Tuesday, September 24, 2019

My next book is having an identity crisis.

It’s my husband’s fault.  Sort of.  I’m totally blaming him regardless.  Here’s what happened.  Sort of.  This isn’t a story so much as backstory. 

There’s a pattern to the titles in the Love in Andauk series.  You’ve noticed the pattern, right?  Raise your hand if you noticed the pattern.  I will explain in case there’s someone in the back not raising a hand.

The titles are parts of familiar sayings.  Not clichés.  They come from familiar, wise sayings because that sounds a whole bunch better than pointing out that my titles are all clichés.  If that was your answer when you raised your hand, you can put it back down.  Everything Old finishes with is new again.  Out of the frying pan comes before Into the Fire.  The third book was going to be called Mind Over Matter. 

I settled on that title some time ago.  I think it fits the book very well.  Recently, my husband pointed out that mind over matter is a complete saying and not only part of one, therefore, it does not fit the theme.  I knew that by the way.  I decided it was more important for the title to fit the book than to fit the theme.  I thought it was close enough.  But my husband was having a hard time letting this go.

The fact that it didn’t quite match the other titles started to bug me, too.  And it didn’t only bug me that my husband kept bringing it up.  I really didn’t want to start over.  I already went through a hundred or so sayings trying to come up with something I liked, and going back would mean admitting I missed a good one the first time.  But if the titles are going to have a theme, they all need to work within the theme.  I reluctantly went back to the figurative drawing board. 

I came up with two possibilities.  This is a case where two is not better than one.  I only needed one title, which meant now I had to choose.  The first one, By Its Cover, felt more like it went with the story.  The second one, To Those Who Wait, just looked prettier.  When I slapped those titles on any of the fifteen or so different cover backgrounds I’ve created, the capital Ts and Ws have similar loops and show up in pairs and line up without any descenders trying to intrude on the lower line.  It’s so much easier to place.   

That’s really not a good reason to choose a title.  I might as well pop random letters on the cover until something looks nice.  By Its Cover isn’t necessarily an ugly title.  It just isn’t playing nicely with my non-artist’s eye.  The y wants to drop down and punch the C in the face and the I is overpowering the tiny word its leading and that last word is an awkward length because I can’t figure out if it’s too long or too short.  Of course, when I asked for help I got conflicting opinions.  Guess how much that helped.  And at least one person insisted I should keep Mind Over Matter.  So helpful.

I am confident, however, that those words will start behaving as soon as I stop being cranky at renaming the book at such a late stage.  Because that’s also the good news.  It’s late enough that one way or another, somehow or other, by hook or by crook, this cover will soon be finished and the title permanent. 

Monday, August 26, 2019

Maybe One More Week

I’m working on typing a draft of my next book.  It’s already written out, and I expect it to come out between 55000 and 60000 words.  How long will it take to type it?  Hey, that sounds like a math problem.  Let’s plug in some numbers for an estimate.

If I type 60 words per minute (I don’t know, but I think that’s reasonable.) and 3600 words in an hour, it should take about 16 hours.  Even if I have no more than 4 hours a day to type, the draft should easily be finished in a week, right?  It’s already been a week, and I’m not finished.  Let’s apply some life to those numbers to find out why.

Reason #1 – My handwriting is awful.
Every few sentences, I need to pause to squint at the page to figure out what a word is and ask myself why I wrote something that doesn’t make any sense until I figure out that I guessed wrong the first time.  Oh, that says snowy night, not swervy right.

Reason #2 – I edit as I type.
Sometimes I have to stop because I find a glaring continuity error or a stilted conversation or something else that needs immediate attention.  There will be more editing later, but if something is really bad it can’t wait.  Or if a character says, “Come up with something witty to say here when you type this.”  Yeah, I leave notes to myself in the draft when I’m really stuck.

Reason #3 – I can’t type fast enough.
I read what I’m typing, which should go without saying.  Now and then, I come to a part that I don’t remember very well.  I’ll get impatient and stop typing to read ahead because I need to see where it’s going.  If there’s something I don’t like, see reason number two.  It’s easier to change something as I go than to back up after I realize a conversation is confusing.  And if I don’t find anything I want to fix, I might look up and realize I’ve been reading for a half hour while not making progress on the typing.

Reason #4 – I get distracted.
Yeah, this should probably go without saying, too.  Who doesn’t get distracted?  Sometimes I hear the washer shut off and get up to put the clothes in the dryer.  Sometimes the phone rings.  Sometimes I remember that I’m sitting at a computer with internet access.  Sometimes I look at the calendar and notice it’s been a month since my last blog post.  Sometimes I grudgingly push the typing aside to work on that.

Reason #5 – My fingers get tired.
Have you ever typed for four hours straight?  I don’t mean just sitting at a computer or even composing as you type.  I mean trying to keep up a constant rate of words per minute.  That math problem assumes I am a robot.  If I manage 90 minutes or so with nothing getting in the way, the tiny muscles in my fingers begin to protest by aching and slipping onro the erong keya mote frequently.  When I sense a sharp increase in backspace use, it’s time for a break. 

Break’s over now, back to work for me.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Love in Andauk Continues

The second book in my Love in Andauk series, Into the Fire, is now available.  I guess that means I should start talking about book three.  What?  You want to know more about book two?  I just said it was available.  Go ahead and read it, then let me know if you still have questions.

Let’s talk about book three.  I haven’t finished the first draft, but it already has a title.  I’m kind of excited about that.  I think the hardest decision when I started the book was whether or not to write it in 1st person.

If you’re a fan of my work, thank you.  But what I meant to say is if you’re a fan, you’ve picked up on the fact that some of my books are written in 1st person and some in 3rd.  The guy usually plays the biggest role in which point of view I choose because 1st person is always the girl telling the story.  I have to ask myself if I want to include the guy’s perspective.  Usually, this is obvious as soon as I start forming the story in my head.  Sometimes he has interesting family members or situations I want to be able to write.  Sometimes it feels important to show how he’s progressing in the new relationship.

The choice wasn’t as obvious for this book.  The main guy has no fun qualities, no quirky family, no investment in the growing relationship and… Come on, you know I’m kidding!  Of course he’s great.  Sometimes a story just seems to work better when the reader gets to learn things about the guy or find out what he’s up to at the same time as the girl.  That’s what I mostly thought when I was outlining this third book.  There were still a few scenes I wanted to write from the guy’s perspective though.  It wasn’t enough.  I’ve read books where the perspective shifts for only a couple of chapters, and I found that awkward and annoying.  I don’t want to write awkward or annoying unless it’s something the characters are doing to each other.  Because that can be funny.

To get rid of the uneven split, I had to either cut out some things or write some things from a different perspective.  There are a lot of “things” involved when I’m being vague on purpose.  Why am I being vague on purpose?  Who is telling this 1st person story?  Which guy is playing a significant role in it?  What is that title I was happy to settle on so early?  Why all these questions?  I’m trying to give you more reasons to check out Into the Fire.  All of these questions (and so many more) can be answered if you read book two because there is a short preview of book three at the end of the ebook version.  You’re welcome.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Not Even My Characters Are Poets

Perhaps I could share a few lines on my progress
A verse or two about the book coming next
But Emily is awful rhymed with Book Three
Nothing that sounds like Joseph agrees with me
One thing that’s easy for me to admit
Is that I am most definitely not a poet

I thought I’d try something a bit different
Maybe something with a lyrical bent
But my words don’t bend or tilt or sway
I don’t know why I tried to write this way
When it comes to form, my default is couplets
And that’s only one reason I’m not a poet

I prefer to write stories about love and romance
Couples that start as friends or meet by chance
There are figurative storms they need to weather
And overcome obstacles to get together
Possibly with actions that are mildly heroic
But not even my characters are poets

And while this post is getting hairy
Because all this rhyming is really scary
There’s no reason to worry, no reason to fret
All my books are prose.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Into the Fire

The second book in the Love in Andauk series has a cover. And it has a description. We all know how I feel about covers. Here’s how I feel about writing a description. Arghhhh!

I need to take a story of thousands and thousands of words and boil it down to about two paragraphs. I need to introduce the two main characters without explaining how they end up together. I need to tell some of what happens in the book but not give away anything that happens in the book. I’m a little frustrated just thinking about it.

The blurb is how the book is marketed, and marketing is all about managing expectations. I need to sell it without overselling it. The book needs to meet or exceed expectations or people will be disappointed. But I can’t be too bland in describing the book or no one will want to read it in the first place. How do you say the book is really good but not really good? While also trying to avoid subjective adjectives altogether.

Even if I manage that, people are different. The exact same description will provoke different reactions and expectations from the various people who read it. So I need it to sound really good but not really good to the people who will like it just a bit better than they expected to like it. How is this accomplished?

I don’t know. Here’s what I do instead. I write a brief description of the book. I come back to it a few days later and change a few words. A few days after that, I delete the second paragraph. I think about it longer, then rewrite that second paragraph. I immediately add a word to the first sentence that I think makes all the difference. A few days after that, I change that word. Then I sit and stare at what I’ve written for a while. That doesn’t help, by the way. I delete a sentence and let the blurb sit a few more days. When I come back, I decide that sentence was actually good but don’t remember the exact wording. I start over and end up writing something pretty close to what I had before I started over. That’s when I figure I’ve done the best I can.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Fun Work

    “Where is your Christmas spirit?”
    “I think maybe you have enough for both of us.”
    Gaby shook her head. “That didn’t fly last year either. I’m not saying you have to go nuts. But you could at least get a tree.”
    “A tree? That takes more work than most everything else.”
    “But it’s fun work,” Gaby insisted.
                  --The Christmas Project

Wrong holiday? Maybe. But it fits with my theme. I have a theme this month because I had a couple different thoughts, and I’m going to try to tie them all together with this idea of work that is fun. If it seems as though I’m veering into a tangent at some point, just keep thinking fun work and everything will fit.

I was recently reminded of a time when I was about eleven or twelve years old. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to give up for Lent. My mom suggested that I could always give up time by adding something extra. It’s possible I interrupted her reading the church bulletin because I remember she was very quick to point out Stations of the Cross happening on Thursday evenings.

At the time, I had no idea what that was. My mom said it would probably only take about a half hour. Committing to a half hour a week sounded a lot easier than trying to come up with a specific dessert that I might reasonably expect to encounter during Lent but not at any times when it might be difficult to refuse.

We lived right down the street from the church (on a street named Church Street) so it was simple enough to walk there a few Thursdays. I loved it. It was the first time in my young life that I actually found myself looking forward to going to church. I think it was the story aspect that drew me in. Yes, it’s a sad, painful story. But I already knew it had a happy ending. I was born a sucker for happy endings. Then I had a different problem. Since I ended up enjoying the sacrifice, maybe it wasn’t a sacrifice at all. I was afraid it didn’t “count.” Clearly, I was missing the point.

Lenten sacrifices are not supposed to make us miserable. They are supposed to remove distractions to bring us closer to God. There can be joy in that. There should be joy in that. There is nothing wrong or shameful in realizing you don’t miss what you gave up, that what you gained was better. The prayer and fasting and almsgiving that are the hallmarks of Lent can be fun work. There’s my theme.

My job is fun work. I love writing. I love sitting around daydreaming about what might happen next. There are parts I don’t love. Sometimes I let in a little stress over a deadline or frustration over a scene that isn’t coming out as I envisioned. And sometimes I realize it’s already been a month since I posted anything to my blog and because I’ve been doing very little writing recently, I have to stretch really hard to connect what I have been doing to my regular work. 

Because we’re enjoying all this fun work of Lent, Easter is right around the corner. We figured out many years ago that a traditional egg hunt is a challenge with kids of different ages. If you hold the older ones back, they complain that the little ones will find all the eggs first. If you don’t hold them back, they snatch up all the eggs before the little ones can find them. I really didn’t like the way it turned into a competition. Breaking up fights over who saw an egg first does not fit under the umbrella of fun work. Plus, it might rain anyway.

Now I hand each kid a plastic egg with a clue inside about where to find the next egg, which will also have a clue and so on with a treat at the end. They’re all looking for different color eggs so no one has to get there first. The kids really enjoy it, and I enjoy putting all the individual hunts together. Creating word puzzles and bad poetry is fun work. It also has a happy ending when I get to watch the kids figure out the clues. However, I’m making twelve hunts for twelve kids this year, about eight or nine eggs each. That amount of work can be time-consuming no matter how fun it is.

This is why my books are sort of on hold. Everything Old releases this week though. Yea! That’s my happy ending. And now I have two themes. This wasn’t random at all.

Monday, March 11, 2019

What Do I Love About Asking for Reviews?

Everything.  The advance copies are ready. That means it’s time to fire up the sarcasm so I can write about my favorite part of being an author, seeking reviews. There are several reasons I love this. The first is figuring out where to send these not-quite-finished books. Review copies are free so it might seem that finding people to accept them would be easy. But reading a book and writing a review does take time. That can be a big ask. (If anyone happens to be thinking, “No, it’s not. I would love a free review copy,” please contact me.)

Any blog or review site that pops up in a simple search will be too inundated with requests to even notice mine. I don’t blame them; I’m only explaining why this process is so time consuming. I usually end up reading reviews on these sites and marking books I might like to read. Then I try to follow links to similar, less trafficked sites. These can be great, too. I get side-tracked reading various posts before I even get to the page that says the reviewer is no longer accepting requests, or retired from blogging two years ago or simply removed the contact info. Then I wonder where my day has gone. Who knew the internet could be so distracting?

This isn’t my first book. It’s not even my tenth. Because I’ve done this before, I can add the list of contacts I used for the last book.

But I have to cross off everyone who didn’t reply or said no to my review request.

Then cross off the people who accepted a copy of the book but never wrote a review.

I briefly reconsider because a new request might remind those people to feel guilty.

Make sure everyone knows I was kidding about that last step.

Cross off the people who no longer have an active blog or review site.

Now I can include the one contact left on the old list. Yea!

Eventually though, it’s time to compose a nice polite review request. This is probably the most fun of all.

First, I consider several greetings before settling on the traditional Dear ____.

Then I mention where I found the email while hoping that proves I read the site’s policies, confirmed my book fits in the categories accepted, and that I am not a robot. (Full disclosure: I still don’t know if I’m supposed to include the poles for traffic lights so I might be a robot.)

Write out the description of the book I’m offering.

Delete that. Insert a link to the goodreads page instead because it has more details.

Delete the link because it might make the message look like spam.

Write the description again and include a cover picture.

Delete that. What if the recipient is using a different email program that screws up the formatting and puts the cover in the middle of the text?

Decide that a link will be okay after all. It will keep the message shorter.

Spend several minutes lamenting that it looks like a form letter no matter how I word it. There’s just no way to keep it short and to the point without saying essentially the same thing each time.

Go back to including the full description.

Wonder how I thought anything that involves cutting and pasting looks less form lettery.

An hour later, send the message that is three simple sentences and a link.

Now here’s the real honesty. These words are difficult to write because of what I’m not writing. My past books have garnered more positive reviews than negative, and that gives me hope. But there have been reviews that included phrases like “cure for insomnia” and “most confusing book ever.” No matter how I word the request, each one I send includes implicit permission to publicly criticize or even abuse something I’ve spent the last few months pouring my heart into. I have to keep my sense of humor or I won’t be nearly brave enough to try again.

[My 13-year-old daughter read a draft of this post and said, “I want a review copy.” I wasn’t sure what to do with a possibly biased review so I’m including it here. “4 1/2 stars Everything Old was very fun to read. At a couple of points, I wanted to yell at the characters, though the “good guys” were overall likeable. If wanting to yell at the characters really bothers you, this book might not be for you. But if you are looking for a good romance with subtle humor, I’d recommend it.”]

Monday, February 11, 2019

A Very Silly Dream Come True

My next book now has a cover! Who wants to hear the story behind it?

I’ll tell it anyway.

The stories for most of my covers are fairly similar. It starts with me thinking up a picture of how I want the cover to look. Then I use a camera to capture this picture. It never works on the first try. Or the second or the third or… I usually end up beating my head against the wall for a while until the picture in my head decides it needs to change to match something I have to work with.

Then I have to put a title on it. Me and font don’t exactly get along. It’s not that I don’t like font. I love font. There are so many varieties. But that’s the problem, too many choices that all seem equally good to me. I keep slapping different titles on the cover until one of them screams “I’ll work!” or “Use me before your eyes start watering from staring at fonts.”

The cover for 
Everything Old was different. I didn’t know what I wanted it to look like. Given the title and description, a picture of old things seemed like a possibility. But I didn’t want really old things, dated was a better word. I needed a picture of old but not necessarily old old things. Who knows what vague means?

I went on a bit of a treasure hunt. I searched my house for things that fit this description. The only actual treasures are a couple of antique books. Both books on the cover are more than a hundred years old. Then I found an old phone and a cassette tape. The cloth and trim in the background are from a craft kit I inherited from my mom. The kit was packaged around 1970. My collected items now represented four decades and two centuries. This seemed like a good start, but how did I want to arrange this hodgepodge into a cohesive picture?

Well, at least twenty different ways, and I didn’t like any of them. I moved things around again and again. I asked for advice, which may have been a mistake. Everyone seemed to prefer the pictures with one of the books open. I took a lot more pictures while trying to prop open a fragile 150-year-old book without damaging it. None of them were quite right. I kept thinking I needed something to tie everything together. Then I had a thought, a memory. I’m old enough to remember when cassette tapes were the preferred media for music but not so old they weren’t popular when I was a kid. What kid didn’t long to pull out all the tape? It was always so tempting. A few times I actually pulled out a few feet of tape before I wound it back up feeling guilty.

Staring at my pile of random items, I realized I could literally tie it all together with the tape from the cassette. I’m no artist. I don’t know if pulling out the tape actually improved my pictures. But I know it was fun. I didn’t need that tape for anything. We don’t have anything that would play it so I’m not sure why it was even still in the house. Tape everywhere, pictures snapped, cover created. Woohoo.

Now the sad part. When I was finished and the tape was finished. I still felt the need to wind it up again. And I did.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

I Resolve to Make a Resolution

We’re more than a few days into January and I’m still wrestling with myself over a good goal for the year. I don’t really do professional resolutions. I do like to have a plan for what I hope to have accomplished by the end of the year. This year, I just can’t decide. This year, I only know I’m going to release… something.

I’m working on a new series called Love in Andauk. There will be four books in the series. In looking at my progress so far, my first thought is that I could get all four books released by the end of 2019. That sounds great. But it also sounds ambitious enough that I’m afraid to commit myself to it. I’ve been panicking a little at the idea.

Four books!? In a year? Do I really think I can pull that off?

Sure. I’ve done it before. Remember Hartford?

I remember how hard that was. Maybe I should plan on releasing two books this year and two next year.

But there are other things I want to write. How will I ever get to those projects if I spend all my time lollygagging in Andauk?

I know how much time it takes to write a book. Spending six months each is not lollygagging.

But how much time have I already spent on these books?

Okay. I can plan on getting three books out this year. If I say four and don’t do four, I’ll feel like a failure. I need a goal I know I can meet.

So I need an easy goal? Is that what I’m saying? Why don’t I just plan to be lazy all year because I’m starting to sound as though I don’t want to work at all.

That’s a bit dramatic. I didn’t say it had to be an easy goal, just reasonable. I do still have a lot of work to do to finish three books. And maybe I can say three and still try for four.

Who am I kidding here? If I’m trying for four then the goal is four. That’s what trying means. I can’t have a real goal and some sort of pretend goal. I don’t know why I’m making this so difficult.

Yes, I do. We all know why. I already admitted I’m a big scaredy-cat. For now, I will resolve to release the first book in April. Look for more information (and probably a giveaway) on Everything Old coming soon.