Ending a Series

Saturday, November 25, 2017
As anyone who talks to me for more than a little while knows, I’m a big fan of Longmire, both the television show and the books. After the first season, the TV show diverged from the books in some significant ways, but still kept some of the best features that made me love the novels.

It is rare for a television program to have the depth of character, well-constructed plotting, and believability that Longmire captured. It was almost too good to be true. In fact, it almost wasn’t true prematurely when A&E, referred to among Longmire fans as The Network That Shall Not Be Named, decided the audience for the show skewed too old to match their preferred demographic.

From the fanbase arose The Longmire Posse, a group dedicated to first saving, then showing support for a new home for the series as the creators hunted for some other way to keep telling these stories. The Posse held regular tweet-fests lauding the characters and the excellence of the show. When Netflix picked it up, there was great jubilation.

For three more years, Longmire fans were treated to more stories about Absaroka County and its legend-worthy sheriff, Walt Longmire. But for Netflix, series have a limited life, and a year ago, they announced that this year would be the last season—for real this time. It probably was time to bring things to a close. Many popular series go on longer than they should, losing the vision and the momentum with which they began.

This week, that last season dropped on Netflix. Like most fans, I watched the episodes as fast as time allowed, curious as to what the writers would do to bring Longmire to a satisfying conclusion. I must admit, I had mixed emotions.

For those who haven’t seen this last season yet and want to find out for themselves how things are wrapped up, I have to warn you there are spoilers in the next few paragraphs.

The first thing I noticed was that they intentionally brought back characters from throughout the life of the show, some for a significant role, others for just a cameo. Even Hector, who was killed a couple of seasons ago, managed to appear in a vision. It seemed a little hokey at first, but I think most fans liked this touch, raising memories of episodes they’d enjoyed throughout the life of the show.

And then the stories got deep into the Irish Mob, the heroin trafficking, and the questions of what had happened to Malachi, was Nighthorse good or evil, and would Walt and Vic ever get together? As with most of the writing, I was enthralled by the drama. This was the show I had grown to love.

But in the last episode, too much got wrapped up with tidy bows. Several things didn’t make sense to me.

Number one was the sudden romance between Walt and Vic. I know lots of fans have wanted this to happen for a long time, but I think the way the characters developed made it plain that while there was some attraction, they each had personalities too strong to come together. The scene in bed did nothing for me, and I just wanted it to be over with.

Number two, which might be a continuation of number one, was Vic’s plea that she couldn’t go on worrying about whether Walt was going to be killed or not. Which is fine. Anyone involved with a member of law enforcement or the military has to be concerned. It’s a dangerous job.

But Walt never expressed the same concern about Vic. It’s as if he didn’t care enough to care whether she might be killed while executing her job. And while he retires, something that was obviously coming based on earlier episodes of this season, she is going to continue as a deputy in the Sheriff’s Department of Absaroka County. And then he goes off to hunt for a mythical treasure while she goes back to work.

How the heck could two people who supposedly had finally admitted their feelings for one another blandly go their separate ways?

Then, because Walt retired, we have problem number three. Who will be the next Sheriff? Now, the obvious choice is Vic. She has the experience, she’s tough enough to carry out the job, and she’ll have time on her hands now that Walt has taken off with his horse. But Walt says she’s not good at politics and his choice for sheriff is… wait for it… Cady!

This is a young woman who has no law enforcement experience, who I can’t imagine rounding up her deputies and leading them into dangerous situations, or trekking through the snow or suffering under the burning sun staked to the ground. She’s a lawyer. An office person. I can’t imagine her leading Vic and Ferg and Zach into the fray. And speaking of Zach, how is she supposed to be his superior now that they’re in a romantic relationship? That wouldn’t be allowed in any work situation.

End of spoilers.

I know the writers and producers were looking to give a satisfying ending to the show, and in large part, they did accomplish that. This is one of those shows that I will rewatch in the future. But as a writer, I do have problems with it. Perhaps Season 6 will become more acceptable to me with familiarity. And I will always be grateful for the wonderful stories this show told.

Heros, Heroines, and Detectives

Sunday, October 01, 2017

One of the key points in a story is variously referred to as the “black moment” or the point at which “all is lost” or “the dark night of the soul.” It’s the point at which your main character reaches their low point, where everything they’ve been working toward turns out to be false, and there’s no hope of ever achieving their goal.

Whatever you call it, it usually occurs shortly before the climax of a book. In fact, it sets up the climax and the thrill ride to the end as the hero or heroine comes out of it with a revelation as to what they’re really searching for or a new way to achieve their goal.

In mystery stories, the black moment is often the discovery that the primary suspect in a murder couldn’t possibly have done it. Frequently, that suspect is killed, showing the sleuth that the killer must be someone else. The detective has to start over with the evidence and figure out where they went wrong.

Unlike other genres, the main character isn’t necessarily the one who experiences this emotional death. Sherlock Holmes is the perfect example of this. When circumstances appear to stump him, he, like a superhero, doesn’t despair. Instead, he withdraws into his own head, furiously thinking until he arrives at the solution. Sometimes he’s not wrong, but to all appearances he’s failed, especially in the eyes of Dr. Watson, the chronicler of his stories.

When I was developing the indomitable Lilliana Wentworth, I had this kind of sleuth in mind. She does have her flaws and weaknesses, but nothing can keep her down when she sets her mind to it.

The series opens with her still mourning the death of her husband after nearly two years, and she fears that she’s developing dementia, something she’s seen too much of in the retirement home where she lives. She has closed herself off from most other people. The only bright spot in her life is her small collection of African violets.

And then there’s a murder, and she’s the primary suspect. Forced into proving her innocence, she finds renewed purpose in solving the crime.

For three books, Lilliana Wentworth is Sherlock Holmes. Or Jessica Fletcher. Or Miss Marple. Nothing really rattles her, even when her initial deductions turn out to be wrong.

And then, as I was writing “Double Pink Murder,” Lilliana had a genuine black moment. It wasn’t something I had planned for my invincible heroine. It just happened as I was visualizing the scene. Part of me always intended on going back and changing it.

But during revision, I got to that scene and just couldn’t eliminate her dark night of the soul. I wrestled with this because I knew in my heart of hearts that that’s the way I would have reacted in that situation. It’s how anyone who was human, given the circumstances, would feel. So I left it in.

But I was always uncertain about it, fearful that Lilliana wouldn’t live up to the expectations readers had of her character, and they’d be disappointed. So far, no one has mentioned that. Not my beta readers and not in any of the reviews the book has gotten. But I’ve still been uneasy.

Until I saw the meme posted at the beginning of this blog on Facebook recently. Because it really is true. The indomitable hero—or heroine—is still human. It’s not that the heroine doesn’t cry. The heroine is the person who is able to cry; and then carry on and emerge victorious.

Starting A New Book

Saturday, July 01, 2017
There are lots of moving parts that have to come together in order to write a good mystery.

You need a sleuth, a victim, a murderer, and enough suspects to keep the reader from guessing whodunit too early in the book. Each of your suspects and, of course, the killer, must have a motive to kill the victim.

You need an interesting setting. Most people don’t consciously think about this, but could Robert B. Parker’s Spenser live anywhere other than Boston? Setting often becomes a character in itself. Certainly how your protagonist sees their setting tells you a lot about them. When the setting is different for every book in a series, like Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon mysteries, it’s even more important to focus on it. What is it about this particular place that makes it essential to this story?

You need a convincing murder weapon, one that was available to the murderer and that he or she would logically use.

You need clues, carefully planted, so that when the reader comes to the climax, they are not only surprised by who the killer is, but also have the reaction, “I should have guessed!” In other words, then ending has to be logical and proceed from the information earlier in the story.

If you’re writing part of a series, you have to remember to bring in whatever continuing subplots you have so that readers who are waiting for the answers to questions such as “Will they or won’t they?” or “Does this couple succeed in adopting a child?” or “Whatever happened to X’s sister?” are answered or at least addressed. And you have to bring in just enough of them to satisfy the reader without overwhelming the main plot.

You also have to have what I call the writer’s hook. Just as there’s a hook for the reader (usually stated in the book description) that makes them want to read the book, the writer needs something to make her want to write the book.

Since I do write in series, I already have my sleuth and a cast of characters from which to choose for the victim, killer, and suspects. But I’m not fond of killing my continuing characters, so I usually come up with a new character for the victim. Unfortunately, sometimes that means killing off a great character. I really loved Fox Fordyce in “Royal Purple Murder” and would have liked to keep her around. But then I would have had to write a different book. There are days when I regret that I didn’t do that.

Making one of the continuing characters the killer has the same problem. If I send them off to prison, they won’t be available for future books. So, again, I usually come up with a new character who won’t be missed by either me or my readers. It’s easier to consider a continuing character as a suspect, but you can’t always have them not be the killer, or regular readers will eliminate them right off the bat, spoiling the surprise.

Right now, I’m at the stage of developing the characters for a new book. My brain has had some ideas for new ones, but I’m not sure whether they’re victim, killer, or suspect. There’s a lot of exploration at this stage. I spent four hours yesterday researching something for one of those new characters. Fascinating stuff, but probably very little of it will make it into the book.

This morning I pulled some books on Arizona off my bookshelf for another character. I’m not sure whether they’ll help me or not. But I’ll spend a lot of time looking through them to see if a bit of information sparks a new aspect of this character.

I spend a lot of time on developing characters since it’s the characters who define the story, Most of the time when I’m writing, I sit back and watch the scene play out in my head. The characters do things that are natural for them to do, so it’s important for me to know them well. That doesn’t mean one hasn’t popped up in the middle of a story and demanded to control what happens next. This is both unsettling and delightful. Usually, these unexpected intrusions have a mind of their own, like Athena leaping from the head of Zeus full grown, and I don’t have to work at character development for them very much.

So far, in the African Violet Club Mysteries, the setting has been the village of Rainbow Ranch, Arizona. But having too many murders occur in a small town, often referred to as Cabot Cove Syndrome, becomes unbelievable over time. So should I have Lilliana go somewhere else once in a while? I’ve been thinking about that and even have a few places in mind.

As an example of a weapon, the softball bat in "True Blue Murder" fit perfectly with Lilliana Wentworth, my senior sleuth, as the killer. She played softball regularly and the bat belonged to her. It was left in a storage room, so it was also available to other suspects who had access to the building.

Right now, I’ve got a good murder weapon for the new book, but I’m not sure it’s capable of being wielded by all of the suspects. A puzzlement.

Since I don’t even know who is killed, much less who killed him or her, the clues are on the back burner.

I’m juggling subplots in the background, weighing what could be the next development with each of them while not focusing on them. Again, this has to wait until I know more about the people in the book.

As far as the writer’s hook, that was easy for this book. In “Double Pink Murder,” I needed a disruption at City Hall when Lilliana went to visit the police chief. Out of a newspaper article I’d read not too long ago, I came up with the idea of a developer who wanted to make an old ghost town into a tourist attraction. Now, I love ghost towns. The whole idea fascinates me. There are many of them in Arizona where mining operations petered out, and the population abandoned them. I also love Old Tucson Studios, a western town that was used for the sets of a whole bunch of western movies. They do tours and reenactments and have a lot of memorabilia from those westerns. So rubbing those two ideas together got me really excited. I’m getting all sorts of jumping off points from that for the plot.

It’s early days for this story, but I love the discovery stage of writing a new novel. I thought you might find it interesting.


Thursday, June 22, 2017
It seems as if blogging on a daily basis never works out for me. Perhaps that’s because each time I start, it’s because I’m trying to motivate myself to work harder. But it’s also possible that I feel like I’m not working hard enough because I can’t due to circumstances.

In this case, it’s my vision. For months, I’ve had problems seeing clearly. Using my eyes for any extended period of time is difficult. That includes working on the computer, reading, and even watching television, although that presents the least stress. Reading street signs while driving had become impossible. And I avoid driving at night because I can’t see clearly enough.

I thought it was time to get that cataract surgery my optometrist has been talking about for three years. When it came time for my regular appointment, she agreed with me and recommended an ophthalmologist. It took a month to get that appointment, so more time with bad vision.

When I saw the ophthalmologist, she wasn’t very encouraging. She told me my vision was worse than could be accounted for by the cataracts I have, but she couldn’t find anything wrong with my vision otherwise. No macular degeneration, no glaucoma, nothing. She couldn’t guarantee my vision would be better after cataract surgery. In fact, she couldn’t guarantee it wouldn’t be worse, although I had the feeling that was the usual doctor-being-cautious routine, because they can’t guarantee much of anything and don’t want to give you cause for a malpractice suit.

Needless to say, I wasn’t getting warm fuzzies from this situation, which she could tell, so she recommended I get a second opinion so I could feel more comfortable about my options. I asked her if she could recommend someone and she did. Another month’s wait for an appointment.

Meanwhile, the eye irritation I usually get this time of year from tree pollen and the dry, hot desert air got progressively worse. I added artificial tears to my daily routine.

The second ophthalmologist appointment happened this week. The good news is that this doctor was a lot more confident about the benefits of having cataract surgery and thought it would clear up my vision, although I’ll have to wear glasses at least part of the time afterwards. She had a plan, as opposed to an I-don’t-know-what's-going-on attitude. So I decided to schedule the surgery with her.

That will take place in two weeks. Between pre-op and post-op appointments and time for healing, followed by getting suitable glasses afterwards, I don’t see reading and writing getting any easier for a while. So I’m going to not put pressure on myself to accomplish a whole lot until August, which means there’s not much point in doing a daily progress blog.

As Gilda Radner used to say, it’s always something. See you in August.

Double Pink Murder is Now Live!

Monday, June 19, 2017
Wow, that was quick! It can take up to 72 hours from the time an author clicks "Publish" on Amazon until it's available for sale. Usually, it takes less than 24, but today it only took about an hour before I got the confirmation email.

Get your copy at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B072VQW52S/

I'll post what I've done so far today now, but I'll update this if I do anything later.

As expected, I spent a good deal of time researching material for the science fiction novel I have in my head. Fascinating stuff. I've always been intrigued by space and boldly going where no man has gone before, so I can spend hours and hours reading about habitable planets and red dwarf stars and such.

My cover designer, Susan Coils, is fantastic! When I sent her the specs for the paperback cover last week, she said she probably wouldn't get to it until "next week." Last night, the cover showed up in my mailbox. It looked perfect, so the print version of Double Pink Murder won't be too far behind the ebook version.

I also emailed a fellow mystery writer with what I keep in my series bible. Hmmm... that sounds like another blog post. If anyone's interested, let me know in the comments.

Post Days 3
Sunday, June 18, 2017
Sunday, a scheduled day off.

I'm starting to feel the itch to start a new novel. I can't go very many days without writing. It feels like a very long time since I wrote something new, even though it wasn't too long ago that I finished Double Pink Murder. Today I found myself daydreaming about what I will write next. I believe I'll break out the pen and notebook tomorrow morning and start brainstorming in earnest.

Posting Days: 2

Briefest Streak Ever

Saturday, June 17, 2017
My idea when I started this was to post a new entry on every writing day. Yesterday, I was very tired. I even went to bed early the night before and didn't get out of bed until 6:00 AM. That might seem early to you, but my cats think breakfast time is closer to five.

I put in a couple of hours working on my keyword list for some new Amazon ads. That certainly took a lot longer than I expected! There were many authors and book titles that KDP Rocket had found that were unfamiliar to me. Now, Dave Chesson says to review your keywords to make sure they're relevant to your book, because some publishers put books in categories where they think they'll rank high rather than ones that match their book. I've seen that myself, so I decided to check out the unfamiliar titles and authors.

It's a good thing I did! Somehow the search routine thought gay romance novels were a match for my African Violet Club Mysteries. Now, I think people should be able to choose whatever sexual partner they like. I live in a world where I see and talk to gay people every day. I even included a gay character in one of my Community of Faith mysteries. (That's a whole other blog post.) But I don't think readers of gay romance novels are a good match to my cozy mysteries, where having people do more than chaste kisses can be distasteful to some readers. (Another blog post.)

Weeding out the inappropriate keywords is a tedious task, to say the least. It requires searching Amazon for each one I didn't recognize to see if it should stay or go. I guess that's part of what tired me out. So I never made it back to my computer to write an entry here.

Today was the monthly Tucson Sisters in Crime meeting. This counts as working as well as socializing. Today was a particularly good meeting. The morning speaker was the head of the Tucson Police Department's Hostage Negotiating Team. Great information about how this is done, including an audio playback of part of an actual hostage situation. I kept wondering how I could work this into one of my mysteries. Don't be surprised if Lilliana is taken hostage in a future book!

The afternoon speakers were an investigator from the Tucson Fire Department and a sergeant from the Tucson Police Department who are responsible for the investigation of questionable fires. In other words, arson investigations, although you can't determine if it's arson until after you investigate, which is why the odd terminology. The fire department investigator determines the cause of the fire and how it started, the physical evidence as to pattern and whether an accelerant was used, that kind of thing. The police department investigator questions people and follows any leads provided by what the fire department investigator turned up. Another fascinating topic.

And now, since I just got home shortly before starting this, I know I'm probably done for the day. If I do more later, I might update this post. But I want to start a new streak of blog postings and it's hard to start without doing one.

Posting days: 1

Double Pink Murder Cover Reveal!

Friday, June 16, 2017

I'm thrilled to show you the cover for Double Pink Murder. Yes, this time Lilliana visits an observatory outside the village of Rainbow Ranch. As you might be able to guess, the release of the fourth book in the African Violet Club series is getting closer.

What the Story is About

A prophecy. A discovery. A murder.

Persuaded by a somewhat ditzy friend to attend a local psychic fair, retired librarian Lilliana Wentworth doesn’t really believe in fortunetelling. But her romance with a handsome and mysterious Scotsman has thrown her off-balance, disrupted her equilibrium, and she’s looking for guidance wherever she might find it.

When she overhears a tarot reader predict death to the young woman seated at her table, she’s not so sure consulting a psychic is a good idea. Certainly it wasn’t for the woman the reading was meant for, who flees from the room in panic.

As Lilliana attempts to comfort the distraught stranger, she feels a touch of premonition herself. She has no idea what her romantic future might be, but she’s fairly certain she’ll soon be solving another murder.

Be sure to read this latest adventure in the African Violet Club Mysteries.

More Coming Soon!

Make sure to check back for more news about Double Pink Murder.

Book Launch Tasks

Thursday, June 15, 2017
The heading describes one part of my day. It's been a long time since I tried to build anticipation for the release of a book. Usually, when it's done, I publish it. Then I think about how I should let people know it's there. This time, I'm trying to let people know it's coming before it appears on Amazon. So I've composed emails and blog posts and scheduled them to appear at the appropriate times.

The other part of my day was using KDP Rocket to search for new keywords so I can try some new ads. This is not a very exciting process. First, you have to come up with a few ideas of your own as to what people might search for to find your book. Then you feed those ideas into the software, which then finds a bunch of keywords related to that search term. Download a file of those keywords and enter the next one. When you have a bunch of downloaded files, copy and paste them into an Excel spreadsheet. That's as far as I got today.

Tomorrow I'll have to clean up that long list, then organize it by topics for which I'll create new Amazon ads. Then I'll have to test whether those work. Or which ones work. It takes a bunch of time and at least some money.

In between doing that, I did two loads of laundry, cleaned the litter boxes, and fed the cats. After that was done for the day--more likely, I was done for the day--I watched some YouTube videos by Chris Fox, and author who has made a name for himself with a bunch of videos, blogs posts, and books on how to write a lot of books fast that sell better than average so you can make a living as a writer.

And then it was time for the Red Sox game. They lost 1-0, but that's not too bad and they'd won several in a row. I enjoyed the game anyway.

More Steps Toward Publishing the Book

Wednesday, June 14, 2017
The headline pretty much says it all. Today was formatting day. I created the Kindle version of the book and reviewed both that and the PDF I created yesterday for the print version. I noticed an error when I was reviewing the Kindle version, which is why I went back to the PDF. There's nothing more embarrassing than publishing a book with obvious errors. Okay, there probably is. In fact I can think of a couple right off the bat that happened to me, but I'm not going to share those in public.

I reworked my book description, AKA the sales copy, from what I wrote a few weeks ago to something that flowed better, then sent that off along with the cover template to my cover designer. Much to my surprise, she responded right away that she'd gotten them. Since she's in the UK and there's something like an eight hour time difference, our responses often take overnight.

I began the setup of the book on Kindle, so now there are just a few details to complete there before I push the Publish button.

Then I listed the things I want to do to "launch" this book. I'm not sure I'd call it a launch plan exactly, since I don't usually do big book launches, but I'm trying to improve on that. It's hard for people to buy a book if they don't know about it. Part of my list includes sending a short series of emails to my mailing list, since they're the most likely to want this information, so I created two of that series and scheduled them to go out over the next week.

I always feel a sense of urgency at this stage. The book is so close to being born, I find it hard to wait any longer. But, like all births, it will come in its own time.

Yes, I Did Work Today After All

Tuesday, June 13, 2017
It's not like I'm anxious to publish this book or anything, but before I checked Facebook or email or anything else today, I worked on preparing the PDF that's needed for the paperback version of Double Pink Murder. It's been nearly a year since I did Royal Purple, so I had to hunt around in my compile options in Scrivener before I found the right one. And fiddle with the "level" of the last pages of the book. Levels are the way you specify what something will look like on the page in Scrivener, things such as whether the page has a title or not, what the font and spacing are, etc. Understanding levels is half the problem with learning how to "compile" your manuscript from Scrivener to a form you can print out or publish.

I checked in with my goals group, something I should have done yesterday. In this group, we post what we accomplished the prior week and what we intend to accomplish in the coming week. Knowing there are people looking forward to seeing how you did is a great motivator to get things done!

As long as I'd started down that path, after lunch I made a visit to Bowker to assign an ISBN to the print book. Then I sent in an online copyright registration request at the US Copyright Office.

Finally, I started the book setup on CreateSpace, As usual, I had to stop at the point where they verify your uploaded file will print a book correctly. For some reason, once I get that "This will take a few minutes" message, the process always gets stuck. They say they'll send you an email when it's done, but my experience is that I have to go back to the book publishing page and get the message that they can't do an online verification and it will have to wait until you get to a further step. So far, every book has gotten through that way with no changes, so I'm not sure what causes the stall.

Anyway, I just got back from buying a gallon of milk and thought I'd put this post up because I have a meeting tonight. I can pretty much guarantee I won't fell like writing anything after I get home from the meeting.

The Proofread is Done!

Monday, June 12, 2017
Sometimes I wish every day was Monday. After taking Sunday off, I have so much more energy than on other days of the week. I also don't usually have any appointments or any reason to leave my apartment to go anywhere. Well, at least not anywhere farther than the laundry room.

So today I finished proofreading Double Pink Murder! I wasn't sure I could do it because I still had ten chapters left and, as I've reported here before, often one chapter will require a lot of time to get right. But despite needing to check the Chicago Manual of Style and Googling punctuation rules and digging into my thesaurus again for one particularly obstinate chapter, I was able to get through them all.

I also did some administrative things, like downloading my sales data and renewing my business name registration with the state of Arizona.

And I spent a couple of hours going through the videos of a course on Amazon advertising. This course took a slightly different approach as to how to create and use Amazon ads, and it's got me eager to try these techniques.

To wrap up the day, the Red Sox won after being behind for most of the game. Another Yay!

Tomorrow is Tuesday, with a lot of non-author tasks to accomplish, so I don't expect to blog tomorrow. But this week is off to a good start.

Serial Returners

Saturday, June 10, 2017
Okay, I've come up with a more original name for this day's blog, but it isn't for a good reason. I've been having a fairly decent month, as far as book income goes, but today I checked my month-to-date numbers by individual book title.

This display shows how many books were sold, how many returned, and the net number of books sold. Now, I rarely get returns on ebooks, but it happens. Sometimes people accidentally use one-click when they didn't mean to. Or they buy a book and see that it's in Kindle Unlimited, so they want to borrow it rather than pay for a copy. That's fine with me. Everyone makes mistakes, and I get paid for KU reads as well as book purchases.

But when you see that every book in a series has been bought and returned in a relatively short time and that the second book in a different series (where the first book was free for over a year) has also been bought and returned, you can be fairly certain that some reader has decided to use Amazon as a lending library without belonging to KU.

It's fairly easy to read one of my mysteries within the time allowed for ebook returns by Amazon, which is seven days. They're not extremely long books. But just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. These people have no conscience, no consideration for the hours a writer puts into writing, revising, editing, publishing, and advertising each book. They give no thought to the fact that writers have to eat and pay rent, too. If I could find out whether my conclusions are correct and who this person is--which I can't--I'd be tempted to visit them in person and wring their neck.

Instead, I'm venting on my blog, where no one will probably ever see it.

Now that I have that off my chest, on to today's progress.

I proofread a number of chapters but didn't finish this task, which I had hoped to have done by today. Eleven more chapters to go before I get to put away my thesaurus, dictionary, and copy of the Chicago Manual of Style.

I signed up for a free series of videos on how to run successful Amazon ads. It seems as if everyone has their own theory of what works best, but I'm starting to think it's the luck of the draw. Every kind of promotion seems to work for a while until it doesn't.

Until tomorrow.

Day 9 Journal

Friday, June 09, 2017
As usual, downloaded sales and AMS ad data. Amazon has changed the format of its reports, so I'm waiting for an update to the spreadsheet I post these to. And just when I'd finally caught up!

Continued proofreading, but made minimal progress. I ran into another chapter that needed a lot of work. I had five beta readers give me feedback, and I still had places where words were missing. I also had words that sounded repeated too often or didn't have the exact meaning I wanted when read aloud. It always takes a lot of time with a dictionary and/or thesaurus to come up with the right word in these cases. I had to delve into the Chicago Manual of Style to make sure I had the format for time of day correct. There's a fine distinction between when you should use five-thirty and 5:30. I know most readers won't notice these kinds of things, but I like to get them right.

Friday is grocery shopping day, so that took up a portion of the afternoon. I also had to make time to pay bills. Normal regular tasks, but they do take up time.

Looking forward to tomorrow when I shouldn't have any external distractions to getting some serious work done.

Day 8 Journal

Thursday, June 08, 2017
A reasonably productive day.

I continued to proofread Double Pink Murder. For some reason, some chapters take much longer than others. The first one I started working on today required a thesaurus, a dictionary, and the Chicago Manual of Style to answer questions about how I wrote some things. It makes you wonder what you did wrong that you don't know you did wrong.

The US Men's National Team won their match against Trinidad-Tobago. Yay!

I have no idea how the Red Sox did. I paused that game to watch the soccer game. Will be picking up on that once I finish this post.

Day 7 Journal

Wednesday, June 07, 2017
I knew I needed to come up with a better heading system for these posts. Yes, I've already skipped a day, which I had a feeling would happen sooner rather than later.

Tuesday has also historically been a day off for me. You're probably wondering how many days off I have each week. Just two, the same as if I worked a traditional job. But instead of having weekends, my days off are Sunday and Tuesday.

Yesterday was worse than a normal Tuesday, In addition to my regularly scheduled events, the brats from next door were up, outside, and making noise until midnight on Monday. Of necessity, that meant a short night's sleep and a tired day on Tuesday. And to think, I'd just finished telling my son the day before that the noise wasn't as bad as I'd thought when I first moved here.

Anyway, today went a lot better. I spent over three hours proofreading and editing. One chapter in particular seemed to need a lot of work. The subsequent chapters went a lot faster, but it's still going to take a few more days.

I spent another half hour to an hour compiling a list of proofreaders. I meant to email them as to rates and availability tonight, but that didn't happen.

I spent a half hour viewing a tutorial on an email list service that I've been thinking of trying. It looks intriguing, but I hate to move my list. Of course, better to move it now when it's small than later when it's grown larger.

A Red Sox loss and some mindless TV to help me unwind. All in all, not a bad day.

Day 5 Journal

Monday, June 05, 2017
This morning I started with taking all the sales data I collect every day and updating the spreadsheet I use to track it. Because of a good day yesterday in particular, I have a steady upward trend in books sold and pages read through Kindle Unlimited. That's encouraging, especially after a sluggish May.

I got distracted by some discussions in a couple of writing groups I belong to. Writers tend to have strong opinions on how we do what we do and different ways to accomplish our goals and dreams. I'm no exception. So when one writer pontificates to a group and I don't agree, I have a tendency to pontificate right back.

That meant a delay in doing my real work for today, which was to start the read aloud of Double Pink Murder. This helps me proofread, pick up errors, and also tells me where I've got sentences that are too long or awkwardly worded. Not nearly as much progress made on this as I'd hoped for, but at least I got started. Tomorrow, I'll have to stay away from those discussions and stick to the task at hand.

Day 4 Journal

Sunday, June 04, 2017
Sunday is a scheduled off day for me, so nothing to report on the writing front.

Tomorrow I start the read aloud proofing of Double Pink Murder.

Day 3 Journal

Saturday, June 03, 2017
Eventually, I'm going to have to come up with better headings for these entries, but I'm usually tired when I write them, which is not the best frame of mind to be brilliant.

Last night I wrote I wasn't sure what I'd do today as if I was out of things to do. LOL A writer's work is never done.

After my morning coffee, sales data download, and Facebook, I remembered that I might have an issue with the timing of certain events in the novel. When I started planning this book, I set up a blank calendar and started recording on which dates and times each scene took place. However, I didn't keep that up for too long as I wrote the book. This morning, I pulled up that calendar and the Scrivener project of Double Pink Murder. Fortunately, I'd set up custom fields in this project, one of which was date and time, and was diligent about entering that when I wrote each scene.

After working my way through the book, I knew I was right. The days and weeks didn't add up. It wasn't too big of a fix, and none of my beta readers had noticed it, but I like things to be tidy, so I added a few sentences to make that come out right.

Then I tackled one of my least favorite jobs--writing the book description. This is one of the most difficult parts of getting a book ready for publication. The only one harder is coming up with a snappy tagline, the one sentence that captures the essence of the book and a potential reader's imagination.

The reason both of these are hard is trying to distill sixty thousand or more (sometimes many more) words into a few hundred takes a lot of leaving things out. As the writer, you're too tempted to try to tell the whole story rather than just enough to get a potential reader to buy the book. I've gotten better at it over the years, but it's still something I dread.

Still, you can't publish a book without one, and it was time to make myself work on the description, or sales copy, for this one. I came up with something fairly good in not too long a time. I might change it before publication if I think of something better, but it's one more thing accomplished.

A few chores, including cleaning the master bathroom, and then settling down for the Red Sox game (they won!), followed my the US Men's Soccer Team match against Venezuela (a tie). And then on to this blog to end my day.

See you again tomorrow.

Day 2 Journal

Friday, June 02, 2017
A good day. After my usual download of sales data, coffee and Facebook time, I worked on the revisions per my beta readers and finished them. I then wrote thank you notes to each of the three who had sent me detailed feedback.

I then took a break for lunch, laundry, and watching another episode of Anne with an E.

I also investigate proofreaders. On prior books, I didn't have the funds to hire any kind of an editor, so did it myelf with the help of AutoCrit or Pro Writing Aid. I think I'd like to see what kinds of things a professional proofreader would find, so will most likely contact a few and request sample edits, quotes, and whether or not they can do this in a short time. Many good editors are booked months in advance. I'd love to be able to do that, but I'm never sure when a book will be done until it's done.

Another loss by the Red Sox (:::sigh:::) and a nap.

Heading into the weekend, I'm not sure exactly what I'll do. I need a brief break before reading through the book one more time.

A New Routine

Thursday, June 01, 2017
I've been remiss in posting here recently. To be honest, Facebook is more fun because people usually respond to what I write there. But I don't think it's useful or intriguing for readers if I only put up posts when I release a new book--which is happening soon.

And then there's the fact that my good intentions for 2017 have been followed up with a rather sluggish execution. There are lots of reasons for that, but I won't bore you with excuses. I've always found accountability to be a great motivator, and I'm going to take a page from Dean Wesley Smith and attempt to post what I've done at the end of each day. I figure if I'm posting for three or four days in a row that I didn't write any fiction, I'll either stop posting or be forced to write something. Otherwise, I'll die of embarrassment.

So here we go.

I knew this wasn't going to be the best day to start this since I had an appointment smack in the middle of the day. I also usually run errands on a day I have appointments so I put all my interruptions together rather than having several days in a week where I'm fighting to get something done.

I started the day, as usual, by downloading daily sales and ad performance data. I'm trying to run effective Amazon ads and the only way to know if they're effective or not is to track the data. I have a spreadsheet to do this (more on this at a future date), but it depends on being strict about daily downloads. This takes less than fifteen minutes, although I may ponder the results for a while longer. <grin>

Some time on Facebook while I drank my first cup of coffee, then breakfast, shower, getting dressed.

I was able to spend an hour on revisions to the newest African Violet Club mystery before I had to attend to "stuff."

After the appointment and errands, I watched an episode of "Anne with an E," an adaptation of Anne of Green Gables, on Netflix, took a nap, and watched the Red Sox game. Ugh.

Another revision session, followed by watching a free Mark Dawson lesson on book launches (a timely topic since I'll be doing one soon), and then here to write this post.

So, not a terrifically productive day, but then I didn't expect it to be.

Opening Day

Monday, April 03, 2017
It doesn’t matter what the calendar says or what the weather forecast might be. The first day of spring, and the beginning of summer, is baseball’s opening day. Until then, the chill, gray skies of winter still linger, even in sunny Tucson where we’ve already hit ninety degrees.

It’s always been that way for me. Baseball and summer belong together. From the sultry afternoons during school vacations, when I lie in a hammock with the radio tuned to the Mets, to an April morning where snow fell up near Flagstaff, and I loaded the stream of the Red Sox game on my HDTV, the ritual of daily baseball games continues.

As I cheered the Red Sox win, I realized something was missing. At first I thought it was Big Papi, David Ortiz, who retired at the end of last season. And, yes, I did miss the roar of the crowd as he came up to bat as I struggled to recognize the new members of the team. But that wasn’t it.

I realized a part of me was waiting for my phone to ring, for that familiar voice to say, “Hello” and then ask if I’d watched the game. We were once close, but broke apart several years ago, our contact limited to Christmas cards and occasional meetings and the calls after Red Sox games. Not every game, but in Arizona, we knew there was someone else not too far away who would know what it felt like to win that game. Or suffer the loss.

My friend passed away last month.

A sudden trip to the ER, surgery to remove a tumor, a massive stroke a few days later. Although he’d had cardiac issues for several years, I think we both thought of that as just part of getting old. He saw his doctors regularly and neither of us expected him to die any time soon.

Until he did.

I didn’t mourn him until today. The end of the ballgame, the lack of a phone call, and the realization that not only would there never be a phone call again, but I never would have moved to Boston, never would have become a Red Sox fan if it weren’t for him, settled over me like a quilt filled with lead.

My usual reaction to something like this is to shut myself off from it, away from the ache, giving up something I enjoy because I can’t stand the pain. But the pain is still there, even if I’ve walled it off behind bricks of feigned apathy.

And so this year, even though it may hurt, I’ll watch every Red Sox game and remember Ted. I hope he can see the games in heaven. And maybe he’ll cheer along with me when they win.

So Many Books, So Little Time

Saturday, January 14, 2017

I have 404 books in the TBR collection on my Kindle. In case you don’t know, TBR stands for To Be Read. I have three bookshelves of print books I want to read. I’m not including several non-fiction books I own for reference purposes that I’d really like to read in full “someday.” Nor am I including books on my private Amazon Wish List or on my For Later shelf at the library.

I figure that even if I gave up watching television, movies, and writing my own novels so I could read most of the day, it would take me four or five years to get through all the books I already own. That’s assuming I don’t add any more books to either my Kindle or my shelves, an almost impossible task since people, both in real life and online, are always recommending books that sound so good I want to read them as soon as possible.

I didn’t use to have this problem. Growing up, I didn’t see a bookstore until I was in junior high, what is now the upper grades of middle school, and I only saw one then because my English teacher wanted us to read a book we had to buy and told us where the bookstore was. My mother had to drive me there.

My mother took us to the library every other Saturday (my grandfather visited on the other weekends), where I checked out the maximum of six books at a time. Once we got home, all of us sat in the living room reading our “new” books. On very special Christmases or birthdays, we’d sometimes get a book as a present. That’s how I discovered the Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew.

One of the best things about going to college was finding all the bookstores not only on campus but in town. I discovered the joy of casual browsing of new titles and then carefully selecting the one or two paperbacks I could afford.

When I got married and moved to a small town with an even smaller library, I joined the Science Fiction Book Club, got the free books and bought the requisite number of paid books (and maybe a few more), then canceled my subscription. I reread those treasured purchases several times over the course of the next few years.

I finally got a job where I could afford to buy books of my own on a regular basis. And Barnes and Noble and Borders built superstores in the suburbs, often on my way home from my job, and I was back to browsing the tables at the front and the racks at the back and leaving with a shopping bag full of brand new books. But that tended to be self-limiting, too, because how many books can you take home at a time?

And then there was Amazon. And ebooks. Suddenly, there really was no limit. Add the indie author explosion and the ability to download books for free, and things got totally out of control.

I find it hard to read longer, more complicated books lately because of “Squirrel!” syndrome. If a book doesn’t grab me right away, or the pace slows down too much in the middle, I have a tendency to abandon it in favor of a different book because I have so many other books I want to read. This disturbs me because I’m sure I’m missing some awfully good books that I’d really enjoy if only I had the patience.

I’ve even tried to reread a few books I read years ago and thought magnificent—"Captains and the Kings", "Hyperion", "A Tale of Two Cities"—and not been able to get too far into them. We live in a Twitter world and are too easily distracted when thoughts are longer that 140 characters.

This disappoints me. I know those are good books. I really would like to read them again and have the same reaction as I did decades ago, although that might not be possible. I’d like to tackle something a little deeper than a cozy mystery, which is what I tend to read most now. But the older I get, the more conscious I am of how little time I have left. I want to whittle down that TBR collection, not feel I’ve missed something by staying too long with a book that doesn’t intrigue me.

I have no answers to this dilemma. But I wonder how many of us are reading as fast as we can, conscious of our Goodreads yearly reading goals more than of the actual books we’re consuming. And if I’ll ever have the patience to read an epic novel again.
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Elise's bookshelf: currently-reading

A Clash of Kings
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tagged: currently-reading