardens. My sister-in-law went to the house my parents had lived in before they died and asked the owners, if they’d be willing to let her get a stone from a flower bed where my dad put every stone he’d brought home from his vacations labeled with the place he got it. I do the same thing so stones were enough to make me happy.

This past Sunday was a very important life event for me - a book launch and signing of my first book, The Blue Rose. This was honoring something I'd worked at for at least 12 years when I started writing it under a different name. It included numerous revisions, a name change, editing, sending out query letters and receiving rejections. It also involved getting critique partners to read and make comments, taking writing classes both in person and online, going to numerous writing and mystery conferences and learning all I could about writing mysteries and the world of publishing. I joined local and online writing groups. But most important of all I was always writing, writing, writing. In addition to The Blue Rose, I wrote two more in the series, a middle-grade book, poetry and numerous short stories, some published, and I started writing for this blog a year ago.

I worked hard planning for the launch and worried few would come. I’d already sold some of my books here and there and received positive feedback from those who read them, but still I worried about not many people coming that day. It had appeared in a short blurb in The Tribune, and a larger one about it with my picture in the Champion Times, a free every other week paper, and I’d put up a notice at a local grocery store where almost everyone goes at least once a week, and at my local post office.

Sunday morning I was awake by 4:00 a.m. and out of bed by 4:30 making more sandwiches in case more showed up than expected. I went over my lists again and when it became light I hauled everything out to my car until it was so filled there was barely room for my daughter-in-law, Pam, and my daughter, Sue, when I picked them up to head for my church where I’d reserved a room. We were there by 11:00 making coffee, decorating, putting food out. It was scheduled for12:30, but at noon when Mass let out, people started filing in.

I had five large tables set up with blue table cloths, blue silk rose flower centerpieces, and eight chairs around each for guests to sit at. As the day progressed, the tables were mostly filled. Some who came at noon or shortly after stayed until the end. I was kept so busy greeting, hugging, signing and posing for pictures, I didn’t have time to eat until almost the end, and even then it was only a few bites. I couldn’t believe all the praise I was getting. People I’d graduated from high school with and only saw at five year reunions showed up. People I went to church with but didn’t know well came.

And, of course, family members came as well as many of my book club members from both book clubs and writer’s groups, too. My son came with Ellie, his four year old granddaughter, and they gave me a bouquet including three large blue roses. A reporter from Champion Times came to take my picture, waited around for an interview and finally had to come back at the end because I always had people around me. There were some who brought gifts, too. I sold 43 books and signed books some people had already bought from Amazon, and I got phone calls and e-mails afterwards from those who couldn’t come, but still want a book.

So how did I feel about this event? Elated, grateful, happy, all the superlatives there are to describe it. One of the best feelings was seeing so many people sitting around laughing, talking with friends, getting reacquainted with people they once knew, or meeting new people.  But most of all, I was on a euphoric high that my baby, The Blue Rose, was finally out and being honored. That people were impressed with what I’d done. After years of going to mystery writer conferences and meeting authors, for the first time I had people impressed with what I’d done, and saw me as a real author, too.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

An Interview with Casey Daniels

An Interview with Casey Daniels


Today I’m interviewing a fellow member of the Cleveland Sisters in Crime. Even before we started this chapter, I have enjoyed her Pepper Martin mystery series.

G.A      Pepper Martin is a favorite character to mine. When did you start writing the series and
            how did you come up with the character?

C.D.     The first Pepper Martin book, Don of the Dead was published in 2006 so it’s been a few
years since Pepper first came on the scene in the Pepper Martin mysteries. As for how I started writing the series . . . well, to put it simply, I love cemeteries. I hang out in cemeteries. I take photos, stroll, look at names and dates and relationships on tombstones and imagine backgrounds and histories for the people buried there. In fact, I once interviewed for a job as a part-time tour guide at a historic Cleveland cemetery. At the time, I was thinking of writing a mystery (I got my start in publishing in romance), but I couldn’t think of an interesting protagonist. As I was leaving the interview, it hit me – a cemetery tour guide! That’s how Pepper was born.

P.S. I didn’t get the tour guide job, but as it turns out, that was just fine! It gave me more time to write about Pepper’s adventures.

G.A.     Most of the Pepper Martin books take place in Cleveland. Since I don’t live too far away,
I enjoy reading about places that I’m both somewhat familiar with and some I’m not. You’re obviously quite knowledgeable about Cleveland. Is that why you chose this as Pepper’s home?

C.D.     There’s an old writing adage that says “Write what you know,” and I have to confess, I’ve never followed it. If we all wrote only what we know, we’d never write historicals or sci fi or heck, even mysteries since most of us have never been close to an investigation. But since Pepper’s books were to be my first mysteries, I did decide to stick close to what I know, and I know Cleveland. I’ve lived here all my life. Handling the landscape and the history just seemed to make sense in a city I’m familiar with. As it turns out, the Cleveland setting appeals to a whole lot of people all around the world so I’m glad I chose it! 

G.A.     The setting of a cemetery for this series is a little unusual and intriguing. You’ve told us about how you like cemeteries. Is it based on a real cemetery?

C.D.     Yes, Garden View Cemetery in the books is based on a real cemetery, but I’ve taken many fictional liberties. There are lots of interesting historic cemeteries in Cleveland so I’ve used a little of this one, a little of that one to create Garden View.

G.A.     You’ve occasionally moved Pepper to other locations. Why?

C.D.     Just to keep myself sharp and because a couple of stories seemed more “there” than “here.” In Night of the Loving Dead (book #4), Pepper visits Chicago. And in Wild, Wild Death (book #8) I send her to New Mexico. This was sort of cathartic. I have a friend who lives in New Mexico, a friend who had begged me to come visit for years. I finally gave in and did it . . . and guess what? It wasn’t until I was there that she told me she lived off the grid – no electricity and no running water! Was I happy in New Mexico? Absolutely not! But hey, it’s all fodder for fiction. I knew no one would hate New Mexico more than I did except Pepper so I decided to send her there. And yes, Pepper hated New Mexico!

G.A.     This is a question for Pepper. Pepper, are you getting tired of interacting with ghosts or would you miss them if you suddenly lost your ability to communicate with them? Would you like to get married to Quinn, raise children and live a more normal life?

P.M.    Pepper here. I did lose my ability to talk to the dead. That was in New Mexico in the adventure called Wild, Wild Death. At first, I was thrilled. But big surprise, after a little while, I realized my life was pretty quiet without the dead bugging me. Eventually, I had to make a choice, live a normal life or get my Gift back. I’ll let you guess what I chose!
            As for marrying Quinn . . . he hasn’t exactly asked me yet, and even if he did and even if I say (I’m saying “even if” just in case he reads this, I don’t want him to get a swelled head), I don’t think we could ever be a regular couple. After all, he’s a hard-charging homicide detective and he’s been dead himself, remember. He was ambushed by a bad guy and died for a few minutes in A Hard Day’s Fright.” He visited me when he was a ghost. With that in his background and my Gift in mine, I think our lives will always be a little . . . er . . . interesting.

G.A.     Casey, you’ve written other series. Tell us about the latest two series and what name you use for them.

C.D.     Right now, I’m doing three other series, all under the Kylie Logan name:

            One is the Button Box mysteries series, and it’s about a woman who owns an antique and vintage button shop. Book #3 in that series, Panic Button came out on New Year’s Eve.

            Kylie also has two other series premiering this year. The first League of Literary Ladies books, (Mayhem at the Orient Express), comes out on June 4. It’s about a group of bickering neighbors, their court-ordered book discussion group and the classic books they read that help them solve very real murders.

            The Chili Chick mysteries debut in October. The first one is Chili Con Carnage. It’s about two half-sisters who are running their father’s chili spice stand at chili cook-off’s because Dad is missing. Trouble is, Maxie and Sylvia hate each other. Add to that, Maxie’s romantic problems (she has a way of picking losers) and the fact that her latest boyfriend gets murdered and you can see how things get complicated.

G.A.     How do you keep your series separate in your mind? Do you ever mess up sometimes in keeping them straight? And how do you keep your multiple personalities separate when you write under so many different names?

C.D.     I work on only one book at a time. So right now, I’m working on Button Box mystery #4,
            The Button of Doom. When I’m done, I’ll work on League of Literary Ladies book #2. So I concentrate on only one book at a time, and that helps me keep things straight. These are both Kylie books so I don’t have to worry about Casey sticking her nose in and messing things up!

G.A.     Do you believe in ghosts? Why or why not?

C.D.     I do believe in spirits, ghosts and spirit energy. I’ve seen too much proof not to believe.

G.A.     Writing must take up most of the hours of your day. What do you do for relaxation and fun?

C.D.     Most of the time, I just collapse, but when I do have some energy, I weave and knit. I’m also a beekeeper, so in the summer and fall, that keeps me plenty busy. This year, we harvested 8 gallons of honey!

G.A.     Tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know.

C.D.     I’m the world’s worst spinner. I never bake. I volunteer at the county Archives, and I love doing research.

Thank you for visiting, Casey. If anyone who enjoys Pepper Martin hasn’t yet read the latest book – Supernatural Born Killers – get it. You’ll find it delightful.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Make Your Bed!

The New Year is an optimistic time filled with possibilities; it’s the perfect time to form new and useful habits. According to a Reader’s Digest article the most impactful habit is to make your bed every morning.

The theory is that making your bed is a keystone habit. That one habit creates structure and becomes a catalyst for other good behaviors and habits. Making your bed daily is correlated with better productivity, happiness and even helps you stick to a budget.

I’ll confess that I’m not a morning person and can’t talk to anyone until after 10:00 am, but I do make my bed every morning and have for years. I’ve perfected my waking routine. First, I smack the snooze button a few (okay, five) times, sit up and pull the sheet and comforter taut. Then I fall out of bed, stumble over to the other side and straighten the covers. Finished!

But what would happen if I actually took the time to carefully place those designer pillows on the bed? You know--the ones that most people, including me, have stuffed in the closet. Would this simple act propel me to better writing productivity? Or, would I just get annoyed? I had to find out.

I began this experiment on the auspicious date of 12/12/12. I thought about waiting until the New Year but decided that the date was too unique to pass up. That evening a family member remarked, “Oh, look, you made the bed.”  Seriously? I thought I had been making the bed for years. What else have I been doing incompletely?

I read that it takes twenty-one consecutive days for a new habit to stick. That means if I miss a day, I have to begin again with day one. At the start of my experiment I was a consistent bed maker including the designer, dust-collecting pillows. But, I skipped day thirteen due to a horde of houseguests arriving in the wee hours of the morning. So, on what would have been day fourteen, I had to start over.

My hope is that this newly formed bed-making-with-pillows habit will pave the way for more meaningful habits that become an automatic part of my life. One habit that I hope sticks is to write at least 1,000 words OR edit for two hours a day, five days a week as prescribed in Carolyn See’s, Making a Literary Life. Currently, I might write all day but then nothing for the next few days. I’m aiming for discipline and consistency to keep my momentum.

Are you working on new habits this year? Or, ditching unhelpful ones?

Monday, January 28, 2013


I’ve been playing the chess game that is kitchen and bath cabinet design this month. After twenty-eight years, we are finally renovating our bathrooms and kitchen. Cha-ching! (For younger readers, cash registers used to make that sound after a sale.) Our money now flies through the economy. No wonder the stock market is picking up. But that really isn’t the topic of this blog—it’s all about filler.

When I first laid out the kitchen, I tried to squeeze cabinets into every square inch of space fitting as small as six-inch cabinets into the design without fillers. Since I have a small kitchen that thinking made sense to me. It was the most efficient way to utilize the kitchen’s space. Filler is waste, right?

Wrong. Filler is necessary. Besides the fact that small cabinets (per square inch) cost twice what larger cabinets cost, there were other important reasons not to utilize all available space. Fillers provide installation space, symmetry and fill gaps between cabinets. Perhaps because of my design obsession, I started looking at novel filler and wondering what function it served in novels.

·      Connects
·      Provides contrast and changes pace
·      Adds symmetry and parallels to structure

Filler has no structural integrity. It’s not designed to support weight and joins two structurally sound cabinets providing a smooth and uninterrupted transition. Filler in novels is much the same—it doesn’t stand-alone. In Margaret Maron’s new novel, The Buzzard Table, she uses filler to transition between active and pivotal scenes. Although filler doesn’t further the plot, it also can’t bore. Maron uses restaurant dining as filler, but she discusses the food on the menu, which makes the filler (sorry) appetizing to the reader. We learn that in Deborah Knott’s area of North Carolina, oysters are readily available and adding onions to cornbread is the custom.

A larger cabinet’s function increases when surrounded by filler because it is stationary and provides distance between cabinets allowing for movement. In novels, too much action overheats a story and lessens the impact of pivotal scenes. Lowering the action by using filler emphasizes those scenes. After a dinner meeting at which a character reveals vital information to the investigators, Maron switches to a domestic scene that comes naturally in the story, but it also puts distance between the revealing scene and its application by investigators which follows in a later chapter.

In cabinet design, lining up similarly sized wall cabinets and base cabinets provides symmetry. Fillers can equalize space so that upper and lower cabinets are parallel. In novels, filler does the same thing, if you equate the upper cabinets as the plot and the lower cabinets as backstory. A theme in Maron’s work is the concept of discretionary authority at the local level, a particular favorite of mine. In Deborah Knott’s courtroom, Maron presents typical cases that are tried there, such as the barroom brawl, which have nothing to do with the plot. In The Buzzard Table, Deborah’s judgment in a case unrelated to the plot is harsh, the reasons why are explained, but her discretionary authority is illustrated and paralleled to her husband’s own discretionary authority in the plot when he chooses not to arrest a murder suspect. He fears Deborah’s disapproval, but the reader knows she will understand his reasoning because she has used discretion in the courtroom.

Can you spot what is wrong is this cabinet design?
Filler must not be used too frequently. If overdone, filler throws off the novel’s design jumbling the symmetry and structure. Maron’s secondary characters provide filler when a granddaughter and her dying grandmother go through her jewelry boxes, designating who gets what and telling the story of each piece. The history of the jewelry isn’t important, but the characters’ backstory is important because it explains relationships of primary characters and connects the structural elements of the story. Maron doesn’t use too much filler, but what she uses is natural and transitions the story from one scene to the next and back and forth through the multiple POVs presented in different chapters.

After my initial over-zealous design efficiency, I’ve come to appreciate fillers. Filler is necessary and welcome even though all the space isn’t being maximized because it enables those structural elements to work better. Kept to a minimum and provided they add interest, fillers help pace novels, emphasize more pivotal chapters by contrast, provide parallels, backstory and insight into characters. Like fillers in cabinet design, novel fillers are planned and included to help the overall design and symmetry of novels.       

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Wrapping it up: the final proof

A couple of weeks ago, I received the page proofs for Bad Policy.

I do not recall catching many errors in the material I read as a child. Perhaps publishing house professionals spent more time copyediting and proofing. Perhaps I did not read quite as critically as I do now. Over the last few years, I’ve read chatter from various internet groups and countless blogs lamenting the current state of the publishing industry as it applies to misspellings and incorrect grammar.

I know from my years as a consultant how difficult it is to produce a 200+ page document without error, and so I have been a bit forgiving with an error here or there. I know the cost of perfection is too high. However, finding something really egregious—especially homonyms—does subtract from my enjoyment and, therefore, perception of the book.

If I found two homonyms or several misspellings, I mentally pitched the book across the room. My thinking was that if the author didn’t care (as evidenced by these errors), why should I?

With this background, I approached my proofreading task knowing I would find some errors. I wanted to catch them all, so I read closely. Before this final read, I had read the manuscript innumerable times. My partner, Jan, had read it at least a half dozen. It had been criticized chapter by chapter by two critique groups. Several beta readers read it. The publisher and editor both read it at least twice.

I read it through again and found a number of issues but did not find the problem in this sentence: In the second grade, Sister Margarite beat it out of me, wrapping my knuckles bloody with the edge of a metal ruler she carried in the sleeve of her habit. Fortunately, Jan did.

On this very last time through the document, Jan realized I had used wrapping instead of rapping. I was amazed I had missed this, so I checked to see when this mistake first entered the manuscript process. That sentence was miswritten in the very first draft!

So when you read Bad Policy you won’t find that homonym error. I suspect that despite everyone’s best efforts you will find something else wrong, for which I apologize in advance. I suspect that in the future I will be a bit more tolerant of errant homonyms.

~ Jim

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Wake up and smell the coffee:

Today's Salad Bowl Saturday guest blogger is author Terry Shames who talks about the often-neglect sense in writing.


“The coffee bubbled, filling the kitchen with its rich, earthy scent.”
The One I left Behind, Jennifer McMahon

And the food:

“The fried corn fragrance of pupusas wafted toward them, mingling with the smoky aroma of a roasting chicken.” Blood of Paradise, David Corbett

“The Halloran house always smelled of strong foods—onions, cabbage, hamburger--…The Most Dangerous Thing, Laura Lippman

And the bookstore:

 “…the familiar and distinctive aroma of once-loved books…the musty smell of paper and dust like incense, a welcoming cloud of calm and serenity.” The Bookseller, Mark Pryor

And death:

“In the rapidly warming air, the scent of death had blossomed. It was worse than spoiled milk or rotting meat or piles of dead fish lying out in the sun…though some inventive combination of the three may have come close to matching the putrid smell.” The Cutting Season, Attica Locke

Scientists don’t know what part of the molecule actually lights up the sense of smell. But like sight, sound and touch, smells can evoke a world of memory and meaning. It is the sense that most quickly hurls us into a different time and space. A whiff of the floral shaving cream your father used can conjure  a memory of watching him shave before he went off to work—and never returned. The sharp smell of metal in the hot sun can throw you back to when a hot metal slide burned the backs of your legs as a child. The pungent smell of pine can take you back to the first time you backpacked in the mountains—and got lost and had to spend the night out, terrified that you couldn’t find your way back to camp.

As evocative as our sense of smell can be, it’s essential in crime writing. A detective stepping into a room where a fresh body lies smells something completely different from one investigating a body that has been discovered only after several weeks of getting ripe. The smell of sweat on a fearful victim, perfume on a sexy woman in a noir novel, smoke in a burned out murder scene—can evoke as much as sense of “being there” as descriptions of sights and sounds.

It’s hard to find fresh ways of describing something so fundamental as smell. Countless writers of crime fiction have described the smell of blood as “coppery.” That seems so accurate that it’s hard to come up with a new adjective, but to use copper borders on cliché.

However, it isn’t necessary to actually describe a smell. In the first three passages quoted above, the writers simply state the fact of the smell, inviting the reader to fill in from personal experience.

But a smell gives such immediacy to a scene that it seems worthwhile to come up with new images, as in the second two passages.

When editing your book, be sure you sprinkle that often overlooked, vital sense in your scenes as a way of bringing the reader into the world you’ve created.


Terry Shames’ debut novel is due July 9, 2013 from Seventh Street Books.  Set in her native Texas, A Killing at Cotton Hill features ex-chief of police Samuel Craddock, reputed to be the best lawman the town of Jarrett Creek ever had. Terry lives in Berkeley, CA with her husband and two rowdy terriers. Read more at Drop in on her blog with The LadyKillers on alternate Wednesdays.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Writing And Music

Writing And Music

I am not like some writers, including Steven King, who can write with music playing softly in the background or even blasting away. However, I think there are a number of similarities between fiction writers and songwriters. In some ways writing fiction and writing music are quite similar tasks.  Writing mysteries is like writing jazz  — there are general expectations but a there is also great deal of freedom within the general parameters.

The author and the songwriter both have only a brief time to grab the audience’s attention. Songs like Don’t Get Around Much Anymore start with a quick burst of sound. The up tempo bouncy tune might lead the audience to expect a happy song.  The lyrics, however, express heartbreak, and the contrast is striking. Both a hook early in the work and a touch of surprise  are elements in the popularity of songs and mysteries.

Pacing is another similarity in creating songs or mysteries.  Stardust, was moderately successful in its original jazzy tempo and presentation.  With lyrics and a slower, more somber tempo, Stardust became very popular and now is regarded as a classic. It’s doubtful that a novel today could successfully contain whole paragraphs devoted to describing the protagonist’s appearance like Dashiell Hammet’s The Maltese Falcon did.

Songs can be witty, ironic or playful like those written by Cole Porter.  They can comment on social issue like, Strange Fruit, a poem by Langston Hughes, memorably turned into lyrics and sung by Billie Holiday.  Well-written stories have tone and voice.  They can comment on social mores as Charles Dickens did in his best-known books.

As a storyteller, I enjoy songs that follow the story arc, i.e., they have a beginning, a middle and an end including many folk and popular tunes including Black Velvet Band, John Henry and Taylor Swift’s You Belong With Me.  

What books remind you of songs?  What songs remind you of music?  

Thursday, January 24, 2013



On December 19, 2012, I received an early Christmas present – a box delivered by UPS holding 20 copies of my first book; The Blue Rose, A Catherine Jewell mystery published through CreateSpace. The cover looked more beautiful than the picture of it on my computer. I skimmed through it and could find no problems. Even though I read, reread and edited it over and over for the last ten years, and I should be able to recite the whole book from memory, there’s something special about reading it as a real book.

I first decided to self-publish a year ago. I’d been considering it even longer than that after reading articles in The Writer, Writer’s Digest and Time. I started reading some blogs about the benefits of self-publishing, like Dean Wesley Smith’s blog, and I ordered mysteries by self-published Guppies. I’d long heard negative comments about those who self-published, but I found almost all those I ordered very well done. Not all were to my taste, but that’s a personal thing and not related to the quality of the book. Over the years, I’d certainly bought lots of traditionally published books that have disappointed me, and I’d found just as many minor glitches in those books as in the self-published ones.

I think a lot of the negativity of self-publishing goes back to vanity presses which authors paid to have books published, and from what I’d heard, many self-published books are not well written or well edited  so I can understand why some hesitate to buy them or to go that route themselves for publication.

Why did I choose to do this? It certainly would be easier to have someone else handle all the work required to self-publish. Partly it was the age factor. I was tired of waiting to get it published. I wanted to see my first book and others published before I said my last good-bye.  I started The Blue Rose under a different title over ten years ago. I sent numerous queries out over the years, although not nearly as many as other dedicated authors do. After each rejection, I’d quit querying for a while to tend my garden and do other things before I’d start to query again.

Meanwhile I kept writing because I could not let go of Portage Falls and my characters. Plots kept jiggling around in my head before I went to sleep, while walking in the woods, gardening or driving someplace. I finished two more books in the series as well as a middle-grade mystery. I also continued writing poetry and started writing short stories. And still except for some of my poetry and short stories, my books gathered dust waiting for someone other than my critique partners and beta readers to read them. It’s getting harder and harder to get the attention of the big publishers or agents. I tried a few small publishers. Most wanted a shorter mystery than mine, and I was not willing to make such drastic cuts to hit the required word limit. Then I stopped querying even the small publishers, when I considered the time frame and the pressure to sell so many books before they’d consider the second book. Even if I reached that quota, it would be another year or two before the second book was published and the same time frame for the third book.

I love writing, but I enjoy so many other things, too. I don’t want to neglect family and friends, my social activities, gardening, walks, concerts, plays, reading and the list goes on and on. I know promotion is a big part of being published, and I intend to do that, but with self-publishing I don’t have the pressure of having to sell several hundred books or more before my publisher will publish my next book. When I think my book is as polished as it can be, I can publish it. I can slowly build a reader base and not worry about how many books are sold. Beyond my blog commitment, I have only self-imposed deadlines to meet for my books. I’m not a wealthy person by any means, but financially my only goal is to break even with a small profit to report to the IRS.

Why did it take me almost a year to do this? It was partly the fear factor and partly learning how to format for both a print and e-book. I’d asked one of my grand-daughters, a graphic artist, if she’d create my cover. She enthusiastically agreed, but since she’d never done a book cover before it engendered much procrastination since she was unsure of the process and worked full time. She had to learn to draw roses. Then she needed a picture of a dead body. She got that when I asked my son to pose as a dead person. This past year a  lot of things happened that took up my time, but it was worth the wait to unpack that box of 20 books and hold one in my hands.

The Blue Rose as a print book can be ordered through Amazon and my e-books through Smashwords or Amazon Kindle.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Dreaded Rewrite

Ever notice how hard it is to regain your writing momentum when you've been away from a project for a while?  A successful author might not have this issue because they're probably used to the schedule set by their team (agent, editor, publisher, etc.) and so don't have huge gaps in their writing, but I noticed it recently.

I got married back in July and had been planning for the occasion for over a year.  Somewhere about six months before the wedding, I decided that my creative juices were primarily focused on the big "party," and the thought of being creative elsewhere seemed too taxing to my brain.

To be perfectly honest, that's also about the time that a particularly nasty bit of rewriting needed doing.  Some feedback I'd gotten suggested that I didn't have enough red herrings in my mystery, which I agreed with.  Unfortunately, this meant revising several scenes throughout the book and finding ways to throw my future readers off the scent of the true culprit.  I had started on the necessary changes, but soon discovered that it would take much more planning and thought than I'd originally hoped.  The hiatus for the wedding planning was a handy excuse.

Then after the wedding I had to plan out the honeymoon, which wasn't until the end of October.  And then, of course, came the holidays.  But fear not, I began revisions on the book at Chapter 1 shortly after we returned from Greece, so I didn't procrastinate too much longer, but I still dreaded that murky middle where the Red Herrings and the True Culprit threads wove closer together.  Several doubts plagued me at that time:  How would I have my protagonist hunt down and eliminate the Red Herrings?  When was it okay to let the audience see the True Culprit?

I'm a huge fan of the movie "Murder By Death," so, in deference, I didn't want to wait until the last minute to "introduce" the villain, but I also didn't want to make it so obvious that my readers would grow bored with the story after page 50; hence the need for the Red Herring.  Each chapter I got to led me closer and closer to this tangled mess I'd left behind over a year before, and with each chapter done, I felt a looming sense of dread.  Would I be able to pull this off?

A couple weeks ago, I finally got to the chapter where the real and perceived villains meshed, and I froze for a good 30 minutes, trying to think my way through it.  Eventually I just started typing and was successful in moving the story forward, but I now have to go back and polish it, not to mention the remaining chapters that still need to be rewritten.  There's still a lot of trepidation inside of me; especially since it's been so long since I'd been involved in this story.  I have to reconnect with my characters again, and remember how each one reacts to the situations they're in.

I'm sure every author had these same issues with their first full-length novel.  At least I hope so.  Because believing that Sue Grafton had to work through this gives me hope that I'll eventually figure it out, too.